Atheism

MrRING

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#1
Is Atheism A Belief System... or Fact?

It just struck me - many people who are atheists seem to regard it as a fact, irrefutable. But isn't it a belief system, exactly the same as monotheism, polytheism, or agnosticism? Or is it scientific "fact"? I'm not sure how it's calssified, but it might be scientific fact to a believer in atheism, but just a belief to anybody else....
 

giantrobot1

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#3
This is an argument that regularly appears in Atheist forums, such as in USENET. Some christians like to say atheism is a religion since it's a belief about God. I think amongst Christians who I've also seen say that atheists believe in God, but just hate him, it can be a symptom of not understanding that most atheists just don't believe in that kind of thing, full stop. I used to be a secular atheist, but am now a Buddhist, so I'm still an atheist of sorts, and I say no - it's not a religious belief per-se.

A baby, for instance, doesn't believe in God, so is that a belief? Same with someone who's never been introduced to the concept of God in the first place.
 

Alexius4

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#4
While agnosticism is rationally justifiable (inavoidable, perhaps, in the absense of some experience of the numinous), atheism doesn't really hold up to criticism. It is not so much a philosophical stance as a conviction.

For example, one atheist line of argument runs that the 'god of the gaps' has been rendered unnecessary by the advances in the natural sciences over the past five hundred years. Hence, if we have no need of god as an explanation, god does not exist. On the face of it, this is quite eloquent; the appeal to known natural mechanisms relieves us of the burden of belief. However, the logic is deeply flawed.

The other arguments for atheism are as flawed as the arguments for the existence of god - they lack rational force, as the weak logic fails to compel acceptance. Agnosticism, on the otherhand, has a sound foundation: in the absense of a compelling argument one way or the other, we can infer too little to take a stance either side of the line.
 

Raya_Kaiserin

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#5
Personally I've always seen atheism as a religion.

They have a creation story (the Big Bang), and end-of-the-universe scenario (Big Crunch), priests (scientists), places of worship (schools, labs, universities), books of truth (encyclopaedias) and perform miracles (anything the average layman sees as wonderous).

Back in the past if we asked why the sun shone a priest would tell us it was because of a god, and we'd believe it because it was a priest. Nowadays if we asked a scientist would tell us it was because of fission, and we'd believe it because it was a scientist.

*shrugs* But then again, each to their own beliefs!
 

Alexius4

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#7
another belief system.
But is it? Is it not where you stand when you have no grounds for standing elsewhere? Agnosticism surely is a willingness to watch and wait.

In that case, it is more an attitude than a body of belief.
 

rynner2

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#8
Raya said:
Back in the past if we asked why the sun shone a priest would tell us it was because of a god, and we'd believe it because it was a priest. Nowadays if we asked a scientist would tell us it was because of fission, and we'd believe it because it was a scientist.
[pedantic] No, no, fusion, not fission! [/pedantic]
 
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Anonymous

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#9
Alexius said:
another belief system.
But is it? Is it not where you stand when you have no grounds for standing elsewhere? Agnosticism surely is a willingness to watch and wait.

In that case, it is more an attitude than a body of belief.
Or perhaps it's a belief that one should watch and wait and see what happens?

Okay, put it this way...

Three kids, each has a chocolate. One decides to eat it now, one decides to not eat theirs at all the other decides he'll wait and see. maybe there will be more chocolates, maybe it's not very nice, maybe its lovely, maybe it's not even chocolate, maybe he's mistakeen and it's not there at all...he'll wait and see how it turns out. But they all have chocolate or some relation to chocolate, which is asking them to eat it not it or remain impartial to it. So in that sense, of course its a belief system. It shares commonality (is that a word, I believe it's a word... maybe I'll be agnostic about it, wait and see what happens...) with contrary belief systems. One child believes in God, one doesn't believe in God and one will wait and see. Your notion that it's an attitude by that measure means that so is believing, and not believing... an adopted attitude...a belief. at the center of all these attitudes or beliefs or whatever word you want to give it is god, and it's these attitudes towards that that give these beliefs attitudes or whatever word you want, defining terms.

A belief is a view, is an opinion. A religion is also a view or an opinion but more structured (for uniformity in a lot of instances), and often built on founding beliefs, an extrapolation. Hence why so many parts of something relate to pre established views, people find things in religion that comply with their beliefs, thanks in most part to the fact that they often share common basic structures.
 

Alexius4

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#10
There is a difference, though. Agnosticism is not a world view, as it doesn't actually assert anything beyond there not being enough to erect a judgement from.

Agnosticism doesn't attempt an explanation of the world and our place in it: religions do. It is not really a system, as it is a solitary proposition. Pushed to classify it, it is an opinion on a specific issue or an attitude towards a particular problem. Not much more.
 
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Anonymous

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#11
Hook,
With due respect, an opinion can be changed. Belief is opinion attached to sentiment and identity, which is somewhere between hard and impossible to change. you can admit easily that an opinion was wrong. Belief has an element of faith that means you can't prove the belief wrong...

Alexius,

you can have flavours of agnosticism. I'm an Agnositc Athiest... I don't know there isn't a god, but I think it unlikely, in any form graspable by a human certainly, and in anyway at all possibly. :twisted: Is that a world view?
 
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Anonymous

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#12
Alexius said:
There is a difference, though. Agnosticism is not a world view, as it doesn't actually assert anything beyond there not being enough to erect a judgement from.

Agnosticism doesn't attempt an explanation of the world and our place in it: religions do. It is not really a system, as it is a solitary proposition. Pushed to classify it, it is an opinion on a specific issue or an attitude towards a particular problem. Not much more.
but that's the point. they're all different. and if belief is suddenly classed as something that meets the requirements contrary to Agnosticism, then your definition here is establishing what 'you' believe belief to be. Agnosticism may not attempt to explain the world in the same manner as say Christianity does or Athiesm does, but it's still by its very nature explaining the world relevant to its own world view. may be to a lesser degree, fair enough, I'd buy that, I mean if we look at Athiesm and Christianity as contrary views their porality is instantly evident, but it doesn't make it less of a belief. because in order to be Agnostic, you make a choice and you make that choice through understanding...even if you regard yourself as one who hasn't chosen yet, you've given yourself a label. you are agnostic. you believe yourself to be agnostic. it's a belief. and given the clarity you've addressed, it has a structure too.
 

Thirtysixth_Bee

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#14
Alexius said:
atheism doesn't really hold up to criticism. It is not so much a philosophical stance as a conviction.
I guess what happened was some people tried to turn a conviction into a philosophical stance. But how can you prove a lack of something equally unproveable? Reason and conviction don't always mix well, but I think they're both important tools for understanding.

Athiesm: :yeay:. That's what I believe.
 

Alexius4

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#15
It is a belief, granted - but given it is but a single sentence with a simple point, it can hardly be a belief system.

I take a belief system to be an attempt at orientation, a putting of the world in some kind of order. Agnosticism doesn't attempt anything along those lines; rather, it asserts there aren't sufficient grounds to attempt anything of the kind.
 

Alexius4

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#16
you can have flavours of agnosticism. I'm an Agnositc Athiest... I don't know there isn't a god, but I think it unlikely, in any form graspable by a human certainly, and in anyway at all possibly.Is that a world view?
You are Jacques Derrida, and I claim my 5 Euros :D

Seriously, though - isn't atheism in the purest sense a complete rejection of the notion of a deity? Merely thinking it unlikely is a bit namby-pamby compared with Diderot, Russell and Dawkins, Hugo dear heart - come out of the Agnostic cupboard and take pride in your Agnosticism ;)
 

Thirtysixth_Bee

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#17
Hugo Cornwall said:
you can have flavours of agnosticism. I'm an Agnositc Athiest... I don't know there isn't a god, but I think it unlikely, in any form graspable by a human certainly, and in anyway at all possibly. :twisted: Is that a world view?
Sounds like one to me, and I'm inclined to think that anyone who maintains the exact same world view for her/his entire adult life (assuming a reasonable life span) would be a pretty big failure in the thinking department. That said, I guess I'm an agnostic athiest too. But one who leans strongly towards athiesm.

To respond to your last post Alexius, I think it's hard for those of us who were brought up with the idea of God to 100% let go of it, even when we don't feel it at all and it makes no sense.
 

Alexius4

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#18
To respond to your last post Alexius, I think it's hard for those of us who were brought up with the idea of God to 100% let go of it, even when we don't feel it at all and it makes no sense.
Me, I'm a fully paid up theist, but I have no illusions about being able to convince anyone that I'm right as it is not in the slightest rational. Not irrational - just not rational.

We all know there are no atheists in a foxhole, but are there any agnostics? I think you are right - a lot of people don't believe a word of any of it yet a part of them is reluctant to make Pascal's Wager in the other direction.
 
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#19
Hugo Cornwall said:
Hook,
With due respect, an opinion can be changed. Belief is opinion attached to sentiment and identity, which is somewhere between hard and impossible to change. you can admit easily that an opinion was wrong. Belief has an element of faith that means you can't prove the belief wrong...
Unwavering faith. The fanatic, the fundamentalist. These are aspects of belief and not definitions of belief. I stand by my kinder surprise analogy (or chocolate of your choice)... belief is at the core of each of the isms and thiesms we've mentioned.

Ok... we can't go for three pages without someone saying "believe what you will."
 
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Anonymous

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#20
Alexius said:
I take a belief system to be an attempt at orientation, a putting of the world in some kind of order. Agnosticism doesn't attempt anything along those lines; rather, it asserts there aren't sufficient grounds to attempt anything of the kind.
if it didn't (attempt orientation) then it wouldn't even bother to give itself a name or a definition.
 

Thirtysixth_Bee

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#21
Alexius said:
It is a belief, granted - but given it is but a single sentence with a simple point, it can hardly be a belief system.

I take a belief system to be an attempt at orientation, a putting of the world in some kind of order. Agnosticism doesn't attempt anything along those lines; rather, it asserts there aren't sufficient grounds to attempt anything of the kind.
Backtracking here: I haven't read anything written by a self-professed atheist (except some posts on the FTMB) so I can't speak to that. But I do use my atheism to order my world and define my values, and vice versa. For instance I refute human actions which seem to be the result of a belief that our world is little more than a proving ground, and that personal responsibility takes second place to divine will. I don't think I'm an atheist as a reaction against religion, but because I don't believe in God, some of what (people who are more prone to believe in God than me) do, seems bizarre even though it's really common. I don't know if I'm making sense, but not believing in God has repercussions and effects the way I interact with other people and it seems to function as a belief system. I'm not sure how a person could get by without one. ;)

EDIT: Being atheist in a theistic part of the world has made me sort of a reactionary atheist. So a lot of the time I'm more aware of my atheism than I think I would be were I part of an atheist majority. Hopefully that's more clear. I don't think I'm special or have a persecution complex or anything.

(Just noticed I've been mis-spelling "atheist" and capitalizing "God". Ohboy. :roll:)
 

Thirtysixth_Bee

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#23
Atch said:
I believe Atheism is a belief structure akin to a religion through experience.
Yes exactly! That's what I was trying to say.

If one measures the velocity of a quantum object one affects its position. If one measures its position, one affects its velocity. If observation can change matter, then so can thought.
It took me about five minutes, but I think I get it. Are you suggesting that by believing in God people created Him and by disbelieving we are killing Him? And if we created Him, wouldn't that make Him us? So are athiests like me helping exterminate the spirit of Humanity? Or did you mean something else?

I have personnally killed three people by this method and I''m having great trouble justifying my life.
You should turn yourself in. We could e-mail each other. It would be like camp.

;)
 

MrRING

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#24
So, it seems that, generally speaking, people here feel that atheism IS a belief system the same as the other world religions, not something apart from it... is there anybody who views atheism as fact?
 

Atch_

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#25
THey were old. THey hAD THEIR peoblems. I juar helped then out, Most of then deserved it anyawsy
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#27
Hook Innsmouth said:
because in order to be Agnostic, you make a choice and you make that choice through understanding...even if you regard yourself as one who hasn't chosen yet, you've given yourself a label. you are agnostic. you believe yourself to be agnostic. it's a belief. and given the clarity you've addressed, it has a structure too.
It has been niggling me for a bit as I wonder if we are geting our meanings mixed up.

I can believe I am bright blue it is doesn't mean I am.

If you believe that God exists (and some other stuff) then you are a theist.

I have talked to people who believed themselves to be theists and atheists but they were actually agnostic because they couldn't believe there was/was not (respectively) a God.

When we are talking about the kind of belief we are discussing here we are really talking about that leap of faith - I can't prove God doesn't exist so to be an atheist I'd have to believe he didn't. Agnostics stop short of making that final leap.

An agnostic may believe they are an agnostic but that doesn't make being an agnostic a belief/belief system.

Perhaps we should use capital letters:

An agnostic may believe they are an agnostic but that doesn't make being an agnostic a Belief/Belief system.
 
A

Anonymous

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#29
Emperor said:
It has been niggling me for a bit as I wonder if we are geting our meanings mixed up.
'meaning' according to agnostics.

With regard to using capital letters. I'm not sure that would be enough to make it so;)

At the core of the point I was making was that belief is an inherent structure in many many forms. from knowing not to but your hand on a boiling kettle to knowing who your local diety is, the belief structure per say is a many varied thing sharing basic principles to some extent or another. Religion however is an extrapolation upon basic belief structures that are inherent, hence why someone feels inclined to believe that the bible means something to them. of course it does, it adhears to basic belief structure and principles. likewise when someone says it means nothing to them and when someone says they're not sure it means anything at all. you're all talking about the basic same thing, how do you believe? You do, you don't, you're impartial. It's how you chose to entertain the notion, or to address things. there is a commonality (is that a word? I believe so...if it isn't then lets make it a word and stick it in the Dictionary that they're revising at the moment).

agnostisism is a form of scepticism. It's an outlook on the same subjest as theism and atheism. it has it's own rationale for understanding or belief in the same manner as theism and atheism.

at the core of the question asked. is it fact or is it a belief system (of atheism...and now I'd argue agnosticism) it's a belief system because they all address the same issue. belief. impartiality is a belief. you might, you might not, wait and see. The muddle of meanings can be found depending on what sort of agnostic you're talking to. because you get agnostics who aren't certain if it's provable or in some instances if it should be provable, and then you get some who outright say it's unknowable. zip. period. it's a belief system because even though you chose to discard it, it's how you chose to discard it that applies.
 
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