Should atheists be a special case?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by segovius, Oct 12, 2012.

  1. segovius macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2006
    Barcelona / Berlin
    By this I mean are they exempt as censure as a group and should they be?

    For example, when a priest or religious fundie molests a choirboy or calls for OT style smiting then we're - rightly - outraged. When some fundie nut blows themselves up and takes out others too then ditto.

    But we always frame that outrage in terms of the belief of the perp. Ie 'Priest found lurking outside boys school', "Muslim fanatic blows up bus" etc.

    My question is: should we instead say "man blows up bus in Karachi". Or "man accused of molesting boys at Sunday School camp"? We do for all other cases, you never get "plumber does X" or "accountant does Y". This is because no link is being made between being a plumber and a particular crime.

    In the other cases a link IS being made. And when something is being made then someone (we can talk about who later maybe) is making it. But I digress, the question is: which way to go? Is the belief important? Or not? Should we just treat this as another human doing a crime or should we stipulate the beliefs and allegiances of the person? If it is the latter do we need to start having headlines like "atheist runs amok with axe?"

    Surely we do if it is to be a fair playing field? Btw, note: my position is that no-one needs to have such labeling - I'm in the 'man/woman does X camp' as opposed to "Muslim fanatic loon goes jay-walking' camp - but whichever it is it should be the same across the board.

    Atheists have worked out a rather neat solution for just this sort of position - actually it first arose to duck out of philosophical debate but it can be adapted - which is the old 'atheism is absence of belief' routine.

    Doubtless they will argue that they can't be included in any labeling because they don't HAVE a belief - that atheism is merely LACK of belief in something.

    But that doesn't wash really as it also applies to religionists also surely? Christianity is also a lack of belief. It is a lack of belief in sacrificing virgins to the demon Choronzon at Beltane for example. Islam is a lack of belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or such made up idols in general. Buddhism is a lack of belief in consensus reality (which includes atheists as they are the archetypal conservative supporters of the status quo in many ways - always get a massive kick out of that one).

    And in any event, even if correct, it doesn't make any difference. Why can't we have headlines like "man with no beliefs in anything murders 150 at sunday school picnic"? Or "woman (it's rarely women though but bear with me...I'm being non-gender specific...we can get into Freudian/Lacanian perspectives on masculinity and atheism a little later maybe) who denies existence of divinity hacks grandmother to death and settles down to watch Fox News"?

    So...thoughts? Are they a special case? Should we label people by beliefs and if so should we make an exemption for atheists on grounds above or something else entirely?
  2. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    I think that religion is included in those headlines because religion so often lays out a moral code, a code that the person in question has clearly breached. It's more shocking to read that a catholic priest has been immoral than any other person as it's overt hypocrisy. That's what sells news really, shock, information that strikes us and draws our attention.

    Truthfully I look forward to the day when there's a headline leading with "Secular Humanist..." but for now no one really cares what kind of atheist anyone else is, it's not news worthy.

    Islam seems to get way more mention these days too, simply due to hysteria over terrorism. It's a shame really as it'll only breed more discontent and conflict imo.

    On a side note: you're damned right I don't believe in anything, at least without evidence. I've never quite understood why a lot of atheists are reticent to embrace that lack of belief, that somehow admitting that you're not irrational is bad? Every fact has an associated probability, you can't take anything as absolutely given as there will always be a possible alternative no matter how absurd and unlikely.

    Belief is fundamentally pretty silly from my perspective and I'll defend that point to the grave.

    I guess in that sense it would make agnostic, strictly speaking, though I've always seen the likelihood of being under the dominion of a god, never mind one that gives a crap about us worshipping them to be utterly miniscule.
  3. Risco macrumors 68000


    Jul 22, 2010
    United Kingdom
    No, it is just barmy political correctness reasoning.
  4. .Andy macrumors 68030


    Jul 18, 2004
    The Mergui Archipelago
    I think your analogy if way off. The reason there is outrage when a priest (or "religious fundie") molests a child is that the priest or "fundie" is betraying and abusing a position of trust and power* . It's the same as if a teacher has sex with a student or a psychiatrist has sex with a patient. The abuse of power. For a plumber or accountant or atheist this same power and trust differential does not apply.

    (*combined with lashings of moral hypocrisy)
  5. jeremy h macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2008
    Ok, Mord has just answered for me.

    Don't think you're being singled out because of religion - it's hypocrisy that really gets people.

    In the UK we're all in meltdown at the moment over the abuse committed by the 'heroic' Jimmy Saville. (A major TV / DJ celebrity here who raised millions and millions for hospitals etc.) Turns out it was all probably a cover for horrible ongoing abuse. Only now he's dead everyone is coming out of the woodwork and it's looking like it was covered up / ignored because of a combination of money and status among the good and the great of this country.

    The parallels with the reaction over priestly abuse is striking. In his case the revulsion is centred not only around the abuse but also the hypocrisy and the establishment 'cover up' just as it was with the Catholic church.
  6. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    Savvile is a perfect example really. He was a practicing catholic though this gains no mention at all in the press because his status as a respected celebrity is more shocking aspect of the story by far
  7. leenak macrumors 68020

    Mar 10, 2011
    Religion is pointed out because it is relevant.

    Catholic priests - a group of men that are told they should never have sex. Many gay men are pushed into priesthood to avoid gayness but molestation is probably more about power than attraction. Is there something fundamentally wrong here? I think so.

    Muslim terrorists - there are groups that use religion, and Islam is not the only one, to spread hate, fear and violence. Part of it is wanting to feel morally superior over other people, such as in the bombing of a women's health clinic, or a result of feeling oppressed. People have been doing this for thousands of years in one way or another. Killing the people in the name of 'God' and I'd hazard to guess Christianity is the overall biggest offender here. It is basically misguided use of religious belief to spread hate, fear and death.
  8. segovius thread starter macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2006
    Barcelona / Berlin
    Yes, agree. Shock factor is definitely part of it. It's why good news is rarely in the headlines I suppose.

    This brings up an interesting point I had not thought of - if religionists think they are a special case (and they do) because they have a 'higher moral code' than 'sinners' then when they do sin, as they inevitably do, to actually label them as religionists who commit a crime is actually agreeing with them in a way.

    So when an atheist points to a paedophile priest (or whatever) as an example of what is wrong with religion they are in effect agreeing with religion's definition of itself - that is they are acting as if the religionist SHOULD be of a higher standard. Why? If religion is nonsense as the atheist believes then it is no surprise is it and no need to mention it.. Unless it is to point out hypocrisy but atheists I think point out hypocrisy far less than they do things that are considered 'evil'. Perhaps though this is because hypocrisy and the fight against it takes one into the religious/moral arena.

    Something similar to this is the other major annoyance I have with neo-atheists (not so much old-school ones oddly) like Dawkins. They set up an easy target - say, God on a cloud with a big stick and a beard - they they demolish it in 5 seconds (as anyone over the age of 10 could easily do) and then they ride triumphantly in an open-top bus with ticker-tape and crowds screaming while they wave the World Cup trophy.

    It's kind of fake. Yes, SOME people believe that crap about God on a cloud and YES it is utter BS and YES the people who believe it are morons but don't hold it up like you won the war....there are more serious conceptions of God than that - if you're a serious thinker then take them on and win. Don't fake it...

    I've yet to see any of the high-profile atheists do this though. Dawkins only ever debates loons or liberal authority figures like the Archbishop or Chief Rabbi. He does this because he is safe - they are all liberals and have other 'business interests' that coincide so they play football in no-man's land for a while because it's Xmas. Dawkins still always comes off worse though.

    No, because it's not a movement per se. People need things they can categorize I guess. The 'non-belief' thing is one thing I do respect about atheists though the way it's used is kind of lame. It's like that with religion too: some have sublime ideas and texts but they can be used badly by morons.

    Is more political I think. If the Cold War had not ended we would not be in this place. The US people have been conditioned to define themselves by an enemy - it doesn't matter who....just happens to be Islam now. In a few decades it could even be atheism. It's a shame US leaders don't try to free them from this but then it's profitable.

    Even atheists are complicit because they are against religion so they support this demonization. They don't seem to realize it;s been driven largely by US religious Christians and if those people win - and they are prepared to use atheists to do it - their 'war on Islam' then they will look around for another enemy. My bets would be on atheists. How many ideologies really are there now to demonize?

    I think a lot do. I don't agree but I think it's fine you believe it. I look at it like this: there's a horse race and we're all in the betting shop. You are betting on a horse called "No God", I am betting on a horse called "God" other horses and betters could be "Krishna", "Jesus", "Who Cares - party" etc etc.

    In the betting shop there are always going to be people running around saying "psst, I have a hot tip - it's Jesus - put all your money on it". Some people might even say to them "show me the proof" but to me "show me the proof" means you are persuadable. I am not. But that is not irrational.

    I KNOW that horse "No God" might win. Maybe he has more chance than my horse, maybe not. It's not about that. It's about the fact that's it's my money (my life) and the person I am chose that horse. THAT"S THE GAME!!! I don't need 'hot tips' I believe my horse will win but I don't need facts or proof...and you know why? Because there can't be any!!!!! It's a race! You puts your money down and at the finish line we find out who's won! No proof, no facts needed. I can believe my horse will win whilst still knowing I have no proof! I don't need it! I even know I might lose...

    All that is needed is one thing and one thing only: to be utterly sure in yourself that at any point you have put your money on the one you think most will win. If you have doubt, switch horses. The sit back and enjoy the race. If you can do that I guarantee you that, atheist or religionist, you will never ever need to try to convince someone else of your position or feel annoyed about theirs.

    Well, that's the colour of your horse. As I said above! "D

    Yes....interesting point. I've often wondered as a corollary to this how many 'militant' atheists we would have if fundamentalist religionists (primarily I mean US Christians) were more tolerant and inclusive. I expect very few.

    The dominionist God is a very small paradigm and primarily a reductionist view of US evangelicals. Many conceptions of God, even Christian, allow that one might not at all be under the dominion of God, that one could even be anti-God...though of course in their view there would be an ultimate price to pay I guess.
  9. Happybunny macrumors 68000

    Sep 9, 2010
    In fact this is the new religion of the west 'The Celebrity Cult' , people are now practically worshiped because of a combination money status and for being famous, for being famous. Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton are cases in point.:(

    As to the question about the labels in the press, that is just a easy way out. Mostly this is used to further a agenda from the the news service. You notice that some news is always slanted to a particular view.
    Islam is at the moment in the spotlight at the moment, but years gone by it was Reds under Beds.
  10. segovius thread starter macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2006
    Barcelona / Berlin
    As it should do - but the Saville issue is rank hypocrisy. Everyone knew this for decades and I do mean everyone. I remember as a kid my parents somehow knew it and always used to express disgust at him - though I didn't know why then - when Jim'll Fix It was on.

    The hypocrisy of the media - particularly in the UK - is quite sickening.


    Wasn't he Jewish? :confused:
  11. jeremy h macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2008
    Yes, you're right (well, about this bit, anyway.) I was going to post in response to Happybunny's point that to really understand the vitriol of this one you had to be British and have watched kids TV in the 70's and 80's. (I too wanted to get on Jim'll Fix it but at the back of my mind, even as a child in the 70's one thing that worried me about it was the idea of having to be on a sofa with with him, even if I didn't understand why. The general family view with us was that he was creepy in the extreme.)

    No... we're simply pointing out that religion(ists) (or celebrities) shouldn't command respect, and by inference a lack of inquiry about their motives, simply because they're religious or a celebrity.
  12. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    I can't help but feel they're all essentially equivilent? whether you hold god to be a bloke on a cloud, or an etherial force, or simply the best metaphor we have for all possible existence/mathematics/reality.

    I don't refute the possibility of a being who would appear godlike to our perspective, heck we could all be a simulated experiment run by some higher being on some higher plane, there are a number of possibilities really. To me they all just seem slightly absurd.

    I'll hash out my reasoning for that absurdity with an extension to an argument that often occurs between atheists and theists. The atheist touts that the universe was created by the big bang, the theist says who created the big bang, the atheist says who created god then if so? To which a circlejerk ensues.

    That argument can essentially be used inductively using consensus reality as a base case to say for sure that at least some stuff, be it god, big bangs, whatever pops into existence enough that through whatever chain of causality results in the consensus reality we experience now.

    I, putting my mathematicians hat on for a second, say, hang on, if that's the case for one thing why not everything? what would give that one thing the special ability to pop into existence? I'd then declare that everything mathematically describable thus should be able to just pop up, or, at least just exist as it is. This isn't my belief, just a idea I put some weight behind and pretty much where I stand, I find it incredibly unlikely that anyone will ever convince me that any other paradigm is more likely.

    Then then question becomes where in that sea of described mathematics do we sit? Mathematically this is easily answered in the large scale, the universe is semidecidable (look into the theory of computation if you care to know what this means, though it's not pertinent to the discussion).

    This conveniently sidesteps the problem of incompleteness, often cited as a reason why we can never disprove/prove the existence of god, as it's reasoning from the outside in rather from the inside out, which is shown to be impossible. From this I base my observations upon what is likely, and what is not and when considering an infinite enumeration of possible universes those with gods who would judge us present an obvious fringe case. On that basis I place my bet upon living my life as I choose not worrying one iota about how any god may judge me, and on a personal level I find it preferable to live my life such that I have as little negative impact on others as is practically possible.

    I wish Dawkins and all would present arguments of that calibre, though I expect they never will for fear alienating those who may not understand proof, formal logic, mathematics, physics and computation theory. No one seems to discuss these things.

    Secular Humanism certainly is a movement, they have "celebrants" that conduct funerals/weddings and other events, my family has used them for a few things.

    As for america I'm not really that familiar with that culture of fear. From what you say it sounds scary.

    I think to be utterly sure of anything is a mental poison, though saying that I feel fairly sure of that!

    I never really feel the need to convince anyone else, I just enjoy philosophical discussion really.

    Well, that's the colour of your horse. As I said above! "D

    My use of the word "dominion" betrays my view of reality, as hashed out above, I cannot fathom how any god could not have a restricted dominion, the truly omnipotent god is one I reject absolutely as rational, only allowing the possibility of my own insanity as an alternative possibility.

    I'm bias by my whole attitude I think, any god who would eternally torture just gets the middle finger from me, it's petty. I don't think it's ethical for any self-aware being omnipotent or otherwise to deliberately cause pain suffering or any other kind of unpleasantness to any other, and I have zero patience for anyone who thinks otherwise be they almighty or not.

    I guess I'm bound by my own ethics? which again seems absurd, why would I cling to them so? To do otherwise causes me great distress.
  13. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
  14. segovius thread starter macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2006
    Barcelona / Berlin
    In many ways the 'God' argument is becoming redundant anyway, science and knowledge are outstripping it - but that does not mean they are outstripping what gave rise to it.

    I'll give an example - I don't believe this literally, I am making it up - suppose in neolithic time or around, earth was visited by some extraterrestrial life-form. Humans at that stage obviously could not have understood or had any meaningful dialogue so they would have explained things in a 'human' way. This 'human' way might have been to evolve stories and myths of 'God' (again, I feel the urge to reiterate this is a metaphor - I am not claiming this happened).

    As we advanced then obviously we would be able to disprove these myths. Perhaps even prove they were all 'made up' But in this case what is the value? We would be celebrating the 'victory of reason' but really it would be no victory at all - it would in fact be the greatest loss of human history....the missed chance of realizing contact with another race. All because the people doing the 'fighting for reason' were only marginally more enlightened than those they were opposing...and nowhere near enough to get at the truth.

    Hopefully this won't actually happen in reality. I think it won't because as I say, science has in many ways gone way beyond this - the holographic theory of life for example is very similar to your mention of an 'experiment' and it is gaining a lot of ground.

    It's a silly argument to get involved in though isn't it? I mean we know there was a big-bang and we know there was 'nothing' before it. Any theist who gets involved in it is really just playing the game according to the atheists rules rather than their own - in reality I think both sets of 'rules' are inadequate.

    When talking about the universe and what was before it we are essentially talking about matter - and in that realm everything the atheists are saying is correct. But a theist would normally take the position that God is not matter...he is outside of that. So both could be true which means the theist could easily accept the atheists' arguments...I do and I am a theist.

    From my perspective - and I say this not to convince anyone but just to address your point - there is only really one thing that exists.

    For something to exist then it - again, in my pov - has reality and is non-contingent. All things which are contingent do not in fact exist although they appear to do so.

    So...for example, everything you can name right now - without exception - as existing will at some point not exist. You will die. So will I. The earth will, the Solar System will and so eventually will the universe and all universes that exist.

    So because of this they are contingent. They 'pass away'. Religion and spiritual philosophies at root - when they are not morphed into control mechanisms or political/oppressive entities - but when they are in their original pure form - really are just postulating SOMETHING that is not contingent and which does not 'pass away'. This thing they call 'God'.

    Everything after that may (or may not) be fluff, lies, myths, whatever. But the essential postulate is a philosophical construct which is never addressed by the religionists or the atheists. That might be a mistake.

    God yes, I'd forgotten that. I've even been to such a funeral....

    Well, I'm guessing you're a Brit, so am I but I lived there a bit and grew up with these evangelicals so yes, you're right. Scary is the word.

    But I think America is a young country and there's hope. They might yet turn into something quite amazing that revolutionizes human history for the good.

    My position exactly...

    But it depends on the characteristics one applies to God. It's like the old argument: could an omnipotent God create a weight that he could not lift?

    Of course he could - or He would not be omnipotent. But if He did then He also would not be.

    It's just ascribing the wrong characteristics. Basically we can only understand anything in our own human way...if something happens that is out of our human conception then we must do one of two things:

    1) Deny it (atheists)

    2) Humanize it and reduce it to our level (religionists)

    Neither of these works.

    I think though we will sooner or later be able to actually test this, I really do. Not with God but with extraterrestrials (sorry, I bring it up again...not a metaphor this time). At some point if we continue on our path we WILL encounter an extraterrestrial civilization if they exist.

    When this happens - assuming they are way above us technologically - it will be the same pattern as meeting God. We will not be able to deny it (probably) but we will also not be able to conceive of them as they really are (Hell, most of us can't conceive of humans from another CULTURE as they really are without reducing them to our own filter) so we will mythologize them. We will have to. It's what we do until we reach their level...same with God imo.

    Agree - but this is just an example of 'God' being 'humanized' - all the torturing and killing is what humans do. No need to think that God (or aliens hahah) would even understand that.

    All that means is that God as a product of human conception does not exist. I agree 100%. But that does not mean that something 'higher' than us does not fact, our inability to conceive it or recognize it may well be an argument for it.


    No, apparently not but I think he viewed himself as Jewish in many ways - or perhaps he was just extreme pro-Israel?
  15. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    Statistically I'd still side with reason every time, you can always envision fringe cases where seemingly illogical approaches win out, that doesn't validate the flawed methodology.

    The only game being played is pure logic, it's just the mere statement that for anything to exist at all something must have come into existence on it's own, without any creation or what have you required. We don't know what occurred before the big bang, unless I'd missed out on a significant scientific discovery? I have my own thoughts on the matter but they're off topic.

    We're not talking about matter, matter has specific meaning within our universe, to refer to the fabric of the universe itself one could call it information, as mathematically that's what it is, you couldn't say that god, or anything wasn't information and thus your point falls down. Matter, mass physical presence, whatever it's all equivalent to information that relates to other information. That again is going off topic into the realms of digital physics and information theory, two subjects dear to my heart.

    Isn't that perspective a little bias by your subjective perception of time? It's just a dimension, from my perspective you could view the universe as static and our own perspectives as timelines which our own narrative runs along, from our perspective. Though in essence we're static. I guess you could construe your example as a division between unstable and stable systems, but in that case I don't see why I should pray to the concept of a while(1) loop, it's not holy.

    I would say though that although our personal narratives are transient I feel the universe itself is not, it's kinda shoddy logic but I just get the feeling that if it was a one-shot it would've happened already. For all you/I know, the universe could be stuck in an endless loop, going the same way again and again and again, would that make us godly?

    I'll share my own view on existence with you, again it starts with a thought experiment. I imagine you simulate the world on a computer, complete with people, kinda like the matrix. Do you believe that those people within that simulation are self aware as you are? If not why not, is your brain not just an organic computer of sorts? Given that they are self aware what brings that reality into existence for them? The very cause and effect of electrons surging through the supercomputer that you're using? In my view by simulating something like that you're merely observing and allowing interaction with the concept, or in strict formal terms those who are self aware are part of the semantic meaning (the abstract mathematical progression of states) of the simulation, not the semantic representation (the physical bits being pushed about the computer).

    Given that, what is "real" to us is just what interacts with us, there's no difference in mind between something transient such as our own selves and something stable.

    I think it's a shame it's not more commonplace, I think there really is a human need for those services a priest would typically offer, just not necessarily with the religion.

    by Reductio ad Absurdum, ergo, omnipotence is irrational. It's not such human as raw logic, that's one thing that kinda scares me about those who believe, their denial of basic logic. Denying it works fine if you work within that realm.

    It really perplexes me why people get so butthurt over things like time travel paradoxes, and quantum physics. Any apparant paradox is a mere construct of illogical thinking and betrays an error in your given axioms.

    I don't quite agree, I guess I just don't see why I'd have to mythologize a being more advanced than myself? Doesn't really make sense to me.

    I think the question is more of locale? I'm certain higher beings than us exist, I just highly doubt we'll ever interact with them, almost certainly not after we die.

  16. Iscariot macrumors 68030


    Aug 16, 2007
    Neither of those are accurate, either. Any atheist who isn't dogmatically using their atheism as a wedge issue to promote their own particular brand of us vs. them-ism has very little to do with denial. A rational secular atheist -- or theist for that matter -- with a basic command of the scientific method shouldn't be denying anything, and should be quite capable of accepting that something defies current understanding. Any honest individual should recognize that there are very real limitations and constraints to our current understanding of the universe. Similarly, theists are as much "denying it," as even a polytheist accepts only their particular pantheon of deities and not the totality of all deities humanity has conceived.
  17. jnpy!$4g3cwk macrumors 65816


    Feb 11, 2010
    There is an interesting point here, but, you have to consider that very few people in the U.S. will admit to being agnostic or Deist, let alone atheist, even to a pollster, despite the fact the fact that apparently many are:

    I'm not here to argue about religion +- but, I am pointing out that 18-20% or more are apparently agnostic or atheist by belief, but, only 5.6% will directly declare it. There is tremendous pressure on people to identify with some formal religion or another. If I'm not mistaken, the last U.S. President to openly express skepticism was Abraham Lincoln.
  18. Anuba, Oct 12, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2012

    Anuba macrumors 68040


    Feb 9, 2005
    Depends on the context. The headline "Accountant arrested on DUI charges" makes zero sense, but "Accountant embezzles", "Cop robs bank", "Teacher molests school children" or "Nurse murders patient" make perfect sense, because professions are relevant when the perps commit crimes that go 180° against the trust and responsibility that comes with their respective professions. The same goes for a priest who humps choir boys. The very word profession originally meant "vows taken upon entering a religious order".

    It's not a "routine", it's a fact. This whole notion of grouping people together by belief can only come out of a mindset rooted in belonging to such a group. It seems damned near impossible to convey this understanding to religious people, they just can't get this grouping matrix thing out of their heads. It's like having someone hell bent on pegging you as a "hard rocker", "goth" or "indie" in spite of your persistence that you don't listen to any music, period, and then being told "oh, so you like the silence genre. I KNEW you were into a genre, HA!". There is no "brotherhood of atheists", no secret handshake, no sense of community, Richard Dawkins is not our guru or high priest. Belief is part of one's life, non-belief is not. Non-belief does not occupy whatever slot holds the belief cartridge in believers. Simple as that.
    Myself I live in Sweden where 85% are a mixed bag of atheists and agnostics and the remaining 15% belong to various religious groups. Since religion plays such an obscure and anachronistic role in our country, it comes naturally that the whole label-by-religion thing is non-existent, we simply don't have that matrix. Newspapers wouldn't dream of using headlines like "Rampaging Christian shoots three" or "Muslim blows up bus". They might write "Islamist blows up bus" if that's the case, but islamism is political, and that's another story.
  19. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030


    Feb 9, 2010
    This part stood out to me from your post. I disagree. Christians are not defined by what they don't believe. They are defined simply by what they do believe in. The same goes for all religions. Most people don't believe in something....Its what you do believe in that puts you in a special group. There has been thousands of belief systems in history. You can't say a Jewish person is one who doesn't believe in 1. Greek Gods, 2. Christ, etc etc. A Jewish person is defined by their belief in the bible, the Hebrew god, etc. etc.
  20. segovius thread starter macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2006
    Barcelona / Berlin
    They don't define themselves as that but they could. That's my point.

    Atheists choose the 'not believing' angle for themselves. They could just as easily have gone to 'we don't believe in God' period but chose not to....and that's the point - it's up to the group themselves to choose and define their own position.

    I chose the Christian example because I didn't want to talk about Islam - basically because it seems to bring out the worst in people and certain posters seem to think they know exactly what it is even though their conception of it seems to be derived entirely from a Jack Chick tract and not from anyone who ever actually spoke to a Muslim and asked them - but I am going to have to submit that Islam is also defined by non-belief in exactly the same way as atheists are doing.

    There is only one article of faith in Islam - that is to affirm the shahada. If you can say you believe this then you are a Muslim. Whatever you believe after that is - to a degree - immaterial. The rest is accepted as being subject to interpretation...there is no-one who can say 'you are not a Muslim you believe X' if you believe shahada. They might try it - Wahabis for example - but it is not the teaching of Muhammad.

    Why is this relevant? Because the shahada is this: there is no God - except God.

    In Arabic this is a negation followed by an exclusion. In one sense it could even mean that everything that exists is God. It is pretty much always mistranslated into English into "there is no God but Allah" but this is in fact stupid as Allah is not a proper name but is in fact the Arabic word for God used by Christians and Jews in the Middle East also.

    Anyone thinking of God as a separate entity or the old man on the cloud is going to have a problem with it (that doesn't stop them trying to reduce it to their low level of understanding) but the truth is that it is in fact an example of the same claim atheists make about non-belief.

    The whole of the Islamic position is predicated on this initial statement. starting with "there is no God....."

    And of course this is exactly what the atheist claim is too as they also leave the door open for the POSSIBILITY that there is a God (well, the rational ones do) because, however low they want to pitch it, the possibility is there.
  21. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030


    Feb 9, 2010
    I'm not sure that they could, though. Being a Christian means you believe in Christ, etc. To just say "I am a Christian because I don't believe in (add all other stuff here)" would not be a true definition by a long shot. A lot of atheists don't even like to be called anything. They say that you don't label everyone who doesn't believe in astrology by a certain name. You just label the people who do believe. The same should go for religion. If you believe, fine, you're in this group. If you don't, you simply don't belong to any of those groups.
  22. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    You are mistakenly conflating the terms atheist and agnostic. There are also strong and weak positions within each grouping. And there's a larger areligious or antireligious viewpoint as well.
    Agnosticism is the view that the truth values of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—are unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable​
    Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.

    Agnosticism makes assertions about what can be known. Atheism asserts that deities don't exist.

    "There are no deities". - Atheism
    "It's not possible to determine the existence of deities." - Agnosticism.

    As Q & A:
    Q: Are there deities?
    Atheist: Certainly not.
    Agnostic: Don't know, can't know.
  23. segovius thread starter macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2006
    Barcelona / Berlin
    But surely all organized structures - of which atheism is one - include and exclude certain things by definition and within these parameters there is more or less 100% flexibility. But only WITHIN the stated parameters.

    So some Christians do not believe Christ was God. One Archbishop did not believe in the resurrection. What is the unifying factor?

    Or atheism: there may not be an official dogma, a Pope or a church (same in Islam and Buddhism btw) but there are unifying positions. I say 'positions' because it is not about beliefs - atheists are disingenuous when they claim that they are different because they don't deal in beliefs - the fact is all structures must - by dint of the fact of being organized structures and entities - have stated positions. Otherwise there is nothing to adhere to.

    The atheist position is simply a rejection of belief
    The religionist position is an acceptance of belief.

    These are not opposite at all on the larger scale - they are both positions.


    You see this is the problem....the reason I was arguing that atheism defines itself as an absence of belief was because every time I talked to an atheist arguing what you just posted above they would tell me that I did not understand atheism and atheism did NOT say that.

    They said that atheism is not (as you are saying) this:

    Q: Are there deities?
    Atheist: Certainly not.

    Which would essentially be a belief that God does not exist - but rather is this:

    Q: What is atheism?
    A: atheism is the LACK of belief in a deity.

    So atheists constantly tell me that there position is merely an absence of belief but you are now saying it is actually a belief but the flipside of a religious one.

    So which is it? I don't mind either way but it does need nailing down or else it gives atheists...shall we say, a certain flexibility when the questions get a little tough....
  24. Jackintosh macrumors 6502a


    Mar 21, 2009
    Straightforward opinion.

    It's because religious people claim to have the higher moral ground over non-believers. They have a sense of superiority in their absolute knowledge of the truth - creation of the universe and what happens in the afterlife. Their blind adherence to fables and myths in the Bible, Koran, or Book of Mormon makes this even more amazing.

    So it makes no sense for a non-believer to be identified as such in a sensational criminal event, as it would be for a radical Muslim or Christian evangelical. If you claim to have moral superiority and carry that around like a flag, then you have to own up to your contradiction when you go against it.
  25. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Please read the links I gave. There is a continuum; it's not a dichotomy. The "weak atheism" position is not that different from agnosticism (which also has weak and strong positions).

    Think of it in terms of something that is currently unknowable, such as the presence of tall blue humanoid life-forms on an unseen planet orbiting a particular star on the opposite side of the Milky Way galaxy. For all practical purposes, this information will remain unknowable, given the constraints of trans-galactic travel and radio communication through the galactic center.

    So if I were to ask the "Do you believe the blue humanoids exist?", you can say "I do" or "I believe they don't", but you could also say "It's unknowable". Two of these are statements about your beliefs, the third is a statement about how knowledge can (or can't) be obtained. You could also answer, "I don't know, but I'm open to evidence", which is a still different statement about how knowledge is obtained.

    FWIW, I wouldn't try to make such fine-grained logical dissections of people's remarks on beliefs. People are inconsistent. Get used to it.

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