What do atheists believe?

Discussion in 'Spirituality & Religion' started by Solid444, Mar 9, 2010.

  1. Solid444

    Solid444 Member+

    Jun 21, 2003
    Atheism is usually defined in one of two ways, either the lack of belief in a god or the belief that god does not exist. Usually, the more reasonable atheist will be the one that claims that they lack the belief in god, since to prove that god does not exist requires epistemic justification that most people can´t provide (in my experience). So, to the people that lack the belief in a god, what do you believe?

    Let me explain. Saying that you lack the belief in god, says nothing about what you do actually believe. Theists are criticized for the truth claims that they make, however, atheist, just like theists, have truth claims about the world that should also be scrutinized. For example, a very common saying among level headed atheists is that they don´t care what theists believe, as long as they don´t impose their beliefs on them. The problem is that this statement is self refuting. This person has a belief (that no one should impose what they think on him), and he imposes this belief on other people. If someone else has the opposite belief, then the first guy must impose his belief on the second guy and therefore, refuting his own belief. This is a problem unless this belief is grounded somehow. I think people´s belief should be logically coherent regardless of what they believe about god. Same thing with subjects such as morality, value, free will, etc.

    So atheists, what DO you believe?
     
  2. Chicago1871

    Chicago1871 Member

    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think this was touched on a year or so back. Maybe not completely, but it is a start. You're asking the atheists amongst us to give the Cliff's Notes on a seriously broad topic. I don't have the time now, but if things develop and I find a moment or 30 I'll get back to you.
     
  3. Knave

    Knave Member+

    May 25, 1999
    Oh, no ... not again ... NOT AGAIN!


    Please save everyone the headache and just go read the thread Chicago1871 linked above.
     
  4. The_ChelseaSupporter

    Mar 25, 2007
    Olympia, WA
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    As an atheist, my view is this:

    I believe that god does not exist. Just like a theist believes that a god or some gods do exist. It's not a matter of logic or reason, just faith, because you can't prove it.

    As for imposing your beliefs upon others, I get what you're saying. I hate it when people preach to me so I don't preach to them. Thing is, I don't tell them not to, I just ignore it when they do, because they'll never affect me and usually they can figure this out. More theists become atheists than visa-versa.
     
  5. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Edinburgh
    I think both of these cover me. I lack a belief in any god and I also believe that (for the purposes of talking with christains) the christian/jewish god does not exist.

    For this to have any worthy point, you'd have to start from the point of view that all beliefs are of a similar nature which just isn't the case. In your, fairly narrow, situation the beliefs "I believe in the christian god and you have to too" is completely different to "people can believe what they like as long as they don't force it on others". One is active, the other is reactive. One is concerned only with the belief of the 'imposing' individual, the other is independent of the core belief of the 'imposing' individual (in this case atheism).

    Hardly the same.

    Might add more later.
     
  6. Solid444

    Solid444 Member+

    Jun 21, 2003
    I disagree that the condition you give has to be met for this to be a worthy point. I don´t claim that those beliefs are the same, but I also don´t see any reason why they need to be. Even if it is the case that one is active and one is reactive, you are implying that it is fine to impose reactive beliefs while it is not fine to impose active beliefs. This is another belief that has to be imposed and not a reactive one at that.

    I see no way how an atheist, in their worldview, can ground a belief that ought to be followed.
     
  7. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Edinburgh
    Well what's your point? That atheists who think it's wrong for theists to impose their beliefs on others are hypocrits?

    I would imagine that only a small minority of christians actually 'impose' their beliefs on others. And "impose" can probably cover a range of actions. School kids being forced to attend church services or being taught that the christian beliefs are true, families putting pressure on or taking steps to ensure that kids grow up christian or some poster outside a church telling me that 'Jesus will show you the way" are all different levels of imposition or not even an imposition at all, depending on how you see it.

    I'd imagine and hope that any reasonable atheist would have a view a little less blunt than "You cannot impose your beliefs". For me, church services for those who want to attend - fine. Raising kids to be christians or people/posters 'imposing' christian beliefs - fine although I'm uncomfortable with it. Religion in public schools etc - not fine.

    If religious groups say "We want to teach our religion in schools" and my answer is "No, you're not allowed to impose your beliefs in that manner", I don't think this is hypocritical at all or particularly 'imposing' of me.

    I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at. Can you give an example of a belief that ought to be followed which a christian can "ground" but an atheist can't?
     
  8. RichardL

    RichardL BigSoccer Supporter

    May 2, 2001
    Berkshire
    Club:
    Reading FC
    Nat'l Team:
    England
    "Not imposing your beliefs on others" is not part of any doctrine. It is not a "belief" any more that feeling people should say thanks if you hold the door open for them is.

    There's a massive difference between wishing others would conform to conventions of common courtesy, and badgering them to embrace your chosen spiritual dogma.


    In essense you are trying to argue that someone complaining about your anti-social behaviour is being anti-social himself by complaining. You might as well say that someone who injures an attacker in self defence is as equally guilty as his attacker.
     
  9. Solid444

    Solid444 Member+

    Jun 21, 2003
    You couldn't be farther away from what I said. You are differentiating different beliefs by saying that some are just part of a courteous, civil and socially acceptable way of life and therefore, don't bare as much weight as other beliefs that depend on a doctrine. Notice, how these courteous, civil and socially acceptable beliefs, in your worldview, are as grounded in the reality of what we ought to do as socially unacceptable beliefs. You are saying that beliefs that go against social norms are different than beliefs that are based on a religion, and you would be right, however, to say that because of this difference the former should be imposed and the latter should not invents a foundation for rational oughts that cannot exist in your world view.

    You are making a very similar point to Gordon's and not only is there no foundation to support it, it is also self refuting.
     
  10. royalstilton

    royalstilton New Member

    Aug 2, 2004
    SoCal
    Club:
    Liverpool FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    i think it's noteworthy that the word "badgering" was used previously to categorize the behavior of Christians in communicating their beliefs. while i agree that some Christians engage in "bullhorn evangelism", the greater percentage of Christians -- the ones who bother to broadcast their beliefs at all -- are relational. they embrace the idea of being friends with non-Christians and trying to demonstrate Christ-like behavior.

    i'm not sure that most non-Christians are aware of Jesus' statement that he came "with a sword", meaning that proclaiming his message would tend to alienate people who are not receptive. most Christians accept that fact.
     
  11. royalstilton

    royalstilton New Member

    Aug 2, 2004
    SoCal
    Club:
    Liverpool FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    it's a value statement. it communicates your idea of what "should" be practiced.

    values and beliefs are not identical. sometimes values issue from beliefs, i think.

    so "not imposing your beliefs" is part of a set of values regarding acceptable and non-acceptable conduct. it's not a metaphysical belief, however, the way that belief in a deity is a metaphysical belief.
     
  12. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Edinburgh
    Well, you've said it so it must be true. You've still not clarified exactly what point you're trying to make and all of this has the faint, but distinct, whiff of bullsh1t.
     
  13. Solid444

    Solid444 Member+

    Jun 21, 2003
    I think I have made my point as clear as possible many times.

    Point: Given atheism, one cannot provide a foundation for what people ought to do and as a result, any statement that declares how people should behave is not founded in reality.
     
  14. RichardL

    RichardL BigSoccer Supporter

    May 2, 2001
    Berkshire
    Club:
    Reading FC
    Nat'l Team:
    England
    That's nonsense. You don't need religion to come up with a common consensus of acceptable behaviour.

    THAT IS JUST UTTER RUBBISH AND SHOWS A LACK OF THINKING THINGS THROUGH.


    Now, writing that in capitals is considered something you shouldn't do. Most people agree that, yet it is not decreed by any religion that writing in capitals is not acceptable. Yet is has foundation, and that foundation is clearly from reality.

    Going back, I'm sure that when the 10 commandments were given out, people weren't taken aback, saying "hey, killing is bad all of a sudden?"

    The idea that morals of a society can only come from a foundation of religion is ridiculous, unless you genuinely believe people didn't consider those acts wrong until their religion banned them.
     
  15. RichardL

    RichardL BigSoccer Supporter

    May 2, 2001
    Berkshire
    Club:
    Reading FC
    Nat'l Team:
    England
    In other words, they don't impose their beliefs on others.
     
  16. royalstilton

    royalstilton New Member

    Aug 2, 2004
    SoCal
    Club:
    Liverpool FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    RL-

    i hate saying things like this, because it's gonna sound so condescending, but you don't understand 'The God Thing'.

    everything has a broader context than first glance indicates, and TTC are part of a broader context. the whole point (two points, really) is to establish accountability, after 400 years in Egypt where the Hebrews had acculturated to the point that they were willing to go back into slavery rather than follow God to the Promised Land. the second point is that nobody can fulfill the requirements of TTC perfectly, so that means each person needs a savior. Paul explains this concept in the NT, where he describes The Law as a schoolmaster.

    setting down a set of requirements includes stuff that is immediately intuitive, like "don't murder", but it also has a broader application, which we get from Jesus in TSotM.
     
  17. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Edinburgh
    Wow.

    So you think that a book with quotes/commands/rules given down from a figure for which there is absolutely zero real evidence, constitutes a foundation for what people ought to do and enables you to make statements on how people should behave which are founded in reality, as opposed to atheists who can't do this?

    Do you think all theists have this?

    Actually, I probably agree with you to a point. I can't make absolute statements telling you how to behave and have some kind of fundamental, universal rule book of do's and don'ts to back up my argument. But, where you've veered wildly into ridiculous territory is to single out atheists as if anyone in the world has this. You, and others can pretend that you do all you want, it doesn't change the fact that you don't.
     
  18. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Edinburgh
    OK, so people don't get their morals from the Bible or religion. I'm glad we've sorted this one out. Can you send round a group e-mail so that christians will stop pretending we do.
     
  19. tomwilhelm

    tomwilhelm Member+

    Dec 14, 2005
    Boston, MA, USA
    Club:
    Fulham FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Just to re-enforce Gordon's (and Richard's) point...

    This is an incredibly ignorant point of view.


    I'll be honest, this doesn't parse particularly well. Whether of not us heathens "get" the "God Thing", your arguments should at least be understandable.

    Let me see if I follow you...

    The point of Christian morality is:
    1. to hold the Hebrews in Egypt accountable (huh?)
    2. to validate the moral necessity of accepting Jesus as savior.

    Please feel free to clarify or restate your point.
     
  20. tomwilhelm

    tomwilhelm Member+

    Dec 14, 2005
    Boston, MA, USA
    Club:
    Fulham FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    That's what you got from his post? Wow. I guess it was even less clear than I thought...
     
  21. Gordon EF

    Gordon EF Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Edinburgh
    I thought one of his points was that people didn't just hear about religion one day and realise, 'You know, murdering and stealing isn't very nice'. There are more than enough christians who would like to believe that this is the case.
     
  22. YankHibee

    YankHibee Member+

    Mar 28, 2005
    indianapolis
    Atheism isn't nihilism, and nihilism doesn't really exist among the sane.
     
  23. Foosinho

    Foosinho New Member

    Jan 11, 1999
    New Albany, OH
    Club:
    Columbus Crew
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    To put it even more broadly, atheism is being confused with various ethical worldviews and it shouldn't. Atheism is, quite simply, the rejection of the claims of others in God/Zeus/TheOldOnes (usually do to lack of emperical evidence). Atheism doesn't require anything other than that. There are no core beliefs, ethical standards, etc. None.

    Those are filled by various humanist philosophies; many of which are much older than Christianity. In fact, the Renaissance period can be directly "blamed" on the re-emergence of (largely classical Roman/Greek) humanism. (Note that despite the fact that most modern humanists are sans religion, Renaissance humanists largely were not; they just put more emphasis on the human realm, and less on the spiritual.)

    So, to summarize: atheism is only a rejection of someone else's claims vis-a-vis god(s). It is compatible with humanism (so is religion), but atheists are not necessarily humanists, and humanists are not necessarily atheists.

    Which is why this thread was off the rails from the beginning.

    If you're interested in secular ethics, I might suggest reading the Wikipedia page. It'd be a place to start.
     
  24. Solid444

    Solid444 Member+

    Jun 21, 2003
    Not at all

    Some might

    I actually think everyone with correct cognitive function in the world has this, not a book, but a moral intuition. The difference is that you and I have different explanation of this moral intuition. I explain it as moral laws that reflect intention, imparted in us by a law giver that reflect our moral duties and that we will be held accountable for. A metaphysical naturalist explains it as a societally acceptable behavior that is byproduct of random mutations and natural selection.
     
  25. Solid444

    Solid444 Member+

    Jun 21, 2003
    True, even though I would argue that nihilism is the most reasonable conclusion given metaphysical naturalism.
     

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