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Mikah
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23 Oct 2015, 8:16 pm

A strange notion to be sure. I was so certain about the universe a few years ago.

I was not raised religiously, as many of our American counterparts still are to this day. Atheism for me was never about rebelling against my parents, my hypothetical pastors or my community, I was one of the "unchuched" as the new fundamentalists might say. Atheism was a position I took briefly, without much thought, as a teenager who liked annoying people, then I didn't think about it again for years. In my early 20s when I became vaguely aware of the great internet trolling session regarding religion that has been taking place there almost since its conception, I once again took upon myself the atheist position. It seemed to make sense with what I knew about the world coming from a scientific education, not to mention the atheist position is very fashionable in the world of hard sciences. I never became involved in the message board wars or made loud shouty videos, but I did enjoy the endless supply of videos with atheists metaphorically uppercutting the religious and their arguments which seemed indefensible (most are, but mainly due to the criminally stupid way these debates are staged) Watching a Christopher Hitchens or a Richard Dawkins scoff and smirk was a guilty pleasure.

Again it sank into the background of my thoughts as before, I read and learned other things. Like many people who think they are smarter than they actually are, I often found myself pondering human motivation. Why do we think what we think? Why do we do what we do? One particular article caught my attention. It was a scientific experiment to do with brain scans and decision making. The shocking-at-the-time conclusion of the study was that people make decisions before they are really even consciously aware of the decision. Instinct, disposition, basic desires (often selfish ones) decide almost everything for us, then we scurry off to iamrightscrewyoualldotcom and look for eloquent arguments and statistics to justify our choices, beliefs and actions. Once you accept this premise you see it everywhere. In shame, I looked back and saw I had done exactly the same thing for almost every position I took, right or wrong.

You can probably see where this is leading by now. I had heard the religious say "Atheism is a faith" many times. For some reason that sentence never clicked with me, the automatic response was to find my snark-machine gun and tell myself and my imaginary opponents that Atheism is the lack of faith. Faith is a dirty word for atheists. It wasn't until I came across a much older wiser Christian man who wrote firstly "I don't know if God exists". That caught my attention, rather brave of him I thought. Then he said:

"Atheism is a choice."

Choice? Choice? No no my good man, I am forced to be an atheist after much rational thought, research and understanding. I cannot believe, the evidence is too strong, it is illogical... how can I believe in something that must exist outside of the world I can see, smell, touch and investigate... I told myself...

I don't know why the word "choice" resonated with me when "Atheism is a faith" did not. I was always "scientifically polite" about religious belief, I would always concede that anything is possible, while not seriously contemplating those possibilities. Seconds after I read it I realised I had taken a position, just like before, this time on the unknowable of all things for selfish reasons. Because the religions I was familiar with forbade me from doing things I wanted to do, commanded me to be nicer and more caring than I wished to be. I had chosen atheism because it suited me, because that's the world I wanted to live in. About a minute later, I was a true agnostic.

I'm not a full blown believer (yet? who knows) but religious texts look a lot different with a truly open mind (something I often claimed to have beforehand), and the atheist sunglasses removed. No longer is the Bible a "life manual for retards". No longer do I chuckle when people say America or most European cultures are or were Christian creations. Almost everything secularists and scientists value in these countries grew from Christian skepticism and rationalism (from believers, not secret atheists), their willingness to concede that not everything in the Bible is direct revelation and that not all behaviours discussed therein are to be imitated without question.

I suppose that makes me a seeker. The more I ponder the issue, now that I understand the choice, the more I hope there is a God.



RhodyStruggle
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23 Oct 2015, 10:33 pm

I'm kind of coming from a similar perspective. Was not raised to be either religious or non-religious. My parents had different beliefs from one another and pretty much left it up to their children to make up their own minds.

Faith seemed pretty silly to me, until in college when I studied non-Euclidean geometry and metaphysics in the same semester, and was forced to come to grips with the fact that any proof making reference to the parallel postulate was essentially indistinguishable from a religious belief.


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blauSamstag
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23 Oct 2015, 11:38 pm

tl;dr

Are you completely certain that you aren't regressing rather than maturing?

Atheism is a faith in the same sense that not collecting stamps is a hobby.



Nebogipfel
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24 Oct 2015, 4:06 am

Mikah wrote:
The shocking-at-the-time conclusion of the study was that people make decisions before they are really even consciously aware of the decision. Instinct, disposition, basic desires (often selfish ones) decide almost everything for us,


Uh, yes. But what informs instinctive decision making? The things that you mentioned, but also repetition, and the repetitious implementation of knowledge. Ethics training can inform my instincts, logic training can inform my instincts. Pavlovian training can inform my instincts. Suggesting that instinct is necessarily base and animalistic does not take into account all of the kinds of thinking that can go into shaping it.

Mikah wrote:
Once you accept this premise you see it everywhere.


Confirmation bias?



0_equals_true
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24 Oct 2015, 5:47 am

Atheism isn't a faith. It isn't a moral guide, or life directive either. You have to come up with that yourself.

What I oppose are these Congregationalist like group that aim to push their own ideas of Atheism and Secularism and homogenise everything.

They are making the same mistake a religions do, but this still doesn't make Atheism a faith.

The majority of Atheists are not Youtubers nor do belong to any group.



0_equals_true
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24 Oct 2015, 6:02 am

Aslo there is a massive gap between the idea of a creator and doctrine.

The majority of religious text has nothing to do with abiogenesis. The creator and creation myth is more a default to everything else.

1. A creator may no longer exist.
2. A creator may not be sentient / self aware.
3. A creator may not care to be worshiped or would even consider it.
4. A creator may not be moral.
5. A creator may not watch over or interact with one or many of the billions galaxies in the universe.

In most cases the objection to new knowledge is it contradict the belief in old knowledge as is the case with Darwin, Copernicus and Galileo.

If people are genuinely seeking knowledge I have no problem with it. The problem lies is not understanding the different between criticism and persecution, and also entitlement to push their ideas on others is a supposed free society.



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24 Oct 2015, 6:12 am

0_equals_true wrote:
Atheism isn't a faith. It isn't a moral guide, or life directive either. You have to come up with that yourself.

What I oppose are these Congregationalist like group that aim to push their own ideas of Atheism and Secularism and homogenise everything.

They are making the same mistake a religions do, but this still doesn't make Atheism a faith.

The majority of Atheists are not Youtubers nor do belong to any group.


Tippers and supreme gentlemen give atheism a bad name through the fallacy of guilt by association the same way that Westboro Baptist Church taints the image of Christianity, that is, you have to buy into the fallacy of guilt by association in order for it to affect you.

I've never been atheist, because I believe the spectrum of agnosticism covers anything but blatant denial that there-is-no-god, which to me presupposes too much about something that has not been proven wrong. i.e the existence of God is a concept in itself that by default is set up so that you can not simply prove it wrong. Even atheists have their creation story i.e the "Big Bang", but even this could be attributed to a creator outside of the compressed mass that allegedly expanded, exploded and formed everything.

You can disprove aspects of religions, point at scripural passages in some faiths and bring up contradictions. This is when the "internet atheist", the master of fallacies, prances around, thinking that just because he discovered a weakness in some scripture, that this disproves the concept of God altogether.

I used to be a pretty religious Christian, but now I'm more of a humanist with a sort of faith, because the label "Christian" carries with it a lot of associations that I have difficulties identifying with(In that regard, Christ-ian seems like a better label for me), much like the OP experienced with the "internet atheism", these congregations of people forming an identity about how they don't believe in something. How can a negative be identity forming? Does that not give power to that which you are trying to distance yourself from? Atheism is the lack of belief in a God, but the "internet atheists" spend so much time on religions the don't believe in. I can understand it when there is legitimate criticism of aspects of religions that violate someones rights, i.e infant circumcision, which somehow has become the norm in the U.S even for non-religious people, something which is absurd to those of us who live elsewhere. But although atheists certainly discuss these matters, the "internet atheists" seem to have a fetish for "debunking" and "making a fool of" religious people. There is a whole underbelly of angsty teenagers trying to make their lack of belief in something be identity forming thereby making fools of themselves and being an embarrasment to people who are atheists, but because of that, they do not spend so much of their time being angry at Gods they don't even believe in.

Respectable atheists lead admirable lives, and when they do criticise religion, it is the aspects of religion that interfere with peoples rights. When the way someone practises their religion starts affecting the lives of others without their consent, there is grounds for critisism.

I have met these people, and they can also engage in the philosophical aspects without being disrespectful or prancing around spouting internet memes as arguments. Some of the people I get along with best are atheists, not Christians.

To me, the Universe seems too perfect to be an accident. But that's just how I see it.



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24 Oct 2015, 8:11 am

I think I'm growing into it, which is both surprising and slightly disheartening.
I think a lot of people mix up atheists and antitheists. Atheists usually don't believe in any god or supernatural activity, live and let live. Antitheists are often those who condemn, oppose and often attack religion. These kinds of people turn me right off - I consider the likes of Richard Dawkins and co antitheists for their bad attitudes in this way, rather than atheists.
I hadn't thought about this issue in years, frankly because I've had more pressing things to think about, but having recently sobered up and found myself in AA, I'm forced to consider the question of a "higher power" as they call it.
I've often heard religious people describe their conviction that god exists, even with all the discrepancies in the religion itself and its texts, not to mention the activities of its adherents, as an ingrained feeling. They just "know" god is out there because it's something they fundamentally feel. Similar happened to me in AA but the other way around. Sobering up really forces you to drop your bullshit, all the denial and delusion that led to drinking enough to be there, and to be as ruthlessly honest as you can be. Thus I dropped the fairy tale and fundamentally felt this is it. There is no god. There is no plan. There is nothing out there who is going to save you.
I'm still contemplating this, as like the OP I do see dry atheism as rather groundless as they have no direct proof for the non-existence of god, but what I felt was more a disbelief in the common human conception of god. As an intelligence with human-like values, morals, thought processes and understanding, with some kind of telepathic ability to listen to and understand the billions of internal thoughts of billions of individuals on earth and possibly in the billions of galaxies in our universe at once, who cares so much about on what day we eat what or where we stick our genitals, and sorts us all on our deaths into some form of static afterlife based on our choices.
That to a sober me sounded like desperate wishful thinking, born out of a fear of death and our own powerlessness, to take a tip off the iceberg of despondent musings I had on the subject. It sounds like something humankind created to comfort themselves. I'm perfectly fine with the universe at large not giving a rat's arse about me. But I have to get to some kind of peace with this within AA, so I'm still thinking on it, instead of just screaming I'M AN ATHEIST and dismissing the whole subject without due thought.
Sorry for the rant. I hope you find some insight on the subject.


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Mikah
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24 Oct 2015, 12:46 pm

Quote:
Are you completely certain that you aren't regressing rather than maturing?

Atheism is a faith in the same sense that not collecting stamps is a hobby.


Recognising my former faith in Atheism as intellectually dishonest is progress of a sort and for the record it is a faith in most respects. It's faith that your life doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, faith that your choices and your actions have no real consequences other than what you can observe which in turn means a life spent doing whatever you want and can get away with is a-ok (the root of the Atheist faith).

You have to strip the whole thing down, discard anything you have heard about the nature of God or Gods and ponder if there is something outside of nature, outside of the universe, be it creator, overseer or perhaps just a laboratory where the long forgotten universe experiment sits running. Logic and reason can only take you as far as "I don't know". To take a step in either direction requires faith. Do you choose to assume there is nothing and act accordingly? Or do you choose to assume there might be something and seek its nature?



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24 Oct 2015, 12:53 pm

Yeah, I tried atheism, and it didn't sit well with me.


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24 Oct 2015, 1:24 pm

blauSamstag wrote:
tl;dr

Are you completely certain that you aren't regressing rather than maturing?

Atheism is a faith in the same sense that not collecting stamps is a hobby.


Atheism is like religion in that it attracts and inspires a lot of obnoxious zealots and duchebags.


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GoonSquad
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24 Oct 2015, 1:38 pm

Mikah wrote:
Quote:
Are you completely certain that you aren't regressing rather than maturing?

Atheism is a faith in the same sense that not collecting stamps is a hobby.


Recognising my former faith in Atheism as intellectually dishonest is progress of a sort and for the record it is a faith in most respects. It's faith that your life doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, faith that your choices and your actions have no real consequences other than what you can observe which in turn means a life spent doing whatever you want and can get away with is a-ok (the root of the Atheist faith).

You have to strip the whole thing down, discard anything you have heard about the nature of God or Gods and ponder if there is something outside of nature, outside of the universe, be it creator, overseer or perhaps just a laboratory where the long forgotten universe experiment sits running. Logic and reason can only take you as far as "I don't know". To take a step in either direction requires faith. Do you choose to assume there is nothing and act accordingly? Or do you choose to assume there might be something and seek its nature?


Okay, you're just wrong about that bit in bold. All atheists aren't automatically amorlists. Just like all theists aren't moral... "I'm spiritual, not religious," often seems to be code for "I'm superstitious without a clear set of morals."

Religion isn't the only (or best) path to a well developed sense of morality and ethics.


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24 Oct 2015, 2:37 pm

Introducing the term "antitheist", how do you differentiate "atheist" from "agnostic" considering how a lot of people label themselves atheist but have a neutral stance on the existence, or non-existence of a possible God.

Agnostics are undecided. A-theists do not believe in a God at all. That is, the latter seems to be a more definite stance.

Lack of belief can justify an a-gnostic stance, because one has decided that there is no evidence for a God, but neither against, therefore one considers themselves undecided on the subject and therefore open.

Then, what differentiates the a-theist from the anti-theist? To me it sounds like the atheist believes that there isn't a good. Yes, believing that something doesn't exist is a belief after all, since it is an active stance, a resolution.

anti-theist sounds like someone who is against a God. It sounds almost vindictive.

As someone who considers himself a sort of Christ-ian agnostic humanist, I am curious as to how people here differentiate the terms I brought up.

My beliefs change a lot, because I read all kinds of literature. Been reading less Christian literature lately and more Hindu and humanist. Reincarnation is a fascinating way to explain the problem of pain and right and wrong, considering the theory of spiritual evolution in reincarnating as a higher or lower being, therefore implying that all life is sacred and to be respected.

As you can see, I get my head into all kinds of stuff because I'm just too curious. I didn't make a good religous person because I kept asking too many darn questions.



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24 Oct 2015, 2:54 pm

I think people that are raised in organized religion are probably more apt to become the capital a Atheist, I wasn't raise with religion either and I never really cared too much about it to ever troll anybody about it. There are certain things that cannot be explained or ever understood, I don't know the secrets of the universe and Darwin may as well be Martin Luther for all I am concerned as it is all faith in something you didn't work to know yourself. I don't believe in organized religion, I believe it to be the word of man not god but I don't believe that means you can know one way or another. It is weird tho, talking to religious people given some of their odd beliefs. Apparently they don't care about gays being married anymore, their "religious freedom" is at stake which to honest I found pretty laughable. I can understand not wanting to preform the ceremony yourself but how does cooking food for someone or giving them a place to lay their head at night violate your religious freedom? Wouldn't serving atheists also be some great sin too?

I consider myself an open minded agnostic, I figure if there is a god that made me and demands I worship him(which to be honest is kind of a messed up concept when you think about it) then he would tap me on the shoulder and give me good reason too. Its bizarre, we're negatively judged for being rational? If God made me this way, how can it be wrong?



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24 Oct 2015, 5:25 pm

I was raised in a religious home (Mennonite--we had cars and electricity but dressed plainly when i was a girl) and as my parents relaxed their strict upbringing about what i could and couldn't wear and do (about the time i was a teenager) I began to examine in detail the beliefs i was raised with. Not wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but even studying and knowing my Bible in detail since childhood (went to church pretty much every time the doors were open) I questioned how we got some of our strict ideas on dress, head coverings, nonresistance (religious doctrine similar to pacifism) from the scriptures.

I do still believe in God and my belief has strengthened with the years...but i continue to read, study and examine the Bible, not taking things for granted or trying to cherry-pick scriptures to fit my theology. Rather, i believe if religion is to be a valuable guide for life, I need to examine scripture and fit my life to what I find there instead of picking a philosophy that fits my personal preference. Where is the value in that if I am looking for direction and purpose? I am a flawed being and to pick the religion that is the flavor of the month, or a humanist philosophy puts the power in what I feel are incapable hands at best.

But a resource that has been extremely helpful to me in my journey has been Ravi Zacharias and his programs and website. (www.rzim.org) Website is prefaced with the phrase "helping the thinker believe, and the believer think." He has a radio program, blog, and lots of books. Possibly you might find some help for your search there. Also the writings of C.S. Lewis, himself a former atheist who came to faith in Jesus Christ, speak to me in a language I can understand. "Mere Christianity," and "The Screwtape Letters" are some favorites of mine.

My hubby says i am prone to over-analysis of everything but in religion as in other areas of life, i don't want to take things on blind faith but examine the evidence. Best wishes to you Mikah and all the rest of you as you search.