Another Moronic Claim that Atheists Don’t Exist

Alex Kocman, writing at Matt Barber’s wayward home for clueless dumbasses, seizes on a recent Science 2.0 article that is barely any better to claim that “atheists may not exist.” Funny, I’m pretty sure I exist and I’m pretty sure lots of other atheists do too. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that they both articles vastly oversimplify the issue and draw ridiculous conclusions from far more reasonable premises.

For some, “God doesn’t believe in atheists” is just a clever (nor not-so-clever) jab directed against the faithless in our culture. But based on the findings of secular researchers, the statement may not be so far from reality.

That is because multidisciplinary research is increasingly backing the idea that human beings are hard-wired to believe in God, according to Science 2.0 writer Nury Vittachi in an article titled, “Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke.”

Actually, it is a joke, but not in the sense that it’s funny.

“[A]theism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” Vittachi cites avowed atheist Graham Lawton as writing in New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”

Even atheists hold to several tacitly religious concepts, including the existence of an immortal soul, according to Lawton. The article also cites another atheist researcher who demonstrated that all people engage in internal monologue, regardless of whether the person to whom their thoughts are directed is actually present.

Equally demonstrable is the intrinsic human tendency to believe in divine justice. Vittachi describes both religious and non-religious persons as possessing the innate sense that “If I commit a sin, it is not an isolated event but will have appropriate repercussions.” This sense of cosmic justice is credited for the popular belief in “karma.”

This idea, he writes, is played out on a number of differently levels—including narrative literature, where even atheist authors invariably write stories that “exist to establish that there exists a mechanism or a person—cosmic destiny, karma, God, fate, Mother Nature—to make sure the right thing happens to the right person.”

Even the staunchest nontheists are not exempted from such habits, according to the writer. “If a loved one dies, even many anti-religious people usually feel a need for a farewell ritual, complete with readings from old books and intoned declarations that are not unlike prayers,” Vittachi writes. “In war situations, commanders frequently comment that atheist soldiers pray far more than they think they do.”

According to the writer, atheists tend to exhibit the same sociological, psychological dependence on the intangible as religious folk do, even if the former reject the existence of anything supernatural. “Statistics show that the majority of people who stop being part of organized religious groups don’t become committed atheists, but retain a mental model in which ‘The Universe’ somehow has a purpose for humanity,” says Vittachi.

The funny thing is that Kocman doesn’t recognize the contradiction between that last paragraph and everything else he writes. “People who stop being part of organized religious groups” does not equal “atheists.” As for the rest of this, it’s positively ridiculous. I’d love to see some actual evidence that atheists — not “those who have left organized religion” but actual atheists — believe in an immortal soul or divine justice. I know hundreds of atheists and not a single one of them believes in any such thing. I’m sure you might find a few, but the idea that this is a common belief among atheists is simply ludicrous.

I count myself among those who does believe that there may well be elements of human development that make us more likely to believe in supernatural agency, particularly a tendency toward dualism. But anyone who leaps from that idea to claim that “atheism is psychologically impossible” needs to take a remedial course in logic immediately. This is the mother of all non-sequiturs.

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  • http://www.electricminstrel.com Brett McCoy

    I don’t believe in immortal soul, divine justice, karma, or anything else like that. Being “hardwired” (whatever the hell that means) to believe in nonsense still doesn’t mean the nonsense exists.

  • alanb

    I believe that humans are hard-wired to be superstitious and religion is just one of those superstitions. However, some of use learn rational thought and eventually reject those superstitions.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “I troll, therefore I am.”

  • scienceavenger

    The article also cites another atheist researcher who demonstrated that all people engage in internal monologue, regardless of whether the person to whom their thoughts are directed is actually present.

    Yeah, and when I garden I spend a lot of time on my knees, but that doesn’t mean I’m praying.

  • Athywren

    “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”

    Even atheists hold to several tacitly religious concepts, including the existence of an immortal soul, according to Lawton.

    Heh, excellent writing there! Parsimony in action! Well, maybe one of those sentences is there in case the other ceases to function, thus bringing about the possibility of catastrophic article failure?

    The article also cites another atheist researcher who demonstrated that all people engage in internal monologue, regardless of whether the person to whom their thoughts are directed is actually present.

    …Yeah? Has nobody else rehearsed things they’re going to say to someone in their heads before they meet up with them? I don’t even.

    I mean… I just call that thinking. Thinking proves I believe in god now? Oh, hello there, Sye.

    Even the staunchest nontheists are not exempted from such habits, according to the writer. “If a loved one dies, even many anti-religious people usually feel a need for a farewell ritual, complete with readings from old books and intoned declarations that are not unlike prayers,”

    ATHEISM UNIT 00837094631 COMPREHENDS THESE EARTH THINGS YOU CALL LOVE AND AFFECTION. INPUT NEW QUERY.

    Vittachi writes. “In war situations, commanders frequently comment that atheist soldiers pray far more than they think they do.”

    “OH HELL!!” is not a prayer.

    I do not even. I completely fail to even.

  • D. C. Sessions

    This is like claiming that since even mathematicians are affected by optical illusions, it follows that nobody actually believes in geometry.

  • Mr Ed

    There was an article last winter about the evolutionary advantages of faith. As a social animal being predisposed to believing in the divine would make you more accepting of social rules enforced by god instead of the group. If you live near a desert keeping goats instead of pigs which need more water is a good idea so instead of telling your neighbor to herd goats you say god finds the pig to be unclean.

    If this true then the belief in god is not because there is a divine creator but it meets the same need as gossip, flattery and nit picking.

  • rabbitscribe

    “… even atheist authors invariably write stories that “exist to establish that there exists a mechanism or a person—cosmic destiny, karma, God, fate, Mother Nature—to make sure the right thing happens to the right person.”

    [Citation Needed]

  • http://kamakanui.zenfolio.com Kamaka

    even atheist authors invariably write stories that “exist to establish that there exists a mechanism or a person—cosmic destiny, karma, God, fate, Mother Nature—to make sure the right thing happens to the right person.”

    Clinging to the notion of cosmic justice is very childish thinking.

    but retain a mental model in which ‘The Universe’ somehow has a purpose for humanity,” says Vittachi.

    We atheists scoff at your “purposeful Universe” as the wishful thinking of fools. But thanks for your conceited pretense of claiming to know what we think.

  • Chiroptera

    Huh. I pretty much know that I believe that god does not exist. I know that I believe that there is no soul that continues after one’s death. I also know that in the end, many evil people will die peaceably in their sleep after living contented fullfilled lives while many very good, decent people will die horribly after unpleasant lives.

    Either I’m a mutant, or whatever it is that is “hard-wired,” it isn’t quite what these clowns think it is.

  • busterggi

    Perhaps a knee to his groin would convince Mr. Kocman that I exist.

  • kosk11348

    According to the writer, atheists tend to exhibit the same sociological, psychological dependence on the intangible as religious folk do, even if the former reject the existence of anything supernatural.

    Of course atheists depend on the “intangible.” Ideas are intangible. Emotions are intangible. Ideals and abstractions are intangible.

    But intangible doesn’t not mean supernatural. Many theists hold this bizarre conceit that if an atheist is a materialist, that means they only believe in concrete things and reject the intangible. But what materialism really holds is that all emergent phenomena (such as human consciousness) are fundamentally the result of material interactions. Not that they don’t exist!

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    We’re also hardwired to be tribalists and racists. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us to recognize racism and understand it’s wrong.

    On the one hand, religious people tend to claim that religion makes us civilized and shows us a better side of ourselves than our animal nature. And on the other, they routinely use those same base animal instincts to justify their willful ignorance, bigotry, and self-serving reinterpretation of their doctrines.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=730511544 billdaniels

    All you athiests* are just mad at god, probably because you didn’t get a pony for your third birthday.

    *Athiest, as in “I’m more athy than you are.”

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    I’d love to see some actual evidence that atheists — not “those who have left organized religion” but actual atheists — believe in…divine justice…”

    I am and do. I saw Divine Justice dance at The Fox just the other night. Stuck a ten in her thong and everything.

  • http://lykex.livejournal.com LykeX

    Athywren #5

    Everything you just said.

    Moreover, as Raging Bee touches on, some of these are simply the irrational biases of human minds. The just world fallacy is common and even atheists can fall for it, but unlike theists, atheists will recognize that it’s bullshit if it’s directly pointed out.

    The fact that all human beings are to some degree irrational is not an argument for those irrational concepts being good or true. It’s an argument for better education and self-insight; to fight these misleading instincts.

  • raven

    Technically xians don’t exist!!!

    They claim to worship an all powerful, invisible supernatural being(s) called god and jesus.

    Who almost certainly don’t exist. You can’t worship something that doesn’t even exist!!!

    They would be better off worshipping my cat. She at least exists and can do things. Not many things but more than their god.

  • http://www.susankrinard.com sueinnm

    An an atheist novelist of 21 years (atheist 40 years, novelist 21), with 30+ novels, novelettes and short stories under my belt (paranormal romance, epic fantasy, and urban fantasy) I DO write stories about cosmic justice sometimes . . . and you know what? It’s fantasy! Yes, I write about things I don’t believe in, including werewolves, telepathy and Norse gods making trouble on earth. This does not in any way lessen my atheism (though because of part of my readership I have to stay in the closet professionally.) My Norse mythology urban fantasy treats the Norse gods as real and posits the existence of universal spirits of creation, but it’s fantasy!

    I can’t believe they actually use that as proof. Sheesh.

  • raven

    “… even atheist authors invariably write stories that “exist to establish that there exists a mechanism or a person—cosmic destiny, karma, God, fate, Mother Nature—to make sure the right thing happens to the right person.”

    Actually they don’t. This is incorrect.

    Sometimes their gods are just very powerful beings that are still natural, some are benign, some not.

    A lot of the time, gods are never even mentioned one way or another.

    In Brin’s novels, Uplift and others the gods are just absent. Same thing with Ian Banks Culture Universe.

  • http://www.susankrinard.com sueinnm

    I also happen to like angels as characters. But a lot of “angel” SF/fantasy I’ve read make clear that the “god” in question has either vanished, never existed, is some kind of superpowered alien, utterly evil, or a delusion. And, again, even if an atheist author writes about the supernatural, this does not mean she believes in it! We would have no fantasy literature at all were that the case.

  • Crimson Clupeidae

    I’m trying hard to believe that no one that stupid could exist, but these guys keep showing me wrong.

  • raven

    This is BTW, just a rehash of sensu divinus however it should be spelled.

    The all purpose rabbit that theologians pull out their hat when they are cornered. Which is all the time.

    The idea is something like humans are born with a sense to detect the divine.

    It doesn’t explain why there are thousands of gods and religions or why there are atheists. Hence, they pull some more rabbits out of their hat.

    At some point, they don’t realize people have stopped watching the hands and the hat are instead, watching the rabbits, which are at least, slightly more interesting.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    sueinnm “Yes, I write about things I don’t believe in, including…Norse gods making trouble on earth.”

    And yet nothing about a couple of boys who were up to no good, who started making trouble in your neighborhood.

  • iknklast

    I will admit that I engage in internal monologue – which is just another way of saying I talk to myself! But that isn’t so strange, because as far as the evidence, it appears that I actually exist. And as a fiction writer, I actually do engage in internal dialogue, as well. It helps me create other beings that actually don’t exist. That doesn’t mean I’m a believer, because I never believe my characters are real, other than the extent I have to in order to make them believable.

    And funeral rituals are ways of saying good-bye, not necessarily see you later. They’ve always been more for the living than the dead.

  • Sastra

    There are a lot of deepities going on in that article, where a true but trivial statement is regularly confused with an extraordinary but false claim — and then back again in case anyone happens to object. It reminds me of when people helpfully redefine “God” or “religion” or “spirituality” in order to include everyone — and then they go on to imply that nonbelievers don’t really understand themselves.

    It also reminds me of the common spiritual assumption that intuitions are the most reliable means of understanding reality. We need to trust them. Reasoning your way out of them is artificial and cold.

    I actually had a friend tell me once that my occasional tendency to playfully talk to some stuffed toy animals was a sign that I knew, deep down, that they really were conscious (Consciousness is Fundamental.) Okay, I was 50 and being silly and whimsical. But she was 70 and being silly and serious.

  • otrame

    I talk to myself all the time. Sometimes I am trying out ways to express something. Sometimes I am telling myself stories. Sometimes I am giving myself a talking to, because SOMEBODY needs to. I never have any doubt that the person I am taking to is me.

    Do any of these people ever ask an atheist? I mean, they read one or two atheist blog entries and then think they understand what makes us tick. Really? And some of them are supposedly scientists. I say supposedly because they have the name on the door, but what they are doing is not science.

  • Doug Little

    I guess when I say “for christ sake” or “Jebus fucking christ” in a conversation it means that I’m not an atheist. Also I know of no atheist that thinks there is an immortal soul, that would just be silly, I think we can envoke no true atheist here quite confidently.

  • D. C. Sessions

    There are a lot of deepities derpities going on in that article

    FTFY

  • chris69

    When it comes to religion and prayer I agree with George Carlin:

    “You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci. Two reasons: First of all, I think he’s a good actor, okay? To me, that counts. Second, he looks like a guy who can get things done. Joe Pesci doesn’t fuck around. In fact, Joe Pesci came through on a couple of things that God was having trouble with.”

  • dugglebogey

    There are Muslims who are terrorists, therefore all Muslims are responsible for 911. There are Christians who are in the Christian Identity movement, therefore all Christians are responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. There are atheists who believe in the eternal soul, therefore all atheists do.

    It’s only logical.

  • John Horstman

    *headdesk* ad infinitum

  • Michael Heath

    Modusoperandi writes:

    I saw Divine Justice dance at The Fox just the other night. Stuck a ten in her thong and everything.

    Fuck inflation and the horse he rode in on.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Michael Heath “Fuck inflation and the horse he rode in on.”

    To be fair, I’m a generous tipper.

  • lofgren

    As I have said before, I certainly do “pray,” in the sense that I sometimes speak aloud to an undetectable sentience about the events in my life over which I have no control. Sometimes I even beg that invisible friend to intervene and make stressful situations turn out for the better. That doesn’t mean I think I’m actually talking to somebody. This is a way of processing complicated and confusing situations, no different from any other way one might externalize their emotions, like punching a wall or screaming out a window or, hell, crying. I know that there is nobody there but it feels good to say somethings out loud. I have no doubt I would be counted as one of those praying atheists in a foxhole. That doesn’t mean that I believe in God, even for a minute.

  • jws1

    I like how the presence of inner dialogue isn’t cited as grounds for dismissal of the existence of gods. It isn’t even a possibility. Funny that.

  • freehand

    Quote from the linked article: This may appear as bad news for pro-atheism campaigners. But for the evolutionary life-force which may actually make the decisions, this may augur well for the continued existence of humanity.

    .

    The evolutionary life-force?!

    .

    Can an article possibly get more vacuous? And I suppose I don’t have to point out that there’s no actual, you know, evidence for the article’s claim.

  • abb3w

    From what I understand of the underlying psychological literature, the studies Lawton was talking about are saying Atheists “believe” in God like most people “believe” in unicorns, leprechauns, and honest politicians — they have enough reflexive grasp of the concept to think about it, but reflectively consider the actual existence absolute bullshit.

    Kocman is writing about Vittachi’s take on an excerpt from a Lawton article, which looks to have originally been here (subscription required now), but copied to thisaway. Lawton does not reference a specific study, but attributes the viewpoint Pascal Boyer — and specifically “that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul”. while this might be a partial approximation to some of Boyer’s view, even this first assessment seems likely one that Boyer would consider a significant distortion of his perspective. Boyer’s most recent publication seems to be “Cognitive Aspects of Religious Ontologies: How Brain Processes Constrain Religious Concepts”, but it doesn’t seem directly relevant, and is not itself reporting experimental results.

    In short, [citation needed].

    (I’d also link to the Wikipeida page on “Chinese whispers”, but I’ve already reached the two-link limit.)