Atheists Losing Faith

Atheists Losing Faith May 14, 2014

Scot McKnight shared the above infographic. If most who are raised atheists do not remain atheists, I reallywonder what they become.


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TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
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  • How can one lose faith, when one never had it to begin with?

    I have two daughters, one is an atheist, the other a Christian. I tell them both that I love them just the way they are. My guess is that most atheists care far less about their children’s chosen belief system than most Christians do. My only concern is for their happiness and well-being.

    • David Evans

      A number of my relatives were convinced Marxists, and made no secret of their adherence to that belief system (which, for them, included atheism) to their children. I think they would have been worried if their children had embraced Christianity or any similar religion. As it happens, none did.

      • Atheism, which is very simply the absence of a belief in god(s), may be a facet of Marxism; but Marxism is a complex worldview with very specific social constructs. Atheism is not Marxism.

        • Damon

          No, atheism is the belief that there is not a God “a” “theist” (no God) not “a” “pistis” (no belief) or “a” pistis” “theou” (No belief in God). Atheists in recent years have tried to re-write the definition, in order to make it not a religion for purposes of the first amendment. However, no one is fooled, including the court system, who have repeatedly affirmed that atheism is a belief…a belief that there is no God.

          • Yes, the greek root word “atheos” is transcribed in most dictionaries as “without a god”. I’m not sure what you’re trying to make with these court cases. Maybe citations would help?

          • Damon

            The point that, atheism is a belief system. It is the belief that there is no God. Atheists have succeeded in lobbying a few dictionaries, but they cannot change the historic meaning and definition of the word. Atheism is not “lack of belief in God” anymore than theism is “lack of belief in the non-existence of God.” Word games do not change the nature of what it is…a belief system based on rebellion.

          • So atheists have “lobbied” the Oxford dictionary and the Merriam Webster dictionary? I’ve never heard of this lobbying effort – citation please?

            I do understand that you see atheists as rebellious sinners who know God, but refuse to acknowledge his existence. I can assure you that I honestly have no belief in a god, and have no idea how I might force myself to believe it.

            But I don’t think you’ll believe me.

          • Jack Collins

            Um, speaking as an atheist, you’re wrong. You don’t get to tell us what we think or believe, any more than I get to dictate who is really a Christian.

            And I didn’t get any memo about lobbying dictionaries. We must have gotten an early start, because the OED entry for “atheism” hasn’t been changed since 1885:

          • Antoine Mason

            What dictionary is that. I noticed you didn’t use Merriam Webster.

            The doctrine that there is no god, lol. Doctrine is a set of teachings, thus a belief system. The belief that there is no God.

          • MattB

            But the problem is that atheism does not only mean “a lack of belief or absence of belief in God” It also means ” A non-belief in God”.

          • Jack Collins

            If you want to go back to the Greek root, atheism would be non-belief in the godS, something Christians were accused of in the early days.

          • Yes, it was originally a word used to disparage Christians and others who were exclusive with their Gods, denying the existence of the pagan pantheon of gods.

          • Michael Shedden

            Incorrect. It is nothing to do with “belief”. It is simply without god.

          • Well, that depends on what dictionary you choose, of course. Though the words we use often have ancient etymologies, meanings change over time, and dictionaries record current commonly accepted meanings.

            Most dictionaries refer to atheism as “disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of a God or gods”.

            This may be the point you were making, Michael. Looking back at what you wrote – I don’t think we’re in disagreement.

          • MattB

            Atheism has now taken two definitions. But the question is still on the table: Is there a God or not? Justification is required from both parties.

          • Justification for what? There are many things that I don’t believe simply for the lack of evidence. I don’t feel the need to actively disprove them.

            There are many different types of atheists. It is not a system of belief, as Christianity and other religions are. In fact, our current usage of the word atheist is only a few hundred years old. As Jack has pointed out, the original word “atheos” was often used by pagans to describe Christians. Most classical Greeks and Romans were not exclusive in their acceptance of gods – they were willing to accept all gods, local and universal, into their pantheon – the more the merrier! But those pernicious atheist Christians selfishly denied all gods but their own.

          • MattB

            “Justification for what? There are many things that I don’t believe simply for the lack of evidence. I don’t feel the need to actively disprove them.”

            I’m simply saying if by athiest you mean” There is no God”, then you would have to give justification since you’re making a knowledge claim. However, your really an agnostic, but you use the term “Atheist” to mean non-theist.

            “There are many different types of atheists. It is not a system of belief, as Christianity and other religions are. In fact, our current usage of the word atheist is only a few hundred years old. As Jack has pointed out, the original word “atheos” was often used by pagans to describe Christians. Most classical Greeks and Romans were not exclusive in their acceptance of gods – they were willing to accept all gods, local and universal, into their pantheon – the more the merrier! But those pernicious atheist Christians selfishly denied all gods but their own.”

            Atheism, Agnosticism, and Theism are all worldviews. Romans and Greeks were wrong about calling Christians “atheists” since “atheist” is a universal judgement. Denying false Gods and acknowledging the one true God is not atheism.

          • Matt,

            I don’t believe in alien abductors on earth, but if I’m proven wrong by future evidence, I’ll accept my error and act accordingly. In the meantime, I see no particularly urgent reason to justify my disbelief in alien abductors.

            As I’ve already pointed out on this post, Christian theologians have acknowledged that atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive positions for over a hundred years (about as long as the term “agnostic” has existed). Not that I care particularly how you wish to label me.

            My guess is that if you were to ask a Christian of the 1st century if he were an “atheos” (as the term was understood then), he would reply, “Yes, I am an atheos; I deny the pagan gods!”

          • MattB

            “I don’t believe in alien abductors on earth, but if I’m proven wrong by future evidence, I’ll accept my error and act accordingly. In the meantime, I see no particularly urgent reason to justify my disbelief in alien abductors.”

            I didn’t say you have to justify your disbelief since you’re an agnostic atheist. I simply said that if you make the claim “There is no God” that is a knowledge claim. You yourself do not make this claim. You simply withold belief until evidence is produced.

            “My guess is that if you were to ask a Christian of the 1st century if he were an “atheos” (as the term was understood then), he would reply, “Yes, I am an atheos; I deny the pagan gods!”

            I highly doubt that. That term was given by the Romans to Christians, but the romans didn’t realize that Christians aren’t making a universal judgement. Therefore, the term “atheist” would be an inaccurate label.

          • I’m glad that you accept that one can be both agnostic and atheist, and that you accept that not all atheists make the claim “there is no God”. In fact, most atheists I know and correspond with would prefer to say, “I see no evidence for God.”

            Why do you assume the ancient Greeks and Romans intended the word “atheos” to be a “universal judgement”? They invented the word and it’s usage, and they were fully aware that the Christians worshiped their own god. It’s fairly clear that the term “atheos” was used to mean those who denied gods; it didn’t have to mean those who denied all gods.

          • MattB

            But it’s still an incorrect usage of the term. Denying false Gods, while accepting one is a logical contradiction. That’s why the term is really a “universal judgement”. Christians are “theists”. One can not simply be both an atheist and a theist at the same time.

          • An incorrect usage of what term? Atheist? or the ancient word from which it is etymologically derived?

            There is a difference.

          • MattB


          • Well, then we’re just talking past each other. I was discussing the ancient word from which it is etymologically derived.

          • MattB


          • MattB

            That’s not the only definition of “Atheism”. It also means a non-belief in God.

      • Jack Collins

        A philosopher of my acquaintance was told by her parents “We’re Jewish, which means were Marxists and atheists.”

    • TheSaleBoat

      What about eternal happiness? That is always my #1 concern with everyone that I love.

      • Because I don’t believe in an afterlife, the moments that we spend in this life are all the more precious. Thinking about death leads me to savor every moment, especially those that I spend with my family: the quality of our lives becomes much more important than the quantity.

        I see no evidence of an afterlife. But if eternal life did exist, our life on earth would be an infinitesimal sliver of time by comparison. Believing in an afterlife is certainly a leap of faith; believing that one’s eternity is determined by how you live in this tiny speck of time is a leap of nonsense.

        • AugustineThomas

          You’re wrong. If there is no afterlife and you’re going to blink out of existence in a few years, this all means nothing.
          If this is the precursor to eternity, it means everything.

          • If I am going to “blink out of existence in a few years”, then this life is hardly “nothing” to me. It is everything I have, and that’s why I try make every moment worthwhile.

          • AugustineThomas

            Why does this world, with so many evildoers, mean anything if we’re all going out of existence soon? There is no basis for meaning and no basis for morality whatsoever if we’re all just going to hit a black wall anyway. (Atheists are forced to borrow Christian morality because their own beliefs give no basis for any kind of morality. True atheists are Nazis–they don’t have morality; there’s no authority to provide one.)
            This is Hell if all we’re made for is to suffer in a broken world and then not exist.

          • This is a rather old post with several threads, AugustineThomas. It’s difficult to return here to make comments simply because, I have to thread my way through so many older comments, just to get to your replies. Perhaps we could have this discussion on another thread.

            Suffice it say, I don’t value my time and relationships in this life based on the future. This present life and the lives of my friends and family hold more than enough joy, wonder, and fulfillment for me. Mine is not a life without hope.

            Morality predates Christianity, and doesn’t depend upon it. The golden rule was taught by multiple eastern philosophies centuries before Christ was born.

          • It is interesting how different AugustineThomas’ view is from that articulated in the Hebrew Bible, which for the most part doesn’t envisage an afterlife and yet does not view life as meaningless as a result.

          • I know, and I think most of my Christian friends would agree with you. He has a rather weak and simplistic view of the ultimate meaning of life, and I think most thoughtful people would realize it.

          • AugustineThomas

            (You should go on to view your comments. Though it is often glitchy, all of your comments and replies to them will eventually be posted there.)

            Why does your life mean anything if there is no greater meaning? I think it’s quite shallow to suggest that cheap, ultimately meaningless pleasures give your life meaning. And why care if it’s all going to be over in a few decades? I can’t imagine anything more depressing than to think all I’ve learned and the growth I’ve experienced is meaningless and will come to nothing in a relatively short period of time.

            Morality based on natural law is insufficient. We have much proof in the failure and stagnation of all societies before Christian ones–there is a reason they got so smart and still weren’t able to create modernity and move out of barbarism.
            We can again witness this in the descent of the West back into barbarism now that it has given up on Christianity. Christianity made the West great; Godless secularist beliefs are taking it back to the pagan hell it was before Christians took over.
            The Golden Rule is the main example of morality based on natural law being insufficient.


          • Your view of the effects of Christianity on history is a ridiculously biased view that ignores the countless barbarisms inflicted on the world in the name of Christianity. I’m not saying that Christianity’s influence has been all bad or all good. But most historians would consider your historical assessment shallow.

            And, I am sorry, but you have failed to convince me that my life is depressing and meaningless, that my days are filled by nothing but cheap pleasure. Sitting here in my home surrounded by my loving family, and reflecting upon the meaningful relationships I have with friends and colleagues, I know better than to believe the ugly view of life passed off by an anonymous commenter.

          • AugustineThomas

            You’re not a true atheist. A true atheist cannot see meaning in a life in which he is an animal, about to die, alive for no meaningful reason.
            You’re culturally Christian so you use its version of meaning without admitting it.
            There are many historians who would disagree with me (many historians are atheist or agnostic), but what is shallow about my reading of history?
            Christians did invent modernity. Christian cultures have given more charity than any others in history and they did add thirty years, now closer to fifty years to the lives of their own populations and those of the rest of the world.
            They did that all while keeping their societies in line to the point that bad Christians murdered less people in two thousand years than atheists did in several decade stretches.
            You would be living in the barbarism you hate so much if Christians hadn’t lifted humanity out of it.

          • I disagree with nearly every assertion you’ve made here, but thank you for telling your opinion.

          • AugustineThomas

            Well let me know if you can come up with an argument to defend your position. You seem to be rejecting Christianity, which built your society and gave you your freedom, for no reason whatsoever; perhaps based on your recognition of the fact that ignorant secularist beliefs are quite trendy at the moment.

          • I have nothing to defend, AugustineThomas, though you seem eager to accuse. I am not interested in dissuading you from your Christian beliefs.

          • AugustineThomas

            Why are you so vocal if you’re not defending anything? People with nothing to defend don’t make aggressive comments.

          • Really? I’m the aggressor in this conversation?

          • The only thing that is clear to me in this interaction is that Augustine Thomas is the only one who is doing harm to the impression readers of these blog comments have of Christianity.

          • Fortunately, I have enough reasonable and kind-spirited christian friends to know better than AugustineThomas’s example.

          • AugustineThomas

            You do know what an ad hominem argument is? I’m only interested in the argument at hand. You keep making it about me.

          • OK, Beau is a long-time serious commenter, and you are behaving like a troll. I will give you one warning. Do not pretend to know what other people are thinking when you have not read their many commenter here – ask them instead. And do not accuse people of doing things that they have not been.

          • AugustineThomas, take a look at the beam in your eye! If anyone has engaged in ad hominem argumentation in this post it is you.

            You have intimated that I have “conditioned” myself to “reject God”, that my life is filled with “cheap, ultimately meaningless pleasures”, you dismiss anything I might add as “trendy” and “ignorant secularist beliefs”, you’ve called me “not a True Atheist” (while dismissing all ‘true atheists’ as “nazis’, “culturally Christian”, and you tell me to “defend something for once in your life”, as though you know anything about my life.

            Most of your arguments do not consist of sharing what you believe, but rather accusing me of believing in ugly notions of your own invention.

            You tell me now not to make the argument about you? I’m astounded! You have constantly made the argument about insulting me!

          • AugustineThomas

            I asked you questions. I didn’t use your shortcomings as an argument.
            I asked how you could have any meaning in your life if there is ultimately no reason for existence since you’re going to blink out of existence when you die. I suggested that, if you are truly atheist, your only possible motivation is cheap, ultimately meaningless pleasures.
            If you are truly an atheist, have you not rejected God? I’ve “conditioned” myself to believe in God by reading the greatest theologians in history because the atheist beliefs I used to hold eventually seemed insufficient to me.
            I called most people who identify as atheist actually culturally Christian (I should have added agnostic). I said most of the Nazi leadership were atheists, which is an absolute fact.
            I’m sorry if I was uncharitable in my demands, but you must understand that it gets quite annoying to constantly argue with atheists who ask all the questions and are never on the defense, always attacking. It’s an argument tactic that every atheist I’ve encountered uses–never defend your own beliefs, make the other guy explain his and then poke holes in his logic, which is easy to do because we’re all flawed men with an imperfect understanding of the meaning of the universe and theological truths.

            I’m sorry, but the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of atheists are pertinent to the debate. If you want to discuss “what Christians do”, I’m happy to do that, but I haven’t yet made an argument that boils down to: “you’re a crappy person, therefore atheism is wrong”, which is exactly what you keep doing to me.

            God bless you and your family!

          • OK, when you accuse people of doing what you were doing, and claim that made up falsehoods are absolute fact, I have no choice but to conclude that you are a troll. And unfortunately for you, I am working hard to make this blog a troll-free zone. Goodbye!



          • Thanks for the supporting links, James. Here are a few more I found useful:




            It seemed as though AugustineThomas had a very specific picture of an atheist branded in his head, that he categorically applied to me. His claims that I never account for my own position are so clearly wrong (especially if you read this entire post of comments), I can only think he was blinded by the caricature of nonbelievers he had invented or borrowed from others.

          • I don’t think you will find your definition of a “true atheist” in any dictionary.

            Your reading of history is shallow because it fails to recognize that Christianity in government has a long history of brutality and conquest.

          • Dakota373

            beau_quilter, people and governments professing to be Christian are still people, and largely people want power to control other people at some level. A parent over children, a teacher over students, governments over constituents, nation over nation, etc… That is not Christianity. Assuming Jesus was God, he then had infinite power, but he did not use his power to control other people, he became a servant even onto his own death. If professing Christians were truly following the example of Jesus in their lives, they would not participate in the brutality and conquest of others that you have correctly identified. True Christians are not “religious”. Religion was created by man to gain power. The church you see is a perfect example of this. True Christians are humble, seeking not power, but to serve, not to conquer. Christians parents seek to serve their children, christian public officials seek to serve their constituents, but not to take from them. Calling yourself a Christian, does not make you a Christian. The world will believe you, but real Christians know their own.
            You have chosen to be an atheist and you are defending your choice. You have developed arguments to defend your choice. You use man’s history to justify denial of a creator. That makes no sense to me, but this is your choice, your free choice, but please understand it is a choice you made, and it is a choice you made about what to believe. I too have made a choice, 30 years ago I chose to believe there was a creator, because the alternative was not attractive to me. In thirty years I have not learned much, I am no scholar, but I have developed a relationship with God, a God I can see, and my faith has grown because of my choice, just as your faith in no God, no afterlife has grown because of your choice. When you die, and when I die, if you are right, we both suffer the same fate, I lose nothing for being a man of faith in God as creator, but if my choice is right, and my faith, then I will not completely die, some spiritual part of me will live on, but you will not, you will die completely. The odds are in my favor, but in service, I invite you to reconsider your choice, if my faith is justified, I would like to spend the next life in your company and the company of many people that come to believe God is our Creator, Jesus Christ is God manifested as a man that died for our redemption, salvation, justification. If this life is as wonderful as you have said it is, take a chance that it can be continued, get a bible and read it with an open heart and open eyes. Ask Jesus to be your friend. I will not seek to kill you or brutalize you, or conquer you, or even seek you out, I don’t want to argue with you, I only invite you to reconsider your choice, it is your choice.

          • Hello Dakota373

            I sincerely appreciate your heartfelt and lovingly-intended approach to converting me to Christianity. I think it’s pretty clear that this is not the approach that AugustineThomas was taking.

            I completely agree with you that someone who is truly following the example of the New Testament writings on Christ, probably wouldn’t engage in the brutal conquest that many professing Christians have historically espoused. I didn’t mean to “pick on” Christianity in pointing out such examples, nor to disprove it. I am fully cognizant that political brutality has been practiced by those who profess other religions as well, not to mention the political brutality of professing atheists such as Stalin.

            I brought up these examples because of AugustineThomas’s personal theory that Christianity is responsible for the triumph of Western society and the benefits of democracy. The political reality is, of course, far more complicated than that, and the triumph of Christian-professing governments was often brought about at the end of sword, not by turning the other cheek.

            But I didn’t mean these examples to somehow “prove” a position of atheism.

            Thank you for your invitation to read the bible. I’ve read it multiple times. Your particular belief about the afterlife, that those who accept Christ will live with him forever, while those who do not face annihilation, is not shared by all Christians. Many Christians I’ve spoken to think that I face hell – an eternity of torment – if I do not become a Christian. In either case, the concept of a God who determines one’s eternity based on the comparatively infinitesimal sliver of time that is our life, doesn’t make much sense to me. I’m afraid that the Bible as whole, though it contains some uplifting passages, seems as far-fetched to me as most ancient mythologies.

            If being a Christian brings you and others happiness in life, I think that’s wonderful, and have no desire to change your mind. But for me, it doesn’t make sense to pretend to believe something in pursuit of an eternity that doesn’t exist. I am happy as I am.

            You presented me, basically, with Pascal’s Wager: given the choice between the possibility of eternity and the possibility of annihilation, one should always choose eternity – whatever the odds:


            Of course, there are many problems with this formulation. The clearest problem to me is that I can’t “force” myself to believe something, even if I conceded that the belief entails great rewards. It’s rather like saying, if you believe in fairies, you will get a million dollars! No matter how much I want a million dollars, I can’t force myself to believe in fairies. I suppose someone could lie and say they believe in fairies to get the money; but if God exists, surely he wouldn’t be convinced by such a lie.

            Another problem with Pascal’s wager is that it posits only two positions: either the christian is right and he will go to heaven, while others do not; or the atheist is right and all face annihilation. But this wager fails to capture all the positions available. Perhaps both the christian and the atheist is wrong and the muslim is right (he faces paradise, while we face the flames of hell); or perhaps the hindu is right (we all face reincarnation and karma); or perhaps the buddhist is right (we all will rejoin the universal tao).

            There are even other Christians who believe in options other than Pascal’s. I’ve already mentioned those who believe in eternal torment (which I find one of the most pernicious and ugly beliefs ever invented). There are also universalists who believe that all of creation will eventually be reconciled to God in eternity.

            In any case, it’s hard to see how I can make myself believe in something I find unbelievable simply by wagering on the outcome. And for myself, imagining an eternity does not add value to my life as it is.

            Thank you for your kind response.

          • Dakota373

            You wrote: Many Christians I’ve spoken to think that I face hell – an eternity of torment – if I do not become a Christian. In either case, the concept of a God who determines one’s eternity based on the comparatively infinitesimal sliver of time that is our life, doesn’t make much sense to me.
            My reply: God does not use the infinitesimal sliver of time to determine if He wants to have a relationship with you, He does; you have that sliver of time time to accept his offer. Peace to you my friend.

          • Thanks, though I’ve spoken to Christians who disagree with your perspective (in favor of the elect). Either way seems mythological to me; I don’t believe the New Testament miracle stories and don’t see how they are any more believable than Muslim, Hindu, or any other religion’s miracle stories. I suppose I could say that I accept Jesus. But if he has the omnipotence of God, he wouldn’t believe me. I guess I’m doomed from your perspective.

            Peace to you as well.

          • AugustineThomas

            You won’t find a lot of definitions in any dictionary of things that nevertheless exist. An atheist someone who says how smart they are because they only believe in science but lives their life as if it all has meaning. Atheism, by definition, rejects meaning and morality. Without a God there is no basis for either.

            Your understanding of the world is shallow if you think that anything that isn’t perfect is pure evil.
            So you defend nothing? Everything is evil? How do you survive if imperfection means pure evil? You’re a part of many evil institutions?

            Christianity has done more good than any other entity and less evil. You appear to be rejecting it based on the fact that it’s imperfect, despite the fact that all humanity is imperfect and even more imperfect than Christianity.

            Please defend something for once in your life. Otherwise move to the mountains and renounce your citizenship in a country that has done far more evil than the Church ever did.

          • AugustineThomas

            I have many christian friends, of many different denominations, none of whom would makes the sorts of nonsensical assertions that you make about what I think. I don’t reject them; I’m quite fond of them.

            I have no interest in defending what you think I think.

          • AugustineThomas

            If they were better friends they’d try to correct your errors. As much as you’d like it to be, this is not some game. It does matter what you believe and people who go to Hell will do so because they’ve conditioned themselves for so long to reject God.

            But God bless you!

          • AugustineThomas,

            I don’t see how I can have a meaningful discussion of anything with you, if your approach is to merely impugn my motives and make assumptions about me.

            You keep telling me to defend ideas to which I do not subscribe. How am I supposed to respond to that?

            You say, “Your understanding of the world is shallow if you think that anything that isn’t perfect is pure evil.” Then ask me to defend this stance. What on earth are you talking about?! I don’t believe that “anything that isn’t perfect is pure evil”! Where do you get that idea?

            I don’t “reject Christianity” because it’s “imperfect”. I simply do not believe in the supernatural aspects of the Christian story because I see no evidence for them. To me, the biblical miracle stories have the appearance of similar stories in other mythological literature. An interesting window into the way ancient people viewed the world, but no more to be believed than the miracles stories of Vespasian, Mohammed, or Apollodorus.

            There is moral wisdom in the Bible, certainly, but there is also moral wisdom in the writings of Plato, Lao Tzu, Confucius, and many other religious and philosophical figures throughout history. I value ethical precepts such as the golden rule, which is a rational, beneficial approach to morality found in many ancient philosophies. Being an atheist does not mean that I “reject morality”.

            I recognize that I live in a culture that has been highly influenced by Christianity, as it has been influenced by ancient Greek and Roman democracies, enlightenment thinkers, and a host of other movements and individuals. I accept this, embrace it even. But my acceptance of the inescapable culture that surrounds me does not entail that I can automatically believe in the ancient miracle stories of Christianity.

            I also believe that trial by jury is one of the fairest methods the world has devised for making judgements. The most ancient record that we have of a trial by jury is the mythological story of Orestes, who was hounded by demonic Furies until the Olympian gods appointed a jury of Athenian citizens to hear his case. I believe in the value of trial by jury. There is ample evidence of it’s effectiveness. This does not entail that I believe in the Furies or the Olympian gods.

    • KDK

      It takes faith to believe in God, and faith to believe there is no God.

      • No matter how many times I’ve heard this quip, it continues to make absolutely no sense to me.

        • The premiss that without knowledge of God’s existence, all you have is blind faith. The atheist does not know there is no God, they just believe (some might say hope) there is no God.

          • By this logic, I also have “faith” that there are no fairies, dragons or unicorns. If we use the word “faith” to describe all the beliefs we don’t subscribe to, the word begins to become a bit meaningless.

            As others have said before, if atheism is a faith, then OFF is a channel.

          • Elijah Olson

            That’s absurd—ATHEISM is the positive assertion that there is NO God. “OFF” is more like agnosticism.

            Those who are atheist are SAYING that there is no God; that takes faith to believe there is no God in the face of all the evidence suggesting He exists.

            Yes, it does take “faith” (better translated–trust) that there are no such things as dragons, unicorns, fairies, etc. What’s your point with that?

          • Oxford Dictionary:
            atheism: disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.
            Webster-Merriam Dictionary:
            atheism: a disbelief in the existence of deity

            That’s just to be helpful … I’m not particularly obsessed with labels and definitions.

            So are you a unicornist? Or do you belong to the faith of a-unicornism?

          • KDK

            Ok then. I disbelieve that God doesn’t exist.

            So then my disbelief isn’t faith based either!


          • If you say so!

            If you think your disbelief in the nonexistence of God is based on evidence, that’s fine by me. Present your evidence if you like. I have no problem with assertions based on evidence.

          • AugustineThomas

            Present your evidence that nothingness, which is incapable of anything, inspired everything. (That is the logical end result of atheism.)

          • No, that is not the logical end result of atheism.

          • AugustineThomas

            Then what is? (Let me guess, you’ll try to say “we’re scientific, we don’t know anything, but WE DO KNOW that you’re wrong” and then run away?)

          • Why do you choose to ridicule and accuse rather than simply discuss?

            My answer to your question is that atheism does not have a logical end. It is only the lack of belief in a god. That is why atheists are quite diverse in their politics, philosophies, economics, etc.

          • AugustineThomas

            If you don’t believe in a Creator, then, by definition, you believe nothingness did it. Any other explanation involves God.
            I’m sorry if I was rude!
            God bless you!

          • Actually, physicists have a number of theories about the origins of the universe that don’t require a concept of “nothingness” – even if you could define what “nothingness” even is.

          • AugustineThomas

            Perhaps you would be so good to relate to me their theories that involve non-intelligence somehow miraculously inspiring intelligence. Any intelligence that inspired the universe is just another version of God.
            The big problem I see is that you guys are bored with “old explanations”, all of which use the name people have already agreed upon: God.

            Paul told Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3–4).

          • I’ve never understood this tactic. Demanding defenses of ideas that no one promotes.

          • AugustineThomas

            You do seem to enjoy fighting straw men though. 🙂

            You have impossible standards for Christianity and no standards for leftists.

          • What straw men am I fighting? I don’t have impossible standards for Christianity. I simply acknowledge that, when you’re talking about the rise of world governments and society, Christians, other religions, and, yes, atheists too, have been guilty of great brutality throughout history. Christians, other religions, and atheists have also made great historical contributions to society.

            By the way, I know many Christians who would also consider themselves “leftists”. But I don’t know of many governments, “Christian” or otherwise, that really follow the example of Jesus as portrayed in the NT: giving all we have to the poor, turning the other cheek, fraternizing with those we consider “sinners”.

          • Incidentally, agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive; there is such a thing as an agnostic atheist, as theologian and philosopher Robert Flint pointed out as early as his 1903 treatise titled “Agnosticism”:


          • Jack Collins

            “Yes, it does take ‘faith’ (better translated–trust) that there are no such things as dragons, unicorns, fairies, etc”

            That must be exhausting! Do you have to trust that all the infinite variety of other non-existants that nobody has thought of don’t exist either?

          • Larry

            You know full well there is absolutely no honest comparison of so called unicorns, & fairies to God!!! None!! That is like trying to compare a drop of water with the Ocean. So you atheists always squawking about unicorns, & fairies is very childish to say the least!!! Now dragons are another matter!! Dragons or dinosaurs are very real and there is much evidence they did exist with humans at the same time…. OMG that blows the evolution theory!!! You people would rather jump off a climb to even dare to believe that tilt tilt tilt tilt tilt!!!

            Then on the other hand your kind are working overtime trying to brainwash our children that we came from a monkey….oh sorry a missing link before man that has not been found yet. Maybe a frog turned into a prince?? You expect us to to accept that the 2nd law of thermodynamics can be violated or entropy??? Are you serious?? Take about fairy tales!!!

            Oh yes by all means put a spin on this and a lot of smoke screens!!

          • Jack Collins

            You win. I mean, you’ve conclusively proven the existence of trolls, so I’m open to anything at this point.

          • Larry

            Trying to reason with an atheist is like trying to reason with a rock!!!! They are spiritually dead and it is a pathetic way of life with no hope!!! Like zombies!!! It is just unbelievable that any human can be like this!!! Such fools they are!!!

          • KDK

            “That’s absurd—ATHEISM is the positive assertion that there is NO God. “OFF” is more like agnosticism.”


          • Well, I’ve already explained why this is false on this post.

          • Larry

            IN my opion and experience, atheists are arrogant and smug in thier so called disbelief in God! They wear it on their sleeve and many are now going militant with it! Their anger and hatred towards God show big time in their actions, such as tearing down crosses, nativity scenes, The 10 Commandments, and such!! If athiest just dont believe then why do they go ballistic over this, and why do they work so hard trying to covert others to their negative so called unbelief systems?

            I know full well what they up to and what evil is behind it!!! Oh yes they will lie about this, and put a spin on it just like libtards, democrats, Hillary, Obama and others like them!!! God help us all America is going down the tubes!!!

          • Larry, thank you for sharing your opinion. It is valuable for us to know what people such as yourself are thinking and feeling.

          • KDK

            Faith doesn’t always have religious connotations. Again, any belief (Like one that God does not exist) that cannot be proven is one based on faith. This is Science talking. Not religion.

          • I suppose I could grant you that this depends on what you mean by “belief”. But scientific theories are certainly not based on faith; they are based on evidence.

          • Antoine Mason

            No that is true because Atheism is a world view.

          • I’ve seen a few different definitions of “worldview”. Sadly, atheism doesn’t qualify as a worldview. Atheism doesn’t provide one with a system of beliefs as a worldview implies. The only thing atheists have in common is that they lack one particular belief. Other than this one commonality, atheists tend to be quite diverse.

            Now, I’m not saying that atheists can’t have a worldview. For example, may atheists espouse the philosophy of humanism, which I think could easily be seen as a kind of worldview. But not all atheists are humanists, and atheism by itself has no system of belief that could be called a worldview.

          • AugustineThomas

            Yes you do. Your faith in there being no unicorns is simply right and your faith in there being no Creator is wrong.

            (A world of creation without a Creator is an utterly absurd idea; a world full of creation without unicorns is not.)

          • You must have a lot of faith AugustineThomas. You keep making assertions with no evidence.

          • Griffonn

            You have “faith” in Occam’s Razor.

            When a conditional assumption stops being conditional, it becomes an article of faith.

          • When did a conditional assumption stop being conditional? What do you mean I have “faith” in Occam’s Razor? I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Occam’s Razor to you in any context.

          • MsTorious

            Introduce me to your god and I will believe in him/her/it. But without having actually met that being, your “belief” is also just “hope” that something exists that you have no proof of.

          • Larry

            You already have proof of God in his Creation and the Bible!!! That is all you need there is no excuse!!

          • Malik

            That’s called circular logic. You can’t say God is real because the bible says he’s real. I’m not trying to disprove your faith, but I do have to tell you, that’s a fallacy argument. Aside from a book written 2000 years ago and passed along through word of mouth, like the telephone game, what evidence is there, physically that there is a God? There’s tons of scientific evidence that shows there isn’t.

            Science is physical, God is faith. Nothing is wrong with faith, but that’s what it is. Nobody knows for certain whether God exists or doesn’t, hence why Agnosticism is somewhat more accurate assertion (personally).

          • No it’s experiential, you to, through Jesus Christ our mediator, can know God too. The one you hate and think you are avoiding, that’s the one you need to look too, and repent of your sins and transgressions that have separated you from God, and this way has been made possible through Jesus Christ, there is no other way.

        • KDK

          Any belief that cannot be proven is a belief based on faith.
          So many people faith is a bad word. It’s not.
          Faith lead us to finding the atom.

          Faith doesn’t always have religious connotations.

          • On the contrary, most of what we learn in the sciences is the result of a preponderance of evidence, and scientists learn from being wrong, just as they learn from being right. The scientific theories that survive are the theories that are continually backed up by evidence. The more evidence, the more likely the theory is a correct model.

      • Jon Peterman

        much, much more faith to believe in no God.

        • Which God requires faith to not believe? There are so many different versions of God, even if you limit yourself to Christians.

          • Jon Peterman

            there is only ONE truth.

            two, or more, opposing views cannot all be true. one is, the others are not

          • Yes … again, which one?

          • Jon Peterman

            easy enough to figure out. the law of contradiction and logic and reason will lead you to the truth

          • Jack Collins

            Well, the law of the excluded middle would make it impossible to simultaneously be both God and human, so that puts traditional Christianity out of the running…

          • Jon Peterman

            how so?

          • Jack Collins

            Mea culpa. It is more the Law of Contradiction than the Law of the Excluded middle, although one could formulate it either way.

            1. Something cannot simultaneously be A and not-A.
            2. God is not a human.
            3. Therefore something cannot simultaneously be God and a human.

            Traditional Nicene Christianity vehemently asserted that Jesus was BOTH entirely God and entirely human. Anyone who even implied there was some kind of mixture going on, or favored one over the other, was labeled a heretic.

            The only other way out of this is to declare that God is not bound by the laws of logic, which is all well and good, except that means you can no longer use logical arguments to assert anything about God. (Christian mystics were fine with this, but the Scholastics were not, and bent over backwards trying to jam a Christ-shaped peg into an Aristotle-shaped hole…)

          • Jon Peterman

            well, since God is the creator of time, space, and matter do you not suppose He can defy whatever law He wishes to prove a point? is a painter limited to existence inside his painting?

            why then would God be confined inside His creation? God is OUTSIDE the rules by which we live.

            His thoughts are not our thoughts.

          • Jack Collins

            Exactly my point. If God is not bound by logic, then “the law of contradiction and logic and reason” cannot tell us anything about God. Even Paul admits that the Christian message doesn’t make sense by the standards of this world (1 Cor 1:18-25). Logic doesn’t lead to Christianity, and I don’t think it is supposed to.

            (Go forth and read Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and John Scotus Erigena if you seek a different approach.)

          • yruymi2

            Hi Jack. Just a bit on Jesus. I am aware that you have studied this subject extensively, but, I would like to put my two cents in nonetheless. I believe that God is a Spirit, and, we are spiritual beings in a body. Our spirits correlate to God’s Spirit, and our bodies correlate to Jesus. Our bodies are our “earth suits,” and Jesus, the human, was God’s earth suit. In this fashion, it is not illogical to say that Jesus is both God and man. So, with that, I will wish you have a wonderful day!

          • Jon Peterman

            I dont see how that even applies.

            there is only ONE truth.

            two, or more, opposing views cannot all be true. one is, the others are not

            there is no middle ground to truth. if there is middle ground it is simply a fact. facts change with circumstance, truth does not

          • Jack Collins

            OK, which of these statements is true:

            1. Christ was a human being.
            2. Christ was God.

            If you only get ONE truth, you can’t say “both,” because God, by traditional definition, is not a human being.

            Why should God be bound by the rules of logic, anyway? If that’s the case, then logic is greater than God.

          • Jon Peterman

            God is not bound by the rules of logic.

            why cant God exist as both if He so desires. He is, after all, the CREATOR of all

          • Jack Collins

            Thank you for proving my point. Logic can’t lead to Christianity because the Christian God is not subject to logic.

            Socraticized! *snap*

          • Jon Peterman

            so you admit God is beyond logic, requiring faith

            thanks for proving my point

          • Jack Collins

            The point I was contesting was “the law of contradiction and logic and reason will lead you to the truth.”

            I never denied that belief in God requires faith. I fully accept that premise. But let me ask you this: if someone DOESN’T have faith, can they believe in God?

          • Jon Peterman

            one can certainly have a head knowledge of God and say that He exists. but I believe there is more to it than that. Einstein seemed to believe in a creator but not God per se.

            God is the ultimate judge of our heart and many do not want to be judged by Gods moral standard. so make up a smaller god or no god to be comfortable in their sin and “feel” good about themselves.

            one can be lead to truth but believing it may be another thing all together

          • Jack Collins

            Einstein did not believe in a creator. He believed in useful metaphors.

            But you’re admitting that a person without faith doesn’t _really_ believe in God, right?

            In which case, it MUST be possible to not believe in God without faith. So your original statement that it takes more faith not to believe in God is incorrect. A person with ZERO faith will not believe in God.

          • Jon Peterman

            God is not but we are. we live in a finite universe. for now. God dwells in eternity

            it is logical to say that God is outside our logic. He by definition (God) is beyond our understanding.

            and I never said I would bring you to God by logic. but we can apply rules of logic to what is truth. and again there is only one truth or there is no truth.

            the muslim says that Jesus is just a man, the Christian says He is God. they both cannot be true. the mormon says He is satans brother, the Christian says He is the ONLY son of God, they both cannot be true. etc, etc, etc.

            the law of the excluded middle seems to apply mostly to math or theoretical math, not to God (He created math)

          • Jack Collins

            But if the law of the excluded middle doesn’t apply to God, why CAN’T Jesus be both just a man and also God? God can be something AND not be something if it chooses, right? Once you throw out logic, you aren’t allowed to make logical arguments anymore. Heck, an ALL powerful god could both exist and not exist! We can both be right!

            A god that can both exist and not exist would be more powerful than one that can only exist, so your conception of God is less powerful than mine! (That’s the sound of Anselm rolling over in his grave…)

          • Jon Peterman

            there is too much evidence for God. so it would take more faith to believe there is no god.

            God exists as Father, Son, Holy spirit. beyond our understanding and to apply mans rules to God (outside time. space, and matter) makes a mockery of God and claims Him to be smaller than He is.

            obviously there is a supernatural nature about God, since He is outside of nature. and He is outside our rules of logic. but, again, logic can lead one to the truth. whether or not you accept that truth is another matter

            can you create from nothing time? space? matter? if you can’t do that and He can, then you have no basis to judge Him or how He does things.

          • Jack Collins

            If God exists outside of nature, there cannot be evidence for God, because evidence depends on the assumption that the laws of nature are consistent over time and apply to everything. This is just like the logic thing. You can’t say ANYTHING about a God that isn’t subject to logic or nature, because our entire capacity for understanding depends on these things.

            Just because I can’t personally create time and space does not justify assuming that someone else can. (Nor have I wrestled Leviathan…) I don’t know how time and matter came into existence. (People who are better at math than I am have some theories…)

            And it’s OK to say “I don’t know.” That’s the difference between faith and science. Science says “I don’t know” when it doesn’t have enough data. Faith ASSUMES it knows.

            I’m adding Kant to your reading list. He believed that the ONLY thing we can know about God is that God must exist. Nothing else. I don’t agree with him, but it’s a formidable argument.

          • arcseconds

            Where did Kant assert this?

            My recollection was that the first Critique leaves off (having demolished several of the traditional arguments for the existence of God) merely with God as a possibility.

            In his moral philosophy he asserts that one is obliged to believe in divine justice in order that one might not dispair at the thought that being good might accomplish nothing, and that being bad might get someone all manner of good things. Which is certainly an interesting argument, but not really a proof of the existence of God in the usual sense, and the picture of God that comes about by this certainly has more properties than just existence (yes, yes, I know, existence isn’t a property…).

          • Jack Collins

            It’s in the second Critique. I can’t find the exact quote I had in mind, but the existence of God (along with freedom and the immortality of the soul) is one of his three postulates of practical reason. One of the most basic foundations of the second Critique is that the existence of God is a moral necessity.

            I don’t find Kant’s arguments convincing, but I kind of admire the universe he wants to live in.

          • arcseconds

            Ah, right. As I alluded to above, I think there’s a subtle distinction between proving that something exists and proving that one has a moral obligation to believe in something 🙂

            To the extent his argument establishes anything, though, it doesn’t just establish (a moral obligation to believe in) the existence of God, but also three of the traditional omni-properties. As the reason for believing in God is to believe in divine justice, God needs to be all-good, all-powerful and all-seeing, in order that happiness in proportion to goodness will be bought about, and acting well won’t lead to horribleness.

          • Jack Collins

            BTW, I would like to mention that I am not trying to convince you that there is no God. I’m just trying to show you that the arguments you are using aren’t very strong. There are 2000 years of Christian thinkers out there, from Justin to Aquinas to Kierkegaard to Cobb who have wrestled with these questions in very sophisticated ways. I encourage you to seek them out, along with their opponents, to get an idea of the shape of the argument over time. You can learn to make a much stronger case for God.

          • MattB

            The Law of excluded middle has nothing to do with Jesus being God and man. The Law of excluded middle says that something can only be true or false one or the other.

            It would only be a problem if God was unitarian and not trinitarian. Since God is one in three persons, then he can exist in heaven and on earth at the same time

          • Jack Collins

            That only shifts the target. It is still a violation of the principles of logic for something to be both one and three at the same time. How can something, ontologically, both be the Father and be NOT the Father, and still be the same thing?

            (Not for nuthin’, but Christian philosophers have failed to come up with an adequate answer to this in 2000 years, and the church split at least three times over the issue, so it’s OK to admit you don’t know the answer.)


          • MattB

            You seem to have a misunderstanding of the trinity and that’s okay because the trinity is not man-made. God is one in essence or substance, but he’s three persons. Take a family for example. You have a husband, wife, and child. You’re all distinct persons or roles within in a family, but you’re all related by your last names(Collins).

          • Guest

            Heh. I’m actually working on an article discussing the divergent applications of Greek ontological terminology (like πρόσωπον, “person,”) in the Trinitarian controversy, so….

            For what it’s worth, your examples would be considered heretical in the Nicene tradition. Members of the same family do not share an οὐσία (“being,” or roughly “essence”), and describing the Father and Son in terms of family sounds like Arianism. Describing the ὑπόστασεις as “roles,” on the other hand, borders on Sabellianism. Which is a good trick, since they were opposed positions.

          • MattB

            But their last names are what they share in common. I’m not sure how to explain the trinity in a way we can understand it

            Do you have any good exmaples to help Jack?

          • Ah, you must mean your God?

          • Jon Peterman

            there is only one God.

          • I guess my point is, Jon, that you keep asserting God as something that I should assume and take for granted, when in fact, among the all the churches and christians I’ve known in my life, God is a completely different entity depending upon who you talk to.

          • Jon Peterman

            there is only one God.

            read your Bible and He will make Himself known to you

            there is only ONE way to the gates of heaven

          • Thank you for the advice, Jon.

          • Larry

            I think you know which one but you wont dare admit it. Your pride tells you to worship satan which is exactly what you are doing or serving him and you dont even know it…

          • This is very confusing. I know God, but I don’t “dare admit it.”? Why don’t I dare?

          • Larry

            This guy actually believe that the so called gods of stone are the same as the God of the Universe and all of history!!!

            So childish it is pathetic!!!

          • Larry, thank you again for sharing this erudite retort.

    • pattheaustralian1

      Christians care a whole lot about what their children believe because christians believe that it determines to a major extent where their children will spend eternity. Of course the more ramifications are associated with a belief, the more seriously people will take it.

      • Yes, I do understand that for many Christians, the purpose of this life is to prepare for the next one.

        • Larry

          But you have not hope in your unbelief!!! I suppose you really believe nothing made everything?? How preposterous. The evidence of God and design are all around you but you cannot see??? Pitiful!!!

          • I’m not sure that I felt all of the derision you intended in that last comment. Might I suggest one more exclamation point?

    • Dakota373

      I understand the data to say that the % represents one persons information from youth to adulthood. It does not represent the % of children that remain in the faith of their parent(s). In the Atheists data then, 30% of youthful atheists remain atheists as adults. The data does not indicate where the 70% transfer their beliefs to. The data does not contain a line item for agnostics either, or many other possible beliefs.

      • That sounds about right.

      • If you look at the data source, you’ll also find that there is much more room for error in the atheist line item, because the line only represents a few hundred out of over 30,000 people surveyed.

    • I <3 EC2

      Atheism requires a suspension of belief which could be considered analogous to “faith”: for example, placing faith in the premise that “science” undercuts religion and philosophy, that the existence of life and the universe is one big fat cosmic coincidence and that reading The Selfish Gene makes you an expert on biology. At least the Christian’s faith can be reasonable.

      • I <3 EC2

        suspension of disbelief*

      • I am an avid theatre-goer, and you’ve used a phrase common in live theatre circles … audiences experience a play with a “willing suspension of disbelief” so that they can receive the story subjectively.

        Not sure what you mean by “big fat cosmic coincidence”, but I don’t think I’ve heard many atheists use the phrase.

    • Damon

      My dad was a DEVOUT atheist, who shielded us from all Christian “proselytizing” and who preached to us daily.

      • Was it a bad experience for you?

        • Damon

          Looking back, I consider it child abuse. Forcing children to stay in sin, by denying the God we all know exists. My dad knows there is a God, not just “a” God, but the Christian God. He suppresses that truth to justify his sin, the same as all so-called atheists.

          • I’m sorry if your father was abusive to you. As I’ve said, I don’t force any belief system on my children, and most of my friends who are atheists take the same approach with their children.

          • Larry

            I think you are a liar!

          • Well, I have no control over your thoughts …

          • arcseconds

            What does the Bible say about bearing false witness again?

      • Jack Collins

        What did he preach about?

    • There is a difference between be raised Christian (or acting like a Christian) and actually being Christian. To be Christian, Jesus taught, is to be supernaturally born again. To be a true Christian, and not in name only (nor by ones actions), is by definition, a miracle, it is an act of God.

    • Mike Barnhart

      It depends on the version of atheism. There is hard and soft atheism. Soft atheism is the absence of belief (I do not believe there is a God) while hard atheism is the belief of absence (I believe there is no God). The hard atheist believes something to be true with no supporting evidence and therefor holds a faith based belief – though they will fight tooth and nail to claim otherwise.

      • Well, I agree that there are different levels of atheism – a larger range than two. And if you were saying that “hard” atheists cannot completely disprove the existence of God, I would agree with you.

        But “hard” atheists have “no supporting evidence”? None at all? Aren’t you rather overstating the case?

        • Mike Barnhart

          No overstatement happening. It is impossible to have any proof for or against the Abrahamic God. This is due to the nature of said God, as defined by the followers. This God can cause things to happen without leaving any trace of Himself in the event (easy to do for an omnipotent being), and as such it is simply impossible to find proof of the non-existence of such a God.
          The best I have seen is the fallacy of using the absence of evidence as the evidence of absence…

          • Well, you are confusing two notions here. Evidence is not the same thing as proof, and your original statement was that there is “no supporting evidence”. Evidence rarely proves something completely; it simply weighs in favor of a conclusion. Sometimes the weight of evidence is quite strong for a particular conclusion.

            You are positing a very specific “God”, against whose existence no amount of evidence can be found. It is a God who uses his omnipotence to remain completely hidden from the realm of evidence. It should be said that this is not the same “God” that many Christians espouse. There are versions of God who answers the prayers of faithful Christians, heals the sick, and in other ways interacts with the world in relationship to his followers. We should be able to do evidentiary studies of such a God; and in fact studies of the efficacy of prayer do just this.

            If on the other hand, God chooses to use his power to remain hidden from us, it begs the question, “why”? You see, from my perspective, you’ve just conveniently defined God as “that which cannot be detected”, in order to explain our inability to detect him.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Not confusing the two – proof is simply having a lot of evidence (yes, many levels of proof, but that is the basic gist of it). I have seen no evidence, at all, that would begin to show there is no God.
            The Abrahamic God desires faith – something that goes away when there is proof. Therefor, evidence to prove or disprove the existence of said God does not exist.
            Any omnipotent and omnipresent being (who also is atemporal – not bound by time) can easily change things in our natural universe without there being any trace of His hand being seen in it. Any being like that could so easily use natural processes to create the desired effect. As an example, there is a known process called Wind Letdown that can literally part water and create dry ground. The description of how the Sea parted for Moses matches what we know about Wind Letdown (strong breeze, long time period, etc). The miracle was not in the natural event, but in its timing. Another example is David hitting Goliath with the stone. It has been proven that a sling stone from that era can render a helmeted man unconscious. No miracle needed. The miracle was in it doing it on the first shot – even David snagged several stone because he thought he would miss.
            The Christian God can interact with the world using the natural processes already here and we would not see it as anything other than a natural process.
            Therein lies the issue – no evidence for or against God can exist. Anyone who claims God exists uses faith to do so. Likewise, anyone who claims God does not exist uses faith to do so as well. Those who say they do not know (or do not believe) are the only ones who are not holding a faith based belief.

          • No, Mike, evidence is most definitely not the same thing as proof – as any scientist, historian, mathematician, or dictionary, would tell you.

            Well, you have a very unusual understanding of God, as one who never produced a “miracle” without using natural processes to do so, and as an entity who chooses to use his omnipotent power to remain completely hidden and undetectable to humans. I’m not sure how this squares with the God presented in biblical texts, who performs many signs and wonders in both the OT and NT – and certainly didn’t seem to be hiding, according to biblical stories. Nor does it square with what many of your fellow Christians believe.

            But I’ll tell you what! I will concede that I would not be able to find evidence against an omnipotent being who chooses to use all of his omnipotent power to completely hide his existence from me.

            Nor could I find any evidence against the existence of an omnipotent Flying Spaghetti Monster who chose to hide his existence from me.

            So if it requires “faith” to disbelieve in a Flying Spaghetti Monster, then …

          • Mike Barnhart

            You are arguing against a claim I did not make. I will quote myself:
            “Not confusing the two – proof is simply having a lot of evidence (yes, many levels of proof, but that is the basic gist of it).”

            Ah, I see the disconnect. You misinterpreted what I said as saying that God cannot do miracles that do not have a natural cause. As an omnipotent being, He certainly can, and has in the past. The issue is that none of them were recorded on film, so we have no evidence they actually happened. However, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
            As an aside, do you have any evidence of there being no God (using the Abrahamic God since that is the best known in our culture)?

            An omnipotent being does not need to use all of his power to hide things from you – that goes against the meaning of omnipotent. It would be a simple thing to hide things from you. The effort would be meaningless.

            The FSM is a bad choice and I am amazed I have to constantly point it out to people. The person who invented it nullified his own reasoning for the invention when he claimed the invention. He created a fictional being that we can prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) is not real (due to him having created the fictional being) and attempts to use it as a club to ridicule people who use faith to believe in a being that has no known human creator. His argument fails on that merit alone. The FSM is just as fictional as Huck Finn – both beings have a human creator who claims to have created them and gives ample evidence to support their claims.

            A better choice would be to use Quetzalcoatl (an Aztec god), since this being also has no known human creator. It would remove the fail from the FSM argument. And yes, it takes faith to believe Quetzalcoatl exists or does not exist.

            I do not know why atheists are so afraid of the word faith. It is like they think it is a weakness, yet science requires faith to work – they just use a different name for it. Assumptions or Axioms are the name used. Isaac Asimov said, “it is incorrect to speak of an assumption as either true or false, since there is no way of proving it to be either (If there were, it would no longer be an assumption). It is better to consider assumptions as either useful or useless, depending on whether deductions made from them corresponded to reality…Since we must start somewhere, we must have assumptions, but at least let us have as few assumptions as possible.”

            Faith is not a dirty word, it is a highly useful tool for mankind. The sooner people stop being faithaphobic, the better.

          • Thank you for the Quetzalcoatl example – I agree it is a fine example of a supernatural being, as is Ganesha, Thor, Ea, Hotei, Hanuman, Isis, Bixia Yuanjin, Brahma, Si Wang Mu, Shiva, Tlaloc, Uzume, Tiamat, Anubis, Vishnu, Odin, and countless other gods worshiped by humans. (I’m sorry that you so easily dismiss the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a fiction – he is by far the cutest of all these gods). Actually, it’s quite amusing to me, that you spin your wheels “disproving” the FSM – has noone explained to you that the FSM is simply a humorous analog for any god, including all those I’ve listed?

            I agree that faith is not a dirty word; it is simply a word that has little do with my rejection of these gods as rational explanations of the universe.

            I wonder why you find it useful to quote Asimov when he never uses the word faith. Assumptions or axioms have explanatory value. They are valuable because they coincide with reality in specific and measurable ways. No scientist accepts an axiom on “faith” (whatever that might mean). He accepts it because it corresponds with reality in testable ways.

            And again, why is god hiding? I totally get your argument – if god chooses to hide, how would we ever find evidence of his existence. But the real question is, why would he be hiding in the first place? Is that even a biblical concept? A hidden god?

          • Mike Barnhart

            I already told you what faith means, but this time I will quote the dictionary:

            faith noun
            2. belief that is not based on proof
            Though I prefer to say faith is belief without supporting evidence since proof is such a nebulous word. An axiom is something you accept without supporting evidence (or proof, with is simply a lot of supporting evidence) and thus is something you accept via faith.
            I also already explained why God is not providing us the evidence of His existence you require. God wants us to trust and believe via faith. If we had proof, if we had supporting evidence, then there would be no faith. Here is a very simplistic example (and slightly flawed):

            You want a child to believe you, on faith alone, that touching a hot stove top will burn the child and hurt them very badly. You tell the child and that is it and you require the child to believe you without you having to provide evidence that the stove will burn and that burns hurt. The child does not understand why you require faith and will not provide evidence of your claim, but that is irrelevant to you not providing said evidence.

            God has always hidden Himself from the masses but has also always said such things as “seek and you will find”. It is a spiritual journey, something on a different level than a physical one. If you open your mind and heart, let go of self, you will start on your journey. I “feel” the presence of God all around. I “see” the energy flows between all living things, the energy that remains from creation, the energy that binds us all together. I “know” this is from / is God in a way that I cannot explain.

          • Hi Mike

            I completely agree with you that believing in a god requires faith, and I wish someone would explain this to apologists like William Lane Craig.

            Not believing in something for which there is no evidence, however, does not require faith. Otherwise, it would require faith for me to “not believe” in alien abductors, phrenology, mormonism, and every one of the countless gods, demons, fairies, gnomes, and other mythological entities ever proposed by humans. To say that it requires faith for me to “not believe” is a meaningless proposition. I don’t believe in such things because there is no evidence for them,

            An axiom is not a proposition that is without evidence; it is a proposition that is self evident, such as x=x, Axioms, are so clearly self-evident that they are accepted universally, they are accepted without controversy.

          • Mike Barnhart

            What I have been discussing is not the soft atheism, which is a lack of belief in a god, but hard atheism, which is a belief in the lack of a god. On the face of it, they sound the same, but they really are not. A lack of belief requires no faith or supporting evidence – there is nothing to support. But someone who believes there is no God has the same burden of proof on their belief as someone who believes there is a God. Both are active statements about something and both require either supporting evidence or the admission the belief is based on faith. You not only don’t believe, but you also don’t disbelieve due to that same lack of evidence. You are in the safe ground that requires no faith since you have no belief to support.
            An axiom has no supporting evidence – it has neither been proven or disproven in any way. If it had been, it would no longer be an axiom. Yes, these items are all accepted without any controversy – but they are all also accepted without any supporting evidence. For example, we assume the speed of light (and everything else that moves at that speed) has always been constant (sans the first few moments after the Big Bang). We have no evidence of this. Light could have suddenly tripled its speed 5 billion years ago and then, a billion years later, dropped back down to its current speed and remained there. This axiom is useless to us as it presents problems and solves nothing. Assuming light has remained constant allows us to move further. We all assume light has remained constant, but we all also have no support for this belief. It is taken on faith alone.
            That is why Asimov said we should look at them as useful or not useful instead of true or not true – we have no possible way of knowing if they are true, but we CAN know if they are useful.

          • You seem to be determined to define a “hard atheism” for some purpose of your own, presumably to discount it, but the fact is that the vast majority of atheists that I know and know of would concede that a god cannot be disproved, only that it is an extremely unlikely proposition given the lack of evidence to support it.

            I still have no idea why you insist that faith is required in the use axioms or assumptions. As Asimov (one of the most celebrated atheists of the 20th century) said, “it is incorrect to speak of an assumption as either true or false”, but rather, “as either useful or useless, depending on whether deductions made from them corresponded to reality”. One does not “believe” in an axiom, the way one might “believe” in a god; one simply “uses” an axiom, so long as it corresponds with reality.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Not at all, there is a massive difference between those who do not believe there is a God and those who believe there is no God. The fact that the vast majority fall into the soft category is irrelevant to the fact that both exist. The sadist Richard Dawkins (who said it is better to sexually molest children than to teach them a religion) is one of those who claims there is no God…and he is held as an exarch amongst most atheists. They are there, and they are usually very vocal.

            Ah, now show me any evidence that light has never changed speed throughout the billions of years it has been around. We assume it has always been constant because any other assumption is useless. We have no evidence to support this assumption, yet we assume it corresponds with reality anyway. We MUST assume an axiom is true or we cannot use it as a basis for other items. Axioms are either true or false – and we would never use one we know is false…thus we assume they are true. Fancy words can dance around it, but we both know we assume the axioms are true since anything else would be foolish.
            Remember the definition of faith? Go on, type it out here for all to see…what is the second definition of faith on See if assuming something is true without any supporting evidence (or proof) means you are taking that item as true on faith. Let me know what you find out on that.

          • You can’t seem to make up your mind, Mike. First you present an Asimov quotation to try to prove a point, and now you’re completely disagreeing with Asimov. Asimov doesn’t say that an assumption is “true” as you do; he says “it is incorrect to speak of an assumption as either true or false”.

            Now, in the matter of Richard Dawkins you are simply bearing false witness. Dawkins is on record saying that “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” Much worse, is how you’ve characterized Dawkin’s statement on religion and children. Dawkins quoted a woman who honestly felt that her experience of being fondled by a priest in childhood, while bad, was far less damaging to her than the mental scars of being taught daily by her church that her friends and loved ones were going to the eternal torment of hell.

            He made it absolutely clear in his article that he was talking about the psychological damage caused by priests frightening children with images of hell. You may not agree with him, but rather than simply disagree, you chose to call him a sadist and paraphrase him out of context with a wording calculated to make it appear that he condoned child molestation.

            I’m not interested in conversing with someone with such malicious intent. I’m finished with this conversation.

          • Mike Barnhart

            I noticed you refused to post the definition of faith – I take that as an admission that you know axioms are taken on faith. You would never purposefully use a base supposition that you believe is not true. You cannot take the human out of science – and part of being human is to believe something is true if you are going to use it as if it is true. Yes, the mental dance says you should not say it is true since it is being taken on faith alone, but there is not a human alive who can actually say his base suppositions are not true.

            Dawkins AGREED with her. You can try to pretend he did not do so but reality does not agree with you. Anyone who agrees that molesting children is preferable to teaching them a religion is a monster. There simply is no other way to put it. Not out of context at all, he really DOES believe that, else he would NOT have AGREED with what he typed.
            Of course you want to type and run – you know you are wrong and cannot bear to have to continue trying to defend the monster. I call out monsters when I see them. You should be more worried about yourself and why you choose to justify his monstrous view. To defend his view that it is better to sexually molest children than to teach them a religion is unjustifiable.

          • I’m not pretending anything. Yes, he agreed with her, but she did not say what you said. You know what, I could try to clarify for you, what the article in question actually said, but I’m not going to bother because anyone can read it for themselves …


            … and when they do, whether they agree with Dawkin’s perspective or not, they can certainly see that your paraphrase – “it is better to sexually molest children than to teach them a religion”, and characterization of Dawkins as a sadist, – is a lie. Call Dawkins a monster if you like – you have already demonstrated what you are – a liar.

            I refused to post the definition of faith? You mean when you weirdly asked me to type out the “second” definition of faith on

            I’ll tell you what, I’ll do do better than that, I’ll type out all the definitions of faith on

            1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
            2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
            3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
            4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
            5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

            Now, why are you so determined for faith to mean one thing? Are you aware that the biblical use of the word “faith” is quite often the 3rd or 5th definition?

            Now, you can insist all you like that scientific notions like axioms and assumptions require faith, even though that is not a word used by scientists to describe axioms and assumptions and even though your own scientist’s quotation (Asimov) backfired on you. But even if one were to concede that an axiom required “faith” in a very particular sense – belief in a basic scientific principle based on it’s correspondence with reality – that would not by any stretch be the same definition of faith used in the context of religion, as your “” reference shows quite clearly.

            Words have multiple definitions, shades of meaning, and their meanings even change over time. When apologists like yourself try to hammer the word “faith” into the context of scientific principles, just so that you can make inane statements like “atheism requires as much faith as belief in God” or “atheism is a faith just like any other religion”, you are not fooling – much less converting – any atheists or agnostics. We see it for what it is – an idiotic word game.

            And it doesn’t take very long for word games to become tiresome.

          • Mike Barnhart

            So you agree that definition number 2 is the one in use and therefor axioms are faith based, right? Be honest, no more word games from you. I agree, you have become tiresome with them.

            As for the monster, Dawkins, here is the specific quote from the link you provided. Everyone can see for themselves how much of a monster he really is:

            “He is right, and the same lesson should inform our discussions of the current pedophile brouhaha. Priestly groping of child bodies is disgusting. But it may be less harmful in the long run than priestly subversion of child minds.” – Richard Dawkins.
            He believes that sexually molesting children is less harmful than teaching a child a religion. He is a monster. That you actually defend his statement as acceptable amazes me.

          • No, Mike, I didn’t agree to your word games, whatever meaningless point you meant to make with them in the first place.

            Better than quoting the article would be to read the article in it’s full context, so that everyone would know that the specific “priestly subversion of child minds” Dawkins is talking about is “The threat of eternal hell”, and that the reason he believes this informs the current “pedophile brouhaha” is that the threat of hell is often the very thing that priest molesters have used to influence children in the first place.

            I don’t know whether I agree with the statement or not. Dawkins is comparing one form of abuse with another and is most certainly NOT promoting either!

            What I do know is that your first paraphrase and your charge of sadism was a lie.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Since Dawkins KNOWS religion is not going away, he IS promoting sexual molestation of children. Anyone who says that molesting children is preferable to just about anything else is a monster, there simply is no way to justify it. He is saying it is preferable to have billions of sexually molested children instead of the billions of children who have learned about religion. Yes, he is a monster…or a complete idiot who thinks religion suddenly stopped existing the moment he said he prefers sexually molesting children over it. Which do you think he is?

          • Now your lying has become ridiculous! Dawkins never says that molesting children is “preferable” to anything!

            Dawkins calls child molestation “abuse”, “odious”, and “horrific”. Just because he calls one thing worse than another does not mean that either is “better” or “preferable”! As though we are able to choose one over the other! Both are bad! Both are to be avoided!

            And when does knowing something exists become a promotion of something else? You are making no sense, and you are putting positive words about molestation (“better”, “preferable”) into Dawkins mouth to justify calling him a “monster”.

            Again, saying that one thing is worse than another is not the same thing as saying the we should “choose” one thing over another. If I say that murders are worse than rapes, only an idiot would think I was “promoting” rapes.

          • Mike Barnhart

            “Priestly groping of child bodies is disgusting. But it may be less harmful in the long run than priestly subversion of child minds.” – Richard Dawkins.
            You are now saying that something he considers less harmful (as only a monster could think) is not preferred? Seriously?
            He honestly and completely feels that sexually molesting kids is less harmful than teaching them a religion. He is a monster. Sugar coat it all you want, ANYONE who feels sexual molestation is better than teaching a religion is a monster. He is saying it would have been less harmful had the billions of people alive who were taught a religion were sexually molested. Yes, he REALLY does agree with that.
            If something is less harmful than another thing, it is also better than that other thing and preferred to the other thing.
            Only a monster would say that sexual molestation is worse than being taught a religion. EVERYONE who is sexually molested has psychological issues to one degree or another from the molestation. Almost no one who is taught a religion has any ill effects from it at all. We both know this, Dawkins surely knows this, but Dawkins is a monster so he really does not care.

          • Since you are so fond of

            prefer – like (one thing or person) better than another or others; tend to choose.

            Yes, seriously, Mike, to prefer something is obviously not the inverse of saying that something is worse than another. But you know that as well as anyone. Even the quotation you found shows that Dawkins finds molestation “disgusting”. You are also lying by saying that Dawkins is equating all religion as being worse than molestation, when in the article he is clearly talking about one particular teaching of religion.

            You are lying about Dawkins because you don’t like him.

          • Mike Barnhart

            If A is worse than B, then B is better than A.
            It really is that simple, no lying is needed.
            Oh yes, Dawkins says molestation is disgusting, and yet he finds it better than what billions have already gone through with no ill effects. Yes, you understand that correctly, he find the horror of sexual molestation to be better than what billions have had no ill effects from.

            ANYONE who would prefer something that mentally scars everyone who had had it happen to them over something that almost never causes any mental pain at all is a monster.
            I understand we will get nowhere with this. I understand that you feel some need to justify the monstrous view of Dawkins.

            I will not attempt to psychoanalyze what must have happened to you in your past to cause you to justify such a thing. I only hope you find help for it.

          • No, Mike, you can insist as much as you like that Dawkins thinks molestation is “better” and “preferable”, but everyone knows a false dichotomy when they see it, including you.

            I hope you find help for your problem with telling lies.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Wow, so you deny that if A is worse than B, B is therefor better than A?
            You do understand antonyms, right? Words that have opposite meanings of each other? Better and worse are antonyms – they mean the opposite of each other. So if A is worse than B, B is therefor better than A by the very meaning of the words in use. Higher and lower, hotter and colder, lighter and heavier, older and younger…you find these word pairings everywhere.
            You really have a problem with words having meanings, don’t you? You like to play fast and loose with language and appear to dislike it when others call you out on it.

          • Mike, this is completely disingenuous of you.

            You know we’re not just comparing some grammatical relationship between words. You called Dawkins a “sadist” and said that “he IS promoting sexual molestation of children”.

          • Mike Barnhart

            I did use sadist incorrectly, you are right about that. He is not a sadist, just simply a monster.
            He says sexually molesting children (which almost always causes great psychological harm to the child) is better than teaching a child a religion (which almost never causes any psychological harm to the child).
            Anyone who feels this way is a monster. You are in the minority who feel it is fine to be a monster.

          • And you are a liar, claiming that Dawkins promotes child molestation.

          • Mike Barnhart

            As an aside, Richard Dawkins is one of the Hard Atheists who believe, via faith, that God does not exist. To quote him:
            Why there is no God

            It is part of his God Delusion book, I believe. He is making a claim without supporting evidence (since we all know there is none to be had) and therefor is holding a faith based belief…all the while mocking people who hold faith based beliefs and saying sexual molestation is less harmful than learning a religion.

          • “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” – Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

          • Mike Barnhart

            Assumptions are faith based beliefs.

          • You can assert a false statement as often as you like. It does not make it true.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Sigh…Lets go detailed then, to help you out:

            as·sump·tion noun
            1. something taken for granted; a supposition

            sup·po·si·tion noun
            1. the act of supposing.

            sup·pose verb (used with object), sup·posed
            3. to believe or assume as true; take for granted
            I removed the definitions that are irrelevant (much like you would remove the definition about a running nose when talking about running a marathon). I also used number 3 in suppose because it completely aligns with what is listed in number 1 for assumption.
            So we are back to you denying what reality has already shown to be true; assumptions are faith based beliefs. If you had supporting evidence, it would be a fact and not an assumption.
            I must apologize, I do tend to expect obviously intelligent English speakers to either have large vocabularies or a good working knowledge of how to use a dictionary. I know you are intelligent, so I applied my assumption to you. I am wrong with that assumption about half the time, so it is still a useful one – in this case, not so much.
            But now you know, so you can accept the facts as presented to you.

          • So you’ve just supplied three definitions, none which use the phrase “faith-based”.

            Again, Mike, your ridicule does not hide the fact that your argument is composed of nothing.

          • Mike Barnhart

            That is because I expected you to remember what you posted about mere moments ago. My apologies, I will go full out with it then, even reposting what I just posted so you do not “forget” it too:

            as·sump·tion noun
            1. something taken for granted; a supposition

            sup·po·si·tion noun
            1. the act of supposing.

            sup·pose verb (used with object), sup·posed
            3. to believe or assume as true; take for granted

            I removed the definitions that are irrelevant (much like you would remove the definition about a running nose when talking about running a marathon). I also used number 3 in suppose because it completely aligns with what is listed in number 1 for assumption.

            faith noun
            2. belief that is not based on proof

            proof noun
            1. evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.
            If you have proof, you no longer have an assumption – you have a fact. Come on, are you really this bad with vocabulary or are you just pretending to be?

          • Mike Barnhart

            To simplify this:
            Essentially, we have (removing grammar from the mix)

          • How convenient that you remove all the definitions that don’t serve your purpose: to attach a meaning to assumption, that no scientist ever intended.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Wow, you really do not know how a dictionary works. I already explained to you why you have to remove most of the definitions – but you “forgot” that part already, right?
            You have become very pedestrian (since you have a dictionary disability – I am using definition 4…the others are ignored since they are irrelevant in this situation)…maybe you were always this way and I just gave you too much credit.
            I will stop trying to get you to see reality and allow you to return to the safety of your self created bubble. I am saddened every time I find someone who refuses to accept something that is true simply because they dislike it. 🙁
            Enjoy your alternate reality life.

          • Have good day, Mike. I only wish you the best.

          • Mike Barnhart

            As an aside, the reason I spend the few seconds showing why the FSM fails is because it is so often used in logic arguments. It cannot, since it has a flaw which makes it quite different from the Abrahamic God that is it so often pitted against. The logic fails before the argument can be crafted due to this flaw.
            That is why I tell people to pick a different god, one which we do not have conclusive proof is made up. Saying this has never resulted in anyone agreeing the flaw matters, even though it a simple one to grasp.

          • The flaw of knowing it is a fiction? Mike, you’re not telling anyone anything they don’t already know, and probably causing more than a few chuckles from the other side of the argument. As I’ve said, the FSM is a comic stand-in for the countless gods that humans have worshiped over the eons. To find a logical flaw in it’s fiction is to miss both the joke and the point.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Yes, and it is telling that people will purposefully use something they know does not work in an argument and then defend it as if it works.
            It fails in any actual argument for or against the Abrahamic God (to select one that we both know a bit about). It is only used to mock, not to make any rational point, since it fails in any actual use of logic. It cannot be used as an equivalency in an argument since it is so painfully not equivalent. It works as well as using Huck Finn in an argument for or against God.
            I am starting to think you are one of those people who claim being logically consistent is only important for other people…are you one of those people or do you admit the FSM is useless in arguments for or against God?

          • And I’m beginning to think you are one of those people who avoid the real import of arguments in favor of picking at irrelevant minutia. I find it telling that you keep arguing against the FSM as thought it is a real contender, and completely fail to address what the FSM represents, the countless gods and supernatural entities that are and have been claimed throughout human history.

          • Mike Barnhart

            See, that is the point, FSM does NOT represent any of the gods that we do not have proof of who invented the god. It simply cannot represent something it is nothing like.
            That is the part the FSM users refuse to accept. They act like that part is irrelevant when it is quite important. They would never use Huck Finn for the very same reason why they should not use the FSM.
            Faith is removed when we have proof. There can be no faith in the FSM being real when we have proof it is a fictional character – just like there can be no faith that Huck Finn is real. The Abrahamic God’s origins are unknown – the mists of time hide it fully. This gives ample room for faith.
            Faith is why the FSM fails miserably in its attempt to represent many of the gods. Those who use it as such create logical fallacies of false equivalency and then refuse to accept what is painfully obvious when it is shown to them.

          • So, how long are you going to use the FSM as a stall to avoid responding to the countless gods and supernatural entities that are have been claimed throughout human history.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Whew, you finally admit the FSM fails miserably in its assigned task. Good, you CAN learn!
            No stalling involved. I take it on faith none of those gods are true. Had you wanted to know, you really could have asked me directly.

          • It’s funny, I’ve looked over and over my last comment and I can’t seem to find an admission of anything. Does it take the same amount of faith to not believe in Quetzalcoatl, as it takes to believe in Yahweh? Is it the same kind of faith you find in the book of Hebrews?

          • Mike Barnhart

            Oh, so you are not able to learn. 🙁 I am sorry for crediting you with that in error.
            Faith is an individual thing, I cannot say how much is needed for anything. I can say faith is needed to believe in the existence of (and to believe in the non-existence of) both. Due to the very meaning of the word faith. I know you are having troubles accepting the meaning of the word faith, but I am confident you will eventually get over your pride and accept it.
            Faith is belief without supporting evidence – it is the same no matter what it is used for. When you believe something is true (or false) without supporting evidence, you are holding a faith based belief. It really is that simple. You do not have to like it, but you do have to accept it…reality already did.

          • Yes, I guess that’s why there are five separate definitions of faith on your favorite dictionary site. And why scholarly articles argue back and forth about what Paul means by “faith” in different contexts.

            Your sense of ridicule and aggression does nothing to make your arguments any more cogent.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Wait – you are trying to say you cannot tell which definition applies here? You must have trouble with the word “run” then, since it has vastly more definitions.
            We both know number 2 is the relevant one, yet you pretend to not know. The only reasoning I can come up with is so that you do not have to admit you are wrong about something, that your pride is simply too strong. But go ahead and tell what your reasoning is for pretending not to know.

            When you obviously are being stupid on purpose, I will ridicule you for it. I hope that makes you stop. Maybe your pride is simply too powerful for it to help at all, who knows.

          • No, Mike, you pretend not to know that you are applying definitions 3 and 5 to atheism, by insinuating 2.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Nope, not using that one at all. We are talking about faith in general, so specifics are irrelevant. Unless, of course, you are saying science is actually a religion…which I do not think you are. So we are back to definition 2.
            You really DO like word games, no matter what you claim.

          • If specifics are irrelevant than why do you keep referring specifically to definition 2?

            Seems pretty obvious to me that when apologists call atheism “faith-based”, they are saying it is no different than religion – ergo definitions 3 and 5.

            Now, if you don’t like playing word games (and I certainly tire of them), then why don’t you try cutting to the chase. What are you really trying to say about atheism, and why is it important.

          • Mike Barnhart

            Because number 2 applies to the general while the others either apply to the specific or are completely unrelated.

            Nah, we take a plethora of things on faith every day that have nothing to do with religion – hence the discussion about axioms.

    • Antoine Mason

      That is not what disbelieve or lack of faith is sir. When one says they do not believe in something religious it is just that they have faith in belief in all things or some things non religious. So you have faith in the non religious. That is at the heart of atheism.

      • MattB

        The problem today is that the word “Atheism” has been taken to mean two things: Either 1) The belief in the non-existence of God or 2) A lack of belief. It’s important that when conversing with atheists we ask them if they mean 1 or 2. If they mean 1, then that is a knowledge claim and therefore requires justification. If they mean 2 then they are really some sort-of agnostic and the burden of proof lies on us

        • I really don’t see much of a problem. If you gave them the choice, most atheists would place themselves in category 2, even if they might use a phrase like #1 on occasion, informally. Even the “infamous” Richard Dawkins places himself squarely in category 2. He is on record saying:

          “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

          I think this is the position of most atheists.

          • MattB

            When Dawkins says “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable” that is in someway 1 because he has some hidden assumption for thinking that God’s existence is so improbable.

            However, I would place you as 2 since you don’t really know

          • No hidden assumptions needed. There just isn’t any compelling evidence that the Christian God is less a myth than other gods.

            There are philosophical arguments that can be tenuously made for a less specific noncontingent agency behind the universe. I don’t really find such arguments compelling, but I remain mostly agnostic about them. But in the case of the specific biblical God of Christianity, there is no evidence that would make me consider the reality of Jesus as a supernatural agent any more than I would any other religious mythology in the world.

            Your placement of Dawkins as category 1 seems arbitrary to me. We all weigh probabilities to some extent. No atheists and very few agnostics (if any?) would grant God (or a god or gods) a 50/50 probability. While atheists recognize the impossibility of proving a negative (“God does not exist”), atheists in all categories consider it unlikely.

          • MattB

            “Your placement of Dawkins as category 1 seems arbitrary to me. We all weigh probabilities to some extent. No atheists and very few agnostics (if any?) would grant God (or a god or gods) a 50/50 probability. While atheists recognize the impossibility of proving a negative (“God does not exist”), atheists in all categories consider it unlikely.”

            “There are philosophical arguments that can be tenuously made for a less specific noncontingent agency behind the universe. I don’t really find such arguments compelling, but I remain mostly agnostic about them. But in the case of the specific biblical God of Christianity, there is no evidence that would make me consider the reality of Jesus as a supernatural agent any more than I would any other religious mythology in the world.”

            But your the other version of atheism, which says that I don’t know if there’s a God, but I’m not a theist, I’m an agnostic.

            But Dawkins himself is a militant athiest and has repeatedly said that “There is no God” or “There probably is no God”. He holds to the traditional usage of the word “atheist”. It’s not impossible to prove a negative. In order to prove a negative, you would have to show something to be a logical contradiction i.e. a married bachelor, a square circle, a round triangle,etc.

          • Matt,

            Dawkins has made it quite clear that he’s aware that one can’t disprove God. Look at the “Dawkin’s scale”, in which talks about the lack of probability for God, but inability to prove it.

            Sure, logical contradictions can, in a sense, be disproven, but most negatives are not logical contradictions. Unless you have way to “prove” that the nonexistence of God is a logical contradiction (or vice versa), then the phrase “you can’t prove a negative” is still quite valid.

            If Dawkins makes a statement akin to “there is no God”, he is using it in the same informal, probabilistic way that I might say, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” to a friend, who, in all likelihood, I will see tomorrow.

          • MattB

            A logical contradiction is a negative. For example the claim “There are no married bachelors” is in itself a negative claim. The claim “You can’t prove a negative” is itself a negative claim.

            If Dawkins is saying “There is no God” then he needs to give an argument to show how that is more probable than saying “There is a God” becaus he’s making a knowledge claim that requires justification.

          • Matt,

            Fine – the phrase “you can’t prove a negative” is arguably incorrect in the case of logical contradictions.

            But the claim “you can’t prove that God does not exist” is not a logical contradiction; and that is exactly what Dawkins has stated. He has clearly stated (whether you believe him or not) that he thinks God is unlikely but not disprovable.

          • MattB

            OK, but again, when Dawkins claims that God is unlikly, there must be some reason for thinking that. It would be different if Dawkins said “I don’t know and I really don’t believe”.

          • Matt, virtually all atheists (and most agnostics) would claim that God is unlikely, especially when you narrow it to the specific version of the Christian God who rescued the Israelites from Egypt with plagues in the OT and raised his son from the dead in the NT. I include myself in this list.

            Saying that one doesn’t know if God exists, is by no stretch of the imagination, assigning a 50/50 probability to his existence. I can’t think of anyone who would actually give existence and nonexistence perfectly equal chances. Everybody tends to lean one way or the other – likely or unlikely. And both atheists and agnostics (and those who qualify as both) generally land on the unlikely side of the equation.

            My reason for thinking that God is unlikely? Like Zeus, Ganesha, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, and all the other gods of ancient texts, there is no evidence of them.

            I will add that liberal Christians, like James McGrath, don’t seem to be concerned about the literal truth of supernatural elements of the bible (including the resurrection). They espouse a belief in a God who is a “ground of being” a creative force, but not one that could be pinned down to specific miracles. (I hope I haven’t misrepresented James here). For that sort of God, I suppose, evidence of the supernatural is not to be expected.

          • MattB

            But agnostics wouldn’t say one way or the other. They would say “We don’t know how likely it is or isn’t God exists”. Agnosticism is the middle position. However, some Agnostics would claim to be atheists or vice-versa.

            Bart Ehrman for example says that he’s an agnostic atheist. He doesn’t know and he doesn’t believe that there is a God.

          • No, Matt, agnostics do not say “We don’t know how likely it is or isn’t God exists.” That is not the agnostic position.

            Bart Ehrman:

            “… I moved from being a committed church-going Christian to become an agnostic. I no longer know whether God exists. But if he does exist, I’m convinced that he is not the God I was raised to believe in, a God who intervenes in history on behalf of his people to answer their prayers and to save them from their pain.”

            Despite your attempt to categorize atheists earlier, all atheists consider the Christian God to be unlikely or improbable, and they no more have to “justify” that position than you have to “justify” your lack of belief in the Hindu god Vishnu.

          • MattB

            Perhaps you’ve misunderstood my argument. There are two kinds of atheists: Those who think God does not exist and those who are agnostic and don’t know if there is a God or not.

            The point is that if an atheist says “There is no God” then they must give the justification for that statement just like when the theist says “There is a God”. If they take the agnostic atheist position like you do, then none is required since you don’t know.

          • I understand your argument clearly, Matt, and it has no merit. You’re just playing a game of semantics, that doesn’t really apply to anyone.

            You seem to want to insist that Richard Dawkins, for example, falls into your “category”, but the related chapter in Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” doesn’t say “There is no God.” The chapter is titled:

            “Why there almost certainly is no God.”

          • MattB

            I’m not playing semantics. The question has nothing to do with absolute certainty since certainty is a property of belief and is not required in order to be this or that.

            The question we want to ask is probabilities. When Dawkins claims “Why there almost certainly is no God” That is a very strong claim that must be answered with some sort- of evidence or reason(justification). Similarly, if I said “There certainly is a God” you would have to ask me “How do I know that?”.

            It would be different if Dawkins said “I don’t know and I don’t believe”. But he instead insists that the existence of God is less probable than not.

          • As I’ve pointed out, “why there almost certainly is no God” is a chapter title – the chapter contents answer the question “why”.

            But Dawkins is not alone. Ehrman would certainly agree that God is not probable, particularly the sort of God who “who intervenes in history on behalf of his people to answer their prayers and to save them from their pain”.

            I tend to agree. Why would I put stock in a supernatural belief with no evidence?

          • MattB

            But you’re not claiming that “There is no God” like Dawkins has repeatedly said. You’re claiming that there is no evidence and so you withold belief in God until evidence has been produced.

            A good example of this is in WLC and Christopher Hitchens Debate.


          • No, thank you, Matt – I couldn’t possibly watch another segment of WLC, the most annoying debater ever to grace a stage. I’ve already seen this anyway. If he’s going to do this much public speaking, someone needs to tell this man how to keep his pitch and volume at a normal conversational level when using a mic.

            Matt, yes, I am “claiming that there is no evidence and so” I “withhold belief in God until evidence has been produced.”, with the one caveat, that I seriously doubt such evidence will ever be produced.

            And this is exactly the position of Richard Dawkins. Have you even read what he has to say?

            You keep saying that he has repeatedly said, “There is no God”. Where does he repeatedly say that?

          • MattB

            “No, thank you, Matt – I couldn’t possibly watch another segment of WLC, the most annoying debater ever to grace a stage. I’ve already seen this anyway. If he’s going to do this much public speaking, someone needs to tell this man how to keep his pitch and volume at a normal conversational level when using a mic.”

            I find WLC to be a very bright intellectual and informative on philosophical and historical scholarship.

            Matt, yes, I am “claiming that there is no evidence and so” I “withhold belief in God until evidence has been produced.”, with the one caveat, that I seriously doubt such evidence will ever be produced.

            Right, your the other version of the word “Atheist”.

            “And this is exactly the position of Richard Dawkins. Have you even read what he has to say? You keep saying that he has repeatedly said, “There is no God”. Where does he repeatedly say that?”


          • Very helpful link to the huffington post, Matt – it shows that I’m right!

            I actually watched your WLC video link after all – I’m glad I did, I had forgotten how eloquently Christopher Hitchens responds, while WLC keeps rudely interrupting with an inane insistence that Hitchens provide a “yes” or “no” answer to his semantic question.

            I also couldn’t help but notice that WLC disables comments on his videos, as he does on his web site.

            Back to the topic of Dawkins, as your huffington post link shows, Dawkins proposes that “There Almost Certainly Is No God”, (not an unqualified “there is no God” – as you keep asserting) and I agree with him.

            He includes that “almost” qualifier because he, like most atheists, finds God an unlikely proposition, but concedes that one cannot prove God’s nonexistence.

            You’ll also notice from the article that he is qualifying his comments to refer to a God who:

            “who designs universes, listens to prayers, forgives sins, wreaks miracles, reads your thoughts, cares about your welfare and raises you from the dead”

            So he’s not talking about other sorts of God (I’m honestly not sure if the “ground of being” of liberal Christianity fits the bill). This is basically the same stance of Bart Ehrman.

          • MattB

            But the claim “There certainly is no God” is the same thing as saying “There is no God”.

            But WLC wasn’t being rude and interrupting. He was running out of time during his cross-examination. Craig was asking what Hitchens was because Hitchens kept using the term “Atheist” in a vague way.

            No other God except Jesus can forgive sin, raise the dead, do miracles, heal the sick and the blind and cares about your thoughts or welfare except Jesus

          • No, Matt, they are not the same claim, which is clear enough in the wording, and if you read the article to which you linked, you would understand why.

            Hitchens was not using the word “atheist” vaguely, he was answering the question quite specifically. Craig just wanted trap him into a yes or no answer to his particular either/or question, a question that Hitchens knew failed to capture all the options (a common debate tactic of WLC’s).

            You may have personal faith that no other God but Jesus can act in those supernatural ways, but you have no more evidence of Jesus performing those acts than can be found for other gods whose ancient writings make the same claims.

          • MattB

            That isn’t true and I take my faith based on the evidence which we’ve discuessed before, but you deny.

          • I’ve seen your discussion comments about the historicity of Jesus, Matt, although I think others make a much better case for historicity. I don’t disagree with the evidence for a historical Jesus. Just as I don’t disagree with the evidence for a historical Buddha, or a historical Muhammad, or a historical Vespasian.

            But there is no more evidence for Jesus’s supernatural miracles than there is for the countless other miracles recorded in support of religions around the world.

          • MattB

            But the Resurrection is based on evidence which we discussed before.

          • There is far better evidence for alien abductions, the miracle of the sun at Fatima, Portugal, the miracles of the emperor Vespasian, and many other extraordinary claims, than we have for Jesus’s resurrection. We don’t have the writings of even a single witness for Jesus resurrection, but we have living witnesses of alien abductions and the sightings of the Virgin Mary.


          • MattB

            That’s not entirely correct. The pre-markan passion sources and resurrection narratives go back to eyewitnesses and within 5 years of Jesus’ death. Suppose legend and myth creeped in those narratives(which they didn’t) but suppose they did. It takes at least 2 generations for myth and legend to remove the core historical facts of the story or event.

            I would understand, for example, if you as an atheist denied the angelic apperances to the women at the tomb. But I don’t see why or how you could deny the burial of Jesus by JoA or the fact that the tomb was found empty by women followers. Both are two examples of embarassments that would make the story weak and implaussible if it weren’t true.

          • I see you’re still getting your “facts” from William Lane Craig!

            The fact is we don’t “know” anything about the oral sources for the gospels, nor how tentatively they are connected to witnesses – as usual, you grossly overstate your evidence. Craig get’s his “2 generations” idea from exactly ONE source – A.N. Sherwin-White in “Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, who bases the idea (it’s not a law or a fact) on the study of exactly ONE ancient source (Herodotus), and even Sherwin-White doesn’t state his conclusions as strongly as WLC makes out:

            “All this suggests that, however strong the myth-forming tendency, the falsification does not automatically and absolutely prevail”

            Here’s are two sources for the errors in Craig’s citation:



            Then, your idea that the criterion of embarrassment can be used to call something a “fact” is, again, a gross overstatement.

          • MattB

            That’s highly incorrect. You’re claiming that we don’t know how oral tradition works but that’s not what scholars and historians say.


            You still haven’t adressed the issue of the burial/empty tomb that was raised, and why do you think the criterion of embarrasment isn’t something that can determine whether something is a fact, when it’s used by scholars and historians?

            You certainly don’t think Jews would invent a crucified messiah would you?

          • Have you learned nothing by browsing the blog of an actual New Testament scholar, Matt? James McGrath would be the first to tell you that the Criterion of Embarrassment has limitations and falls short of determining what is factual:


            I have addressed your argument for the empty tomb – WLC’s misquoted and undocumented use of an argument from authority borrowed from an unpublished study by Habermas. As for the criterion of embarrassment, if it indicates anything, it indicates that women played a larger than usual role in early Christian writings – but we get that indication from Paul’s letters long before the gospel of Mark was written. In fact there are indications in the gospels that Jesus’s ministry and early Christianity was at times supported by women with resources. That’s reason enough to “get over” any embarrassment of a story about women at a tomb.

            Other possibilities are that the story grew from a misidentified grave, or an unsuccessful journey to find a grave – we certainly know that such stories can change and grow – the story already changes and grows in the four gospels that we have!

            And again, even if an empty tomb were found, it is not the least evidenced fact presented by the minimal facts approach – that would be the martyrdom of the witnesses as proof of the resurrection.

            I don’t get your last question. Jesus was one of many messiah claimants. And he was far from the only Jew to have been crucified. What does that have to do with anything.

            Matt, even James would tell you that you can’t prove an historical resurrection through evidence.

          • As for what people of any age might or might not invent, or believe, or spread as stories …

            … at the risk of beating a dead horse, look at the crazy stories that spread like wildfire today, and are believed (even “witnessed”) by sincere people:

            alien abductions
            elvis sightings
            virgin mary sightings
            memories of reincarnation
            and the list goes on …

          • Hey, I’ve got a suggestion for you, Matt! You are browsing the blog of an actual expert on the topic of the empty tomb. Why don’t you read James McGrath’s book on the empty tomb?

            You could download the Kindle edition very inexpensively right now! I’ve read it, and I think it’s a great overview, not only of the specific issues historians face in assessing the empty tomb stories, but also of the way that historical studies are conducted for any event.

            Read James McGrath! You already interact with him on this blog, and he’s an expert on this very topic!

          • I would add that if you’re depending on the “minimal facts” approach to evidence of the resurrection, you are on very sketchy ground. This approach is based on “facts” that are not facts, and has been debunked numerous times.

          • MattB

            But they aren’t ‘debunked’. These are facts that both secular and religious scholars agree on. I know the burial/empty tomb is only 75% but it’s by both groups. Also, the resurrection apperances are nearly unaninmous.

          • Now, this idea – that 75% of scholars agree on an empty tomb is a real problem. Craig gets the idea from Habermas, who only states that 75% of the writers he has personally collected who make a case for or against the empty tomb, make the case for an empty tomb. That’s is hardly a percentage of all NT scholars! Only a fraction of of all NT scholars have written articles specifically making a case for or against the empty tomb! What’s more, Habermas’ most recent articles hedge between 70-75%, and even more importantly, Habermas has never published his sources! This is not a peer reviewed study, because peer review requires that other scholars can check your sources!

            So, yet again, WLC is claiming a “fact” based on exactly ONE sketchy source who

            a) is not saying what WLC says he is saying, and
            b) doesn’t even reveal his own sources

            Now having said all this, I don’t even think the empty tomb is the most questionable of the “facts” that WLC proposes. Far more questionable are the propositions that legendary material can’t spread quickly, that the resurrection witnesses died for their beliefs (we don’t actually know how they died – all we have are 3rd century rumors and legends), and the premise that only a true story can explain Christianity’s fast growth.

            As many have pointed out, Mormonism has spread far faster than Christianity did – so unless you’re a Mormon …

            And, by the way, I stand by my earlier assertion that we have better evidence for alien abductions than we have for Jesus’s resurrection. You and WLC are hedging around about oral traditions, the criterion of embarrassment, and suppositions about alleged martyrdoms – trying to scrabble together a shadow of a hint of a witness of the resurrection who (though we don’t have his/her actual writings) might be suggested by writings by disconnected third parties decades later.

            Heck, if you want witnesses to an alien abduction, you just have to look them up and give them a call!

      • I’m not sure I understand what you mean, Antoine. I’m not saying that atheists never believe things or even have faith in things. Like everyone else, atheists have to have a little faith in things that are probable or likely.

        For example, when I drive down the highway, I have faith that the cars approaching in the other direction will not suddenly lurch into my lane and smash into me. I could be wrong, of course, because drivers do occasionally cause accidents in this way. I just have to have faith that it probably won’t happen to me, or else I would never drive down the highway.

        Of course, I do think that atheists, by definition, don’t have faith in a God, or anything like a God.

    • MattB

      Who do you believe Jesus was?

      • I don’t know, because the evidence is scant and contradictory, but I think it’s likely he was one of many similar transient rabbis of the time, preaching wisdom and apocalyptic messages.

        • MattB

          So you take the view that Bart Ehrman for example takes, that Jesus was an apocalpytic prophet?

          • I think it’s very likely (though, one shouldn’t mistake the narrow use of the word “prophet” in this instance). Of course, Ehrman certainly isn’t alone in this view. The view predates Albert Schweitzer.

          • MattB

            Of course there are at least 4-5 mainstream view on the Historical Jesus, that’s not to say that there isn’t a correct one. I would say he’s the Son of God based on the evidence, which you would disagree with but okay.

          • Have I answered your question sufficiently?

          • MattB

            yes, thank you

    • AugustineThomas

      Then you should know that atheists have higher rates of depression and suicide than any other group and that Christians who regularly attend church have the lowest rates of both.

      • You are probably referring (through some middle man) to:

        a study which has been criticized for it’s faulty mechanisms and biased conclusions.

        Kanita Dervic M.D. et al., “Religious Affiliation and Suicide Attempt,” American Journal of Psychiatry 2004.

        Besides, you get the opposite results from other studies such as:

        Patricia Murphy, et al., “The relation of religious belief and practices, depression, and hopelessness in persons with clinical depression,” Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology 68.6

        so the verdict is still out on whether depression is more prevalent among christians or atheists.

        • AugustineThomas

          The verdict is not out. The most atheistic nations always have the highest rates of depression and suicide and regular churchgoers have the best social stats across the board. Members who attend other religious services have better social stats than atheists, agnostics, “spiritual but not religious”, etc., because they enjoy some of the natural blessings of belief in a higher power, but Christians who regularly attend church are at the top of the group and we can look at history to see how much more successful Christianity has been at creating stable societies than any other religion or no religion.

          Regular churchgoing is not just good for the
          soul, scientists say. It’s good for the body too.

          Experts who examined an apparent link between
          a religious lifestyle and health found those who attended church were more
          likely to take good care of themselves.

          A 30-year study of 2,600 people suggested
          those who attended services regularly tended to smoke and drink less, take
          physical exercise and maintain stable marriages – all factors in a long and
          healthy life.

          ‘Our analyses indicate that attendees did not
          all start off with such good behaviours,’ said Dr William Strawbridge, of the
          Human Population Laboratory in Berkeley, California, which carried out the

          ‘To some extent, their good health behaviour
          occurred in conjunction with their attendance.’

          The scientists said churchgoers had lower
          blood pressure, experienced less depression and anxiety, and had stronger
          immune systems than nonchurchgoers and had less less trouble keeping their
          weight down.

          The website reported the following in respect to atheism and suicide:

          “ Pitzer College sociologist Phil Zuckerman compiled country-by-country survey, polling and census numbers relating to atheism, agnosticism, disbelief in God and people who state they are non-religious or have no religious preference. These data were published in the chapter titled “Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns” in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK (2005). In examining various indicators of societal health, Zuckerman concludes about suicide:

          “Concerning suicide rates, this is [one] indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations. According to the 2003 World Health Organization’s report on international male suicides rates (which compared 100 countries), of the top ten nations with the highest male suicide rates, all but one (Sri Lanka) are strongly irreligious nations with high levels of atheism. It is interesting to note, however, that of the top remaining nine nations leading the world in male suicide rates, all are former Soviet/Communist nations, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia. Of the bottom ten nations with the lowest male suicide rates, all are highly religious nations with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism.”[7]


          Pitzer College sociologist Phil Zuckerman compiled country-by-country survey, polling and census numbers relating to atheism, agnosticism, disbelief in God and people who state they are non-religious or have no religious preference. These data were published in the chapter titled “Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns” in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK (2005). In examining various indicators of societal health, Zuckerman concludes about suicide:

          “Concerning suicide rates, this is the one indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations. According to the 2003 World Health Organization’s report on international male suicides rates (which compared 100 countries), of the top ten nations with the highest male suicide rates, all but one (Sri Lanka) are strongly irreligious nations with high levels of atheism. It is interesting to note, however, that of the top remaining nine nations leading the world in male suicide rates, all are former Soviet/Communist nations, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia. Of the bottom ten nations with the lowest male suicide rates, all are highly religious nations with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism.”[10]

          Science Daily reports:

          “Many studies have identified a strong link between suicide and diagnosable mental illness, especially depression. So because women suffer from depression at a much higher rate than men, they would seem to be at higher risk for suicide. But women actually commit suicide about one-fourth as often as men.[22]”

          Christian apologist Michael Caputo wrote:

          “Recently the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has published its mammoth study on Religion in America based on 35,000 interviews… According to the Pew Forum a whopping 37% of atheists never marry as opposed to 19% of the American population, 17% of Protestants and 17% of Catholics.[23]”

          Vox Day declared that according to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) “more than half of all atheists and agnostics don’t get married.”[24]

          According the website Marriage and Family Encyclopedia:

          “Marital status has a strong association with rates of completed suicide. Suicide rates are higher in the divorced and widowed than in single people, who in turn have higher suicide rates than married people. This protective effect of marriage on suicide is stronger for men than for women, although it is found for both men and women (Gove 1972).[25]

  • Jack Collins

    I’d really like to see the questions behind this dataset. What does “raised atheist” even mean? Nobody when I was growing up said, “Son, we’re atheists. Put on your Sunday worst and we’ll go not worship stuff.” I was born this way. My parents just never tried to convince me otherwise.

    I imagine that, like the majority of non-believers in the US, many of those who “leave” atheism simply eschew the term because of the stigma associated with it in our society, but still don’t have any belief in gods.

    • At some point I hope I can quote you – I love that line, “Son, we’re atheists. Put on your Sunday worst and we’ll go not worship stuff”! 🙂

    • arcseconds

      What does ‘atheist’ even mean? How is it distinguished from ‘None’?

      Being raised by highly scientifically, sceptical parents who go along to Sceptics Society meetings is a very different thing from being raised by people who say “well, we don’t believe in gods, dear” when asked, but other than that simply don’t mention religion. Atheism isn’t identical with scientific materialism.

      I also wonder what kind of accurate reports we’re getting from people. I doubt whether many people will make up the fact that their parents were of a particular religion that they weren’t, but ‘none’, ‘atheist’ and ‘highly lapsed Catholic’ might not be readily distinguishable from one another, and people who have converted to some forms of Christianity may have narrative reasons for casting their parents as atheists.

    • arcseconds

      I too rather enjoyed the “put on your Sunday worst and go and not worship stuff” 🙂

  • Joe Catron

    I’m not sure how comparable all these things are. I grew up Methodist, am now Episcopal, and nobody cares, least of all Methodists. And I wouldn’t call either sect a “faith,” in the same sense as Islam or Judaism. Really, this would be more useful with a big, catch-all “Christian,” or at least “Protestant,” category.

    • Yes, an excellent point – or alternatively, different subsets of other broad traditions also needed to be separated out.

  • I’m not sure how to read that atheist result. My best guess is that atheists are raising their children to decide for themselves. And that’s good.

    • The Altemeyer/Hunsberger study indicated that was what most atheist parents in their sample emphasized, yes.

  • I’m a bit stunned the Hindus lead the list, though not too surprised on second thought. As they begin to assimilate, I expect their affiliation as Hindus will decline. I don’t think all that many native-born Americans will ever consider converting to Hinduism.

    • arcseconds

      Hinduism doesn’t really prolesytize, but there is the notable exception of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Convertees to the Krishna movement may not count as ‘many native-born Americans’ as a proportion of the total population of native born Americans, but it’s a major avenue of growth for that particular movement, and not exactly unheard of.

      More traditional hinduism is very tied up with Indian culture, ethnicity, heritage, families, etc. to a greater extent than any of the other religions on this list except Judaism. While of course not all Indians are Hindu, and there’s been significant minority religions in India for many centuries, it remains the case that it’s difficult to seperate Hinduism from Indian culture more generally, to an even greater extent than European christanity at the height of its cultural dominance. The caste system, for example, is pretty heavilty intertwined with it (in fact, this has been a major incentive for Indians who don’t do so well out of the caste system to convert to other religions!). There’s also much less emphasis on believing certain things than there are in Western religions (including Judaism and Islam). There was even an atheist/materialist school of Hinduism back in the day!

      So it might retain a degree of popularity for indians who wish to maintain their cultural heritage.

      It is notable that the religions on this list that do the best are the ones that are the most ‘cultural’ in the sense I described above.

  • arcseconds

    In line with other remarks, one could expect that atheists and nones don’t invest a lot in making sure their children are atheists and nones.

    Movement atheists often like to make much of the notion that one is born an athiest. I suppose the idea is that one will remain an atheist if left unindoctinated by one’s parents (I also suppose they must also be nudists, as one is also born without pants, and by parity of reasoning…).

    But I don’t really see that it follows that without parental indoctrination, no religion transpires. In fact, I would expect children of parents who give no guidance or discouragement/encouragement whatsoever would exhibit the greatest diversity of belief later in life, because there’d be nothing preventing them from adopting whatever beliefs seem cool to them!

    Of course, one could invest in training one’s children in critical thinking. Some might object that this is no different from indoctrination. I think it is different, but it’s easy to mix up teaching critical thinking with teaching the results one thinks one gets from thinking critically.

    Also, it’s much harder to do than merely teaching children content, and from what I’ve seen, varies considerably in how much the recipients of the training actually take it on. Plus, for whatever reason, intelligent and critically-minded people frequently don’t agree on all sorts of things, so one might expect teaching critical thinking to not end up reproducing one’s parents beliefs.

    • Jack Collins

      I like the phrase “movement atheists.” And not just because it sounds a little dirty. I am more of a sedentary atheist.

      • arcseconds

        Well, one should make appropriate distinctions. I freely accept that atheism, in and of itself, is in no way a religion, or anything like a religion, any more than, say, teetotalism is a form of drinking.

        And for many (probably the vast majority) of atheists, it really is just like you say — you don’t put on your Sunday worst and not worship stuff. Being inclined to assert that there’s no such thing as God is not really any more or less important to them than asserting there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy, and the only way it becomes so is because other people think it is.

        But, you know, if someone’s writing a blog about atheism, and has joined a group about promoting atheism, and has funded an advertisement on a bus encouraging other people to be atheists, looks forward to a future where everyone has accepted the truth of atheism, and gets frustrated when people don’t, won’t let their kids read the Narnia books, etc. … then that’s kind of looking less like a certain but completely marginal disbelief in the tooth fairy, and more like how religion functions for a lot of very overtly religious people.

        Not that I necessarily have a problem with that (well, no more than I do with proselytizers generally… I’d have to admit I don’t like being told what to believe) I just want to call a spade a spade, or at least admit that a trowel is kind of like a spade rather than denying it’s a garden implement at all.

        The silly slogans like ‘we were all born atheists!’ are particularly eyebrow-arching. The one positive thing atheism (at least in it’s normal scientifically-informed form) can claim about itself is that it’s rational, but once you start brandishing pat slogans like that around, you kind of lose your claim to the rational high-ground. You’re in the rhetorical emotive mosh-pit along with everyone else.

        And I wouldn’t like to suggest that ‘sedentary atheists’ go in for that sort of thing…

    • Neko

      This business about teaching children critical thinking. Everybody likes the sound of it, but children/teenagers don’t know very much and their brains aren’t usually developed enough to exercise critical thinking.

      • arcseconds

        I find that very difficult to believe. For a start, you shouldn’t have to know that much to be able to think critically. It should be something you can apply to a completely new domain of knowledge.

        Also, children already do all sorts of involved things using their brains. They play complex video games for a start, which often make all sorts of cognitive demands, including logic sometimes.

        And we already teach them (or at least we try to) things that are really very similar to the sorts of things that should go into a critical thinking class. They often learn about propaganda, say when studying Nazi Germany. Designing advertisements is also frequently something that schoolchildren get to do at some point. They learn a bit of literary analysis in English class, so they know how various kinds of figurative speech work — learning about different kinds of arguments and forms of persuasion doesn’t seem massively more difficult. We try to teach them about how experiments work in science. They learn algebra in high-school, and in the later years they do some work in mathematical proof. This is actually harder than symbolic logic!

        Thinking about propaganda is actually pretty advanced stuff, and all that needs to happen with the two things I’ve mentioned is tie them together and apply it to themselves. Rather than thinking that being taken in by propaganda is something that happens to gullible Germans in the distant past or something you inflict on the amorphous public yourself, you just need to encourage them to reflect on how propaganda might be affecting them.

        But before you get on to that, there’s some simpler questions you can equip them with. Where did this information come from? Is the source reliable for that kind of information? Those aren’t hard questions.

        How certain is it? How does this fit with what I already know, believe, or strongly suspect? What would be the consequences if that were true, and can we see those consequences?

        Those are a little harder, but really don’t seem to me to be something that’s so tough we simply can’t expose people to until they’re 20.

        Do you really think this stuff is significantly harder than things that are already in the curriculum?

        • Neko

          I’m certainly not against encouraging critical thinking in young people; quite the contrary. It just seems their ability to act as critical thinkers is somewhat rudimentary, at least until they’re well into their teens. Even then, look at them! What a bunch of lovely fools.

          In line with other remarks, one could expect that atheists and nones don’t invest a lot in making sure their children are atheists and nones.

          I must admit I pretty much drilled into my own the idea that “this God stuff is bs.” Now I have a militant atheist on my hands and can’t say I’m thrilled about it. It tends to foreclose a whole realm of experience that obviously has a lot of resonance for people and to history and culture. Even tough guy Sam Harris admits to the importance of “mysticism.” Should’ve just left it alone.

    • The research by Altemeyer and Hunsberger suggests that the irreligious say they tend to emphasize teaching critical thinking more than particular results.

  • From the same Pew data, we see that Atheist are gaining 8% while religions are losing (Protestants, Catholics) or minimal gain. So does this say, if you want your kid to be Atheist, raise him religious — and if you want your kid to end up religious, raise him atheist? Sounds like an interesting phenomenon underlies this that neither data set makes clear.

    • arcseconds

      Maybe atheists are breeding so rapidly they can afford to lose 30% of their children to religion, and still make demographic gains?

      • Based on the GSS variables GOD and CHILDS, and controlling COHORT (since nontheists disproportionately tend younger)… that’s not it.

    • R Vogel

      Unless we are looking at different data, it is the Unaffiliated that grew 8% which is not exclusively Atheist.

      It is interesting to note, however, that on a percentage basis the Atheists are killing it, more than tripling their numbers….so who cares if 30% slip into other categories, they are picking up more than enough from those fleeing other religions! (or, probably more accurately, those who no longer fear identifying as Atheists – chalk one for progress!)

      • TheSaleBoat

        Actually 70% of atheists are leaving. The above chart is for retention, not fleeing. 70% of people raised to be non believers are becoming believers.

        • James McGrath borrowed this chart from Scot McKnight who borrowed it from

          Vox (Dylan Matthews) who finally gives the the source at Pew where the supposed author (Mark Gray, Georgetown) took the data to make his chart.

          But the Chart is not from Pew — Gray made the chart (supposedly).

          The Pew data discusses the unaffiliated which include Atheist, Agnostic, Secular unafiliated and Religious unaffiliated. So, I see no table that puts Atheism alone on it as Gray did with those numbers. Is this table actually accurate.

          Did one blogger, pass it to another, pass it to another, kind of like playing telephone. Did they assume that because it was a table and had Georgetown University on it, it was accurate?

          The Pew Data is here:

          • TheSaleBoat

            THanks for finding this Sabio! Some very interesting data there!

          • You are welcome.
            So, it seems we have Christian after Christian putting up a graph without ever bothering to check the facts because the graph supported some implication they wanted to make.

            I’ve seen Atheists do the same.
            Sad, once seen/heard, people don’t forget something, even if not true, as long as they want to believe it.
            Sort of the way gospel stories spread, I guess.

          • R Vogel

            I found the same thing yesterday – the top line religions seem to come from the table on page 30, but it doesn’t break it out. I think I will have to dig into the Data set to find it…

          • Actually, that’s the Pew Report; Mark Gray gives pointers to where you can get the dataset — here.

            Contrariwise, it’s easier to play with the GSS; nohow, the GSS data suggests similar trends.

        • R Vogel

          Right! Thanks for the correction. Slip of the keyboad – but makes the point even more beautifully- they allegedly lose 70% but still tripple their numbers relative to the entire pop.

          You raise another interesting question: Can you be raised to be a non-believer? Or are you simply raised without belief? Is it the same thing?

    • Dakota373

      I understand the data to say that the % represents one persons information from youth to adulthood. It does not represent the % of children that remain in the faith of their parent(s).

  • WillBell

    I figure that people are capable of one well reasoned and emotional transition in their life between religion and non-religion. People raised without religion are more likely to have to think about it because it is in some ways a new concept when they do become more exposed to religion. I’d imagine the ones that remain atheists that are raised that way are those who had a healthy exposure to religion as a child. That’s how I look at this sort of thing.

  • On a humorous note, the late evolutionist Steven Gould wrote “Full House” and when wondering why it appears that evolution has direction toward complexity, he explained this illusion using drunks found often in the gutter:

    Consider a drunk randomly staggering along a sidewalk bounded by a wall on one side and a street on the other. It is a straightforward exercise in the theory of random walks to conclude that eventually the drunk will venture far enough from the wall that he falls into the gutter. In a similar way, Gould argues, evolution can be expected eventually to branch out to unexplored reaches in many directions (i.e., the “branching bush” metaphor of evolution), but this should not be seen in any way as evidence of progress: “The vaunted progress of life is really random motion away from simple beginnings, not directed impetus toward inherently advantageous complexity.” [Gould1996, pg. 149-151].

    So who would be the drunk, who’d be the wall?

    • arcseconds

      One of the problems with how we often end up looking at evolution is that we tend to be interested in our own origins, and of course, for the most part our ancestry has gotten bigger, more complex, and smarter! It’s easy for us to parochially suppose that that’s where evolution goes: it ends up with us! And tomorrow, giant disembodied brains, and the day after that, creatures of pure intellect!

      Gould also wisely pointed out that by any non-question-begging criteria (biomass, number of individuals, genetic diversity, etc.) it’s the Age of Bacteria, and has been since they first evolved. From that kind of perspective, it’s clear that complexity and intelligence is an extremely minor and recent side issue.

      • Arc — you do understand that I am not discussing complexity, evolution or such. I am discussing statistics.

        • arcseconds

          Actually, no, I didn’t understand that. Was I supposed to? You mentioned complexity and evolution and drunks, but not statistics, and even now I can’t see the connection.

          • Ah. So you thought I just popped onto a thread about atheist children becoming religious, and started ranting about evolution out of no where? Did you see the last question in my post?

          • arcseconds

            Basically, yes. People make extremely tangential and off-topic comments in comments on blogs all the time. So it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suppose that if a connection isn’t immediately apparent, there probably isn’t a connection, or at least not one that’s accessible to me (it might be some kind of word-association in the author’s head, for example).

            Also, ‘on a humourous note’ rather suggests to me that what follows probably isn’t very on topic, but rather is something funny or amusing the author just thought up.

            (although it does also suggest to me that I shouldn’t understand the author to be ranting, unless in jest, so, no, I didn’t think you were ranting)

            I did see the question. I didn’t really know what to make of it. I thought that you were referring to the content of your post only, so that you were wondering maybe whether the wall means there’s some lower limit of simplicity that the random drift of evolution can’t go past.

            I now presume you’re talking about James’s post, and that we’re supposed to wonder whether it’s atheist children that are wandering around beliefs randomly, or something?

            I don’t know, Sabio, maybe I’m just thick, but it seems to me you’ve created a very opaque metaphor here. If you want me to understand it, you’re just going to have to explain it to me!

          • Right. Well, you could have asked. But let me try.
            So, unless you are a creationist, initial form(s) of life will be necessarily small and non-complex. Can’t get simpler. There is that wall — no negative complexity in living things. So it appears things are growing complex because they move away from that wall. When a drunk stumbles he hits the wall, and bounces into the gutter to sleep.

            Now everyone with a minimal amount of biology know that many organisms, after reaching some complexity, evolve back to less complex forms, thus dispelling the common false understanding of evolution as directional (and Lord forbid, teleological).

            If non-belief (in divine cosmologies) is the simplest form of belief, it doesn’t take much to stop being that. The statistics may not reveal any important direction, but just the wall.

            Get the playful analogy now?

          • cenlacatholic

            You seem somewhat knowledgeable on the subject of evolutionary theory. I have a question that I haven’t found an answer to without sneering and sarcasm, perhaps you can answer it.

            How do evolutionists square their dogma with entropy? If we are constantly evolving, how can our DNA be slowly degrading over time? Seems completely contradictory to me.


          • This is a common apologetic argument that is based on a misunderstanding of entropy. You are talking about the second law of thermodynamics, by which the entropy (or disorder) of a closed system will increase over time.

            The rule applies to the system as a whole, not to parts of the system, which (according to the same laws of thermodynamics) may continue to lose or gain entropy depending upon the transfer of heat.

            Our universe may be conceived as a closed system that is very slowly moving towards a state of maximum entropy. This movement, however, takes place over billions of years, and in the meantime, open systems such as the earth and it’s biosphere, may continue to gain order, as long as heat is continuously transferred into the open system.

            In the case of life on earth, heat is constantly introduced into the biosphere from the sun. Nearly all forms of energy on earth are ultimately derived from our sun, and life will continue to be viable on earth as long as this source of constant energy is available to us.

            No physicist would ever make the argument that entropy refutes evolution. This is not a scientific stance.

          • cenlacatholic

            Thanks. You can find arguments (online as well) by MIT professors examining entropy of DNA sequences and the problem of evolution. I’ve read several. Not that I understood their terminology, but it certainly is an argument.

          • Do you have a particular citation that confuses you? Yes, entropy is certainly a part of many thermodynamic processes that come into play with life and all other systems, but I can guarantee you that no physicist would argue that entropy refutes evolution.

          • cenlacatholic

            I’m certainly not a physicist, but I didn’t pull entropy of DNA out of thin air 🙂
            I learned of entropy by physicists making the argument that entropy of DNA refutes the theory evolution. But I’m at the office right now and don’t have the articles bookmarked on this pc.

          • Well, no, I’m sure you didn’t pull it out of thin air, as you can find this faulty argument on any number of apologist creationist websites.

            And I would certainly be curious to see your citation, if you’ve found an actual physicist who argues that entropy refutes evolution. I look forward to the articles you share when you get home from the office.

            In the meantime, here’s an excellent article about an MIT researcher studying the interaction of thermodynamic principles and evolution:


          • cenlacatholic

            Thanks I’ll check that out.
            I’m certainly not read enough to comment on the subject. Although I have come across physicists rejecting evolution on the basis of entropy… that’s why I mentioned it. Not that I understand it.
            I’m a lowly software developer, lay-wannabe theologian, and history enthusiast… not a physics guy!

          • I’ve provided a few more links above. You will occasionally find creationist engineers and the occasional creationist mathematicians who try to make arguments against evolution using misapplied physics, but they are rare, even in their own fields.

          • cenlacatholic

            Thanks again buddy

          • Several bad arguments of the sort are included at the Index to Creationist Claims, with brief responses.

          • NL

            Lack of social sciences makes Jack a dull boy.
            We have enough people pouring over bibles. Why not do effective altruism (Google it)

          • cenlacatholic

            Pouring over history, philosophy, the Scriptures, the traditions of two thousand years, and the Magisterial teachings of Holy Church makes Jack a thorn in the side of contemporary liberalism 🙂

          • NL

            Hardly. Quoting dead men is as effective against liberalism as citing recent research is against fundamentalism. And since when was “thorn in the side contemporary liberalism” or in the side of anything something to aspire to? Since you misunderstand humans, non-social-non-scientist? You seem like yet another anti-effective-altruism egotist, better at parroting nice-sounding or self-righteous men’s phrases than at doing anything that improves lives, which you apparently don’t aspire to.

          • cenlacatholic

            Hi Nina. Aren’t you just a bundle of joy. 🙂

            Well, the basic proclamation of the existence of objective truth is enough to drive a neo-pagan, secular humanist (basically, the product of classical liberalism) up the wall.
            My passions are history and philosophy. Plato and Aristotle taught that true philosophy is religion.

            Truth is not, as the contemporary humanists hold, a mutable, changing, evolving arbitrary concept based on the current social climate defined through a majority of people coming together to vote. That’s as ridiculous as (and exemplified by) Indiana’s attempt to redefine Pi.

            As Aristotle taught, we are able to come to the knowledge of truth when we encounter it. It exists outside of the walls of our skulls. We know a table is indeed a table, not because we perceive it to be, but because in reality it is a table–outside of our relative perception of it. Any mathematical equation is not relatively an answer, but absolute, as two plus two will be four no matter the time or the place, be it on Mars or in another universe. So it is with philosophical and religious truth. With marriage, with the nature of the family, the nature of God and metaphysics. Its nature is non-contradictory and absolute, not evolving from chaos into order in some constant oscillating flux.

            People hold up evolution as if it were something new, radical, and progressive, when in truth it was a dunce idea when Heraclitus suggested it, and it’s a dunce idea now. Not only this, but the complete application of the dogma leads to a wonderful society like Stalinist Russia, it leads to the nature of man being but an animal–and ironically in its application–man is treated as less than the animals.

            You can harp all day about your humanist altruism, but in the final equation, the Catholic Church still does the most charitable work out of any organization on earth, and in history for that matter. Good works through faith–She transformed civilization from relativist paganism, picked civilization up out of the fall of the Western Roman Empire and passed on the virtues that built our Western civilization. The Church preserved and developed the university system that we enjoy today as secular institutions, and further developed the scientific method that humanists hold up as the only measure of what is true.

          • NL

            Well, aren’t you like a schizophrenic who believes he’s God’s son (, 🙂

            Way to fight a strawman of secular humanism. I don’t know any secular humanist who’s a relativist, and I was a campus leader of the movement. See also, the very name of which indicates we’re not relativists.

            An evangelical Christian’s response to my accusation that he was a sanctimonious anti-effective-altruism egotist was that the “world as we know it” will soon end [therefore helping sentient beings would be futile or less important than saving souls via cheap activities such as preaching or praying]. Your response was that the Catholic Church was better than effective altruism, when the latter didn’t even exist conceptually or in an organized fashion. The Vatican has impeded the empowerment of females, one of the most effective ways to improve lives and societal outcomes. I can talk about China or England preserving & developing things we use, but you won’t see me glorifying them or claiming they are better than effective altruism. Also, affiliating yourself w/ something you glorify doesn’t make you less of an egotist. Nor is charity the same as effective altruism; the former tends to give donors warm fuzzies and self-presentation benefits, without focusing on significantly improving recipients’ outcomes, which may include methods beyond charity.

            A Blind man, having only touched a leg of an elephant, argues to others & convinces himself that it is The Tree.
            Clinging to The Tree, he perceives the room to move, rather than the elephant moving, then accuses relativists/anyone-who-diagrees-with-him of messing things up. The remedy he proposes is that everyone Cling to The Tree, not seeing that this would hinder the elephant.

            Beware of failure to update when in Guard-The-Truth mode instead of truth-seeking mode ( Having committed yourself to anti-evolution, you’re in denial about the ways in which brains can objectify/dehumanize/abuse beings regardless of beliefs about evolution, incl. when lacking any conception of evolution (see children bullying, sexual objectification, tribal warfare). Your ignorance of truths about humans leaves your ego/Apologist to seek & spew mansplanations in support of its own image. And you’re apparently ignorant of applications of evolutionary theory outside of biology, such as in medicine or computer science. Time to go absorb info beyond that “history and philosophy” leg of the elephant. There’s a reason why top universities are liberal arts colleges that require courses in different fields and promote studying abroad in a different culture.

          • Boy am I sorry I brought up the word “Evolution” — almost as dangerous as “God” in getting folks off thread! 🙂

          • The word “atheist” does a pretty good job of stirring up dissent all by itself, but you’re right – “evolution” just fans the flames!

          • For part of it, you might try looking at the article “Natural selection for least action” by Kaila and Annila (doi:10.1098/rspa.2008.0178). As others note, the key is that neither organisms, nor species, nor earth’s biosphere are closed systems. The principle of natural selection then results as a mathematical consequence from the open-system form of the second law equation that must then be used.

            While DNA is changing over time, the initial changes are random — so some changes may be good, and some bad. Bad changes may be more likely, but also tend to vanish with exponential speed; good changes may be rarer, but in turn spread with exponential speed.

            (Some changes are near neutral — in which case, the mathematics of random walks takes over.)

          • Random walks are a classic problem in the mathematics of probability and statistics; there’s a solid but dense textbook on the math on-line here. Mlodenow’s “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives” provides an introduction more accessible for non-mathematicians or popular audience; and Berg’s “Random Walks in Biology” gives a discussion of some of the applications in that field targeted to an intermediate audience.

  • Note Jehovah’s Witnesses rank much lower than Mormons and Catholics at retention of their faith. I think it’s due to the Watch Tower’s lack of affiliation with all that many institutions.

  • xlntech1

    Most people aren’t “raised atheist” so how could they expect a survey to represent anything meaningful about the growth of atheism?

    • Yes, I’m not even sure what it might mean to be “raised atheist”. I’m an atheist, but when my daughter came home one day and asked if she could go to a church with some school friends, my response was “have a good time!”

      • As I recall, the Pew Forum surveyed asking what religious identification was at age 16, and what it was at the time of the survey. The methodology in their report details the wording.

  • Peter Kirby

    I have also blogged on this topic:

    • Dan Murphy

      This is a very interesting conversation, As a practicing Christian, I always wonder why so many have NO faith in God. Atheist always say that “there is no proof” when in fact there are many sources of proof outside of the Bible text both archeological and other written sources. Read the writings of Josephus, Lucian, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus or the Babylonian Talmud which talks specifically about Jesus, John the Baptist and James (Jesus’ Brother) as just a few examples. Archeological digs have uncovered signs with Pilate’s name, the Jews being enslaved by the Babylonians, Jabal-Al-Laws in Saudi Arabia (the real Mt. Sinai), the Shroud, the Cross, the Spear, etc.
      I always wondered why others could not see the truth about God. But the Bible teaches us that many will be blinded from the truth because of their sin and disbelief. As we get closer and closer to the end times, more and more people will fall away and lose faith. The internet has emboldened atheist and agnostics to spread their unbelief to people who are not sure or uncertain and this has led to even more rebellion against God.
      Faith is an interesting thing. Those who study history never doubt for a second that people like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato existed and said what they said. Their words were not written on paper by them either but passed down by word of mouth over the millennium. This is not unlike the Bible.
      I also wonder why so many say Jesus never lived when in fact there were over 500 witnesses to his resurrected body. Today it only takes ONE credible witness to convict a person in court. 500? I guess I am guilty for believing. Christ changed time as we know it (AD/BC). If Christ did not live, perform countless miracles and healings, was raised from the grave, etc., do you think for a moment that thousands of early Christians, one or two generations removed from Jesus stay on earth, would have freely given their lives to the Roman sword, the crucifixions, the lions den?? No, they would have turned their back on Christ and fled (not unlike his Apostles did when he died on the cross). But they did not flee. They did not turn their back on Christ. They obeyed God’s word and believed in His son.
      Remember the old adage, “There are no atheist in foxholes.” I can only hope that someday the blinders will be lifted and you will see the light. As John says in his Gospel, “Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father but through Jesus.” Search your soul. Come to know him…before it is too late. Amen!

      • Jack Collins

        Disbelief in God is not the same as disbelief in the historical existence of Jesus. I am reasonably sure that the gospel accounts were inspired by a real man. I just see no more reason the accept the supernatural claims about him than I do to accept the supernatural claims about Muhammad or Alexander the Great or Zoroaster.

      • As Jack has said there is a difference between accepting that the bible includes some aspects of actual history and accepting the supernatural elements of the bible. Most ancient religious texts, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, many varieties of what are sometimes referred to as pagan mythologies, etc., have real historical narratives embedded with supernatural elements. Even the historian Herodotus includes unquestioned pagan supernatural stories alongside historical events.

  • What they become? As I recall, the underlying Pew data indicates departing atheists still tend to end up disproportionately agnostic or nothing-in-particular; something around half the departures? After that, departure destinations run close to the proportion of religions in the overall population.

  • Skillet Rawks

    First time visitor here.

    It’s pretty easy to understand why people who grew up in atheist homes don’t necessarily grow up to be atheists. I posted this on another site, and I’ll post it here as well.

    Full disclosure: I believe in God, and am religious to a large degree. I have no problem with evolution or science though. Evolutionarily, faith is what humans are programmed to do. Please bear with me, as I will provide evidence of this momentarily.

    Modern day cognitive psychology suggests that belief in the supernatural, particular the idea of God or Gods of some kind, is a natural evolutionary development.

    This is from page 645 of the Handbook of Personality, 3rd edition. This book is a modern, doctoral-level textbook used in psychology courses.

    “Accumulating research further indicates that humans exhibit a developmental predisposition to believe in such socially infallible supernatural agents, appearing in early childhood (Barrett & Richert, 2003). Cross-cultural studies conducted with children between the ages of 3 and 12 indicate that young children may possess an ‘intuitive theism’ that prompts them to see intentional purpose in the natural world that cannot be attributed to people but only to specially powerful supernatural agents (Kelemen, 2005). Therefore, mental tools predispose people to hold religious beliefs. In this sense, widespread belief in gods arises from the operation of natural processes of the human mind. In the views of cognitive scientists, belief in gods does not amount to anything strange or peculiar; on the contrary, such belief is nearly inevitable. In answering the questions of why would anyone believe in God, the answer from cognitive science is that the design of
    our minds leads us to believe (Barret, 2004).”

    In other words, believing in God or Gods is as normal as breathing air. It’s an evolutionary trait. We are born with a tendency to believe in the supernatural. If you read more of the book, it explains that these beliefs presented evolutionary advantages, which is why they spread across all cultures across the entire planet.

    Evolution also explains atheism. Some people are born with a higher level of skepticism than others, but this evolutionary trait has not been nearly as successful.

    Religion, which is associated with belief in the supernatural, also presents several evolutionary advantages, and again, this is why it is found on every continent on earth.

    If people who grow up in atheist homes begin to have faith, they are doing what evolution has wired their brains to do.

    Or, from a Christian perspective, we literally have “God shaped holes” in our genes, or heart, or soul, or whatever phrasing your pastor chooses to use.

    My point is, I often hear atheists claim that we are all “born atheists” and are indoctrinated into religion or faith, or some other sort of supernatural belief system. According to modern day cognitive psychology, exactly the opposite is true. We are naturally born with a “developmental predisposition to believe in such socially infallible supernatural agents” (e.g. God, Gods, etc) and only later do some abandon faith in the supernatural due to skepticism, indoctrination, etc.

  • What, I wonder, did “raised in a faith” of atheism mean for these respondents? Does it exclude the quietly atheist or agnostic? Does it exclude those who encouraged their children to explore and understand world religions? (I.e., is the low outcome because those who self-identify as being from atheist-faith households were rebelling against overbearing parents, while others raised as nonbelievers didn’t consider themselves to have been raised in “the atheist faith,” whatever that means?) I’d like to see more digging into the differences between the Nones and the Atheists for the purposes of this question. And on the other side of the scale–what is it about Hinduism that prevents apostasy so much more than other religions? Is it the religion, or other demographic factors such as wealth, economic ability to exit, etc.?

  • Sean Garrigan

    I was driving to work one morning and there was a news segment about how a group of atheists have formed a church, and they get together regularly to have non-belief services.

    Someone at the church who was either giving the sermon that day or delivering a comedy skit humorously criticized certain Christians from the pulpit (paraphrasing):

    “No one is going to tell us that the way we don’t believe in God is the wrong way not to believe in God.”

    If it walks like a duck….

  • HGMan

    This graph is a lie. Very source of this graph is being lied about, and anyone here can look up the information yourselves. As it turns out, the original text does not have this graph, or anything resembling this graph. All of you who “supported” this lie, guess what: Too lazy to look things up or to make ordinary, easily discovered and verified facts jive with internet fraud.

    Here’s the link to the original paper, feel free to add your own thoughts about how “Christians” are supposed to be moral and honest, or how religion is the birthplace of morality and such. Much hugs – a “NOT 30%”-er

    • The graph comes from Mark Gray’s own blog here:

      The data from which the graph derives is here:

      And so I suppose the appropriate question is to ask whether you were lying or too lazy to look this up, as it didn’t take me long at all to find the original source. But either way, I think an apology is in order.

      • HGMan

        “Some of the retention rates in the figure above were never provided in Pew’s original report. These are calculated from the original data sets released by Pew for this study (one for the continental U.S. and another for Alaska and Hawaii). In these data there are 432 weighted respondents who say they were raised as Atheists. A total of 131 of these individuals self-identify as an Atheist at the time of the survey resulting in an estimated retention rate of 30%. However, there were a total of 1,387 Atheists (weighted) identified in the survey (equivalent to 1.6% of the adult population). What these findings reflect is that in the U.S. Atheists are for the most part “made” as adults after being raised in another faith. It appears to be much more challenging to raise one’s child as an Atheist and have them maintain this identity in their life. Of those raised as Atheists, 30% are now affiliated with a Protestant denomination, 10% are Catholic, 2% are Jewish, and 1% are Mormon.”

        Your link, right? According to the graph, 70% of atheists become religious. The text, for some ….”strange” reason, appears to flip that number upside down – 30%.

        Furthermore, atheism is on the rise. Worldwide. Every poll, including the ones in Saudi Arabia (!) and Iran (!!!) despite Sharia laws even, show that atheism is rising.

        Please insert your apology right here > <. Thanks in advance.

        • To find out whether the graph or the text is in error, you would need to contact the person who made it. My point was about your claim that the person who made it did not in fact make it, linking to a source that you claimed was supposed to be the source of the graph, when in fact it was not.