How You Lost Your Faith… in 30 Seconds

It’s the Blasphemy Challenge Lite.

Explain how you de-converted from your faith in 30 seconds or less!

You could win a nice “atheist” wristband, but really, it’s just a simple way to spread the gospel of reality :)

If you do it, feel free to leave your video’s link in the comments!

(Thanks to Joseph for the link!)

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I’m out, it took me longer than 30 seconds to lose my faith.

  • Dronger

    I lost it within the first 30 seconds I was in a church, I was about 6, and I asked my mother why there’s a dead guy hanging on the wall. She told me because he was our savior and he died for our “lies”. I asked why he did that and all she could come up with was because he loves us. Now if that sounds like a load to a 6 year old, how can so many people blindly follow religion?

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    I never understood the process as losing faith but rather finding (and accepting) rationalism.

  • Tim Carroll

    The nun teaching my 1st grade class, told us to slide to the side of our chairs against the bar that held the desktop up, in order to make room for our guardian angels. Didn’t finish the job, but it definitely got the process started.

  • idioteque

    The Godless Monster: “I never understood the process as losing faith but rather finding (and accepting) rationalism.”

    Good point. I know for myself it was more about gaining something rather than losing something– and not just rationalism, but self-esteem, greater empathy for others, and a greater sense of responsibility.

    I couldn’t do a video– my getting into, and out of, Christianity was a long, gradual process (from the right end of the spectrum to the extreme left) that took me over a decade to work through.

  • jamssx

    Never really had it. In scripture class as a kid (in England) first term everyone else got a B, I got a C not because I hadn’t learnt the work but because I kept asking the vicar difficult questions…

  • Janelle

    took me longer than that too, because I kept trying to talk myself out of it. The notion of a giant man taking care of everything…like Santa Claus, but I gave up that belief much easier.

  • fiddler

    I was never good at being religious. I made all of the adults uncomfortable with questions starting at age 4. Still waiting to find out what people scared Cain so bad that god had to mark him to keep him safe if we all came from his parents…

  • gski

    I never had a faith to lose. I started on the road to rationalism because every time I looked under my bed, there was no monster.

  • Carrie

    Well, I did believe in Santa Claus for awhile, but other than that I never had any faith to lose. I do remembering waffling back and forth on that one for awhile (on the one hand, it didn’t make much sense, when you think about it, but on the other hand why would everyone lie to me about it?).

    I’m rather glad to have never believed in religion, but it makes for a dull narrative.

  • http://www.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    This is my first video ever so it’s pretty rudimentary. Nonetheless, here it is.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjgWTEb00ZM

  • 1984

    My more reasonable rational side as I grew up was in a fight with religious beliefs and it turns out that I won and we separated. It was a sense of liberation and I haven’t seen him ever since…

  • jose

    Found Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit.

  • John

    I went seeking the evidence that I knew must have existed so that I could hand it to atheists and convince them (ironic I know). I first doubted when and didn’t find God’s handiwork in the universe–just math and laws, all the way down. But lack of evidence was not enough to leave my faith. The jolt that finished the job came when I read the Old Testament with my blinders off and discovered with increasing horror that God was an immoral despotic maniac.

  • http://10plusyears.blogspot.com/ 10plus

    @Buffy- I thought it was interesting that you were age 28 when you left Christianity- that’s about how old I was too (give or take a few months; it’s been about 10 years now, so I can’t really remember exactly…) And I’ve known so many people who’ve either left their faith at about age 27-28, or had some other ‘big’ event happen in their life- coming out, divorce, etc. Seems 28 is a common age for big life changes, at least in my limited experience.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    I’m an agnostic who cannot understand how an atheist can be so sure of himself that a creator does not exist. For one thing, science explains material things. It cannot explain nonmaterial things, so it would seem that a creator which is supposed to be in spirit rather than material cannot be disproven by science. Therefore, atheist are doing the same thing as theists. They are both basing their belief on FAITH. Science pretty much shows that the universe started with the big bang. However, science tries to explain how matter came into existence by itself. Seems a bit magical. While we are talking magic, a creator doing it seems a bit more pausible.

  • fritzy

    Wayne;

    Your statement illustrates an all too common misconception of atheism. While I do not pretend to speak for all atheists, most I have met do not claim to believe there is no god. They simply do not believe in god(s). There is a difference. Atheists are not making a claim to belief–that is the realm of the theist. Theists claim there is a god(s). They then tend to make certain claims about said god(s) nature. Atheists ask for evidence. Or at least a logically cohesive argument for said god. That’s all. None is provided, so why buy into these claims?

    It is not up to the atheist to disprove god. Frankly, I don’t care to. I would love to believe there is a benevolent creator watching over me and my best interests. But there has been no evidence to support this notion. And logically, such a being does not make sense. There is no faith involved there. Simply a skeptical mind.

    As for science not being able to prove the existance of god, well, that’s simply sophistry. Science hasn’t yet. That doesn’t mean one day it wont be able to. And actually, some of the claims of believers, such as the efficacy of prayer, can be tested (and have been shown not to hold up to the rigors of the scientific process.)

    Saying that god can’t be proven/disproven because he is immaterial is an example of changing the goal-posts. How can you say that anything supernatural exists? By this logic, anybody can claim that the Wizard of Oz is real in another universe and anyone that states they don’t buy this has to use “just as much faith” to make the claim that they doubt this Wizard of Oz hypothesis?

    As for the start of the universe, it is not logically sound to state that god had to do it, simply because we don’t have a scientific explanation for it yet. Before the germ theory of disease, it was believed all disease was caused by demon possesion. Do you mean to tell me that before scientists discovered viruses, bacteria and fungi, all diseases were caused by ol’ Scratch?

    As far as your belief that divine initiation of the universe seems more plausible to you, so be it. But this is an illogical conclusion, based on the fallacy of incredulity. Just because you are unable to imagine something any other way does not necessarily make it so.

  • Chal

    Fritzy can speak for me any day of the week. At least on this topic.

    To put it in a shorter form, atheism isn’t a hard claim of “God does not exist.” It’s simply a rejection of the claim “God does exist.”

    The majority of atheists I have met consider themselves agnostic atheists. The two are orthogonal.

  • http://skepticaldrew.blogspot.com Drew

    I grew up a devout Catholic and in my case, it really was losing faith. It was a journey that took over a decade. Faith is like a security blanket and it really is difficult to get rid of it.

    @Buffy.

    I liked it and think you did a pretty good job. I’m having a lot of trouble condensing what I want to say down to 30 seconds.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Buffy, I liked your video. Simple but effective and I’d bet that your short version is common among many deconverts.

  • Greg

    My deconversion took too long to express in 30 seconds too.

    I think I can probably narrow the starting point down though.

    That would be when I was first told Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of god. I was only 12 at the time, and yet could already see two or three problems with it! Until then I had just assumed god existed, and it was so obvious it didn’t need proving. Seeing such an obviously flawed argument being held up as a reason to believe god existed made me think about it all hard. It still took me a few years to become an agnostic, though.

    It didn’t take me long to become an atheist, after that. About as long as I found that like Wayne Dunlap, I simply didn’t understand the definitions of the two words.

    Wayne:

    Atheism = not believing in god.
    Agnosticism = not believing in absolute knowledge. (Nothing to do with beliving in a god or not)

    Agnostic atheism = Not beliving in a god, and also not beliving that it is possible to know 100% whether or not a god exists.

    Most atheists tend to be agnostic atheists, although there are a lot that are gnostic atheists about certain gods.

    For example, I am a gnostic atheist as regards any god that is claimed to be omnipotent, and bound by the laws of logic. (Because it is a contradiction for anything that is omnipotent to be bound by anything)

  • http://www.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    hoverfrog and 10plus,

    Thank you both!

  • Goose

    Though I’d been in churches, and probably some Sunday School classes, I had never first come to any kind of belief. At maybe 7 of 9 years of age, I saw creation whole and complete, from the beginning that there isn’t of time to its everlasting end, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, from the edgeless edge of the universe to where I lay, a little awed, in bed while the parents entertained in the living room. For the length of the laughter at a joke I couldn’t hear, my mind resisted the implications and weight of a vision, not from somewhere or -one or -thing, but of the insensate all.

    There are higher and lower levels of organization, but this “consciousness” of an atom or a planet is fundamentally incomprehensible and incommunicative to us as we are to it.

  • Judith Bandsma

    Can’t lose what you never had.

  • muggle

    If I were going to do it, I think I’d just hold up a buybull and say, “Long story short. I read the damned thing.” I doubt that’s a winner but feel free to steal it/build on it if you like since I’m too lazy and have too little time.

    So, since I’m not even entering, where the hell can I just buy the wristband? I’d really love one to wear as daily as some dangle crosses from their neck. Just my quiet statement of where I stand. I’ve t-shirts and all but I’d like something for the office too.

    Link please, if anyone knows where to purchase that wristband. I like it.

  • Javier

    @Fritzy: Man, I loved your comment, you were so clear.

  • geru

    “I never understood the process as losing faith but rather finding (and accepting) rationalism.”

    I’d say that I, as many others, was looking for something that simply wasn’t there, and it just took me a while to realize it. So giving up this search was anything but a process of “losing something”.

    As far as I remember I would say that the degree of “religiosity” I felt while I was doing this searching was in reality just the degree of how much I could ignore the fact that none of it made any sense. I’m sure it would have been no problem if I’d had relatives of friends who were into the same delusion, but thank goodness I live in a godless Scandinavian country, so I snapped out of it quite quickly :)

  • Aaron

    There seems to be a bit of confusion here guys. It’s not that you have to had lost your faith in 30 seconds. They want you to make a 30 second video about it. :)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    I won’t be making a video, certainly, but my deconversion was fairly simple. I identifed as christian, although not a very good one, up until a year or two ago. Then I took a special honors class in college devoted to discussing religion vs. science. The people who spoke up the most (there were only 12 or 15 students in this class) were both hardcore theists who refused to listen to anyone else or to reason. And they always derailed the conversation whenever it was convenient for them to do so to make some Big Important Point about Stuff. For example, sometimes they claimed that religion and science were two separate claims that couldn’t be compared, and other times they tried to show support for creationist ideas like irreducible complexity. And one said that he used to be an atheist but now was a catholic, and that meant that god existed or something. I decided that I wanted nothing to do with a god even if ze existed, and I certainly wanted nothing to do with hir followers. At the end of the class, I read The God Delusion, and that sealed the deal.

    And what Fritzy said. (Thanks!)

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Fritzy, thank you for your response. I agree with Chal that it is a good one. However, your statement that most atheists do not claim to believe there is no god, but simply do not believe in god(s), seems to be saying the same thing. Just the fact that you do not believe in god(s) still has to be based on FAITH since science cannot back it. It is true that some atheists define atheism differently than a dictionary does. However, if we do not accept the dictionary definition, then everyone is free to make up any definition they choose, and that just leads to confusion. The dictionary defines an atheist as someone who denies the existence of god. Furthermore, the fact that an ‘A’ precedes the word Theist means that an atheist believes the opposite of what a theist believes. I believe that those atheists that believe as you are actually agnostics with atheist leanings, or, more simply, an agnostic atheist. That way you are stating that I don’t believe a god exists, but I’m not positive since I cannot prove it. You state that atheists ask for proof of a god, but it cannot be proven. Neither can it be proven that no god exists. That is why I’m an agnostic. You state that it is not up to an atheist to disprove god. Based on the dictionary definition, the fact that an atheist states there is no god does leave them open to someone saying “prove it”. I can’t prove or disprove it, so it makes more sense to say I am an agnostic because I am lacking this knowledge. I guess you could say I am an agnostic with theist leanings or an agnostic theist.

    You ask how I can say that anything supernatural exists. I submit that I can because logic indicates the possibility that a creator might be required. For instance, I mentioned anthropic principle which requires certain functions be within a narrow range or life as we know it could not have occurred. If gravitational constant was a little bigger, than the universe would have collapsed before we could evolve; a little smaller, and the planet upon which we stand would never have formed. If another fundamental force, electromagnetism, were just a little stronger, electrons would be so tightly bound to atoms that the formation of chemical compounds would be impossible. A little weaker, and atoms would disintegrate at room temperature. If the resonance level of electrons in the carbon atom were just 4% lower, carbon atoms themselves would never been formed in the interiors of stars. No carbon, no life as we know it. If the strong nuclear force were just a little weaker, no elements other than hydrogen would have been formed following the big bang. If it were just a little stronger, all of the hydrogen in the universe would be gone by now, converted into helium and heavier elements. Without hydrogen, no sun, no stars, no water.

    As far as you suggesting that science simply has not yet proven the existence of god, thus indicating that they may some day, remember that I stated that science only has the ability to prove material rather than spiritual things. And that is not an attempt to change the goal-post. Even you stated that science cannot prove something supernatural. And the suggestion that testing prayer could prove the existence of god has a problem because it could simply be something else like exuding energy by those who are doing the praying.

    Yes, there are things that science could not explain and now can, but unless they can hop in a time machine, I doubt very much they will ever explain what started off the big bang out of nothing. Think about it. There is nothing and suddenly something appears and explodes without anyone directing it. I find that difficult to comprehend without a creator being involved.

    You stated that just because I am unable to imagine something any other way does not necessarily make it so. I agree, but I believe the opposite is true as well. Just because you feel that it must have happened by chance without a creator, doesn’t make it necessarily so either. Again that is why I feel a theist as well as an atheist are basing their beliefs on FAITH since neither one can prove what they believe.

  • Chal

    Again Wayne, I think you’re having some problems with definitions here. The prefix “a” doesn’t mean “the opposite of”, it means “without”. So if theism is the belief in God, atheism is the lack of belief in God. (Think of the difference between immoral and amoral.)

    Further, there is an important difference between not believing in God and believing that God does not exist. Think of how our court systems work, we are only concerned with rejecting the accusation of guilt, not with proving innocence. Not guilty != innocent. All that is required is the rejection of claims, not the proof of contradictory claims.

    The anthropic principle basically states that if some things were different, then a bunch of other things would be different. A creator doesn’t change things one way or the other.

    On the topic of the big bang, you find it hard to believe that a bunch of matter could suddenly appear, but a creator (which must inherently be more complex than the matter) just appearing is more reasonable?

  • Mike

    >To put it in a shorter form, atheism isn’t a hard claim of “God does not exist.” It’s simply a >rejection of the claim “God does exist.”

    Chal, so let me get this straight…what you’re basically saying is that God does not exist, right? I mean, if you’re rejecting the claim that God exists, then you’re pretty much saying that God does not exists…I mean, seriously, can you please just call a spade a spade??? I know that’s difficult for you armchair philosopher types…For crying out loud, it takes a philosopher (or an atheist) to spin something so obvious into something so convoluted.

  • Mike

    >So if theism is the belief in God, atheism is the lack of belief in God.

    Well Chal, which one is it? Is atheism a rejection of the claim that “God does exist”, or is it a lack of belief in God? I understand the difference between the two, I’m not so sure you do (I know how you atheist types are sticklers for definitions, so I just thought I’d help you out a bit). I’m sorry if I sound a bit frustrated, but I suppose one of the inevitable consequences of having a completely anonymous forum like the internet is that you end up with lots of posers who try to come off at sounding grandiose and philisophical and profound, and they can’t even spot a contradiction if it smacked them in the head.

    >The anthropic principle basically states that if some things were different, then a bunch of other >things would be different.

    Wow, another profound statement…what the hell does that even mean???

    Case closed, court is adjourned.

  • Greg

    Mike – a hint – coming across as smug and conceited when you clearly don’t understand things is really not a good idea. It makes it really tempting to make sharp, cutting replies. Generally what then happens is that the aforementioned arrogant person then whines about being flamed. If you do get flamed by anyone, just know that you asked for it.

    Okay – that out of the way…

    The word atheist describes anyone who is not a theist: the prefix ‘a-’ means without.

    Asking someone if they are a theist is asking a binary question: they either are a theist, or aren’t a theist. They can’t ‘partly be a theist’, they can’t ‘not know if they are a theist or not’, because any qualifier automatically means they are not a theist, but are, instead, an atheist. (Well, they can be these things, but they can’t be them and not also be an atheist.)

    The default position is disbelief in a proposition. If you are as incredibly erudite as you seem to believe, the reasoning for that will be obvious.

    Once someone has made a proposition, you then examine the evidence and reasoning given to back up that claim. If this is insufficient, it is thrown out, and you are back at the default position. Disbelief. This is all the majority of atheists do to the proposition that a god exists. Some go further, to show that certain postulated gods cannot exist as a result of contradictions (e.g. an omnipotent being bounded by logic is a contradiction), but this is not necessary to be an atheist.

    Whether the claim is Santa, god, or physics, anyone that has thrown out the reasoning for these propositions and is back at the default position does not believe in said Santa, god, or physics.

    >The anthropic principle basically states that if some things were different, then a bunch of other >things would be different.

    Wow, another profound statement…what the hell does that even mean???

    That was his point.

    Case closed, court is adjourned.

    Quite.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Chal,
    I have no problem with the dictionary definition of atheist, but I can see that you do. Like I said, when everyone uses a different definition from that given in the dictionary, it causes confusion. The dictionary defines an atheist as someone who denies the existence of god. If you admit that you cannot prove it, then you don’t know for sure. In that case, you are only making an educated guess. So, then you would be an agnostic like me, but instead of theist leanings, you would have atheist leanings.
    The anthropic principle states that certain constants had to be within certain narrow parameters. If those constants were slightly higher or lower for any one of the 4 functions, we would not have had a universe viable for the existence of life. My point is that chance occurrence of these constants within these narrow parameters for all 4 of these functions seem highly unlikely without a creator.
    Yes, it does seem a bit like magic that matter could have appeared from nothing and then exploded into the big bang without a creator directing it. Yes, the creator would have to be complex, but could have always existed as a spiritual intelligence, therefore eliminating the potential question “who created the creator?”
    In the end, I can understand the arguments for both sides. I cannot state with complete conviction whether or not there is a god. What I do know is that we are here along with the vast universe and that both arguments for and against a creator causing that to happen appear to be possible solutions. Still through reasoning, the need for a creator, for reasons I have already given, seems the best solution to me.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Greg,
    Your statement that someone is either a theist or not a theist, and that they can’t be partly a theist, is not completely correct. A person can be neither, i.e., an agnostic, someone who simply doesn’t know whether a god exists or does not exist.
    You stated that Chal’s statement, that if some things were different, then a bunch of other things would be different, was his point. My question, is what was his point, since it was in response to my stating that the constants of 4 functions would all have to be within certain narrow parameters in order for life to exist? If they were not within the required parameters, life could not exist. So, yeah, a bunch of things would be different. For one thing life couldn’t have existed. But that was my point.

  • Chal

    Sorry Wayne, but the dictionary doesn’t agree with you.

    Atheist: a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    Disbelief is enough, not just explicit denial.

    And the problem with bringing up the anthropic principle is that it doesn’t say anything about life in general, just life as we know it. So you can say that stuff would be different, but you can’t say for certain that there would be no life.

    Mike, are you saying you see a difference between “rejecting the claim that God does exist” and “lacking belief in God”, but you can’t see a difference between “rejecting the claim that God exists” and “claiming that God does not exist”?

    If you reject a claim, then you lack the belief of that claim. If someone is found “not guilty”, then the jury do not believe they are guilty. However, finding someone “not guilty” is not the same as finding them to be innocent. It just means that there isn’t enough proof that the person is guilty. There is no requirement to prove that the accused is innocent.

  • Greg

    Wayne Dunlap – check your dictionary (preferably a philosophical dictionary, because these are philosophical terms! ;) ) – it is you that is wrong with your definitions.

    As I said in a previous post, Agnosticism has nothing to do with god.

    It is a position on the belief in knowledge.

    Gnosticism is the belief that it is possible to have absolute knowledge. Agnosticism is the lack of that belief. (Like Atheism is the lack of Theism, and amorality is the lack of morality)

    (An agnostic atheist is one who both does not believe in a theistic god, and also doesn’t believe we can know with 100% certainty whether or not the god exists.)

    People have tried to muscle Agnosticism in as a third choice to Theism and Atheism, but the fact is that even if you accept it to be a position on Theism, it is still merely a subset of Atheism. This is just a matter of definitions, there’s no real choice in the matter – the definition of atheism is, whether you like it or not, ‘not theism’. Like I said earlier, I also considered myself an Agnostic until I came across the actual definitions of the words (from a source that knew what they were talking about!).

    As per the anthropic principle, there are two points. The first is quite simply, that the only reason we are able to say this is because we actually are here. If we weren’t here, we could not make the argument that the world is made to suit us. Think of it like this:

    Accept, for the moment, that this indeed is the only possible way that life could exist. Imagine that the chances of this happening are astronomically small. Imagine also, that despite the minuscule nature of these chances, there is a universe somewhere (if only in theory), where it actually did happen by chance.

    How could we know the difference between that universe, and one created by some form of an intelligence?

    That’s not all, you still have to show that the chances of this ‘creator’ being there in order to create the universe is greater than the chances of this universe being this way by chance. You see, to me, you are claiming that this incredibly unlikely thing can’t have happened, so this even more unlikely thing must have been there to make it happen.

    But, as it happens, the chances that life should be in a universe isn’t small, for the second point is that if things had been slightly different, only life as we know it would not exist here. That does not mean that life would not exist. Fiddling with the values for these properties could merely mean that a different form of life, a different form of intelligence, exists instead. Whatever form of life the altered constants enable (if intelligent) could state the exact same idea about fine tuning, or, in other words, the argument would be equally valid whatever constants were used, as long as those constants enabled some form of life to exist.

    Probability theory tells us that as there are an infinite amount of possible values for these constants, and the probability for intelligent life to exist is not 0 (which we know, because we exist), then there are also an infinite amount of possible universes where life could exist. (One of the quirks of infinity – think of it this way, you have a 1 million sided die, each with different values. No matter what number you choose, with an infinite amount of attempts to roll that number, you will not only succeed eventually, but you will succeed an infinite amount of times.)

    I’ll finish by quoting Douglas Adams’ satirising of the anthropic principle: (hopefully you will see the relevance)

    . . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be all right, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

    Whee, that was long, hope I was reasonably clear.

  • Mike

    *Sigh* Well I did have some great response typed up about the definition of atheist, agnostic, and so forth. Then I read Greg’s post and had to delete all my comments because I realized that I was the one who didn’t know how to define those terms. And I apologize to all of you for last night, it was late, I was tired, and I shouldn’t have been trolling this website at that late hour ;) I will have to say that despite my rude comments all of you were reasonably polite…this is certainly the “Friendly Atheist”…thank you

  • DGKnipfer

    I never really had any. It all just seemed like mythology to me.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Mike,
    You attributed the following to Chal: “The dictionary defines an atheist as someone who denies the existence of god. If you admit that you cannot prove it, then you don’t know for sure. In that case, you are only making an educated guess. So, then you would be an agnostic like me, but instead of theist leanings, you would have atheist leanings.”

    That was actually me saying that to Chal.

    You made the following comment: “Can anyone truly say that God does not exist with 100% certainty? I think not.”

    To that I say AMEN!! I couldn’t agree with you more. That would make most atheists Agnostics with Atheistic leaning.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Greg,
    OK, since I believe a good dictionary covers all bases when it comes to word definitions, here is the one from Webster’s – Atheist: one who believes that there is no deity.
    Agnostic: 1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
    2 : a person unwilling to commit to an opinion about something
    Note that the first definition relates to God. So, I have to take exception with you when you state that Agnosticism has nothing to do with God. I must admit that that puzzles me since you are the first person to have ever stated that it has nothing to do with god.
    Gnostic: From the Latin meaning, knowledge.
    I do admit surprise that the definition for Gnostic did not also refer to an ancient religion that taught that we and the earth was created by an evil god who killed and tore up a goddess into tiny pieces and trapped her by putting these pieces in humans. Gnostics believed that Jesus had sayings, the Gospel Thomas, which would, if read and understood, give knowledge of how to escape this evil world and return to the heavenly plane where the spark from the goddess originally came from.
    I strongly disagree with your statement that Agnostic is a subset of Atheism. As you can see from the definitions above, an Atheist is one who believes there is no deity. A Theist is one who believes there is a deity. And an Agnostic is one who cannot decide one way or another, i.e., he is right in the middle sitting on the fence, so to speak. That is pretty much where I sit. Why, because I cannot prove whether or not there is a god. Since we cannot prove yea or nay, that is why I feel that both the Theist and Atheist have to base their beliefs on FAITH, plain and simple. Now, I tend to lean towards the side of the fence for a creator. I admit that I cannot prove one, but I can use reason, right or wrong, to determine that the odds are higher for the existence of a creator. Therefore, I am an Agnostic with Theist leanings. I agree with Mike that most Atheists do not 100% believe that a god does not exist. In fact, there was a discussion on this blog a while back and most admitted that they are not 100% sure there is no god. Therefore, they are also agnostics like me, but with atheistic leanings.
    You stated that probability states there are infinite amount of possible values for the constants presented in the anthropic principle.
    Yes, there may be infinite amount of possible values but only the ones within certain narrow parameters will result in conditions viable for life to exist.
    You mentioned the possibility of numerous parallel universes which would contain all the various different constants. Daniel Dennett too presents this argument from the Hypothesis (an educated guess) presented by Smolin. Kenneth Miller rebuts this argument as follows: Unfortunately, Dennett must also admit that we may never, even in principle, find evidence for another universe. Deprived of empirical evidence, the best he can manage is to assure his readers that his non-theistic explanation is “at least as good” as a theistic one. But by stating this, he admits that the theistic one is valid as well.
    Kenneth Miller goes on to say: Evolution works on a multitude of genetic variations in a population of organisms, so Dennett reasons that there could be a multitude of universes, each with varying physical constants. The problem, of course, is that we know that organisms reproduce. But universes? Dennett knows that we will never be able to find, even in principle, evidence for any of those parallel universes. If they existed, we could neither communicate with them nor observe them. Nonetheless, he is willing to postulate their existence because it relieves us of the need to find another reason for the elegant “anthropic coincidences” of our universe. To those who doubt his solution, he writes that a multiplying swarm of universes is at least as good an explanation “as any traditional alternative.” The traditional alternative he refers to is God.

  • Greg

    Firstly, Mike – no problem. I’m going through a very irritable period in my life right now, so apologies for my own rudeness! :) I find it odd how people criticise ignorance – wilful ignorance sure – because without being aware you don’t know something, you can’t know anything. Ignorance should be celebrated (as long as it doesn’t turn into the afore mentioned wilful variety (e.g. Creationism)). There’s nothing wrong with just not knowing something!

    Anyway, Wayne Dunlap – that is why you should consult a philosophical dictionary when it comes to philosophical terms. It is no surprise they have the definition as rergards god in it, because it is one that has spread by people getting it wrong. Dictionaries give the common meanings to words. This is because words, and the meanings of words change. (Ever wondered why in the dictionary there are 20 definitions for one word?)

    Just as a quick example, I have seen a dictionary definition for ‘Atheist’ read as it’s 3rd or 4th choice: ‘Satanist’.

    This is because in certain parts of the world, people’s lack of understanding of the term Atheist, has lead them to be called Satanists. (As an aside, my earliest experience on the net after mentioning I was an Atheist consisted of being told that Satan couldn’t exist without God, so I have to accept God exists!)

    But what you have to remember is that as we are using the terms in a philosophical context, using the common meaning of these terms instead of the philosophical meaning would be a fallacy of equivocation.

    Regardless, I find it hard to believe that Websters only definition was the one you give – most if not all dictionaries give you a definition similar to the one below:

    (I typed ‘dictionary atheist’ into google and clicked on the top link)

    a·the·ism? ?[ey-thee-iz-uhm] Show IPA
    –noun
    1.
    the doctrine or belief that there is no god.
    2.
    disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    2. is the most accurate.

    The thing to remember is that atheism is made up of the prefix ‘a-’ which means without or not, and theism. You can’t get from ‘not theism’ or ‘without theism’ to believing the opposite of theism. It just can’t be done.

    A lot of your following comments come from your lack of understanding of the definitions. If you were right and Atheism meant believing that no gods exist (a ridiculous statement when you consider that as there is no set definition for god, every theist seems to have a slightly different one) then not only would I not argue against the rest of what you say on the subject, I’d agree with it.

    You stated that probability states there are infinite amount of possible values for the constants presented in the anthropic principle.
    Yes, there may be infinite amount of possible values but only the ones within certain narrow parameters will result in conditions viable for life to exist.

    You have completely missed my argument, rather than me retyping it out, can you go back and reread it please?

    Sigh. Let’s try to make this clear.

    Only the ones within certain values enables our type of life to exist.

    There is no reason to think that our kind of life is the only kind that could possibly exist.

    Also, you clearly don’t understand the concept of infinity, if you can say this:

    Yes, there may be infinite amount of possible values but only the ones within certain narrow parameters will result in conditions viable for life to exist.

    If there is an infinite amount of possible values, then it is impossible to say the ‘only ones are x’ (unless you have infinite knowledge).

    You mentioned the possibility of numerous parallel universes which would contain all the various different constants.

    No, I didn’t. Please reread the entirety of my previous post, because you don’t seem to have understood it at all.

    If you still don’t understand what I said, let’s just call it quits. I don’t have the patience at the moment.

  • faustfire

    Not much of a story for me…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELxk6CVZrRM

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Greg,
    OK, here is the definitions from Dagobert D. Runes Dictionary of Philosophy 1942, but edited July 10, 2004.
    Agnosticism: (Gr. agnostos, unknowing) 1. (epist.) that theory of knowledge which asserts that it is impossible for man to attain knowledge of a certain subject-matter.
    2. (theol.) that theory of religious knowledge which asserts that it is impossible for man to attain knowledge of God.
    Atheism: (Gr. a, no; theos, god) Two uses of the term:
    a. The belief that there is no God.
    b. Some philosophers have been called “atheistic” because they have not held to a belief in a personal God. Atheism in this sense means “not theistic.”
    The former meaning of the term is a literal rendering. The latter meaning is a less rigorous use of the term although widely current in the history of thought. — V.F.
    Once again, even the philosophical dictionary refers agnosticism, in the theology sense to a god. However, the 2nd definition for atheism seems a bit ambiguous in that it could be interpreted that an atheist simply doesn’t believe in a personal God, i.e., an atheist could believe in a non-personal god who sets up everything and doesn’t involve himself in the day to day functioning of his creation.
    Theism: (Gr. theos, god) Is in general that type of religion or religious philosophy (see Religion, Philosophy of) which incorporates a conception of God as a unitary being; thus may be considered equivalent to monotheism. The speculation as to the relation of God to world gave rise to three great forms: God identified with world in pantheism (rare with emphasis on God); God, once having created the world, relatively disinterested in it, in deism (mainly an 18th cent, phenomenon); God working in and through the world, in theism proper.
    No matter how you look at it, philosophically or whatever, the meaning is still the same. An atheist believes there is no God, a theist believes there is a God and an agnostic lacks the knowledge whether or not there is a god. Greg, I’m sorry, but I think you are simply trying to make the definition to suit you, but the definition is what it is. What is wrong with agnostic atheist? You are then stating that, though you don’t have the knowledge of proof, you feel that there is no God. And if you have a 3rd or 4th definition as Satanism, you simply have a religiously bias dictionary. Try Webster’s.
    1. Greg you said the following: “Only the ones within certain values enables our type of life to exist.
    There is no reason to think that our kind of life is the only kind that could possibly exist.
    Also, you clearly don’t understand the concept of infinity, if you can say this:
    Yes, there may be infinite amount of possible values but only the ones within certain narrow parameters will result in conditions viable for life to exist.”
    Greg, stay with me here. Whether or not there is other kind of life that could exist, that is irrelevant because we are the life and we exist because, beyond all odds, we have a universe that supports us. I know very well what infinity means. You missed my point. I stated that it doesn’t matter if there are infinite possibilities for the constants of the 4 functions I mentioned because only a very small amount of these possible constants will support life as we know it. And the odds are astronomically against one of these viable constants being achieved for all 4 of the functions. Let’s look at strong nuclear force as an example. If it were too strong, no compounds could form. If too weak, the atoms would disintegrate at room temperature. So, no life of any kind would be able to form. Also, if the gravitation constant were too strong, the universe would have collapsed. If too weak, planets would not have formed. Again, no life could have formed.
    You stated that you didn’t mention the possibility of numerous parallel universes which would contain all the various different constants. If that is true, then please explain what you meant by “Imagine also, that despite the minuscule nature of these chances, there is a universe somewhere (if only in theory), where it actually did happen by chance.” This seemed to indicate you are considering numerous universes with various alternatives. But, perhaps I saw more in that statement than was there. Sorry I jumped to conclusion. Even so, you are speculating on the possibility of at least another universe. If only one, your odds are still greatly against you. At this point, there is no way of knowing or communicating with another parallel universe. So this hypothesis cannot be used to disprove a creator.

  • Greg

    Wayne, I’m seriously starting to suspect that you are just trolling. However, being the sap I am, I’m going to try one last (long) post.

    Unsurprisingly, the definitions you gave from a philosophical dictionary support me. (Agnosticism (1), and atheism (b)) There’s not really anything else to say about that. If you can’t see that, then you have no interest in actually comprehending what you are reading.

    Incidentally:

    …an atheist could believe in a non-personal god who sets up everything and doesn’t involve himself in the day to day functioning of his creation.

    You are correct. A deist is not a theist, and therefore, strictly speaking, is an atheist. Practically speaking, however, we don’t go around calling deists atheists, for the same reason we don’t generally go around calling Buddhists atheists – they already have a label which tells us more about them than ‘atheist’ does.

    As an aside, it has to be said that what your dictionary says about (a) being the literal meaning is simply not true.

    You can look up any dictionary you want, and it will tell you that the prefix ‘a-’ or ‘an-’ means ‘without’ or ‘not’ (it is the Greek version of ‘non-’. This, incidentally, is why it is atheist, rather than ‘nontheist’ (theist is also Greek, and compound words – with a very few exceptions that irritate language purists (like television) – always are made of words with roots in the same language))

    No matter how you construct the word atheism, you can not get to believing a god does not exist from ‘without god’, or ‘not god’. If you can show me how to do it, I’m all ears.

    Anyway, leaving that aside, you seem to be struggling to understand that I understand your argument. You however don’t seem to understand what I am saying at all.

    Look, your argument is:

    Because we are here, and exist in this world, but couldn’t if certain astronomical constants were different, the universe must have been designed for us.

    I am aware that I have phrased it in a way which shows the absurdity of the claim, but that is, none-the-less, essentially what you are saying.

    (And if you don’t understand the absurdity of the claim, try this, the opposite claim:

    Because we are not here, and don’t exist in this world, but could if certain astronomical constants were different, the universe must not have been designed for us.)

    What I am pointing out, is that our life is irrelevant. Yes, we couldn’t exist if the values were different, but that doesn’t mean that other intelligent life would not exist. There is absolutely no reason to think that for every value of these constants, a different form of intelligent life to us could not exist. And, given this, whichever one of them exists would be here saying the exact same thing you are saying, with the exact same likelihood of being correct despite the fact that the only reason they are there is because the constants were slightly different.

    Let me try to think of an analogy.

    If events in history hadn’t been exactly the same, you wouldn’t be here right now. (E.g. your great, great, great, great (etc.) grandfather hadn’t met his spouse, or had fallen in love with someone else before meeting her, you would not be here.) All of these events in your history are ‘constants’ necessary for you to be here. That does not mean that no-one would be here if the constants were different, merely that you would not be here. When applying the reasoning behind your argument from fine tuning to this, you come inescapably to the conclusion that not only is determinism true, but there is some kind of a puppet manipulator ‘god’ that causes us to do everything. (And that that god is similarly manipulated by another, and another, ad infinitum)

    Similarly, different astronomical constants would merely mean that our type of life would not be here, it says nothing about the process needed to bring us about.

    You have to understand that the probability of something happening is irrelevant to whether or not it actually happened. For instance, if I flip a coin three times, whatever result I come out with is going to have a probability of 1/(2^3), or 1/8. If I flipped it a million times, the probability of any series would be 1/(2^1,000,000) (I don’t think I need to work it out, let’s just say it is a big number), by your reasoning, none of these results could happen without being caused by someone choosing whether or not it was heads or tails each time.

    For your argument to have even the slightest chance to work, it has to state:

    “This is the only universe that can support any kind of life, therefore there must be a creator.”

    The first part of that statement is quite obviously unverifiable, therefore the argument fails.

    Do me a favour, and before just dismissing what I say, try to understand what I am saying.

    Let’s look at strong nuclear force as an example. If it were too strong, no compounds as we know them could form. If too weak, the atoms as we know them would disintegrate at room temperature. So, no life as we know it of any kind would be able to form. Also, if the gravitation constant were too strong, the universe as we know it would have collapsed. If too weak, planets as we know them would not have formed. Again, no life as we know it could not have formed.

    Bolded insertions in above quote are mine, striked words are ones which are simply untrue.

    You have to get past this life as we know it thing. It doesn’t help your argument one bit, and telling me to ignore it is just silly. If you ignore the fact that 2 + 2 is not equal to 5, then 2 + 2 = 5.

    As for your parallel universe thing…

    Put another way, all I said was that given that you admit there is a chance the universe could be here without a creator (inferred by your saying the chance is incredibly low), you must allow that at least theoretically such a universe, formed without a creator, could exist.

    My question then is:

    How can we tell the difference between that universe (formed without a creator) and any other universe that is formed with a creator?

    I then went on to point out that the likelihood of any of these ‘created’ universes depends upon the likelihood of the creator. If the likelihood of a ‘creator’ existing is even less than the likelihood of the universe forming ‘by chance’, then by your reasoning it makes more sense to believe that no creator exists. You have yet to show me that a creator even can exist, let alone that it is likely to exist.

    So this hypothesis cannot be used to disprove a creator.

    Basic burden shifting fallacy.

    You are the one making the claim (that a creator exists) therefore you have to prove it. All I have to do is show that your argument does not necessarily follow.

    Even if (and this is a huge, unreasonable ‘if’ to grant) our universe is the only one that can exist, there is no reason to believe a creator exists. It could be, for example, that if no universe exists, a completely random process occurs, where completely random choices for these constants are chosen. If the universe is unstable, it collapses, which means it tries to form again, and so on, until it finally chooses the only possible values to create this universe. In which case, we are here.

    There you are, completely off the top of my head – a way that this universe could be formed with these constants being the only ones that allow a universe to be stable, and yet not involving a creator.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Greg,
    Thank you for your response. I appreciate it.
    It appears we are going around in circles. I can’t convince you and you can’t convince me, so I am suggesting we call it a draw and stop while we are ahead. ?
    We have been going back and forth on the definition of Atheist. So far, every dictionary I have looked at gives the same definition. My American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language gives the following definition : A. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods. B. The doctrine that there is no God or gods. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: One who denies the existence of God. Like I said, using the definition from a good dictionary eliminates confusion. I have shown you definitions from several, and they all agree.
    You feel that the above definitions for Atheist are incorrect. I countered that you are actually an agnostic atheist. In the end, a rose is a rose, no matter what name you give it. So, though we are using to different terms, we are both pretty much describing your philosophy.
    Greg, why you suggest I am trolling is beyond me. I am dead serious. I really think you may have a pair of blinders on because you appear to have tunnel vision. I have shown you numerous sources that verify my definitions of Atheist and Agnostic, but you have shown me none. I even gave you a definition from a philosophical dictionary, as you suggested, and it too verified my definitions. You seem to simply want to believe what you want to believe. Here is the definition of Agnostic from The American Heritage: One who believes that there can be no proof of the existence of God, but does not deny the possibility that God exists. How you could state that the word Agnostic has nothing to do with God is frankly puzzling.
    You keep bringing up a parallel universe in a desperate attempt to rebut my statement that the constants for the 4 functions presented by the anthropic principle must be within a narrow parameter in order for life to exist as we know it. You even attempted to patronize me by suggesting that I don’t know what infinity means when the fact that there could be infinite constants is irrelevant since there are only an extremely narrow range of parameters that can support life. You stated that I said, in my last post that if either the gravitational constant or strong nuclear force are too strong or too weak, it will not support life AS WE KNOW IT. Re read it and you will find that I said it would support NO LIFE, period. Yes, I did say life as we know it in an earlier post, and I fail to see why you have a problem with that since we are here and we either got here by extremely lucky coincidences or there was a creator behind it. But since you brought up the suggestion that some other sort of life might be able to exist, I went further to explain that, if the universe collapsed back on itself, there could be no life. I won’t repeat the others here since you can reread them if you wish.
    I at least will admit that there is that slim, mind you I said slim, chance that somehow all those parameters were met. However, since there is no way of knowing whether that is so or if a creator caused it, I am merely looking at the odds which simply are heavily against it occurring by chance. Remember, unless there were numerous parallel universes, you only have one chance to get it right, and scientists, as yet, have no way of showing that there are more than one universe. So far, science can only speculate on it. However, science keeps moving on, so maybe it might discover evidence that the parameters were indeed achieved by chance. I’m not so sure, but I at least admit that I could be wrong because I, like you, have no proof one way or the other.
    I’m done. Take care. It was nice chatting with you.
    Wayne

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Greg,
    I should have at least addressed the following comment you made:
    “. If the universe is unstable, it collapses, which means it tries to form again, and so on, until it finally chooses the only possible values to create this universe. In which case, we are here.”

    I agree with this statement. Great point.

    Still, if the gravitational constant finally is correct, and the nuclear strong force is not, life can’t exist anyway. Also, you are assuming that matter, in the first place, came from Nothing and then exploded all by itself. I’m arguing that that seems a bit difficult to swallow, so I am suggesting that it would require a creator. Again, I have no proof, only reason. Something else might have occurred.

  • Greg

    Wayne – the reason I suggest you are trolling, is because you do not seem to be reading anything I say.

    Trying to tell me I am an agnostic atheist is just one prime example.

    I have already stated I am an agnostic atheist – I merely have said that agnosticism is my position on knowledge, and atheism is my position on belief.

    You say I haven’t provided definitions, but (1) I did in response to your Websters definition, and (2) Your definition from a philosophical dictionary merely was what I had been telling you, so what on earth was the point of another definition?

    Another wonderful point of you not reading anything I say is your obsession with parallel universes. I have not mentioned them once, I have told you I have not mentioned them, and you continue to talk about my mentioning them.

    I can only assume you are a troll, it is the kindest conclusion I can come to.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Greg,
    You said “I have already stated I am an agnostic atheist – I merely have said that agnosticism is my position on knowledge, and atheism is my position on belief.”
    Cool! We at least agree on something. I apologize if I missed that. I probably lost it in all your denials that the dictionary definitions were wrong. I included so many definitions from many dictionaries to show that they were all consistent and could not all be wrong, which pretty much indicates that you are the one who is in fact wrong. Like I said, it appears that you want to believe what you want to believe, even if the authoritative sources say otherwise.
    You made the statement of a possible 2nd universe, or at least that is how it came across. “Imagine also, that despite the minuscule nature of these chances, there is a universe somewhere (if only in theory), where it actually did happen by chance.” Since a 2nd universe cannot occupy the same space as ours, I feel my assumption that it must be parallel is valid.
    I made the statement that the constants referred to in the anthropic principle have to be in a narrow parameter or life couldn’t exist. You ignored that fact and started talking about infinite choices when that was obviously irrelevant when the parameters allowing for life were LIMITED. I sent you numerous definitions of Atheist, etc, even one from a philosophical dictionary, but you chose to ignore the fact that all these dictionaries, including a philosophical one, being consistent, couldn’t have all been wrong. At that point, I could just as well accused you of trolling, and would have been correct. You have already called me one, but you are wrong.