Understanding Newer Atheists

Almost weekly, an article or YouTube video pops up from a Christian (usually a minister) who has discovered some new-fangled revelation about those desolate and destitute whom they label “new atheists.” They assert to have uncovered some clandestine impulse that causes one to reject Christ’s love. This is often followed by a list (there’s usually seven) of ways to communicate the truth and inerrancy of Scripture to those without “ears to hear or eyes to see.”

While I “have faith” that these individuals are sincerely motivated by genuine compassion, I believe their prose does more to expose their distorted vision obtained from observing the world through their rose colored “stain glass” spectacles (hat tip to Petra). With this article, it is not my goal to discourage proselytizing (from either side), but to foster and cultivate honest dialogue between theists and nontheists alike. To do so, I will first explain a little of my own background, and then clarify what I believe to be common misconceptions many believers have about those I will refer to not as new atheists, but “newer atheists.”

First, let’s clarify what I mean by “newer atheists”. A few have protested that there is no such thing as new atheism. They argue that atheistic philosophies were formulated in ancient Greece, and assure us that as long as there has been god(s) belief, there have been those who denied them. However, I consider the term “new atheist” to be used correctly when differentiating between the atheists of antiquity and those of the modern movement which was spawned by the writings of the “Four Horsemen of Atheism” (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens).

However, for the purpose of this article, I feel it is important to distinguish these new atheists further. It will soon be ten years since the new atheist movement began with the publishing of The End of Faith. Since then, thousands (if not millions) of people have abandoned the faith of their youth, and have endeavored to replace it with the awe-inspiring wonder of reality. It is these people, these “newer atheists” who are now at the forefront of atheism. While their predecessors may have attended churches or synagogues associated with a traditional denomination (if at all); these “newer atheists” were once very devout believers, and were involved in nontraditional evangelical churches. These are the churches that serve coffee in their atriums, feature theater seating, and are led by Hawaiian shirt wearing pastors.

It was at their church’s rock-and-roll youth group, that these “newer atheists” walked down the aisle (or raised their hands) to accept Jesus into their heart. It was where they were encouraged to read their Bibles, and to cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus. It was at these churches where they felt love and acceptance in a very powerful way.

For those who don’t know, I have spent the better part of four years traveling around America speaking to several local atheist groups and at a handful of national conventions. I have had the honor of private conversations with virtually every mover-and-shaker in the atheist movement, and have had countless intimate exchanges in person, and on Atheist Nexus, with those who had recently decided to embrace atheism.

I also understand the viewpoint of those who have an honest longing to minister salvation to the lost. I was not raised in a religious home, but as a teenager (who struggled greatly with depression), I ran away from home, and ended up having a very real “born again” experience. Soon thereafter, I began sharing the “good news” with anyone who would listen (and a few who wouldn’t). Jump forward several years, and I ended up attending a Bible College, and eventually became an associate minister at a 12,000 member mega-church. It is a story for another time, but it wasn’t until several years later that I was capable of making the arduous decision to seek truth with no preconceived presuppositions, and acknowledged the reality of atheism.

It is from this dichotomy of perspectives that I present the below seven (seemed ironically appropriate) clarifications about atheism, and specifically the plethora of “newer atheists” who were formerly Christian, and have been the focus of so much evangelical attention as of late. It should go without saying, but I do not speak for all nonbelievers, and there are exceptions to every rule. I am merely attempting to articulate what so many of the “newer atheists” have expressed to me concerning their frustrations when interacting with believers.

Clarification #1: Atheism is not a religion.

An atheist is someone who has no belief in deities. That’s it, plain and simple. There are no other mindsets—or baggage—attached to it. It is amazing how many self-appointed experts will declare that atheism requires faith and is just another religion. Not only is atheism not a religion, it is not even a form of religious belief. To declare it so, one would have to brand not playing golf as type of sport. (On a side note: This is why the word atheism should not be capitalized.)

With this understanding in mind, it is important to recognize that atheists occupy the ends of every extreme. Atheists are liberals and conservatives, capitalists and communists. There are those who are motivated by a profound kindheartedness toward mankind, and those who are nihilistic jerks who creep around in the shadows waiting to pounce on anyone who reacts to their sneeze with a “God bless you.”

Clarification #2: Newer atheists are not militant.

I know there are many atheists (including Richard Dawkins) who use the term “militant atheist,” to describe their activism. Also, the phrase is used repeatedly by many believers. However, in my never humble opinion, this is a mistake and the phrase should not be used. Words have meanings and implications associated with them. When one chooses not to participate in group prayer, they are not being militant. When someone refuses to sit quietly while a person spews religious doctrine all over them, they are not being militant. Atheists do not fly planes into buildings in the name of humanism. They do not behead those who deny Darwin, or bomb Creationist centers. Atheists talk. They ask questions. They debate. They are not ashamed of being vocal, and there is nothing even remotely militant about these actions.

Clarification #3: Newer atheists are not ignorant of history, nor are they doomed to repeat it.

Teetering on the edge of Godwin’s Law, many attempt to link atheism with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. This adds to the misconception that there are automatic values and mindsets interlinked with atheism. While it is true that some of the most malevolent dictators in history were atheists (except for Hitler. He was Catholic.), it does not mean that their belief system is shared by modern atheists. These despots did not embrace the ethical ideologies of Spinoza, or the humanist philosophy of Comte. They substituted religion with their dogmatic political ideologies, and placed themselves on thrones demanding total obedience and absolute servitude. They made themselves gods. All of these actions are despised and rejected by all proper freethinkers.

Clarification #4: People do not become atheists because of traumatic experiences with church.

One of my personal pet peeves is a shared by many “newer atheists.” Almost instantly after I tell someone that I am an atheist, I am asked, “What happened?” As if one could only deny the existence of God because of some harrowing experience. While it is true that many begin to question their faith after a painful incident which is initially blamed on God, or at the feet of a church member, it rarely is the reason one becomes an atheist. These events are purely the empowering catalyst required to question one’s faith. The conclusion of atheism is reached when one rationally separates themselves from the highs and lows of emotions and accepts reality.

Conversely, it is out of desperation and misery that the “newer atheists” became Christians. No minister rationally explained the values of Islam, Buddhism, or any other religion or philosophy to aid in one becoming saved. No. Instead, ministers are trained to push sensitive and emotional buttons, and to tug on heartstrings to manipulate a person to turn to Christ. It is when an individual is at their lowest, that they are told that there is a God shaped hole in their heart that can only be filled by Jesus. It is multilevel marketing (as well-intentioned as it may be) at its finest.

Clarification #5: The decision to become an atheist is proceeded by great fear and emotional heartache.

When a “newer atheist” realizes their disbelief, the subsequent distress and emotional turmoil is much worse than the painful event which instigated their questioning. It is often quite paralyzing. They are aware that giving up their faith could result in being cut off from family and ostracized by friends. Others struggle with the possibility of losing their spouses and/or jobs. All of this is quite traumatizing.

If you add Hell to the mix, there is no wonder why so many tremble at the thought of becoming an atheist. It seems silly to me now, but I was an atheist long before I would even admit it. I somehow thought I could hide from God with my own form of Pascal’s Wager. This fear is very powerful, and I correspond quite often with believers who struggle with this exact horror. Hell truly is the original terroristic threat.

Clarification #6: Many “newer atheists” long for the sense of community they felt in church.

This is perhaps the number one subject “newer atheists” discuss with me. They express feelings of great loss associated with leaving their church families. They speak of the vacuum created when the feelings of love and acceptance were lost (regardless of the many strings attached). If they had a loved one in the hospital, or if there was a death in their family, someone from church was always there prepared to provide arms to hug, a shoulder to cry on, and an ear to listen. Regardless of these wonderful experiences, “newer atheists” are always frustrated when believers use these conditional relationships as a way to manipulate their return to church.

Currently, the larger atheist community has yet to provide a valid alternative to church community. Out of necessity, all of our attention has been focused on defending the rights of atheists and encouraging nonbelievers to come out of the closet. Nonetheless, I’m confident the “newer atheists” will begin addressing these needs and will start providing alternatives. Perhaps the most cliché term ever is: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” While atheists have discovered there was no baby to begin with, some are beginning to realize that there was tremendous value in that bathwater.

Clarification #7: Newer atheists are open-minded and desire honest discussion with believers.

In closing, I want to make it clear that “newer atheists” appreciate, and actually enjoy, participating in discussions that challenge their viewpoints. Though they are not saints, they endeavor to scrutinize all evidence before reaching (what they hope is) an unbiased conclusion. And most, are even willing to forgo their disbelief if evidence for deities were ever to be presented. For these are the requirements for any true skeptic.

Yet, meaningful discussion is often halted when the atheist is accused of being “closed minded” by a hypocritical believer who is the very personification of the term. It is the believer, and not the atheist, who claims to know absolute truth, and is unwilling to forfeit their belief system if it could be proven false. It is the believer who diminishes the dialogue into a tool that improves their evangelical prowess and sharpens their debating skills. As with any argument, nothing truly productive will be accomplished until both parties are willing to change their minds.

I hope this has been insightful to both believers and nonbelievers. Who’s ready to talk?

Brother Richard

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    Nice article.

    “They are aware that giving up their faith could result in being cut off from family and ostracized by friends. Others struggle with the possibility of losing their spouses and/or jobs. All of this is quite traumatizing.”

    For me, the biggest “emotional heartache” was coming to grips with the idea that I’d never see all those I’d lost in heaven– that I’d never see my husband, my sister, or my mother again. I *wanted* to believe in heaven, very much. The notion that I’d see them all again one day in the “afterlife” was very appealing, and very hard to give up.

    • BroRichard

      MargueriteF: Yes. I hear this a lot as well. While I haven’t lost a spouse, I did have a younger brother who died. It bothered me a little while, and then I realized that I had to cherish those who I have around me even more. Once I’m gone, I won’t know the difference.

  • Machintelligence

    As an “older atheist” (I have been one for 50+ years) I only disagree with 5 and 6. The similarities outnumber the differences.

    • Mogg

      Interesting. I found 5 very true, to the point of paralysis. Leaving a fundamentalist church for a more mainstream one, then acknowledging that I didn’t believe at all, took several years and a great deal of emotional trauma, including the fear of being cut off from family (still a possibility – I have to be careful what I say). Not 6 so much – I missed some of the people, but at the same time was so relieved not to have to drag my arse to church or a church-related event or meeting two or three times a week. The loss of the superficial “relationship” with people who I would never choose to hang around with if they hadn’t been my “brothers and sisters in Christ” was not, in the end, a big deal.

      • BroRichard

        Mogg: I experienced the exact same thing. It was extremely paralyzing. Thanks for sharing.

    • BroRichard

      Machineintelligence: I tried to make the information as broad as possible, but I do believe you are correct. 5 and 6 are fairly unique to “newer” atheists.

  • Pofarmer

    This is pretty topical for me, as I’m in kind of an Agnostic/deconversion process now. Basically, my wife is a fundamentalist Catholic to the point of typical Catholic incoherence, the Church can do no wrong, and if I say anything at all that challenges the Church she has a crying fit. It’s a long story, but, basically, the Catholic Church rejected my faith, so I went looking for truth, and found scholarship, and then, about 3 years later, here I am. Newly Agnostic. The worst thing for me is how this has affected my marriage, and it’s not how being an Agnostic affects me, or her, but how her Church affects her views on everything. Slowly, I think, we are coming to terms. I am also careful of what I say in public, and have told my kids to be careful who they say what to. As opposed to the pretend “persecution” of simply questioning Christian beliefs, there can really still be very real persecution for those who simply don’t believe. My wife even asked me “What would you parents think”, ie, typical Catholic guilt tripping. My answer? I’m 42, I don’t care.

    • BroRichard

      Pofarmer: I know it is really difficult. I have talked with many who actually lose their spouses. Very few in the atheist establishment seem to understand these very real issues. Be strong.

      • Pofarmer

        Thanks. The hardest thing for me right now is that my wife feels it’s her Catholic duty to continue to brainwash our 3 boys(oldest 13) after all we agreed to “raise the kids Catholic.” And now, I see it as somewhat my job to help them understand where I’m at, and why I believe what I do, so there’s a tug of war there. Probably the funny thing is, if she would have moderated her beliefs and actions several years ago, or agreed to go to a more moderate church, say Methodist or Presbyterian, I probably would have never gotten to the point I’m at now, for better or worse. But, her family is entirely Catholic, so there is a huge pull and attachment there. If she weren’t Catholic, then she feels that somehow she has “failed”, because, of course, the Catholic Church is the best thing evvaaarrr. I tried to have a simple conversation about a very good post over at Love,Joy, Feminism, on what really works to limit abortions, and anything that might be against the dogma of “The Church” must be immediately suspect. Years of brainwashing is hard to overcome, might be impossible.

        • BroRichard

          I know it is. Be sure to reach out to the local nontheist communities around you. If you cannot find one, contact me personally. I will put you in touch with one.

        • Art_Vandelay

          I have no problem with my wife taking my daughters to church sometimes. I don’t talk to them about all of the problems that I have with religion and scripture and the church but I do tell them three things…

          1. The person standing in front of the room with the different looking clothes is just a human being like you or me with no more insight into things that we can’t know. They have no authority over you. Measure their words as truth claims just as you’d measure anyone else’s words.

          2. That book is not magic. It’s just paper and ink. There’s nothing special about it whatsoever.

          3. There’s no such a place as hell. Anyone who tries to threaten you with eternal torture simply for not thinking as they do is lying to you and trying to control you. They should not be trusted.

          This tends to screw up the indoctrination process for them.

          • Pofarmer

            Every once in a while I could handle. Moderate I could handle. Hell, I could probably still handle the local Presbyterian Church. But, it’s every Sunday, every Holy Day, Every this, Every that. My kids also go to the local Catholic School(I have to admit that the local public grade schools have problems) and this year they are going to daily mass for the kids. Probably 10-20% of the kids who go aren’t Catholic, and there are many more who are split Catholic/Protestant/etc households. I see this as a slap in the face to those of us who might just not see that the sun rises and sets in the ass of the Catholic Church. I have a real problem with the Church having that much access to my kids. Then my wife feels like I’m undermining here when I explain to the kids what this or that “miracle” they learned about in “school” today actually consisted of. It’s quite the knot right now.

          • Art_Vandelay

            Yeesh…that sounds brutal. Good luck.

          • Pofarmer

            Eh, We’ll muddle through it one way or another. Funny thing is, it was some of the batshit crazy unyielding Catholic theology that started the whole process. I got to looking into where the hell this or that thing they believe came from, and I kept coming up with “Some dude 1000 years or so ago thought it up. Then I went looking for that dudes biblical justification, then I came up with Ehrman and Carrier, and, well, it was all downhill from there.

        • Quid

          Point of clarification: Catholics believe it’s a sin not to raise you kids Catholic. You even need a special dispensation from the Bishop to marry a non-Catholic in the Church. Beliefs aside, Catholics believe it’s their duty to make sure their kids grow up Catholic as well.

          Also, no offense, but how could you wish your wife would pick a more “moderate” religion? Religion should not be about moderation. If you believe something to be the truth, then you have to believe it completely.

          • Pofarmer

            I didn’t say pick a more moderate religion, I said moderate her views. I don’t think you have to believe completely that Mary is sitting in Heaven besides Jesus relaying our prayers to him on our behalf to be a Catholic. There are plenty of Catholics who aren’t buying the whole bill of goods the Church is selling. I just had a nice conversation with one this afternoon.

          • Quid

            Actually you do, if you want to be Catholic. Lots of Catholics don’t hold with everything the Church says, but that’s not actually aloud.

          • Pofarmer

            Yes, I know, just one more reason to despise the organization.

          • Quid

            You may have a difficult time convincing theists you don’t hate God if that’s how you feel.

          • Pofarmer

            The Catholic Church is not God. I know that’s difficult to comprehend.

        • Sonya

          I am a single mother. I have always been an atheist. I raised my daughter in the church. I didn’t really know that you could raise children without going to church. lol I tried to look for the positive. Children have to be polite to the elderly on a weekly bases during coffee hour. They have to sit still during serves es.( I loved holding my child during serves es –her in my lap and me doing that slight rocking motion) The only think i ever said and said often is that I don’t believe in Hell. I was terribly concerned my daughter would be afraid. Go and enjoy the family time at church. When they go to collage give them free thought books for their dorm room. i never ‘came out’ until my daughter was about seventeen.

          lol On a side note– my stepsister called me when our daughters were about 16 and said not to send my niece any christmas presents. That her daughter had ruined chistmas for her. That she wasn’t going to even put up a christmas tree. The problem was that her daughter told her that she was an atheist. lol i let her rail for about 20 min. before I told her that I also was an atheist. I love christmas trees and all the lights and music. She was stunned.

          One other thing i did was when ever we went to a new town we visited other types of churches and synagogues. I wanted her exposed to different belief systems and cultures. It was a wonderful experience for all.

          Please don’t worry to much. They also grow out of believing in Santa Claus.

          Sonya

  • BobaFuct

    Clarification: atheists don’t “hate god” and atheism isn’t just a form of rebellion against god.

    This is the one I get from my mom. She simply cannot grasp that I just don’t believe and insists that my atheism is just me deliberately turning my back on god…this stems from Christians’ assumption that all atheists secretly believe in god, but we just don’t want to obey.

    • BroRichard

      BobaFuct: Yeah, you can’t hate what you don’t believe in. The same with people who say we worship the devil. We don’t believe in him either. (Cool name by the way)

      • Jasper

        I’m not sure I actually buy that atheists can’t hate God. The distinction is that hating a character from a film/book isn’t a concession that it’s real.

        For instance, I pretty much hated all the characters in Iron Man 2.. but I don’t think Iron Man is real.

        • baal

          Are you ready to pass legislation that would marginalize or make the lives of the characters of Iron Man 2 worse? (or RL people who are very similar) (there is hate and then there is hate)

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t hate God, but I do very much hate a particular church. Some would see that as a distinction without a difference.

        • James Johnson

          You hate Pepper Potts?!!

          • BroRichard

            Now that’s just blasphemy!

      • Funruffian

        Correction, sir, but Hitler was not a Catholic. At least he wasn’t a practicing Catholic. He was born into a family that was Roman-Catholic, but he absconded religion long before he was elected chancellor. Hitler hated religion and wanted to dispose of Christianity for he felt it impeded his Master Plan.
        Saying Hitler was Catholic is akin to saying Bill Maher is Catholic.

        • Anton

          “Hitler hated religion and wanted to dispose of Christianity for he felt it impeded his Master Plan. ”

          Uh, yeah, that must be why the Gestapo had GOTT MIT UNS on their belt buckles.

        • Devin Daniels

          Read Mein Kampf, “Funriffian” and don’t just believe what others tell you. I’ve heard that hogwash so many times it’s not funny. Hitler thought he was a warrior for god and that the Jews should pay for killing Christ.

        • Nic Murphy

          The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life….
          — Adolf Hitler
          Berlin, February 1, 1933
          in this context he used the broad term christianity to describe the roman catholic church. There is very well documented links between the roman catholic church and the national socialist movement

        • BurnEdOut

          Except Hitler routinely prayed before meals, which alone doesn’t make him a Christian but that’s a very strong suggestion that he didn’t break free from Dogmatic thinking. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1699/was-hitler-a-christian
          Whatever you think of Bill Mahar, I doubt he says Grace.
          Further, for the sake of argument, say Hitler as an individual WAS an Atheist. What about the religion of every member of his entourage, and the majority of the German population who supported the Nazi movement either directly or tacitly (by non-resistance)? They certainly WERE mostly Christians… Do their metaphysical presuppositions not count in the debate? Does the fact that Hitler used their faith to maintain subservience not enter into this at all?

          I cant stand everyone who claims atheism caused the Nazis while pretending like every German Christian must have simply disappeared for an 8 year period of history. I guess that 60-90% of the population must have all been on vacation in the Allied territories fighting the good fight…

        • Burger

          Where do you get that load from?

          Hitler was very much a Christian. Especially after his assasination attempt, he began raving about how he had been chosen by god. Hell, even as early as 1936 he claimed such things.
          “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the AlmightyCreator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”

          Mein Kampf has 49 quotes about god and the “almighty creator”.. And yes, I have counted.

          Stop believing what people tell you and do some research of your own.

  • Mike Hein

    Brother Richard,
    It is great to see you writing your articles again! This is a nice set of talking points to address the basic debates and criticisms that come from believers. Although, after my more outspoken phase of atheism, I find that I have settled into a quiet comfort and I seldom argue with the theists. Only crucial topics like anti-blasphemy laws and gross discrimination get my attention these days. Maybe I’m getting lazy.
    Cheers!

    • BroRichard

      Mike, good to hear from you. Personally, I have gone through the same stages. However, my day-to-day life puts me in the presence of many who are struggling with leaving their faiths. It is not my desire to argue, but to aid in fruitful discussion. Take care.

  • Frank Key

    I am not a philosopher a la Dan Fincke and other great minds on these forums. But I do have a keen mind for detecting mindless belief in both believers and atheists. I minister (as one might say in layman’s terms) to those who speak plain people’s language about their beliefs. I like to see people on both sides be able to adequately defend their positions and live accordingly.

    #7 is of particular importance to me as I am “open-minded and desire honest discussion with believers” but that is rarely reciprocated from the other side. They get so defensive when the subject comes up, tending to dismiss it as quickly as possible or use the “hit and run” tactic of “blah blah blah god said it, I believe it, that’s that, end of discussion”. So, I never press these type folks but wait patiently until they open the door and offer to discuss an issue (usually it is to point where I am wrong about something – but, hey, an opening is an opening.)

    #2 Newer atheists are not militant. This is a good insight that we probably need to hash out among ourselves more than with believers. I am not one who is going to throw the bible tables out of the school room door every time I see them. or make a great show of mockery towards public prayers. However, I will privately and forcefully confront obnoxious believers in a setting that does not serve to publicly humiliate either one of us. “R.E.S.P.E.C.T”.

    So, yeah, lot’s a of good stuff here. Let’s hope it does open the door to some constructive and healing conversations.

  • Amaranth

    There’s a petition out there to try to ban creationism and ID from the science classroom https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/ban-creationism-and-intelligent-design-science-classroom-federal-law/pNY6mCBg

  • Beth Clarkson

    Yet, meaningful discussion is often halted when the atheist is accused of being “closed minded” by a hypocritical believer who is the very personification of the term. It is the believer, and not the atheist, who claims to know absolute truth, and is unwilling to forfeit their belief system if it could be proven false.

    Actually, some atheists are very closed minded and many believers do not claim to know the absolute truth.

    • BroRichard

      Beth: I made many qualifiers to that statement.

      Also, faith, by definition, is claiming something to be true without evidence. When someone says they know there is a God and they claim to have a unshakable personal relationship with him is closed-minded.

      • Quid

        That’s not my definition of faith. I always understood it to be unwavering trust in something intangible. Faith is perhaps the largest equivocation among believers and nonbelievers.

        • Machintelligence

          I have said this so often that it might become my trademark.
          Faith is just gullibility dressed up in its Sunday best.

        • BroRichard

          “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

          Faith is not only trusting, it is believing something to be true without any evidence as to its accuracy.

          “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

          • Quid

            Exactly my point. It’s something “hoped for”. Also, “the evidence of things not seen” is not the same as something with no evidence to its accuracy. Do you believe in Pluto? There’s a lot of evidence for its existence despite the fact that you can’t see it. Faith is not unreasonable (or it shouldn’t be, I know a lot of theists who think it has to be opposed to reason).

          • BroRichard

            You need to take a theology class Quid. If you are talking about Pluto the formerly defined planet, then the evidence says it does exist. And it can be seen with a telescope. However, I don’t make life decisions based on it.

          • Quid

            It can be seen with a telescope, but have you personally seen it? If not, by the definition in Hebrews, it requires faith to believe in it. Also there is evidence of God’s existence. Read Thomas’s five proofs (which I learned about in Theology class)

          • Pofarmer

            That’s the best you’ve got? Weak doesn’t even begin.

          • BroRichard

            As soon as you see a deity with a telescope you will have an argument.

  • joseph66

    Boring as shit.

    • BroRichard

      Very articulate Joseph66.

  • james johnson

    I don’t know about anyone else, but my use of the self-descriptive “militant atheist” is tongue-in-cheek to show the absurdity of the fact that by simply voicing my opinion, pointing out ridiculousness and laughing at (all) religion, I can be construed as militant by some. I’ll continue to use the “militant” qualifier proudly, TYVVM.

    • BroRichard

      James: Of course, that is your prerogative. However, not everyone gets your being “tongue-in-cheek.” Militant Christians bomb abortion clinics. Militant Muslims go on suicide bombings. If any atheist were to be truly militant, I would stand against them.

      • James Johnson

        Yeah, that’s just the thing isn’t it? There’s no such animal as a truly militant atheist. If you (not you; anyone) don’t get that, then there’s no talking to you (again: not you; anyone).

        • Sqrat

          The Soviet Union had a large organization called the “League of Militant Atheists” ( Союз воинствующих безбожников). It was disbanded some time in the 1940′s.

          • BroRichard

            Yes, and I believe that they were destructive and dangerous. I would side with a person of any faith against such people.

          • james johnson

            Huh … thought I replied to this a couple days ago.
            There may have been a “league of militant atheists”, but I’d wager your paycheck (not mine, of course … I need my money; yours is disposbale to me) that their collective disbelief in a diety was not the root of their militantuousness. Sounds a lot like saying Pol Pot killed all those folks because he didn’t believe in a god. Correlation? Causation? I don’t know what those words mean, but I’ve read about that stuff somewhere before.

            Wow! That League of Militant Atheists was one fucked up organization. It would indeed seem that they were militant (in the true sense of the word) in their non-belief. I am having a hard time processing this information. You owe me your paycheck now. (Because I bet YOUR paycheck, YOU have to pay me for me being wrong. That’s how that works.)

    • Liam

      As a Gay atheist, I concur with James. Anything that I say or do to express my opinion is often mindlessly and immediately labeled “militant” because it doesn’t support the Abrahamists’ party line.

      • BroRichard

        They may label it thusly, but it is not true. Unless you take up actual arms. ;)

  • ukvillafan

    I don’t think Dawkins calls himself a militant atheist. He has been called it many times, but he used to say, quite often, that the term was akin to being oxymoronic. Whether he has since embraced the term I’m not sosure.

    • BroRichard

      If you watch the video of Dawkins that I linked to, you will see that he does use it. I agree that his intentions were to be ironic. However, I still think it is wrong to use.

  • Sqrat

    Re: #1. The basic point is correct, atheism is not a religion. However, the first sentence in that section, “An atheist is someone who has no belief in deities,” reflects a pet peeve of mine. I think that the more widely-understood meaning of “atheist”, and closer to the one I prefer, is more like “someone who believes that deities do not exist.” The definition you just cited is one that has been pushed widely within the atheist community within the past twenty years or so, but prior to that time, it was a rather uncommon usage.

    One of the issues here is whether one wants to claim that babies are “atheists” and, if so, to what end?

    • BroRichard

      Sqrat, I know we are talking about semantics, but originally this was the correct definition. One of the first appearances of the word appears in Ephesians 2:12 as atheos, and it means without god.

      I agree that babies are atheists (without god), but that has little meaning. It is important that we all expand on this into what we do believe (humanism, naturalism, etc.).

      • Sqrat

        Ephesians 2:12 is slightly ambiguous, but one certainly gets the sense that Paul (or rather, the forger claiming to be Paul) was using the term to mean, not “without god”, but “without God”. He is applying it to Gentiles, and with relatively few exceptions, the Gentiles to whom he was referring certainly believed in deities. The only reason to suspect that he might be willing to include babies among the “Godless” is because he refers to them as “Gentiles by birth,” as though to be a Gentile meant to emerge from the womb belonging to some ethnic group — or rather, to emerge from the womb not belong to the specific ethnic group of “Jews by birth.”

        By implication, “Jews by birth” were not Godless even at birth.

    • Len

      The danger with saying “someone who believes that deities do not exist” is that it brings a positive belief into the picture. That starts to play into the theists hands to say that atheism is a belief system – ie, religion. Saying that we do not believe in any deities leaves the way open in case one ever does, actually, make a personal appearance. If there is ever real, cogent evidence for the existence of a deity, then most (if not all) atheists that I know of would reconsider.

      • Sqrat

        I don’t see any problem with atheism being a matter of belief, since not every belief is a religion. Most aren’t. I believe that the world is round, but that’s not a religion. I believe that the theory of evolution accounts for the diversity of biological organisms on the earth today, but the theory of evolution is not a religion, the claim of the Institution for Creation Research to the contrary notwithstanding. I believe that Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon from golden plates with the aid of the Urim and Thummim, but believing that the fundamental tenets of Mormonism are wrong is not, itself, a religion.

        I believe lots and lots of of things. I like to think that most of the things I believe to be true probably actually are true. However, since I am certainly fallible, I also acknowledge the likelihood that this or that particular belief that I currently hold may turn out to be incorrect. If I am presented with compelling evidence that one of my beliefs is wrong, I will have no choice but to discard or revise it. So, if I’m puttering about in my garden one day, turn over a rock, and a little godlet scurries out, the way is perfectly open to me to to conclude that deities do, after all, exist. My way is not blocked by my current belief that they do not.

        Is it the case that you actually have no belief one way or another regarding the existence of deities, or is it the case that you do not want to admit publicly to a belief in the non-existence of deities because of a fear of playing into the hands of the theists?

        • Len

          Good points. Most of the things I accept are provable by experiment – eg, gravity works (albeit occasionally optional for cats), the earth is ~round, Harleys are great – so I feel pretty safe with them. They are borne out by direct observation or extrapolation from observation. So I don’t have to believe in them as such, just accept them. Maybe it’s a bit of semantics, as BroRichard says below (“below” as I view the comments, anyway). Not so with gods.

          For myself, I can say that I have no belief in any deity. (FYI, I used to be a fervent believer, to the point of being one of the youth leaders/preachers in the church that I converted to at ~17 years old.) Does a deity exist (or do many)? I don’t know. I have never seen any real, reliable, cogent evidence for the existence of any deity, so I accept that the chance that any deity exists approaches zero. If one shows up, then I’ll revise that view. Until then, not.

  • Tel

    I agree and identify with everything here except the second paragraph in #4, but that is special to me and I am sure that it is true for others. Very nice article. Will be sharing with my former church youth worker, who could do with slightly more understanding!

    • BroRichard

      Thanks Tel. It is my hope that this will equip the many who need it when dealing with friends and family. Also, I would like to see some real dialogue come out of this. At the very least, perhaps the believers can update their tactics a bit.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I somehow thought I could hide from God with my own form of Pascal’s Wager.

    Ha…I think I did this for far too long than I care to admit. The idea that you get to pick your beliefs is absurd in itself but not quite as absurd as the idea that you can trick an omniscient being into thinking that you believe in it.

    • BroRichard

      It is funny Art. I even knew it was while I was doing it. Funny how we attempt to trick ourselves (much less the omniscient).

  • http://www.dougberger.net Doug B.

    I’m not looking for a church I’m looking for a community

    • BroRichard

      Amen Doug! I join you in that, and so do several others.

  • Gus Snarp

    This is well written, I think you’ve done a good job. But of course as an atheist, I love to nitpick so…..

    Number 6 I won’t go into, I’m sure you’ve seen both sides of that. Sufficient to say some people do want that from the atheist community, but I don’t.

    Number 5 is interesting. I’m an in-betweener in these generations of atheist, I became and atheist some time in the nineties, but I’m not sure I really recognized that as an identity until much more recently. I went to an evangelical church before that, but the megachurch phenomenon was barely getting started, so I got a taste of the aesthetic and community, without the full megachurch experience. But when I came to realize I no longer believed, I didn’t fear losing friends and family or being ostracized, and I guess that’s partly because I was just lucky that my friends and family weren’t that dogmatic, but I think it’s also because of what the evangelical church taught: Christians are a persecuted minority. Many who think they’re Christian really aren’t. Most people don’t really believe the Bible. So to me it felt like I was becoming more normal when I stopped going to church and began my journey to atheism. I wonder if others felt that way and if that persecution complex has backfired in other cases.

    And 7:

    It is the believer who diminishes the dialogue into a tool that improves their evangelical prowess and sharpens their debating skills.

    I don’t know about that. I mean, it’s true enough, but I know with relative certainty that no Christian I debate with is going to come up with anything I haven’t heard before. They’re not going to present any evidence. Yes, if there were some I would change my views, but there’s not and certainly there’s none in the hands of the average Christian. I also know most of them aren’t going to change their minds. So, at least in part, I do engage in dialogue to sharpen my debating skills.

    • BroRichard

      Thanks for the well thought out comments Gus.

      I know there are exceptions to every rule, but these do reflect the majority of what I hear from the people who have become atheists within the past few years.

      I agree about the “nothing new” argument. There has not been a new argument for god belief in over a hundred years.

  • decathelite

    My father in law used #1, and I told him, Christianity is just a myth, now how likely are you to deconvert and be an atheist after I’ve horribly misrepresented your views?

    It completely turned a conversation (more like a dictation) of him telling me everything that was wrong with my position into one of beginning to ask questions about what I really believed.

    • BroRichard

      I hope we can continue to experience this.

  • http://billhaines.net Bill Haines

    I don’t find the ‘old/new’ thing a useful distinction, since many people who have become atheists within the last decade haven’t even read those writers (and don’t at all resemble the description above), while many people who were atheists before that are fans of those writers as well.

    I disagree with #5: I didn’t choose to become an atheist, neither did anyone else with whom I’ve discussed the matter in depth, and I don’t believe anyone actually does this. We simply realize that’s what we already are, or have become. At most, the decision is whether to accept the label, and embrace it to the point of using it to describe ourselves to others.

    I also disagree with #6: the number of local secular groups meeting regularly for fellowship and providing mutual emotional support is growing rather quickly, at least in the US, and formal organizations like the AHA increasingly offer training for secular celebrants who can solemnize marriages and officiate at memorials etc.

    #7 could be more qualified (“‘newer atheists’ appreciate, and actually enjoy, participating in discussions that challenge their viewpoints”) since it could be taken as contradicting #1 (“atheists occupy the ends of every extreme [...] those who are motivated by a profound kindheartedness [...] *and those who are nihilistic jerks*”) because plenty of atheists are openly dismissive of religion and hardly enjoy discussing it.

    And these are meant as constructive criticisms, not carping; I appreciate what you do, and hope you keep doing it, :)

    • BroRichard

      Bill, I don’t believe the distinction matters much beyond explaining the divergent backgrounds atheists come from. There are of course exceptions, but these are very prominent with the people I interact with daily. Also, a lot more have read the books than you realize.

      Concerning #5: For people who come from an evangelical church, they very much have to make a decision about atheism. Even if it is only accepting the truth.

      Concerning #6: I agree that there are many attempting to meet the needs for community. However, we have a very long way to go. Community must go beyond having meetings, and celebrants are important. However, they meet an entirely different need.

      Concerning #7: I see your point. My emphasis was meant to be along the lines of political and philosophical. I must admit however, that I just couldn’t let go of the nihilistic jerk comment. It made me snicker..

    • Art_Vandelay

      #5 – Yeah, I think what he actually meant was the decision to admit that you’re an atheist to yourself and others. I don’t think he is suggesting that we can choose what we believe, only that we can choose to suppress what we believe. How many Christians do you know that actually believe that child blood sacrifice is a necessary component for forgiveness?

      • Pofarmer

        What I wanna know, is that if Jesus were laying there dead, how many Catholics would chop of a hunk and have a bite? How many would stick a cup under the jugular and have a drink? Cause that’s exactly what they claim to believe.

  • 100meters

    Thanks, Richard, for an interesting post. I followed the link from Friendly Atheist, and will certainly be back to visit often. Hats off too, to the folks who post their comments.

    Re the “loss of community” concern of many, does anyone have any news about this Sunday Assembly movement? But please-oh-please let’s not call it atheist church, or we will be hammered incessantly with point #1 above…

    • BroRichard

      Thanks 100meters!

  • Liam

    “… ‘newer atheists’ appreciate, and actually enjoy, participating in discussions that challenge their viewpoints.”

    I’ve never met an atheist, newer or older, who didn’t appreciate a good discussion. The same can not be said for most of the Abrahamists that I’ve met over the past 40 years.

    • BroRichard

      Yes, it is a broader statement. However, I assure you there are several who are as closed-minded as many believers.

  • BlackChicken

    Thanks for the piece. It’s an interesting perspective. I’m one of those people that questions whether some atheist groups should be classified as religious. I appreciate the arguments on both sides. I do not necessarily agree that atheism is not religious because of a lack of belief in deities. IMHO, it’s a weak argument because there are religious movements that are atheistic. That said, your perspective is a refreshing change from the polemical discourse that I often encounter.

  • Rob Caldwell

    Along the lines of “militant atheist”, I’ve been call a “fundamentalist” atheist. What are your thought on this? I can see it loosely applying per Websters definition “strict and literal adherence to a set of principles” but also find it insulting in regards to radical wings of religious groups who are intolerant and silly.

  • Hanan

    You make it seem like atheists don’t suffer from the same obnoxious behaviors as anyone else. What about adding a #8: Atheists would like to convince the population to rid themselves of their childish irrational beliefs. It’s not JUST about meaningful discussion. It’s about an active push. You can see that on bus ads, billboards and the always polite signs mocking Christmas. It may be just my experience, but I simply never see “public” mockery of atheism the way there is the other way around.

    • BroRichard

      I’m confused Hanan. How do I make it seem like that?

      You don’t see “public” mockery? Try a Google search. Try: Glenn Beck, Laura Ingram, Sean Hannity, Bill Donahue, the first President Bush, etc. I could go on and on.

      • Quid

        If you want mockery, look at what Richard put up top. (If you’re looking to have an intellectual conversation with theists, it’s probably a bad idea to put something that we would consider extremely offensive at the top of the article. It’s hardly going to encourage intellectual conversation)

        • BroRichard

          Confused Quid. What?

      • Hanan

        >How do I make it seem like that?

        By leaving any obnoxious behavior out from your conversation that aptly fits.

        I don’t think you understand what I meant by public. Glen Beck and the rest are no different than you. They have a portal for discussion. One may if they want, tune in or out. Those are not the kinds examples I gave to you.

  • Quid

    “An atheist is someone who has no belief in deities. That’s it, plain and simple. There are no other mindsets—or baggage—attached to it.”

    I’ve never encountered an atheist without huge baggage against religion. Perhaps they exist, but every atheist I’ve ever talked to is extremely angry and bitter at organized religion.

    I don’t think it’s possible not to have any beliefs at all (it’s even impossible to say without putting it in the negative). Atheism is very often linked with nihilism, and when it isn’t you can usually find some other belief in there (radical individualism, ideological freedom, relativism, etc…). If you dig down deep enough, everyone has a belief in something.

    • Pofarmer

      Hell, in the U.S., a lot of religious persons have baggage against OTHER religions, so I’m not sure that’s really a useful qualification.

    • Brian Westley

      “Atheism is very often linked with nihilism”

      By theists like yourself, yes; it’s just another lie by liars-for-god against atheists. Not very often by atheists.

      • Quid

        Nihilism as in the belief in “nothing” as an entity (this is what Nietzsche proposes). This is where having a staring match with the abyss comes from.

        My point is even to say “I believe in nothing” is to have a belief. Regardless what it is, all atheists and theists believe in something (for lack of a better word)

        • Brian Westley

          “Nihilism as in the belief in “nothing” as an entity”

          Atheism is a lack of belief in gods.

          Two different things.

          “My point is even to say “I believe in nothing” is to have a belief.”

          Well, that isn’t atheism. Atheism is “I don’t believe in any gods”.

          You seem confused between the terms “gods” and “everything/nothing”. If I said I don’t believe in dragons, would you somehow think that implies nihilism, or that I said “I believe in nothing”?

          • BroRichard

            Not at all Brian. That line was primarily tongue-in-cheek.

            In the purest since of the word, I am a nihilist. Similar to Dr. Rieux in Camus’s, The Plague, I believe it is only once we acknowledge that life has no meaning or value on its own, that we are capable of creating our own meaning and value.

            The nihilists I was referring to, are those who never take that second step.

          • Brian Westley

            Are you the same person as “Quid”?

          • Kerry

            BroRichard, I agree. After a three year search for truth, from a 50 year lemming experience in the church, I arrived at the place where I was sure there was no meaning…no value…a “What’s the Point” place. There is where I learned that I had to give my life meaning. My life was what I made it. I saw for the first time the beauty and wonder of the earth. I appreciated more then ever the sheer chance that I was actually here to enjoy it all.

            Interestingly, many of my personal choices never changed, but the reasons for those choices certainly did change. Helping my fellow man was just that! Loving my wife was just that! Not getting drunk…because I hate that feeling…was just that! Not doing drugs, because I don’t want to, was just that! I have no celestial almighty unseen being standing over me to force me to act this way. I act this way because I can and because I enjoy it, and because it is who I am.

            If I can leave the world a little better because of my time here, then life would have been worthwhile. If I can touch one other person and make them smile, or help with carry their burden for just a moment, then I will have had success. I am not the scientist that can solve the riddle of cancer, or make create endless amounts of clean energy, or produce a car that can get 1000 miles a gallon, but what I can do I will do for the good of my fellow man.

  • smbakk1

    My pet peeves when it comes to Christians is them telling us why we are denying God rather than listening to our explanations.

    It’s always the accusation that we were never “true Christians” to begin with, along with; we were hurt by someone at church, we had a dispute with the pastor, we are angry at God about something or we have sin in our lives that we don’t want to let go of.

    Why oh why can’t they just believe us when we tell them that we don’t believe in a god any longer because after doing a vast amount of research, there’s just not enough evidence to base that belief on?;

  • LogicGuru

    It always seems like the “dialogue” is between atheists and evangelicals, where most of the atheists in question are former evangelicals. So, e.g. clarification 5, the idea that the decision to be an atheists is somehow traumatic is surprising. Most people I know are atheists–it’s just the default and the norm where I am. Many were raised without any religious belief. And none of them have ever had any personal experience with evangelicalism.

    As for dialogue, I as a non-evangelical Christian, just see atheism as a different, more austere metaphysic. Not a religion certainly. So the difference between atheists and religious believers is just a difference in metaphysics–like the difference between Platonists and nominalists. I simply don’t get what the big deal is. Yes it’s a big deal to Evangelicals, but they’re a write-off to begin with.

    • BroRichard

      LogicGuru, I was specifically speaking about individuals who come to atheism after they are Christians. For most of us, it was very traumatic.

      • LogicGuru

        When I read these discussions I feel I’m looking into another world, where Evangelicalism is the cultural norm and “coming out” as an atheist is both traumatic and dangerous. I used to think that this was melodramatic fakery. But after reading innumerable blog posts I suppose I now believe it–believe that there are worlds like this. I wish y’all would recognize though that there are other worlds where things don’t work this way.

        Frankly, I don’t think any “dialogue” with Evangelicals is either worthwhile or possible–either for atheists or for non-Evangelical Christians like myself. They are garbage. And, mercifully, however audible and visible they are, Evangelicals are still only a minority of the population. They’re increasingly powerless: they haven’t gotten any of their pet policies through–not stopping abortion, or gay marriage. And I’m betting on marijuana legalization within the next 10 years–alleluia!

        If you want “honest discussion” why not talk to the MAJORITY of Christians who are NOT evangelical. And please note, and I think I speak for many if not most mainline Christians. We do not share their “values,” we do not support their conservative social agenda, we do not endorse their literalistic interpretation of the Bible. So please recognize, the line I’ve read often, that non-Evangelical Christians are “enablers” of the Evangelical/Fundamentalists is plain false. I F*ING HATE EVANGELICALS!!!

  • Richard Fortuna

    As one of the “new atheists” mentioned here, I just have a few observations:

    First off, I think that the bulk of this article describes my situation perfectly. I am 35, recently deconverted, and still I haven’t come out to my 70 year old father because I just don’t think I can handle that rejection just yet. Not sure yet how I will get there, but I know I should.

    On Clarification #2 (we aren’t militant): I honestly wonder if we AREN’T militant only because we are still at such a disadvantage with respect to our religious brothers and sisters out there. We are fewer in number, and much of what we do is done peacefully because we don’t generally have an army at our backs. I sincerely wonder (and worry) about what will happen when there is a critical mass, and atheists/nontheists/ANTItheists outnumber the religious population. I believe that this WILL happen in my lifetime in the US. It may not happen worldwide, but certainly in the progressive West. What will happen then, when we have the numbers to really put a hurting on the ones who have and are continuing to try to repress us? I remember in my youth in the Assemblies of God watching movies about the end times, with gangs bearing the “mark of the beast” literally hunting down and executing Christians. I certainly hope that atheism will prove resilient against that type of mania, but I just wonder if the “crowd mentality” will take over at some point, and those who ARE militant will become leaders in a fight against theism.

    Food for thought…

    • BroRichard

      Thanks for the comments Richard. I for one would turn on any atheist who would actually become militant.

      • Richard Fortuna

        As would I. I think the difference would be the ANTItheists, those who follow the vein of “The Four Horsemen” who consider religion to actually be detrimental to society. Fanaticism comes in all forms and flavors, secular and religious. Just because we don’t see it in the atheist community yet, doesn’t mean we WON’T. Even though neither Harris nor Hitchens ever advocated violence toward religious people, it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t happen.

        I think that part of what keeps us grounded is the decentralized nature of the atheist community at large. For the most part, we don’t have church communities or centralized leadership. There are exceptions to this, like American Atheists and the FFRF, but those exist for very specific goals achieved through legal (often litigious) means.

        We also don’t have any televangelists or fiery preachers whipping us up into a zealous frenzy. Alain de Botton believes we probably should, according to his book “Religion for Atheists.” He advocates that proponents of atheism learn from the evangelical speaking styles of pentacostal ministers. I certainly would LOVE to watch an evangelical atheist preach. I have actually thought about becoming one myself, channelling my past among the AoG.

        Sorry for the ramblings. Just wondered what the community thinks about “evangelical, militant atheists” in the Dawkins style.

        • TJ Lucz

          Well actually there is Jerry Dewitt. He still speaks like an assembly of god preacher—only now he speaks based on reason and fact instead of faith and nonsense. Not sure how militant he is…His speaking engagements and book seem pretty tame and quite gracious toward believers actually. I think he’s just trying to climb-up out of the financial mess of loosing his house, job, wife…etc. As for me; I have no desire to become “evangelical” about anything including my non-belief.

          • Richard Fortuna

            I have only recently found Jerry’s videos online. As a former Pentecostal myself, I can really get behind the idea of a fiery atheist preacher like him. His message is one of love and the power of relationships over faith. He speaks to a part of me that really misses the Assemblies of God. I’m not sure that he’s really going the “evangelical” route either. I may be wrong on that. He’s a good role model for those “new atheists” who aren’t trying to be antagonistic toward Christians. Sadly, I end up on the antagonistic side of things sometimes. I currently have a rather heated flame war going on with a couple of my old Christian friends. It’s totally unproductive. It’s actually like banging my head against a wall. However, I still can’t help holding out the nugget of hope that if I keep chipping away at their arguments little by little, I may eventually get through to them. Too much to ask? Probably…I just don’t have the unconditional love for my fellow man that Jerry professes…

  • GentlyUsed

    re: Clarification #4

    * I’m an atheist
    * What happened?
    * It’s because of what DIDN’t happen — any of the things believers claim to justify their supernatural beliefs

  • Garett Brea

    I am a recent atheist and I have not yet told my family. I live in the southern Baptist bible belt and was raised in the Baptist church. Every Sunday morning and Sunday night each week for 17 years. Nothing clicked with me. I am now convinced in my heart that I am a true atheist and Im at the point where I respect every ones belief because I want them to respect mine. Im looking for guidance in my life as being an atheist. if anyone would like to share any wisdom I would more than love to be open mindful and grateful.

  • Pat

    Interesting. I see number 7 as patently false. As a common destroyer of atheistic tenets, most atheist function emotively and avoid reason and logic. They attack religion, they attack the Bible (a book they never read), but their grounds for atheism and their defenses for their position are markedly absent.

    I think atheists fear the theist who is well versed in philosophy and logic because they know in the end, they cannot win.

    Even you Mr. Dawkin’s are frightened of real, logical necessary discussion. If you follow the logic where it leads, you cannot base your atheism on that.

    For instance, I have read your “arguments” against the Cosmological Argument in your ‘God Delusion’ book. I literally, physically laughed. I don’t know what you were countering against, but what you were no arguing against was the Cosmological Argument. It was some bastardized version, loosely based on Cosmology, but it was not the argument itself. If forced me to ask myself, why, if you are making these counter claims were you afraid to take on the actual argument as it stands in reality? If you cannot counter it, on the basis of what it really says then you aren’t really making a point.

    The question is, what are atheists afraid of?

    • Loqi

      And which version of the cosmological argument are you talking about, since there are multiple flavors of it? Actually, it doesn’t really matter. None of them are sound, and none of them even lead to the conclusion of a sentient deity, much less the god of the bible.

      • Pat

        A smug disregard is not the same as proving it wrong. And it never has been contrary to popular atheist belief. To say what you said is evidence that you don’t understand the argument. I don’t see atheists give it an honest treatment. The last to do so would be Hume. And while Hume gave great insights into what causation really is, he did not even by his own admission, disprove it.
        The reason for the flavors is that Cosmology is a form more than an argument in itself. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you start with, the conclusion is always the same.
        The ‘flavor’ I prefer is the argument from contingency as it removes the dependence on things we cannot prove such as physical existence and time. It deals with causation as dependencies.

        It’s not enough to say ‘none of them are sound’ you have to prove it wrong. Since nobody else has managed to do so, then go ahead, prove it wrong.

        As far as the conclusion not pointing to a sentient being is a misunderstanding as to what an ‘Uncaused-cause’ must be to be what it is. By definition, you cannot ask ‘what caused the Uncaused-cause’ in that, by definition it cannot be caused hence the question is nonsensical. For an Uncaused-cause to be what it is, it must necessarily have ‘willed’ (for lack of a better word) causation. To have a will is to be sentient. The Uncaused-cause cannot be compelled by anything outside itself. So it must posses some sort of will to cause.

        Now to jump strait to the Bible it putting the cart before the horse. You have to know God exists for the Bible to make any sense. And further I would not want to discuss the Bible with any others than those who have read it, all of it.

        • Loqi

          To say what you said is evidence that you don’t understand the argument.

          Please quote the part where I said it was evidence, or stop making things up.

          The ‘flavor’ I prefer is the argument from contingency as it removes thedependence on things we cannot prove such as physical existence and time. It deals with causation as dependencies.

          It still asserts that everything is caused, which you’d have to actually prove. So go ahead. Prove it.

          By definition, you cannot ask ‘what caused the Uncaused-cause’ in that, by definition it cannot be caused hence the question is nonsensical. For an Uncaused-cause to be what it is, it must necessarily have ‘willed’
          (for lack of a better word) causation. To have a will is to be sentient. The Uncaused-cause cannot be compelled by anything outside itself. So it must posses some sort of will to cause.

          The Big Bang satisfies your requirements of being uncaused (and asking what caused it is nonsensical), so are you going to argue that the Big Bang is sentient? This is also an equivocation fallacy. You put “will” in quotes because you know the word doesn’t mean what you’re describing, but you lack a more accurate term. Then you use the actual definition of “will” to link “uncaused” and “sentient.”

          Now to jump strait to the Bible it putting the cart before the horse. You have to know God exists for the Bible to make any sense. And further I would not want to discuss the Bible with any others than those who have read it, all of it.

          There’s a fully read copy sitting not 20 feet from where I sit. I was a believer once. Reading the bible is one of the leading causes of atheism. And how is that putting the cart before the horse? I asserted that even if you could show that god exists, that does not lead to the conclusion that the bible is true. I granted the existence of god, so, as you say, the bible should make sense at this point, and the truth of it should logically follow from the existence of god. It does not.

          • Pat

            I didn’t say you presented evidence. I said your response was evidence that you don’t understand the argument. And this post is further evidence of that, or you would not have said what you said.

            Not everything is caused, one thing by necessity is uncaused. However everything outside of that must be caused. If something exists, it demands a reason for it’s existence. Nothing that exists can exist as a factor of itself. Now before you turn this on the conclusion, we are discussing the premises. The reason something cannot exist uncaused outside the singular Uncaused-cause is because it would require that it be a factor of itself, which is circular and therefore logically fallacious. Because of the nature of the argument there can only be one Uncaused-cause, not many. And no, the Uncaused-cause cannot either be a factor of itself otherwise it would not be uncaused, outside of the fact that it violates the rules of logic.
            Anything that exists, exists as a factor of something else by logical necessity.If you want proof? Provide evidence of something that exists uncaused and is not the Uncaused-cause.
            Provide an argument that something outside the Uncaused-cause can exist, uncaused. You can’t do it, nobody can because it’s impossible as a matter of logic.

            The big bang is completely insufficient for being the Uncaused-cause. As the Big Bang was caused, it was reliant on things that exist. Current theories say that it was dark energy or the ever elusive singularity. Or even just the ‘laws of physics’ but even the laws of physics are contingent upon the ‘identifiable particulars’ with in it or the laws of physics could not exist.
            The big bang was also an event and no longer exists which violates the definition of Uncaused-cause. Nothing can act on it, therefore is not effected by anything that exists.
            The big bang is insufficient for the definition of Uncaused-cause.

            Correct, God existing alone provides no evidence that the Bible is true. It also doesn’t mean it’s not. It says nothing about it really. Only that belief in God is required for the Bible to make any sense. Otherwise there is no point in discussing the Bible. You must believe in God to discuss the Bible. If God does not exist, then the Bible is useless and nothing in it is even worth discussing.

    • Len

      As a common destroyer of atheistic tenets, most atheist function emotively and avoid reason and logic. They attack religion, they attack the Bible (a book they never read), but their grounds for atheism and
      their defenses for their position are markedly absent.

      I’m guessing that you’ve never actually had a discussion with an atheist. Maybe in a role-play at your church where other believers played the part of atheists, so you could “beat” them with (non-)arguments, but a real discussion – sorry, but I just don’t buy it.

      And by the way, when I was a believer I read the bible day and night. I would call it wasted time, except that it actually helped me to get out of the church.

      EDIT
      What am I afraid of? Well, I’m not afraid of burning in hell for ever, if that’s what you mean.
      /EDIT

      PS (to the regulars): Please forgive me if Pat is a known loony – I’m new to this site, so don’t know the usual suspects :-)

      • Pat

        I have, many, many times. Perhaps I came on to strong, but atheists are my favorite people to discuss with. It’s not fun talking with people who agree.

    • RowanVT

      Uhm…. Reading the bible is what directly led to my atheism.

      As to what do I fear? I fear death. I fear ending. But I don’t do a disservice to my life to by shoving that fear under a mountain of frosting and pretending it’s actually something wonderful.

    • KenBrowning

      Hi Pat. Concerning the Cosmological Argument and other deductive syllogisms, how do you verify that the premises are connected to reality? As far as I know, it’s routinely accepted that syllogistic premises can be internally correct without being connected to real things. If one accepts the premises and the syllogism is constructed well, then one accepts the conclusion. But the problem is in the methodology for determining the truth of the premises. Do I have it right or wrong?

      I doubt that you have carefully considered the academic discussions surrounding the Cosmological Argument.

      As a former Christian I understand how important theses issues are to you and I wish you the best.

      • Pat

        Thank you for your response. To answer your question, you have to understand what the argument is dealing with. It is dealing with existence, not this universe, not only physical realities, just existence.
        It’s about what we can prove. Descarte illustrates this problem quite clearly where he cannot deduce anything to exist deductively but something must exist to be aware. So are far as the premises are concerned. a) Something exists, that cannot not exist is a true statement. We may disagree on what exists. For instance, there is no way to deductively prove physical reality, it is an inference. But we know something must exist. As long as there is existence, the premises are solid.

  • hlynn117

    I really agree with #6. One of the main reasons I didn’t come out as an atheist for a long time — and didn’t want to — was that I loved my church community. Especially for younger atheists who are in religious families, it can be difficult to find a community outside of the church.

  • Len

    #4:

    The conclusion of atheism is reached when one rationally separates themselves from the highs and lows of emotions and accepts reality.

    Nicely put.

    • Pat

      Contrarily, I believe atheism to be a highly emotive decision. Usually rooted in anger. Following arguments, where they lead without emotive bias leads to theism, not atheism.
      It does not mean that atheists don’t ask good questions. It does not mean that make good points. But following the evidence where it leads does not lead to ‘something from nothing’ which is a logical necessity if you are an atheist.

      • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

        Maybe you should *ask* atheists if anger motivated them before you *assume* that. Rational examination of a religion is exactly what leads people out of it, so I was simply astonished to see you saying something so ignorant and obviously biased. Please don’t be one of those annoying theists who dismisses people by second-guessing their motives rather than engaging with their argument.

        • Pat

          I meant in my experience anger has been a motivating factor in one becoming atheist. Anger at religion mainly. Not everybody of course and I didn’t mean it that way and I am sorry if it came out that way.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            You still don’t get it, do you? Anger hasn’t been a motivating factor in a single atheist’s story that I’ve ever read. Maybe you should talk to some actual atheist deconverts. Yes, of course we get angry when we realize we got lied to, and yes we get angry when we see religion trying to remove our liberties and rights, and yes of course it’s infuriating to see “god’s people” acting like twats right in front of us while crying aloud about their superior morality, but the tenor of our deconversions tends to involve sadness, not fury.

            You need to talk to more atheists and question those assumptions. Why is it so threatening to you to imagine that anger was *not* a factor in someone’s leaving your religion?

      • Len

        Following the evidence does not lead to the need for a sentient being, much less the Christian god. For all your talk below about philosophical arguments for your god, none of them are actually important when you consider that (as Loqi put it) the big bang satisfies your requirement of being uncaused. There’s no need to complicate things by adding into the mix an invisible, unknowable, omni-everything being. Who you say just happens to be your specific flavour of such a being.

        In the real world, adding complexity to an explanation doesn’t mean something is correct. It usually means you’re trying to confuse people with irrelevancies, misdirections, or outright lies. Not that I’m accusing you of that – you seem to be genuinely arguing for the added complexity not for the confusion factor – but it’s a tactic we often see (speaking for atheists, if I may).

        So no, there’s no deity at the end of the evidence path.

        • Pat

          The big bang, as stated before, is completely unsatisfactory for being the Uncaused-cause. The nature of the argument as what it states does not allow for an event like the big bang to be sufficient for that. In fact it’s just another premise. Even the scientific theories surrounding the big bang establish it as a caused event. A caused event does not fit the definition as an uncaused-cause. Further, you are misunderstanding what the argument is talking about. It’s talking about existence itself, not ‘this Universe’. Alas, no one can make a deductive, absolute argument that the universe, or anything physical for that matter actualy exists. You can make a very good inductive argument to a high probability, but not a deductive argument. Deductive arguments deals with absolutes.
          We cannot prove physical existence deductively because we cannot remove our perception from the equation. the cosmologial argument does not require that. Existence does not have to be physical, it just has to, well exist, or be. Our choices in that respect is: there is existence, or there is not existence. Even if everything we percieve and think is wrong, we can at least still establish that something exists, even if we cannot be certain about what that is.
          This leaves the athiest in a predicament, in that existance is either because of something or because of nothing. Atheists necessarily believe that latter and have been wracking their brains for centuries to prove it. Something I am grateful for as it has only served to stregthen the position of the theist.
          Now before you accuse me of lying, misleading, or having been mislead, check my facts. Feel free to verify the validity of my statements. After all, it’s not my creation, it’s been around for a long time and stood unrefuted. I have heard some crazy attempts, like ‘nothing exists’, the use of infinate regress falacy of not being a falacy in this particular case, etc. Or even my favorite statement fallacy, ‘what caused the Uncaused-cause’.
          Before you make the accusation of misleading or bing mislead, or any other attempt
          Accusing me of being deliberately misleading is a red herring. These arguments have been well established for centuries and everything I have said is verifiable and referenceable. Again, there seems to be a deliberate misunderstanding of cosmology, because if true, it’s a huge problem for athiesm. It needs to be dealt with. With regards to this ‘New Atheism’, this is largely what I have seen. Rather than dealing with things directly, there are accusations of dishonesty or a misleading. That’s simply not the case and it is verifiable. Feel free to research anything I have said thus far and prove they are false.

          • Len

            On whether the big bang needed a cause, perhaps I was a little cryptic. The jury is still out but I understand that the latest view seems to be that it may be the result of a natural process. However, the source of the natural laws that allow such a process is still a question. I believe that this is mentioned in Stephen Hawking’s book, “The Grand Design”, but I haven’t read it yet. So we don’t know yet but we’re looking. At least, very clever people who understand all this stuff are looking. But I don’t really expect that we’ll ever fully know – and I’m quite able to accept that.

            You mention a couple of times that atheists are in a predicament or have been wracking their brains for centuries to find answers. Well, atheists are interested in looking for what’s out there, but not having found it yet means we carry on looking, rather than just accepting that goddidit. And we’re not afraid to say “I don’t know”. As to whether we believe that existence is because of something or nothing, that is a red herring. The universe exists (because we’re here now) but how it came to be does not have to be the result of any deity-like being. Something not someone.

            There’s no reason to inject any god into the mix – unless you start off by believing there’s a god and then eventually see everything as confirming that. I prefer the null hypothesis unless indicated otherwise by evidence.

            You mention a couple of times that I am (or may about to be) accusing you of misleading. I specifically stated that I was not – but that adding complexity to an argument was often used to that effect.

          • Pat

            I will start from the bottom because I am little confused at what you say regarding the complexity of the argument? The argument is really simple, concise and strait forward, I see nothing complex about it. That what exists requires an explanation for it’s existence. That explanation also requires an explanation, which can go on, but not infinitely because an infinite regress is by definition circular and there for a fallacy. Hence, if existence depends on something for it’s existence and that dependency requires another dependency for it’s existence, and this cycle cannot continue infinitely hence the only solution is that which caused but could not be caused is a very simple linear argument. I don’t see the complexity.

            The argument does not require previous knowledge of God’s existence. As a matter of fact, the originator of the argument Aristotle, had no prior knowledge of God. He lived in a polytheistic society full of ‘god of gaps’ gods used to explain the phenomena around them. There is no way he had prior knowledge of a singular Uncaused-cause prior to him making the argument.

            Like I said before, cosmology doesn’t require ‘this universe’ to exist or be true, only existence and it does not matter what form that existence takes, it only needs to exist.

            As far as the big bang, it was a caused event. If you believe the current theories based on M-Theory, which has to do with branes containing these subatomic base units hitting each other and releasing a tremendous amount of energy which we call the big bang. This primordial soup of stuff, or the dark energy as they currently suspect would be the cause of the big bang. Now these theories are all under revision due to new revelations found at CERN. Much of it debunks what was originally thought about M-theory and is therefore under revision. It doesn’t debunk M-Theory as a whole, but rather many aspects. They still believe strings to be the basal particle or basal information, but it did seem to dispel the multidimensional aspect of it. I kind of have the inside track as an acquaintance of mine was working at CERN during the times of these tests.

            Now, none of this actually matters to the argument itself, it only serves to prove that the big bang was in fact caused. The things that caused it are caused, natural law is caused, the laws of Physics are in fact caused. All of these things are true, only if other things are true which demands contingency. Dr. Strauss theorized that the universe came from nothing because the laws of physics demands it. That first there was dark energy, which naturally brings to mind the questions where did the dark energy come from, where did the laws of physics themselves come from. The problems with scientists approaching these questions this way is that no matter how they try to define it, they run into what we call in philosophy, ‘Identifiable particulars’. Dark energy is something, the laws of physics is a something, vacuums are something, even empty space is something. If you can define it, it’s a ‘something’. Nothing has no properties of any kind, it literally does not exist. Identifying things that appear to be ‘very little’ is still not nothing. Nothing does not exist, literally. All this circles back around to the Big Bang, if it was true and it seems very likely that if not true, it’s pretty close, it was a caused event. I am not claiming that God caused the big bang. The argument simply states that the ultimate basis for everything when you brake them down to their basic components, are dependent on something else, something outside themselves for it’s existence. And as you regress you come to a point where you cannot go further and leaves you with 3 possibilities. One, it’s based on nothing for no reason, two, it goes on infinitely, or three, something outside this causal chain, not compelled or a part of it caused without itself being caused or dependent on anything else for it’s existence.

            One is false. Nothing is incapable of doing anything nothing is a total lack of existence and that which does not exist is nothing, can do nothing and cannot be the basis for anything.

            Two is false because an infinite regress is logically impossible. It’s not anything to do with infinity, it’s the regress part that is the problem. Regression cannot continue infinitely because it begs the question, it is circular and is at some point going to make the thing in question a factor of itself. A pencil isn’t a pencil just because it’s a pencil. That’s were an attempt at infinite regression leads.

            This leads us to the only possible conclusion, number three. Something that is non-contingent, sitting outside the causal chain is the first cause, or basal contingency of that which exists. It’s the only conclusion that follows from the premises and is logically possible. Moreover, the premises demand that only one such ‘thing’ can exist.

            How do we know that this is God? Well it doesn’t matter much what you call it, it’s reality demands that it be uncaused, uncompelled in anyway and yet cause of it’s own volition. It sits outside the causal chain, is necessarily eternal (as many things are particularly in metaphysics), and is the basis for existence by it’s own ‘will’. How do we know that? Because something uncaused cannot be compelled by anything outside itself, or it would not be uncaused. It’s true by definition.

            Now you say that the atheist is comfortable with saying ‘I don’t know’ and there are many things we don’t know. But what you cannot say is that the argument is false without proving it’s false. And therefore these things are knowable without being required to know a whole host of other things. It’s true by definition which is very different then the correlational cause-effect ties we make in science. Actually, a scientific proof of God would actually weaken the argument because it reduces it then to inference and induction where deduction is much stronger because deductive reasoning is absolute. It’s either true or it’s not. It cannot be sort of true or mostly true, it’s either absolutely true or it’s absolutely false. That’s the power and simplicity of deductive reasoning, it’s conclusions are absolutely true, if the argument is true. Or it is absolutely false if the premises are false or the conclusion derived does not follow directly and necessarily from from the premises.

            Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to be thorough with the explanation.

          • Len

            Actually I wasn’t referring to the complexity of the argument itself, just the way you bring in so many references and “explanations” as to why things must be how they are. I was commenting on the way many apologists use this ruse to make their arguments look more believable (because it’s so complex and there are so many parts to bring into the discussion before you can really discuss and, possibly, refute them). I was not accusing you of trying to muddy the waters – you seem to actually want to bring in the added complexity. I also commented on your assumptions about the predicament of atheists and how we are wracking our brains to try to prove things. I think it might be less than you expect.

            You spend four mostly long paragraphs saying stuff (much of which I also recognise from my google search) and then start the fifth by saying that “none of this actually matters to the argument itself”. Great.

            I am not claiming that God caused the big bang.

            With all the long (but apparently unnecessary) arguments, I thought that was exactly what you were claiming. My bad.

            Of the three options you then propose, you dismiss #1 (nothing) out of hand – even though its nature must be, pretty much by definition, unknowable to us.
            #2 (infinite regression) seems, I agree, unlikely. But then again, where does the universe end – is it infinite? What’s outside it (ie, what’s it expanding into)? What does (or can) infinite really mean? We don’t know these things either.
            #3 (something outside the chain) may seem more likely to you but that’s all you can say about it. I’m not sure we can really say that only one of these #3 thingies can exist – they are also pretty much unknowable (your attempt to define and limit it notwithstanding). But you seem to rely on what you expect (and where you’re headed with your arguments): there can be only one. And it’s the right one.

            But even with all that, you still haven’t demonstrated that this #3 thingy is in any way a thinking deity (even though you try to make it so by saying it does things by its own will), much less the Christian god. I don’t have to prove your argument false. You have to prove that there’s a god and that he, she, or it is the Christian flavour of god. You haven’t done that. But (as you already mention about deductive reasoning) starting out with the unfounded assertion that there’s a god of some sort (as apologists – especially apologist philosophers – do) you can take the most sound logical steps and still end up at a wrong conclusion.

          • Pat

            Well, explanations are necessary even if seemingly complex. They are there to support the argument and refute the counter arguments. I don’t know another way of explaining what is being said, other than providing the examples that serve as proofs.

            It’s also good that you can google what I said and find them from other sources. I want my evidences to be cross referenceable. it lends support to my position.

            The 4 long paragraphs were in reference to your statement regarding whether or not the big bang needed a cause and the point was to prove that it did indeed and had a cause by necessity. To show that the ‘jury is not out’ with regards to it. It needed a cause.

            Now to the possible conclusions. #1 is dismissible out of hand because it has no nature. Nothing is what it says, a complete absence, it has no properties physical or metaphysical, it literally does not exist. Something that does not exist cannot do anything. Therefore it is logically impossible for something to be the result of nothing. There is nothing to know about nothing. It does not exist. Feel free to look this up.

            Now with regards to number 2, that’s far more interesting. It’s a point that a lot of people get confused. I tried to head off your counter argument at the pass, but apparently I did not do a good job. It does not have to do with things being infinite. There are things that are infinite. metaphysical objects are all infinite and eternal with regards to time. Numbers (which are metaphysical) are infinite. I don’t argue against infinity. It’s the regress that cannot be infinite. There are several reasons for this, one an infinite regress, necessarily, is circular. Part of the premises of an infinite regress is that the object in question is a factor of itself. Since this is a logically impossible proposition, the infinite regress is a logical fallacy. The other problem with infinite regress is that if you have an infinite amount of premises, a conclusion cannot be reached. If a conclusion cannot be reached, you don’t have an argument. It does seem interesting that people would have considered an infinite regress possibility with regards to cosmology. The deathknell to that is that it is circular. So it really doesn’t matter if this universe is infinite, it’s not, but that’s besides the point. IT doesn’t even matter if you were talking about a multiverse or infinite universes, those things would still be contingent; even the infinite aspect of it, is contingent as it’s a property.

            As far as number 3, it’s not a matter of likely or unlikely. It’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from that argument. It’s not sufficient to not believe it, you have to prove it wrong. To dismiss it, is not to prove it wrong, to not believe it is not to prove it wrong. The problem is that if you are dismissive of it, you cannot say your position that the is no God is certain. You can say you don’t believe it, but that doesn’t make the atheist position true.

            Atheists often discuss burden or proof that it’s on the theist to prove God exists. Well, there are many good arguments that make that case so the burden has been shifted, no it’s up to the atheist to prove the arguments for existence is false or you have no good ground on which to stand on. Alas, you base your position purely on faith despite evidence to the contrary. Perhaps you don’t care or your satisfied with saying you don’t know, but you know God doesn’t exist, but then know you have no good ground on which to base it in the face of evidence to the contrary.

            Now with regards to what the Uncaused-cause is. I have tried to explain what properties something that fits this definition must have to be what it is. Sufficed to say that something uncaused that causes must posses something like a will to be the said first cause. Otherwise, something inanimate that is uncaused cannot therefore cause because it cannot be compelled by anything outside it self. If there is will then that indicates a sentience.

            As for a ‘Christian God’ there is no such thing. God is God, Christianity is a religion. One cannot have that discussion until existence is established. You cannot have a discussion about the properties of something that does not exist. Once we establish existence, then we can discuss nature.

          • Len

            The problem is that if you are dismissive of it, you cannot say your position that the is no God is certain. You can say you don’t believe it, but that doesn’t make the atheist position true.

            I’ve not said anywhere that I believe there is no god. I have said that there’s never been any evidence of any god. I’m an atheist – an a-theist – someone without belief in gods. In other words, I don’t believe there are no gods and I don’t believe there are gods. The difference with what you say might be small but it’s significant.

            I know that some people (as atheists) prefer to say that there is no god, but I find that to be too certain and without a sound foundation. I don’t know if there are gods. I don’t think that we can ever really know unless one shows up one day. If one ever does, then I’ll reconsider my position. Until then, it’s pretty safe to say that based on the evidence we have, the chance of any gods existing approaches zero.

            Well, there are many good arguments that make that case [that God exists]

            With enough waffling and hand-waving people think they can make arguments for pretty much anything. Observable evidence is better, though – but observable evidence for any god is at least consistent in its absence. Otherwise it all comes down to whichever the latest philosophical view is (regardless of its possible obscurity). But obviously I’m not a philosopher :-) your mileage may vary.

            God is God, Christianity is a religion. One cannot have that discussion until existence is established.

            Good point, but the burden of proof for establishing any god’s existence lies with the person saying there’s a god. That’s you.

            I notice in this and several other discussions here that you take the more or less standard position of someone who’s trying to follow a script, rather than actually reading what people say. Cases in point (some paraphrasing by me):

            *Mentioning that my standpoint is believing there’s no god. I never said that.
            *Sticking to your point that people are atheists because they’re angry, in spite of people (who actually know because they are atheists) correcting you.
            *Saying that people haven’t read the bible when several have said quite explicitly that they have.
            *Denying absolutely that bad things are written in the bible and that the god it describes is a cruel, misogynistic bully. The only conclusion seems to be that you haven’t read it yourself. We have, we know what it says.

            You say elsewhere in this thread that you have carefully considered the atheist point of view. I’m sorry, but you appear to have no idea what that is.

          • Pat

            “*Mentioning that my standpoint is believing there’s no god. I never said that.

            *Sticking to your point that people are atheists because they’re angry, in spite of people (who actually know because they are atheists) correcting you.
            *Saying that people haven’t read the bible when several have said quite explicitly that they have.
            *Denying absolutely that bad things are written in the bible and that the god it describes is a cruel, misogynistic bully. The only conclusion seems to be that you haven’t read it yourself. We have, we know what it says.

            You say elsewhere in this thread that you have carefully considered the atheist point of view. I’m sorry, but you appear to have no idea what that is.”

            Okay, now you are introducing red herrings into the conversation. An out of context, bad summation of what I said to others on the basis of what they said has no bearing on what we are talking about. Introducing that, serves no purpose other than divert the conversation.

            I am trying to have a reasoned discussion with someone who is willing to have one. Are you willing to have a cool, calm and reasonable discussion based on reason, or are going to take a more aggressive tact? Can you do Mr. Dawkin’s #7?

            It seems that my assertion that atheists tend to be openly hostile and uninterested in cool reason discussion is holding true. Have I accused you of anything? No, yet now you accuse me of many things. Thus far my experience with Mr. Dawkin’s #7 has been that it is simply not true.

            It seems we were doing fine until now. Now you have accused me of waffling, reading from a script, and lying in that I have not carefully considered atheist’s point of view. What does any of that have to do with the argument at hand?

            What I have done is presented an age old argument and defended it, that’s all. I don’t see where it warrants a more hostile reaction. Why can you not just prove the argument false? Or at least try without the ad hominems? Saying I am a bad Christian, or that I have said unreasonable things to other people (in your perception, not fact), or that I am engaging waffling or hand waving does NOT prove the argument false.

            I have presented an argument for God’s existence and you have not disproved any of it. You have not made a counter argument against it, yet you are demanding proof. Providing a deductive argument that is true in it’s premises and true in it’s conclusion from those premises is evidence.

            If something is deductively true, it is an absolute. What evidence could possibly be more compelling than an clear cut argument that states an absolute truth? What possible evidence could you expect be more compelling than an absolute?

            It’s true you can make arguments for anything, what you cannot do is make true absolute arguments for anything. You can make arguments for anything, you can be right about everything and that’s the difference.

            Have you even considered the fact that the argument is true? If it’s not true, you should be able to make a counter argument that is not refutable. It’s not some sort of mind game, or trick. You can make the claim that it’s all smoke and mirrors, but without being able to prove it is, then the accusation is baseless. It’s not about making claims, it’s about proving them.

            You speak of observable evidence and despite the fact not that observable evidences have been claimed for centuries, you don’t believe them. So clearly, what you mean by observable evidence is something you observe. Clearly observations made throughout the centuries are not sufficient evidence. Somehow, any and all persons who have claimed a revelation of some kind are either delusional, mentally inept, or liars. If you were provided this visual observable evidence, would you believe it? If you did, would you be ok with the fact that nobody else is going to believe you?

            From a theist’s point of view, existence is evidence. Morality is evidence, consciousness is evidence, freewill is evidence…

            Let me change tactics for a second, do you believe black holes exist? If yes, then how do you know since they cannot be observed at any level and their existence was derived as a result of pure reason?

            If you care to continue to discuss in an open-minded, cool and reasonable manner, I welcome the discussion. I’d rather not suffer the personal attacks.

          • Len

            Regarding what you say about my standpoint being I believe there is no god: I quoted your text. You were saying that my dismissal (rather than disproof) of your premise #3 means I couldn’t say my position that there is no god is certain. But granted, there were some qualifiers in your text that I could have paid more attention to.

            The other items I mentioned are indicative of how you seem to be following a script in other discussions. As I said, they are not related to our discussion which is why I added that afterthought at the end (and said that it was paraphrasing by me).

            I’m sorry if what I said came across as a personal attack – that wasn’t the intention. But your approach does seem reminiscent of typical “believer” tactics, if I may put it that way.

            You have obviously thought a lot about the arguments and the proofs you offer. I think the main problem I have with arguing purely philosophically is that it rests on so much that isn’t of use or isn’t visible (or measurable) in the real world. Even if your posit of a creator were to be considered proven (which it isn’t) it still doesn’t mean anything in the real world if that creator never shows up. A creator in absentia is as useless as no creator at all. Except as a philosophical exercise. Maybe.

            You posit (#3) that everything was created by some thinking entity (a creator) outside of the causal chain. But if it’s outside the causal chain, then where did the creator itself come from? To say it was uncaused is making stuff up and changing the rules but only for the creator. Why would you do that? You say that infinite regression is illogical but so is changing the rules, making stuff up, or defining something (ie, infinite regression is circular, therefore illogical) in a way that leads to your chosen conclusion. It’s worse than illogical.

            Is the creator outside of time?

            What we understand as time (in as much as we actually do understand it – but I guess that’s for another discussion) cannot exist outside of material reality. Time is a property of material reality and the law of cause and effect is bound to time (ie, the cause precedes the effect) and therefore to material reality. So there cannot be a time when material reality did not exist but the creator did. So the creator couldn’t have created material reality. But the question itself is not valid because time needs material reality to already exist.

            Where is (or was) the creator?

            If the creator exists then it must exist within material reality. If it’s in material reality, then it must be subject to the laws of material reality (if not, why not?). Things in material reality are observable, either directly or by the effect they have on other things in material reality (eg, the black holes you mentioned in your post). What observable effect does the creator have? If none, then why do you think it exists?

            If you say that the creator does not exist within material reality, then it must be part of something larger – ie, something consisting of material reality + the creator. Meta-reality perhaps. This means that the creator cannot be uncaused because it exists as part of (ie, within) meta-reality. That greater reality must have come first, then came the creator, then came us. What caused the creator?

            If the creator is outside of all reality – ie, not real, then we’re done and I’m off for a beer.

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

    You’ve described a lot of what I went through leaving Christianity, especially point 4. It’s astonishing how often Christians will immediately leap to the idea that “bad Christians” made me stop believing. Nothing could be further from the truth, though it does say a lot about how fully Christians understand how they tend to treat people that this is the first thing they assume! It’s so disrespectful and dismissive of the protracted pain and heartbreak I underwent as I began questioning my onetime faith. But when someone leaves, it’s either the message that failed somehow or the person, and they just can’t understand how the message could have failed–so obviously it was my fault somehow.

    Thank you for writing this piece.

    • Pat

      I am sorry you were treated so poorly. But don’t paint all Christians with the same brush. There are bad ones and good ones.

      • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

        You do realize you just did exactly and precisely what I described in my reply, right? You leaped to the idea that I was treated poorly without asking me if I had been first–as if you were well aware that yes, people in your religion mistreat folks all the time. Don’t worry though. I’m 100% aware that there are decent people in Christianity, just like there are in every religion and non-religion–though I’m also 100% aware that because there’s no transforming deity behind the religion, that Christians aren’t better than any other group and that there are a good number of predators and zealots among their ranks. Buyer beware, as the saying goes…

        You need not apologize for Christians as a whole, though I do thank you for your sympathy.

        • Pat

          My bad. It seemed that while you did not leave the faith because of ‘bad Christians’, reactions to your leaving were condemning and unsympathetic. That’s what I read, or misread.
          I don’t believe that people should be condemned for doing an honest assessment of what they believe and questioning that. I think it’s more productive to understand why people like yourself leave and asking the right questions about our own beliefs.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            It’s quite okay. You’ve highlighted something I truly wish Christians understood about ex-Christians. Nobody I’ve ever heard of left the religion because of bad Christians. Ever. I’m sure someone might have–but you’ve got to understand that to many of us, it’s like being a harassed secretary at a company in a terrible economy. No matter how we’re hurt and abused, we need that job or our families will suffer and we might starve or become homeless. I’d have put up with just about anything while I thought that way. Eternity was at stake, so a few decades of suffering and predation surely didn’t matter much. I really tried not to worry about what people did, but rather what my conception of god did. To have someone blow in post-deconversion and tell us that some inconsequential, shallow reason led us out of the religion is just so aggravating and hurtful. And almost every Christian I’ve ever run across has done that to me. Heck, I’ve seen Christians accuse us of leaving over parking availability. Just how stupid and reckless do they think we are? It’s just so dehumanizing. I know why they do it, but it’s still not okay. (I know you didn’t do that. It’s just how we get treated in general.)

            If you’re genuinely curious, I left 20ish years ago because the religion’s historical and scientific claims turned out to be objectively untrue, and then refused to return because its underlying mythological concepts and stories of its deity, even if taken as fiction, turned out to be hideously immoral and inhumane. That such a huge number of its adherents tend to have such an incredibly tough time taking seriously the very most simple and elementary commandments of their religion just adds to the lack of validity I see in the religion. I appreciate your asking and thank you for your time :) I don’t care what you personally believe as long as you’re a good person and so far you’ve shown yourself to be so, so feel free to ask anything else you want to know.

          • Pat

            As far as mistreatment is concerned, being Catholic, only Jews have experienced more harrassment, mocking, milignement, and vitriol. I suppose what you experience as an Atheist has something to do with where you live. Quite frankly, I don’t talk about my faith at work or anywhere on a social level so nobody really knows what I am or what I beleive unless they know me or ask. So if you are getting flack, I can sympathize, but it’s not unique by any stretch to atheists.
            As far as why you left the faith, I think you highlighted the number 1 reason why most atheists I have talked to, left a faith or chose atheism. The problem of evil. I understand this, more than any other reason. It’s not something Christians, or any other faith for that matter has been able to reconcile either. We just take a different tact to deal with it.
            As far as your other reasonings, I certainly hope you have not closed the door on learning with regards to science and religion or history.
            While not specifically knowing what you are refering to, I think I have some idea.
            As far as science is concerned, I really don’t see the problem. I see them as complimentory, not contradictory. Further, they are different disciplines, they are not performing the same purpose, though they do intersect at someplaces. But I really don’t see where science refutes of contracdicts religion, at all. Only some small number of and small minded Biblical creationists are hairlipped by science. I love science personally. I am facinated by it and try to learn as much as I can as a lay person, about it.
            As far as history, I guess it really depends on what you are talking about. I assume you were talking about the Bible? If so, I think understanding the bible in the context of when these books were written, who they were written for and what the purpose was of each book was. When you understand it in that context, it’s less crazy. Keep in mind it’s an ancient text and the audience by and large did not have the advantage of advanced education, nor a lot of time to spend studying. So the message had to be delivered in an effcient manner in a way that could be understood. Context is very important for extracting what the bible is actually saying.
            Again, I assume you were talking about the Bible, if not then feel free to let me know what you were refering too.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            I don’t think I explained myself very well. The problem of evil was not part of my initial questioning. The number of ways the Bible does not coincide with reality were what sparked that process. Later on, I realized that the myths about Yahweh/Jesus indicated a being of great brutality and ferocity, vengeful and cruel, utterly unconcerned with humanity except when torturing it or tempting it. If I didn’t know that the people who believe in this being consider him just and merciful, the book itself would not have told me that. The problem of evil came a lot later (the devastating question about why a just, merciful, omni-everything god would allow evil to exist, to be technical) and is one of the reasons I don’t consider any Biblical faith systems worth my time. Since leaving I’ve found a lot of those reasons, and yet not one single compelling one to return, but you asked about the initial ones, so there you go.

            Oh, and you went there.. Context, that “get out of uncomfortable truths free” card. Sorry, Pat! There just isn’t any context to excuse repeated genocides and murders, nor any of the many incomprehensibly inhuman laws the Biblical god demanded of his people. You may think so, and that’s fine; I was with an abusive preacher husband for a while so I get that you have to find some contortion that makes it okay that your god has murdered billions of women and babies over the years via his curse upon Eve for making an innocent mistake and also okay that he advocated slavery, rape, and murder. You have to find some excuse for why the book contains absolutely nothing but the sort of primitive tribal ignorance that one would expect from a bunch of primitive tribal men. But for me, there is no context that excuses those myths. They are simply inexcusably grotesque and immoral. Read them without assuming who they’re about or trying to weasel out of what they say on the surface, and see if you still think they describe a being like your conception of god.

            The “flack” you think Christians get is solely the removal of privilege and the calling-out of their prejudices and inhuman treatment of others. It’s astonishing to see someone actually parrot the myth that Christians get anywhere *NEAR* the persecution they say they do, or that such mild rebuke comes anywhere *NEAR* the oppression of millions of women and gay people that Christianity has embraced over the last few decades. Sorry, can’t hear you over the screams of all those gay kids murdered by their bigoted peers or bullied all the way to suicide. Were you saying something? Oh, something about how much flack you get? Why don’t you go out in public wearing an “I’m an atheist” shirt and see how that goes for you? Why don’t you spend a year telling everybody you know IRL that you’re no longer a believer? Why don’t you tell your spouse that you’ve deconverted if you have one and watch her contemplate divorce IMMEDIATELY, as many of my ex-Christian friends’ wives have done? The mere fact that you believe that you’ve got it sooooo harrrrd as a Christian in today’s near-theocracy makes it hard to take you seriously. I hope you rethink that position because objectively speaking as someone who is neither an atheist nor a Christian, I see no support for your idea whatsoever.

            PS: Not an atheist. Remember? Just an ex-Christian. It’s curious how many Christians confuse those things. And yes, I love science and history, as well as mythology. :) The first two are how we get ahead, and the third is like poetry–essential for my nourishment. I just don’t confuse mythology with either science or history, that’s all. Anyway, that’s all we have for today :) Please don’t hesitate to ask any other questions you might have.

          • Pat

            “Later on, I realized that the myths about Yahweh/Jesus indicated a being of great brutality and ferocity, vengeful and cruel, utterly unconcerned with humanity except when torturing it or tempting it. If I didn’t know that the people who believe in this being consider him just and merciful, the book itself would not have told me that.”
            Well, it’s clear you haven’t read it. That’s not what it says nor what it’s about. I find it very curious that athiests are the only group that sees fit to criticize and admonish a book they have not read.
            I am going to guess you are going to tell me that you have in fact read it, but I seriously doubt it for there is no way that, what you said, is all you got out of it.
            Quite frankly it’s the same thing atheists say all the time.
            That there are weird and uncomfortable stories in the bible as a justification for disregarding it or somehow regarding the whole thing as a myth or fallacy is patently false. There’s a lot more than that to it, but you sound very angry about it.
            Where it therefore seems that rather than a well thought out, carefully considered position it’s clearly an emotive reaction. So there are uncomfotable truths in the bible as in life.
            “Oh, and you went there.. Context, that “get out of uncomfortable truths free” card.”
            I find this an odd reaction and clearly one reliant on some good old fasion propaghanda either anti-Christian, or athiest. For not being a religion Athieist sure seem hell bent on prolystizing their point of view.
            Back to the point, so based on what you said, it’s clear that normal rules don’t apply. If I take something you say out of context, I am sure you would be very angry about it, but it’s ok to take things in the Bible out of context as a justification for your hatred for it?
            Seems hardly fair that you would not apply the same standards as anything else as you would to the Bible. Somehow to the non-beleiver, the Bible is exempt from context and a reading of the full text. You don’t have to read it, or understand it to hate it, sure makes sense to me.
            As far as this:
            ” context to excuse repeated genocides and murders, nor any of the many incomprehensibly inhuman laws the Biblical god demanded of his people.”
            Is just patently false and you really should fact check, before you post something like that. Sounds like you read the same garbage a lot of athiests read about the Bible without checking facts of the actual bible.
            And that little rant you went on at the end clearly shows you don’t know anything about faith, what it means to be a Christian and what Christians are called to do.
            And while I was trying to sympathize with you, you went on an anger-filled hate filled rant about ‘bad Christians’, while ignoring the facts on Christian persecutions, why you just accused Christians of all kinds of terrible things and claimed that my personal experience of persecution must be false and is not happening. Guess what you just did?
            What this post did clear up for me is that you are clearly angry as hell, at God, Christains or somebody, but you are angry. That you’re leaving the church whatever church that was was based on these highly charged angry accustaions you just leveled on Christians.
            What you said earlier doesn’t quite square up with the things you just said in this highly emotionally charged post.
            I think you are just angry, because what you said about the Bible and Christians is not based on fact…
            You also served to prove Mr. Dawkin’s #7 to be patently false, as I stated. You aren’t interested in good honest dialog, you want to level accustation and minimize another person’s experiences because they don’t believe as you.
            Quite frankly, this type of emotionally charges, loose with the facts posting is what I find with ‘New Athiests’
            The old school athiests used logic and calm discussion, the new ones rant, rave and accuse others of all kinds of mean hateful shit while being mean and hateful themselves.
            Thanks for proving my point.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            You’re welcome. And thanks for proving mine. I thought you were different, but you’re not. You’re so eager to dismiss me out of hand that you didn’t listen to a thing I said. You tone trolled me and imparted anger to me when I can tell you for a certainty I was not actually angry. You dismiss my understanding of the Bible and deny that I read it carefully when I just told you I did. *I* know why you must do that–why you have to resort to impugning my character and my intelligence–but I hope one day you wonder why you must. While you’re busy dismissing me and making me into a strawman for you to tilt at and insisting you’re being “persecuted” when you’re not, you’re not engaging with anything I actually said. There’s a reason for that. I wonder if you’ll ever discover what that reason might be.

            Oh well. The quest for a TRUE CHRISTIAN continues… I’ve found like four or five out of the millions I’ve run across, so surely there must be more.

            And yes, I read the Bible. I loved the Bible. I trusted the Bible. I read it constantly because it was the only source of my god’s wishes, threats, and demands of me. I kept up with apologists’ works and studied concordances fanatically. I once beat a Harvard M.Div. at a theological debate regarding the Book of Job. But you can keep insisting I didn’t read it all you want, if it makes it easier for you to dismiss non-believers.

            Just know that we know why you must say such hurtful, evil, hateful things.

          • Pat

            I did not impart anger to you, you did that yourself. And it is you being dismissive of me, saying that I am not a ‘real Christian’ and a troll. Minimizing the experience of Christian suffering by non-believers and others as not comparable to sufferings of others such as gays at the hands of Christians? Your previous post was an angry rant. You can call it what you want, but that’s what it was. It was devoid of fact, but full of vitriol.

            Dismissing the necessity of context with regards to understanding the stories and events of the Bible? And your response is simply more ad hominems.

            My assumption of you not reading the Bible is your demonstrated lack of understanding of it. The cherry picked events, and expounded them multiplied them far beyond the reality of the text. How am I to believe you read or understood it if you speak non-truths about it? I have no way of knowing if you read it or not save by what you say, but you represented it with untruths, so what am I supposed to think? If I said I read ‘Harry Potter’ and then said it’s all about witch craft and the occult, are you going to believe I read it? Of course not, and neither would I.
            If I am such a troll, such a hatefilled Christian you are under no obligation to respond, but if you put me on the defensive, I will defend myself. I won’t let false accusations go unchecked.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            Ugh.. yay, another Christian taking it upon himself to mansplain to me what I think, how I feel, and what I know. Do you really think you’re this open-minded wonderful Christian? Because let me tell you, you are not. You’ve insulted my intelligence yet again, and you still think you’re the superior and that you’re “defending” yourself. Why don’t you let go of my feelings and my motivations and my background, which I am removing from the table now, and actually engage with what I *said*? Let me repeat here in case you’ve gotten lost:

            The Bible is not a book of morality. It’s a book of fables, much of them filled with violence against women and children, brutality against other races, and rampant cruelty against, well, everybody. Taken as literal truth they fail–nothing the Bible claims as objective history or science turns out to be so. Taken as fiction and mythology they fail–there is very little about them that is useful for today’s morality. You’ve posted a couple of times about the contortions you’ve made in order to reconcile these barbaric tales with the idea of a good, loving, just god. I’ve told you that I don’t accept those contortions as valid or necessary. Taken on their face, the Bible’s stories depict an evil god. I see no reason to justify or explain with “context” its god’s repeated genocides and cruelties. The simple truth is that there are a lot of religions out there, and many of them don’t feature those sorts of horrific barbarisms, demands, or threats.

            I invite you to do what so many ex-Christians have done and what I did, long ago: read it without blinkers. Pretend you’re reading about another god entirely, one you’d never heard of. Finish the Old Testament and tell me if that god is one you would consider anything but the enemy of all humankind. Perhaps you will wonder, like I did, why so many people feel so compelled to defend and excuse this god’s actions and behaviors away to make him into a good, loving, and just god. But I invite you to take the plunge.

          • Pat

            I have carefully considered the atheist point of view and in light of all the arguments for the existence of God and no satisfactory counter arguments, I don’t not find the point of view compelling.

            As far as the rest of your points, you seem to only want to insult me rather than make any solid points. You don’t know how I read the bible, you don’t know my experience and perhaps it is you who need to take the blinders off. I have carefully considered it, the good, the bad and the ugly. Because I have not arrived at the same conclusion as you does not mean I have not given matters considerable thought, consideration and due research.

            I have done nothing to you yet you feel compelled to insult me and belittle my point of view without laying out any proper arguments for defending your conclusions other than you are in the ‘God is a bug meany’ school of agnosticism.
            I therefore feel no need to continue this discussion as it will only devolve into personal insults and ad hominems as it already has. As I am certain you will demand the last word, I will let you have it.
            I wish you well and kind regards.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            Poisoning the well is poor form, but I shouldn’t be surprised. You’re not obligated to accept anything I said. I wasn’t actually arguing against you. You indicated curiosity about why someone left your religion, and I told you why I had left. Then you decided your god is so weak he needs you to “defend” him against poor little me and my apparent vicious onslaught. Tsk tsk, why couldn’t he send bears to rip me to shreds like he did those dozens of little boys who bugged his prophet?

            This may surprise you, but I respect your intelligence and accept that you have given the matter of religion considerable thought. I’d like you to extend the same courtesy to me. I understand that you think you know the Bible fairly well–and I’d like you to extend that same consideration to me. You are not able to do either.

            That you expressed curiosity and then insulted me repeatedly for being honest with you, then got miffed that I got frustrated and angry because of your repeated insults, that you refused to engage with anything I said and chose to tone troll me instead of listening, tells me that your “curiosity” is not honest. And again, in that regard, you are no different from a host of other Christians I’ve run across. Yes, I apparently will have the last word, but I wish you knew how sad I find it that we did not have a dialogue instead.

  • Pat

    Defreind them.

  • SocraticGadfly

    Re Point 2 — no, but many a Gnu Atheist, including top dog PZ Myers, has more than once claimed, or insinuated, that the likes of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot weren’t atheist. And, many a Gnu follower was claimed more than once that Stalin went to a seminary, therefore he **could not** be an atheist. By that dim reasoning, John Loftus (and I) **could not** be an atheist, either.

  • Thin-ice

    Thanks Richard. I think this is one of the best summaries and explanations of what we “newer atheists” go through when de-converting.

    I was an evangelical for 46 years, with a Bachelor of Theology from a well-known Bible College, and 7 of those years as a missionary in Europe. I identify and agree with all seven of your points. I am one of the rare 60-yr-olds who has de-converted, and even rarer yet is that my wife de-converted at the same time, both of us trying to hide it from the other!

    Have you written about your de-conversion experience in more depth somewhere? I googled your name but didn’t find any bio of any kind. I did find the youtube of you at the AtheistNexus conference, but the quality of the audio and video made it unwatchable for me.

  • 908978656

    Actually, what “adds to the misconception that there are automatic values and mindsets interlinked with atheism” is you writing an entire post talking about how “they” are. You say: “Atheists are liberals and conservatives, capitalists and communists. There are those who are motivated by a profound kindheartedness toward mankind, and those who are nihilistic jerks who creep around in the shadows waiting to pounce on anyone who reacts to their sneeze with a “God bless you.”” I agree.

    But then you pepper the article with statements that imply atheists are a cohesive group, responsible for creating the kind of community church (sometimes) does. You make blanket statements like ““newer atheists” appreciate, and actually enjoy, participating in discussions that challenge their viewpoints,” and you equate atheists and freethinkers, and then try to police the boundaries of what it means to be a “proper” freethinker. (Granted, I’m in favor of calling it “proper” to despise the actions of Pol Pot et. al.).
    My life experience has some striking similarities with yours, and I suspect we are on the same page about a lot of things. I just think a lot of this post is self-contradictory.

  • Dale Bryant

    Atheism is not a decision one makes, it is a conclusion one comes to.
    – Dale Bryant

    • Joseph O Polanco

      You’re equivocating. What do you call someone who believes God does not nor cannot exist?

  • Funruffian

    What a strange article from an apparently strange person. I never thought Atheism was a personal quest to aspire to. I always thought of it as apathy and lack of belief for whatever reason. This guy makes it out to be some movement of enlightenment.
    He also says that religious people who adopt atheism enter into a world of reality?? Really? Was reality different when they were believers? Did trees, cars, mountains, humans and animals look different then as opposed to their newfound atheism?
    That’s just deranged.
    And why do atheists seem so hellbent on forming clubs and organizations espousing atheism? What is in it for them?
    I don’t believe in werewolves, mermaids or unicorns, but I don’t feel the compulsion to form clubs against those that do believe in them.

    • Dave Ucannottaknow

      That’s an interesting avatar – I just love a chick who’s all legs, and no brains!

      On second thought, you don’t sound quite as stupid as resolutely ignorant. But this is a page for atheist discussion, and of course we believe we are “enlightened” – NOT! That BS is for Christians and Islamists! We don’t believe we have superpowers either, bestowed on us by imaginary friends who we talk to.

      We are very serious about living our lives free of the unsubstantiated dogmas, as we wish others would in light of their record on fueling racial hatred, homophobia, polygamy, infanticide, murder, suicide, genocide, an insane race for the next worldwide apocalypse through irresponsible environmental policies and rapture-baiting, or wars to end all wars by ending all human life (thereby ushering in the new and peaceful rein of Jesus). We don’t need religious dogmas, because we don’t believe in a god or gods who create people, when there is only evidence of people creating gods. “God” didn’t invent “Man”, it was the other way around! That isn’t dogma, just basic arithmetic – add up the evidence, and that’s what makes the most sense. This is why so much of the above evils are done on religious ground, it’s because religion is strictly a human invention. Every god or group of gods which has been studied reflects the attitudes of the culture which birthed it: its prejudices, its hatred, and (that too) whatever passed for ethics and other values the last time it’s doctrines were amended.

      On doctrinal changes, just read a little history, and learn how Christian doctrines have changed – how very interesting the way the Pope treated Galileo for teaching what every kid in school knows now, but it was contrary to Church teachings then. Disease was treated as the work of “witches”! The very un-open minds which led that church pushed back against the rising tide of intellectual and social progress for as long as they could get enough support for their efforts to block such good, until after much un-necessary suffering they had no choice but to capitulate and face the embarrassment having to change their doctrine. Fast-forward to the crisis now going on over contraception and gays, and you may pick up our perspective on that! It’s just sooo very interesting how the doctrines of just one religion, all of them derived from the same ETERNAL (and unamenable) bible have changed so significantly over time – and this means only one of two things: either the early church leaders were not wisely led by their god, or that the all-important bible hasn’t been really all that important compared to the will of people to believe ideas which can be sold!

      On the Pope’s position on doctrinal change, he must (of course) put on a great show of resistance to the changes which he is confronted with – several generations of popes had contraception and gay inclusion dropped in their lap, maybe this one will be the one to make those changes – we’ll see. He is The Church, and such an organization must show that it’s teachings won’t be swayed by public opinion – now, that would destroy his credibility as the faithful servant of a god who supposedly never changes his mind! This is why the changes which should take a decade to implement take half a century, or even multiple centuries before there’s any relief for those who suffer needlessly for their religion!

      On evidence for any god which was ever postulated into people’s minds: it’s really quite simple. It always goes something like “oh look, we exist, on a planet that supports our existence, and that can’t be easy because if the earth wasn’t just the right size, at just the right distance from a sun of just the right size, at just the right position in just the right sort of galaxy, then there would not be an atmosphere that could support us” (as if conditions would evolve to suit life, rather than the other way around). “Without all this, how could there have not been an intelligent, benevolent creator?” **sigh** This doesn’t explain anything other than why there aren’t any thinking neighbors living on any nearby planets. I said the explanation is simple, and in truth it is. Collapse all the brain-drool of the Christian apologists (there are football-field-sized libraries full of their dead trees), and here’s what you are left with: coincidence! If you cannot imagine it ever happening without a creator god, well then by gAWd, there must be creator!

      In recent decades, Christian apologists have become quite fond of masquerading as if they were scientists, presenting various wild, and often mind-blowing ideas which may seem impressive to those who don’t understand how they differ with actual science. Compare to true science, which has been uncovering much evidence of how we evolved on this earth, through a process which was led by the genes of individual life forms, and bringing us closer to understanding how our universe came into existence through the evidence which can be observed, and tested with consistent conclusions by all. Intelligent Design “science” doesn’t even follow the Scientific Method at all, as it begins with the precept that there is necessarily an Intelligent Designer (god), and it must be so, because look at all this evidence which shows that we really don’t know anything! “Just look at the intelligence in these cosmic phenomena – how could this universe have not been designed with intelligence?” Well, how did the recently-sloughed-away Old Man on The (NH) Mountain, or other similarly remarkable features which clearly were NOT created by humans come to look so much like the human face? What forms CAN’T be created by the action of water and wind, acting under the blunt patience gravity, over hundreds of millions of years? Whatever resemblance we may percieve just happens to be something which we are tuned in to percieve it as. What it all comes down to is Gap Theory, which is the superstitious notion that what we don’t understand is what we cannot ever understand (so PrAISe the LORrrd, there really is a gAWwd!). If I come off as a bit mocking of all this, well how can intelligent people present such ideas as, straight-faced, as if they were science?

      Much as I doubt that you have read this at all, I hope I’ve at least helped to unveil what goes on behind the curtain of religion for those who are beginning to question what they have been taught to believe without any explanations needed, and the attitudes which such teachers have so falsely prescribed concerning us. The rest is pretty much as Richard said, and I suggest you read that again with an open mind. If you still think we are wrong, we really aren’t closed-minded. Give us a live introduction to your god, or better proof than anyone has so far of theirs, and we can definitely talk!

      • Anton

        This is why so much of the above evils are done on religious ground, it’s because religion is strictly a human invention.

        It doesn’t take much of a stretch to apply this same logic to scientific inquiry. Humans invented that too, and we have to be careful not to raise it to a level where we’re worshipping our own creation. Science has been exploited for slaughter and domination too, don’t forget, but it’s as if we’re not supposed to question what’s good and real and true about science.

        Sounds like a religious belief to me.

        If you cannot imagine it ever happening without a creator god, well then by gAWd, there must be creator!

        I’m a Christian, but I too deplore the junk science that ID represents. The creative power of undirected processes has been demonstrated so many times that it’s ridiculous to equate complexity with intelligence or intent. Intelligent Design isn’t based on valid premises, it’s evidence of a glaring lack of imagination.

        However, the line cuts both ways. Science isn’t the final arbiter of all questions concerning humanity. The meaning of life, the very question of Being itself, isn’t something that science is equipped to tell us. The philosophical assumptions of empirical inquiry, and the limitations of the scientific method, have to be understood as well as the strengths of the method.

        • Dave Ucannottaknow

          Anton! I would surmise that you really do have a learning disability, if you hadn’t made it so clear how much of a batshit-crazy professional troll you are for your organization’s B.S. division. It has been stated and explained 100 ways how your ludicrous straw-man argument is false, and still you keep on repeating it like some weird sort of a mantra! There is no “worship” of their own anything in the science culture – sometimes these guys are wrong, and sometimes their methods need reinvention. They know this, and they really are down with that! The very real difference between science and the garbage that goes on in your head is that there is no end to critical review of how they seek their answers, and the answers themselves. If you think their’s something wrong which have been tested ad nauseum and proven consistent over so much time, then post your own better methods, or STFU!

          • Anton

            Dave my man, it doesn’t surprise me that you used to be a fundie. Though you switched philosophical trucker caps, you still work that phony certainty and overbearing arrogance that probably made you an insufferable Christian before you became an insufferable atheist.

      • Funruffian

        My avatar is genuinely me. My legs, face and the rest of me are the envy of many. If I got it, I flaunt it. It may be unusual for an avatar, but I’m prettier to look at than the rest of you.

        “fueling racial hatred, homophobia, polygamy, infanticide, murder, suicide, genocide”
        Wow. You sure jumble a plethora of ills while making false accusations against Christianity, as if Christianity were the cause of all this. You are absurd. You cannot back any of this with evidence. You cannot possibly know if their isn’t God just as much as a theist cannot possibly know there is. Your logic is as flawed as the people you castigate. People like you constantly talk, corroborate and regurgitate in circles. You always end up at the same ambiguous conclusion. Don’t you get tired of your own blather? You are filled with frustration, hate and scorn. You are devoid of virtues and morality.
        You converge many topics together in a hyper-kinetic and glib manner. All those social ills you mention are outcomes of a damaged society and not religion. Take a few courses in philosophy, psychology and English. Then get back to me.

        • Dave Ucannottaknow

          LOFL! For lack of a better metaphor regarding blog comments and the character which trolls such as you reveal of themselves, you really need to take a good, long look in the mirror! It’s been a very long time since anybody on this site has revealed themselves to be quite so unintelligent, narcissistic, hateful, nasty, and just plain mean as you. You must me very immature, on top of being mentally ill, and possibly mentally handicapped. You should just go back to your reality TV shows and celebrity poop-inspector programs – there’s nothing for you here!

          • Funruffian

            Sorry for bursting your bubble, Mr. Dave, but I do not watch Network television. You have only shot blanks with your inaccurate assumptions. This blog may be worthy of my time if it weren’t for such dolts as yourself who cannot formulate an honest and intelligent debate.
            BTW, the mirror and the camera love me. Hehe.

  • Funruffian

    There was an old movie set in 19th century France named, Song for Sarah. In it Vincent Price plays a haughty clergyman who scorns the peasants of the Pyranees as he feels they are too lowly and stupid to understand anything. He deduces them as dumb sheep who follow God and religion due to stupidity and conformity. Toward the end he notices crowds of French people walking through the countryside in search of salvation due to some cataclysmic event. Suddenly he realizes and has a shocking and moving epiphany. He realized that these people all had one common bond, Mutual love. As he stood there alone watching them through the mansion window, he realized they had more than him, because they were humble followers. And he hadn’t any love for anyone, and as a result hadn’t any love himself.
    In just a moment of this awakening he realized the error of his ways due to his hardened heart. He prayed to the lord for salvation subsequently.

  • joe

    Atheism is not a movement. We just don’t care about your bull shit. We’re not looking for a sense of community. You people are delusional. Jesus may have walked on water…. if it was frozen. I’ve done that too. There’s no talking snakes. Dinosaurs existed… during a time before man. Use your head. Use your ability to be reasonable. Santa Claus doesn’t exist either.

  • shawmutt

    As far as community, I have found a home with a little local Unitarian Universalist church. It has all of the Sunday stuff a church has (the good and the bad) without requiring its members to subscribe to any creed. We have an excellent Sunday school program that my young kids can attend without being indoctrinated. In fact, they get less god talk at Sunday School than they do at their public school!

    I also used to attend a monthly meetup group of Freethinkers (can’t anymore due to my work schedule). For me, I need community, even if I don’t need a god. I’ve soured to the online community as “new atheists” have seemed to band together and piggyback atheism and skepticism with their own pet causes. Further, online interactions just are not as satisfying to me as face-to-face interactions.

  • kimie schneider

    Thank you for some clarification from your perspective. I am one of those Christians who is trying to form a view of this movement. I will print and study it further. I think the two things that jumped out on my skimming were that while atheist may not be a religion, it is a world view. Religion is, as you say, complete with baggage, but at it’s heart it is a world view. The way we see things and the meaning we attribute to those things. Atheism would be such a world view as well, and it does carry with it a value system just as any world view does. Lastly, I would summarize the Neo-athiest uproar we orthodox Christians are trying to grasp not so much on the points you clarify here, but on the negative approach and attack the Neo-Christian movement(the followers of the 4 horseman and the like) are waging against religion. There is much misinformation and attack in their movement and that is troublesome to anyone who seeks honesty.

    thanks for this though.

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