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A few folks wanna know why I'm an atheist. I'm not planning on sugar coating this with any platitudes about how religion helps some folks cope with the brutal facts of life they never asked for and don't deserve; it does do that and it does lots of useful things. But that's not what this is about.

If you don't want to know, stop reading ... now. I mean it, stop reading this right now. If you've recently lost someone or are about to lose someone and religion is the one thread you're hanging onto to keep from going bonkers, don't read this; If you need to feel that humans have some kind of special place in the universe and without that special dispensation, it's all 'for nothing', don't read this; If you're easily offended and/or intolerant, don't read this. Normally I'd be happy to induldge all that, but in this one singular case I'm not going to be terribly empathetic about people complaining.

And, I'm gonna do this thing in two parts; one today and one tomorrow. The first trying to explain what it feels like to be an atheist, the latter part on why I'm an atheist. There will be some overlap.

             What it feels like to be an Atheist

I've always been an atheist, I know nothing else. From my earliest memory of considering the question, I'm talking maybe age three or four, I was skeptical as hell. The God stories just didn't add up. I'm amazed everyday of my life that everyone isn't an atheist like me. But they're not, I have no idea why that is, but it is reality. And based on many questions over the years it sounds possibly hard for someone who is not one to understand it. So follow me for a bit if you can. And I'll try to describe the world as seen through atheist eyes.

Imagine that you live in a world where 90% of the people around you sincerely believe in something that appears to you to be downright whacky, if perhaps relatively pleasant on the surface in many respects. Say they believe in Santa Claus; beard, the big red suit, the flying reindeer, the sled loaded with a billion gifts, the North Pole Workshop, Mrs. Claus and the elves; all of it.

But in this fantasy world, they're not content merely to believe in Santa Claus, they want you to publicly agree all the time that you also believe in Santa, in their specific version of same, and they pressure everyone else in numerous ways to pretend that they're not strange or childish for believing in this. They don't just limit it at that even, they insist everyone kiss their ass about their Santa belief every damn day of their lives and if you don't humor them at the drop of hat under any circumstances, you're being disrespectful, you're out of line. No matter how much you humor them, they always demand more.

Imagine, seriously imagine for a moment now, that these people, the vast majority of the electorate, vote for politicians based in large part on what they think Santa wants, campaign speeches all end with "Be good or Santa won't come to visit". And most of these voters won't even consider voting for someone who doesn't believe in Santa Claus and his factory at the North Pole. Yet they routinely congratulate themselves as belonging to the most graciously tolerant and open minded people in all of history.

Imagine that large sections of the country, the majority in fact, reject modern geography and want to teach that Santa lives at the North Pole in a giant Dickinsian factory manned by elves as part of that curricula. They don't just want to teach it at home or in Santa Mass every Sunday, they wanna teach it as geographical fact and they're militant about it. They lobby the schoolboard and stack them with Santa-ists who want to 'teach both sides of the geographic controversy' and let the kids decide if they wanna believe in Santa's Workshop at the North Pole, or not. They want to 'teach the evidence against naturalistic North Polism" and no amount of evidence, no sat photos, no onsite reports, no live North Pole Cams, will dissuade them from this effort.

Imagine that if you even voice the possibility that Santa might be a pleasant legend or some aspects of the story may be more allegorical in nature rather than literal, at the local school board meeting when this issue comes up, you're shouted down, called everything from a Nazi to a demon to a terrorist, exiled from the neighborhood and maybe isolated at work. Because while a bunch of nice things get done in the name of Santa, a lot of nonsense and out and out bullshit also is justified with the same. For example; your kids better not repeat any Santa skepticism, or they'll be teased horribly at the very least and might get the shit beat out of them by other kids from time to time.

Now further imagine; although the underlying story is sweet enough on its own, the actual uses it is put to by various self-serving factions are about as ugly as it can get: The ruling party is supported by a large block of truly radical Santa believers who want to run the entire country like they believe the North Pole facility operates, including sweatshops with kids all busy working away seven days a week 365 days a year in long assembly lines, with hand tools, in the freezing cold arctic winter, all for benefit of a few old men with long white beards who live in complete splendor on that labor. Because that's how Santa wants it, see?

And even though Santa loves children, it is wrong for government to do Santa's work, so really, it would be going against Santa's will to ever just give the millions of working kids a decent meal, but throw a couple of dozen of them a toy once a year you're A-OK with Santa. That's what they want and they're working hard to get it.

On top of that, based on their Santa beliefs, they also want to outlaw all cortical steroids and hormone treatments of any kind for any reason; cancer, growth defects, hormone deficiencies, replacement therapy, arthritis and other autoimmune disorders, muscular dystrophy, and on and on: Because they claim with utter certainty that Santa likes elves. Elves are Divine, and some hormones could be used to treat dwarfism. You might accidentally prevent the normal development of midgets and the bone pathologies associated with it, if hormones were legal and widely prescribed. So no hormonal or cortical drugs, no exceptions. Some them want to reclassify all drugs as hormones ... just in case.

They try to stack the courts with Santists and they stacked the regulatory oversight boards with Santists at every chance and anytime someone rules against the interest of the sweatshop lobby they're labeled Activist St. Nicks. Anyone who presents evidence to the contrary to Santa or any of these government approved concentration/work camps or ideological Santist Policies is viciously smeared by a professional media, most of whom share the same set of Santa beliefs, and that's on the rare, once in a year occasion when someone who will argue against the literal existence of Santa is even allowed airtime. The nation slides slowly towards Santacracy year by year.

Their entire rationale for this belief system and all the ugliness and oppression associated with it, is based purely on one long Christmas Carol handed down through the ages and some self anointed speakers for Santa--who happen to be in the employ of the wealthy bearded caste--and one or two old children's books.

And BTW it's the same story with various minor differences all over the world; across the ocean are people who reject Santa by name, but who believe in Kris Kringle or Father Christmas or St. Nick with equal or greater intensity than these domestic Santa believers. And some of those pagans are ready and willing to kill each other, kill you and your entire family, in a split-second, up to and including strapping explosives to themselves and blowing up a kids daycare or turning a jet into a missile kamikazi style and plowing it into a factory; all because of that minor quibble over the name and/or suit style of Santa, just to make the point that they really believe their story more than our Santists believe theirs.

Picture your life unfolding in this world: As a child you also believe in Santa because your parents told you to, but as you grow up you become skeptical, some things just don't seem to add up. By the time you're six or seven years-old, you start asking legitimate questions like "How does Santa get down the little chimney, how does Santa get the time to visit each house, how does Santa know the kids who've been good from the ones who've been bad" and so forth. These questions elicit first strangely evasive answers devoid of content and a general sense of unease among the adults you're asking. Over the next few years that moves onto reactions of scorn, patronizing insults, and open hostility. But never, ever one single answer that holds up over time.

Finally you come to suspect there is a real possibility that there is no literal Santa Claus at the North Pole with a toy factory run by elves and flying reindeer. You began gently asking other folks about your concern. But, when you confide in a few of your most trusted friends and closest family members that the whole Santa idea is a nice sentiment to be sure, but it doesn't make much rational sense and there is no evidence for it, the reaction ranges from puzzlement, to pity, to shock, to anger, to open accusations and implications that you're some kind of mental defective for even wondering about it.

You don't understand what's going on, none of this Santa stuff makes any sense and there's zero evidence for it, why can't everyone just admit that? What's the big conspiracy about? Why is everyone pretending there really is a Santa? Then it slowly dawns on you, around age ten or eleven ...  the chilling, horrible truth:

They're Not Pretending. They REALLY Do Believe There Is a Santa Claus.

Egads! Holy Shit! You suddenly feel a little bit lonely at age sixteen as you come to realize that you may surrounded by fully grown adults who are delusional incompetents that cannot distinguish fiction from fact and are enthralled by some kind of massive group hysteria! They're most of them all like that! And they all think you're nuts for not buying into their delusion! What the hell is wrong with these fucking people, can't they see how crazy this shit is?

So, being an adolescent who wants to know things and unafraid, you confront people who are trying to convince you about the existence of Santa with the what seem to you to be pretty obvious shortcomings in the story. The result is a torrent of stupidly phased questions, anger, at times hatred, usually disguised as pity or concern, but not always.

"Where do you think Christmas came from? How do you think the idea of giving gifts arose in the first place?" you're asked repeatedly.

Some of the questions you're being badgered with now are utterly exempt of any semblance of logic, "I've seen Santa so how do you explain that one?" or "How do you think the North Pole came to be Santa's Workshop if there is no Santa for crying out loud???? Huh? Huh? Answer THAT ONE Mr Smarty-pants!!!"

And no matter how many times you explain it's more likely Santa was thought up and refined over time by earlier generations, that there is in fact a long historical trail of Santa like characters in the cultures of your ancestors seamlessly leading up to the present day version, you are ignored or laughed at. And over and over the same tired old questions incessantly get thrown in your face again and again as though there was never a response on your part and there is no possible explanation outside of Santa (Or St. Nick or Kris Kringle or Father Christmas, if you happen to be questioned by those respective adherents). It's baffling to you.

Come your college years, more serious folks around now, I'm talking otherwise fully functional adults who hold jobs, sport an array of impressive degrees in Law, Philosophy, Science, or Mathematics, and who make important decisions, bombard you constantly with "Without Santa there would be no reason for us to be good, where do you think morality and ethics come from?; What's your 'world-view' and what evidence do you have for it, if you have no origin for morality?; I mean what's to stop you from going on a killing and raping spree if you don't believe in Santa?"

And no matter how many times you freely state you have no 'world-view' outside of an intuitive 'reality' and that such ideas regarding morality and ethical behavior and what is or is not a crime, likely stem from the culture you are raised in where they're acquired as a child unconsciously and then refined over time as one matures, they ignore you and keep throwing back the same question. The same question over and over in a dazzling variety of slick, pseudointellectual wrappers, while they practically dance in victory with glee every time they hurl the same dumbass question, as though they proved their Santa belief beyond any questionable doubt.

As you begin your adult life, marry or have a family of your own, the arguments don't get any better, they in fact get noticeably worse at times. Irate e-mailers demand, "How do you explain Rudolph's glowing red nose?"

And no matter how many times you patiently explain that Rudolph's existence and his nose is no more rational or supported than Santa's, that the question exhibits a fundamental logical fallacy by assuming the premise, you are ignored as if your response is invisible to your questioner and the same question is thrown endlessly back in your face as if it's a dead-cinch proof of Santa. You begin to understand that these folks aren't only whacked in the head, they're either liars or unable to think beyond the level of a toddler. Because it really is like arguing with a two-year old most of the time, only these aren't two-year olds, these are grown educated human beings. And you start to really worry now; what if most people are insane and you just happen by the luck of the draw to be one of the few sane ones? A lucid person in a world gone mad?

Hey, maybe you've not given this Santa thing a fair shot. Maybe if you talk to a pro, or meditate or think on it long and hard, something will click into place you're missing. So you embark on a multiyear voyage asking Santa ministers and reading the theology of Santa. You look at other beliefs like the ones who worship St. Nick or Father Christmas, you try, you really try to make it work. You play with altered states of consciousness and talk to people from other cultures about their version of the Santa belief.

And sure, you learn some useful tips, like how to distinguish fresh blotter acid from stuff that's been laying around turning into strychnine, and you might be able to lower or raise your heartbeat using biofeedback after a few sessions. But you find in the end none of the actual Santa like beliefs make any more sense than your own homegrown version. And you can no more force yourself to believe any of them, than you can flap your arms and fly away.

Still, incessantly they recruit you, incessantly they beat you down anytime you open your mouth and try to engage in a real, honest, thoughtful discussion, with the same damn cheesy worthless lines you've been hearing for years now. And from time to time, when you finally convince someone, say someone who is trying to recruit you to accept that Santa is a real entity and really does all those amazing things, that you're not buying it merely on their say-so, they stalk off screaming things like "OH I get it! You HATE Santa Claus and you HATE Christmas and you HATE getting presents, and you're trying to get even by pretending you don't believe in Him. Well, I'll be laughing this Christmas when I'm opening my presents and your only gift is a brand new brain tumor for being bad".

Imagine, as you puzzle your way through this temporal menagerie called life, full to the brim with more of the functionally insane humanoids that make the fabric of experience; bosses, girlfriends, pals, enemies, and role models, that Santa reminders are on every coin, every paper dollar, on every street corner, on every news show, on every cable network, that there are radio and TV stations that are dedicated 24 hours a day to extolling the virtues of Santa and the power of his mighty Sled. Every now and then you come across a fellow traveler who also marvels at the insane people, and you might become friends, compare notes, and laugh about the crazy mother fuckers, but it's a rare thing to meet them in person.

And in every one of those Santa reminders on every five cent piece and every dollar bill, lurks a tiny hint, a latent glimpse of those ugly components of Santaism and open wounds of rival Santa-like beliefs that are always at each other's throats; the wars justified and condoned, we're assured, by Santa; the sweatshops and pagan suicide bombers and the political opportunists who want to outlaw a huge class of life saving drugs based on Santa belief; the crazies who want to enact laws forcing everyone else to suffer horrible pain and disfiguring fatal diseases, all to humor their belief in mythological elves. Sometimes as you get older, all you can do is laugh so that you don't cry at the immense human tragedy of it all.

And sure, you're used to it, it doesn't really bother you most of the time because you just don't think about how totally fucking nuts the people around you are or what easy prey they are for the shameless predators of this loony jungle, as long as they're kept from hurting you or enacting their crazed legendary tenets into law and screwing up your life, but it's every damn place you go and it's getting worse and worse. The Santa Clausians are becoming more demanding, more powerful, more delusional and more arrogant every year. You grew up swearing your allegiance at the start of every school day that America was One Nation Under Santa from kindergarten on, and now some people are questioning the usefulness of that tradition, and pointing out it could be seen as blatant brainwashing, and they're being attacked day and night by Santa apologists and compared to pedophiles in the process. The entire Congress shuts down to pass a unanimous amendment supporting saying Santa in the Pledge in School and recites it on the steps of the capitol, shrieking the word Santa out, playing to the cameras and the demented Santa believers on the other side of the optical pipes they're attached to. Which is more comforting? That the leaders of the nation are lying and pandering to Santa believers? Or that they actually believe it also? Hell of a choice, eh?

It starts getting uglier: Imagine that one very loud group of Santa believers regularly demands that you move to another country and/or that you be prevented from giving or receiving gifts or having Christmas Day off because you don't believe in Santa, while members of the same group are attacking you in an even louder voice claiming you are trying to ruin or cancel Christmas, and they demand that you be forced to celebrate it and participate in each and every Santa Claus ritual they personally deem requisite. It's pretty clear to you now: These seemingly normal people are not just fucking insane when it comes to Santa, they're incoherent, dangerously unbalanced, demanding mutually exclusive sets of behavior from you that would be impossible to comply with.

Now imagine: Just two or three-hundred years ago it was totally SOP to take folks, men, women, children, who didn't believe in a specific version of Santa and stick red-hot steel objects into their rectums and vaginas, boil their limbs, beat them senseless with padded clubs, tear them apart with teams of horses, cut open their stomachs and rip out their intestines while they're still alive in front of their loved ones, or slowly burn them alive in public; all in the name of Santa's good will and often on the mere anonymous allegation from some two-bit ten-year old kid or a crazy deranged nutcase suffering from schizophrenia that you once said you don't believe Santa can really fly. Now imagine that that still goes on in some parts of the world AND there's a whole bunch of people in your country who are clamoring to bring that all back.

Imagine that when your mom or dad or heart surgeon or teacher or your best friend tells you they firmly, devoutly, believe in Santa replete with the flying reindeer and the ability to get down every chimney in the world in one evening, that you'd better believe also or you won't be getting a damn thing in the will or in life from them ever, or maybe they'll just treat you like shit in front of the rest of the family, AND THEY'RE NOT KIDDING IN THE SLIGHTEST ABOUT ANY OF IT.

You are under a barrage of Santa believers from the cradle to grave who act everything from shocked to disgusted that you don't believe in Santa, they're getting increasingly militant, yet not a one of them has the slightest bit of evidence that an entity called Santa really exists; not one of them is willing to explain why the North Pole is nothing but a barren, frozen wasteland, except maybe to vaguely explain that the "Workshop" is incorporeal or not meant to be taken "literally"; a claim which other Santa believers disagree with vigorously. Not one of them offers up the slightest tidbit of convincing scientific rationale for how reindeer fly and tow an arial sled, or how Santa reads the minds and keeps tabs on 2 billion kids, and visits them in a single 24 hour period once a year to deliver toys built at his workshop by magic miniature toymakers. Not one of them can offer any compelling real-world reasoning for why Santa would want to do this anyway, what he gets out of it, how he obtains supplies, feeds himself and his workers, treats disease, avoids old age and death, or how they all came to play this role in the first place. And yet you are portrayed as an imbecile and one chip short of Adolph Hitler for not believing it.

Pretty ridiculous, huh? A world gone bonkers, populated and completely run by a majority of people who are frankly clinically insane, dangerously immature, often violent, historically monstrous, completely irrational, closed to any internal questioning, convinced you're either stupid, evil, or dangerous, and hoping for all they're worth to infect you with the same mimetic virus. Can you even imagine how whacked it would be to have to deal with that kind of shit? To have to go through life walking on eggshells on the subject of Santa lest you offend a believer and they blow their stack at you, target you for persecution for political purposes, and/or question your worth, your job, your very life?

Well, if you can imagine all that, you know for just a few moments how it feels everyday to be a grown adult surrounded by wishful childish thinkers clinging to nonsensical myths as if they were real and insisting, in fact force feeding, that mythology to you; people who sometimes turn quite violent, get downright nasty if you express the slightest disagreement with their specific version of the Jolly Old Guy; people who happen to wield incredibly powerful arsenals of WMDs and massive traditional military might as well as running everything from the local police department to the IRS; people who are now are reopening torture chambers and gulags with armies of pundits cackling with delight at the very thought of returning to the good ole torture days.

It's not like we're living everyday in mortal fear, but it's nevertheless a little nerve racking that we find ourselves surrounded, defenseless, and at the mercy of hordes of people that for all the world appear to have lost their minds. And it's a bit depressing that this is the best the human species and/or our own nation can do or has done in millennia, especially now given our potential and the technology/knowldge now at our disposal.

And in the end, you can either pretend to be a Santa believer, basically live a lie 24/7 and try to avoid any showdowns over it that would expose you. Or you can be yourself, embrace reason, live truth, and take your chances, thanking your lucky stars the whole time you don't live in the past or somewhere else in the present; hoping to hell that the Santa believers don't completely dominate everything and go on some kind of anti-Santa purge.

That's kind of what it feels like to be an atheist. If you try and imagine further why you don't believe that Santa is real regardless of how nice a story it is or all the nice things about Christmas you enjoy, you'll be ahead of the game for tomorrow's post on why I don't believe in deities, including yours. More then.

Originally posted to DarkSyde on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:20 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As articulate as always... (4.00)
    ..if not as pithy as usual.  But you're still my favorite diarist.  

    And here's the kicker:  after their long documented history of committing the most vicious atrocities against non-believers, when you say you don't believe in their imaginary friend, they point their fingers and cry "You're persecuting me!"

    •  (Not pithy... (4.00)
      those were the first eighteen of two parts.)

      A sad case, DarkSyde, but he still has a chance to accept the love of the Easter Bunny.

      Mother Nature bats last.

      by pigpaste on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:35:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not (4.00)
        into that guy with the red jacket.

        I'm more into the belief that there is a 1000 lb diamond buried somewhere in my back yard. I just know it's there. How could you not believe in my diamond?

        I just couldn't live in a world without a 1000 lb diamond buried somewhere in my back yard...

        Great as Usual DS. Permission to repost some or all at my blog?

        ARB

        •  For a small fee (none)
          I will help you find this diamond with my magic "D-meter" that works through, um Diamondetics Hey, I helped Tom cruise find the diamond in his yard. ;)

          Then did he raise on high the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, saying, "Bless this, O Lord, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy."

          by Event Horizon on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:50:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  One (none)
            Two, five
            No three sir

            (in reference to your footer)

            ANd no thanks, I don't want to actually find the diamond - it could shake my faith that the diamond actually exists... :-)

            •  True (none)
              And what would you fill the void with, sitting there with your humongous diamond? No mysteries, nothing left to wonder at...you might fall into Flying Spaghetti Monsterism!

              "...I believe in the power of laughter to subvert authority and promote democracy."-Kate Clinton

              by Revel on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:38:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  he should just be a scientologist! (none)
                "it has 'science' right in the name!"
                                                -- lewis black

                "the christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'i love to make a grown man piss himself.'" - cpl. charles graner

                by mindtrafficcontrol on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:46:47 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Sounds about right (none)
                  I have been Agnostic since 9 and 100% Atheist since age 16.
                  This is exactly what it is like being Atheist.

                  I put up with the bullshit for about the first 20 years, but the last 10 I have had enough and dont have any problem anymore looking them right in the eye and calling them fucking crazy.

        •  Faith (none)
          Tha's what you're delusional belief in the diamond in the back yard is. Faith in a fairy tale, just like the religious. Good diary. Faith in a LIE.
      •  Great Horned and Barn Owls... (none)
        have babies in late January and by the time Easter rolls around, their chicks are very hungry all the time. I have often found headless rabbits around Easter time as the head is a delicacy of the chicks and their mommy and daddy. Headless rabbits are hard to explain to little Christian kids and adults at Easter.
      •  All I Got To Say Is... (none)
        Jesus Christ!! What a long diary!!
    •  God is PISSED! (4.00)
      How else can I explain the text of the posts are too wide. I've never seen another diary have this technical problem.

      I was going to praise the author for standing up for us atheists, who remain acceptable targets for ridicule and bias in a society that preaches tolerance of just about anything else.

      But then, the layout got all scrambled. I first rejected crazy leaps of logic and figured maybe there's a HTML tag loose, or a bug in the software that just happened to be uncovered here -- but, damn that is boring!

      It's so much more fun - like watching a skilled magician - to relish in what is obviously a devine smooting!

    •  goddammit (none)
      You've got to scroll halfway down the page to get past the nonsense sophistry. Stop persecuting us, BiminiCat!

      The dubya stands for freedom.

      by paraphrase on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:25:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Redstate Said There Be Sectarian Warfare! (4.00)
        Daily kos is melting down again   By: casualobservervations
        Starting to resemble Iraq over there.  The sectarian flame wars have started up again for about the 4rth time in the last month.

        Oh, the humanity! How much open debate can one blog handle? Are we decending into civil war? Do the harsh insurgent comments telegraph a desperate and violent last throe? Maybe non-faiths aren't compatible with other non-faiths?

        Oh.. never mind... RedState guy said we resemble Iraq -- so I guess we're doing fine afterall. Big smiles and purple fingers.

        To claim secular societies are rejecting God, is to concede that religious societies are rejecting reality.

        by Kudos on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:37:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  WELL SAID (none)
      THANK god I'M AN ATHEIST.
    •  The "God" scam (none)
      has been with humans for a very long time. While it might have served a purpose in prehistory, the organization of numbers of people into a cooperative whole it's not only lost it's usefulness it has become a malignant social cancer.

      Millions have been tortured, disfigured, raped and murdered in "God's" name.

      I have been an atheist from birth, somewhat of an achievement as I was "raised" a Catholic, also. But I never felt as this diarist did.

      No, I felt a real rage against the folks who would lock me in the confessional at age six because I had forgotten the words I was supposed to say to the priest. I felt a real rage against Nuns who would tie me in chair because I couldn't sit still.

      I would do, were it in my power as Arnaud-Amaury, Abbot of Citeaux during the Albigensian Crusade famously said: "Kill them all God will know his own..."

      The religious are a dangerously psychotic form of human being prepared to believe in the non-existent, do the unthinkable in defense of their belief and unfailing in their willingness to follow those others who promise them "salvation".

      They all deserve to burn in the hell in which they believe.

      Some will say that I suffer from an early childhood trauma and must be "forgiven". Spare me the bullshit and read your history. The most dangerous man is the one who says: "God is with me..."

      "Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."

      by Nestor Makhnow on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:04:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent. (4.00)
    I'm a little more conflicted about this than you, I guess.  I was raised an atheist.  I stick by that pretty much.  But...

    But I am at heart a moralist and I do believe there's something more important than you or me or all of us put together.  Call it justice, maybe.  Call it the weight of history.  Sometimes I call it deism.  Not a personified God, but a force of some kind.  

    Sometimes I wish I believed in Jesus.  I wish I believed I was saved, and loved intensely.  But I don't.  I don't believe it.  Yet I know that my experience and beliefs are as like to the experience and beliefs of my evangelical friends as they are to those of my fully unambivalently atheist friends.  It's a fucking weird place to be.

    •  WARNING (3.00)
      Sorry, this isn't really related to MissLaura's comment, but to what follows immediately thereafter.  Unless you want to do as I did and try to read through a quite lengthy, repetitive and occasionally annoying conversation in which we attempt to define atheism, agnosticism, theism and all points in between, and in which none of the specifics or generalities of the diary are actually addressed.... SCROLL DOWNSTREAM.  Sorry BiminiCat, Madhaus, Shadowstorm, Elise, et. al., just thought I'd provide some advance warning for others.

      "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

      by desertbug on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:13:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for trying to... (none)
        warn me at least. I just got back, and I was a fool not to have listened, yeeccchh.

        "We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them." Abigail Adams 1764

        by greeseyparrot on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 04:42:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry. (none)
        Sorry, but I couldn't even get to that. Once the width goes beserk, I just bail. To much hassle to read. sigh

        Signature Impaired.

        by gttim on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:49:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Zelazny to the rescue (none)
        Before reading further, you might want to chant this...

        THE AGNOSTIC'S PRAYER

        Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

        Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness, 1969

        "Animals are my friends--and I don't eat my friends." (G.B. Shaw) Click to read the 'Union'

        by Hudson on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:30:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Some confusion here... (4.00)

      Sometimes I wish I believed in Jesus.

      What belief are you talking about? Jesus who lived sometime in the first century and left a very attractive (although often utterly perverted by vile people who somehow dare call themselves his followers) philosophical legacy is a figure of history, although a somewhat murky figure - largely due to the efforts of those same "followers" in the third through fifth century.

      Thus talking about "believing" in Jesus makes about as much sense as about "believing" in Confucius or Buddha or... I don't know... Marcus Aurelius. This is the frame pushed upon the mass conscience by the so-called Evangelicals.

      Likewise, on some level, acceptance of the moral and philosophical teachings of the historical Jesus (tell no lies and do not do that which you despise, judge not lest thee be judged thyself and so on) does not require any supernatural beliefs. You've spent too much time hanging around these so-called Evangelicals. By the way, his non-violent ways notwithstanding, I suspect Jesus would have kicked the living crap out of a typical Evangelical preacher if he ever met one.


      I wish I believed I was saved, and loved intensely.

      Well... One could argue that this desire stems from insecurity. Atheism rejects this insecurity. But, in my view, atheists are only half right.


      • Worldview 1 (too much insecurity). There is a kind loving god who will provide for ya.

      • Worldview 2 (less insecurity). There is no god of any kind. This is your world, it's what you make it.

      • Worldview 3 (the way things really are). There are many gods, they are mighty and evil, and if you attract their attention, they'll eat ya and crap ya off a cliff.
    •  Understandably tempting to give in (none)
      It's easier to give in to mass hysteria or delusion. A guy/gal gotta earn its bread and butter.
    •  I understand MissLaura (4.00)
      I understand exactly where you're coming from (although I'm coming from the other end of the spectrum).  I'm at a point in my life where I'm feelng a little confused too.  I wasn't raised an atheist, I was raised as a fundie christian.  The things I was taught in Sunday school didn't make sense to me, but I kept my faith.  (That's why fundies are so hard to argue with, they are taught to keep the faith no matter what).  Over the past copule of years I've lost my faith.  I still believe there is some sort of god out there, but the bible should not be taken literaly.  In my eyes, the bible is only good for stories, and for learning about Jesus' teachings.  I do beleve Jesus existed & that he was a good man.  We can still learn a lot from him, regardless if he is really the son of god or not.  Everybody I know is christian, at least as far as believing in God, and that Jesus is the son of god, heaven & hell & all that.  I haven't made my feelings known to them yet, I still play along, just to avoid conflict.
    •  Nothing to be conflicted about MissLaura. (4.00)
      As an agnostic with exactly the same point of view as the author
       of this marvelously written,
      and happily provocative diary,
       I want to assert that I gladly sign on to the 4 basic tenets of The New Testament:
       Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you
       (it's golden!)
      Love your neighbor as you love yourself  
      (no quid pro quo's about people of different
      color
      faith
      or sexual orientation you'll be happy to note)
       Turn the other cheek
      (it's pacifism - that always gets the fundies going!)
       Judge not lest ye be judged
      (seems all the Christians I see on television
       do nothing but judge others)
      Modern Christians do not live up to these standards!
      It's time to call them on it.
      It's the reason they call us names
      like moral relativist
      or secular humanist
      I want FREEDOM FROM RELIGION
      because like DarkSyde
      I am tired of suffering fools gladly
    •  MissLaura (none)
      Your comments echo my sentiments.  My sibs and I were raised attending church by a Methodist stepmom and undulgent athiest dad, but none of us attend as adults.  My dad passed on 12 years ago, but lived his life with Christian values, more so than many regular church goers I know.  So I'm sure, if there is a heaven, he is there.  (As are my dearly departed dogs and cats.)
  •  atheism (1.84)
    requires faith.

    'nuff said.

    "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

    by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:30:09 PM PST

    •  no it doesn't (3.83)
      Define atheism. I bet you're defining it wrong. Hint: the "a" in atheism means "without" rather than "against."

      Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

      by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:39:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ok... for old time's sake (2.76)
        all together now.... the question is....

        is there a god??

        atheist:  i know for sure, no.

        agnostic:  not enough data, who knows?

        theist:  sure enough, of course.

        "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

        by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:41:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Realisticly (2.75)
          Agnostics are more intellectually honest than theists, atheists, and deists.

          A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

          by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:43:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  they evade the entire issue! (3.37)
            since they claim the question can never be answered! How is that honest? They've given up!

            Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

            by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:46:08 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Simple (2.00)
              Existance of god/dess(es) can't be proven nor disproven. That simple. Each time someone has prove of god, atheist has evidence that god doesn't exist.

              Anyways, atheism is a reaction to Christianity more than anything.

              A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

              by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:15:16 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Simple and WRONG (3.88)
                There's so many errors in your statement above I can't even begin to untangle it. Why not read some of this tangled thread to start to see the error of those assumptions? 1. You can't prove a negative 2. You can be an atheist and never have heard of Christianity 3. The onus is always on the person making the positive claim, e.g. the one who believes in one or more gods

                Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:17:52 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Atheism and x-ianity (3.91)
                  Hi, ho. Just wanted to discuss one small part of this debate: Is atheism a reaction to Christianity? The answer, I think, is yes and now.

                  Logically, no, atheism stands alone before all religions, after all religions, in the middle of all religions. Atheism as a pure position could have been held by a 4 century BCE Babylonian as well as by Darksyde.

                  BUT, emotionally, I think Christianity has made a huge emotional impact on atheists -- at least it did on me. Christianity is one of the few religions where BELIEF and FAITH are the main things. Wheras other religions are content to tell how to live your life, Christianity sez you must BELIEVE Jesus is God's son, sent to save the earth etc., and you must believe by exerting your belief muscle.

                  Many atheists quickly realize that there is no belief muscle -- the only muscle for belief is shutting down rational thought, to stop asking questions, etc. We find this offensive, and quickly marshall our rational resources to attack this irrationality.

                  Atheism is also strongly supported by post-enlightenment philosophers and thinkers (Bertrand Russel) who specifically take Christianity to task, so, in recent history, and in much of th literature, the atheist position seems to be most strongly focussed against Christianity. Most atheists on the web spend time mocking Christianity, not Hinduism, etc.  

                  But to DISMISS atheism as reaction to Christianity? That's pretty lame, I completely agree. About as lame as saying it takes active faith to disbelieve the flying spaghetti monster.

                  •  i'm an atheist (4.00)
                    and my parents raised me Hindu, a reasonably accepting religion. I think discussing atheism as a reactionary ism is misleading. I didn't go atheist as a revolt against my parents' belief system (although they took it that way at first... and okay, I do criticize Hinduism as much as Christianity). I just noticed from a really young age that, although there are plenty of lessons that one can learn from religious texts, believing in god's existance didn't make sense to me. Years later, it makes even less sense. Sure, there were people in middle school and high school who ridiculed me for being an atheist (and a few who took it upon themselves to try and convert me to Christianity because it was their duty to save the heathens). But being an atheist, for me, came way before that - not a rebellious tendency egged on by a disgust in god's rigid rules. Atheists have emerged in all cultures all throughout history. So much of what we learn here in the US is so western-centric and judeo-christian centric. Bertrand Russell, for example - brilliant guy, but within the context of Western Enlightenment and the battle of the rationalists versus old religion. So perhaps that's why it seems like atheism is a reactionary approach to Christianity. But, you know, well, I've said a bunch there not necessarily in disagreement with what you've said. More like my thoughts as derived from your thoughts.
                    •  Really ... (4.00)
                      Your thirty-three million times the atheist I am. I only have one measly podunk deity not to believe in. You've got the whole enchilada.
                    •  Well (2.00)
                      At least one can tell the truth. Atheism is against certain Christian beliefs, maybe it's time to update it for the 21st century. If it can be done with Deism, it can be done with atheism, Christianity, Islam, etc.

                      Too bad sacred texts are taken too seriously. I think Native Americans had a good thing going with their oral tradition.

                      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:26:12 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Teflon soul? (4.00)
                      I grew up Christian instead of Hindu like Nalin but I think he's coming from pretty much the same place.  I went to church, Sunday school, read the Bible, talked about it, but it just never stuck, even from an early age.  It seemed very important to the people around me, but I just never got it.

                      I was an obsessive reader growing up, maybe that had something to do with it.  I was reading so many books and stories at any given time that all the church stuff just seemed like one other story in the  big mass of them.

                      I never had a crisis of faith or a moment of epiphany, I just simply never believed.  I've actually mellowed out a bit and am drifting a little closer to agnosticism, but even so I just don't get religion.  And I do think it's important to distinguish between spirituality and religion without going into mushy, feel-good New Age territory.

                      Or maybe as I'm starting to think about having kids (I'm 34 now), I like the idea of something big out there taking care of whatever potential children I may have lurking around whereever.  I do have to admit, though, I'm a bit less than pleased with His or Her vigilance thus far.

                      •  born skeptical (4.00)
                        I was raised Catholic, Mass every Sunday, 3 aunts are nuns, one uncle is  priest, and I just never bought it.

                        I am very grateful to the Catholic church for teaching me how to read - the repetition of the service allowed me to figure out which of those groups of letters on the page stood for which words.

                        But I remember getting pissed off when our CCD teacher taught us about Genesis. I knew the score - women had babies, there was no way in hell that a man was the first human being. I resented the built in inferiority that the Bible assigned to women, and I refused to believe that the Bible was the word of God.

                        I stopped believing in God when he never answered any of my prayers. Other people seemed to get answers, but no matter how shitty my life was, I never felt like anyone was listening when I prayed.

                        I found my life improved dramatically after I stopped believing in God, because that was when I started taking responsibility for myself.

                      •  Teflon, too (4.00)
                        L Boom just nailed my position cold.  I think I'm his/her 25 year old equivalent.  I've had exactly the same experience with religion/belief.  I even go to church once in a while just to validate the fact that i really can't buy into the whole total faith thing.  It really does require shutting down the whole rationality part of the brain, which is tremendously uncomfortable for me.

                        Though, having been trained, so to speak, in the Christian tradition (first Catholic, then Episcopalian), I will be the first to admit that the ideas and concepts put forth by Jesus in the Bible do, for the most part, provide a good road map for being a good person, and a good, if challenging moral framework to follow.  My problem is that most true believers get so wrapped up in the belief itself that they ignore or forget to really follow the teachings of the very god they believe in!

                    •  Atheism without Christianity (none)
                      Thanks for your reply Nalin. You are absolutely correct that atheists can come from any background, and I didn't mean to imply that only former Christians can become atheists... I just meant that a certain brand of atheism obviously has a strong emotional attachment to X-ianity. There are some atheists who really savor kicking the crap of Christianity. I used to belong to it -- heck, I'm not really sure how far away from it I am -- but part of it is a natural response to growing up Christian and having belief crammed down your throat.

                      Posting on this blog has made me realize that this "brand" is actually a pretty minor part of the entire atheist universe. I was surprised to learn about people who were atheists since they were children and raised without going to church. My thought was, "how could you become atheist without a religion to rebel against?" From my limitted POV, people without religious upbringing didn't think about God or the nature of existence, so I figured they'd just default to don't-care-agnosticism.

                      But it looks like I was wrong about that and many things, and I'm grateful to have learned that.

                      •  It's nice to think about the nature of existence (none)
                        without the clutter of a magical belief system to get in the way.

                        From the outside, as one born and raised an atheist, to me religion looks largely like a response to awareness of our own mortality and to the need for community.  Emotional acceptance of the inevitability of one's own death can lead to fulsome curiosity, amusement, compassion, love and risks taken to gain knowledge and competence. Taking joy in fostering the well being of all who share our short span on this beautiful planet leads to a whole 'nother way of living.

                        We all have the fullness of human possibility, including the ability to outgrow fear and loathing and grow toward a more interesting and satisfying way of living.  Some religions seem to be better than others at guiding people toward this awareness.  I don't think they are necessary however.  What is necessary is a shared community with shared ethics.

                    •  God wars (4.00)
                      the quick anecdote about your Hindu upbringing got me thinking.... if all one needs to create a reality in which omniscient/omnipresent/omnipotent forces exist in this world, which to some degree or another control human action and the course of all the life in the universe... how do we deal with the notion that ALL gods exist???  To explain: person 1 believes in the Methodist Protestant God, thus He exists; person 2 believes in the Hindu gods, thus they exist; person 3 believes in the Sunni interpretation of Islam, thus his version of Allah exists; person 4 believes in ancestor worship, thus his spirit ancestors exist; person 5 believes in the Dominican Catholic God, thus He exists; person 6 worships a vampire demon, thus the vampire demon exists; person 7 worships the flying spaghetti monster, thus the flying spaghetti monster exists... and so on.  Now, if all one needs to assert a reality in which a god, gods, or ANY god(s) exist is the mere belief that they do, with no empirically testable evidence to back up that belief, then mustn't ALL gods exist?  It's just as logical to assume that someone's Methodist Protestant God exists as it is to assume Zeus exists, given that there is no stronger proof of one's existence and not the other's.  And if all gods exist, can they really be gods?  How do they share power?  Do they only have power over certain people who worship them?  Where do they all live?  Do they share the same spiritual dimension?  If Zeus wants to start a tornado over Topeka but Vishnu doesn't think it's a good idea, who wins out?  Do they talk to each other?  Who does Jesus hang out with?  How do Zoroastrians fit in here, and what about Buddha?  If Buddha is also known St Jehosephat, what kind of relationship does he have with the Christian gods?  If not a lot of people worship your god, does your god have less power than gods worshipped by lots of people?  Do they time-share control over the universe?  Or maybe they have a seniority system based on age?  How are we supposed to know whose God is responsible for what?  Like, if the Red Sox win the World Series, how are we to know that's the Jesuit Catholic God's work, or whether it's not just the Reform Judaism God working some miracles because it's his favorite baseball team?  If all the Red Sox are Catholic and they pray to their Catholic God for a win, what if another god gives them the win?  If a god other than the one you worship treats you better than the one you do worship, how will you know?  Do gods get angry at each other?  If Native American spirit gods exist do they actually look like animals?  If so, do they talk to the other gods or do they live somewhere else?

                      If I had a nickel for every president who lied the country into war.... Oh, wait....

                      by deep6 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:01:29 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Have you read 'American Gods' (none)
                        by Neil Gaiman? He explores this... sorta. I didn't really enjoy the book although it had good bits (particularly this section somewhere in the middle written by his character Mr. Ibis about voodoo/voudon and its roots). But it explores this line of thinking - basically how gods are 'believed' into existence and there are all these gods from all over the world who came to the US with its immigrants and are now more confused than ever. That's a rather reductive summation, but it will have to do for now. Like the DaVinci Code, I liked the concept, but I didn't really like the storytelling.
                        •  haven't read it (none)
                          but I'll check amazon.  Right now I'm finishing the monstrous 4-book high fantasy series, "Song of Ice and Fire" by George RR Martin, and am on the last book.  It's fantastic, with definite religious undertones, but religion is far from the main theme of the book.  If you at all like sci-fi modeled on somewhat medieval notions of feudalism, war, social values and hierarchy, this book is fabulous.  It's also not archetypal but is very much character driven.  Good guys die, bad guys win.  Refreshing.  It'll be hard to top that read, but if the Gaiman book seems any good, I might get it used.  I think one of the major reasons why I'm an atheist is because I read so much, particularly sci-fi.  I used to love roman mythology too.  I could never figure out why Jupiter, Juno, Diana, Bacchus and all the rest of the gods of mythology were fake, but somehow this protestant God and his son were somehow real....

                          If I had a nickel for every president who lied the country into war.... Oh, wait....

                          by deep6 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:55:38 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  stories (none)
                            Hindu mythology has a lot of parallels to Greco-Roman mythology and it is still a living religion. It's the third largest religion in fact, yet we learn very little about it in the US (or possibly in most other western countries, I don't know). Raised as a Hindu, I was taught a lot of the mythology and am still given 'lessons' over the phone from my mom who thinks I might drop the atheism thing if I hear just one more story. I listen because I actually find them and their lessons to be usually entertaining if not interesting or useful. I am not being patronizing about them. I am not calling them 'fairy tales' as someone on pastordan's thread called them. I think there's something that can be learned from any world religion. I find that the greatest truths are in the stories and the emotions they evoke. I read a lot as well - sometimes sci-fi but not usually - and I strongly believe that our capacity for abstract thought enables us to create the truth in our stories, our music, our art.
                          •  lessons from stories (none)
                            I take lessons from mythology as well.  I didn't realize there was a Hindu mythology that parallels greco-roman mythology.  You get a '4' for teaching me something new.  I'll have to check that out.  Mostly, I've found mythology very allegorical and simplistic but sometimes I like that, for the same reasons I like science fiction, because it allows me to look at society or even my own tendencies or prejudices and examine my own behavior.  Have you compared greco-roman mythology to Norse mythology?  Or any East Asian mythologies?  If you can't tell already, I think mythology is absolutely amazing.  

                            If I had a nickel for every president who lied the country into war.... Oh, wait....

                            by deep6 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:35:32 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  FYI, Bertrand Russell (4.00)
                      considered himself an agnostic.
                      •  I was unaware (none)
                        In a Religious Philosophy class I took in college, Russell was presented as an atheist. In reading any of Russell's essays, I assumed that was true because I had not read otherwise. However, I just read some essays and snippets of essays by him online. Whoops. I was wrong. You are right. Thanks for the clarification!
                        •  No problem (none)
                          Very often the difference between the two is academic. Although he was technically an agnostic, he was effectivly an atheist.

                          I suppose it could be more accurate to say he was an agnostic atheist, as agnostic's can fall anywhere along the theist-atheist spectrum.

                          •  grey (none)
                            Thanks for the insight. Yes that makes sense. Very rarely is something either black or white.

                            On a side note, I just remembered something my mom told me once about atheism and its terms in Hindi, or probably more likely Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. Astik (theist) and Nastik (atheist) are the terms for believers and non-believers. I failed in finding an etymological root for 'agnostic' that relates back to those Sanskrit words. But still... interesting? Anyway...

                •  Lazy (1.33)
                  Why don't atheists try to provide evidence that Deity does exist? If none exist, so be it. However, why dump it onto others? Atheists want religion to be peer reviewed (good idea) however they don't want to support it since they may have to "prove" the existence of Deity.

                  If an atheist can exist without hearing about Christianity, why assume most beleivers in deities are Christian and base all your arguements on that?

                  A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                  by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:23:11 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Excuse me, maybe I'm just thick,... (none)
                     but I haven't the foggiest notion of what point it is, you're trying to make.

                    "We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them." Abigail Adams 1764

                    by greeseyparrot on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 04:34:21 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  God isn't the baseline! (3.94)
                    This God centrism only shows that religion infects our perceptions of reality so thoroughly that atheists are forced to engage in discussions where God is the assumed default and we must argue away from their faith.

                    Atheist don't need to prove anything. God only concerns me because his beleivers spend a lot of time doing stupid things that rational people wouldn't do. Atheism is not a faith that God doesn't exist. Atheism means being indifferent to an entity that's never been seen, touched, heard, photographed, etc.

                    As for true, academic peer review, this atheist has no idea how that's possible. Peer review requires a common set of facts upon which new knowledge can built. What would be the point of trying to apply academic standards to a faith? Should we peer review psychics or UFO-ologists?

                    A non-standardized peer reviewing process has always existed for religions, without any input from atheists. The crusades, reformation, witch trials, holocaust and the "troubles" are just a few examples.

                    Atheism does not oppose deism. That implies an order of events - that atheism exists in response to religion. Yet, atheism is defined by religion. There is a big difference.

                    Of course, even the word "Atheist" is unfair. Same goes for "non-believer" Our language itself impairs one's ability to not frame atheism as the "not" position.

                    I see nature as it is and make no leaps to explain the yet unexplainable. A bit of curiosity inspires and motivates me. Nothing satisfies me more than solving a mystery. I want to improve my life and my world by applying knowledge gained through observing the reality of life.

                    The fact that others believe in a God doesn't impair my ability to observe the nature of matter and enegry - I'm not living a "not" life. Yet, an assumption of a God so skews thinking that the totality of our observations and knowledge is often not judged by what it explains, but by what it cannot.

                    Atheist fight for a secular society because we prefer that morality, ethics and law are based on real-world experiences and knowledge, and not a synthetic dogma of any kind.

                    The claim that an atheist/secular society has rejected God is only valid to the extent that a religous society has rejected reality.

                    •  "Realists," then (none)
                      Those of us not in the God camp choose to deal only with what can be proven to exist.

                      Rubus Eradicandus Est.

                      by Randomfactor on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:18:51 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  atheists have a lot to prove (1.00)
                      including why we should only believe in what can be scientifically shown, that scientific proof and knowledge is possible at all etc etc.

                      all primitive societies believe in the supernatural so naturalism/atheism clearly needs a defense - it's not a common sense position.

                      GOP: 17th century values, 21st century marketing.

                      by Joe B on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:29:11 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  No defense needed. (4.00)
                        all primitive societies believe in the supernatural

                        Are you an anthropologist?  Can you provide some evidence of this assertion?  I'll give you that most primitive societies may have believed in something larger than themselves that controlled the world.. but all of them?  Tough assertion.

                        Secondly, invoking the beliefs of tribal cultures that they lived on the back of a giant turtle, or that some supernatural being vomited up the universe, or that each species of animal had a powerful deistic representative, seems like an odd argument that deism is a "common sense position".

                        Thirdly, what all primitive societies did have in common was a lack of perspective.  For instance, none of them knew that the earth was round, or that it revolves around the sun, or that there are millions of other suns similar to it that we call "stars".  None of them knew that the movement of air can generate electricity and cause lighting strikes.  None of them knew that they are made up of cells, and that they breathe oxygen.  None of them knew about bacteria, or viruses, or that all things are made up of atoms which in turn make up elements, which in turn make up everything.  Provided with none of this knowledge that everyone in a modern society now takes for granted, it is understandable that primitive peoples may have anthropomorphised natural occurrences and attributed them to giants, or dieties, or magic, or whatever.  What's your excuse?

                        Atheism doesn't need a defense because it can't provide a defense.  You cannot defend against unsupported assertions.

                        You: There is a Flying Spaghetti Monster!
                        Me:  No there isn't.
                        You: Yes there is!  Prove there isn't!
                        Me:  I can't.
                        You: See!  Then there must be one!  It's only common sense!
                        Me:  <sigh>

                        •  It's always been a case of the God of the Gaps.. (none)
                          .. and now the gaps are closing. It must be suffocating to be religious. You used to be able to see God in storms, trees, the flight of swallows, a rainbow, the entrails of a lamb.  Now they are reduced to seeing the image of Jesus in a chicken burrito. Please.
                          You are robots who are programmed not to know that you are robots. You have allowed yourself to become infected with a virulent meme. That's the harsh truth. No big deal really.. you will probably live a good honest, decent life. There is more to life than  belief. Judge people by their actions, not their words. But please don't pretend that God is any more real than Thor, Apollo or Vishnu.

                          The definition of an idiot is someone who's always absolutely sure that they are right.

                          by The little blogger that could on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:39:04 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                      •  You're dodging (4.00)
                        Way to lure the argument somewhere else.

                        1. Yes, atheists have a lot to prove, but not vis-a-vis their atheism.  Those who rely heavily on logic/evidence do have to justify a faith in logical/knowledge systems, but that makes them no different than theists, who also rely on these systems for the majority of their own thought processes. In other words, the basic claim that atheists do not have to prove the non-existence of God is not challenged by your argument.

                        2. "All primitive societies believed in the supernatural so naturalism/atheism clearly needs a defense" is a combination of argumentum ad populum and equivocation.  I'd also focus hard on your use of "societies" - the idea that belief systems spring from community, not from the natural state of things, which is still non-belief.  Belief has to develop from somewhere.

                        Consider it this way: a child growing up in purely atheistic surroundings does not question his/her parents on this aspect of their belief systems, because un-belief is not a belief system.  Only when exposed to outsiders would that child even come to a concept of "deity" to evaluate critically.  

                        Now, another child is raised without knowledge of the sun (let's say this child is somehow raised indoors).  That child has no have a concept of the sun, and cannot understand why other children do.  But this child does not have to defend that non-belief: the fact that the rest of the world believes in the sun is not a factor - the only thing that can effectively sway the child's opinions (or lack thereof) is evidence of a sun.  That this second child is "wrong" will come out with the evidence.

                        The point: in both cases, the child has nothing to prove (in terms of his/her non-belief).  Atheists are correct in saying that they do not have to defend their atheism.  

                        Defending logic/knowledge... that's a horse of a different color.

                •  atheism requires faith (none)
                  since it's built on some presuppositions, like the one that we 1. should only believe in what we have clear evidence for, that 2. there is anything like "clear evidence" at all and that 3. knowledge is possible for animals that have evolved soledly thorugh evolution (a more reasonable darwinian thesis would be that our reason tells us whatever helps us survive and that knowledge is impossible, including knowledge about evolution).

                  It requires a lot more than this, but just to give you a taste of what atheism is built on...  

                  atheism is dogmatism.

                  GOP: 17th century values, 21st century marketing.

                  by Joe B on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:24:13 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  No (3.66)
                    Atheism is not dogmatism.  There are no laws, and no dogmas.  Ahteism is a form of belief.  Otherwise it's agnosticism, which all atheists, including myself, are.  I would have no difficulty dclaring myself an agnostic.  T.H. Huxley coined the term to explain the physical naturalism that was convincing many 19th century scientists of the very same realities we're debating now.  I choose to call myself an atheist because my feeling on the subject goes beyond ambivalence, and having been raised in a very secular and non-religious household I'v always felt there was a value to strong statements.  I believe that there is no god.  There has never been an argument, philisophical, scientific, or simply moral, that has led me to waiver in my belief at all, and I havce attemped to challenge it at every turn.  There is, in comparison, hundreds of years, (including a very eventful 20th century), of scientific, anthropologic, socio-political, and historical research that continues to fuel my belief.  To fuel it, not to prop it up.  This same research has challenged and reformed my beliefs many times, and will continue to do so as long as I care to continue learning.  Because there is no dogmatism to atheism.  There is no unifying principle.  There will no Atheist war, and Atheism will not be used as an excuse for slavery, oppression, or mass-murder.  
                    Just to cut off the argument, godlessness is not Atheism, either, so communist states don't count.  
                  •  Reality (none)
                    This is such a bizarre argument: atheists "argue" that "we should only believe in what we have clear evidence for."  Atheists believe in reality.  Deists believe that reality is a lie.

                    Atheists believe that we can understand the world around us, and understand it by observing it, interacting with it, studying it, testing it.  I can figure out why I am breathing oxygen right now, because I can learn about chemical reactions, photosynthesis, geologic evidence of a pre-oxygenated earth, etc.  I believe that what I can touch, taste, see, hear, and smell with my senses is real, and that I can understand its nature and, with study and observation over time, how it came to be around me.  

                    I feel a connection to and commonality with the elements of my world.  As I sat in the park at lunch, absorbing the Indian summer rays, I smiled at a squirrel sprawled on a brick pathway, doing the same.  That squirrel and I, these molecules and I, we're alive, and we share the common imperatives of life, the drives to survive, to procreate, to create a community, to look after children, etc.  We're spinning around on the same planet, sharing a common experience of seasons, sharing life and death and loss.  And as I watch the leaves fall to carpet the ground, to begin to give their nutrients back to the earth, so that a new patch of grass or other life can be nurtured, I get tremendous comfort from the provable, observable, reality that we are all part of a cycle of life, all life shares certain common experiences and goals, and it will all continue long beyond my time.

                    Deism requires that we deny reality.  That we believe our senses and our reason lie.  That we believe that the world around us is a set, and that an entirely "other" world is going on "behind the scenes," as it were.  That this is all a collective delusion, a play, a "matrix" that we are killing time in, while the real world of gods and magic play out in a dimension we cannot sense or comprehend, in a world of anti-reality.  That we can never really know anything, never understand ourselves or the world around us, because our senses and our reason lie, because there is no such thing as "reality."

                    That is shockingly disturbing to me.  And, frankly, it's totally nuts.  There's no way to argue against it.  People who don't accept that reality is, actually, real, can't ever be persuaded to entertain rational discourse on the issue.

                    Can money pay for all the days I lived awake/ But half asleep?

                    by milton333 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:41:51 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  (Super)string theory... (none)
                      ...posits that there are 11 dimensions, 7 of which, of course, we cannot perceive because they're all teeny and rolled up.  So there are ways to acknowledge that our perceptions are limited without having to resort to a deity.  I think that kinda shit's real cool.  If there are unseen dimensions, let's inquire about them with reason.
                      •  Actually Brane theory says that.. (none)
                        We are living on a 4-dimensional "brane" (from membrane) that is bouncing around in a 11-dimensional universe. Sort of like a 2-dimensional sheet of paper bouncing around in a 3-dimensional box. And the big bang happenend when our brane hit another 4-dimensional brane... hence the release of a great deal of energy. cool shit.

                        The definition of an idiot is someone who's always absolutely sure that they are right.

                        by The little blogger that could on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:45:49 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

            •  what issue? (none)
              when there's no plausible evidence of there even being an issue to begin with, how can we [agnostics] be said to have "given up"? to me, it's literally a non-issue until I'm presented with any evidence stating otherwise.

              but to each their own, I suppose. I always figured it was the theists that were giving up when they place so much belief so far outside of their own selves and into some fairy tale. seems awfully sad to me.

              •  So you're agnostic about Santa Claus? (4.00)
                No one demands a logical proof to disbelieve in Santa Claus or fairies; only for God is there such an extreme requirement.  That wouldn't be the case if not for the social forces discussed in the diary.
                •  To rule out Santa Claus (none)
                  you need to have a theory of knowledge, an ethical belief about what to believe and on what grounds, and a theory of Santa Claus.

                  What's your theory of God and how do you defend it? Don't think that you can escape without providing a positive theory, atheism requires a lot of beliefs.

                  GOP: 17th century values, 21st century marketing.

                  by Joe B on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:34:57 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  How can you evade an issue that isn't an issue? (4.00)
              If you're agnostic, then what is there to evade? Why does one have to either believe or disbelieve? Isn't "I don't know" good enough?

              If I were forced to choose, then I'd have to call myself an atheist, but I'm not forced to choose. There are a LOT of things that man doesn't know or understand, so why should the existance of a higher being be any different?

              My opinion of the atheist faith is that they don't recognize this or they would probably agree. I spent a few years studying physics, and though I never learned anything that would suggest the existance of a higher being, I didn't learn anything disproving it either. What I did learn, however, is to not close my mind to that which can't be disproved.

              Even though I'd be an atheist if I had to choose, I still wouldn't be shocked to learn that there is a God. But an atheist can't say that without compromising his or her integrity. The day that I can prove that there is or is not a higher being will be the day that I change my position. This is the only sound position that doesn't require faith, since neither an atheist nor a christian can provide me with sound proof that they're right, unless, of course, I just haven't heard from them yet.

              Democrats -- Progress for the Working Class

              by rogun on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:27:37 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Agnosticism is for wafflers (3.40)
                We don't have enough information to prove that there is not a reindeer colony on Alpha Centauri.

                But no one believes in that, or says, "I'm agnostic about the reindeer colony because I just can't be sure."

                Atheism is, for me, the practice of rational thought in an often arbitrary and unfair world. Agnosticism is just ignoring the reality of our situation, either to pacify theists, or to cling to a vanishingly remote hope.

                And you know who's the worst agnostic? Donald Rumsfeld, who said, "the absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" to justify the Bush administration's failure to find WMD.

                "Animals are my friends--and I don't eat my friends." (G.B. Shaw) Click to read the 'Union'

                by Hudson on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:37:44 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Wafflers? (4.00)
                  Uh, no.

                  I'm agnostic because I really don't give a shit.  The question of the existence or non-existence of a diety just isn't important to me, certainly not enough to spend a lot of time pondering the issue. Now the societal issue of how religious intolerance warps society is different.  But that's not a a theological issue.

                  So why did I read this diary?  Because I enjoyed DarkSyde's Santa story -- just like I enjoy learning about the development of different belief systems, whether religious or political.

                  Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? - Ian Frazier, Lamentations of the Father

                  by Frankenoid on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:14:01 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Wrong (4.00)
                  I'm agnostic about the reindeer colony because I just can't be sure.
                •  Agnostic means... (4.00)
                  not knowing.  Agnostics are the realists because they admit that they do not know what cannot be shown by evidense or proof.  It is the least lazt approach.
                  •  I repeat: agnosticism is a dodge (3.50)
                    If agnosticism means staying neutral on anything that can't be definitively known, then agnostics might as well just sign up with the Intelligent Design crowd now. You're saying, "I have to lend credence to a ridiculously remote possibility even though I have zero evidence supporting it."

                    As a practical matter, there are an infinite number of "unknowable" questions. Yet in every other aspect of agnostics' lives besides religion, they pay no equivalent respect to absurdly unlikely fantasies.

                    To maintain the fiction that "I'm staying neutral because I don't know" is to pretend that you are not a rational actor who makes decisions every day based on far less information than 100% certainty.

                    For example, you don't know for a fact whether you will be hit by a truck crossing the street today. But you cross the street anyway, day after day (preferably, taking care to look both ways). You don't stand at the corner debating whether to cross because you are not certain you'll make it.

                    Functionally, agnostics are either atheists in denail, or they are doubting theists who can't bear to acknowledge what they know is true.

                    "Animals are my friends--and I don't eat my friends." (G.B. Shaw) Click to read the 'Union'

                    by Hudson on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:22:04 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Perfect (none)
                      I am an atheist because I believe there is no god.  I can't be sure.  There might be a god, but I think there probably isn't.

                      There is no way to prove or disprove Gods existence, so it is irrelevant.

                    •  If you're speaking for yourself (none)
                      As in, your own beliefs, I'll accept what you had to say.

                      However, if you're pretending to state what I believe as an atheist or an agnostic ...

                      Then you're full of shit.

                      In God we trust. All others must pay cash.

                      by yet another liberal on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:22:38 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  What is knowing? Tell us mr. Know all (2.50)
                      You seem like a real dogmatist - but why don't you make a career in philosophy since you have it all figured out? You can write one book on the topic of truth, one on epistemology and one on the nature of God (that you apparently know is "a ridiculously remote possibility") - you would become a star, I promise. Plato couldn't do it, Kant couldn't do it, Russel couldn't do it...

                      but Hudson could! Hurrah!

                      GOP: 17th century values, 21st century marketing.

                      by Joe B on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:41:33 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  I'm not dodging anything (4.00)
                      As a practical matter, there are an infinite number of "unknowable" questions. Yet in every other aspect of agnostics' lives besides religion, they pay no equivalent respect to absurdly unlikely fantasies.

                      To maintain the fiction that "I'm staying neutral because I don't know" is to pretend that you are not a rational actor who makes decisions every day based on far less information than 100% certainty.

                      In fact, I do make decisions every day based on less than 100% certainty. We all do, because it's not possible to always be 100% certain on everything. The difference between between you and me is that you deny that many of your well-reasoned opinions are not sound facts and this could be the fault in the atheist mindset.

                      I can be sure that there is no reindeer colony on Alpha Centauri because it's not a hospitable climate for reindeer. All quantitative and qualitative data would support this conclusion. But what data do I have to work with on higher beings? None!

                      Probability theory is used each day to analyze just about anything there is to analyze and many of the resulting conclusions from these analysis' are applied to common everyday tasks, such as how to advertise to people. Are people who use probability theory irrational actors?

                      When I turn on my headlights at night, I do so because I believe that I will have less accidents with my headlights turned on, but I have no way of knowing with 100% certainty that this is true. My headlights might blind an oncoming driver, who in turn could hit me head-on. There's probably collected data on this, but it doesn't apply to my circumstances in particular and so I have to use my best judgement, which should include any collected evidence on the matter.

                      As an example, the lighting in my neighborhood may be such that it's far more dangerous than the norm or it could be that my neighbors are all more sensitive to light than other people and see better in the dark. The point is that I'm not 100% sure because it's nearly impossible to consider every factor in play in a living system outside of a laboratory. Scientists spend much of their time making very thorough guesses, which engineers and other people like to call facts.

                      Something that has long agitated me about people is that they tend to place too much value in their collective opinions and seem to think that they're much smarter than the reality. People believe they have the ability to understand all there is to know, and that may be true one day, but it's not true in the present.

                      Finally, this is not the same reasoning used by those who advocate "intelligent design". ID is not science or it would be dismissed because it doesn't follow the scientific method properly. The attempt by ID proponents to classify ID as a scientific theory just doesn't work.

                      Democrats -- Progress for the Working Class

                      by rogun on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:21:15 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  You don't know... (2.80)
                        Nice try, but you don't know that there aren't genetically modified, quasi-robotic space reindeer who have adapted over millenia to the environment of the invisible moons of Alpha Centauri.

                        So as an agnostic, I guess you have to live with that absurdity, which is no less ridiculous than agnosticism as it has been posited here by the wafflers.

                        "Animals are my friends--and I don't eat my friends." (G.B. Shaw) Click to read the 'Union'

                        by Hudson on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:06:42 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I don't have to... (none)
                          I don't have to live with that absurdity, because it is simply irrelevant.  Cute thought, slightly humorous, but irrelevant.  The existence of said "reindeer" has had to this date, absolutely no impact on my life whatsoever.

                          Much like whatever diety you profess to believe in.

                          Insofar as you brought up the subject, it is therefore in your court, if you want me to accept that they (reindeer or diety) exist, to give me some evidence.

                        •  Wrong again (none)
                          If they've been genetically modified, or are "quasi-robotic space reindeer", then they likely no longer belong to the tarandus species.

                          But we're going in a circle here, because ultimately you are right that I can never be certain of anything. I may very well be a copper-top, like in the movie The Matrix, and have had my perception of reality altered to the point that reality is nothing like I imagine it to be. I may be devoid of an important and undiscovered sense that would change my perception of nature. At some point you have to draw a line and it's the location of that line that we're actually debating.

                          My view is that I can predict with reasonable certainty that there are no reindeer on Alpha Centauri, because all of the empirical data supports this conclusion. The problem with applying the same method to a higher being is that we don't know what to look for. Arguing that you can't prove a negative is a convincing and worthy argument, but it doesn't offer proof that a higher being does not exist. At the same time, it doesn't offer proof that Santa hasn't evaded us at the North Pole all these years either.

                          Democrats -- Progress for the Working Class

                          by rogun on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:58:50 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                    •  Agnosticism doesn't mean that. (none)
                      It only means admitting you don't know.  Doesn't mean you have to stay neutral on everything.  (Which is impossible anyway; if you're sitting here then you can't be sitting over there.)

                      I am not absolutely convined that if I don't pee, my bladder will explode.  Maybe it won't.  Maybe I can go 14 days without peeing.  But I don't wanna.  I'm going to erase neutrality and choose pee, even though I don't know for sure what will happen if I don't.  Yet I can still admit that I don't know for sure.

                      I'm agnostic.  I'd probably pick 'atheist' if forced.  But here's why I stick with "agnostic":

                      1. I have no acceptable definition of "I," "believe," or "God" anyway.  If I said "I believe in God," or, "I don't believe in God," I'm not entirely sure what the hell I would be talking about.  Try to clearly define any of those words without getting into some sort of relativistic trouble.

                      2. I have said before, "there is NO WAY the Phillies are going to come back and win this game.  We are up 10-0 in the 7th!"  And the Phillies have come back and won.  Experience breeds caution about being TOO sure about anything.
                    •  Evolution has numerous proofs (none)
                      and intelligent design has none.  Being an agnostic does not mean that one does not select based upon whtever critetria is relevent to you.

                      It is not neutraility.  It is belief based upon epistimology, logic and proof.  Your reply merely suggests that you have not examined the philosophical roots of knowing or not knowing.  It is certainly not an evasion or neutrality as you suggest.  You really need to read more and be open to ideas that are beyond your horizon.

                      Mysticism cannot be discounted simply because one wishes to deny its possiblity, especially in light of growing evidense of the mystical.

            •  Infinity and Eternity (none)
              When you can define how this is possible let me know.  Pretty clear to me how we do not have enough information!
            •  Evade what issue? (4.00)
              Whether or not there is a god?
              It's not an issue.
              We don't know.
              That's what agnosticism means.
              I don't freakin' know.
              And neither do you.
              Out of an infinite number of possibilities
              god, no god,
              are only 2
              my surmise would be that the answer is
              beyond our imaginings
              Unknowable.
              From where we sit.
              I'll admit it
              that's the honesty of agnosticism.
              as for given up, that's absurd.
              There's no end of things to learn about this world
              and this universe.
              I believe in the Big Bang
              That's as mystical and magical as anything any
              fool shaman
              ever dreamt!
        •  nope (4.00)
          another flavor of atheism you're missing, which is NOT agnosticism, who answers: "I don't see any evidence, so I'll act as if there isn't one. But if you have anything new for me to examine, I'll be happy to re-evaluate my answer." The agnostic says the question can't be answered. The atheist either says there isn't one or there isn't enough evidence to act on it. The latter atheist is simply shaving with Occam's razor.

          Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

          by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:45:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  LOL (2.00)
            the atheist denies the existence of a god.

            stand up for your beliefs for once and just admit it.

            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:47:03 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Wrong again, Catamaran Cover! (4.00)
              I can't deny what isn't THERE. Look, for me, belief in one god is as silly, and as irrelevent, as belief in two gods, or ten, or a hundred. Do you deny the existence of Zeus? Or do you just not worry about it at all? That's how I feel about all the gods.

              Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

              by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:50:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  then fine (2.44)
                don't deny the existence of god.

                that's cool.

                "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:51:44 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I neither confirm nor deny (3.83)
                  what isn't there! Again, what's your position on Zeus? Notice you didn't respond!

                  Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                  by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:54:43 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  if you neither confirm nor deny (2.25)
                    all i'm saying is... in my opinion,.... that sounds like agnosticism.

                    there's nothing wrong with that.

                    "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                    by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:03:21 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Why won't you answer about Zeus? (none)
                      I asked you several times. Do you deny Zeus?

                      Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                      by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:10:02 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  if zues is an ephemeral entity (2.16)
                        that can't be tested either way by the scientific method... who knows???

                        i won't say he doesn't exist.

                        i have no proof.

                        "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                        by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:13:29 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Why did I have to ask you six times? (2.40)
                          Oh yeah... because you're a TROLL.

                          Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                          by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:14:30 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  hardly (2.60)
                            don't be a dick.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:16:13 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  we're debating philosophy here (2.53)
                            if you can't do so without troll rating people then i return the favor.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:19:41 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  hardly a philosophy debate (3.60)
                            Basically, you put forth extremely rigid definitions of belief systems and proceed to bash atheists using your incredibly ignorant presumptions.

                            Not only are your presumptions ignorant and incorrect, I hear utter contempt from you towards atheists.

                            In turn, this is utterly contrary to religous freedom.  Apparant God-believers such as yourself telling atheists what's wrong with them.

                            And the irony is this: You are guilty of exactly what you accuse atheists of ... having rigid definition of things and being SO sure of things.

                            But on top of that, your rigid views are also ignorant.

                            Its jerks like you and Tux above who attack us evidence based people and force us to defend our way of life.

                            Go be so damn sure of Santa Clause and God.  Get it out of my face.  It's a free country.  I know most religous people haven't figured that out yet.  So get out of my face with your stupid definitions and your idiotic contempt.

                            In God we trust. All others must pay cash.

                            by yet another liberal on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:01:41 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  I just wrote (none)
                          something similar, but this argument is strange, so I'll do it again.   Atheism is a strong believe that there is no god.  It's a statement that sets it apart from agnosticism.  In the end, it really is a form of agnosticism, which doesn;t at all deter from the strength of the argument.  Atheis aren;t any more "sure," than most agnostics (read Huxley's explanation of agnostic, he coined the term, and I would hardly say it "waffled"), we just have a stronger believe in what the evidence suggests.  The simplest answer is a universe without a deity.  The wise man knows nothing.  This isn't just platonic shit, it makes sense.  I don't claim to no for sure that god doesn't exist, but I believe very strongly that he doesn't.  Thus, I'm an atheist, not an agnostic.  I assume most other atheists have similar rationales.
                          •  You Can Be Agnostic AND Atheist (none)
                            Atheist deals w/ belief. Agnostic deals w/ knowledge.

                            There are two types of atheists, 1. The atheist who believes there are no god(s). 2. The atheist who has NO belief about god(s).

                            For the record, it's possible to be an agnostic theist. You can believe in god and yet realize there's no way to KNOW for sure whether or not god exists.

                            It seems you are an agnostic as well as a category 1 atheist. You don't think there's any way to ever know about gods existence one way or another (agnostic) but you believe there is no god anyway (Atheist of the first order).

                          •  Mmm.... (none)
                            Is atheism the belief that there is no God, or is it the disbelief in a God?

                            Must it be a strong belief in no God?  Why can't it simply be an unwillingness to believe what most people claim God to be?

                            Or is that agnosticism?

                          •  I see my question was answered below (none)
                            Atheism in fact denies the existence of a God.  That seems to be an emphatic position, rather than merely not accepting contemporary viewpoints of God and spirituality, or taking no position at all, both of which are actually expressions of agnosticism.

                            Interesting discussion.

                •  do you post anything here (3.20)
                  that isn't intended to annoy somebody?

                  crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

                  by wu ming on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:56:22 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Agreed. (3.28)
                    BiminiCat's comments are becoming, how shall I say?  Repetitive, refusing to engage the logic of others' arguments, insisting on the right to define all terms without explication.  "Marginal," perhaps?
                    •  wtf??? (2.50)
                      is so offensive about saying atheism requires faith????

                      why is that so offensive to people???

                      "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                      by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:04:18 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  It isn't offensive... (3.93)
                        it simply isn't true.
                        •  you know (2.35)
                          if you think atheism means that god doesn't exist because there's no proof, that's great.

                          but you're basing that conclusion on the fact there's no proof.

                          just like people who decide there is a god.

                          people who believe there is a god is basing their belief on the fact there is no proof.

                          more to the point.  for those who believe in god, ... IF there was proof... god would no longer exist.

                          i hope that's not too complex for you.

                          and stop making this a personal attack.

                          wierdo.

                          "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                          by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:11:11 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Troll nt (2.30)

                            Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                            by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:13:33 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You just keep doing it. (3.87)
                            "if you think atheism means that god doesn't exist because there's no proof, that's great."

                            That's not what most athiests think atheism means, it what you incorrectly think atheism means.

                            Most atheists, because there is no proof, don't believe in god which, as I've tried to explain, is significantly logically different from believing god does/doesn't exist.

                          •  in my opinion (2.00)
                            and if you disagree, that's fine.

                            but in my opinion....

                            that sounds like agnosticism.  not believing in a god because there's no proof either way is much different than denying the existence of a god.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:18:05 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I don't know anyone who DENIES it (2.33)
                            haven't you been reading this whole thread? Oh yeah, I forgot! <smacks head in disgust> You're a TROLL!

                            Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                            by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:21:53 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  and will you please stop (4.00)
                            calling Bimini a troll? While I agree that he can be a bit annoying at times...I think you know that he isn't a troll...
                          •  From the evidence of this thread (2.50)
                            Bimini is acting like a troll.  If you have outside evidence, I'd be delighted to see it.

                            Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                            by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:57:23 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  if I can't know God doesn't exist (none)
                            then I certainly can't know that BiminiCat isn't a troll.  But I'm as certain of both as I am that humans really have landed on the moon.

                            Posting "atheism is faith 'nuff said" which has NOTHING to do with the content of the diary is trolling, pure and simple.

                          •  I disagree (none)
                            Posting:

                            "Atheism requires faith.

                            Get your facts straight."

                            Now THAT would be pure and simple trolling.

                            I am ordinarily a fan of BiminiCat from way back, and I abhore the misuse of zeroes on his posts and on others, but I think BiminiCat is wrong here, because his definitions are not nearly broad enough to encompass all those who are absent belief in God (or those who conclude God more likely than not exists).

                            It doesn't require faith to believe in God. You could be a mathematician, or a biologist, or an astronomer, or a physicist (Einstein was a deist I believe) and conclude, based upon the evidence you are aware of, that the most parsimonious explanation for the existence of the universe, and of life itself, is the presence of a higher power. That is not faith. It's reason.

                            Likewise, you could be one of the same and conclude that there is no compelling, parsimonious explanation to be found by positing the existence of a higher power, and so you choose not to posit said existence. That, too, is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of reason.

                            Now, BiminiCat, tell me why I'm wrong.

                            And please get your facts straight.

                          •  he's trolling (none)
                            Because he persists in his petty point way out of proportion.

                            It was enough for him to make a fool himself once, twice, even a few times.

                            Instead, he's just completely littered the thread with this petty triteness.

                            On top of that, he claims he is just stating his opinion, but that is complete bullshit.

                            What he's doing, is he's telling everybody else what THEY believe.

                            Bimini needs to mind his own fucking business and worry about the plank in his own eye.

                            In God we trust. All others must pay cash.

                            by yet another liberal on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:59:10 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  here... atheism = denial. (2.25)
                            a·the·ism    ( P )  Pronunciation Key  (th-zm)
                            n.

                            Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
                            The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
                            Godlessness; immorality.

                            http://dictionary.reference.com/...

                            if you stop troll rating me in the midst of a philosophical conversation, i will change my ratings of you.

                            i think that's fair.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:27:26 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You just proved the point you're arguing against. (none)
                            "Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods."

                            Disbelief - weak atheism
                            Denial - strong atheism

                          •  ok (none)
                            i just think your idea of "weak atheism" is really just a warmed over version of agnosticism.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:33:42 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  And you're wrong - nt (none)
                          •  an agnostic (2.37)
                            doesn't believe in god because there is no proof either way.

                            an atheist doesn't believe in god because he or she claims to know for sure.

                            http://dictionary.reference.com/...

                            a·the·ism    ( P )  Pronunciation Key  (th-zm)
                            n.

                            Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
                            The doctrine that there is no God or gods.

                            it's the doctrine that knows for sure there isn't.

                            the definition is clear to me.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:36:08 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That's not what an agnostic is. (none)
                            Your definition of agnosticism is wrong.  Your definition of agnosticism is in fact the definition of weak atheism.

                            Obviously though you are unwilling to admit that, so further conversation on this subject is a waste of time.

                          •  we merely disagree (none)
                            on the definition then.

                            if you believe atheism is disbelief in something cause there's no proof, that's great.

                            but i really can't see how there's any difference between that and agnositicism.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:44:51 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  that isn't agnosticism either (none)
                            and that's why I think you're acting like a troll.  You've been given a definition over and over and you act like you never ever saw it.

                            Your definition is in error.

                            An agnostic doesn't have anything to do with belief or lack of belief... because an agnostic has decided the question CANNOT BE ANSWERED.  It's a statement of knowledge, not belief.

                            Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                            by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:59:31 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  my definition of the terms (none)
                            is from the dictionary.

                            i have posted those definitions.

                            i didn't know posting definitions out of the dictionary made me a troll.

                            if you want to change the ratings you gave me in a philosophical debate, i'll change yours.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:03:05 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  i changed the ratings anyway (none)
                            nothing great.  2s all around.

                            i just don't think you deserve troll ratings even though you can't handle disagreement without giving other people troll ratings.

                            i told my kid he had to take out the garbage.

                            he disagreed.

                            i said he did anyway.

                            he called me a troll.

                            i had to laugh.

                            take care.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:39:15 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I would argue that (none)
                            an agnostic does believe in the existence of God...but that they don't have the specifics of what that God is...and they wouldn't believe in a specific organized religion because their opinions about God are covered under a number of organized religions.
                          •  the defininition of agnosticism (none)
                            ag·nos·tic    ( P )  Pronunciation Key  (g-nstk)
                            n.

                            One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
                            One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
                            One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:45:52 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  the problem with the dictionary (3.55)
                             is that it was written by theists!

                            Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                            by madhaus on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:00:29 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  LOL (none)
                            ok.

                            you win.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:04:04 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Agnostic talking to a theist (none)
                            I don't know and neither do you.
                          •  What if I just don't care? (none)
                            I don't care if there is a god or not. Whether god exists or not I am going to live my life exactly the same way. And I have better things to do than wonder whether god exists. My religion is science :)
                          •  You could argue that, but (none)
                            You'd be incorrect, in my opinion, and I am an agnostic.

                            The word is derived from the Greek for "without knowing", and that's what I consider myself: a person who does not know.

                            The core of this position is that the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved. With apologies to all the philosophers over all the ages who have tried to prove the existence of God, there is no entirely logical way to do so. However, there is also no way to prove that God does not exist.

                            If I went by my gut feelings, rather than logic, I'd probably be an atheist, rather than a believer, but that is no more logically consistent than believing.

                            This is not a comforting position to be in, but it's the only honest one I can take.

                            -8.25,-8.36 As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? - William Marcy Tweed

                            by sidnora on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 06:34:24 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You could argue that, but (none)
                            You'd be incorrect, in my opinion, and I am an agnostic.

                            The word is derived from the Greek for "without knowing", and that's what I consider myself: a person who does not know.

                            The core of this position is that the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved. With apologies to all the philosophers over all the ages who have tried to prove the existence of God, there is no entirely logical way to do so. However, there is also no way to prove that God does not exist.

                            If I went by my gut feelings, rather than logic, I'd probably be an atheist, rather than a believer, but that is no more logically consistent than believing.

                            This is not a comforting position to be in, but it's the only honest one I can take.

                            -8.25,-8.36 As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? - William Marcy Tweed

                            by sidnora on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 06:34:55 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You can argue that, but (none)
                            You'd be incorrect. I'm an agnostic. I don't believe in God. I also don't not believe in God. I don't know(agnostic means "not knowing" in Greek).

                            Agnosticism is not a belief, it's a philosophical position: the existence of God cannot be logically proven; the non-existence of God cannot be logically proven. Both religion (or theism) and atheism are belief systems.

                            If I trusted myself to believe, I'd probably be an atheist, but I don't think it's possible for us to know, one way or another. This isn't "hedging my bets" - I'm not living my life any differently than I would if I believed one way or the other.

                            The belief you describe is usually called theism, I think.

                            And DarkSyde, you are awesome! Great, great diary; now I'm off to read Part 2.

                            -8.25,-8.36 As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? - William Marcy Tweed

                            by sidnora on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 07:17:49 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Sorry for the multiple posts! (none)
                            I think there was something strange going on with my online connection - sorry!!!!!!

                            -8.25,-8.36 As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? - William Marcy Tweed

                            by sidnora on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 07:20:45 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Dictionaries (none)
                            Biminicat,

                            You've shown yourself capable of using an online dictionary.  Now use it to look up the definition of the word "or".

                            Kafka

                            " Not all conservatives are stupid people, but most stupid people are conservatives." - John Stuart Mill

                            by Kafka on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:18:25 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Straw Man (none)
                            That's a definition imposed on atheists by theists.

                            Atheists have tried to claim other titles (e.g., "freethinkers") but the theistic world doesn't want us to define ourselves on our own terms.

                            Yours is tired a straw man argument.

                            "Animals are my friends--and I don't eat my friends." (G.B. Shaw) Click to read the 'Union'

                            by Hudson on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:25:30 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Agnosticism (4.00)
                            But that isn't what agnositicism is.

                            Agnostic: A person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.

                            Agnosticism is a statement about knowledge, not a statement about god.  In fact you can be an a theist agnostic (the existance of god is unknowable but I believe god exists), or an atheist agnostic (the existance of god is unknowable but I don't believe god exists).

                            What you have done is defined Agnosticism as Weak Atheism and Atheism as Strong Atheism, which is  a common mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

                          •  Wow! I got something out of this thread. (none)
                            I'm a Theist Agnostic.  Woo hoo!

                            Thank you Shadowstorm!!

                            Fitzmas is coming! Which boys and girls get vacations to the Gray Bar Hotel is anyone's guess!

                            by Heartcutter on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:18:09 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  How am I making this personal? (none)
                            Aren't you the one making it personal by implying that I'm too dim to follow your "complex" explanation?

                            But the important point is this...how do you know that my atheism stems from the fact that there's no proof that God exists? What if it doesn't? What if God did exist and there was proof and I was still an atheist?

                          •  "proof" (none)
                            can be defined as the repeated observation and rational surmise that something is impossible, in this case a supernatural god.

                            Faith is required for atheism?  Yes, faith in natural science.  In rationality.

                            Time after time, a rational, scientific explanation has been found for all the so-called "miracles" observed in the past.

                            Haven't we learned by now that if something exosts, then there is a rational scientific explanation?

                            "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -Albert Einstein

                            by Grodge on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:09:47 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  It isn't (none)
                            about there being "no proof,"  it's about there being "more evidence."
                      •  Saying it once (3.66)
                        is perfectly fine.  Discussing the definition a couple times is good.  But hammering on a single description of a way of thinking that the people who think that way are arguing is inaccurate to the point of being a straw man, being dismissive of their views rather than responsive to their reasoned arguments, that becomes irritating in an offensive way.  Not a simple "I disagree with you" way but a "you are insisting on your right to define me in a disrespectful way" way.
                        •  the point is (2.14)
                          without proof... if you make a conclusion...

                          that requires some faith.

                          and that's like a horrible thing or something.

                          go figure.

                          "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                          by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:12:19 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Defining faith down. (4.00)
                            So at this point, if I understand you correctly, your point is that anything I generally speaking believe to be true without absolute, beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt proof, is something I have "faith" in, so if I say that the evidence leaves me unconvinced that god exists, that is "faith" that god doesn't exist.  And if I say that because there is no credible evidence that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, I don't believe he did, then that too is something that I have faith in?  Faith then becomes a word used to describe anything you hold to be a reasonable conclusion?

                            You've been backed into a corner and you're just not willing to give up, even though the logical and rhetorical tools you have at your disposal are totally flimsy.

                          •  You have to have faith (none)
                            in human reason (based on Darwinian evolution, somehow grasping eternal truths must have a survival value), you have to have faith in current scientific theories, in naturalism as a doctrine, in your definition of "God", in a lot of hard questions about the origin of the universe and life etc etc.

                            I dare you to disprove the existence of God. How long have you been studying the topic?

                            GOP: 17th century values, 21st century marketing.

                            by Joe B on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:52:33 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Have you even read this thread? (none)
                            I'm going with "no" because if you had, you wouldn't be thinking that "disprove the existence of God" was going to be a challenge I'd find legitimate.
                          •  Empiricism and rationalism (none)
                            Having "faith" in empiricism and rationalism is not necessary.  I actually argued this point out ten years ago with a postmodernist.  The reason is rather subtle.

                            Every form of reasoning or belief system does, indeed, need some assumptions.  Assuming that basic propositional and predicate logic works; assuming that what we sense represents reality to some degree; assuming "uniformity", the idea that there are rules governing the universe and that they do not randomly change.

                            These are the assumptions used in empiricism and rationalism.  What distinguishes them from other assumptions -- what makes them privileged?

                            The answer is that these assumptions are unavoidable.  You use them every day even if you deny them.  You get out of bed in the morning -- do you think "Huh, I wonder whether my leg will move when I tell it to?"  No.  You assume uniformity (it did yesterday, and there's no evidence that anything changed).  Do you think "Why get up -- I may not really be in bed at all"?  No.  You assume that your senses represent reality until you have some reason not to (generally an inconsistency in your senses).  Do you think "If I don't get up, I won't get to work -- oh, but that's logic, so it's unreliable and I will ignore it; maybe I can not get up and still get to work"?  No, you don't.

                            You couldn't live without those assumptions.  Hence their privileged position as the basis of science.

                          •  Actually... (4.00)
                            ... it's more like Occam's Razor.

                            Since there's no proof of the God hypothesis, it's simplest to assert that God doesn't exist.

                            One needn't adopt an agnostic attitude in the interest of 'fairness' when presented with assertions about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Zeus, or any other conceivable conglomeration of properties which one might affix a name to...  but for which one has no evidence of the existence of.

                            So, no, atheism doesn't require faith.

                            Dick Cheney is one persian cat short of being a James Bond villain.

                            by Malacandra on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:31:28 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Occam's Razor is a belief (none)

                            GOP: 17th century values, 21st century marketing.

                            by Joe B on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:47:32 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  More of a rule of thumb, really. (none)
                            But hey, say it is a belief--call me an Occamite. At least, until I find a simpler explanation. :)
                          •  Right (none)
                            It's not a belief -  "Given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler."  It's a heuristic method for selecting among competing hypotheses.

                            Would anyone suggest that "Measure out two cups of flour and pour into a bowl... etc.", which is a heuristic for making a cake, is a belief?  

                            Dick Cheney is one persian cat short of being a James Bond villain.

                            by Malacandra on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:46:02 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  atheism simply requires common sense (none)

                            "Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace." - Albert Schweitzer

                            by commandercuckoobananas on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:16:39 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  Denying the existence of Santa (4.00)
                        ...does not require faith.  Proclaiming the existence of Santa does require faith.

                        There is not a Lamborghini in my garage.  I know this to be true.  This is not a matter of faith, it's a matter of fact. I may wish it to be true; I may believe it to be true.  But it's not there.  I'll be driving the Ford Ranger to work, as I do every day. This require no faith on my part.  It requires only the acceptance of reality

                        You may believe that there is a Lamborghini in your garage. You can't see it, you can't drive it, and in violation of the natural laws, you can actually put boxes and bicycles and camping equipment in the space purportedly occupied by the Lamborghini.  

                        Whether you believe your Lamborghini to be a red Countach or a black Diablo matters only in your particular belief system (or "faith").  You may spend hours each week imagining the purr of the engine, the exquisite accelleration, the impecccable handling.  You may dream of putting it through the paces at Watkins Glen or the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca.  You may have all the accessories; the kid leather driving gloves, the jaunty cap, the gen-u-ine leather key fob, all bearing the authentic Bull logo.  These things may make you feel closer to your personal Lamborghini, and identify you to other Lamborghini "owners."

                        And if I ask you to show me your Lamborghini, you may display the gloves and the cap and the key fob as "evidence" of the Lamborghini's existence.

                        But the one thing you will not be able to do is to show me the Lamborghini.  It only exists as a construct of your faith.  And your "faith" in its existence or my "faith" in its non-existence is not at issue; it either exists or not without regard to what we believe.  (This is what we call "reality.")

                        If you stopped believing in the existence of the Lamborghini, no actual car would disintegrate.  If I chose to believe in it, no actual car would  materialize.

                        The garage is empty.  You have no Lamborghini. That's a matter of fact, not a matter of faith.

                        "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." -- H. L. Mencken

                        by roxtar on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:08:02 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  "Faith" (none)
                        First I'd like to say that the troll ratings based on mere disagreement everywhere (many against BiminiCat) are inappropriate.  Grow the fuck up, everyone.

                        Second I'd like to suggest that the reason BiminiCat keeps proposing that atheism requires "faith," could be that he was taught that as a tactic by the leader of a Christian youth group, where he may have been instucted to identify potential marks and proselytize at them to try to get them to come to a "swell" get-together on Friday night.  Just guessing here.  :)  So basically I am suggesting that it's just coming from ignorance (I mean this only in the lack of good information sort-of-way), so the hostility he is provoking is really misplaced.  He just doesn't know any better.  Give him some time, he's a regular contributor, he'll learn.

                        •  What the hell!!! (none)
                          I am proudly an atheist, I have called myself an atheist for many years now.  I have tested my beleifs and as many different philisophies and religion as is possible within the realms of polite society.  
                          Why is it offensive to equate atheism with faith?  I have neither the desire nor the skill to replicate all of the experiments that great minds have conducte in order to acheive the depth of knowledge we enjoy today.  Furthermore, there are levels of physics and math that I have no interest in understanding, be that out of fear or laziness.  I understand enough about science and the world to justify my faith in the rationality of the universe, and the general veracity of much of our scientific knowledge.  I will be wrong quite often, but the beauty of science is that each time a consensed peice of knowledge is disproven, the whole of human understanding increases.  
                          So I'll return to my original comment.  I call myself an atheist because I have a strong "belief," engendered by overwhelming evidence, that there is no god.  I will never be able to, nor will I ever desire to prove this fact.  Does this make an agnostic?  Yes.  the two aren;t exclusive.
                          •  I don't think people are saying it's offensive... (none)
                            ...so much as inaccurate. Yes, some for some people atheism is a belief of faith. But for other people it's just "enh, whatever, I haven't seen any god here". Lack of belief in god is not the same as belief in a lack of god.

                            What I DO find offensive is people trying to tell me that I believe something I don't.

                      •  Meanings of th word Faith (none)
                        http://dictionary.reference.com/...

                        There are multiple meanings for the word faith (see link above - it's a dictionary, very handy for settling arguments related to definitions).

                        So, yes, an atheist may have the kind of faith that means "Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing." or "A set of principles or beliefs."

                        BUT that's an entirely different meaning from: "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence." or "The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will." or "The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith."

                        Using the ambiuguous word "faith" in this context is a clever rhetorical tactic for confusing the issue.  You are using one meaning of the word faith to imply that another meaning applies.

                        For example, I don't believe humans have participated in time-travel, since there is no evidence that it has ever happened. The complete and utter lack of supportive evidence means I there's no need to believe in it. I don't have a faith in non-time travel, I simply have seen no evidence that there's any time-travel to bother believing in.

                        Beware the everyday brutality of the averted gaze.

                        by mataliandy on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:12:18 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

              •  There is no absolutely certain knowledge at all. (4.00)
                Norbert Wiener 1885-1964
                •  Yes but (none)
                  there is a certain method that you can use to determine what you admit, and don't admit, into your worldview, that has stood the test of time and mathematics and logic and requires no leaps of faith or imagination and yet, given time and work, has proven able to fully explain all known observation.

                  A far more impressive invention than God, if you ask me.

                  The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

                  by peeder on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:53:03 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  But (2.33)
                    Math and logic are cultural creations. Since atheists think they're infallible (just like fundies and their sacred texts), they deny that sometimes they don't work. Quantum mechanics doesn't depend on logic since it defies it as we know it now.

                    As for math, change the base of an equation from 10 to, say, 2 and you'll get different results.

                    A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                    by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:20:11 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Just for the rest of us (none)
                      Quantum mechanics most certainly does follow logic...it has an internal integrity, and is mathematically valid. Look at Shroedinger's equations, for instance.

                      The ramifications of that logic are hard for us to reconcile with our view of the standard four-dimensional world we're familiar with. So an apt analogy for Quantum Mechanics would be non-Euclidean geometries: e.g. a space in which the shortest distance from point A to B is not a straight line.

                      These are interesting and go against the grain of our brain's biases, but they no more undermine logic than hint at the existence of the supernatural. They are simply an alternative reality, or unusual facet of our own reality, that we may still be in the process of integrating into our philosophy. But we are well past demonstrating the soundness of these in themselves.

                      The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

                      by peeder on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:36:11 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Well... (4.00)
                      Math and logic are cultural creations.

                      It is easy to read this as some kind of extreme post-modern "everything is a cultural construct" type of position, but is that really what you intend? Or are you really just objecting to the kind of Platonist approach to math which treats it as an absolute pre-existing system entirely divorced from how the human mind functions?

                      Since atheists think they're infallible (just like fundies and their sacred texts), they deny that sometimes they don't work.

                      Well, a good number of atheists also have fairly reductive mindsets that assume formal logic can be overlaid on things like human belief and behavior in an obvious and transparent fashion, and this does show up as an excessive faith that they approach all situations "rationally", but this is hardly a universal feature of atheists.

                      Quantum mechanics doesn't depend on logic since it defies it as we know it now.

                      This is incorrect. QM is very well described by mathematics. It doesn't defy logic, it defies human intuition.

                      As for math, change the base of an equation from 10 to, say, 2 and you'll get different results.

                      I expect what you're saying is something like 5+5=10 is true in base 10 but false in base 8 (where 5+5=12). However, this is just a statement about symbols not the actual equations (i.e. 10 in base 10 is the same number as 12 in base 8).

                      "What do I get out of this? / I always try. I always miss."

                      by plover on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:08:21 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  wha? (none)
                      I would love to see an example of an 'equation' yielding truly different results when the base is changed from 10 to 2.
                  •  Oddly enough, (none)
                    a recent poll of scientists and mathematicians found that math geeks are much more likely to believe in God than biologists. The leading pro-ID blog, for example, is run by a mathematician at Baylor University.

                    Street Prophets: where the cookies live now...

                    by pastordan on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:10:20 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Then Why Do You Assert (none)
                  That Norbert Weiner is dead?
                  Or that Norbert Weiner said that?
                  What's the use?

                  See my comment to the diary below if you are interested in musings inspired by your comment.

                  9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

                  by NewDirection on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:54:05 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  aoeu (none)
              Wow, you seem to enjoy putting words into people's mouths.  Tell us what you really feel.

              every turtle knows
              Bush and the Republicans
              worship just Mammon

              by TealVeal on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:30:05 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Okay, so what am I? (4.00)
            FWIW, I consider myself "agnostic" because I simply don't know. I don't know if it's possible or impossible to prove or disprove the existance of a higher being, but I certainly wouldn't claim that either were impossible.

            So what does that make me? Everything that I've read would leave me to believe that I'm an agnostic. And yet, everytime we have one of these discussions, it never fails that someone tries to correct me by telling me that I'm an atheist.

            I don't really care which label is the right one for my position, but I would like to know which label accurately describes my position. One thing that I know for sure, however, is that I don't claim to know that there is no higher being, even if I'm highly skeptical. But I'm not trying to hide behind a guise of being skeptical because I'm afraid of completely denying God.

            So what am I? Anyone care to take a stab?

            I know what I believe and that's all that really matters, but I'm interested in where others think I stand.

            Democrats -- Progress for the Working Class

            by rogun on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:50:47 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I will take a shot at it. (4.00)
              First, foget the CW definition of "atheism" and "agnosticism".  It's wrong.  Second, you stated that you consider yourself an agnostic because you don't know if there is a god.  You are absolutely correct that this makes you an agnostic.  However, when deciding whether or not you are an atheist or not the question to ask yourself is very different.

              There is a common misconception made in regards to these terms.  Most people think that theism, atheism and aganosticisim are in sort of a line with agnosticism being in the middle between the two extremes.  This is simply not the case.  Theism/atheism is a statement of belief while gnosticism/agnosticism is a statement of knowledge.  Two seperate and different answers to different questions.

              It is very possible, in fact, likely, that you are an agnostic theist/atheist.  Most people are.  I'll use myself for an example.  I do not know for certain if there is a god or not.  This is my statemnt of what I think I can know.  Therefore, I'm an agnostic.  However, I do not believe in any of the gods as put forth by mankind up to this point (at least any that claim supernatural abailities or existence) which makes me an atheist.  Combined, this makes me an agnostic atheist.  I do not KNOW there is or is not a god but I do not BELIEVE there is one.  Most theists are agnostic theists.  When pressed, they will admit that they do not KNOW there is a god but they BELIEVE there is.

              YOu ask if what you wrote in your post makes you an atheist or an agnostic.  I cannot answer that since you didn't answer the right question.  ALL that is required to be an atheist is a negative response to the qestion "Do you BELIEVE in a god or gods?".  That's it.  Nothing more.  

              So answer that question and you'll know what you are.  You've already defined yourself as an agnotic but you have not answered the correct question.  If you believe there is a god you are a theist.  If you answer no to that question you are an atheist.

              I hope this helped some.

              Kafka

              " Not all conservatives are stupid people, but most stupid people are conservatives." - John Stuart Mill

              by Kafka on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:33:58 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  No, that IS agnosticism (none)
            An athist denies the existance of any god(s).  From Wikipedia: "Agnosticism is the philosophical view that the truth values of certain claims--particularly theological claims regarding the existence of God, gods, or deities-- are unknown, inherently unknowable, or incoherent, and therefore, (some agnostics may go as far to say) irrelevant to life."

            It's the agnostic who says there isn't one or there isn't enough evidence to act on it.

        •  Definition (none)
          Your definition of atheism is wrong.  See my post below.
          •  semantics (2.00)
            your definition of tuna is it's grouper.

            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:51:08 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  No. (4.00)
              You just don't understand what you're talking about and have defined atheism in such a way as to make it easy to dismiss.
              •  That form of argument (3.37)
                is the classic strawman. But from the posts here, ol' Bimini has been out in the sun too long and needs to be replaced with some fresh new canvas.

                Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:01:47 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  ok (1.58)
                so atheism means "i don't know if god exists or not."

                fine.

                "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:02:05 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  No it doesn't mean that either (3.66)
                  It means no evidence, so no active belief. You can't deny what isn't there any more than you can deny Zeus, or the IPU, or the FSM. Do you deny them?

                  Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                  by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:04:23 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  there is no evidence either way (none)
                    that's the point.

                    "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                    by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:07:24 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Wrong (4.00)
                      because you can't prove a negative. It's always on the person making the claim to make the proof. The skeptic simply shows the evidence is insufficient.

                      Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                      by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:10:46 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  question (none)
                        do you believe in the possibility of extra-terrestrial life?

                        If yes, you would lose the argument of being an atheist.

                        If no, you would be ignoring probability theory

                        Me, until I see specific evidence, I am reserving judgment.  I am not 'evading' the question saying that it is unanswerable and can never be answered.  

                        I am simply saying  that our current level of knowledge does not help us answer that question definitively.

                        I am an ET agnostic.

                        How about you?

                        •  It's a pretty big universe:) (none)
                          Technically speaking, I'm assuming that quite a few planets, relativly speaking, have life of one form or another, chances are that one of them will/would have at one time evolved into intelligent thought.

                          This is our story...

                          by Karmakin on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:44:46 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Too bad it didn't happen here... (none)
                            Considering some of the arguments being made, there's certainly no proof of intelligence on this planet.

                            Yeesh.

                            "Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is staggering." - R. Buckminster Fuller

                            by Shadan7 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:31:29 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  This is where both you and BiminiCat derail (none)
                        BiminiCat's argument that atheism requires faith is (based on what I've read in this diary anyway) a statement suggesting that the faith is being placed, instead of in god, in the scientific method -- a method relying on the null hypothesis and placing the burden of proof upon the proponent of a fact.

                        Perhaps he is simply trying to say, though, that the faith he speaks of is the faith of the universe to produce what we perceive without the existence of God, which reduces to calling the universe God without being able to anthropomorphize it.

                        There is a difference between deciding for yourself, based on what you know about the natural world and what you perceive or don't perceive that God exists or doesn't exist. It is only when the point gets debated between two people that the argument of faith arises. When you assign the burden of proof to somebody on a question that so far escapes observation or measurement (but see "White Noise") then you are performing in precisely the manner BiminiCat suggests.

                        If you want to avoid that trap, all you have to say is "I don't have any reason to believe that God exists, because I haven't perceived anything that requires God's existence."

                        There simply are some matters that are currently beyond scientific inquiry. For those matters, the smartest scientists smile, say very little to anybody else, and pay attention to those matters that are not beyond scientific inquiry.

                    •  Actually (4.00)
                      So far there is 100% evidence that there is no God. Science has shown us that the natural world manages to work with no Supernatural intervention. Every time we investigate something, we find it can be explained with simple, natural laws. Zeus throwing lightening bolts is now just electricity.

                      If there was one little itty-bitty iota of evidence that there was a Supernatural Being - I would look at it.

                      If I see a blue sky, both with my eyes and any instruments used to measure wavelength, but you tell me it is fuschia and chartreuse - my saying to you that it isn't does not mean I am denying it. At least not in the way you seem to think atheism is a denial of God.

                      You are implying that I'm not really sure it's not fuschia and chartreuse. If I decided to believe you  . . . then I would need faith to convince myself it was a color different than I could observe.

            •  i hope we don't get into any (none)
              anti-semantic remarks here.

              santa wouldn't like it!

              we'll stand him up against a wall and pop goes the weasel /rufus t. firefly

              by 2nd balcony on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:09:58 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  That's annoying meme.... (3.60)
          Leads me to a question I'd like to have answered by a rational theist.

          For the sake of argument, I assert that BiminiCat likes to molest poodles. Also for the sake of argument, I will officially offer no objective proof.

          Now, In your day to day goings-on, will you henceforth claim that you don't know if BiminiCat is a poodle molester? Are you an agnostic on the subject? I'd like to hear your arguments either way: however, I don't want to hear arguments based on expediency (that is, 'well, I have a poodle, so I'm going to be careful around BiminiCat): this is a matter of actual conviction, not prudence.

          *resist the urge to be popular

          by coolhappyMax on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:17:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Heretic! (4.00)
            It has been revealed to me that BiminiCat actually enjoys molesting schnauzers. The Poodle Position is a rampant heresy that must be wiped out. You can confess your failure now, or it's the comfy chair for you!

            Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

            by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:20:34 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Actually... (none)
            ...since I have no reason to believe that you know BiminiCat well enough to even know who or what he might molest, and since molesting poodles is a fairly unusual behavior, and considering that you are the one who brought up the subject – thus revealing that molesting poodles is a subject meaningful to you – I might be more inclined to advise poodle prudence in your presence... :-)

            "What do I get out of this? / I always try. I always miss."

            by plover on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:50:02 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  and well you should... (none)
              because it's hard to resist that fluffy whiteness. However, after that, you should probably actually answer the question.

              M

              *resist the urge to be popular

              by coolhappyMax on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:33:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes, they are fluffy aren't they... (none)
                ...but um, I'm not going to think about that just now.

                I was not really trying to answer the question, although I suppose the implied answer is that the degree of credence granted an unsupported assertion depends on an assessment of the motives of and facts available to (and about) the source.

                (I may be disqualified from answering anyway as I am not a rational theist. Well, I'm not a theist – though I do have delusions of rationality...)

                (I'm also curious as to whether your answers to myself and/or cynic are in any degree predicated on an assumption that we are theists.)

                My impression of many of the arguments in this thread, including yours with cynic below, is that people are attempting to discuss abstractions without agreeing to what the terms mean, and thus the discussions turn into attempts to impeach each other's definitions rather than address the substance of the arguments. For example, some of your answers to cynic seem to be complaints that his statements don't work under your definition of 'knowledge' rather than attempts to determine if he's using his own definition consistently.

                The problem largely seems to occur when one side is using what appears to be standard formal philosophical terminology, and the other is using a more intuitive set of terms derived from common meanings of words. IMHO, the important thing is not which set of terms gets used but that those involved in a given discussion have some agreement on what the words mean in the context of that discussion.

                This lament is not especially directed at you, I see it often – including several other places in this thread.

                I do, however, have some specific comments on the exchange with cynic.

                You said: "While you may be have read somewhere that logic is un moral (which is true), you're extrapolating that it cannot thus be used for moral ends, which is just plain, old fashioned silly( and a red herring to boot)."

                I don't think cynic is saying that logic cannot be used for moral arguments. I think he's answering the question in a non-moral framework. The question of whether god(s) exist is not an inherently moral question, and as your apparent intention is to assert that your question can be treated analogously, I don't see why a moral framework is relevant. (I.e. whether molesting poodles is a defensible activity is not at issue.)

                You said: "To me, it axiomatic that he's presumed innocent until proven guilty. This follows directly from my training in mathematical logic: we're trained to reject baseless assertions."

                There's something strange going on here: in logic, an axiom is a baseless assertion, albeit a carefully chosen one. And while the presumption of innocence may indeed be effectively an axiom in jurisprudence (I don't know), it's not even a meaningful concept for deciding logical questions in general. If you have a theorem that may or may not be equivalent to the Axiom of Choice what does an assumption of 'innocence' even mean. And what one assumes over the course of a proof depends on what kind of a proof it is, e.g. for a proof by contradiction, one makes an assumption that is false.

                I'm also unsure as to why you think 'mathematical logic' overlays onto the judicial questions in a transparent fashion. The morality of the presumption of innocence seems to me to derive from empirical considerations, not logical ones. As statements, there's no particular difference between my asserting without evidence that you molested a poodle, and my asserting without evidence that you were breathing the last time you typed in a comment on dKos. The reason I have different opinions on whether those are likely are based on empirical knowledge of how often humans molest poodles as compared to how often humans breathe. If breathing were declared a crime, a presumption of innocence in such cases wouldn't serve any purpose.

                I'm also unsure why you find it necessary to say: "Saying 'no way' Is not an argument: it's just a rhetorical tactic". While this can indeed be true, asserting it in this context seems to be just unnecessarily contentious as 1) you are apparently assuming cynic is being rhetorically manipulative rather than emphatic, and 2) cynic followed his 'No way' with the reasoning behind his objection.

                "What do I get out of this? / I always try. I always miss."

                by plover on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:14:32 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Must. Avoid. Poodle. (none)
                  plover : ...but um, I'm not going to think about that just now.
                  coolHappyMax : That's probably best, all things considered, or people will be telling us to get a room. And a poodle.
                  plover : I was not really trying to answer the question, although I suppose the implied answer is that the degree of credence granted an unsupported assertion depends on an assessment of the motives of and facts available to (and about) the source.
                  coolHappyMax : I disagree, and I think that's where we seem to part ways. I think that the degree of credence granted unsupported assertion is zero. An assertion that deserves more credence than that will have earned it, based on it's objective support: not the person making it.

                  plover : (I may be disqualified from answering anyway as I am not a rational theist. Well, I'm not a theist - though I do have delusions of rationality...)
                  plover : (I'm also curious as to whether your answers to myself and/or cynic are in any degree predicated on an assumption that we are theists.)
                  coolHappyMax : No: just the degree to which you're being rational in this discussion.

                  plover : My impression of many of the arguments in this thread, including yours with cynic below, is that people are attempting to discuss abstractions without agreeing to what the terms mean, and thus the discussions turn into attempts to impeach each other's definitions rather than address the substance of the arguments. For example, some of your answers to cynic seem to be complaints that his statements don't work under your definition of 'knowledge' rather than attempts to determine if he's using his own definition consistently.
                  coolHappyMax : That's not correct, In my opinion. My complaints to cynic is that his definition don't work under the standard definition of knowledge. Unsurprisingly, his statements, based on these half-understandings, are incorrect. This is not a character fault, and I don't mean it that way. However, it is true.

                  plover : I don't think cynic is saying that logic cannot be used for moral arguments. I think he's answering the question in a non-moral framework. The question of whether god(s) exist is not an inherently moral question, and as your apparent intention is to assert that your question can be treated analogously, I don't see why a moral framework is relevant. (I.e. whether molesting poodles is a defensible activity is not at issue.)

                  coolHappyMax : Again, I disagree with your interpretation of my statements, and with your interpretation of cynics reading of same. My basic statement then, as now, is that an assertion needs to be proven before it can be supported. This is unmoral, and applies equally to accusation of guilt(as I tried to demonstrate through the poodle example), and statement about the supernatural. Cynic misunderstood the guilt example, assuming that it was basic on moral considerations. I wonder if you're making the same mistake?

                  plover : You said: "To me, it axiomatic that he's presumed innocent until proven guilty. This follows directly from my training in mathematical logic: we're trained to reject baseless assertions."
                  plover : There's something strange going on here: in logic, an axiom is a baseless assertion, albeit a carefully chosen one.
                  coolHappyMax : That's an incorrect understanding of Axiom. an Axiom a formal logical expression used in a deduction to yield further results and/or a claim which could be seen to be true without any need for proof. For example,

                  P->Q, then ~Q->~P.

                  Now, you may stretch 'seem to be true without any need for proof', but that would be a misunderstanding. In reality, an axiom's proof is build in. e.g. I think, therefore I am

                  plover : And while the presumption of innocence may indeed be effectively an axiom in jurisprudence (I don't know), it's not even a meaningful concept for deciding logical questions in general.

                  coolHappyMax : Let me explain why I think it is, in fact, a meaningful concept for deciding logical choices in general. Now, keep an open mind here: I may actually have a point.

                  When you have a question, all potential answers must assert themselves as correct before being accepted as such. Until such proof is established, those answers must be rejected.

                  For example, if I had the question like 'what is 7+7', and various people offered up answers, those answers would have to be checkable (and correct) before being accepted. Until such time, the 'innocence' answer is that the candidates offered are not correct.

                  Accordingly, if I accuse cynic of molesting poodles, and I offer no evidence, then you have to reject that assertion: not because you're a nice guy( or girl), but because that's the most reasonable thing to do. Reason demands proof.

                  Further, if you make a statement like 'The Flying Spaghetti Monster Created the world", you have to offer evidence, or your claim is (logically/ reasonably) rejected.

                  plover : I'm also unsure as to why you think 'mathematical logic' overlays onto the judicial questions in a transparent fashion. The morality of the presumption of innocence seems to me to derive from empirical considerations, not logical ones. As statements, there's no particular difference between my asserting without evidence that you molested a poodle, and my asserting without evidence that you were breathing the last time you typed in a comment on dKos. The reason I have different opinions on whether those are likely are based on empirical knowledge of how often humans molest poodles as compared to how often humans breathe. If breathing were declared a crime, a presumption of innocence in such cases wouldn't serve any purpose.

                  coolHappyMax : Again, I think you're confusing my actual statement with cynic's interpretation of my statements.  I am asserting that basic logical, not moral considerations, lead us to a presumption of innocence. I may be incorrect in that, but I'm not making a moral argument.

                  plover : I'm also unsure why you find it necessary to say: "Saying 'no way' Is not an argument: it's just a rhetorical tactic". While this can indeed be true, asserting it in this context seems to be just unnecessarily contentious as 1) you are apparently assuming cynic is being rhetorically manipulative rather than emphatic, and 2) cynic followed his 'No way' with the reasoning behind his objection.

                  coolHappyMax : I think it's appropriately contentious, given the tone of cynic's response and topic heading. I can do, and actually prefer, reasonable discussions: I hope our current discussion continues to prove that. but, I can respond to provocation, and I do it better then most.

                  plover : "What do I get out of this? / I always try. I always miss."

                  coolHappyMax : Don't worry, one of these days you'll go back to your home.

                  *resist the urge to be popular

                  by coolhappyMax on Sat Nov 26, 2005 at 04:16:26 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  I will take a crack at this... (none)
            will you henceforth claim that you don't know if BiminiCat is a poodle molester?

            Yes.

            Are you an agnostic on the subject?

            Yes.

            I will take a position if and when I have to interact with BiminiCat on matters involving poodles.

            At that point, I have three ways to determine the truth of such an assertion:

            1.  Personal Proof:  have I seen BiminiCat molest a poodle?  if Yes, I have my answer, if no, on to step 2

            2. Logical inference: Have I seen a Poodle removed from BiminiCat's residence, examined by a competent vet and pronounced molested?  Do I know that there is no-one but BiminiCat who had access to that Poodle? Is there 'reasonable' doubt? The jury reaches a verdict.  If no-one offers any evidence or proof, and I have to deal with BiminiCat on a matter of poodles, I go on to step 3.  Atheists stop here.  

            3. Authority:  how well do I know coolhappyMax? do I know him well enough to trust him? Does he have any reason to dislike BiminiCat? Are there obvious motives here?  Do I trust coolhappyMax to not make this kind of crap up? Based on answers to these questions, I either start with a working hypothesis that BiminiCat likes to be en flagrante with poodles and be on my guard or conclude that coolhappyMax is really GW Bush and therefore the habitual lying does not surprise me.
            •  Let's just start @ the beginning. (none)
              Because the rest of your argument goes so far adrift that I can't begin to address until I get a better sense of how you're establishing your premise.

              chm:will you henceforth claim that you don't know if BiminiCat is a poodle molester?

              cynic:Yes.

              I think this where our logical premises part ways. To me, it axiomatic that he's presumed innocent until proven guilty. This follows directly from my training in mathematical logic: we're trained to reject baseless assertions. The assertion I made about BiminiCat was deliberately baseless: I'm shocked that you would give it so much weight.

              Let me follow up a bit here: were you an agnostic on the subject of BiminiCat canine-o-philic tendencies before I made my assertion? That is, did my baseless assertion really have that much of an effect on your opinion on him?

              Because if so: wow.

              *resist the urge to be popular

              by coolhappyMax on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:07:53 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  whoa there nellie... (none)
                don't you go changing terms on me now:

                Your original question:

                will you henceforth claim that you don't know if BiminiCat is a poodle molester?

                Your 'parting of ways' response:

                To me, it axiomatic that he's presumed innocent until proven guilty.

                Presumed innocent and 'knowing' he is or is not a molester are two entirely different things. No amount of innocence presumption on my part can change the fact that i don't 'know' he is or is not a molester. Put another way, if i 'Knew' he was a molester, the presumption of innocence is irrelevant.

                Plus it looks like you are tripping over pejoratives ('innocent' / 'guilty') and losing sight of logic.  If you don't believe me, change your original statement to: 'BiminicCat mixes OJ with his cereal in the morning' and then think that through.  My answers will be the same.  What will your 'axiomatic' response be?

                 This follows directly from my training in mathematical logic: we're trained to reject baseless assertions. The assertion I made about BiminiCat was deliberately baseless: I'm shocked that you would give it so much weight.

                You seem to be misapplying mathematical logic here. Let me demonstrate:

                1. you can only reject baseless assertions after you determine them to be baseless.  Logic dictates that you be openminded about 'guilt' or 'innocence' until the facts are in front of you.

                2. How should I know that your assertion was baseless - deliberately or otherwise? Why should I automatically assume they are baseless and therefore know that BiminiCat is not a poodle molester? Why not assume the opposite and 'know' that he is a molester?

                3. Contrary to your assertion - I gave your statement no weight at all, until (and if) I had a need to deal with BiminiCat in the matter of poodles. Even then, your opinion is just another data point.  It would be illogical of me to ignore a datapoint and assume it is baseless since i know equally little about you or BiminiCat.

                Presumption of innocence may be good jurisprudence - I don't know.  It is certainly not logical, and neither is a presumption of guilt.

                Fortunately for me - logic is amoral.

                •  Easy Hoss... (none)
                  cynic: don't you go changing terms on me now:

                  coolHappyMax: I think you're confused: there was no changing of terms. Where do you think you saw a changing of terms?

                  cynic: Presumed innocent and 'knowing' he is or is not a molester are two entirely different things. No amount of innocence presumption on my part can change the fact that i don't 'know' he is or is not a molester.

                  coolHappyMax: To Presume means to make the a priori assumption. Thus, when you presume innocence, you're starting with an a  priori assumption the person is innocent. This is a basic logical tenet, and it's transitioned to jurisprudence. However, logic also dictates that you evaluate additional information. Thus, even though you're willing to start with a presumption of innocence, you're willing to consider evidence that might transition your opinion over to guilt.

                  Now, when you start with an a  priori assumption of innocence and I deliberately refused(for the sake of argument) to offer any evidence to support my accusations, you're still left with an a  priori assumption of innocent.

                  Accordingly, that assumption of innocence wins out in the absence of evidence. This is the reason we don't walk around treating each other like child molesters. We pre assume that people are innocent, and treat them accordingly.

                  cynic: Put another way, if i 'Knew' he was a molester, the presumption of innocence is irrelevant.
                  coolHappyMax: This is a red herring. Or put another way, you're avoiding the question I asked, in order to answer a question you're actually prepared to answer. You are doing this by providing long-winded distractions from the original question.

                  Let's get back on topic,

                  cynic: Plus it looks like you are tripping over pejoratives ('innocent' / 'guilty') and losing sight of logic.  

                  coolHappyMax: All things considerd, I am not surprised that you would say this.

                  cynic: If you don't believe me, change your original statement to: 'BiminicCat mixes OJ with his cereal in the morning' and then think that through.  My answers will be the same.  What will your 'axiomatic' response be?

                  coolHappyMax: I will assume that he does not, for the same reason that I will assume that he does not commune with aliens in the morning. A logical rule does not work some of the time: it always works, or it's not a logical rule.

                  coolHappyMax: If you don't believe me, change your original statement to: 'BiminicCat shoots frogs out of his butt, and eats them  with his cereal and OJ in the morning' and then think that through.  

                  My answers will be the same.  What will your be? That you don't know? That maybe he does shoot frogs out of his butt? I'd just like to encourage you to be sincere as you formulate an answer here.

                  cynic: This follows directly from my training in mathematical logic: we're trained to reject baseless assertions. The assertion I made about BiminiCat was deliberately baseless: I'm shocked that you would give it so much weight.

                  cynic: You seem to be misapplying mathematical logic here. Let me demonstrate:
                  coolHappyMax This should be good.

                  cynic: you can only reject baseless assertions after you determine them to be baseless.  Logic dictates that you be openminded about 'guilt' or 'innocence' until the facts are in front of you.

                  coolHappyMax: There is no contradiction between open mindedness and a presumption of innocence. Logic dictates that assertions be supported before they are accepted. Otherwise, they are rejected. This is the presumption of innocence. Logic also dictates that you be listen to both sides of the story. This is  the open mindedness part.

                  cynic: How should I know that your assertion was baseless.
                  coolHappyMax: Because I told you so when I postulated the thought experiment by saying For the sake of argument, I will officially offer no objective evidence? This was a really big clue that the assertion was baseless.

                  cynic: Presumption of innocence may be good jurisprudence - I don't know.  It is certainly not logical, and neither is a presumption of guilt.
                  coolHappyMax: This is simply a knowledge gap, which you can ( fortunately) address. I encourage you to do so. The presumption of innocence is good jurisprudence because it is logically derived.

                  coolHappyMax: You may not be fully aware of this, but logic does dictate that statement be proven before they are accepted. This is simply the way that logic works. Accordingly, a statement of guilt cannot( and should not) be accepted unless it is proven.

                  coolHappyMax: This, incidentally, is the reason we don't lock people away without a trial: or, at least, why we shouldn't. It's simply not rational.

                  It is also why a belief in God is not rational: it is, and must remain, faith based, because rationality smashes it all to hell. Er, you know, if there were a hell.

                  *resist the urge to be popular

                  by coolhappyMax on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:29:39 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  then we must beg to differ on the essentials. (none)
                    Thus, when you presume innocence, you're starting with an a  priori assumption the person is innocent.

                    But assumptions are different from knowledge.  One is a belief, which may or may not be true.  It changes with time and space.  The other is not. Knowledge is absolute, unchanging.

                    You asked me if I know. I replied that whatever I might assume, i do not know.  How does an a priori assumption which is a value become an axiom?  not in any logic text that I have ever seen.  

                    Logic dictates that assertions be supported before they are accepted.

                    Not hardly.  Logic dictates that assertions be supported before they are accepted or rejected.  The null hypothesis can be formulated either way: he is a poodle molester or he is NOT a poodle molester.  By 'presuming innocence' you are setting a value on what 'innocence is' and therefore forcing the null hypothesis one way.  This may help prevent putting innocent people in jail, but is no more or no less logical than a presumption of guilt.

                    Besides, if logic really dictated that assetrions be supported before they are accepted, then what of the athiest's affirmative assertion 'there is no god'?  How does he support that assertion?

                    There is no contradiction between open mindedness and a presumption of innocence

                    This is silly: a presumption of innocence is a deliberate bias in favor of a defendant.  Of course there is a contradiction here:  you start out by saying that the burden of proof of guilt is higher than the burden of proof on innocence. You are NOT expected to be openminded in a jury trial, you are expected to force the prosecution to prove guilt. As evidence comes in you are expected to give more weight to exculpatory evidence than to convictive evidence.  That is what 'beyond reasonable doubt' means.  Anyone who thinks jury trials are fair to both the prosecution and the defense is not paying attention.  They are deliberately designed to advantage the defense based on the assumption that it is ok to let a guilty person walk than to deprive an innocent of liberty.

                    The presumption of innocence is good jurisprudence because it is logically derived.

                    No way. It is good jurisprudence because you want to err on the side of letting a guilty person walk in order to minimize the other bad result of putting an innocent in jail.  It is great moral policy.  Logic, being amoral, would dictate that a priori assumptions can work both ways.

                    •  Saying 'no way' (none)
                      Is not an argument: it's just a rhetorical tactic, like shaking your head & smirking while someone else is speaking. It doesn't substitute for a valid argument

                      Let's start at the top here:
                      Knowledge is absolute, unchanging.

                      This is simply factually incorrect. In fact, you're confusing Knowledge(the confident understanding of a subject), with Tautology(a statement that is always true). Understanding in temporal: a tautology is not.

                      While you may be have read somewhere that logic is un moral (which is true), you're extrapolating that it cannot thus be used for moral ends, which is just plain, old fashioned silly( and a red herring to boot).

                      Further, you said that Logic dictates that assertions be supported before they are accepted or rejected.(original emphasis) Again, this is simply factually incorrect: logic does not require that statement be proven false before they are rejected. See here, here, and here.

                      Your other statements, while interesting, follow from these flawed premise, and thus fail.

                      I don't mean this to be unkind or mean, and I know how little chance there is that you'll actually do this, but I'd like to really encourage you to dig into some logic/philosophy/mathematics classes. It's clear that you have the aptitude for it, even as you're missed some fundamental basics.

                      *resist the urge to be popular

                      by coolhappyMax on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:40:32 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  thanks, but (none)
                        considering that I am engineer by training who had electives in both logic circuit theory and logic - as a subject, and considering that I have had a 'few' courses in mathematics,

                        I will take your udvice 'under advisement' :-)

                  •  Oh, and (none)
                    you know how I know that 'BiminicCat shoots frogs out of his butt, and eats them  with his cereal and OJ in the morning' cannot be true? It is because he cannot shoot frogs out of his butt - it strains physical credibility.

                    Rather like saying ' he makes the sun rise in the west'

                    So yes, I am ok with asserting that one cannot shoot frogs from ones butt, even if they are on the breakfast menu.  

                    But from a logical purity viewpoint - i really do not KNOW at the very instant yo make that assertion.  I am deeply incredulous, but knowledge?  that is a high standard indeed.

                    •  So, let me get this straight (none)
                      you know how I know that 'BiminicCat shoots frogs out of his butt, and eats them  with his cereal and OJ in the morning' cannot be true? It is because he cannot shoot frogs out of his butt - it strains physical credibility.

                      Yes it does: But you still don't know, by your definition of know that it does not happen. That's what I'm trying to point out here: Your definition of know is being applied conditionally, and that's just irrational.

                      M

                      *resist the urge to be popular

                      by coolhappyMax on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:51:40 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

        •  aoeu (none)
          Strong atheist:  No god exists.
          Weak atheist: I don't believe in god
          Agnostic:  Not enough evidence.

          So one can be both an atheist and an agnostic at the same time.

          every turtle knows
          Bush and the Republicans
          worship just Mammon

          by TealVeal on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:28:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  As an Agnostic (none)
          I define it as such

          Agnostic : Kinda believes just in case.

          If there is a Pearly Gates, I'll be damned if I'll be standing there saying I was too lazy to believe even half heartedly. Then again, I'm probably just damned. :-)

          The Ass-pins are turning. In 2006, don't forgive and don't forget.

          by CitizenOfEarth on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:42:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Real Definitions: (none)
          Athiests -- non-theists. Athiests do not believe in a god-created universe. Note: This is different from (though not contradictory to) "believing that there is no god."

          Agnostics -- non-gnostics. Gnostics believe that you can learn the truth about god. Agnostics do not believe that you can learn the truth about god. Agnostics can still be religious, can still believe in god.

      •  actually in can mean both - since it can (none)
        either be the greek or the latin and it can therefore mean without and against depending on how you pronounce it.

        "Ey Buddy, if you don't like America leave it!"
        "And be a victim of its foreign policy? I don't think so."

        by PeWi on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:37:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Canard (4.00)
      Absolutely untrue.  Atheism is the lack of belief in god(s).  A lack of belief requires no faith whatsoever.

      Actively denying the existance of a god(s) would require faith, but that's generally not an accurate definition of atheism, although some atheists would take that position.

      To be techinical:

      Strong Atheism - I believe there is no god.
      Weak Atheism - I do not believe there is a god.
      Agnosticism - Knowledge of god and/or the existance is impossible.
      Theism - I believe there is a god.
      Fundamentalism - I believe there is a god, and he hates you.

      Strong Atheism and Theism require faith, Weak Atheism does not, Agnosticism is kind of tangential because it's really a statement about knoledge, not god.  Generally it is best to assume that when atheism is brought up, it is weak atheism under discussion, unless you are given a reason to believe otherwise.

      •  I haven't met ANY strong atheists (none)
        Usually when people claim they were "atheists" and then "found God," it turns out they were cartoon atheists in rebellion against their religious teachings. The people who made a careful inquiry over the years that I've met all are weak atheists. As am I.

        Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

        by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:47:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  correction (none)
          the ATHEISTS I've met over the years who made a careful inquiry... are weak atheists.

          Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

          by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:48:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually (4.00)
            I'm a strong atheist on that definition. I believe that there is no god in this universe.

            There are those who think that requires faith. This is absolute crap. It's simply that I think the non-existence of any god is entailed by the most coherent ordering of the best hypotheses available about the nature of the universe, to wit, that everything is, at base, matter.

            Naturally it is impossible to prove this. But that does not mean that it is a matter of faith. I believe that Kennedy was not assassinated by agents of the Peruvian government. I can't prove that, but I certainly don't take it on faith.

            •  That's actually the weak atheism argument (none)
              You're making the assumption based on the evidence before you.  It's not a belief but a conclusion, which you're willing to revisit should you get more evidence.

              Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

              by madhaus on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 04:03:39 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  No (none)
                If you want to define weak atheism as the absence of a belief in god, and strong atheism as the belief that there is no god, then what I have mentioned is strong atheism.

                If I conclude X, then I believe X.

                There is no belief that I am not prepared, under certain conditions, to revisit. Strong atheism is not dogmatism, for crying out loud.

                Strong atheism, as defined above, carries with it no epistemological commitment to certainty. That is the whole point of the Peruvian example. I don't simply suspend belief about whether they were involved. I actively believe they were not. But no-one takes that as a certainty.

          •  Careful inquiry? (none)
            I'm a strong atheist.  My disbelief in god occupies about the same place in my life as my disbelief in the Tooth Fairy, Scientology and ouija boards - that is, it is extremely peripheral.  I don't waste time and energy on things unless I see some reason to take them seriously.

            And exactly how does one go about making a careful inquiry into something that can't be seen, heard, felt, tasted, smelled or otherwise detected, that is not subject to any natural law?

        •  I'm a strong atheist for the same reason I (none)
          strongly disbelieve in square circles; the concepts are incoherent.
          •  yikes, prove that please (none)
            How is the CONCEPT of God incoherent (like squared circles and bald men with fringes)?

            If you cannot show me that then clearly you are just as dogmatic as the other atheists around here.

            GOP: 17th century values, 21st century marketing.

            by Joe B on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:00:21 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  oh, please (none)
              Numerous books and philosophical essays have been written on the subject -- I do not believe it dogmatically, but as a result of my investigations -- regardless of whether I have posted a proof here.
          •  Actually (none)
            Actually it depends on your planes geometry. At the right location and with the right geometry it's quite possible to get a square circle. ;)

            The corners however might however be a little rounded.

      •  excellent parsing of words (1.88)
        i'm well impressed.

        it's a semantic argument to be sure.

        if you answer the question: is there a god???  if you answer that question "no".  then you're an atheist.

        there's nothing wrong in believing in something out of faith.

        it's actually a good thing.

        "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

        by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:49:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  but is there an IPU? (none)
          Do you accept her Magestic Pinkness? Tell me! Because if you don't, then you're an UNBELIEVER!!! And that's not even getting into the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

          Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

          by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:54:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  a god (none)
            can have many different names.

            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:57:26 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Says WHO? (none)
              Some say if you call a god by a different name it's a different god and you're praying incorrectly. Some say the same God can have 10,000 aspects. Some of us say the whole thing is a crashing bore.

              Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

              by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:02:56 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  now you're getting into religion (2.77)
                i won't say one god is better than another.

                i'm just saying making a statement of some certainty about something without proof requires some faith.

                and everyone has a fucking hissy fit.

                "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:06:07 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  But you're wrong (none)
                  People tend to have hissy fits when others speak absolute nonsense with such conviction. Why don't you try convincing us the speed of light is 759 miles per hour and see what reaction you get to that?

                  Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                  by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:07:10 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Okay....so if I believe my pet rock (none)
                  is "God"...then that's the same to you as someone who believes in "God" in a Christian sense? my pet rock is equal to the Christian God etc etc?
                  •  Yes (none)

                    A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                    by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:18:41 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  pretty much (none)
                    why not???

                    "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                    by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:22:08 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  aoeu (none)
                      Well, then you've just made Yahweh as pathetic as a pet rock.  I'm not sure he's going to like that.  Fires of hell, one ticket, express.

                      every turtle knows
                      Bush and the Republicans
                      worship just Mammon

                      by TealVeal on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:38:57 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  as long as your pet rock (3.33)
                    doesn't try to legislate my morality, i totally respect your faith in your pet rock.

                    totally.

                    i'm really serious about that.

                    complete respect.

                    there's nothing wrong with that.

                    "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                    by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:23:24 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  well...at least we can agree on that... (none)
                      but if you can respect that hypothetical belief, why can't you respect the fact that someone can be an atheist without "faith"?
                      •  because (2.00)
                        my understanding of the definition of the word is...

                        http://dictionary.reference.com/...

                        the explicit denial of the existence of god.  and some want to mince words about soft and hard atheism. ok... we disagree on defitions.

                        if you deny the existence of something without proof... in my opinion.... i think that requires some faith.

                        what i want to know is... ultimately.... why is me saying someone has faith in something considered an insult????!!!!!!

                        "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                        by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:31:34 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Well...I don't think it is an insult (none)
                          but I do disagree with your use of the term "Faith"...partly because it is vague and non-specific....but mostly because "Faith" is typically used to describe someone's belief in something they can't see...i.e. God...to use the word "Faith" in relation to what atheists believe creates confusion in my opinion...not for the atheist, but for the religious.

                          I have a terribly hard time talking with people about God and religion....mostly because I am stuck using their terms which are already defined through their lenses....if we stop using the same terminology perhaps the explanation can actually reach the person I'm trying to communicate with.

                          •  most people who consider themselves (none)
                            atheists think they are avoiding having faith in anything.

                            i happen to think there's nothing wrong with faith.

                            at all.  in my mind, i have not criticized atheism at all... i have simply said it requires a leap of faith.  it requires a leap of faith to to deny the existence of something that, by definition, can't be proved either way.

                            and a few folks didn't like that.

                            in my opinion.  saying someone has faith in what they believe in is a fucking compliment.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:42:58 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I get what you're saying...and I agree (4.00)
                            with the last sentence above...but I wouldn't use faith in this discussion because I really do believe that it makes it MORE confusing and harder for people to understand.

                            What I don't like is the fact that DarkSyde wrote this diary which explains how he feels (and how I feel a lot of the time)...and this discussion about defining terminology has taken over the thread.

                            I believe DarkSyde defined his terms...a few times...if you don't agree with his premises or his defined terms...I'm not sure the best way to disagree is by just saying "Oh, you're wrong"...

                            Another thing...I believe you're being a bit insensitive in pushing for the use of the word "Faith"....a lot of atheists have had VERY negative experiences fighting for their right to believe the way they do (and I really do think this is a very individual thing)...if some atheist doesn't want you to refer to their belief as a "faith"...then I don't think you should push it. Why can't we all just get the fuck along?!

                          •  i just think it's important (none)
                            that people don't have to have proof to believe what they believe.

                            i think faith is important.

                            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:53:45 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I think you are holding on to a vague (none)
                            word which can mean too many things to too many people and which confuses everyone involved in the discussion.

                            I understand why you think that...but I really think that the use of that word does more harm to the discussion than it could/would ever do good...so why bother with it.

                            I do have faith in one thing though...when my head hits the pillow I will be zonked out in .5 seconds:) Have fun....and be nice!

                          •  Why is it so hard to see BiminiCat's point? (none)
                            Is it because the word 'faith' immediately invokes images of televangelists and the kumbh Mela?

                            Faith is inherent in most daily activites we undertake and we don't even think about it:


                            • When a cop waves us on a diversion to avoid construction, it is our faith in him that stops us from demanding proof that the diversion will get us back on track

                            • When a doctor prescribes an antibiotic for my child's ear infection, it is my faith in his abilities as a doctor that makes me feed that disgusting pink concoction to my precious child

                            • When the weatherman says rain and we take an umbrella with us, that is faith

                            • When we order a plate of pasta at a restaurant and we wait for it to show up, we have faith that we will get pasta, not roast beef

                            Faith is simply temporary suspension of disbelief / belief pending proof.

                            If a hundred people came to me and said they have been to New York City and I myself never have been there, I can be a theist and believe that New York City exists and I can get there; I can be an atheist and demand proof that New York City actually exists; Or I can be an agnostic and say I don't know and I don't care to find out.

                            As an atheist on NYC, I can ask for proof and they can show me photographs, give me graphic descriptions, give me little plastic figurines of something they call the 'Statue of Liberty'. I can dismiss all of them as fake. They could say the exact same thing about someplace called 'Atlantis' and I would dismiss that as a fake as well.

                            apparently atheists truly believe that their positions involve no faith.

                            Consider the following:  The doctor tells you you have no cancer in your body. You accept that as 'of course' or do you have faith in your doctors ability to make an affirmative diagnosis of Cancer's non-presence?

                            Why is that surprising that so many people are willing to suspend their disbelief about God pending proof?

                            Is it surprising that an equal number if not more people suspended their disbelief that Neil Armstrong actually walked on the moon?

                          •  My point is that the terminology (none)
                            is not only NOT helpful to this conversation because of the way it makes people feel, but it is also not helfup because the term has different meanings for different people.

                            I don't have "faith" that god doesn't exist. To me, there simply is no god. If someone came along and proved to me that "God" did exist I would say...well, that's nice...but that doesn't mean I have to believe or agree even after I've been offered proof.

                            My problem with Bimini's point is that he was rude in the first place...dropping into the diary and saying "Atheism is faith, so there" basically....

                          •  Faith or confidence? (4.00)
                            "Faith", in your usage of the word, does not require a belief in something that is unproven or unproveable, but rather, describes the day-to-day dependence on things that you know exist and work a certain way, such as how restaurants, traffic diversions, and the medical practice work.  If this is the kind of "faith" that you and Bimini mean, then of course if applies to everyone, theists and atheists alike.

                            In the context of this discussion, though, it would be inaccurate to call both the belief in a god or gods and the confidence in the explanations of science, "faith".  Kinda' like how we wouldn't equate intelligent design and evolution because they're both "theories".

                          •  Exactly (none)
                            "Faith" is a word that has several different meanings.  It's a mistake to conflate them.

                            "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." - Kenneth Boulding

                            by randym77 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:07:04 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Faith in infallible knowledge as represented by (none)
                            present day naturalist science. That's atheism.

                            GOP: 17th century values, 21st century marketing.

                            by Joe B on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:02:29 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Wrongheaded (none)
                            Naturalistic science has as one of its few basic assumptions that its results are not infalliable.
            •  the eggs, sir? (none)
              let's just call them "the phenomena."

              we'll stand him up against a wall and pop goes the weasel /rufus t. firefly

              by 2nd balcony on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:22:19 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Not just semantics (4.00)
          Strong and weak atheism might sound similar, but in fact they are logically quite different statements.  Strong atheism asserts a positive claim which requires evidence (or lacking such, faith), while weak atheism is a negative claim that does not require evidence.  

          Your question is contrived to make all atheist responders sound the same, which conveniently allows you to ignore this distinction.

          •  ok (2.00)
            there's two kinds of atheism.  fair enough.

            there's the atheism that i call agnosticism.

            and there's the atheism i think requires faith.

            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:58:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nope, wrong again (none)
              Agnosticism says the question cannot be answered. You're conflating that with weak atheism, which says there's no evidence for gods.

              Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

              by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:05:35 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  is there a god???? (none)
                answer the question.

                yes or no??

                "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:06:37 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Choice E. (none)
                  It cannot be determined from the information given. Nah, I just wanted to answer it this way. The answer is very very probably not, but I'm open to more evidence if you have some.

                  Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                  by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:08:23 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  In the words of a frequent lurker here, (4.00)
                  "I just feel that if there is a god, he's underperforming."

                  More seriously, the thing people are trying to get across to you is that that's not a question that can necessarily be answered in the yes or no only sense.  That is, I might say that because I have seen no credible evidence that there is a god, I do not believe there to be.  But that doesn't mean I have faith that there isn't, that I wouldn't reconsider my position if faced with new evidence.

                •  Agnosticism (4.00)
                  says that your question is meaningless. Therefore, as an agnostic, I will not answer it. See? There is another position.

                  Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

                  by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:16:25 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  it's like this (none)
              Some theists seem to have a very very difficult time with this. Trust me when I say that as a weak atheist I have no faith at all in my beliefs about religion, which I believe is the aggregate of other people's conceptions of the cosmos. They are the ones who assert that such-and-such is a Universal Undeniable Truth, so let them convince me. I am unpersuaded (although I once was). Occam's Razor suggests to me that what is unnecessary should be discarded, and religious beliefs strike me as superfluous.

              I can't think how to make it clearer: I have no faith in my beliefs. I have faith in my friends and family, that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, that the Cubs will never win another World Series, but I don't have faith in any of my ideas about the Big Man Upstairs. Hell, I don't even have any faith in my belief that George Bush is a prime asshole--but I don't need faith for that, cause I have evidence, which is better anyway.

              The difference between an agnostic and a weak atheist is pretty slim; the w.a. position is more of a default position, kind of like the "innocent until proven guilty" concept. The burden of proof is not on me, because I make no claims, you do. The agnostic position is more to say, well maybe the atheists are wrong too. Even less of a position than weak atheism, which is already gossamer-thin.

            •  Uprating (none)
              Not sure why some thought this should be troll rated or 1 rated.

              There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you. -- Sherlock Holmes

              by Carnacki on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:05:32 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Correction (none)
        Deism--I believe in a higher power
        Theism--I believe in a Specific God or Gods
      •  I would rename 'strong' 'antitheism' (4.00)
        I think atheism is "weak" atheism in your lingo, but I really dislike "weak" as a qualifier on what is obviously the strongest of the suit.

        Call your "strong atheism" "antitheism" and we're OK.

        The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

        by peeder on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:35:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Or "hard" and "soft" atheism (4.00)
          I had come to the same conclusion regarding the terminology.

          "Atheism" almost always gets parsed as "antitheism", especially by theists. It can sometimes be an "antitheist" position, but more likely a "disinterest" position. The current terminology is inadequate or misused.

          The "disinterested" attitude of Person A in a subject can be turned to an actual "antagonistic" attitude against the subject if an "enthusiast" Person B interprets and acts upon Person A's disinterest as if it were "hostility". It forces Person A from an independent position into an oppositional position. That's the dynamic that frequently gets set up in our culture regarding "atheism". (Instead of "God" as the example, you might consider the subject of "football".)

          I'm a pluralistic, pagan, sorta-deist, who wants to be left alone in his own beliefs, and believes others should be left alone in their beliefs. I'm more interested in what people do than what they believe.

          "They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean they will necessarily avoid it." - David Manning re: BushCo in DSM

          by DavidW in SF on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:30:22 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I like your categories (none)
        But I disagree that agnosticism is tangential. I find it essential. For one thing, it helps me avoid mistaken equivalences like "belief in God is no different than belief in Santa Claus." I also find it a deeper and more rewarding stance than atheism, of either sort.

        Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

        by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:13:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  nope (4.00)
      just a rejection of some a priori assumptions, backed up with tons of empirical evidence. same as with any implausible unsupported assertion, the burden is not on the skeptic, but on the one doing the asserting. it does not take faith to reject a weak argument.

      crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

      by wu ming on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:48:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  But it does take (4.00)
        lots and lots and LOTS of restating it to argue with theists who don't understand atheism at ALL.

        Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

        by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:49:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  that there is no god (none)
        is an assumption.

        proof???

        "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

        by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:50:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ummm, remind me (none)
          how hard is it supposed to be to prove a negative?
          •  you call it a negative (none)
            others might call it a positive.

            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:54:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Go take a class in intro to logic (4.00)
              you don't seem to be following some fairly straightforward stuff here. "You can't prove a negative" doesn't mean it's a bad thing, it means you can't prove something isn't there.

              Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

              by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:56:18 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  relax (1.90)
                kiddo.

                "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:01:17 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  OK (none)
                "You can't prove a negative" doesn't mean it's a bad thing, it means you can't prove something isn't there.

                Prove it.

                A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:20:00 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  QED! (4.00)
                  The party of the first part and the party of the next
                  Were partly participled in a sparsely covered text
                  Were you partial to a party that has parceled out its parts
                  to the party of the second in your polly-tickle heart?
                  so parlay all your winnings on a horse that's running dark
                  with the lights out you may triple in a homer in the park.

                  Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                  by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:50:56 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  you can't prove a negative (4.00)
          there is no credible physical evidence for the existence of one or several gods, and a quick study of religious traditions reveals the trajectory of those gods' creations at the hands of their believers. invented tradition, discarded time and again for new traditions. atheism is a conclusion, not an assumption. same with ghosts, santa, the easter bunny, fairies, the five element theory of cosmology, demons, hell, and all the other stories that people have passed down.

          crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

          by wu ming on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:54:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  you can't disprove a negative either (1.75)
            and besides... people who say there's no god seem pretty POSITIVE about it.

            if you're not positive about it, that's cool.

            "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

            by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:56:14 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Go take a logic class nt (4.00)

              Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

              by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:57:03 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  people get very angry (1.50)
                when they can't prove it.

                negative shmlegative.

                positive shploshitive.

                is there proof either way??

                that's all.

                if there isn't i'm not trying to make you question you believe out of faith.

                "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

                by BiminiCat on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:00:45 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  My goddess you are incredibly annoying (none)
                  Why are you wasting everyone's time? Better question, why am I wasting my own time having a discussion with someone like you? Troll.

                  Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

                  by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:12:12 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  agreed, go take a logic class (4.00)
              I'm not an atheist, but you really need Logic 101...it's embarassing.
            •  Boiling water will not burn you. (none)
              Disprove the above negative statement.

              Experience disproves negative statements all the time.

              If you can belive your senses.

              •  foul ball (4.00)
                You're developing a negative claim from a pre-proven positive claim.  The analogy doesn't work, because you've made it circular.  In order for your analogy to hold water (boiling or not), you'd have to prove a deity's existence first, then the negative would be regarded as a claim.

                Here's a better analogy: flying unicorn spittle will not burn you.

                Now you have a claim without a positive antecedent.    And you can see why atheists bang their heads against the wall having to defend themselves.

              •  "negative" means non-existance (4.00)

                Proving a negative refers to proving the non-existance of something. That cannot be done because the something you are looking for could always be somewhere you haven't looked. It does not refer to proving an arbitrary statement phrased as a negative.

                And you have foolishly challanged "you can't prove a negative" by asking someone to "disprove" a statement you think is a negative. No one said you can't disprove a negative.

                To partially fix your broken analogy:

                Negative: No where in the universe is there a pot of boiling water that will not burn you.

                Positive: Somewhere in the universe there is a pot of boiling water that will not burn you.

                A positive is potentially provable, a negative is not. The positive cannot be disproven, the negative can be. I can place a pot of water in a vacuum chamber and give you breathing apparatus. The water in the pot will boil. You can place your hand in it and it will not burn. The negative has been disproven and the positive proven. But if an example case is not forthcoming, the negative remains unproven and unprovable.

                The statement "there is no god" cannot be proven. It isn't supposed to be provable. God could exist somewhere under a particular rock. Or the rock itself could be god. But you can, at least theoretically, prove that god exists today. Bring your god to me. I will give him some specific challenges that are beyond the capabilities of mere mortals or trickery. If he meets those challenges, his existance is reasonably proven. In thousands of years, there has not been the flimsiest shred of proof.

                If I demand that you conclusively prove the non-existance of genies in magic lamps, you cannot do so. Nor do I have any right to assert that they do exist if you can't prove they don't exist.

                God may exist under a rock somewhere. You might turn over a rock and Poof! But your chances of that happening are much lower than your chances of winning the big jackpot in the Megamillions lottery without buying a ticket (i.e. you would have to be lucky enough to find the winning ticket laying on the ground). To base your financial future on the possibility that will occur is mental incompetence. To insist that others base their financial future on that possibility is criminally insane.

                I am an atheist. I believe God does not exist. It is inherently unprovable by philosphical rather than practical standards that he does not exist. By practical standards, the non-existance has been reasonably proven because people have been fervently searching for the proof that he does exist for more than an order of magnitude longer than our lifespans and have come up empty handed. So the chance of god's existence being proven in my lifetime is negligable. I should concern myself with more credible threats like the possibility that the USS Nimitz will land on my house a hundred miles inland than the possibility that I will offend an almighty narcisist by not praying to him. :-) At least casino barges have landed on houses along the gulf coast. During the Hiroshima blast, objects were propelled 100 miles. But maybe God has been on sabatical leave for the last two thousand years, busy farting out other worlds light years away. Maybe god will unexpectantly show up a few years after we perfect the hyperspace drive and install it in every car. But in the meantime, I am going to plan my itenerary around the more modest speeds currently acheivable with my Honda. And if I want to save someones life in the wake of the next hurricane, tsunami, or earthquake, I will put my faith in the Almighty Dollar rather than the Almighty God.

                Anyway, I will be happy to consider the possibility that your God exists and would like me to do certain things as soon as you comply with the demands of the almighty cosmic squid that everyone should pay tribute into my bank account. Of course, if you can conclusively prove that the cosmic squid does not exist, you are exempted from paying tribute.

        •  No (4.00)
          That there is a god (or whatever) is an assertion.  The burden of proof is on you.
    •  Disagree here (none)
      As someone who went through years of spiritual conflict before deciding I was an atheist, I wholeheartedly disagree.

      I know many strong atheists; people who believe in the non-existance of god.  I am not one of these people.  At one time I considered myself an agnostic, but I later decided to not believe in god even though I cannot prove nor disprove this fact.  I consider myself an atheist for this reason; for me it is a CHOICE rather than a BELIEF.

    •  you're kidding, right? (none)
      wow, logic needs improvement!  atheism requires faith, hehe, i'll be laughing about that one for a while...

      just be thankful for what you've got

      by itsbenj on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:10:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No it doesn't (none)
      My atheism is more "anti-theism" - if I ever met God I'd punch him in the face for being such a dick.

      But, happily, the fact that there is not a God means I won't ever have to sully my knuckles.

      If you can't prove something exists, it doesn't exist. The burden of proof is on those who assert its existence.

      I've never been to Chicago. But its existence has been proven to me by many different forms of evidence. The "proof" for God is not remotely that solid. So, since it cannot be proven, it doesn't exist, any more than canals and civilizations exist on Mars.

      In the end your argument only works via the canard "faith = reason." I'm not buying.

      I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

      by eugene on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:08:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  *snort* (none)
        You're under a mistaken impression:

      Strong atheism: This God(s) does not exist. (Generally coupled with a specific proof, perhaps the contradictory nature of free will and omnipotent/omniscient creators). Held by MANY of faith towards other faiths, but makes a tiny percentage of atheists.

      Weak atheism: I have no reason to believe this God(s) exists, therefore I do not believe in that God(s). This is the most common type of atheism. Also referred to as "lacking belief in God".

      Agnosticism: The philosophical belief that knowledge of God is unatainable -- it is a matter of faith or belief, but not of "proof". There are agnostic atheists and agnostic theists.

      Theist: Believer in God(s).

        Darksyde, from her comments, is a weak atheist -- as I am. I don't believe in God because I have seen no reason to. I'll be happy to reasses the situation should new evidence come to light but -- as they say -- extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      •  I am a weak acoldfusionist (none)
        I don't believe cold fusion exists, but I'm not POSITIVE that it's impossible.  (I'd even like it to be possible.)  Every so often somebody claims that they've done it, and when I read about it I hope that they're correct.  Of course, there is an immense burden of proof on them, and they always fail to provide said proof, so I always go on disbelieving.
    •  No it doesn't! (none)
      It merely says that nothing about the idea of God as defined by any religion I know of makes any sense at all.  I'm a rationalist.  I need a much better explanation than any religion has offered me.  And in the absense of any good explanation, I'll have to assume that God doesn't exist.  I'm certainly open to evidence, but none of the usual arguments cut it.
    •  I can't BELIEVE (heh) (none)
      How many people gave you "Unproductive" ratings for this comment.

      If ever a comment were appropriate AND constructive AND pithy, this would be it.

      It's a motherfucking opinion, in a DISCUSSION ABOTU ATHEISM.

      Who the fuck ARE you people, and what did you do with the Kossacks who USED to be here?

      Jesus fucking christ.

      I'm an atheist. And it's true. Atheism takes faith.

      Walking across the street when the light is green takes faith, assholes.

  •  Excellent paradigm shift ! - Thanks. (none)
  •  I don't think it has anything to do with faith (none)
    or the lack of it: simply from holding a different set of viewpoints which make up your belief and perspective on the world. DarkSyde has a different viewpoint than most, a very big M on that most. (So do I, but I have the comfort of already being a nutty lewpyfrout, so I think it bothers me slightly less.) Anyone who espouses a different viewpoints from the Santaists would receive similar treatment.

    /there are no rules except discovery /the only tradition is invention. -rachel pollack

    by joseph rainmound on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:32:59 PM PST

  •  Excuse me? (2.50)
    The above is what it's like for YOU to be an atheist. Others' experiences may vary, as might their inclination to talk about it at all, or a little, or a lot, or at great length.
    •  It worked for me (4.00)
      I felt the exact same way, growing up. While I bought the whole God thing until I was at least seven, by the time I was out with questioning, people did attack me with these illogical accusations, including "What's to stop you from murdering a dozen people if you don't believe in God?" When I'd reply, they'd attack me for having the insolence to not be silenced by their brilliant accusation. Great diary.

      Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

      by madhaus on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:42:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Me too (4.00)
      The account speaks for me too. I also was born without "knowledge of God" and went through the experience of trying as a young child to rationalize the religious behavior of adults. My conclusion is that it helps sometimes to be a little bit crazy, or to be able to pretend to be.

      We must raise the cost of tyranny.

      by zyx zyx on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:05:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  me too (4.00)
      Actually, it's very close to my adult experiences, although my childhood path was somewhat different.

      The paraphases of the lunatic arguments people pose to you were dead-on.

    •  not even close for me (4.00)
      and James H. Christ...where the hell does DarkSyde live?

      >> in fact force feeding, that mythology to you; people who sometimes turn quite violent, get downright nasty if you express the slightest disagreement with their specific version of the Jolly Old Guy; people who happen to wield incredibly powerful arsenals of WMDs and massive traditional military might as well as running everything from the local police department to the IRS...

      And I thought southern OH was judgmental because I've been on the receiving end of the 'morals' discussion.  Oh, and once at a mostly Catholic Christmas party, when I answered "none" to the question "what parish do you belong to?", I heard them whisper something that sounded like "must be Protestant" when I stepped away from the buffet table.  Then later, when I clarified I didn't go to church because I don't believe in God, they kind of looked at me funny.

      But no.  I've never had anyone question my worth or my very life because of my lack of belief.  And I never feel defenseless or at the mercy of hordes of people who have lost their minds.  

      How does being an atheist feel to me?  It's merely being outnumbered by people who have a different set of beliefs than mine.  And that's okay, because my truth doesn't require a majority vote.

      I make a point of respecting the religious beliefs of others because I demand that mine be respected.

      And in all these years no one in southern OH has threatened to kill me.  Go figure.    

      Please donate to Katrina Laptop Fund for students.

      by willowby on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:44:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  in the real honest world (none)
        " It's merely being outnumbered by people who have a different set of beliefs than mine."

        Funny how no one with (or admits to) your set of beliefs holds public office.

        •  oh they're there... (none)
          According to Mother Jones, a Gallup poll showed that 52% would not vote for a well qualified atheist as President.

          But that's a rather slim majority.  

          Please donate to Katrina Laptop Fund for students.

          by willowby on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:31:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, they AREN'T there (none)
            Name an out atheist in public office.  Your poll is irrelevant -- real behavior is.
            •  Ah, but there have been. (none)
              You'll have to put up with a link to a Street Prophets story, since I can't find the original link, but the Secular Coalition for America  has a new lobbyist who was herself an elected official in Nevada.

              Street Prophets: where the cookies live now...

              by pastordan on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:07:54 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  It doesn't say she was out in Nevada (none)
                And even if she was -- that makes one.  Such exceptions, while falsifying my exact words, don't invalidate the point.  And I think you know it.
            •  I don't know of any (none)
              but that doesn't mean they're not in office.  Your initial post noted, I thought, that they were there but have yet to 'come out'.  

              Not sure what your point is,or at least why you're making it to me.  Mine was merely that I haven't had my life threatened as a result of my personal beliefs.  I never stated I could run for public office and win as an atheist.  Although I do think that the right candidate could win...at least I have high hopes for Alan Alda.  

              Is there bias?  Absolutely.  Am I okay with that?  No.  Does the continued effort by the religious right to write their dogma into law bother me?  It makes my head explode.  But there are tens of thousands of religious people who actually distinguish between church and state...probably tens of thousands of them here at Kos.  

              As an advocate for tolerance, I'm not going to show intolerance for people who simply have a different set of beliefs than mine.

              The world would be a far more peaceful place if no one did.  

               

              Please donate to Katrina Laptop Fund for students.

              by willowby on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:00:37 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  you said they're there (none)
                now you say you don't know of any, but that doesn't mean they're not there.

                I wonder if you grasp the concept of intellectual honesty.

                •  ahh...a Jimmy Smits fan, are we? (none)
                  Atheists make up the second largest 'religious' group after Christians.  I'm pretty confident there's at least one of us in office, between municipalities, counties, states and the federal level.  Not to mention schoolboards, townships, condo associations and bingo commissions. Who knows...maybe in the history of our great nation one has even donned a robe and taken the bench.

                  They're there all right.  Which I sort of thought was understood.  If you were expecting me to google the matter and find you a few, my apologies.

                  Troll along now.

                  Please donate to Katrina Laptop Fund for students.

                  by willowby on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:21:36 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  'no one with (or admits to)' (none)
                    That's what I wrote.  Troll, my ass.  When one of the Supreme Court justices, Kennedy I think, said to Michael Newdow that his interests are represented by Congress just like anyone else's, he retorted that none of them were atheists.  He wasn't challenged.  The point is well understood and well documented, no matter how many silent atheists serve on school boards.  For instance,

                    http://hagsa.org/...

                    Eddie Tabash, who is an attorney, was the only open atheist with a reasonable chance of winning to run for election to any legislative body in America during 2000.

                    You want to quibble about my exact words, but ignore the substantive point.  Feh.  

            •  Howard Dean was 'unelectable' (none)
              because he couldn't even name all the Reindeer!

              (-6.88, -8.31)-- "fuck your war... and your president."--Snake Plissken

              by binFranklin on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:49:14 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Scary (none)
          Now that is scary!!
    •  Me also. (none)
      I never believed in any gods. My parents told me some bible stories when I was a kid, but I didn't understand that there was such a thing as a non-fiction book back then so I just assumed it wasn't true and I still find no evidence to convince me otherwise.
      •  me too (none)
        I had "My Book of Bible Stories" as a child. Neither of my parents being particularly religious, I think they just wanted to expose me and let me decide. I loved the book - the illustrations were colorful and the stories were broken up into one or two page tales. Some of my favorites were the story of Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve of course, the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, and the story of Lot's wife (did she have a name? Not in my book of course - that disobedient bitch!). But the title said it all to me - STORIES.

        Of course, by far my favorite tale was the story of Jezebel...hmm, wonder why.

        I wouldn't call myself an atheist, cause I'm not into labels and such. I believe that there might be a supreme being - a force, I think, is more like it - but it's not my problem to worry about it. Also, if there is an afterlife, I am perfectly content to wait and see what that is like when I die. I'm not going to spend my living years wondering about it, obsessing over it, in fear of it.

        If I had to choose a belief system, I think it would be astrology. Some might scoff, but I think it is entirely plausible that the alignment of the cosmos influences us as individuals, groups, and generations. Shit, if the moon controls the tide, why not humanity? We are not that special.

        Good diary DarkSyde.

        Stop saying that blue state people are out of touch with the morals and values of the red states. I'm not out of touch with them, I just don't share them.

        by missreporter on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:45:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  and then Cain (none)
          went to the land of Nod and took a wife.

          what? weren't Adam and Eve and their two sons the only people in the world?

          that kinda killed that for me... and i was only seven... making my next nine years in Alabama a kind of interior exile that shaped the rest of my life.

          (-6.88, -8.31)-- "fuck your war... and your president."--Snake Plissken

          by binFranklin on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:00:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  anything substantive to offer? (none)
      It's what it's like for me and every other atheist I've ever talked to.  Perhaps you could point out what is inaccurate about Darksyde's description.
    •  Works for me. (none)
      Though I was 9 or ten before I realised it was all silly. Hadn't really thought about it before that.
    •  Yeah, sums it up for me too (none)
      I simply won't talk religion even with people in my own family outside my parents and my brother, let alone others; my father's family is all Southern Baptists in various degrees is devoutness, while my mother's family is mostly lapsed Jews turned Buddhists who keep trying to convert my mother. And even my mother thinks atheism is intellectually arrogant (like many, she automatically assumes atheism=very, very strong atheism).

      Personally, I grew up an extremely skeptical agnostic with an absolute disbelief in most of the trappings of religion, especially the supernatural and hell and faith being important in and of itself. Over time, I became very good at changing the subject. While I've only considered myself an atheist for about a year, it was more a realization that agnostic simply hadn't been accurate for ages rather than an actual change in belief.

      It's not that I disagree with Bush's economic policy or his foreign policy, it's that I believed he was a child of Satan sent to destroy the planet Earth. -BH

      by Ben Grimm on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 04:48:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  straw men (4.00)
    this post is fixated on what looks like a Christian god, understandable as that is the Brand Name religion of choice here in US. there are other things besides a believing in God and being an atheist. Like this writer, i grew up believing (yes, believing) that i was an atheist, i couldn't pray to this God, i heard no voices, i wondered what everyone else at school was doing, why they heard God and i didn't.

    and so the years go on.

    but i am now a recovered atheist and place nature as being suitable of worship, having realised that the problem for myself is actually the prevalence of the major faiths (as this post picks up on), and the historical breach they have caused. people were pagans for a lot longer than they've been christians, some peoples, such as the Icelandic escaped the Jesus virus almost completely.

    i still don't believe in God, or life after death (unless you can count re-entering the chain of being as a food source), but i don't have to wander around BEING an atheist (i still question whether you can BE an atheist - what would the writer BE if there were no Faiths? atheism is reaction, it's still a regulation of belief dressed as non-belief)

    as for seeing signs of faith everywhere, what about the stars and stripes, or the $? these are also literally mind-bending signifiers that warp human behaviour every bit as much as religion. so i am not sure what it means to be wandering around atheistic because of the signs of God, but apparently (unless i missed something) not being impacted greatly by these other powerful symbols. (you can construct your own reductio ad absurdum here, or you can go and study semiology) as you can't cling to God sign Bad because it's everywhere in a world/country where Money and Flag receive equal worship. who knows, maybe they are your gods, so there's no issue.

    my own wish is simply that the major faiths had never happened. when time machines arrive, i am off to regulate the prophets and divert the second coming (no need to thank me in advance). then it's time for disco dancing with Plato and the gang.

    •  asdf (4.00)
      You wrote:" still don't believe in God, or life after death (unless you can count re-entering the chain of being as a food source), but i don't have to wander around BEING an atheist (i still question whether you can BE an atheist - what would the writer BE if there were no Faiths? atheism is reaction, it's still a regulation of belief dressed as non-belief)"

      and it seems to me you've completely missed DarkSyde's point. One doesn't need to "wander around BEING an atheist" any more than one wanders around BEING someone who does not bowl competitively in Tulsa on Saturday nights, or wander around BEING someone who did not eat guava paste a year ago last Tuesday.  

      Mother Nature bats last.

      by pigpaste on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:27:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Atheist is a label (4.00)
        put on me because I do not believe in god. I may as well use the word.
        •  Sure, (4.00)
          what I'm trying to say is that atheism is not an effortful position--a reaction, as kingfelix asserted. That assertion comes from the inability of believers to conceive of the complete lack of importance of religion to atheists. The believer can't comprehend it, so misunderstands and thinks the atheist thinks its important not to have religion, something else entirely.

          Mother Nature bats last.

          by pigpaste on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:45:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  no, YOU miss the point (none)
        you miss it entirely, darksyde DOES feel himself to BE an atheist, did you not read his post? he should take the same line you would on a food you don't like, if you don't like it, don't eat it, and don't worry about it, don't label yourself in opposition to it, or you are being trapped in a binary. and it is just as irrational to believe there is NO god as to believe there IS a god, in some ways More irrational.

        agnosticism has a little more merit

        •  environment (4.00)
          if you don't like it, don't eat it, and don't worry about it, don't label yourself in opposition to it, or you are being trapped in a binary.

          This would be fine if organized religion were something on a menu or in a store that you could just not buy, and therefore not have to deal with.  In reality, the distasteful food is constantly being force fed to her, and the leaders of the country making laws outlawing X because X doesn't go well with broccoli (for example).

        •  Do we believe there are no dragons? (none)
          Or do we not believe there are dragons? Is seems like the same kind of distinction. I don't feel like I am going out of my way to believe there is no god. It doesn't require any effort. Does that make me irrational?
  •  OK (none)
    Santa does exist, you heathern! Why do you hate America?

    Anyways, I'm in the same boat since I believe in a deity that kicked off the Universe but doesn't interact with it. I'm a Deist (short, bleief in a deity based on reason, experience, and empiralism). Properties of light, constants in physics equations, and existance of DNA (molecule is very complex thus some deity had to rig the system to allow it to develope out of non-living material billions of years ago).

    Most non-Christians feel the same way. I do want to know something though: are atheists against the Christian version of God or just against all versions?

    A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

    by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:42:31 PM PST

    •  I'm not AGAINST any god. (4.00)
      I simply don't believe in any of them. I can't be for or against something which does not exist.

      I wish there was a god and you could go to eternity in paradise just for following a few rules, but I simply do not believe that is true and I cannot change my (lack of) belief any more than I could force myself to believe the sky is green.

      Atheists and homosexuals have a lot in common- we both worry about 'coming out' to people we know and love because often times when we do, they shun us for it or try to 'cure' us as if this is some sort of illness.

      By the way, although I don't go there very often myself these days, I do invite all atheists here to go to the Internet Infidels Discussion Borard at www.iidb.org for a friendly atheistic atmosphere for discussion of all manner of things.

    •  Good question (none)
      I am both an atheist and an agnostic.  That is, I believe it can never be known (or that, at the very least, no one does currently know), and I also believe that there is not a God.  The last one is just my hunch.  But I would also be against the Judeo-Christian God, even if shown definitive proof of his existence.  If the bible is to be regarded as truth, I don't think such a God is even remotely close to being benevolent and worthy of worship.  Make no mistake about it, I am opposed to THAT God.
      •  It's worth remembering the New Covenant in (4.00)
        the New Testament presents a very different God with different goals than the Old Testament.  In Europe most people are Christians - but that means they take the New Testament and Jesus's teaching of a New  Covenant and leave the Old Testament to American lunatics.

        For those of you who don't read the Bible, the Old Testament was the one about not eating cloven hoofed animals or shellfish, not masturbating, eye for an eye, no pictures of God or anything he created anywhere, God smiting and laying waste, plagues and warfare.  The New Testament and Christ's teachings were about man not being good because of what he eats or how often he goes to temple, but because of what he DOES to make life better for those around him, including turning the other cheek, being generous to the poor, and praising God alone by yourself out of sight of your neighbours - and definitely not in the temple (or church).  

        The real problem with American Christianity is the corruption of Christ's teaching into something completely unrecognisable and very far from the recorded message of early followers by huge, institutionalised churches.

        Christ didn't go to church.  He made it clear that only hypocrites shout their faith in church, and that God will judge you by what you DO not what you claim.

        I'm not a Christian because I don't believe in the divinity of Christ, but I accept his teachings as a beautiful message of faith and love.  I'm a Unitarian - which means I believe what I believe and leave everyone else free to choose their own path as well.

        "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing - after they have exhausted all other possibilities." Winston Churchill

        by LondonYank on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:05:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  right (none)
          Having been involved in theatre in my high school years.. I believe I participated in productions of Godspell at least 3 times, and saw many other productions of the show. As an athiest, I was always struck by how starkly different the teachings of Godspell were vs. how 'real' religious people acted.

          You touch on what I think is the most important one. "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
        •  I would narrow that to the Gospels (none)
          Because in the New Testament overall, once you get past the recounting of Jesus' life and teachings in the Gospels (which all take very different approaches and philosophies) and into the  interpretation of Jesus' teachings by his later followers (not to mention Revelation), you start getting into corruption of the original message, and of trying to deal with the fact that the world didn't end.

          Jesus had some great teachings. Too bad many Christians don't follow them.

          Reiterating from above: I'm much more concerned with what people do to make a better world than what they what they claim to believe, although I find belief systems and the history of ideas endlessly fascinating. (I've just finished reading Rudolf Bultmann's "History and Eschatology", which I would strongly recommend, and have just started "Naming the Antichrist: History of an American Obsession" -- fascinating stuff.)

          "They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean they will necessarily avoid it." - David Manning re: BushCo in DSM

          by DavidW in SF on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:09:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Agree about the gospels - and I would limit it (none)
            further to the more contemporaneous gospels rather than the stuff made up as marketing collateral for Paul's church and all the crap Paul wrote to justify extorting money from poor people to found his institutional vision.

            I'm very fond of reading the Gospel of Mary Madalen and the Gospel of Thomas, two gospels left out of the compilation put together by the Nicea crowd.  

            The early gospels didn't focus on whether Christ was some sort of messiah or not, but instead recounted what he taught as the focus of his ministry on earth.  To me that is right, that the focus should be on what Christ taught rather than who Christ might or might not be.

            "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing - after they have exhausted all other possibilities." Winston Churchill

            by LondonYank on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:42:39 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I don't believe in any god. (none)
      Or anything much else either, not in the sense that theists seem to use the world believe: I have working assumptions, not beliefs. I expect the world to be much the same when I wake up tomorrow morning but if it turns out I've been connected to an alien machine simulating the world it won't affect anything I believe, just change my assumptions.

      And on the off chance there is a God or Gods I think he/she/they have some explaining to do. Even if they exist, why would we worship them?

    •  Atheists live without God... (none)
      not, "against" (any) God - hence, *A*theist.  As opposed to anti-theist.  The term atheist, by itself, only specifies a "lack of belief" in god, though a significant number of atheists more specifically have a "belief in lack" of god.

      That said, no - atheism has nothing to do with christianity, though many (especially "strong") atheists in the US tend to react more to christian belief structures because they're what is shoved down their throats constantly.

      Never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth. -- Henrik Ibsen

      by mik on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:36:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  god comes from the inability to understand death (4.00)
    seems to me. trying to make some sense out of the "here today, gone tomorrow" phenomenon. can you imagine being dead? what does that feel like? throughout the history of the species we've had to have a system that explains death so that we don't live every day in total dread. religion to me has nothing to do with morality in this life & everything to do with that long boat ride after.

    i'm an agnostic, i'd be an atheist if it weren't for mozart

    by rasbobbo on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:43:28 PM PST

    •  Good summary (none)
      Of terror management theory.

      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

      by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:01:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  nirvana (4.00)

      Why fear death? I believe when I die, I won't have to put up with fundamentalist christians anymore. :-)

      •  Did someone say Nirvana? (none)
        "Beat me outta me!"

        My God is blasting Nirvana at 3 am while perhaps ever so slightly chemically enhancing my neurosynaptic junctions.  Church never felt so divine.

        -7.38, -5.90 "It's called the 'American dream,' because you have to be asleep to believe it." - George Carlin

        by Subterranean on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:47:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  you can take it on faith (none)
          that i am a negative creep.

          (-6.88, -8.31)-- "fuck your war... and your president."--Snake Plissken

          by binFranklin on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:19:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  A '4' for Nirvana reference... (none)
          One of my favorite bands, best concert memories. A couple of lines from Lithium complements this diary...

          Sunday morning is everyday for all I care and I'm not scared...
          Light my candles, in a daze 'cause I've found god.

          This from a band that went on to say God is gay in Stay Away.

          As for me, I prefer to think that God is simply everything in the universe -- everything in and outside of us -- and heaven (or hell) is right here, right now. Recently, I came across one of the more interesting ideas in a comment by Thameron over at Street Prophets in an Afterlife Poll diary. I don't have any definitive answers.

          I'm on a journey; but, this concept is a poetic one to me:

          I have always wondered why a being which had reached (or started with) a state of perfection would create a universe.  Obviously you can't become more perfect by creating something with flaws.  One possible answer is that God found perfection to be a dead end.  There is no place to go after perfection so God sacrificed him/her/itself to create the universe.  The universe thus created was then filled with matter energy, and with the remnants of God's spirit no longer a consciousness but rather an unconsciousness.  For the Source it was a new beginning.  It has been evolving and growing along with us for these past 13.7 billion years.  Each new life adds to it.  The urge we feel for the divine is the whisper that fills the cosmos, an urge rather than a command as some say.  Perhaps some time in the future the threshhold will be passed and the Source will re-awaken fully and either find a way past perfection or start the cycle anew.

          Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

          by ilona on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:24:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  not in general (none)
      The ancient Israelites, who were very very God-oriented, did not believe in any life after death until after the Babylonian captivity. All the joyful stuff in the Psalms is based on gratitude for their relationship with God while alive.

      -- Be the change you wish to see. Gandhi

      by Wee Mama on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:18:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Have you read Ernest Becker? (none)
      Author of The Denial of Death.

      Very interesting theorist, coming from an existential Freudian perspective... but with Death, not Sex, at the core of his analysis of human dysfunction.

      My mentor in undergrad/first grad school wrote a complete Theory of Tragedy (literary tragedy) based on Becker. So the theory that Death is at the core of human longing for the existence of God - indeed, at the core of human behavior - has been part of my awareness since the 1970s.

      However (as per your sig), the existence of Mozart/Dostoevsky/Shakespeare/Beethoven/Charlie Parker/Duke Ellington, etc. kinda diminished any belief I ever had in the random congruence of molecules. I was a really lousy atheist back in the day. :-)

      But we'll shout from the bow "Your days are numbered" / And like Pharaoh's tribe they'll be drownded in the tide / And like Goliath they'll be conquered

      by zerocrossing on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:15:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  An "intelligent design" meme (none)
        You are coming close to joining their twisted rhetoric about how one explains the "development" of the eye - too complex for random mutations over time, they say. Mozart et al also "too" complex, too much genius? Not possible that they, like the eye, were randomly produced through evolutionary processes?
        •  asdf (none)
          It's always interesting to see what makes people jump out of their skin.

          Apparently, people are not allowed to grapple intellectually with issues of infinite complexity, but are only supposed to parrott the evolution meme?

          But we'll shout from the bow "Your days are numbered" / And like Pharaoh's tribe they'll be drownded in the tide / And like Goliath they'll be conquered

          by zerocrossing on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:14:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  A Sioux Joke (none)
          A Lakota friend of mine once told me something his grandfather told him...

          "Grandson, someday when you grow up, the Wasichu will try to convince you that they are descended from monkeys.

          "And you know... After observing them these many years, I'm starting to believe them.

          "But, of course, you are Lakota, not Wasichu. You come from the Great Spirit."

          Perfect Sioux humor. You should hear their anthropologist jokes.

          But we'll shout from the bow "Your days are numbered" / And like Pharaoh's tribe they'll be drownded in the tide / And like Goliath they'll be conquered

          by zerocrossing on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:27:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  It's funny (none)
        That the fact that I'm a writer (both songs and fiction) is a big part of why I'm an atheist. It's all random molecules to me :-).

        The other part of being an atheist that pertains to writing is this: I know how easy it is to create a world. I also know how easy it is to make part of your brain 'live' in that world for a period of time. I do it every time I write.

        However, since it is so easy for me to send my brain to deal with places, people, and events that don't exist except in my brain--and, when I'm done, on electronic paper--my requirements for actual reality are rather stringent. In other words, I assume fiction unless I get firm evidence of reality <G>. Hell, the two main characters in my big serial novel--it took me three years to write that thing. I lived with those two non-existant people taking up huge spaces in my head for those whole three years. They are a hell of a lot more 'real' to me than any 'God' you might bring up. But I know they're not real. I know I created them.

        And my story is a hell of a lot more inherently believable than huge chunks of the Bible are. But the Bible is believed by a lot of people to be nonfiction. Not for me. If it looks like fiction, smells like fiction, and I don't have any other evidence to the contrary....fiction it is.

        "Don't call yourself religious, not with that blood on your hands"--Little Steven Van Zandt

        by ChurchofBruce on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:25:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  DarkSyde... (4.00)
    I love you, in a (ahem) manly way of course.  I love this post.  Samsara is not an essential element of the school of ek and my teacher; well, he was just a guy seeking wisdom.
  •  absolutely dead on! (4.00)
    100% accurate...and SO sad that we are really in this place in 2005....
    •  Second the motion ... (4.00)
      I needed a thread to glom onto ...

      I was raised Catholic.  I did the whole thing - 12 years of Sunday school, first communion, confirmation, etc ... and the longer I stayed, the less I "believed".  I finished it up because, 1) my parents really wanted me to, 2) my friends were all there anyway so there was a positive social aspect and 3) after the first 9 years - you figure, what the hell I'll stay and finish this thing up.

      However, since the day I was confirmed I have been pretty much a devout athiest.  I go along with the religious stuff during family functions (my wife actually comes from strong Southern Baptist roots) if only to passify those around me.  But, my wife knows where I stand (obviously).

      I do not begrudge anyone's belief system - however, when I am asked where I am coming from I give an answer not so unlike what was described in this diary.  I would ask only that my "lack of faith" (however that should be described) be treated in kind.  I traveled through Tennessee a couple years back to see an old friend. His wife was quite religious - and she was not too happy when I was up front about my athiesm - (Hey, she asked). I spent the rest of that visit defending my position.  While we got along fine - you could sense how desturbed she was just the same.

      The funny thing is if you believe in something (Zoroaster, Montezuma, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, etc ..) I think you get more respect than if you declare you "believe" in nothing.  I think it's because we relate religiosity and morality. Athiests, by rejecting any belief system, must not be moral people - right?  That is the BS that you need educate people on.  It's why I was an anomoly to my friends' wife.  She could see I was a good, moral guy - but here I was declaring my athiesm.  You could tell it didn't add up for her.

      In the end, DarkSyde hits the big picture for me.  Why do I have to accept the tenents of someone elses faith (the Bible, Koran) as a given - yet, you can't accept my rejection of the same.  

       

  •  Compassionate atheists (4.00)
    who live their lives with integrity are ethically superior to fundie moralists who do good works for a ticket to Heaven, or so that their God doesn't destroy them for not giving Him what He needs (their so-called "love" and devotion).  

    Gag me with a spoon.

    Although it's my belief that to be an atheist is to be sure there's no God and that's, to me, just as absolutist as being sure there IS a God.

    I'll take a bit of agnosticism with a side of open-mindedness to the endless possibilities and to the fact that we have no idea- none of us, what the real deal may be.

    here boo, here boo, want a cookie? good girl.

    by tepster on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:45:04 PM PST

    •  Agreed! (none)
      Although many atheists are weak atheists; that is, they are not atheists because they specifically disbelieve in the existence of god, but because there is no proof and thus they choose not to believe in god.

      Tis a fine and very muddy line between agnosticism and atheism, it seems.

    •  I'll take that challenge... (4.00)
      Although it's my belief that to be an atheist is to be sure there's no God and that's, to me, just as absolutist as being sure there IS a God.

      As a (weak) atheist, and a bunch of other things I have a hard time finding terms for, I object to your characterization.  I've no doubt that there are such people, but I'm not one of them.

      Specifically:

      • I'm an Agnostic because I have no experience or evidence of a god, nor do I expect any.
      • I'm an Atheist because I have no belief in a god (probably because I'm an Agnostic!), and cannot bring myself to being intellectually or spiritually dishonest about it.
      • I'm an Igtheist because the god theories that jibe with the obviously observable facts of how the world works appear pointless in the natural world - either they don't interact with the here-and-now at all, dismiss the universe as a deception, or god becomes merely a synonym for the mechanistic natural world.
      • I'm a Humanist because I believe that ethics properly derive from human and social concerns and that externally-imposed "laws" that conflict with earthbound concerns have often led to horror (to be fair, and also occasionally to beauty).
      • I'm a Naturalist because I believe that ethical behavior is possible only with the assumption that humanity is essentially part of the natural world and not qualitatively different.

      In addition, I find beliefs that assume life-after-death or Calvinist-like predeterminism morally counter-productive, as they (at best) encourage good behavior for ultimately selfish reasons.

      I live my life according to principals derived from this world - if there is a God and/or an afterlife, boy will I be surprised!  If I'm barred from eternal reward solely because I didn't worship the right idol or mouth the right prayers, then IMHO, the universe is ultimately unjust and I'll gladly go into oblivion/purgatory/hell rather than support a supremely immoral system.

      Never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth. -- Henrik Ibsen

      by mik on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:20:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What a great rant! (4.00)
    Maybe I missed it, but I think you forgot the ever-present "it takes faith to believe there is no Santa" and "you can't really be an a-Santa-ist, you must be an agnostic, becuase you can't know for sure".  Gah, I hate that line of "reasoning".  

    I think there are a lot of us atheists out here, hiding our true beliefs from the religious masses.  There certainly seem to be a lot of us here at Kos, from all the religion surveys I've looked at over the years.

    I'm a third-generation atheist, my son is a fourth generation atheist.  Sometimes we laugh at how weird things are.  But my husband and I always made sure my son knew, from his earliest years, that you don't admit you're an atheist to anyone else, or there's sure to be trouble with the true believers.

    Anyway, hope you feel better after your great rant.

    •  indeed (none)
      If I claim that there is an elephant running down 43rd street, the burden of proof lies with ME.
      •  Especially if that elephant (4.00)
        is invisible, weightless, soundless, odorless...

        Let me state emphatically that we in the Bush administration do NOT condone torture. We sidle up to it, wink at it, and climb into bed with it.

        by turbonium on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:07:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Agnostic.... (none)
      Our definitions of "agnostic" are completely wrong.

      Agnostic -- an atheist who doesn't have the balls to admit it.

      I was an agnostic for a while because I couldn't contemplate the horror of being an atheist. I thought an atheist not only disbelieved God, but hated him. I didn't hate God -- I just didn't believe in Him. So, really, to avoid hurting his feelings, I just called myself an agnostic.

      How can you not believe in God and still be afraid of hurting his feelings? Go figure. I know my teddy bear is just fluff, but I'd never feed him to the dog.

      •  blah (4.00)
        Quick, tell me, am I wearing a red shirt or a blue shirt? If you say you don't know, it must be because you don't have the balls to take a stand.

        I'm agnostic because it correctly describes what I believe about God.

        •  OK. (none)
          Sorry, I knew that was kind of a dickish thing to say, even when I wrote it...

          But there's two things going on for me here. One is emotional, and it's completely my issue and not yours, but it is that your position is so close to mine but it's not quite there, and I still emotionally insecure enough to want everyone to agree with me.

          Second, and here's my rhetorical problem with agnosticism, why does religion get a special "agnostic" treatment? When people believe weird things, we generally don't have a problem saying, "That just doesn't exist." We don't shift into logic parsing mode and say, "I can not prove the non-existence of Big Foot, therefore I am not going to say the Big Foot does NOT exist." But agnostics will do it with God, and not just God, but with every god of every ancient and newfangled religion that people can come up with. For instance, if there was a religion that said Bigfoot created the Earth and was this religion's God, then an agnostic would go from disbelieving Big Foot to being agnostic about Big Foot.

          •  Dead on. (none)
            That is precisely why I'm not an agnostic. No one can prove the existance (or non-existance, which of course, is impossible) of Massive Purple Hideously Fanged Mice That Only Appear When Your Eyes Are Closed, but yet, no one claims to be 'agnostic' about their existance.

            It's an intellectual cop-out which, to my way of thinking, is simply conjured so one doesn't have to take a stand against the prevailing 'wisdom'.

            Short of proof of a god, I'm an Atheist. (Actually it does go deeper than that, but that's the short version).

            /International treaties? We don't abide by no stinkin' international treaties./

            by sigmarthebad on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:41:12 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  asdf (none)
              just had a conversation with my gf about it, and she doesn't understand how I can just dismiss religion as comparable to bigfoot. Her argument was that it gave meaning to people's lives, and that it was "much deeper" than that. I tried to explain to her that several people have a deep, meaningful belief in UFO's, for instance, that is absolutely equivalent to the meaning that people get from religion. She said I was being silly.

              So what are you gonna do?

          •  Why I don't not believe in the unbelievable. (none)
            The way I see it, it's all about what question is being asked.

            Look, you're right, there's no evidence that God exists. And there's no evidence of an invisible dragon living in my room, or a little blue man who appears on my shoulder every time I'm not looking. And for any of those questions, if you asked me to bet dollars on the answer, I would bet that they don't exist.

            But that's not the same as saying that I know with 100% certainty that they don't exist. And, since there's a convenient position that says "Hey, I don't believe he exists -- but even though I'm 99.99999% on the subject, I can never be 100% certain," then I'm going to take it. Because it's the truth. Philosophically, I think that makes me a skeptic.

            The question of God's existence is only privileged because other people insist on asking it. If there was a cult of little-blue-manists out there, I'd have to give them the same answer, because what I do believe is that .99999999... != 1.

            As to red vs. blue shirts being an appropriate analogy, well, the point was that if you don't know the answer, then you don't know the answer. Why should I act like I do just to please some overly macho forum guy feels like calling me out? (Apologies to Inkadu - just describing my state of mind.)

        •  False analogy (none)
          Red shirt vs. blue shirt is a mistaken analogy.  We know for sure that there are such things as red and blue shirts.  Nobody has ever produced evidence that there even could be a God, let alone that there is one.  The logical approach in regards to fantastic claims is to say, "I won't believe until there is some evidence."

          A better analogy is if I were to say that I have a dragon in my room.  Are you an agnostic, or do you take the default position with fantastic claims of "prove it"?

          Belief in God is a fantastic (or preposterous) claim, because it's outside the realm of our experience.

          •  Outside your experience. (none)
            I do not want to believe in God, but I have experienced God. If you were color-blind would you insist that red couldn't exist? If you love curry and I do not would you insist that it actually tastes delicious and I'm just making a preposterous claim?

            I think why these debates get so acrimonious is that a lot of people on both sides assume that their perceptions and experiences are universally shared. And I would argue that there is no basis to believe that everyone perceives the world around them in the same way.

  •  ermmm (4.00)
    "throughout the history of the species we've had to have a system that explains death so that we don't live every day in total dread."

    - seeing as we can only actually experience a moment called "Now", i think this notion of needing to explain death is again perhaps more culturally formed than is realised. buddhism doesn't require any special explanations to remove this fear of death. perhaps it is our western obsession with The Future that robs us of life, far more than a death to which we're all born. To live only in the future, to always be planning, that is death, living death.

    •  Fear of death... (4.00)
      ....is fear of being alive when you're dead. Ancient man looked at a rotting corpse and said, "SHIT that must be uncomfortable!" Decomposing, disintegrating, helpless, unable to speak or move, totally at the mercy of anything and anyone.... that's what the fear of death is about. Being dead, but still somehow aware, awake, and reasoning.

      We still do this. Otherwise why should we care about how corpses are treated, even if the corpses are people we don't know? People make more fuss about the mutilation of a corpse than they do about the killing of the person in the first place, which is just plain weird, unless in some way they are equating the mutilation of a dead person with the torture of a living one.

      But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

      by sagesource on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:57:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  not so sure (none)
        the protection of human corpses perhaps has as much to do with distinguishing our flesh from that of animals. it may make more sense to look at taboos surrounding cannibalism, etc, rather than posit some zombie-inspired fear of being alive while you rot (ah, being buried alive! another deep human fear, perhaps more frightening than death itself)
      •  Called respect (none)
        When a person dies, all we have left is the body. Treat it with respect to honor that person's life. Not that hard.

        A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

        by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:08:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  every animal is programmed to avoid death (none)
        ... a consequence of evolution.  We are no different, but in humans this, like so much of our behavior, is governed by emotional reactions mediated by consciousness.  This results in rather complex and varied thoughts that go beyond empathy with corpses.
        •  Except... (none)
          ...for the bees programmed to commit suicide when they sting, to defend the hive.

          ...for the ants programmed to die while defending the colony.

          ...for the male praying mantis programmed to offer his body as a nuptial gift to his wife.

          ...for the mother bird risking her life to lure a predator away from her nest.

          ...for the salmon that kill themselves swimming upstream to spawn.

          Sorry, your statement just isn't true.

          •  right, but... (none)
            Stomp your foot next to any one of these creatures and I guarantee they'll run/fly/swim like hell in the opposite direction.

            Even though living things have the capacity for becoming suicidal where mating and defending the hive are concerned, a byproduct of good ol' natural selection, in general it seems like they would much rather be alive than dead.

            I don't think there's a human on Earth (no matter how "enlightened") who has no preference between being alive and dead, unless of course they are:
            A) Severely depressed
            B) Delusional/completely insane
            C) Convinced of an afterlife far better than their current existence

            "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." - Albert Einstein

            by citizen lehew on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:20:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  sorry, your statement isn't true either (none)
            Male mantids do not "offer" themselves to the female as a "nuptual gift".  Though I must admit, that sounds rather poetic.

            Mantids eat anything that moves & that they can catch.  Mice, lizards, snakes, hummingbirds, as well as their own species.  (I have seen snakes, hummingbirds, and other mantids eaten firsthand.) There have been countless scientifically controlled & in the field observations where the female does not eat the male during mating.  (Reference: Frederick Prete-"The Praying Mantids" an excellent resource.) Experts have come to the conclusion that sure, cannibalism happens, but it's not necessary to mating as some ghoulish early observers tried to assert.  When it does happen, it can usually be attributed to a simple truth: she was hungry and he was within reach.

            There is no Amos Pettingill.

            by nedweenie on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:14:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  you have to understand it in terms of evolution (none)
            It's about living long enough to produce offspring, all of which your examples illustrate.
  •  well-written (4.00)
    and I have had much the same experience as you in a lot of ways...but whoo-boy. I fear you may have just ignited another war.

    Oh how I hate Ohio State

    by AnnArborBlue on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:49:26 PM PST

  •  Not an Athiest but Know What It's Like (none)
    I don't take a position on God.

    What I don't believe in is society.

    I don't believe any of the beliefs people recite to me about our culture, our nation or our system of government.

    You think spirit worshippers seem crazy?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:55:05 PM PST

  •  My favorite diary (4.00)
    in over a year of reading dKos. As an atheist trapped amongst the seemingly delusional, this quite perfectly expressed my feelings. Thank you so much for going out on a limb, and writing such a beautiful diary on this most delicate of topics.

    You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. ---Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Opakapaka on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:57:23 PM PST

  •  I am an atheist (4.00)
    But I will not begrudge others who want to believe in whatever religion and I will try not belittle their beliefs even though I have had enough people try to do precisely the above to me because of my belief.
    •  what about people who believe Bush is honest? (none)
      Or that it's bad luck to walk under a ladder?  Why is a certain class of erroneous beliefs exempt?
      •  Hmmm....I'll field that (none)
        It has to do with what happens in the material universe that all of us share.

        And, while I did like DarkSyde's analogy a great deal, there is a point where it breaks down -- the Santa claim is necessarily material, while claims of a god or gods are not necessarily material.

        (Although, as the creationists have shown, they certainly can be material. And seem ridiculous when they are.)

        Religion is primarily two things. One is teachings, one is metaphysical beliefs. Teachings might be good or bad, measured in a material (but still subjective) sense -- a teaching to "love thy neighbor" is good, a teaching to "shoot the infidel" is bad.

        Metaphysical beliefs cannot be proven or disproven, in part because they are about ascribing motive, design, and value to the things that happen anyway. I can see a grand plan in the sweep of the universe, like a story unfolding, or I can see it as just a bunch of stuff that happened. How I see it is how I see it, as unique to me as my perspective on everything else.

        Religious tolerance requires acknowledging that everyone has their own personal relationship with the universe, and that there is no way for us to evaluate the relative "correctness" of anyone else's perspective. We care how people behave, because that is the thing we all share.

        So, I suppose it comes down to this: someone might believe in Feng Shui, or astrology, and I might not, but their belief is generally harmless to me and I am willing to let it go. Anyway, I think for most people esoteric beliefs are metaphors helping them relate to their environment, and so certain things might actually be "true" for one individual that wouldn't be "true" for anyone else.

        (Example: homeopathy. Now, I don't believe in homeopathy, because I've taken way too much chemistry to buy the basic premise. And most research shows that homeopathy is no more effective than a placebo. Yet, placebos can be incredibly powerful. So, a person who believes in the efficacy of homeopathy might be literally healed by it, but I would not be.)

        The people who believe that Bush is honest are collaborating to cause material harm in the universe where I live.

        Further, his dishonesty is materially provable.

        •  you haven't really addressed my question (none)
          I did not refer to whether these beliefs are justifiable, but why its ok to say that we find certain beliefs absurd and why its not ok to say so about others.
          •  I dont know the answer (none)
            in some ways it seems human nature to belittle others ways of thinking particularly to belittle minority opinions. All I know is that I personally do not want to belittle peoples beliefs per se. If people want to debate a difference in beliefs then that is fine, but it should be done without ridicule.
  •  Just some thoughts (4.00)
    How we conceive of ourselves and our relationship to the world should always take a back seat to our consideration of the tangible-real world pain and suffering or joy and pleasure, and all shades in between, that we choose to affect in it.  What we do in this world, the world of the living and the flesh, matters more that whatever we may do in the name of some unknown, unseen, unheard arbiter of law and morality.  

    That said, I empathize with at least some of your feelings, and I generally believe monotheism in particular to be more psychologically constricting and harmful than good.  

    Let's celebrate the world, its beauty, its uncertainty, and our lives within it, and stop worrying about trying to fulfill unclear, half-grasped obligations to the unknown.

    Provocative post, thanks for sharing.

     

  •  it's so personal (4.00)
    There is a lot of spiritual abuse out there. It's stupid that so many people need to tell others what to think or believe, when reality is so confusing and open ended.

    Reduce your personal contribution to global warming with the do-it-yourself carbon exchange

    by Lefty Mama on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:07:58 PM PST

  •  One of the best diaries ever here (4.00)
    and yes, they are scared little children, some with big and dangerous toys. And there are an awful lot of them out there.

    Still, it's possible to ignore them more or less, move to a more progressive part of the country or world, and get lots done while they're off on their Santa fantasies. Take advantage of your intellectual freedom to break the mold and make a difference.

    The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

    by peeder on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:08:54 PM PST

  •  Great diary! (4.00)
    DarkSyde has of course, nailed it.

    And getting more of the usual bullshit "Atheists have faith" crap, (that what, you think we hadn't heard the first 500,000 times?) here in the comment thread is just further proof that indeed, the Santa-ists are with (and upon) us always, in every venue, at all times.

    The inability to even once, let any mention of our existence and speaking to our experience go slipping by without negating comments just further makes the point.

    The Santa paradigm is one very valid way of explaining it.

    I'll add a second, purely in fun example, useful for C minus film buffs and the politically literate alike- pop yourself a big bowl of popcorn and curl up with John Carpenter's 1988 classic "They Live".

    Feel free to make your own analogies about how
    living as an atheist in modern America relates.

    •  It is faith (2.16)
      If some form of deity doesn't exist, prove it. Theists and Deists can't prove it completely so why should atheists be exempt from proving their faith while they belittle the faith of others?

      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

      by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:12:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  as an atheist... (4.00)
        what exactly do I have "faith" in? Do tell...cause apparently I'm unaware of my own "faith".
        •  Atheistic faith (2.11)
          It's faith to believe in something. It's also faith to lack a belief. I don't believe that Jesus rose from the dead but I have faith that supernatural events don't exist.

          All faiths, including atheism, rest on assumptions and cultural influences. If you can't be honest with the assumptions of atheism, there is no point in discussing it since you will not be intellectually honest.

          A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

          by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:22:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  If logic itself is an "assumption" (4.00)
            Then fine.

            The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

            by peeder on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:26:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It is (1.85)
              Logic is one method for analyzing arguments but it doesn't provide knowledge. Empiricalism does.

              Atheists always use philosophy to "prove" their case yet never use science nor the scientific method.

              A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

              by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:32:23 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Oh Jesus (4.00)
                So so so wrong. The scientific method does not admit the supernatural, virtually by definition. And so the scientific method would inherently exclude deities. QED.

                The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

                by peeder on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:34:56 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Wrong (none)
                  Scientific method discovers knowledge by making a hypothesis and testing it to reality in order to see if the hypothesis is true or not. The method doesn't assume deities or anything supernatural doesn't exist. Hell, many scientists are religious so how does your arguement make any sense?

                  A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                  by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:37:20 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You can't find deities through the scientific (4.00)
                    method, dodo, and so you go with the assumption that they don't exist, unless, somehow, you manage to "find" them...i.e. falsifiable evidence of their existence.

                    You don't understand any of the topics you're discussing.

                    Many scientists don't "live" their own method...they just do it for their job. They limit its applicability to their work domain. A lot of these scientists are just using religion as a palliative/psychotropic medication, as suggested in the opening of this diary.

                    Over 90% of the major prizewinners and fellows of academies are atheists, however.

                    The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

                    by peeder on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:46:32 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Well (4.00)
                      We could if they existed, and if they revealed themselves. God could come down in a blazing chariot tomorrow, if s/he existed. So there is no a priori reason why science could not provide evidence of the existence of a god. Which is a good thing for atheists, because it means that science is open-minded and so far provides no evidence at all of the existence of a deity.
                      •  scientific method (none)
                        Sorry if this offends you but:  the scientific method does not claim to ask or answer metaphysical questions.  By definition.  

                        That's one of the reasons why the intelligent design people are so nutty--they claim the scientific method has something to say about the existence of god--one way or the other. It doesn't.  

                        I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking. --Cartoon Dog, The New Yorker

                        by markymarx on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:53:19 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Science (none)
                          deals with observables, or what can be inferred from observables. Therefore science has no present interest in god. But if a god were to become an observable, in the manner described, then there is no reason why science should not deal with god. Therefore it is not true to say that science could not, by definition, deal with god. Of course, this is never going to happen, because there is no god to come down on the chariot.
                          •  reading comprehension is a wonderful thing (none)
                            the scientific method does not claim to ask or answer metaphysical questions.  By definition.

                             

                            I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking. --Cartoon Dog, The New Yorker

                            by markymarx on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 06:34:35 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  uh...metaphysics doesn't... (none)
                            metaphysics:

                            Aristotle's...writings on the topic came to be known as the `metaphysics' - from the Greek for `after natural things', that is, what comes after the study of nature. This is as much as we know of the origin of the word (see Aristotle §11 and following).

                            http://www.rep.routledge.com/...

                            A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.

                            I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking. --Cartoon Dog, The New Yorker

                            by markymarx on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 06:43:40 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I'm not sure (none)
                            what your point is. That science doesn't do metaphysics? Sure, of course not. But the issue is whether science could ever have any evidence of the existence of a god - and it very clearly could have empirical (not metaphysical) evidence, if there were a god who did show him or her or itself to humanity.  Since no such evidence exists at the moment, the question of the existence of a god is now a merely metaphysical question. But that is not true by definition.
                          •  the issue (none)
                            So the important issue here is a hypothetical religion?  One that has nothing to do with metaphysics or actual religions?  An imaginary religion that can be proven true or false with the scientific method?  

                            OK, but well, I'm not sure what the point of imagining such a religion would be if it's not to respond to the point raised upthread in the conversation you joined:

                            Oh Jesus (4.00 / 6)
                            So so so wrong. The scientific method does not admit the supernatural, virtually by definition. And so the scientific method would inherently exclude deities. QED.

                            I guess we can at least agree about this--that's wrong-- since the scientific method does not "inherently exclude deities."

                            I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking. --Cartoon Dog, The New Yorker

                            by markymarx on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 05:02:19 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  It's not about a hypothetical religion (none)
                            It's a hypothetical possibility about this religion or set of religions - i.e. western monotheism.
                    •  but only about 60% of most practicing scientists - (none)
                      Having known quite a few members of the National Academy, I think the high prevalence of atheism might be the consequence of the same character traits that leads to that group having a high rate of divorce and a high incidence of jerks. Most of the academicians I've known do not have a deeply considered, highly rational basis for being atheists; they're just really, really self-centered. (There are major exceptions and I am happy to name some of the exceptions if wanted.)

                      -- Be the change you wish to see. Gandhi

                      by Wee Mama on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:26:47 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

              •  huh? (4.00)
                You cannot use the scientific method to disprove the existence of something. Those familiar with the scientific method already know this. Scientists can infer the existence of something, but they cannot infer the nonexistence of something.

                You cannot "prove" that god does not exist by science or any other way. Just like you cannot prove that the invisible purple dinosaur in your bedroom does not exist.

                •  Well (2.50)
                  Actually, you can prove that there is no planet between, say, Saturn and Uranus if you did all sorts of complicated calculations of their movements.

                  So you can prove the non-existence of something scientifically.  

                  It's just impossible to prove the non-existence of any god, because he has a whole universe, and then some, to hide in.

                  •  No, in fact you can't... (none)
                    because the gravitational effects of the intervening planet could be exactly counteracted by the gravity of other objects, or by hitherto unknown forces. But by applying Occam's Razor, any competent scientist would assume that there is no such planet until there was evidence to support its existence. Kind of like the way competent scientists rely on the fossil record, instead of believing, as the "creation scientists" do, that God put the fossils there in order to test our faith.
                    •  You can prove it (none)
                      in the only sense of proof that is ever at play in any scientific enterprise - i.e. not absolute certainty but the dismissal of all plausible alternative hypotheses. Science can't prove with absolute certainty that the world is round, because it is always possible to construct logically possible alternative hypotheses compatible with the evidence on which the world is flat - e.g. and the people who fly in from Bangkok are merely newly created zombies with the same memories as those who flew out the week before, etc. But that of course is not a relevant alternative to consider.
          •  So (4.00)
            I have faith that Capn' Crunch is a cartoon? See here's the problem with that, it turns on using the term faith to describe a vast range of likelihoods with the same, deliciously slippery word.

            I have faith the sun will appear on the eastern horizon tomorrow--Is that faith or science? I have the faith the sun won't turn purple and rain down cheeseburgers tomorrow--is that faith or based on science and common sense?

            Is that in the same league with having faith in a magic invisible sky wizard? Is that a fair and useful way to employ the wrod faith? Or is it a silly game you're playing to justify your own whacky belief in Santa Clausians or whatever form or magic invisible sky wizard you prefer but cannot defend with anything short of grimm's Fairy Tales?

            Because I have news for you: If you want me to accept you really ebleve this stuff, consider it done, I accept that you do. If you want me to seriously believe it makes any sense or that there is any good reason why I should believe it, it's gonna take more than word games, you need to whip out the supernatural being of your choice and make it available for long, intense, examinations under controlled conditions and multiple interviews demonstrating its supernatural ability before I even THINK about believing it.

            Read UTI, your free thought forum

            by DarkSyde on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:30:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  MUCH better stated than anything I (none)
              can do at 1:30 in the morning...
            •  Your assumption (1.33)
              Is that I am a Christian who holds the Bible to be sacred and that miracles occur. I do beleive in deity but I'm not Christian, Jesus died on the cross and never came back, and that deity doesn't interact with the Universe thus no miracles.

              Your attacks on me show that atheism is just a reaction to Christianity and nothing more.

              As for word games, aren't atheists always changing the definition of atheism to suit their needs?

              A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

              by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:40:07 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  You (4.00)
                obviously didn't read the directions at the top of this diary nor my comment. The word Christian is nowhere in my above response and I warned everyone NOT to read this if they're easily offended and that I wasn't going to induldge anyone's unsubstantiated beliefs with patronizing platitudes. That's pretty clear to me, was it not clear to you?

                You brought this up (On a diary written by me about me and my feelings which is not titled "Why You SHOULD Be An Atheist), where you and everyone else was given fair warning that I wouldn't humor you. You are now claiming you were 'attacked' which is sad to say, all too typical.

                There is no attack here Tux, this is a response. If you believe what you believe, fine, I believe you believe it. If you want me to to honestly say it makes sense belief system, whatever it is and assuming you have one, you're going to have to do a lot better than the same cheesy BS I've been hearing for years. You're going to have to actually ptroduce the mythological being in question and subject it to intense examination lasting for years and years before I even consider believing it, and you'd feel the same way about Santa Claus or any other supernatural magical claim outside of your own.

                Read UTI, your free thought forum

                by DarkSyde on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:01:34 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  curious how you arrived at deism (none)
                Why don't you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins? How is it you've decided to pass on His blood sacrifice and His rising again to ascend to heaven to rule and reign at the right hand of the Father? Elsewhere I believe you've said you don't believe in an afterlife either. Why not?  And what, no miracles? Were not your deity's first acts miraculous? By what means have you come upon your beliefs, anyway? What was the process?

                Is nothing secular?

                by aitchdee on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:30:48 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Ratings abuse (3.33)
                Tux is getting repeatedly rated 1 for his arguments. I think he is wrong, I think his arguments are fallacious and I disagree with him strongly, but he isn't a troll. Maybe a two at worst, for marginal quality posts.

                You should never rate somebody based on whether or not you disagree with them, but only on the quality of the post. Here's a simple guide:

                4 - Provocative, well thought out, very funny, or otherwise excellent post.
                3 - A good post, but not quite a four.
                2 - Marginal, problems with logic, offensive (but not a troll), incorrect facts, etc.
                1 - Troll, flamebait, etc.
                0 - Supertroll, worthless post that should be deleted (spam, blatantly offensive material, etc.)

                Maybe on some circumstances you might give a post a lower or higher rating if you feel it's been unfairly rated by others.

                I once got rated 0, then called a nazi for having a minor, but civil disagreement about the context of a quote. It's moronic that having any sort of minor disagreement with the Dkos CW results in getting shouted down and troll rated. We ought to give people the benefit of the doubt and not make some paranoid assumption that somebody's a troll or GOP plant just because they have a disagreement on some particular narrow issue.

                -----------------------------------

                And for the last friggin' time, disbelief in God requires no more faith than disbelief in leprachauns, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, the flying spaghetti monster or magical clouds that rain donuts. There are certainly all sorts of other deities, hobgoblins, spirits and invisible boogey men that some religion around the world holds sacred which I've never even heard of. Do I somehow have some sort of religious faith because I don't believe in any of these supernatural beasties that I don't even know about?

                Here, I've got an idea. I'm gonna make up a new god. Let's call him Foogaboobablemong. He's a giant cat with a taste for virgin blood. Like most gods, he's invisible, odorless and tasteless. Do you or I or anyone sudden have some sort of new religious faith because we don't believe in Foogaboobablemong?

                •  Good point. (none)
                  I was about to rate Tux with an unproductive on one of his comments and stopped myself with the question: Was it because it was trollish, or was it because I totally disagreed and was offended by the logic? Turns out I simply disagreed with the logic and I personally found the comment offensive.

                  DarkSyde's excellent response got a four, and I decided Tux's comments deserved no rating at all for what I considered to be faulty logic.

                  As for being offended -- if I rated every comment I found offensive on this site I'd wear out the zero and one keys on my keyboard.

                  A four for your timely comment in a diary sure to provoke a lot of dissent (even with the warning, obviously).

                  "As you get older, you get less willing to buy the latest version of reality." Leonard Cohen

                  by mentaldebris on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:37:55 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  the point of saying atheists have faith (none)
              is NOT... it NEVER was...  pointing out the definitions of a word and pointing out that the conclusion drawn by that definition requires some faith....

              look at your diary.... you didn't arrive at atheism after years of study...   you arrived at atheism when you were three years old...  and you always knew.  you knew nothing else.

              i'm saying this from the standpoint of someone who doesn't believe in god.... the way you describe your atheism is very much the way i've noticed a lot of religious people describe their religious experiences.  your relationship TO atheism even has a very healthy persecution complex.  every where you go people pick on you for being an atheist.  

              i've been pretty much an atheist my whole life.  i don't feel picked on.

              anyway.... the point is not to.... i repeat .. it is NOT to MAKE you believe in something.  the point is to point out you already do believe in something:  atheism.

              "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

              by BiminiCat on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:21:04 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  What if my atheism (none)
            stems from evidence?
      •  Hey I aint going to belittle (none)
        your faith and I am an atheist. If you wanna believe in some or any God/religion that is your business.
      •  So you want me to prove something (4.00)
        that is invisible doesn't exist. Hmm, sounds reasonable. I'm no expert in these arguments, but why assume something for which there is no evidence? This is ridiculous. It is sane to say there are no UFOs until you are given evidence to support their existence. It is insane (IMHO) to believe in everything that has yet to be disproven, especially those things that are invisible. To say that something doesn't exist requires no assumption (or "faith"), it's the default.

        You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. ---Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Opakapaka on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:26:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah (none)
          It is insane (IMHO) to believe in everything that has yet to be disproven, especially those things that are invisible.

          Tell it to X-rays.

          It is sane to say there are no UFOs until you are given evidence to support their existence.

          Based on what evidence? Lack of evidence doesn't prove anything.

          A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

          by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:34:20 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're saying (none)
            there's no evidence for the existence of x-rays? Really?

            The point is, the default assumption is that things don't exist. You don't believe in (have "faith" in) everything you dream up on a rainy day--until you have good reason to.

            You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. ---Martin Luther King Jr.

            by Opakapaka on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:45:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I quoted you (none)
              It is insane (IMHO) to believe in everything that has yet to be disproven, especially those things that are invisible.

              Now, I never said that I believe in all supernatural events (I don't) but you assumed that I did. As I said earlier, atheism is a reaction to Christianity and lacks any real value when other faiths like Deism, Buddhism, Unitarian Universalism, Taoism, and other non-Middle Eastern and god oriented religions are introduced.

              A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

              by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:52:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm sorry (4.00)
                I have no idea what you're talking about. My point is that for you to say that to not believe in something requires "faith" is ridiculous. It is also ridiculous to state that atheism is a reaction to Christianity. Again, IMO atheism is the default, you accept the existence of other invisible things only when you have some evidence to back them up.

                You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. ---Martin Luther King Jr.

                by Opakapaka on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:03:20 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Of course (none)
                my point is that you shouldn't believe in x-rays until you have evidence that they exist, as we now do. So you're right on that account. Otherwise, why not believe in y-rays and z-rays as well.

                You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. ---Martin Luther King Jr.

                by Opakapaka on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:07:35 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Atheism vs. Agnosticism. (4.00)
                Fact:  there is not a shred of proof for gods, unicorns, woodnymphs, vampires, elves, and werewolves.  (There is however, evidence, of trolls).  

                Now based on this fact, the Atheist says:
                "Judging from the utter lack of evidence, my position is that there is no such thing as gods, unicorns, woodnymphs, vampires, elves or werewolves."

                The Agnostic, however, says:
                "I can't take a position either way on gods, unicorns, woodnymphs, vampires, elves, and werewolves."

                The Theist says:  
                "Yes, there are gods."  (Or more specifically, "There are no gods except for the particular one I believe in").  "But unicorns, woodnymphs, vampires, elves and werewolves -- that's ridiculous."  

                That outta make it real clear for those who claim that atheism is a "faith".      

            •  Reason? (none)
              Using logic, philosophy, or some other cultural tradition from ancient times? Empiricalism works.

              A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

              by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:54:02 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  default (4.00)

              non-existance is not merely the default, it is necessarily the default. Without this default, there is no reality - fantasies would carry the same weight as reality. The burden of proof is always on those who assert the existance of something. The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence must be.

              A couple examples to put it in economic terms even a conservative might be able to understand:

              Can I see those car keys?
              Sure, here.
              I thought so, this is my car.
              Now wait a minute! That is my car?
              Can you prove this is not my car?
              I have a title with my name on it!
              I didn't ask if you could prove it is your car, I asked if you could prove it isn't my car. The standard of evidence is that if you can't conclusively prove it isn't my car, then it is my car.

              Customer: I want the $10,000 I deposited in my bank account.
              Banker: Can you prove that you deposited $10,000
              Customer: the standard of evidence is that if you can't prove that I did not deposit $10,000 then you must accept the existence of $10,000 in my account and give me the money.

              The assertion that athiests must accept the existence of God if they can not conclusively prove his non-existence is not only fundamentally antithetical to reality, it is also antithetical to the property values right wingers hold so dear.

              You cannot prove that phlogiston does not exist. This does not mean that there is any merit to phlogiston theory. What you can do is prove that oxygen does exist. I can pour a cup of liquid oxygen, for example, and we can put a dropper full of it in a pill bottle, close the bottle, and blow the lid off. Futher experiments can show that the oxygen is necessary to combustion. The burdon of proof is to prove that something exists. Proponents of oxygen have met that burden. Proponents of phlogiston have not. Proponents of evolution have met that burden. Proponents of creationism have not.

              Proponents of christinsanity must prove their God exists; otherwise, the religion is nothing more than a hobby that has no precedence over other religions or the complete lack of religion.

              It isn't that athiests claim there is incontrovertable proof that there is no God. Athiests simply believe in something called reality. Reality is, basically, the set of things you can reasonably prove do exist.

      •  umm..... (4.00)
        because the burden of proof lies with the people who make the spectacular claims. Claiming that there is an all-powerful Deity responsible for the entire universe is a bold claim. Claiming that there is not one isn't a bold claim.

        Also, those making the existence claim must provide the evidence. Your argument was used by the Bushies in the run up to the war-- "Prove that Saddam doesn't have WMD." There are alot more things in this universe that do not exist than exist.

        •  Lazy (1.61)
          So atheists can critize and belittle others while they are immune from such treatment? Sounds like Bush and his problem with intel.

          Atheists should at least be able to provide some evidence for their claims or be more respectful.

          A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

          by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:35:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  oh yeah....it's the atheists (4.00)
            that should be MORE respectful!? Give me a break....
            •  Read this thread (2.00)
              Many atheists are angry at all religious people just because of fundies. Hell, I agree with many assumptions atheists have yet I get hell just for believing in a deity.

              A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

              by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:56:55 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Talk about a straw man... (4.00)
                I haven't read a post by an atheist in this thread that attacks or gives you "hell just for believing in a deity"...your belief is your opinion and you have every right to it. I respect your belief.

                As an atheist I'm not angry at all religious people just because of some fundamentalists. Anger comes in when MY beliefs and opinions are not respected by those with a belief. The anger gets REALLY big when MY beliefs or opinions are relegated down as beliefs that aren't as valuable as the others.

                All us atheists are asking for is to be left alone. That means we probably don't want an invitation to church...or a discussion of evolution in the middle of a science class...or the Ten Commandments (or text from any other religion) posted on public (tax-payer funded) property.

                I'm not angry AT religious people...I'm angry WITH religious people who don't respect MY beliefs. I think that anger is pretty damn valid...and I would never say that atheists should apologize for being angry...not when it seems like (as the diary relates) EVERY place you go...some form or another of God is being shoved down your f'ing throat.

                •  An example of atheists not being respected... (none)
                  "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." -- George H.W. Bush, 8/27/87, Chicago, Illinois

                  "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." -- John F. Kennedy

                  by commanda on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:06:23 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  and in MY hometown too... (none)
                    what a fucking bastard....if I hadn't been 10 at the time...well...he'd have gotten a letter back then...as it is...when I found out about this quote a few months back, he got the letter...it was just a few years late.
            •  This atheist has no problem (none)
              with being respectful to those with religious beliefs. Religious beliefs/ Gods etc mean little to me as an atheist. However there are things I do believe in strongly and I expect people to respect those. I have no problem with giving respect to "people of faith".
          •  nope (4.00)
            I understand your frustration, but the situation is not symmetric. If person A asserts that god exists, and person B asserts that person A is nuts, then person A has faith and person B has common sense (which is nearly the opposite of faith).

            I'm sorry, but just because the whole "faith" thing is dragging your side down, you don't get to turn around and claim that I have "faith" and get away with it. It's just so ridiculous.

            •  Prove it (1.75)
              Your belief that deities don't exist is just as valid as my belief that one does exist. Telling others to show prove of deity while not bearing the burden is lazy. Either you can prove most living people wrong or you can't.

              A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

              by Tux on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:56:00 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  *YAWN* (none)
                Your belief that invisible purple dinosaurs don't exist is just as valid as my belief that they do. Telling others to show proof of IPDs while not bearing the burden is lazy. Either you can prove me wrong or you can't.
                •  Same goes for you (2.16)
                  Atheists tend to like philosophy but avoid any real debate about atheism, theism, and deism and dump all responsibility onto others. That is lazy. I shown my evidence that convinced me that a deity existed, now show yours.

                  A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                  by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:11:35 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  seriously (4.00)
                    I am not making my purple dinosaur analogy to be funny here. I think it really gets to the heart of the matter. Why don't you believe in an invisible purple dinosaur? What would it mean for you to give "evidence" against the existence of an invisible purple dinosaur named Herbie who lives on Mars? How could you give evidence against his existence?

                    I am not making this analogy to make you look silly. I am making it to show you how silly you already sound. I don't know of any evidence for the existence of god. I don't know of any evidence for the existence of Herbie. Therefore, until someone dredges up some evidence, I will provisionally disbelieve in both of them. And for the record (and this is no exaggeration) I think I am about as likely to be wrong about god as I am about Herbie. Does that begin to make sense? If not, how can I explain it more clearly?

                    Now what again was your "evidence"? Something about physical constants?

                    •  Are you even reading the posts? (2.28)
                      Atheists claim that god doesn't exist and god believers of all kinds are right yet won't show any evidence to show their case. Seems silly that I am attacked just for pointing out that atheists have faith and it has certain assumptions that they won't mention nor acknowledge.

                      Of course, I'll be called a Christian fundamentalist within a few miutes but if that is your assumption, prove it.

                      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:27:59 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Let's see if this works (4.00)
                        Let's make a deal. You tell me how in the world I could show "evidence" of the nonexistence of something, anything (Herbie, say). What would constitute "evidence"? I honestly have no idea.

                        Where I come from, "evidence" of the nonexistence of something is basically a contradiction in terms. So how am I suppose to do that?

                      •  The burden of proof, Tux (none)
                        Is on the one making extraordinary claims.

                        Maybe this will help:

                        You live in a society where everyone "knows" there is nothing supernatural - no god, no pixies, no leprechauns.

                        One day you meet a person who claims the whole earth and everything in it was created by a supernatural being.  In other words - someone claiming something exists when no such claim had been made before.

                        Who should have the burden of proof?  

                        By your logic, it would be you - you would have to prove no supernatural being exists; an impossibility, by the way.

                        I happen to think the burden of proof lies on the person claiming to know that a supernatural being exists.

                        Translate it to our society, and the burden of proof is not on the those who claim no supernatural being exists (an impossibility, by the way).  It is on those who claim the supernatural exists.

                        There is no tangible evidence that a supernatural being exists.  Where is your evidence?

                  •  By (4.00)
                    all means describe what you're deity can and cannot do, be prepared to perform tests of those functions under controlled conditions and I'll be willing to consider your belief more carefully.

                    It's fine with me if you believe it. The question is why should I?

                    Read UTI, your free thought forum

                    by DarkSyde on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:19:17 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Once again (none)
                      You think that I believe in miracles when I don't. I'm a Deist. By default, we believe in a Deity that doesn't do anything in the Universe.

                      As for why you should believe, I could care less. However, any discussion about atheism upsets atheists. Why bother? I'm also a Unitarian Universalist. We like to discuss religion. It's like mud wrestling with a pig. Sooner or later, you'll see that the pig enjoys it.

                      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:25:28 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  And (4.00)
                        I'm telling you as clearly as I know how that if you want me to believe your deity really exists, you're going to have to tell me about it, explain what it can and cannot do, and then back that up with producing those very events or some portion of them we can all test for years on end.

                        The only reason some people are laughing at you and poking holes in your posts, some probably having a lot of fun doing it, is becuase you're engaging in the same kind of cheesy evasion that I outlined above up to and including a false sense of persecution.

                        Again, I understand you believe it, the question is why should I? Do you not get that? This isn't about your beliefs. If you want me to believe you, it's about mine and what you have to do to convince me that your beliefs are based on factual events and physical processes.

                        Read UTI, your free thought forum

                        by DarkSyde on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:35:46 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  UU Atheist here (none)
                        This diary made me chuckle, I always refer to "god" as imagined by the theists as the Celestial Santa Claus, but these days it sounds more like the Celestial Terminator, according to Wacky Pat.
                        I'm a UU Humanist Atheist, and a recovering Trinitarian Christian.

                        Yup, we've wrestled that pig over an ocean of coffee at my UU's over the years.

                        "I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies." Green Day

                        by UndercoverRxer on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:24:27 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  Deism (none)
                        So you're a deist based on the Argument from Design.

                        Sure, that's reasonable.  On the other hand, it also doesn't matter.  The Deist God, by defnition, does not intefere with the universe, so whether or not it exists makes no practical difference.

              •  You should really read Popper (none)
                I'm a broken record here: asserting the existence of something is NOT EQUIVALENT TO asserting the nonexistence of something. The latter is the default position, the former requires evidence.

                There are no scientific theories that say "X does not exist" or "Y is untrue". This is precisely why ID is not a scientific theory. "Atheism" cannot be made into a scientific theory. All it is is the denial of a another theory, which in my opinion has no evidence supporting it.

                •  So? (2.00)
                  Even philosophical discussion is outlawed thus atheists "win". Much like how Fox News derail any discuss with liberals the hosts will lose. They get everyone angry, change the topic enough, and discourage any further debate by showing ads.

                  A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                  by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:13:03 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I don't remember outlawing (none)
                    ...philosophical discussion. Does anyone else know what he's talking about?

                    I'm not saying you are full of shit or anything-- atheists often say some silly things like any other group of human being, but I must confess that I do not know what you are talking about, or see the Fox News analogy.

                    And I hope I have made it apparent that I never intend to discourage debate.

                    •  Figures (3.00)
                      OK. Let me explain it this way.

                      Atheism is a philosophy. Atheists, like all philosophers, must point out their case and arguments to show that their view is true in a philosophical manner. Yet, bring up why they don't beleive or say that they have faith, they get upset and lay all burden of the discussion onto others while avoiding any real discussion.

                      I'm not saying you are full of shit or anything

                      Let's be honest. Most people are full of shit.

                      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

                      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:30:18 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Okay now I get it (none)
                        But how can I make an argument one way or the other about something that is not falsifiable? Maybe I'm too scientific in my thinking. I always thought that "philosophers" (plus or minus Bertrand Russell) were full of shit.
                      •  no, no, no (4.00)
                        Atheism is not a philosophy - it's a lack of philosophy.  Atheists don't have a stance, they have a lack of a stance.  

                        You're playing word games here.  Think about the substance.

                        An analogy:

                        How do you feel about as;ldkfj's?...  
                        What, you don't have an opinion?  But that is an opinion!

                        (no, it's not.  It's a lack of opinion, because the thing being asked about [as;ldkjf's] doesn't enter into your concept of the universe.  The idea of a deity does not enter into my concept of the universe.  I have nothing to prove, because I've made no claims vis-a-vis deities.  The existence of concrete evidence would flip the dynamic, but none exists.)

                        If you want more solid ground, you can criticize logic as a system itself, and you can also criticize faith in logic (that is a belief, and one that you can effectively skewer), but you can't criticize people for not defending something that they don't have to defend.

                        •  sorry, but atheism is a philosophy (none)
                          it is a belief that there is no God vs. agnostics who are skeptical and believe it is impossible to know.

                          Never have so few taken so much from so many for so long.

                          (-6.75, -3.85)

                          by mapKY on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:34:57 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  Thank you. (none)
                          I've been following your comments, and I can't understand why you haven't blown your brains out in frustration.  People either don't want to understand the distinctions you're trying to make because they don't comport with their worldview.  Claiming that atheism is a philosophy is preposterous on its face, yet people here refuse to admit they don't understand (or are unable to see) the inherent contradiction in that statement--and nothing you say is going to change that, despite your valiant efforts.    

                          Jesus + Fetus = SCOTUS (math by Jon Stewart)

                          by lightiris on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:58:26 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

              •  I have never (none)
                told anyone to prove the existence of any gods to me. If they want to attempt to do so, that's their prerogative, although its my prerogative to ignore any arguments I've heard before.
      •  That's it- just keep making my point. (4.00)
        Too easy.

        Pretty much all I've done here is point out what DarkSyde said so well, that living as an atheist, anytime you say out loud, 'I don't believe', it brings out everyone who has a stake in not just their own belief, but the demand that everyone AROUND them belive- apparently so as not to upset their oh so delicate constitutions.

        To refuse to go along makes us some kind of enemy.

        To even say, for me personally, here's what it's like for me to live somewhere where everyone around me insists the emperor has clothes on- makes us targets.

        When all we said was 'um excuse me- I don't see any clothes...'

        Yes there are people with a massive stake in everyone around them maintaining the way THEY believe the world works. They will pound on anyone who begs to differ.

        That was my point. That any diary that says 'since I've been asked, this is what it's like for me' will immediately draw out the Santa-ists in droves.

        That and everyone else who just enjoys listening to the sounds of their own voices as they argue over alledged angels dancing on alledged pins.

        So, by all means, just keep right on making my point.

        All I said was I'm one too, and DarkSyde wrote something that spoke to my experiences too, and isn't is amazing that that there are those in this universe insistant that we non-Santa believers have no safe space in which we could ever, even amongst ourselves, or even in answer to a direct question speak to what our lives are like.

        •  WTF?! (2.83)
          Pretty much all I've done here is point out what DarkSyde said so well, that living as an atheist, anytime you say out loud, 'I don't believe', it brings out everyone who has a stake in not just their own belief, but the demand that everyone AROUND them belive- apparently so as not to upset their oh so delicate constitutions.

          Yeah, I'm leading the Anti-Atheist League.

          To refuse to go along makes us some kind of enemy.

          At no time did I declare atheists as enemies. Your assumption is just as flawed as the fundies claim that they are persecuted. Especially around Christmas (which we all are with materialistic ads and shit).

          To even say, for me personally, here's what it's like for me to live somewhere where everyone around me insists the emperor has clothes on- makes us targets.

          Targets of what? Discussion?

          Yes there are people with a massive stake in everyone around them maintaining the way THEY believe the world works. They will pound on anyone who begs to differ.

          You wouldn't last at my Unitarian Universalist church. We have discussions like this all the time and rarely is anyone insulted.

          That any diary that says 'since I've been asked, this is what it's like for me' will immediately draw out the Santa-ists in droves.

          Santa-ists? Please, everyone knows that Santa is unemployed since his job went to China.

          That and everyone else who just enjoys listening to the sounds of their own voices as they argue over alledged angels dancing on alledged pins.

          You're under the assumption that I am Christian (which I a not) and I believe in angels (which I don't). Be honest with your assumptions.

          isn't is amazing that that there are those in this universe insistant that we non-Santa believers have no safe space in which we could ever, even amongst ourselves, or even in answer to a direct question speak to what our lives are like.

          At what point did I force anyone to believe as I did? No where. Atheists like to use logic and philosophy to prove their point but refuse to discuss it like other philosophies because they are just as crazy as fundies themselves. Either you can discuss your philosophy as an adult and stop using childish terms like "Santa-ist" or continue to wonder why people think atheists are weird since some can't be honest about their beliefs or lack thereof. I suggest you read up on Humanism someday.

          A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

          by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:05:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I also think that was unfair (none)
            Yeah, I think Tux is as nuts as 95% of people in the world, but I don't think he's demanding that anyone believe in his god, and he isn't exactly persecuting anyone. If he was gloating about us all going to hell it would be one thing, but he's hardly doing that.

            I was making some of Tux's same arguments a while ago.

            •  Personally (none)
              I find arguements with atheists as a good experience. It's a debate that will never end but it keeps everyone open to new ideas (not always) and sharpens the mind.

              A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

              by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:14:06 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  The underlying corrosive attitudes (4.00)
              defended by Tux are the same as those that make "fundamentalist"/wingnut Christianity possible. Just because Tux himself avoids the kind of conflict we see from those who make more outrageous demands, doesn't change the fact that he's making a clear false assertion that atheists have "faith" and are acting in a realm or field basically defined by theists. This sets up the conflict that "fundamentalists" prefer, setting up the mental model that atheism is some kind of equal but opposite position from theism when it is not. This sets the stage for absurdities like the false claim of equal-but-opposite recruiting by atheists, gays and others who simply disagree with the "fundamentalist." It is the setup by which atheists are eventually targeted as "enemies," the situation to which I think stormcoming is addressing herself. If we approach the root of the problem, the attitudes that Tux projects here are part of the problem, and contribute to the attempted negation of DarkSyde's original argument identical to that that would be attempted by so-called "fundamentalists."
              •  well, that's a bit of a stretch (none)
                He's making false assertions, one that I have been arguing vehemently against down further in the comments (to no avail), but I do not think that Tux should be equated to the fundies.
                •  No equation (none)
                  only pointing out that those often called "fundies" are a product of the underlying culture and attitudes (mostly a unique American mix of historical circumstance and a sense of exceptionalism). The underlying attitudes of fundies, and their assumptions of how the world works, are exactly the same as those that Tux is clearly defending here. "Fundie" churches are full of those who say they are former humanists, atheists and indifferent "liberal" churchgoers - but who found these underlying assumptions acceptable, were recruited through an appeal to attitudes like therse. Thus the former atheist/humanist who accepts such attitudes later may find a "fundie" church, often with the entertaining narcissistic flashy internal experiences that they think are from "God," completely acceptable and an expression of things they already believe.
          •  Don't let me interrupt you... (none)
            Ah, bait.

            Sorry, I recognize hooks when I see them.

            By all means, continue making my point.

            •  What is your point? (none)
              Other than saying that I am wrong and avoiding any real discussion, you have no point.

              A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

              by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:14:44 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Lonely or what? (none)
                Where does the assumption that atheists are fun to play with come from?

                This comment thread is chock fulla 'em- people who really enjoy arguing this shit.

                DarkSyde wrote 'here's what it feels like'.

                So lots of people, due to boredom, or loneliness, or the purity fetish of not letting non-believers just express the reality of our lives, or perhaps it being thier favourite topic to pontificate noisily out their rectums upon come out of the woodwork to bicker back at forth.

                Believe it or not, I'm not here to play with you.

                Oh, and Unitarians? No coffee is worth that. Trust me... .

      •  Because: (4.00)
        Athiests don't have to prove a negative. The theists have to either accept God's existance based on faith or try to prove a positive.
        •  Faith is dead, really (3.66)
          Since we rationalists have essentially won, theists must now define faith on something rational or the illusion of such, such that it's not uncommon now to watch theists say "faith is rationally arrived at based on evidence." Thus they produce horrid tracts with titles such as "Evidence that demands a verdict" which is just plain wrong in so many ways.

          Unfortunately this is why theists today often must lie and make up evidence a la Intelligent Design and "abortion causes breast cancer" to justify what are basicaly irrational stands, which would be fine if they'd just admit that they have no proof and follow out of faith.  They must substitute bogus manufactured factoids and the illusion of scientific process for simply saying that they believe through faith and need not have evidential proof. It is not enough for them to take a stand out of faith, they must indulge in pseudoscience and at times outright lying to provide "evidence" to support their stands.

    •  i know (none)
      when people say you have faith in something, they are trying to negate your existence.

      the victim complex here, the diary above and this comment, is practically....

      christ-like.

      "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

      by BiminiCat on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:07:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Awesome diary (4.00)
    You summarized my feelings precisely. Well, most of them (I am a little embarassed that it took me until age 18 to figure out that the whole god thing was a fairy tale-- I was holding out for a scientific theory of consciousness).

    I do think you should get out and make some like-minded friends, DS. It isn't healthy to keep it all inside. Before you know it, you'll be typing rambling screeds on the internet.

    The argument that I use all the time (and cannot figure out why it fails, it seems devastating, and convinced me) is Popper's regarding non-falsifiability. If a hypothesis concerning something in reality cannot be disproved, even in principle, then it isn't a useful hypothesis! Shorter Popper: believing in an invisible, purple spotted dragon on Mars is silly.

  •  As an athiest, all I can say is.... (4.00)
    BRAVO!
  •  two quick anecdotes (4.00)

    Two quick stories (among several, as I'm sure most atheists could contribute):

    When I was three, I memorized the 23rd Psalm for an Easter presentation at my grandmother's church.  The part that really puzzled me was the bit about not wanting my savior (I kid you not--that's how it sounded to me).  I finally decided it was like having a parent:  you need them as a kid, but then grow up and strike out on your own.

    Years later, while camping on a floodplain near a river in Wales, I had just finished reading Bertrand Russell's "Why I am not a Christian." when I realized I wasn't one either, and more importantly (and a bit scarily) I didn't believe in God either.  This was one of those "big moments" you can have as an adolescent, so I stepped out of  my tent to stretch and contemplate the universe anew when "WHAM" a lightning bolt hit the river about 200 feet from me.  My first thought was "you missed", but that passed and I've never again remotely felt the need to converse with a diety.

    •  Ha! (none)
      Almost made me laugh out loud at work!  Great story - especially the "You missed" moment.

      For me, the book that turned me into a confirmed atheist was "A History of God" by Karen Armstrong.  It's essentially a religious history textbook, and as such is pretty dense, but if you can get through it, I highly recommend it.

      The book looks at the roots of the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) from a historical perspective - as in, this is about when x version of the Bible (or Koran) appeared, it replaced this earlier version, here are the differences, here are some important events going on at the time which suggest that y may have influenced said change, etc.

      After reading that book, there was just no escaping the conclusion that religion is a creation of man, and not the other way around.

      Ed

      O it is excellent to have a giant's strength: but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.

  •  This was wonderful (4.00)
    Growing up in a catholic family, wondering what all the fuss was and why all those people were mouthing all those lies for all those years......this really resonates with me.
    This diary was great. It sums up my feelings exactly.
    Why should we be so tolerant of this particular delusion in supposedly grown adults?
    If I said I can communicate with aliens via radio waves, I would be labelled delusional. But if I say I believe in a god who talks to me, Hey, that's ok! Pathetic.
    To me, the idea of a deity is simply irrelevant. There is just no need for such a concept in my life.
    I don't wonder about it, worry about it other than to be annoyed when my life gets inconvenienced by other people's delusions (such as when stores are closed on Sunday....Hey, it must be god's will that you lose that sale, eh?)

    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!

  •  Great, wonderful (4.00)
    This is now my Official Favorite Daily Kos Diary Ever.

    I had only assumed, but didn't know, that other atheists had similar experiences.

    This whole atheism debate here on Daily Kos has been eye-opening, to say the least. I think I have learned more about how people perceive their world reading the anti-atheist (for want of a better word) comments on here.

    I'll never forget the first time I told someone that I didn't believe in God. The neighbor kid just kind of freaked out, actually. He asked me if I believed in God, or something. I said no, or I didn't know. His eyes got all big and he said, "you don't believe in God?" I certainly didn't expect that kind of reaction. I didn't expect any reaction, really. I mean, nobody had ever asked before. I don't want to say he was hateful or anything. He was just so accusatory, or something. He was obviously shocked.

    I asked my mom about it. I asked her, "do I (I might have said "we") believe in God?" You know, I don't really remember her answer. I think it was along the lines of, "that's up to you to decide." Whatever it was, it was not a yes or a no.

    My mom's a genius.

    She once told me that theists would complain, "how can you explain the existence of the universe without a God? Doesn't that just take the beauty out of it?" She said-spontaneously, I might add- "I find it all the more beautiful that the universe could have happened on its own."

    Isn't that beautiful?

    I've considered this question my entire life, or at least since I realized that there was even a question.

    I've really grown to love good ole' reason.

    I'm now, as of an hour and a half ago, 35 years old, and I seem to be learning more, more quickly, then ever.

    Ahh, I think you may of just helped induce a Satori...

    phat

  •  I dunno, man, I'm an atheist (4.00)
    and always have been, since age 3 or 4 like you say,  but I don't really feel at antagonized as you do.

    Perhaps it's because I live in the most unchurched state in the union (Oregon, only 19% attend church at least once a week) and don't have Christianity or any other religion shoved down my throat.

    In fact, I feel like most people really do share my lack of religious beliefs here although some like to go through the motions occasionally just to maintain traditions, and I'm cool with that.

    For those who do genuinely espouse religious beliefs and practice them, I'm cool with that too if it manifests in progressive actions, which is overwhelmingly the case here in Portland, so we have a common ground for mutual respect and admiration.

    As for the others, the radical theocons, I often feel like I'm a better Christian than they are because I live by Christ's moral teachings much more closely than they do, just as a matter of course of my understanding of American judeochristian principles (even though I refer to it as secular humanism).

    If you're feeling so antagonized, know that there are communities that share your values and perhaps even (lack of) religious beliefs.

    The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit. Somerset Maugham

    by verasoie on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:34:35 PM PST

    •  This atheist agrees with you (none)
      I was beginning to think I was the only one.
    •  I (4.00)
      don't relaly feel antagonized in the sense I think my life is in imminent danger. But things have gone downhill in that direction lately via BushCo; stuff I never thought would happen is now being debated and passed. In Austin I never gave it a second thought. Then I moved to a small town in the south. Things are very different here. If you stay to yourself and mind your own business, no problem. But I'm way too extroverted for that ;)

      Read UTI, your free thought forum

      by DarkSyde on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:08:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  hmm... (none)
      I, too, grew up as an atheist in a pretty atheist-friendly community, but I still feel some of what DarkSyde does, if not as vehemently. Maybe it's a scientist or astronomer thing?

      Friends who are good people who 'happen to believe' in Santa make me more crazy, in a way, than the conservative Santa-crat types. I'm not angry at them, but you don't want your friends to go through life deluded. (They feel the same way about me, of course.) And romances present an extraordinary difficulty.

      Maybe most frustrating of all are all the people one's surrounded by in, say, intellectual circles in New York who will say, "Well, I don't believe in a fellow in a red suit and a beard, of course. Parents put presents under the tree. But I can't help but think that there must be some sort of higher power making all those parents do it on the same night, you know?" And the ones who talk about aliens in red suits and sleigh-shaped spacecraft. And so on.

  •  Why I'm an agnostic (none)
    I was raised, as a very little kid, in the Episcopal church, but my parents quit when I was really little (must have been an ugly dispute, I'm now 22 and they still won't tell me the juicy details), and their cynicism about organized religion rubbed off on me.

    I'd always been a great proponent of evolution and such even as a little kid, and had been given books on astronomy, theoretical physics, and paleontology as a little kid.  The answers I found in science made so much sense that I accepted them instantly.  My moral guidance was the Golden Rule: don't treat someone in a way you wouldn't want to be treated.

    In that context, being skeptical of God seemed to make perfect sense.  I mean, we don't know there is one, but we also can't really porve there isn't one.  Besides, I figured the question was unanswerable, and thus unimportant.

    I was quite shocked to learn at age 13 or so that there were large swaths of people who not only believed the Bible literally, but who also believed you were evil if you didn't.  That helped solidify my postion against the religious right.  Anybody who would force their personal faith on you through politics is a moral cretin, undeserving of political office.  I'm now a Unitarian, and we don't believe in prosletyzing.  Nor do we believe in such limiting artificialities as dogmas.  It's just a philosophical discussion group, as a good moral guide should be.  We don't judge, and the fundamentalists Christians should likewise learn not to judge.

    All your vote are belong to us

    by Harkov311 on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:36:20 PM PST

    •  Agnosticism... (none)
      I abandoned agnosticism when I realized I was giving "god" too much credit. I'd never say that, "You know, I'm not sure that the invisible pink unicorn or the flying spaghetti monster exist, but I can't disprove it, either, so I'm just going to have to call it a draw." I'd say, "No, that's total bull, that shit doesn't exist." For some reason, probably cultural, maybe psychological, we seemed to have carved out a special excpetion for religion. "We do not need extraordinary proof to disbelieve something ridiculous and non-religious, but when it comes to religion, let's hedge all our bets."

      I think part of that hedging is that people look at the question as, "Does God exist or not?" -- a simple, binary question. I look at it differently. Every relgiion in the world has a god. I can't ask is there a capital-G god without giving God special standing. So first, is there any god or pantheon of gods that has special claim to existence? My answer is that no, there is not. And how many gods are there? There seem to be an infinite number. I myself have three or four different conceptions of the godhead, and I'm a damned atheist. So my quandry is "If God exists, which one of the infinite Gods is it? What are the odds that only one of them is real?" Suddenly it's not God, capital G, but an infinite universe of gods, all contradictory and at each other's throats. At this point, we're in flying spaghetti monster territory and I proudly pull up my flag from "agnostic" and move to "atheist."

      It's similar to the ID argument. "If evolution is wrong, intelligent design is right." Logically speaking, if evolution is wrong, there is probably an infinite universe of possible "right" answers.

      And, yes, I'm proselytizing, but only because your are SOOO close.

      •  If it makes any difference.... (none)
        MY personal inclination is toward atheism, but see, even if I think there's not a god, I can't prove it.  Nobody can.  To do so makes either too many or too few assumptions, and as a rational person I have to doubt every argument both for and against a god.  Personally believing or disbelieving in a god won't make it so, and frankly I could care less whether there is one or not.

        All your vote are belong to us

        by Harkov311 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:46:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I typically claim agnosticism (none)
          ...unless the person I'm up against is a really obnoxious theist, then I shift over to atheism in retaliation.

          However, this diary points out that athiests ARE discrimininated against in this society in fundamental ways.

          "We can't elect him sheriff, he's a nigra."
          "I'd never vote for him for sheriff, he's an atheist."

          Compare and contrast.

          Rubus Eradicandus Est.

          by Randomfactor on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:33:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  That's illogical (none)
          You sound like you are really an atheist but afraid to admit it because of the cultural implications or something.  It's a very subtle difference at first, but then after you finally admit you are an atheist it becomes more logical.  You don't have to concede that something may exist when there is no proof of it.  As another poster told you, they don't have to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster just because someone else may take it seriously.  It's ridiculous to give the idea of the FSM credence, and there's just as little reason to take the Christian god seriously too.  You just do it because more people believe in CHristianity and because there is a huge infrastructure of Christianity as well as a history.  Logically speaking you have as much reason to believe in either one.
          •  You have confused opinion and fact (none)
            I don't THINK god exists, but do I KNOW that?  No, I don't.  Since nobody can gree on what god is or does, then there cannot be any proof either way.  For all we know, there could a be a god so utterly in control that you don't even know it, there could be no god at all, or there could be an utterly indifferent god.

            Since we have no idea, and can never know, we can thus not make any factual judgements about any god or gods that may or may not exist.  Theists and atheists, when they express belief in god, or the lack thereof, are expressing opinions.  Saying that there is or isn't a god is like saying Metallica is a great band, and calling it a settled fact.  I think they are, but it's just my opinion.  A Megadeth fan would never agree to it.

            Hate to say it, but you sound like many an atheist I meet: always convinced that agnostics are really just closet atheists.  I assure you, I am no an atheist any more than I am a theist.  Both assume facts not in evidence.

            All your vote are belong to us

            by Harkov311 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:02:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  That's the problem though (none)
              In saying that you think there could be a god, you are using bad logic to back that up.  Others give examples like the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  How do you know there really isn't a FSM?  What standards do you use to decide that His noodly appendage isn't what really created the Earth?  It may sound silly, but you have to be consistant in the logic you use.  Logically speaking there's no more reason to believe that a god is possible than a flying spaghetti monster is possible.  In fact, since spaghetti is a tangible thing, there may be even more evidence that FSM exists than there is of the existance of a Christian god.

              It's not that I'm trying to convince you to be an atheist, just that if we used the same logic that you use to call yourself an agnostic, then there can be no discerning or judgement of what is right or wrong.  You make it a zero sum game where one person says murder is wrong and another says murder is ok and you are unable to form an opinion either way because there are people of both opinions.  It's simply one of those issues where you can't be on the fence about.

  •  pie (none)
    anyone want to write a diary about gilligan's island and pie?
  •  Well DarkSyde ... (none)
    I guess Santa won't be wanting you for a reindeer ...

    (Btw I am saving this diary so I can email it to people who ask me why I am an atheist.)

    •  Reindeer? (4.00)
      Darksyde forget to mention how hunting was made illegal because Santa recruits deer to run his sleigh every year.

      And he also left out the "Christmas tax," making all employees put 10% of their income into a Christmas fund, to be spent in full every year celebrating the joy of Christmas. Rich people of course would put in less, because they have the most Christmas spirit already.

      But, what the heck, I'm an a-Santaist, so I can say with complete conviction, "mmmm.... deer steak." Come get me, you ho-ho ho's!

  •  My thoughts (none)
    This is a great topic that deserves more attention. Descrimination against people who are non-religious doesn't receive the attention it deserves, probably because non-religious people are too afraid to stand up for themselves for fear of being ostracized.

    However, a second installment describing why you're an atheist is as bad as a diary from a christian describing why they're a christian. Personally, I don't care to read either one.

    Democrats -- Progress for the Working Class

    by rogun on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:48:26 PM PST

  •  Great Topic, Rarely Discussed (4.00)
    Right off the bat, DarkSyde, I'd suggest that post is way too long. Maybe some editing would make it punchier.

    I get the Santa thing, but this is more what it's like to be an atheist for me... at least it's however many other metaphors I can think of before I fall asleep...

    It's like landing on a planet and saying "okay, let's figure out what's here and what isn't, and write down what we can be pretty sure about"... while the other five guys on the mission step out and say "Hey, let's come up with a scenario about this place which will help us have a deeply meaningful view of it, and we need some character to be the ultimate grab-bag explanation for it all. Oh, and he loves us and we won't really die."

    It's like being in a small group of tourists at Disneyland when all the other groups and families in the park think that the Mickey or Goofy characters are actually real cartoon creatures. But you can see the guy's sneakers showing under the big fake paws.

    It's like being the only guy on the hiking trip who knows you're lost and miles from anyone, while everyone else says a superhero in a rescue 'copter is on the way, and is telling them which way to go via telepathy.

    It's like being in the 14% of voters who checked the box marked "Reality," when everyone else checked the box marked "Reassurance."

    It's like being the guy in a huge, cluttered, dark museum who wants to look around and learn about the stuff for himself. But the rest of the tour group wants to find a guide, go to his office and hear about a simpler, more exciting, magical version of the museum which the guide says will solve their problems by closing time as long as they trust him.

    It's like being in the one little neighborhood in town that doesn't believe it when everybody else says there is a superpowerful, invisible mayor watching everything and controlling whatever happens. If you believe them and see everything in that context, they promise that this super-mayor will come by  some evening soon and take everybody who loves and thinks about him to a super-duper party at his amazing mansion somewhere. But if you don't think there is such a mayor, or a mansion, then they insist that you will get bombed and tortured when they get picked up for the party.

    These other neighborhoods don't agree about what the mayor's name is, or what exactly he wants them to do, or which old story from a stack of papers they found is the one that's really about the mayor.

    They keep saying the invisible, kindly mayor is making things happen around town, but you keep finding out that something normal cause the events.

    It's like finding yourself living out a Tom Waits song with a chorus that goes "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," and you're that king. But nobody knows it.

    But still, the whole time, you feel pretty good about seeing things like you do. You feel occasionally sad for or threatened by the others who claim to see all the magic stuff. Which sometimes upsets them a lot, but also comforts them.

    And so on. Or maybe it's really much more like a tuna salad sandwich. Now I'm hungry and sleepy. Mmmm, tuna....

  •  What you have rejected is THEISM (none)
    i.e., the belief in a specific deity, such as Jesus, or Shiva, or Zeus, or Allah, or Jehovah--or Santa Claus.

    There are many arguments--ontological, epistemological and otherwise--for the existence of Some Higher Power--whatever It is.  It could be a God or Goddess or multiple Gods, but more philosophical minds have viewed it as the Tao, or like The Force in Star Wars (non-midichlorian version).

    These arguments include

    1)Anselm's argument ("that being than which no greater can be conceived");

    1. arguments based on accounts of near-death experiences and dream-reality concurrence that defy probability
    2. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle ("the random laws of the universe are perfectly set so as to enable life, such that the laws cannot have been set up by chance")
    3. Classic watch-maker complexity arguments (and yes, I have deep knowledge of complexity theory--and most complexity theorists are deists.  To argue that "complexity theory" answers the watchmaker questions begs the question.

    And there are many others.

    None of which are touched by your Santa story, which is an extremely intelligent and well-taken critique of the idiocy known as Theism.  Which is completely different from Deism.

    •  it wasn't even about that -- read the title (none)
      He'll talk about what exactly he rejects and why tomorrow.
    •  It's always amazed me (none)
      ...that Christians, in particular, DON'T move the goalposts on this one:

      Well, no, God didn't create the earth in six days about 6000 years ago.  We thought that when science hadn't yet looked at the evidence.  In actuality, He created the Universe, a vastly greater undertaking, in an unimaginably shorter period of time.

      Among the side-effects of that Universal act, lif sprouted about four billion years ago on an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet.

      The problem with that--as in all great scientific revelations--is that it moves humans off center stage.  And Christians, in particular, can't stand that.

      Rubus Eradicandus Est.

      by Randomfactor on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:39:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Re: (none)
      1)Anselm's argument ("that being than which no greater can be conceived");

      Anselm's argument is complete nonsense, sorry to put it bluntly. It's just a mess of semantics and word games.

        2. arguments based on accounts of near-death experiences and dream-reality concurrence that defy probability

      Be nice if it were true, more likely (Occam's Razor) weird chemical reactions. Brains do weird things when deprived of oxygen and filled with stress-related chemicals. Again, if someone could come up with something testable here, it might be different.

        3. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle ("the random laws of the universe are perfectly set so as to enable life, such that the laws cannot have been set up by chance")

      There could be millions of universes, all with different laws, only some of which support life. Look at planets in the solar system: only earth supports life. You assume that there is only one universe, and you assume that the laws are "random". This entire argument assumes what it sets out to prove.

        4. Classic watch-maker complexity arguments (and yes, I have deep knowledge of complexity theory--and most complexity theorists are deists.  To argue that "complexity theory" answers the watchmaker questions begs the question.

      What is "complexity theory"? Can you express it mathematically? If you just drop a bunch of random hydrogen, nitrogen, obygen, carbon, etc together, they spontaneously form the same amino acids found in all animals and plants. What does "complexity theory" say about that? Even snowflakes? Are they complex? Hurricanes?

      Any system with an energy input can become more complex.

    •  The complexity theorists I've met (none)
      discuss the origins of life in terms of emergent patterns, no need for deism or theism. Are the  theorists referred to above actually doing the nuts and bolts of complexity theory in mathematics, chemistry, biology or physics, like Stuart Kauffman? Or are these theorists in the vein of (to crib  from the South Park underpants gnomes' business plan):
      1. Cite complexity theory.
      2. Question mark.
      3. God exists!.

      You said most - how 'bout some names?
  •  in short, an OPEN mind (none)
    is always the best mind.  And leave the straw-men behind.
  •  aeiou (4.00)
    And sure, you learn some useful tips, like how to distinguish fresh blotter acid from stuff that's been laying around turning into strychnine

    Spreading some myths of our own, are we? ;)

    A very lucid and well thought out post, although, as a person who practices a spriritual faith (I'm a Quaker - something I did arrive at prior to my, erm... youthful experimentation with the who's who of psychedelic pharmacopia), I find the Santa analogy a bit simplistic.  

    Look, I know my beliefs are irrational.  I know I can't prove them.  And you know what - I'm not going to waste my time arguing about whether something spiritual exists or not.  Why?  Because there's no point in it - most folks made up their minds a looooong time ago, and quite frankly, I have better things to do, like work with people of like-minded morals (be they based on atheism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, or FSMism) to make the here and now a better place.

    So, my atheistic friends, where shall we start?    Election reform?  Stopping the war?  There's a lot of work to be done!  

    "No hope? See, that gives me guts." - d. boon

    by wobblie on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:52:26 PM PST

    •  Well... (none)
      how about removing religion from our Government for starters.  Everyone just go ahead and keep their religion within their own homes, churches, synogogs, caves, role-playing games, whatever.  

      My best suggestion would be to remove the tax-free status of religious groups.  If a church wants to donate money towards helping the poor, they can deduct that contribution just like the rest of us.  You wanna build a multi-million dollar building in the middle of town?   You're gonna have to pay the tax man, just like the rest of us.

  •  Amazing, as usual (4.00)
    Some religious folks really take it personally when you don't share their beliefs. I think there's a lot to be admired in many religions, but any religion which included evangelism really drives me nuts. I may have to start trying to convert them to the Pastafarian religion.

    And it's too bad this thread was jacked by the "atheism requires faith" pissing contest. It would appear pretty self evident that atheism requires no faith at all. Otherwise, you can say basically anything idiotic like "there's an invisible unicorn in my room" and there's technically no way to "disprove" it without resorting to what the unicorn believer would call faith.

  •  amen. (none)
    no snark intended; double-snark if you must.
  •  Wait... (none)
    are you saying there isn't a Santa Claus?

    Fox News--As fair as a Florida Election, as balanced as Ann Coulter when she forgets her medicine.

    by Dizzy on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:59:46 PM PST

    •  Nope (4.00)
      Santa was ran out of business and shot himself after he refused to hire cheap labor for Wal-Mart.

      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:09:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  cheap labor? (none)
        elves working for food and lodging are the cheapest labor you can get.  santa runs a sweatshop.  sorry, i'm off message....

        "the ubiquitous existential paradigm subsumes didactic proactive synergistic essence". buckley b. buckley vii

        by realheathen on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:06:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  You've said it better than anyone (4.00)
    I very much agree with you, although I have a different perspective.  I grew up in a very religious (yet very liberal) family.

    I find your analogy to be particularly appropriate.  When I was growing up, after finding out that Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy didn't exist, I wondered who would eventually tell me that God didn't exist.  It certainly was not my parents.

    I was always a skeptic from a very young age, but tried to compensate for my lack of faith with a sort of personal fundamentalism.  I became very involved in my church and in other bible studies, hoping to rediscover my faith.  I criticized others for their lack of faith.  Eventually, I finally realized that belief in god just wasn't for me.
    (As a side note, I wonder if many conservative fundamentalists are like I was when I was in my early teens; compensating for a lack of faith with an over-involvement with the trivial matters of religion.)

    I respect my parents' faith and what they do with it.  They taught me about social justice and caring for the poor and for the earth (aka "God's Creation").  These things I still believe in.  But recently, after a long battle with my own (lack of) faith, I have declared myself an "atheist by choice."

    By which, I mean that I do not know whether or not any god or gods exist, but I choose not to believe in any sort of salvation so that I can focus on humanity and what this world needs.  By not worrying about my faith in any deity, I can better live towards the teachings of Jesus; the morals with which I was raised.  I still believe in them, but I do not believe in god.

    Try telling some Christians that you believe in the teachings of Jesus but not in god, and see how far that will get you.  :)

  •  Yeah. (4.00)
    Interesting.

    1.  I never believed in God, so I never had that "Shit!" moment.

    2.  I was raised by atheist parents and have grown up among people who are generally either atheist or just don't really give a damn, so I've never been a target because of this.

    3.  I do, occasionally, have to explain to people why being an atheist doesn't mean I'm depressed all the time, and why it doesn't mean that I think Hitler was okay.

    4.  I have also had to explain why being an atheist does not mean I "have faith" in no God.

    5.  It is kinda freaky when you think about it, all those people believing something that is so obviously not true.

    6.  But it's better not to think about it, and allow them to do irrational things, because I do them too, and as long as we don't interfere with each other, it's fine.
  •  Thank you for this diary. (4.00)
    I realized I didn't believe in god at age nine, and I've struggled to hold onto that realization for the next 41 years.  It ain't easy, and it forcloses a ton of shared experiences.  In other words, it can be lonely, too.

    But unlike you, DarkSyde, I can't simply write off those who do believe as delusional or childish. Ultimately, their belief in god is a felt phenomenon, not an empirical one (except insofar as feelings are empirical).  My strongest antipathy is leveled at those religious totalitarians who won't accept that I dont and don't want to believe. I refuse to be an antheistic totalitarian and deny others the existence of their beliefs, even if I don't share them.

    I can't deny that belief in something has brought great beauty and joy to the world.  Music comes to mind here....  But the complete absence of belief has given us the same thing. Again, music comes to mind....  Where does that leave us?

    I can only say where it leaves me - the place I found myself in at age nine.  I. don't. believe.

    'Nuff said.

    Now leave me alone, please.
     

    •  I'm (4.00)
      not talking about hating Christmas or trying to talk other people into rejecting Santa Cklaus. I'm trying to explain what it's like to live ina  world where so many around you truly believe in Santa to the point that some of them want to take voer the most personal aspects of your life by force of law. No one hates the idea of Santa, that's why I chose him. But recognizing the wonderful spirit of Santa, and believing he really exists, are two very different things.

      Read UTI, your free thought forum

      by DarkSyde on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:11:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not saying I think you "hate" (none)
        believers.  I'm only trying to explain my need to keep some distance from the kind of totalitarianism that believers shove down our throats.  Doing it by force of law is the absolute worst.  But, as you know, it's done everyday in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

        BTW - I keep that distance in order to survive the never-ending attacks on my lack of belief, and the impulse to compromise my own integrity for the sake of something more important. At times I can avoid compromising through cynicism (e.g., "god bless America" isn't about god; it's about pandering).  At other times I simply find a way to to use "god" to my advantage (e.g., I love the good choral music, much of which is religious, and I say "thank god" for the believers).

        Probably the hardest time for me as an atheist was going through treatment and commiting myself to using the 12 steps, 11 of which involve god. Talk about personal....  I did it through understanding that what some call their "higher power" is, for me, simply having a real person help me lift that heavy table.  Nothing magical, nothing spiritual - just help with the heavy lifting.

        At times it really sucks being an atheist.  It can be a pretty isolating and isolated way to live.  But there's nothing I can do about it - except, of course, rant and rail aginst those who would have me change.  It ain't gonna happen.

         

      •  OK (none)
        Other than the Christian Right, what other organizations are using force to convert atheists?

        A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

        by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:16:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Now leave me alone, please. (none)
      You captured my "religious" philosophy in five words.

      There's nothing more odious to me than a proselytizer, whether they're selling Christianity or Scientology or atheism.

      Please donate to Katrina Laptop Fund for students.

      by willowby on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:14:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Blasphemy! (4.00)
    The flying spaghetti monster will now smite you with a yummy meatball sub.

    /agnostic who is sure that all religions to date are crap. Same shit recycled over and over.

    Mission accomplished? 2000 dead :( High 5 asshat

    by kevn357 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:19:09 AM PST

  •  you're gonna get 1000 comments... (none)
    by tomorrow (or I guess today...) with this diary! I would just like to say that I think you are are Daily Kos Treasure. Please don't stop writing your diaries, you are amazing!!

    I HATE REPUBLICANS, HATE HATE HATE THEM!!!!!!!!! UGHHHHH [-5.50, -4.69]

    by michael1104 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:22:01 AM PST

  •  My favorite question (4.00)
    I too am an atheist - always have been as well.

    My parents exposed me to a ton of religions to let me decide for myself, but in the end all I could see were good people with beliefs that contradicted those of other good people. I could only conclude that they were all wrong - that and that none of the stories made any damn sense to me. Ark? You really think that a pair of T-Rexes wouldn't just eat every damn thing on the boat including Noah? But, nobody ever seemed to think that one out. For what it's worth, my kids go to church. I want them exposed as I was.

    Anyhow, my favorite question from the non-non-believers is [with great conviction] "If you don't believe in God, where do your morals come from?"

    The first 2 or 3 times this was tossed at me, I was just floored - I didn't have any idea how to respond. What the hell kind of question is that? My morals come from the same place as everyone elses - from my family and people around me. Simple stuff, you know - do unto others, that kind of stuff. It's just that my little circle included people representing a dozen different religions and they pretty much all chimed in on the same stuff. I started being able to respond to the question as it came at me only to find that none of the people asking me the question knew how to consistently apply their morals, and they sometimes made no sense. People that wouldn't swear but would drive drunk. I guess some nice parable from the Bible was put out there about swearing, but Matthew never got around to documenting his drunken donkey-riding escapades so it was an open issue.

    But other issues were harder - abortion, capital punishment, etc. I had to really think those through - I mean, REALLY think on a regular basis for a long-ass time before I really was sure how I felt and could articulate why I believed I was right. And again, as that question came up and I reflected these issues back nobody could support their own morals. Abortion was wrong because a potential life was prevented and and capital punishment is right because it's a deterrent. But as you probe around the edges of those arguments and find contradictions and inconsistencies, there's no response. These so-called morals and values that these people believe they have aren't there - it's a veneer.

    I like to cook. But there's a difference in my mind between cooking and following a recipe. The recipe takes you from start to finish so long as nothing goes wrong. My 7 year old son could cook anything under those conditions. But once things take a turn and you need to stray from the clear path, that's when cooking happens. It's understanding what to do when there is no guide to follow. I see a lot of people that take pride in their morals, but all they have is a recipe book to follow - do not steal, do knock up the neighbor's wife. After that, they're out in the tall weeds with no sense of where to go.

    So now, having fielded this question about 30 times or so, I take some delight in backing these people into an uncomfortable place. They enter the conversation thinking that they have something that I lack and I can always lead them into some dark corner of life that they've never given any thought to and have no way to think their way out of. I get a lot of 'well, I'd pray for the answer' and stuff like that, but they're shaken at that point. I keep pushing. Some have clearly never thought about any hard moral issue without that recipe to follow. It's good for them.

    I don't care where you get your morals from, just make sure they're yours and you know deep down what they really are. Very few people bother to do that.

    •  Cooking (none)
      Your cooking analogy describes to a tee the reasons I finally decided to be an atheist.

      If there is no god, and if there is no salvation, well, you might just have to work out society's problems by yourself, then!

    •  Since I'm not an atheist, may I ask respecfully (none)
      (cause I really want to know and understand better):on what basis do you as an atheist decide on the superiority of one set of values over another? For example, how do you decide which way of relating to others is moral and which is not?
      •  we HAVE values, we don't pick a set (4.00)
        I don't choose to treat murder and rape as bad things, they simply are bad things.  It's called socialization, and it comes from being raised by ethical parents who taught me right and wrong rather than fear of a ghost.
      •  The same way you do (4.00)
        Since you don't know what a deity, if one more exists, would want you are still having to decide on your own as well. The best a religious person could do is to listen to preachers and or read holy books, but even then with the literally infinite ways of interpretation you still end up making the decision in the end.

        For myself personally, my values are based entirely on my desires and can probably be roughly described by the term 'enlightened self-interest'. I wish to live long, and I do not wish to have to fend for my survival every day, therefore I support a co-operative society in which each person's safety is held sacrosanct. I wish to make decisions for myself, therefore I support democratic means of forming governments and abhor institutions such as slavery. And so and so forth. John Rawls is a good political philosopher to read regarding these matters, particular on his idea of the 'veil of ignorance'.

        Practically though, what values a person holds depends mostly on their parents and the environment of their upbringing.

        •  Thanks for the serious and honest reply (none)
          and the direction for further info =). I like reading!

          So far the three responses I've received suggest atheists rest the basis for ethical choices on socialization, individual preference or desires, and a social rule of action ("greatest good for the greatest number"). Hopefully that is a fair representation of what's been stated.

          Since these concepts or choices are not identical (nor are they completely discrete-- there is overlap)is there a way, based on atheism or the scientific method, to determine the ethical choice of one over the other for any particular situation?

          Or does it boil down to personal preference? If it's personal preference, what in atheism,or the scientific method, would lead you to exclude as immoral another person's preference for enslavement, economic domination, or extermination?

          I probably misunderstand, but it doesn't seem like your decision to stand on personal desire leads to anything but an ethics of whim, or culturally induced prejudice.

          True, we all have to choose. But where does atheism give direction to what choices should be made beyond whim?

          I've read Sartre and Camus. This is one of the problems they struggled with, and the later Camus (if I understand him correctly)began rejecting atheism because of it. Perhaps he was merely inconsistent, or lacked courage. Or perhaps he peered deeply into the yawning abyss of relativism and discovered a path out of it. Perhaps he deluded himself. I guess it's true -- we all must choose.

          •  Maybe (none)
            Maybe I can help.  I am a staunchy anti-relativist atheist.  First, though, I think you have to get that we--or at least, I--understand morality differently than religious people.  For an atheist, everything is material, and so morals are not spiritual commandments with the goal of making us "good," but social guidelines with the goal of people not suffering.  That is my starting point: I want as much good as possible in the world, because I am a nice person, and because "good" is so subjective, that often translates into simply reducing suffering.

            The way I've decided to look at the human race--and it really helps me think things through objectively--is to imagine that chimpanzees suddenly evolved the ability to think and learn and use language as we do, and over the course of several thousand years they discovered fire, agriculture, et cetera.  (If you think about human history this way, the great "Why?" questions disappear, which is both disappointing and helpful.  Disappointing because it would be nice if there were some great reasons, but helpful because if you get over the fact that there aren't, you can re-focus yourself on simply addressing reality and reducing suffering.)

            In any case, as a godlike being (irony) overlooking these chimps--and goodness, by now they've invented all sorts of things, living in complex and enormous societies--what kinds of laws would you suggest to them?  I think our first instinct--please tell me if this is yours, because I'd be very interested--is to adopt the very utilitarian view of minimized suffering, like I have for humanity.  Where with people we get mixed up in emotional and spiritual issues and our need to have a "purpose" to our existence, we accept that chimps just are and have no supernatural "moral" bearings, and that furthermore that they don't really need any.

            So from there, like someone else said, I have just given things a lot of thought and tried to be as rational as possible.  But though my positions don't come from on high, I firmly believe that many things (but not necessarily everything; I haven't pursued every possible issue to its end, and I'm sure I never will)  DO have objective ethical values.  Killing someone for shoes, for example, is never justified.  Forcing women to wear things on their heads is in that category as well.  Given the lack of evidence of deterrence and the overwhelming evidence that we execute innocent people, the death penalty is objectively wrong.  Opposing gay marriage is objectively wrong.  On these things, I accept no wishy-washy answers, no "cultural differences" excuses.  There is no rational reason to condone them.

            I wrote this on the fly, and I expect that it's rambling, but I hope it spells out the way at least some atheists get their moral bearings.

            •  I would agree on all of your points. (none)
              I've seen some responses along the 'greatest good' lines which I always dump into the relativist category.

              I don't subscribe to that as it easily leads into a 'tyrrany of the majority' situation. Christians often argue that in a predominently christian nation, the 'greatest good' is an affirmation for christian values. 'Greatest good' has been the underlying motive for slavery, racism, and a host of other repressive acts. Capital punishment takes some justification by decalring that the social outliers should be eliminated from society for the 'greater good'.

              Good moral decisions don't necessarily benefit the majority. Sometimes they introduce challenges (not suffering) for many (as the introduction of civil rights did) in favor of elminating suffering for some. I like the viewpoint of 'eliminating suffering' vs. 'greatest good' for this reason. Civil rights don't stem from 'greatest good', after all. Life doesn't have to be easy, but it should be tolerable and inclusive. Social gains can lift all boats so long as all members have opportunties to participate and not fight against socal inequalities.

            •  ethical values cannot be objective (none)
              What can that possibly mean?  What makes them objective?  It doesn't matter how strongly something seems right or wrong to you, it's still a subjective judgment.  Even if it is held universally (and no ethical value is held universally), that doesn't make it objective, it just makes it universal.  For something to be objectively true, it must be true independent of subjective judgment.  Ethical values are, by definition, not objective.
          •  perhaps you misunderstood me (none)
            "I've received suggest atheists rest the basis for ethical choices on socialization"

            I didn't say that the basis for my ethical choices rest on socialization.  My ethical choices rest on my values, and my values come from socialization.  My distaste for violence and unfairness is not a whim or in any other way a choice -- it's how I'm built.

            "culturally induced prejudice"

            Well, yes, culturally induced prejudice against violence and oppression, for instance.  Sounds like a good thing to me -- but then, that's how I'm built.  It's not just arbitrary, though -- as a social species, elements of cooperation are quite natural.

            we all must choose

            Einstein noted that, when he encountered Schopenhauer's dictum that we can do what we want but we cannot want what we want (i.e., we cannot choose our preferences), it lifted a great burden from him and made him feel very humble.

        •  John Rawls' Veil of Ignorance - (none)
          my thoughts exactly.  In short, "Do unto others..."
          •  veil of ignorance not consistent with golden rule (none)
            The veil of ignorance requires that you have no knowledge of your personal situation when setting ethical rules.  You might, for instance, have to kill a person -- which you surely wouldn't want done to you -- in order to save a hundred others, as you would want if you were any of them.  More practically, this goes to such things as eminent domain, tax laws, anti-monopoly and anti-pollution laws, and so on.  That's why the libertarians are so opposed to Rawls.
      •  The Greatest Good (none)
        for the Greatest Number.

        Sponge Bob, Mandrake, Cartoons. That's how your hard-core islamahomocommienazis work.

        by Benito on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:03:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's a sin if (none)
        ...you hurt someone else unnecessarily.  Thank you, RAH.

        Rubus Eradicandus Est.

        by Randomfactor on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:45:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent (none)
        I rate you '4' because you're doing the right thing -- asking questions respectfully, which is the way to generate light instead of heat. :)

        Many of my "morals" are not decided; they are ingrained.  If I analyze them deeply, they come down to axioms buried deeply in my subconscious. Some of them are probably biological (care for my family, empathy for injury) and some are socially ingrained (free choice, egalitarian opportunity, respect for property).

        But in looking across the world, past and present, I see that meaningful "morals" almost always boil down to "treat members of our society in a way such that the current society can propagate itself."

        How "good" that is depends on how much you like the society that that set of morals propagate.

        (sidenote: there are other things called "morals" which involve only the self, but they boil down to "choose wisely between long-term and short-term payoff". Our biological tendencies are to favor short-term payoff, so personal moral codes tend to focus on pushing for long term payoff instead, to balance this.)

        But anyway, to the degree that I "choose" my morals, or to the degree that I affect (through action, conversation, exhortation, etc.) the morals of others, it is by first choosing the sort of society I would prefer to live in and then acting in accord with morals that will propagate the society I prefer.

        I assert there is very little difference between what I do and what a believer does; we may simply disagree on what constitutes a long-term benefit, and we may disagree on what sort of society we would prefer.

        (second sidenote: acting according to a rule that "this set of deeds are rewarded by God; that set of deeds are punished by God" is not morality, it is cost/benefit analysis, and strictly amoral in its nature.  Consider that for a while.)

        •  Thanks for this (none)
          I guess it's true-- we're all here in this whirly swirly world trying to make some headway against the bloomin', buzzin' confusion and uncertainty that surrounds us.

          My own painful life experiences have led me to question my own faith (I've had the "opportunity" to watch my wife die from cancer over a period of two and a half years, spent my life savings in that losing battle, shortly after suffered a stroke resulting in a paralysis of my left side, loss of employment, and subsequent "fun" relationships with a healthcare system that doesn't give a rip about your difficulties, and finally freeing myself through bankruptcy). It impacts you when your emotional guts are ripped out by circumstances beyond your control, and while you're are down and bleeding, groups of people keep marching over you kicking you with their economic jackboots like you are some unwanted debris. Yup, you can find down deep what your real values are.

          I still own my faith-- tattered, bruised, dented, bent tho it is. But I've lost a lot of my hubris. I no longer think I know so much. And I respect others-- especially those with different perspectives that shed light through their sincerity.

    •  many people who ask really don't know (none)
      They're amoral sociopaths constrained only by fear of getting caught and fear of hell -- and look out if they lose their faith.
    •  Does the recipe book really say that? (none)
      "Do knock up the neighbor's wife". Sounds like a spicy recipe.
  •  totally fucking awesome (4.00)
    And not so far off my own atheist past.

    In 1st grade, I figured out there was no Tooth Fairy.
    In 2nd grade, I figured out there was no Santa.
    In 3rd grade, I figured out there was no god.
    In 4th grade, I told my parents and got a long lecture from my dad (and basically bribed by my mom to keep going to Sunday School and have a Bat Mitzvah)
    In 7th grade, I cashed in on my years of compliance (the Bat Mitzvah) after years of refusing to say the word God in the pledge and being similarly rebellious in saying prayers - the English ones at least.  Hebrew's nicer bc I don't understand it.
    In college, my great aunts asked me at family events if I was meeting any nice Jewish boys at Hillel.
    As an adult, I consider myself a devout culinary Jew.  I may not say Kaddish, but I'll eat a blintz and drink some wine.

    •  Me, too, in a way (none)
      Your experience sounds a lot like mine, except it took me until the age of 22 before I could finally admit to myself that I did not believe in god.  Go figure?

      On a tangent, why is it more acceptable for an atheist to consider him/herself Jewish than it is for an atheist to consider him/herself Christian?  I only wonder because I've had a lot of debates about religion/philosophy/spirituality with my atheist and Jewish and Christian friends, and it seems that only my Jewish friends "get" that I can believe in the teachings of Christ without believing in god.

      •  The Jew has the consolation of the blintz. (none)

        Mother Nature bats last.

        by pigpaste on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:41:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The blintz? (4.00)
          I see your blintz and raise you three hot cross buns!

          The origins of which I only know because I was once stranded in a bakery.

          And by a bakery, I mean a liquor store that had a guide to bread for reasons I still do not understand.

      •  Jews are quite a bit more at ease (none)
        with their religion, because it is also their
        culture and, to some extent, their race.

        The Christians are all aware that they are reasonably recent converts, and their is no strong racial or cultural commonality, and they are actively proselytizing to make more of the population like them. This is quite a difficulty psychologically and so they are uneasy and clingy. And often absolutist.

        There are of course the absolutist Jews (e.g. the haredim) and, well, there are crazies on every block. But for your observation, Jews, as a religious minority, are more liable to be open to your specific point of view. They (culturally, we) of course know all too well that they require tolerance for their own continued existence.

        The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

        by peeder on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:09:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  my rabbi said so (none)
        The rabbi basically said it's ok to be a Jewish Atheist.  I'm sure he didn't encourage it, but if you fessed up to being atheist (I didn't) you'd still be welcome at the synogogue.

        You know, I wonder what would happen if atheists had a "national coming out day."  Would it shock people to know that their oh-so-moral friends and neighbors don't believe in god?

        •  An atheist coming-out day? (none)
          I'm all for it!  Recently, I've been trying to figure out how to tell my parents that I'm an atheist while still assuring them that they raised me with the proper morals and all.  I don't like keeping important secrets from the people I love, yet I don't want them to think that they've failed or anything, ya know?

          I think it would be good for many people in this country to see that atheism does not equal immorality.  In fact, maybe it will get some people to wake up and see how figures like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell are immoral while still calling themselves "Christian."

        •  An orthodox Rabbi (none)
          I am agnostic...and Jewish...with a touch of Buddhaism. I usually do not say atheist because I see that there is some room for a theory of a deity of some sort (e.g. at the moment of the big bang almost anything goes). I also should say that I know people who are religious who are perfectly reasonable about it. But I sometimes say atheist just to counter the increasing religious rigidity that has been sweeping the world.

          So when my now wife first met me, she told a Rabbi friend (orthodox) about me. The first question the Rabbi asked was "is he Jewish."

          My wife replied, "well he's probably more atheist."

          So the Rabbi shrugged and said, "That just proves he's Jewish."

          True story.

          •  oh wow (none)
            I'd be interested to meet that rabbi.

            There are many Jewish atheists.  I learned a lot of valuable things in sunday school.  We talked a lot about how to make moral decisions, and why you shouldn't gossip, and how we always need to protect the rights of the minority and freedom of speech, etc etc.  I just never bought into the god bit of it.

            •  Another example (none)
              I was reading a book on Jewish history written by an orthodox Jew turned atheist turned Jew again. He pointed out that although Noah was the first person to have a covenant with God, he was not considered the first Jew. Abraham was the first Jew. What was the difference?

              Noah followed orders--build an ark to such-and-such specifications and sail to such-and-such a place. For that he got a covenant but not the honor (?) of being considered the first Jew.

              Abraham haggled with God over how many rightous people were needed to save Soddom and Gammorah. Abraham wasn't a follower, he met God on more equal terms. THAT made him the first Jew.

              I kind of like that. It also fits with the format of the Talmud: a Torah passage surrounded by contradictory arguements about its meaning that are never resolved. That is a far cry from the rigid dogma of some religions.

        •  Jewish Atheists (none)
          I had a friend who is very orthodox in his Jewish beliefs and practices... but he admitted that he's not so sure he even really believes in God.  He too mentioned that a rabbi had told him that it is more important to follow the Law (rules for moral behavior) than it is to believe in the author of the law.  

          It's just like the people who posted elsewhere that they consider themselves to be Christian atheists; they follow Jesus's teachings but don't believe in God.

          •  Most O Rabbis would say that (none)
            Modern Orthodox Judaism is largely mechanistic and ritual-based.  Somebody else can explain it better, but the basic idea is that you honor god by doing things, not having faith.  The things to do are written in the Torah, which was literally written by god.  Since it's a bit obtuse, you follow the interpretations of expert rabbis in a large number of cases.

            Even though the O right has attached itself to the fundies for political reasons, O Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity could hardly be more different.

            If you think you're that far ahead, then get the chips in the middle of the table!

            by theran on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:42:12 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Judaism is ethnic (none)
        Anyone can be a Christian by adopting a belief, but one can be Jewish merely by birth.  I was born Jewish and have never ceased being Jewish, regardless of what I believe.  OTOH, if you don't believe in Christ's divinity but call yourself a Christian, you're using the word in an uncommon sense.  Still, you're a Christiam by belief, not by birth.
        •  I would differ... (none)
          Not to start an argument, but even in the years that I was not a practicing christian, I still lived as a cultural christian and know no other way to live, because that is how I was taught.  Your Jewishness is learned, much as my Christianness is learned.  

          But would I have been raised Jewish also in another time or place? This is something I wonder about...alot.  My dad used to use alot Yiddish (he just called them German) expressions when I was a kid.  But he was Catholic and all his family were either Catholic, with a sprinkling of Lutheran and Methodist.  Then one day when I was putzing around on the internet I saw that all of his families surnames going back three generations, appear on the Red Cross list of known Holocaust victims, and some of these last names are not common German or Germanic last names.  Just makes me wonder if there isn't a Jewish gene running around in this old Catholics heart.  Secretly I hope there is.  Sure would put the lie to the old man's "Once a Catholic always a Catholic" meme.  Seriously, my dad grew up miles away from a synagogue or any Jewish people, where on earth did he learn all the Yiddish?  Did he even know it was Yiddish (doubt it).

          Fringe is the new black. - Me

          by chillindame on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:29:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Orange Clouds/Inner Hippy (none)
      Your comment stood out - not for me - I'm somewhere else in all this - but for my sister. She believes in Judaism but is an atheist. What else does your rabbi say about this? Are there other Jewish people who feel that way? She also considers herself to be an unreformed hippy. I'm going to refer her to your website. Thanks.
      •  i'm not sure (none)
        I haven't been to a synogogue in several years.  Around the time I quit going, my synogogue moved buildings and that rabbi retired.  And I moved.  I've gone to a few other synogogues but nothing I liked much.  And I went to Israel and that basically sealed the deal that me and Judaism were done.  Except for the food.  I will still eat any knish I come across.
  •  this diary is about a two feet too long (none)
  •  Holy shit. (4.00)
    Darksyde is drunk, and I'm gonna have a whiskey with him on the beach with the rest of the hobos.

    Rock on, babe.  Ponys all around.  Sweet Jesus.

  •  The utter gall of parents to tell their children (4.00)
    with a straight face...

    "Ya know, son, you're right.  There really is no Santa Claus....

    Now, hurry up and get ready for church!  It's time to go!"

    •  I smoked a J with santa (none)
      He exists. He's just to stoned to actually deliver the presents. The poor elves keep working though, thinking big Claus is doing his job. Rudolph's eyes are redder than his nose. Every Xmas they take a trip to dump the presents in the ocean while hitting a 6 foot bong.  

      Mission accomplished? 2000 dead :( High 5 asshat

      by kevn357 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:45:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  To Santa or not to Santa? (none)
      I'm an atheist with a very smart 4 year old.  When god has come up in discussions with her, I go on with "some people believe .... other people believe...."  Now Xmas is coming around, and I'm really conflicted about how to handle it.  On the one hand, I was really disillusioned when I was about 6 or 7 and Santa stopped coming around on Christmas Eve, and the cold reality of that, I think, helped me to think rationally about religion.  I learned that all my peers can be wrong about the same thing.  I think it was a good experience in the end.  I still remember a conversation I had with my 3rd grade pals over the cafeteria table, in which we agreed that maybe Santa doesn't exist with all the magic now, but probably he did a long time ago.  It was a comforting thought, somehow.  That conversation came back to me when I was discussing atheism in college and someone said that maybe God doesn't exist now, but did once.

      I don't mind going with the flow of common culture most of the time, and Santa is a nice shared experience, so I'm probably going to go along with at least "Well, do you think Santa is real?  He came last year, didn't he?" and eat half of the cookies and drink the milk, but it doesn't sit well with me. I really hate lying to my little girl.  It doesn't come naturally to me at all.  Any suggestions?

      Merry Fitzmas. Treason is the Reason for the Season

      by power model on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:02:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Question for theists (none)
    Your diary doesn't mirror every part of my experience as an atheist, but the old "belief in Santa" analogy is dead on. To throw out yet another analogy: the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes.

    For the theists I'm curious, what do we atheists seem like to you? Are we like people denying that the sun exists? What's your experience with us?

    •  the sun actually exists (none)
      you can prove that vis a vis scientific method.

      i think atheists are trying to deny something.

      "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

      by BiminiCat on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:50:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ID says (none)
        The sun was created. I say it was made by the moon to show of its craters on other planets. Inverted boobs are hawt!

        Mission accomplished? 2000 dead :( High 5 asshat

        by kevn357 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:53:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  not trying to be too serious (none)
          you can measure the sun vis a vis scientific method.

          you can go the north pole and literally scour every inch and prove santa clause isn't there.

          i think such analogies are rhetorical devices.

          not much more than that.

          "I don't think Feingold and Clinton are really that far apart on Iraq." -- Howard Dean, 10/23/05

          by BiminiCat on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:56:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Santa exists. (none)
            I talk to him often. Why would he tell people he's in the north poll? It's Spin... Looters would steal everything and take some elves to build toys in their basement.

            Santa hangs out in an undisclosed location. It's classified.

            Mission accomplished? 2000 dead :( High 5 asshat

            by kevn357 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:07:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  So can you (none)
            use satellites to determine that there's no god floating in the sky looking down at us? Or seismographs to determine that in fact the earth doesn't have a cavernous hell in the middle of it? Or is Christianity somehow figurative, while the Santa Claus myth is literal.

            You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. ---Martin Luther King Jr.

            by Opakapaka on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:37:29 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It seems that the argument (none)
              against the existence of Santa Claus was presented against the existence of the literal Santa Claus. The "it's incorporeal" argument was presented, but it seems like it was rejected out of hand as being a) an enabler of those who believe in a corporeal Santa and b) completely unprovable and therefore irrelevant. B is what I draw from the hundreds of comments above. Why spend all this time parsing words? Weak atheism and agnosticism are the only two sets of beliefs that make sense to me. The only one that can be rejected by science is fundamentalism, but science is almost more about proving what isn't true than proving what is, leaving a lot of room for interpretation. Eventually we will reach the limit of human understanding, being able to see the farthest away things that are possible to see. At that point, the religious non-fundies will say that God, or whatever is popular at that time, is some distance beyond that. Who knows? Who cares? What difference does it make?

              Jumping on the politicalcompass.org bandwagon: (-3.63, -3.03) - Does that make me part of the right wing here?

              by someone else on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:08:01 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  As a Deist (none)
      I see atheists as people that lack evidence for Deity. However, fundamentalism is taking over with overt hostility towards any and all religious and spiritual people just because some atheist literature said so. Sam Harris' End of Faith is such an example.

      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:13:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Answers from a theist (none)
      Maybe I've been really really oblivious all my life.  I'm perfectly willing to buy that, but maybe it has more to do with geography; reading this has been a serious moment of cognitive dissonance for me.  I can't imagine a barfight starting because some over-muscled jackass found out the guy sitting next to him was an atheist.  I can't imagine a Matthew Shepphard atheist,  or a lynched atheist.  That's not to say that I don't believe that DarkSyde and others who have come forward here haven't experienced real discrimination and alienation.  I do believe that some places in this country are just a very short step from Afghanistan under the Taliban, with no hyperbole.  But the level of dispair I read from this diary just doesn't jive with what I see out there.  In my experience, there's a huge current of people who just don't care that deeply, think that seriously, or give much thought to religions belief.  

      Sorry - that didn't answer the question.  What do I think of you?  The same thing I think of someone who comes up with a Hindu, or an Animist answer to the question of Who's Out There?  Your answer doesn't match mine, but I know enough of human nature to suspect that we've all got a good laugh coming when we find out the Truth.  (Obviously, revealing some of my basic assumptions...)  We've just got different answers that's all, and as long as your answers don't involve working too hard at changing mine (especially when that work involves a baseball bat), I'll bake cookies when you move in next door.  

    •  To me, you are worthy of envy. (4.00)
      I'm a usually rational person who has tried to deny a belief in God many times in my life. If God didn't exist, I think things would be much simpler, because my moral beliefs would never be in any sort of conflict with those of other believers. I wouldn't struggle to fit in with people who I don't share a lot of interests with. I could sleep in on Sunday mornings. It wouldn't much affect my moral beliefs. I was raised by an agnostic mother. My father is an atheist former altar boy who loves to share stories about how ridiculous he found his Catholic upbringing.

      But for me, God is just there. He/She just is. I can't deny that any more than I can deny the rest of the reality that I perceive. Belief is part of my life in a way that I keep being drawn back in. A gift or a curse of faith is inherent in my being. It's not a matter of believing so that I can get goodies later on or anything of the sort. If I am still, I just know.

      I'll admit I do have a bit of resentment toward people like the diarist who need to wave their atheism as a demonstration of their vastly superior intellect, but then I feel the same way about people who need to wave their religion as a demonstration of their vastly superior morals. There just seems to be a lot of arrogance on both sides, where I am a Christians and as such am called to "walk humbly." And, of course, I'm already a bit jealous of people who don't believe, so I imagine some of that resentment is on my side.

      •  Yeah, sort of (4.00)
        Like that. God is just something I happen to believe in. The universe doesn't feel random and impersonal to me, because it doesn't. It's as inexplicable and inescapable as explaining why my favorite songs are my favorite songs (when other people don't even like them) or why I love my husband, and not someone else (who might seem, in an objective evaluation, more suitable).

        An atheist, to me, seems no more and no less foreign than someone with a different set of musical tastes.

      •  You need your own religion. (none)
        So that you could meet other people with similar feelings of the numinous, but without all the beliefs, so different from yours, which so typically go with it.
  •  Love the diary, (4.00)
    in fact I almost pissed myself laughing.  For those who enjoy a good laugh, perhaps the following will help:  we've all heard of Dean Hamer's book, The God Gene, where he advances the ID argument that  human beings are hardwired for belief in god.  And apparently we are, in that intrinsic religiosity is strongly heritable (BTW, therefore unbelief is also heritable).  

    But Hamer advances his theory that a specific gene, VMAT, is the God gene (OK, he contradicts himself and says VMAT is responsible for about 1%).  No one contradicts his science, because it is in fact correct.  VMAT is linked to intrinsic religiosity.  And schizophrenia.  In fact, all of the genes that have so far been linked to intrinsic religiosity are also linked to schizophrenia.

    Well, I thought it was funny.  Of course, that's only because I don't believe in Santa.

    Mark Twain -Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.

    by Kingsmeg on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:49:27 AM PST

    •  I read about something like that years ago (none)
      So-called "shadow syndromes."  Milder versions of psychiatric illnesses, often found in the relatives of people with the full-blown version.

      Researchers were doing a genetic study of schizophrenia, and noticed that relatives of schizophrenics were a bit odd.  Nothing extreme.  Nothing you would ever notice unless you were interviewing dozens and dozens of them.  Just a certain tendency to believe more readily and more fervently than normal.  Many of them had stronger than normal belief in Jesus.  Others were obsessed with UFOs.  And an unusual number of them were hardcore Star Trek fans, the kind who dress up in costumes and go to conventions and speak Klingon.  

      "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." - Kenneth Boulding

      by randym77 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:40:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fan-fucking-tastic (none)
    Yeah, the whole Santa thing is great. It's truly amazing how humanity allows for certain lies but not for others.

    Just for the record, you cannot prove or disprove the existence of a creator, therefore why should we give a shit either why?

    We're all going to die one day and figure out what this whole shindig's all about.

    •  how will we figure it out without brains? (none)
      I'm always amused by the (lack of) logic of people wo say we'll know the real deal when we die -- it's  based on the circular assumption that there's an afterlife.
      •  Or else (none)
        It's based on the assumption that either we will find out what it's all about (hopefully not involving the hokey-pokey) after death,  or we won't care, because we won't be, in which case we were wrong all this time.
        •  Yup (none)
          Austin in PA's got it. Either there's something or there's nothing. And either way, we have no control over it.

          It's not based on the assumption of an afterlife. If there's nothing more to this life than what we know now, then that's that.

          And by the way, I'm always amused by people who are amused by my lack of logic.

        •  Yup (none)
          Austin in PA's got it. Either there's something or there's nothing. And either way, we have no control over it.

          It's not based on the assumption of an afterlife. If there's nothing more to this life than what we know now, then that's that.

          And by the way, I'm always amused by people who are amused by my lack of logic.

        •  the claim was about figuring, not caring (none)
          Here's the statement:

          "We're all going to die one day and figure out what this whole shindig's all about."

          My comment on it was straightforward and accurate.  Sorry if you can't figure that out.

          •  I would agree... (none)
            that everything we know about science suggests that "life" consists wholly of the brain's interpretation of external forces. Therefore, when brain functions cease, thus ceases all existence.

            What we're all talking about here is a bit more broad. I'm sorry if you can't figure THAT out.

            When you die, there's a multitude of possibilities. Brain functions stop, nothing happens, you blink out into nothingness. Or you die and DON'T YOU JUST KNOW IT? THE CHRISTIANS WERE RIGHT! There's my dog who died when I was a kid and my great aunt. There's that big bearded guy in the white robes...yeah probably not.

            Or you die and something else completely happens. I would tend to believe in the former rather than the latter. But life is, ultimately, a great mystery. SOMETHING created the matter from which all this sprung forth. That's not to say whatever created it gives two shits about us (the great ego-centric assertion of most all organized religion), but it's to say that there is more to this plane than we can percieve and that we'll ever be able to figure out no matter how much reason and logic we apply to it.

            So let's not waste time on pissing contests. Neither of us have the first fucking idea what's going on here.

  •  Excellent journal (4.00)
    Your experience pretty much sums up what I went through, as well.  I figured out early on that, despite my uber-Catholic surroundings, not a whit of it made sense.  I also figured out around the same time that I was gay, so I had to make a choice which to break to my family first: I chose atheism, and I've been the black sheep ever since. My mom's still convinced it's a phase, some 15 years later.

    To clear up some misconceptions:

    No, atheism is not a belief system.  Belief is a positive value: you believe in something.  Calling non-belief a belief system is a semantic game with no real meaning.  

    No, atheism is not merely a reaction against Christianity or a certain "type" of institutionalized religion.  The journal focused on these because they are the most prominent and the most powerful forces in our society, both for good and bad.  

    In further defense of the journal, I do want to add something else:

    The title here is "What It's Like to Be an Atheist."  Not "Be an Atheist," or "Your Religion Sucks"...so the accusations of prolesthyzing are more straw men than the journal itself.  Yes, hyperboles included, this is what it feels like for many of us.  Those of you with a strong religious core may not like it, but non-believers among us are constantly tearing our hair out.  I'm sorry if that offends you.  At least you know, now.  

  •  DarkSyde, let me ask you a couple of questions (none)
    Are you atheist as in "do not believe in God"?
    Or are you atheist as in "do not believe in any aspects of any organized religion"?
    Or are you an atheist as in "there is absolutely no spiritual aspect to life whatsoever"?

    Or to take your metaphor: can you believe in Christmas w/o the Santa Claus? (Disregarding the Christ part of Christmas, and whatever pagan origins Yule might have).

    I mean is a Buddhist or a Taoist an atheist in your book? They do not believe in God (at least most sects of Buddhism and Taosists do not). Certainly not in any anthropomorphic way.

    "Just a quick observation, when people don't want to play the blame game, they're to blame." --Jon Stewart

    by Marcus Junius Brutus on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:55:10 AM PST

    •  Ha! (none)
      Jesus's birth is Christmas! How dare you say the date is related to any pagan holiday.

      /sarcasm...

      Mission accomplished? 2000 dead :( High 5 asshat

      by kevn357 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:01:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I (4.00)
      do not 'believe in' any kind of God[s] in the sense I think tbey literally exists as described or as I've heard.

      In terms of do I believe in any aspects of organized religions, I don't think the supernatural claims are 'real'. I understand the cultural adaptive value, as another poster reviewed further down, the mimetic nature of them. They're 'real' in the sense that the beliefs exist and self replicate in the human menome.

      Spiritual aspect tm life can mean a lot of things. If you mean intuition, emotion, instinct, weird feelings, flashes of unexplained insight, hallucinations. dreams, altered states of consciouness; obviously that exists or at least it makes sense to me that it does happen. But I don't think the supernatural is a valid explanation for it as such explanations currently exist.

      I 'believe in Christmas' in that I grew up in the US and I like that time of year, I like the days off and xmas lights and trees. I like buying my family and friends gifts and eating good food and I'm thoroughly comfortable in the cultural context of that tradition. I would miss it if it was 'outlawed'.

      I don't know much about budhhism, basically anything that ascirbes to any kind of pseudoscientific explanatory frameowrk seems highly suspect tome even if there is a real phyioslogical process involved. EG: acupuncture may have an physiological effect, but I doubt it's because it blocks "Chi" channels. Meditation can produce control over autonomic fucntions and interesting states of mind and body, but I don't think it has anything to do with spiris or ghosts or dead ancestors. Some arrangements of furniture may be more pleasing to the eye, but I don't think it's because Feng Shiu is valid, and so forth.

      Read UTI, your free thought forum

      by DarkSyde on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:07:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think you misunderstood a minor point (none)
        Since Santa was obviously your metaphor for God in your essay, Christmas becomes the context in which Santa operates. All I am saying is, that one can still have that Christmas w/o Santa.

        I am only writing this since you took my Christmas question literally, rather than in the frame of your Santa metaphor.

        I would also like to take issue with your use of supernatural, it seems, as a synonym for spiritual.

        As far as I am concerned, science lacks tremendous amounts of data and coherent theories, let alone proofs about anything really. Heck, you never know from one week to the next if Oatmeal is good for you or not. Whether the Universe is expanding forever, or if we can expect the big crunch. And no one has any good explanation of why the Universe started expanding again after the initial Big Bang expansion. Etc ad nauseum.

        But to get back on topic: many aspects of the spiritual may just be as yet unexplainable in today's scientific understanding. It might not be supernatural. It may be natural, just not yet understood. Just because something is not yet proven does not mean there is not a good scientific or logical explanation down the road.

        Perhaps there is Chi. Perhaps not. But there are very few good scientific studies of this to make an informed stance. As for Feng Shui and the rest, your stances seem like leaps of faith to me. Unless you put some time into examining and studying such phenomena all you can say is that you lack data to make an informed decision. Just saying that such things as Chi or Feng Shui are unlikely from a gut feeling is a unscientific approach.

        Let me be clear: I have no clue whether Chi or Feng Shui have any basis in reality, but I am willing to allow that there may be some rational, natural explanation that can allow for such things to be real.

        Finally let me say that your lack of knowledge about Buddhism and Taoism only underlines the fact that your atheism is really mostly a rejection of the worldviews of the Abrahmic religions, specifically Judeo-Christianity, with which you have familiarity. It is poor scientific method to extrapolate that these atheistic concepts that you derive from your cultural reference points are therefore universally applicable. Just saying. :-)

        "Just a quick observation, when people don't want to play the blame game, they're to blame." --Jon Stewart

        by Marcus Junius Brutus on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:41:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  FINALLY (none)
        An answer to what I have been asking for awhile. Atheists need to state their "beleifs", "views", "opinions", "whatever" so everyone knows what you are talking about.

        Wasn't hard was it?

        A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

        by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:12:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Way to Kick up a Hornet's Nest, DS (4.00)
    Here's the shortest way I can possibly explain it: apply germ theory to thoughts, ideas, frames, etc.

    A more detailed explanation requires first that the following questions be answered:

    1 - Does information self replicate? Answer: in an abstract sense, yes. If I could read people's minds, I could watch as one copy of some piece of information (be it an idea, a frame, whatever) becomes two as part of the process of two people communicating. That there is an intermediary (the will of the people) is not relevant to the proof - it is sufficient that at one time there was one copy of the idea and later there were two copies as a direct result of the existence of the original copy.

    2 - Does information change form? Answer: yes, though I'm using the term pretty loosely here as a catch all for the ideas, frames, etc that fit question one. This question is equivalent to: can people change their mind, synthesize ideas, forget part of an idea, etc?

    3 - Does the ability of information to self-replicate depend on it's form? Answer: absolutely. Stereotypical examples: the dark secret, the funny joke, the urban legend, etc.

    4 - Does information undergo mortality? Answer: yes, two types. There is a weaker form of death we commonly call forgetting. I call it weak because it is effectively dead unless something recalls that information. The stronger form is, of course, if the that the information resides in dies. Note that the chances of both forms of death can be related to the form of the idea. Thoughts that do not inspire emotional responses that keep them in our minds are easier to forget, for instance. In the latter case, an idea can inspire someone to do something pretty stupid that can get them killed.

    Characteristics 1, 2, and 3 are sufficient to establish that whatever has those characteristics must undergo some form of Darwinism/evolution. 4 is icing on the cake - at least I don't think that it is strictly necessary, but handy to have nonetheless. Point being that ideas, frames, etc are alive - at least to the same extent that as a virus can be considered alive.

    Now, the behavior DS attributes to insanity becomes perfectly sane - to the idea(s). Just like the snail that crawls up on a high branch with a colorful pulsating signal that draws predatory birds is behaving perfectly rationally - from the point of view of the parasite that is using the snail to self-replicate at the snail's expense.

    Let's see the IDers wrap their heads around that one.

    BG

  •  Praise Jesus for you, DarkSyde (4.00)
    My morning at work (in a school, for chrissakes) started of badly, upon opening an Email rant against liberals that ended with a reminder that this is a Christian nation and we should just shut the f-up. Sigh.
    My next bad move was responding to it with a few tidbits about the many benefits of liberalism and a gentle reminder that no, this isn't actually a Christian nation thank you very much (They really shouldn't try to revise history on a history teacher.)
    Holy-crap! Now the god-squad is on my ass and the bedeviled libs on campus are furitively sending me thanks for speaking out against such blatant politico-religious ranting.
    I don't understand what they want! I've been polite and tolerant for my whole life. Nobody in my family for three generations has been the least bit religious but it hasn't been an issue. Now the religious people want---what? Mandatory belief? If they insist on bringing their religion into the town square and into my face, I'm gonna respond instead of turning the other cheek.
    Get me a "Flying Spaghetti Monster" bumper sticker--this is war!
    •  Just throw some noodles on your trunk (none)
      The Flying Spaghetti Monster hates bumper stickers. It's tacky.

      Mission accomplished? 2000 dead :( High 5 asshat

      by kevn357 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:12:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, but (none)
      it is clearly their war and something that they are starting against us. Our response must be to make it damn clear, not just "this is war" but "this is their war on us and it's time for them to stop, NOW." And it is not a war between equals, they are the organized bullies, millions of people, billions of dollars and wealthy institutions which we are forced to support financially through this "faith based" government nonsense. While relatively speaking we are unorganized, without substantial  institutions and with shrinking government support.

      Just saying it's war confirms their mirror, their projection of their attitudes and assumptions onto everyone else. I bristle at the assertion that atheists are faith-based because it's part of the construction that enables this nonsense that this "war" is somehow happening on a level playing field, that they are surrounded by enemies, that, for example, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are threats to their very existence and must be eliminated.

      Been working for most of a decade on some kind of response - the first and best word is most often simply NO.

      •  Yes, you are right (none)
        it certainly is their war. But I don't understand why they feel so freakin' put upon. The difficult part is, with regular religious people there is still some rationality, but now there are lots of fundie evangelicals and they do not understand or recognize separation of church and state. They aren't operating from any rational place. Argh! I'm just so tired of it all.
        Some of them have done bible study in school and have all kinds of religious crap in their offices. If I so much as suggested to students that atheism was an alternative, I'm sure the evil-angelicals would pop a gasket and scream about how I was "attacking their belief system."
        Thanks for letting me respond/rant.
        •  My theory (none)
          But I don't understand why they feel so freakin' put upon.
          Beneath the frothing, foaming mouth of every rabid shrieking fundie beats a heart filled with doubt.

          Somewhere, deep inside where they don't want to look, they know the thing that most thoughtful believers admit openly: you can't really know there is a god, or a heaven, or a plan to the universe, not the way you know there is an earth or a sun or a person standing right there in front of you.

          You threaten their belief system, just by existing, because you are proof that their beliefs are not inevitable.

    •  So (none)
      All religious people, all religions, want mandatory belief? Sounds like fundie Christians to me.

      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:09:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm Christian (3.50)
    I'm a proud Christian, but it makes no difference to me what, if anything, anyone else believes. I couldn't care less.

    I don't believe in pushing my faith or any faith onto anyone, nor do I believe religion should be in the public square. I also don't believe those who have no religious affiliation, or are atheists or agnostics, should try to push those beliefs onto others either. It just cuts both ways in my eyes (not that I think this diary is doing that at all, just a general comment).

    I'm not sure I get the whole use of Santa throughout this diary, because I view Santa as a secular aspect of Christmas, and not anything I hold as part of my faith or give much thought except as a fun part of my childhood that brought a lot of joy and excitement on Christmas Eve. But, it's an interesing view point to ponder nonetheless.

    I'm Christian because of experiences in my life - learning about miracles like Our Lady of Guadalupe and how the cloak the image of Mary appears on is still in perfect condition - when others made at the time have fallen apart. Lots of stuff like that which have strengthened my personal faith.

    But, that's just where my faith comes from.

    As for what anyone else wants to believe, it doesn't make an ounce of difference to me (as long as they don't try to convert me or push their belief/lack thereof on me).

    "I got a letter from the Republican Party the other day. I wrote back, 'Go fuck yourself.'" - Bette Midler (Rolling Stone, 9/18/2005)

    by GregNYC on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:09:02 AM PST

    •  Agree with your sentiments (none)
      and I am an atheist
    •  Do you believe in hell? n/t (none)
    •  Agree with your sentiments (none)
      and I don't know what the hell I am. And that is fine! Of the many horrors perpetuated by this administration, their apparent stance that America should be a theocracy is for me the most heinous. I live in a blue state, so religion does not dominate people's lives as much as I've heard it may elsewhere. But it's still out there, especially this time of year. However the older I get, the more I realize that internal peace is my ultimate religion. Unless converters target me personally, I'm cool going my own merry little way.

      DS - you're one of my favorites here, BTW

  •  Very nice Darksyde... (4.00)
    as usual...

    My own experience and why I'm an atheist (in brief)

    My Southern Baptist father and Hindu mother agreed that they were going to let me and my sister decide on our own what religion we were going to be. From the start, in terms of my own memory, my father seemed much more concerned about the matter than my mother, as he took us to church, enrolled us in Sunday school, etc. So my experience with religion was always more about (white) Southern Baptist Christianity than it was ever about Hindusism. My only experiences with Hinduism were occassional visits to Hindu temples as a kid visiting India, of which I mostly remember the sweets you get after you make your offering to the gods or godesses, and later discussions with my Hindu grandfather as I attempted to muddle through the whole religion thing. My exposure to Christianity was much broader, as is to be expected from growing up in America outside of any Indian community. I remember very clearly the judgemental nature of the Frankfurt, Kentucky sermons that I was forced to go to, where it often seemed that portions of the sermon were explicitly directed at the heathen children in the audience (my sister and me) demanding that we believe in a particular form of (white) Jesus or we would burn in Hell.

    Around age ten, I decided I was going to make my decision, and so basically interviewed the two more religious grandparents in my life about their beliefs. My Southern Baptist grandmother, a racist to her core, told me basically that belief in her Jesus was the only path to heaven. My mother and her entire family was going to burn in Hell regardless of their works because they didn't subscribe to the same set of beliefs as the Southern Baptists. My Indian grandfather on the other side of the family was more accepting of difference. He didn't particularly believe in Hell and when asked about Jesus replied, "Eh, I think he was an incarnation of Vishnu." Buddha? "Incarnation of Vishnu." Mohhamad? "Incarnation of Vishnu." (let me note here that my Grandfather was more ecumenical than most Hindus).

    Having been around the world as a kid and understanding that my Kentucky grandparents world of white Southern Baptism was an extreme minority, I almost automatically rejected for the intolerant backwards philosophy it was. And having no Hindus around me aside from my immediate family, and Mom being pretty lapsed, that never seemed to make much sense to me either, despite the fact that my grandfather's take on it (which of course is very different from such nightmarish Hindu fundamentalists as the recent governor of Gujarat) was so much more humanist.

    Perhaps if I had been made to choose between humanist and non-humanist forms of Christianity, on even monotheism, I might have made my peace with some form of theism. But having to choose between an intolerant Christianity and a tolerant Hinduism that made little sense to me as a young New Yorker with little contact beyond a few visits to India, atheism made the best sense to me.

    Perhaps it was the marked contrast between the two sets of belief systems that made me an atheist anyway, regardless of their relative levels of (in)tolerance. Even as a small child, it struck me as remarkable that groups of people could hold such remarkably different understandings of the workings of the universe and led me to an anthropological view that people can hold false beliefs that can give them great comfort and even, in the case of my grandfather, the right conclusions on how to act in the world.

    Anyway, I came out an atheist, but with a respect for those whose religious beliefs make them try to fight for a world with justice for all people.

    Phew! not as in brief as I meant at the start of this post...

    Why are they so sick and ridiculous?--C. Mingus

    by Rojo on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:09:07 AM PST

  •  Santa Non-Believers will Rot in Hell? (4.00)
    Wow.

    This is a great entry.

    I  agree in almost every point.  I often find it absurd the lengths to which some people will ignore physical reality  in order to  push their arbitrary religious beliefs off on others, like me.  

    I especially felt the  pain of  family members who insist  that I'm  going to "rot in  hell" because I don't believe in Santa's existence, ur,  God.

    jtg

    •  WTF? (none)
      Since when did belief in Deity mean a belief in an afterlife?

      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:07:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  if all these religious people (4.00)
    would rape and kill were it not for their belief in god, that is truly frightening. I mean really...they see nothing wrong with it except that they would go to hell?

    What's the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War? George W. Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.

    by hazydan on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:18:37 AM PST

    •  Agreed! (none)
      A lot of the reason why I declared myself an atheist is because I didn't want any promise of salvation to dictate my behavior.

      If I wish to do something for moral reasons, it should be for just that, and not with any fringe benefits for myself.

      I doubt that most religious folk use the promise of salvation as a reason to do right vs. wrong, but the fact that such an idea exists makes me wonder about the moral maturity of some people.

      •  Better yet (none)
        How about religious people that believe in Deity, don't care about the afterlife, and try to be moral/ethical for it's own sake to be civil? Any reason to do good for a reward is just bribery.

        A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

        by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:05:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Keeping 'em honest (4.00)
      This is exactly why I've always found it damn amusing when wingnuts of varrious stripes tell me we, outsider, nonreligious, non-believing types who point out their hypocrisies, factual inacuracies, and mistreatments of others "keep them 'honest".

      So what? It takes someone not a believer to keep them as believers "honest"?

      What does that say about them?

      What does that say about thier belief system?

      So clearly da book, et al ain't exactly a stand alone...

  •  Beliefs (4.00)
    I've always wondered what it's like having an imaginary friend whom you think created the universe.
    •  asdf (none)
      There are a good number of people who are religious and believe in evolution.

      Myself being one of them.

      "I got a letter from the Republican Party the other day. I wrote back, 'Go fuck yourself.'" - Bette Midler (Rolling Stone, 9/18/2005)

      by GregNYC on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:51:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Simple (none)
      It's like the engineer that designed your iPod. You know it's there but it's not getting credit due to corrupt corporate contracts. Patents laws need to be changed.

      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:04:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  For Theists - Surrender Your Faith To My Truth (3.62)
    Here's how it is, to break it down for you, verily.

    It's late, so please don't hesitate to point out any factual or logical problems, so I can fix them.

    Human beings are subject to a common mental disorder.

    Theism is not the disorder - it is a symptom of the disorder.

    The mental disorder is like a software "glitch" which has to do with how a person's mind goes about accepting a given idea as "true" - in short, how it chooses what to believe.

    With me so far? Bear with me, think carefully, and I promise it will make sense.

    Instead of insisting that it must know good, compelling reasons for believing a given idea, a mind with this disorder can believe that ideas are true for reasons like these:

    • Because my parents brought me up to believe it.
    • Because someone else told me it was true.
    • Because respected ancient writings say so.
    • Because it offers meaning, immortality, love, etc.
    • Because I really want to believe it.
    • Because I don't like the alternatives.
    • Because other people I like believe it.
    • Because I have a good, comforting feeling when I think about it.
    • Because I have decided to define truth as whatever I feel strongly about, or as a matter of my personal preference.
    • Because I enjoy the fellowship of other believers.

    This is a disorder because none of those reasons above have anything to do with whether an idea is true. To label something "true" based on things unrelated to the nature of truth is dysfunctional and incoherent.

    The properly functional human mind, free of this disorder, primarily cares about whether ideas are true or not. It then operates on this principle:I will accept ideas as true only for reasons having to do with truthfulness - i.e., the earth is round, because measurements and photos show roundness, regardless of how I feel about it. Fluffy the cat is dead because his body doesn't function at all anymore.

    The functional mind does not accept ideas as true without a truth-related reason, or when something else known to be true contradicts.

    Therefore, a functional mind, when confronted with the ideas professed by theists, reacts like this - what can I know relevant to these ideas? What are the reasons offered for believing them?

    Then it eventually concludes: I don't find a compelling, legitimate reason to accept the ideas as true. Also, some things known to be true contradict the ideas. Therefore, no thanks. I can't call these ideas true.

    Theists, of course, can be perfectly truth-oriented on some matters, like fixing a car or buying an insurance policy. So the disorder is not universal on all matters of determining truth. It only affects determination of certain types of ideas.

    And so, my theist friends, this all goes to say that your minds are dysfunctional in a particular way, regarding certain types of ideas.

    This is why I don't say you are stupid. You are crazy at most, but only in a particular and common way, which is not your fault at all. It is also curable - you can decide that you will not believe things without good reasons, and you won't believe things which contradict other things known to be true.

    As long as you care about truthfulness, and you insist on needing sensible reasons for beliefs, you will be on your way to patching over your mind's "glitch."

    So dispair not, my fellow humans - for this is the Way, I have shown you the Truth, and the path to the Light. Be not afraid of the Truth, for it shall set you Free.

    Sorry about the streets of gold and being immortal and all that. But hey, no Hell either.

    •  Good points (2.40)
      But it lacks any real reason to abandon anything other than a distaste for atheistic fundamentalism.

      Because my parents brought me up to believe it. Sounds like the reason why people are Republican, Democrat, whatnot.

      Because someone else told me it was true. Same with atheism.

      Because respected ancient writings say so. Like Greek and Roman philosophy texts?

      Because it offers meaning, immortality, love, etc. Deity forbid we have meaning in life.

      Because I really want to believe it. Sounds like End of Faith by Sam Harris.

      Because I don't like the alternatives. Yet atheists are always bitching about religion.

      Because other people I like believe it. Worked for Ayn Rand.

      Because I have a good, comforting feeling when I think about it. So anything that makes us feel good when we think of it is wrong? My girlfriend will hate me.

      Because I have decided to define truth as whatever I feel strongly about, or as a matter of my personal preference. Sounds like typical atheist arguement.

      Because I enjoy the fellowship of other believers. I know Humanists that attend UU churchs for that reason.

      All in all, more BS.

      A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

      by Tux on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:02:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  right.. (4.00)
        #1: Red herring.
        #2: Red herring.
        #3: Ancient philosophy texts don't dictate truth. They argue and reason.
        #4: False dichotomy.
        #5: I don't know what you're referencing here.
        #6: Huh?
        #7: Huh?
        #8: False dichotomy.
        #9: Ad hominem. Simply false.
        #10: Huh?
      •  Tux, read it again. Think this time. (none)
        You missed the entire point.

        The point is about what is or isn't a valid reason for believing that something is TRUE. Nothing in the list of reasons for belief you quoted is a legitimate reason for believing any gods exist.

        If you think they are, your mind is dysfunctional in the way I described.

    •  i dunno (none)
      Intellectually I am agnostic.  I don't know and I know that I don't know.

      i dunno.

      Anyway, to add to your points....
      Does blood circulate in your body? Is the earth flat?

      Yes? No?  How do you know that?  Do you know that?  People believe many things because they trust the people they learn those things from.  Is it provable that the earth is not flat or that blood circulates?  Maybe.  :-)

      But can you prove it?  If not, it is just a belief that you have.

      If you don't like this example you can use any of many scientific facts instead.

      My point is not that science is the same as religion.  My point is that in our world, the beliefs that people have about science are similar in basis to the beliefs that people have about religion.  I believe what I believe because someone I trust told me it is true.

      Which is why Fox News is so very, very, scary.  The difference in many cases comes down to whom one chooses to believe.  

      Is it a defect or disorder of the human brain?  Maybe, but it seems necessary given our limited processing power.  But believing in science for a non-scientist is a matter of faith.  Ironic, isn't it?

      Television is the opiate of the masses.

      by i dunno on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:51:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You can't be serious (none)
        Come on, this is snark.  You most certainly CAN prove things with science.  That's the whole basis of science, everything it provable or disprovable.  You're alluding to the same nonsense arguments of the Intelligent Design crowd that says that evolution is "just a theory."  Well, that's what makes it so great... because of the very reasons you're attempting to point out here.

        It's indeed just a theory because one cannot go back in time and observe millions of years of evolution.  Not only it time travel not possible, but the 100's of millions of years of evolution would be extremely tedious to document.  Besides, it's simply not necessary.  The theory makes predictions and sure enough, those predictions are true.

        The theory of gravity is also just a theory, but it makes predictions about various things that can be utilized when you (for example) fire a rocket off and send a space probe to Saturn.   If you think theories, just because you personally cannot prove them, are somehow "faith based" you are sadly mistaken.  Science proves their ideas every day.  You're welcome to do it yourself, if you were so inclined.  It's not an issue of semantics either, as I don't have to have "faith" in the ability of science to send a rocket to Saturn, I can sit here comfortably in my chair and see it happen, in color.  You wanna point a radio receiver at Saturn and pick up the Casini signal?  Go right ahead.

        Religion, on the other hand, is definately not provable... and I further suggest that its non-provable nature is by design.  That's what the basis of "faith" is all about.  It's the ultimate racket, run by charlatans and believed by psychotics.  

        •  Welll.... (none)
          ...you can DISPROVE things with science.  That's what it's for, to tell you what ISN'T true.  But for something to be amenable to scientific inquiry, it has to be falsifiable.

          Rubus Eradicandus Est.

          by Randomfactor on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:48:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  That's not what I said at all (none)
          I did not say that things can not be proven with science.

          How many people who "know" that the earth is flat can prove it?

          How many people who "know" that the earth is flat know that because they "learned" it in school?

          The people in the second category do not know the earth is flat.  They believe it.  They believe their teacher or a scientist or the newspaper.  For them, it is a faith-based belief.

          Most people in the world are in the second category.  They do not know science and can not distinguish between science and pseudo-science.

          Is the earth flat or is it roundish?  Is it 5000 years old or much older?  Do you know?  How do you know?  How did you learn that?  

          Television is the opiate of the masses.

          by i dunno on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 04:11:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're being ridiculous (none)
            How do you know I'm not a dog?  How do you "know" that all the universe is not created just for your benefit?  That every time you turn around, the things that you aren't looking at just turn off and wait until you turn back around again?  How do you "know" that everyone in the world isn't a robot?  How do you "know" that you're not simply an experiment in someone's virtual reality artificial intelligence computer simulation?  How do you "know" that a giant shot of heroin will kill you?  Sure, you may have seen other people die of an overdose, but how do you "know" it would actually kill you?

            To know things does not require you to actually put your hands on it and manipulate it with your own fingers.  You don't have to walk around the planet to understand that it's round.  What is required is that these facts that are known are proven somehow, with all the facts put out for other people to study and reproduce.  You can take the years of study and evidence that people die from overdoses of heroin as fact and try to keep people from doing that, or you can try it yourself and see what happens.  The point is, you aren't taking these things "on faith," you're respecting the evidence and the reproducability and the predictions made based on those facts and examining what happens.  If you wanted to you could shoot yourself up with a massive dose of heroin, just to spite the scientists in an attempt to prove them wrong.  I wouldn't recommend it though.

            Religious faith has none of these things.  One is supposed to just accept whatever is told on faith.  When one digs deeper and finds out that there is absolutely no proof, no predictions and no facts, one is still expected to have faith in the premises that are proposed.  

            I can't seriously believe you think this way, you are in fact just being dense on purpose.

            •  Once more (none)
              I'll see if I can articulate this better...

              There are people that are unable to distinguish between science and religion.  Do you disagree with that?

              I am not saying that you are such a person.  I am, however, saying that I believe that many people in the world are such people.

              I am not arguing that religion and science are the same.  I am arguing that there are many people who essentially do accept science "on faith" (or don't accept it at all) and for them, there is little or no difference to them.

              What is required is that these facts that are known are proven somehow, with all the facts put out for other people to study and reproduce.

              Ok, that sounds like something approaching science.  But if someone is ignorant of all that and believes something because a talking head on tv tells them it is a scientific fact would you call that a belief or knowledge?

              What if that "fact" is that blood circulates in the body?  What if that "fact" is that the earth is 5000 years old?

              Yes, there is a difference in the basis for those two things but for the millions who don't or can't distinguish between belief, knowledge, reality and fantasy there may be no difference.  It is all just belief to them.  If they happen to believe something that is accepted as scientific fact it does not change that for that person it is just a belief.

              I also do not mean to suggest that if a person has religious beliefs that they are unable to otherwise distinguish between fantasy and reality.  But, well...one has to wonder...

              Television is the opiate of the masses.

              by i dunno on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 06:11:29 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Misarticulate (none)
                I'm not the most articulate person here, just a lay scientist who enjoys pop physics and stuff.  However, you're not doing to much better than me, so we're talking in circles.

                You got my hackles up when you started trying to equate scientific knowledge as being taken "on faith" because one scientist took another's findings without actually recreating them himself.  I certainly may have misunderstood what you meant.

                Anyhow, if you're gonna say that generic joe person is taking what a talking head on TV says "on faith" well you'll get no argument from me.  It's simply semantics at that point.  Joe generic person can be easily swayed this way or that just based on the number of flashy twinkly lights accompanying a statement.

                •  A better source (none)
                  Digby has at least part of my viewpoint but much better, and he quotes some actual facts ("survey says") ...

                  http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/...

                  To some extent I was trying to avoid saying "Most people are idiots" or similar.  I don't actually think most people are idiots, but I do think most people are irrational (which was one of the points of the original diary).

                  And I suspect we agree on the above or something close to it.

                  Arthur C. Clarke's said something like "any sufficently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  I think we are there today as regards most people in the world today and technology in place today.....

                  Anyway, whether we agree or not, you have helped me realize how helpless I am at articulating simple thoughts....

                  Television is the opiate of the masses.

                  by i dunno on Sat Nov 19, 2005 at 04:07:33 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  And to be clear (none)
              How do you "know" that all the universe is not created just for your benefit?

              Of course I don't know that.  It is arguably not knowable.

              If you think you know that is true or if you think you know that is false then you are accepting it "on faith."  And possibly offering evidence of my point....  :-)

              Television is the opiate of the masses.

              by i dunno on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 06:19:23 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Invitation (4.00)
    Anyone interested in extended conversations with atheists over matters philosophical are welcome to join the Internet Infidels Discussion Board. Also, The Secular Web, the resource that sprang the IIDB into existence is an excellent place to spend some time too.
  •  Of course, there is no Santa. (3.87)
    The Great Pumpkin wouldn't allow it.
  •  Spot on (4.00)
    Really captures the way I see the world...sometimes I'm amused by humanity's slavish devotion to any number of gods, other times I am frightened by it, but most of the time, I just feel lonely being surrounded by people who can't explain why they chose to be Catholic, or Baptist, or Evangelical Christian, or Buddhist, or Mormon.

    Looking forward to tomorrow's diary.

  •  Heh... (4.00)
    As a theist (i guess) this world is every bit as alien to me as it is to you. At least, from my perspective.

    So it goes. Onward, onward for truth.

    The Shapeshifter's Blog -- Politics, Philosophy, and Madness!

    by Shapeshifter on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:04:21 AM PST

  •  Some of it is just taking sides (4.00)
    At fellow at work walked in on me talking to another fellow about "Intelligent Design". He parroted the old "I don't know about YOU but my anscestors [sic] weren't a monkey!"

    So I said, nor mine. I brought up Atralopithicus... which was what... 3 million years ago? NOT a monkey!

    Then, again, I got the usual:

    "The Earth hasn't been here for 5 million years, (my name)"

    At this point I usually give up. But I thought, wait a fucking minute here. This guy wasn't invited into this conversation. There'a a cost associated with butting in, eh?

    So, I asked him where he got that belief. "The Bible. Same place I get everything else. Did you know they found trees that half of the tree was fossilized and..." (my turn to interrupt)

    ME: "So it says in the Bible how old the Earth is?"

    HIM: "Yes"

    ME: "I have a Bible in my truck, I'll get it and you can show me where it says how old the Earth is." (I really do have a Bible in my truck... and the Book of Mormon)

    HIM: "King James Version?"

    ME: "Do they use the King James Version in your Church?"

    HIM: (unsure look)

    ME: (getting up to go get the Bible)

    HIM: "I'm not going to look it up. I don't have to. I know its in there. If you want to know where it says that... you look it up."

    ME: "Help me out. New Testament? Old?"

    HIM: (thinking) "New Testament"

    At this point I figured it had gone on long enough. I dropped it. He was relieved. I actually think he chose the "New" Testament because he hastily guessed that that it would claim the Earth was "newer".

    I really think that was the basis for his answer.

    Fun!

    •  misquote (none)
      Everyone should read the damn Bible, cover to cover.
      The world needs more atheists.
        -- "Bullshit!", Penn Jillette
    •  To be fair (none)
      The Bible does include a way to calculate the age of the earth.  It doesn't just say "The earth was created 4000 years before the birth of Christ" or anything like that, but it's very attentive to geneaology, so you know Adam was born a few days after Creation, and Cain was born X years after adam, and his son was born X years...all the way down to Jesus.

      Throw the bums out!

      by Mikey on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:04:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Come to Europe (4.00)
    You'll be mostly fine. Going to church is a social activity over here.

    But as to why, it's very simple: we are scared to die, and believing in Santa makes that perspective somehow more palatable. If it works for an individual, who am I to deny him/her this solace? It only gets tricky when Santa - and his absolutes - get brought into real life, and politics. Absolutes and human life don't mix well.

    In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
    Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

    by Jerome a Paris on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:32:24 AM PST

  •  You may have the impression (none)
    that I'm an atheist AND a dick. Well I am an atheist. I very rarely call people on their beliefs. The fellow in the above post, I thought, had it coming.

    I actually wonder why so many of my fellow atheists are dicks. For instance, I think prayer should be allowed in public schools and, within reason, time allowances made for students who want to pray. My own children were never so young that I didn't feel they were up to the test of peer pressure. As long as no teacher or administrator told my own children to pray... required it, I've no problem with the other kids praying.

    I doubt the vast majority of Christians would want to require my children to pray. I don't go in for the "Give em an inch and they'll take a mile" philosophy. Is that in the Bible? Sounds like something that would be. Anyway, I don't think most folk would take that mile.

    •  School prayer (none)
      I'm a bit confused. What is your position on school prayer, exactly? Prayer already is permitted in public schools, it's just not allowed to take up class time.
      •  I gotta quote myself? (none)
        "and, within reason, time allowances made for students who want to pray"

        -- Me

        I'm maintaining that "not allowed to take up class time" might be a little too restrictive. In many high schools, students barely have time to get from one class to the next. I'm saying make more allowances than currently exist. Keeping within what most folks would call reasonable, that is. I'm also saying that we atheists need to be a little more flexible where nothing beyond peer pressure is putting a religious influence on our own children.

        Until we gain a little flexibility, we'll never have a self-described atheist as President of the United States. And until we do, we'll either have a President so stupid he believes in the entire Noah's ark story... or a President devious enough to pretend he does. Most recently we've had one of each.

  •  Excellent post. (none)

    Bravo.


    And I'm wearing my Buddhist hat when I say that.

    "Why, a child of five could figure this out! Someone fetch me a child of five." -Groucho Marx

    by kiwifruit on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:39:17 AM PST

  •  asdf (4.00)
    Pretty ridiculous, huh? A world gone bonkers, populated and completely run by a majority of people who are frankly clinically insane, dangerously immature, often violent, historically monstrous, completely irrational, closed to any internal questioning, convinced you're either stupid, evil, or dangerous, and hoping for all they're worth to infect you with the same mimetic virus.

    Welcome to my world.

    Of course, it's not just Santaists and their more excitable international counterparts. It's FreeMarket economists, Hobbesian fundamentalists of various persuasions, Randians, Nazis (no nod to Mr Godwin, because there are still a few real ones around, especially in Europe), CEOs who believe in Teamwork and Motiviation and 12 Hour Days for you and endless rounds of strategic golf and home improvements for themselves, national 'leaders' who feed off hysteria and strip mine the economies of entire countries, every last fucking nutball who thinks it's okay to make big steaming piles of money by exploiting the poor and weak and doesn't want to share, and the rat-like media owners who keep the madness on the boil.

    On a good day maybe 10% of the people on this planet are functionally sane - which is to say able to distinguish delusion and fantasty from reality, able to understand the consequences of their beliefs and actions, and willing to contribute to shared benefits and a common good.

    I don't know what we're supposed to do with the rest. I have no clue. The thought of it depresses me more than I can say.

    GWB - channeling The Onion's foreign policy initiatives since 2000.

    by ThatBritGuy on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:45:24 AM PST

  •  A somewhat simpler viewpoint: (4.00)
    Metaphysics doesn't stand to reason, but the leap of faith is a very human thing.  So while I'm pretty much an atheist, I'm not surprised so many aren't.

    Power corrupts. Hey, let's learn it the hard way!

    by Bob Love on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:20:51 AM PST

  •  Nicely done! (4.00)
    Thank you.  As some of us atheists emerge a little more emboldened in response to the talibanesque direction this nation is going in, I am heartened to read posts and diaries from people who don't apologize for or shrink from their atheism--and who aren't afraid to identify clearly and succinctly all the reasons why religious faith, on its face, is unreasonable.  

    Jesus + Fetus = SCOTUS (math by Jon Stewart)

    by lightiris on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:24:01 AM PST

  •  The History of Atheism (none)
    I don't know if it's available anywhere, but I fully recommend the BBC series "Jonathan Miller's Brief History Of Disbelief."

    You might be able to find a torrent of it, if you look hard enough.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/...

  •  Nice allegory... (4.00)
    And sure, you learn some useful tips, like how to distinguish fresh blotter acid from stuff that's been laying around turning into strychnine, and you might be able to lower or raise your heartbeat using biofeedback after a few sessions. But you find in the end none of the actual Santa like beliefs make any more sense than your own homegrown version. And you can no more force yourself to believe any of them, than you can flap your arms and fly away.

    I'd say that's why I'm a Buddhist, because a framework for cultivating the skill to do good and do well is more important than what you believe about it.

    The odd thing is trying to explain that to the theists who insist, "But you've got to believe in something..." and of course there are Buddhists who "believe" in Buddha the way monotheists might "believe" in their deity.

    But it seems to upset them that it's not necessary.

    "It's better to realize you're a swan than to live life as a disgruntled duck."

    by Mumon on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:31:42 AM PST

    •  Greetings (4.00)
      I'm also a Buddhist. I get a little peeved when people lump Buddhism in with all those other religions, when Buddhism happens to be the one religion that explicitly questions its beliefs and refuses to deal with metaphysics. Hell, Buddhism barely even qualifies as a religion.

      And I get really annoyed when people assume that the Buddha is some kind of divine saviour.

      (Quick run-down for non-Buddhists: the Buddha was an ordinary man, nothing divine about him whatsoever. He figured out some important things, using only his mind, and taught them to others. He told his followers not to bother with the question of whether God(s) existed, that it was a waste of time. He also told them explicitly not to accept his teachings out of reverence for him, but to always, ALWAYS test them against experience. Refreshing.)

      In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is a freak.

      by briguy2 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:27:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Everyone has a problem/opportunity with Buddhists (none)
        One the one hand, we're a religion.

        On the other hand, we see more eye-to-eye with nontheists (as we are) than any theists, deists, polytheists or what-not.

        "It's better to realize you're a swan than to live life as a disgruntled duck."

        by Mumon on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:08:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  A Santa belief you haven't heard of before? (none)
    I believe in God the same way I believe in the concept of the mind.

    The mind is just a metaphor to help explain the higher power functions of the brain we don't understand yet.  We can access it with psychotherapy, but we only have a glimmer of how that impacts on the brain.  We may never totally understand the mind as an organic entity.

    God is the positive force of good between all of us minded creatures, the capacity for cooperation that was just as important as our dextrous hands for survival against other hominids.  The impulse that prevents us from tearing each other apart the way we probably bopped Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis in the heads.  That other impulse, the negative force of mob destruction, call it what you will.  Evil, Greed, Satan, Humanity's Flaw.

    To me, Fundamentalism is incompatible with God.  So, why bother being Jewish?  Well, I'm a Reconstructionist, so a lot of it is cultural affinity.  And some is just hardwired junk in the mind that I can't get rid of, any more than an unmedicated Schizophrenic can will himself to stop hearing voices.

    Remember Darksyde ... we're the only primates that smile to show we're happy.  That's messed up.

  •  Been thinking about these lyrics recently (none)
    Most people think,
    Great God will come from the skies,
    Take away everything
    And make everybody feel high.
    But if you know what life is worth,
    You will look for yours on earth:
    And now you see the light,
    You stand up for your rights. Jah!

    This diary also got me thinking about the great science-fiction novel Dune, specifically how the powerful elite would manufacture and manipulate religions using many of the common elements found in the religions throughout human history.

    •  Ummm (none)
      Shall I point out that these lyrics were written by an extraordinarily, utterly deeply religious Rastafari, who gave numerous interviews talking about the reasons for his decision to become a musician (to spread his religious beliefs) who converted to traditional Christianity before his death recognizing that Rasta, in I-and-I, is just one version of it?

      Naah, that seems to cut against your point, doesn't it?

      My separate place for mental meanderings: Political Sapphire

      by shanikka on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:32:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Heh. I was waiting for that. (none)
        But it does go to show just how much of a genius lyricist Bob could be. These words transcend specificity and are relevent to almost any person regardless of their belief system...

        You want to downsize the government?
        Fuck you. My government defends the American people.

        by deafmetal on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:22:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  We Agree (none)
          That the lyric is relevant to almost any person - it commands us to action in life, not just waiting for death to be set free.  One can take from it what one wants to take from it, regardless of religious belief.

          But I don't think that was his intention.  Having been self-taught Rasta for a time, I know with certainty that the exhortation to political action is because of the particular religious beliefs he held.  Since Rasta was, at its inception, a form of liberation theology.

          My separate place for mental meanderings: Political Sapphire

          by shanikka on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:30:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  A Catholic Here... (4.00)
    ...And I just wanted to say- I feel like that sometimes too. Like I'm living in a world full of deluded, crazy people. Your diary captured that perfectly.

    I don't often comment though I'm an avid DKos reader; Just wanted to tell you that you hit the nail on the head.

    I'm at a strange point where all this religio-fascist stuff going on in the country is making me recoil. I do actually believe in God and Jesus and all that- but I seriously don't want to be part of the group of people who are doing/saying/legislating such INANE things and using their belief as an excuse!

    And it's not just religion! I suggested to a relative not too long ago that it was silly to believe that the United States is "The best country in the world" (Which is an answer I often get when I complain about anything to do with the government) and they completely LOST it and started screaming at me. In public.

    I personally don't see what the big problem is with living and letting live. If there is a God, I would like to believe that he/she/it would be a little more sensible than to care whether or not people believed in/worshipped him/her/it and smite them because of it.

    Then again, if there isn't a God, and we just stop when we die... well wtf, I won't be there to know about it. I won't exist. Heh.

    Works out either way, IMHO.

  •  SANTA is an anagram for SATAN (none)
    You don't believe in Santa/Satan.
    Satan is the negation of God.
    Two negatives make a positive.

    Ergo you believe in God!

    Just kidding.

    Condoning torture is the worst form of moral relativism

    by nailmaker on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:57:46 AM PST

  •  Brava! (none)
    can't wait for the encore.

    Very well done, thanks for this.

  •  Same here (none)
    Coming out to my family about being atheist met with more confusion and consternation than if I had told them I was gay (which, being ex-hippies, my parents were surprisingly tolerant of).  

    A lot of fun stuff up-thread, as long as one ignores the rampant trolling by BiminiCat and Tux

  •  My dyslexia......... (none)
    has me seeing "Santa-ist" as "Satanist" >:^P
    <snark>

    Republicans are convinced that government is the problem ... and as the government, they're doing their damnedest to prove themselves right. -Bearpaw

    by rickeagle on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 04:15:37 AM PST

  •  Exceeding long rant (none)
    Dear Sir,

    Your exceedingly long rant is Bush and his politics not about Atheism or religion.

    But never mind, maybe tomorrow will be better.

    •  Yup (none)
      That's what I got out of it too.  A rant against Bushianity and all it stands for.  Better luck with tomorrow's piece.

      ...despite those nets of tuna fleets...we thought that most of your were pretty sweet...

      by moira977 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:42:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think that's fair... (none)
      While this rant is a bit long and did veer off a bit into some specific political issues that seem peripheral, I think DS is making good points.  He's nailed the topic of what it feels like to be an atheist.  DS might have been a little repetitive with the examples (something I am often guilty of), but the central premise is right on:  Being an atheist means being in a very small minority that is surrounded by others who believe that which you find nonsensical.  
  •  Me neither (none)
    I never bought the idea that there was a god either, and I went to Catholic grammar school and high school. I questioned a nun about god's questionable existance in 3rd grade and was told I was heading for Hell.
    Like you, it never made any sense to me. It screamed fiction, but a funny thing happened when my child was born.  I did not want to beleive there was not a god. So I compromised. I became a Deist. I chose to believe in god for the sake of my sanity because I did not want to beleive my life and my daughter's life has no meaning. It is rather depressing to know that in the eys of the Universe and human life and the life of a single blade of grass are equal.
    So, deep down, I really don't beleive in god. I just deceived my conscious self into beleiving to offset the depression.
    Kinda like a guy with uncurable cancer who wills himself to beleive everything is going to be okay.
    •  Not trying to attck mind you (none)
      Why do you feel you need a god, even a deistic one, to give your life meaning? Are you incapable of giving yourself meaning, how about your daughter giving your life meaning?

      I've no problem with someone believing, so long as they don't try to force it on me, but I AM exceedingly curious. This, giving life meaning, argument, or variations thereof, are some of the most confusing. Why does something or somone external need to give you your own meaning?

      "Murrow had a child. The damn thing went wild." -- Fleetwood Mac
      (-8.63), (-7.03)

      by Perdition on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:05:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Reply to Perdition (none)
        I think why people prefer to believe in their god(s) is because it give a sense of meaning to their lives. Some people argue, if there is no afterlife, why live at all? What is the point of growing, loving, suffering, achieving, losing, getting old (if you're lucky) and then ultimately die? I would say that a meaning in life can be achieved by making a significant contribution to humanity, but we can't all be Jonas Saulk. Most of us are just normal people who have our joys and triumphs, but never really do anything that would be called significant. We are just ants in a hill.  But even if a man did make a wonderful contribution to humanity, it will all be lost eventually when our sun goes supernova. When that happens, our precious Earth will be burned like a marshmallow over a campfire, then frozen when the sun contracts into a white dwarf.  Not even single-celled organisms will survive that ordeal. So everything we work for, all we achieve will - ultimately - mean absolutely nothing. That is hard for most people to stomach, so believing in god(s) is a psychological tool. If you believe there is something other than the physical world, that there is a reward for ethical behavior, that life is an initiation or qualification for something better; it is easier to cope with the knowledge that all life on Earth will eventually be extinguished.
        •  However (none)
          If there is an afterlife where we will continue to exist forever, doesn't that make this life insignificant too? If this is just a minor blip on the eternal existence of "you", then this is like the gas station you fill up on at the beginning of a long road trip. Even though it marks the beginning of the trip and you've got great things to look forward to, most people don't really care too much about it.

          "Murrow had a child. The damn thing went wild." -- Fleetwood Mac
          (-8.63), (-7.03)

          by Perdition on Sat Nov 19, 2005 at 09:09:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Another Reply (none)
            Yeah, I know, but all I have is this gas station. And if this is a long trip, then I want to make the most of my visit. I will want to check the air pressure of the tires, check the oil, the windscreen wiper fluid, and make sure I have plenty of drinking water and snacks; because I don't have a map of the afterlife. I am entering eternity blind. So this blip is not minor. What happens at this gas station may make the difference between me getting to Vegas or getting lost Death Valley.
  •  Atheist (4.00)
    I am an atheist. I'm 23 and have been one all my life. My mother says that from the time I was very young I would make comments about religion being bunk.

    Being Atheist is like being gay. Every claims they "don't care what people believe in their personal lives" but then snap down the second they meet someone not ashamed of it. I had the girl I was in love with dump me because she said she came ot the conclusion that she couldn't be with an atheist. I've had people insult me in front of a classroom. I've been told that I have no morals. The fact that most fo these people don't get is that it's not just that I don't believe in God, it's that I wouldn't care if there was one. I'd stand in his face and spit on him for all the shit he's done. As Alan Dershowitz said in a debate with Alan Keyes (!):
    "I do not know if their is a god, but I don't believe there is. If I am wrong and I face eternal damnation for my disbelief, then I would gladly suffer before supplicating myself to tyrannical god who would damn for using the intelligence HE gave me to come to the logical conclusion that he does not exist."

    That said I am a proud atheist. Most of my friends are Christian and accept me as I accept them. However they know where I stand.

    The will of the powerful few is not to be feared so much as the complacency of the many.

    by Jeffuary on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 04:30:23 AM PST

    •  Jeffuary (none)
      The best part about not believing is you can pretend to believe in any faith. When I was single, I dated this very hot Wicca: Emur. I told her I was also a pagan. Because my people - the Irish - have a rich pagan background, I was able to pass myself off as one. We dated until I tired of her and then moved on.  You can pretend to be any faith you want when you don't have one of your own.  The woman I have been married to for the past 16 years thinks I am a Christian (because she would not have married me otherwise).  
      If you really love this girl, just tell her you converted to her faith. Date her, marry her, have children with her and do what I do: play lip service.  It is really not very demanding and isn't it worth it to be with the one you love?
  •  One thing you missed. (none)
    Great metaphore,  you might add that as
    scientists warn of pollution and it's effects
    and the danger of global warming,  the santists
    just say,  it's all in Santas hands,  it doesn't
    matter what we do.  Also, Santa says,  there
    will always be wars,  gay people and athiests
    are the true enemy.
  •  based on your example (none)
    You do recognize that you live in a country that at least allows you the choice to not believe in Santa, right? You can believe in the Grinch instead if you want to, or just Rudolph but not in any of the other reindeer, or in nothing at all. And unlike other countries, yours won't throw you in jail for saying there is no Santa Claus. Yours wont infiltrate meetings with other Santa non-believers, or Grinch believers, or whatever, and massacre the participants in the middle of the night.

    If you're going to describe what atheism is like, it's important to point out it could be a heck of a lot worse.

    "This...this is the fault of that Clinton Penis! And that powermongering wife of his!"

    by CaptUnderpants on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 04:48:44 AM PST

    •  Yeah, right... (4.00)
      ...kind of like how women in America should quit bitching about gender inequalities, because at least we don't make them wear burkas.  And black Americans should focus more on how at least they aren't slaves any more.  And gay Americans should be grateful that we're only denying them SOME civil rights, instead of just stoning the fags in the public square the way they do in other countries.

      [/sarcasm]

      Forgive me, but I think this entry is very important because it shows how shitty things are even in one of the "best case" scenarios.  It shows why Americans should quit patting themselves on the back for being tollerant and open-minded, because the average American is anything but.  It shows why we should quit pointing over to some other country and using their problems to justify our own failures...we need to quit saying, "Hey, they're worse than us!  We aren't as bad as those guys over there, so quit picking on us!"  That's the same bullshit mentality that is being used to justify American use of torture, because golly, at least we aren't as mean as them Arab folks!  Terrorists captured by the US should be thankful that we'll only stick three electrodes on their testicles, because over in that other country they use FIVE!

      •  excuse me (none)
        I'm not telling anyone to stick only three electrodes on their testicles because they're atheist. In fact, I'm not endorsing any physical harm on anybody based on religious beliefs. Your portrayal of my mentality is way off.

        And yes, I do think it's a good thing that American women don't have to wear birkas and blacks are no longer slaves. That doesn't mean there isn't more work to do insofar as gender and race equality, but if you think the last 200 years of American history have yielded no signs of social progress, you're sadly mistaken. We should and will "pat ourselves on the back" for the work of Susan B. Anthony, MLK, Frederick Douglass, and countless others.

        This entire diary focused on the "what still needs to be done" part. My comment focused on "what we have done."

        "This...this is the fault of that Clinton Penis! And that powermongering wife of his!"

        by CaptUnderpants on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:17:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  point out like this? (none)
      ...imagine: Just two or three-hundred years ago it was totally SOP to take folks, men, women, children, who didn't believe in a specific version of Santa and stick red-hot steel objects into their rectums and vaginas, boil their limbs, beat them senseless with padded clubs, tear them apart with teams of horses, cut open their stomachs and rip out their intestines while they're still alive in front of their loved ones, or slowly burn them alive in public.
    •  Just a comment... (none)
      The diary focuses on what the diarist (and certainly some other atheists) EXPERIENCES in THIS society as an atheist (now I could be wrong, i'm not darksyde but this is what I see more of the point of the diary to be).  So why point out "hey its great I don't have to believe in what all these people believe in b/c it could be worse"?   That would be rambling and off point of the topic of the diary to say how lovely our freedoms are compared to other countries, hence the title, what it's like.

      But to go ahead and follow along with you a bit, maybe my country won't throw me in jail for saying there is no Santa Claus, but i've had threats (and not just of the you are going to hell type either), I fear saying such a thing would cause me to lose my job, I've had people stop talking to me, and I've actually seen people try and infiltrate the Skater/punk groups to try and convert and those ppl almost either where going to attack or kidnap(they were stopped) a person once, no joke.  

      While this may not be as bad as other countries, it certainly is worse than others.  And it isn't always a great experience.  

      I'm honestly not trying to be mean or rude with my response but why should "we" have say but at least  it isn't worse?  Weird.  

      -HK

      Home is where the cat is

      by HK on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:01:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  just smile and say ok (4.00)
    say ok in the sense that you appreciate their weakness and ignorance and stupidity.  smile a lot.  you can't help them and you can't explain your understanding of the universe, just as they can't make you understand their understanding of the universe.  that's my take...

    "the ubiquitous existential paradigm subsumes didactic proactive synergistic essence". buckley b. buckley vii

    by realheathen on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 04:53:57 AM PST

  •  proposal for a compact version (4.00)
    Same correct idea; fewer words:

    I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
    (Stephen Roberts)

  •  I think what hurts the most (4.00)
    ...is when you learn that somebody you have come to like and respect is a Santist.  It's like finding out that a good friend of yours is a member of the KKK.  You can't simply stop caring about them, which might be easier, and you can't stop remembering what an otherwise-awesome person they are.  But now there's this giant, horrible elephant in the room every time you speak with them.

    It gets ugly when a person you care about is the one asking, "So why don't you believe in God?"  Because you don't want to have to flat out tell them that you believe their Santa-belief is infantile, cowardly, dishonest, and disgraceful.  You don't want to have to say mean things to people you like, no matter how true they are, just like you don't want to be the one to tell your best friend that his girlfriend is cheating on him.  You don't want to be the one to break it to them that Santa isn't real, because they're bound to get either bitchy or weepy.  But the alternative is to swallow the truth and parrot back the polite "I'm just a nice, quiet little secularist" lines that will give them hope that they can wear you down and convert you over time.  

    Or try going to a party and facing a religious discussion in a room full of theists.  It's like when somebody tells a viciously racist joke and everybody else laughs...and 'everybody' is your friends, coworkers, or (even worse) family.  Do you choke down your disgust and smile politely, hoping that you'll be able to find enough soap to make you feel clean again in the morning? Do you make a scene, calling out the very people who you live with, work with, hang with?  Do you conspicuously refuse to smile, inevitably drawing side-long looks, speculative murmurs, and even polite aside conversations from friends who are concerned about your unwillingness to accept "normal" beliefs?

    I strongly believe that my (secular) life is orders of magnitude more fulfilling than it would be if I were religious.  I am generally a happy, satisfied, confident person, and I believe a good chuck of this happiness comes directly from my rejection of superstitions and god-driven values. But that doesn't make it any easier to be sane in a crazy world, because, while I enjoy my own life, I am still forced to watch people I care about participating in Santa-isms.  I'm still forced to live surrounded by people wearing the moral equivalent of fluorescent orange bunny suits, who feel compelled to constantly ask me why I'm not wearing a fluorescent orange bunny suit.  I'm still forced to bow my head and "respect" the superstitious dreck that is blathered at me in all areas of life, lest I be labeled a "bigot" for prefering truth over fairy tales.  

    Oh well.  Misery loves company, I guess, because it's nice to know I'm not the only one.

    •  very good comment (none)
      sitting and smiling is the best that can be done in a civilized although nuts culture.  i get the feedback that i'm shy.  actually i'm burning to say "YOU'RE AN IDIOT".

      proof is sometimes given as tree lined streets and well maintained homes.  i have to admit that i don't have those brain cells and there is nothing i can do about it and not say, "YOU'RE AN IDIOT".

      THERE ARE NO THEISTS IN A FOXHOLE.

      "the ubiquitous existential paradigm subsumes didactic proactive synergistic essence". buckley b. buckley vii

      by realheathen on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:16:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Right on (none)
    I could not be more sympathetic. I call myself an agnostic because in all honesty we don't have proof that god didn't exist, although I am as skeptical as you...

    And even if I am not a believer, I try to be as understanding as I can to those who choose to believe what I consider fables. I am understanding until I think about all the damage and hate brought about in the name of religion through history, all the ways my life has been affected by people who feel the need to force religion upon others... then it just makes me sad and disappointed in society.

  •  Thanks for the great diary, DarkSyde. (4.00)
    Couldn't agree with you more.

    ...the White House will be adorned by a downright moron...H.L. Mencken

    by bibble on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:05:52 AM PST

  •  i hate the term "atheist" (4.00)
    to me being atheist is akin to being aleprachaun or aunicorn or asanta.  it is a word or identity that is defined in opposition to the dominant belief system.  i don't have anything to do with that belief system so why would i want to be defined as in opposition to it. i'm not in opposition to it, it is just that those mired in the belief system see my system as being fundamentally opposed to theirs.  

    this point is perfectly illustrated by the poster upthread who continually asked the question, "is there a god?" over and over again as if it cemented some fundamental point they were trying to make.  asking me the question "is there a god?" is like asking "is there a monster under your bed who whispers dark things into the ears of your lover?"
    fuck if i know. even if i take a flashlight and shine it under the bed and videotape the whole night thru there will still be people who say, "well the moster, he hides on thursdays in your closet."

    the point is there are some things in this world that don't exist for you if you don't believe them (god/s, racist ideology) and there are some things that exist whether or not you believe in them (cars, clay pottery).

    god don't like it, and i don't either- willie mctell

    by cereal breath on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:10:58 AM PST

  •  Man (4.00)
    some of the arguments on this diary are so tiresome. Why is it that when someone says "this is how I think" someone has to respond with "no it isn't"? I mean these aren't arguments, they're just contradictions.

    BTW, I consider myself a moderately strong atheist. I do believe there is no god. I am not absolutely certain of this, or anything else for that matter. Anyone is free to prove to me that I am wrong, but don't expect me to go out of my way to help.

  •  Misguided diary (3.00)
    I am an agnostic, and so don't either believe or disbelieve in God - in fact, I think the question of existence is not meaningful. I also think your diary is misguided.

    Equating belief in a god or gods with belief in Santa Claus fails on two major grounds.

    First, Santa Claus is well-enough defined that it is verifiable that there is no Santa Claus. There is no toy shop at the North Pole. God is a sufficiently amorphous concept that it is by its nature impossible to verify nonexistence. So mocking someone for a belief that you equate to a belief in Santa Claus is mistaken on logical grounds.

    Second, you ignore the very real historical, societal, and psychological underpinnings of religion. Those underpinnings are quite different from the equivalent underpinnings of Santa Claus. Ignoring those underpinnings allows you to mistakenly equate those who believe in a god with children.

    I think it would be worthwhile for you to reexamine the bases of your scorn, and to develop a more sophisticated understanding of religion.

    Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

    by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:26:45 AM PST

    •  I (4.00)
      havwe taken many semester hours of cultural anthropology, studied most major religious texts, talk with every kind of holy man you can think of, and tripped out both naturally and artificially, been all voer the world, studied neurophysiology, I have degrees in math and physics and plenty of philosophy under my belt.

      So I've done exactly all the things you 'suggest' I have 'achieved' a more sophisticated understanding of religion. I fully understand the santa claus analogy is not perfect, considerign that no analogy is and that there are hundreds of religions, no analogy could be. I fully understand that religion has culturally adaptive. NONE of that matters a hill of beans to the fact it's all based on supernatural bullshit.

      I HAVE done those things you suggest and my now highly sophisticated understanding of religion after decades of thought and study is that the underlying supernatural claims area bunch of made up crap, no matter how nice or worthy the tenets of the faith in question are. They are each and everyone built on lies, deceptions, ancient mythology, nonsense, and some shit, Scientology coems to mind, that is so far out I don't know how to categorize it.

      On the off chance that you're a religious person who was 'offended'--even though I opsted a clear warning in the header--And if you don't like that unpleasant reality, that your belief system is based on bullshit regardless of how nice a story it may be or how much comfort you draw from it, I have some advice for you as well: Unless you can provide your specific supernatural creature and allow them to be tested for years on end under controlled conditions, then you might want to avoid my next diaries cuz it's going to be perhaps even more offensive. And then I'll be done and back to writing about scienc eand pretending people who literally believe in magic invisible sky wizards are 'normal'.

      Read UTI, your free thought forum

      by DarkSyde on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:42:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not offended at all (4.00)
        As I said, I'm an agnostic. I simply think your scorn for people who are following traditions and derive benefit from those is not reality-based. The imperfections of your Santa Claus analogy betray your prejudices, as does your choice of language. Sorry if that offends you - feel free to ignore my comments.

        Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

        by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:48:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree with you... (none)
          I think what we see here is a classic example of the philosophical continuum where if you keep traveling east you eventually come out on the other side.  

          What I mean is that the rigidity and confidence in his "understanding" of life and the universe are equally as rigid and therefore irrelevent as the far right.

          I am not so confident in myself and my persuit for truth is not bound by the rigid fundamentalism of the right or the rigid elitism of the far left.

          Never have so few taken so much from so many for so long.

          (-6.75, -3.85)

          by mapKY on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:07:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The way I would put it (none)
            is this. In his response, he equates mainstream religions with Scientology, and he bases that on philosophical grounds - the unverifiability of the beliefs. In his focus on that philosophical question, he is actually assuming the same values as believers - that that is the important question to ask.

            When I look at Scientology, I see differences in history, in societal position, and in very real benefits and detriments compared to mainstream religions. And of course, I find Scientology quite different and quite lacking in that respect. That's what I call reality-based. Examine religion on the basis of verifiable things, not unknowables.

            Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

            by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:12:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  What about the scorn of competing religions (none)
          Is Islam well tolerated by the Christians?  Christianity by the Muslims?

          If Pat Robertson can build a TV empire on scornful christanity, can't us atheists scorn not N-1 religions, but all N of them?

    •  snark? not get it? (4.00)
      How can you read this diary and not digest the richness of the use of santa?  How do you allow yourself to be distracted and judge DS as if he were so shallow?

      I tend to actually read the diaries, give the writer the benefit of an assumption of intelligence, before I post comments in their comment stream.

      Have you read other DS diaries before?  Have you not seen the rigor of DS's writing?  His selflessness in past situations in helping us understand "very important things" (tm) such as: major diary series during H Katrina to help the less informed get how serious this storm was going to be, how it would impact New Orleans etc.

      I dont think that DS is shallow in his understanding of religion IN THE LEAST.

      •  Sorry (none)
        But I do find the use of Santa Claus to be cheap, shallow, and misleading. De gustibus and all that ...

        Of course I have read and appreciated many other DarkSyde diaries. But not this one.

        Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

        by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:51:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  FSM (none)
          I prefer the flying spagetti monster myself.  Santa is way too vanilla but it is illustrative in terms of what people experience in our xtian-dominated culture.

          If you are so hung up over Mr. SC, maybe you need to examine your agnostic stance.. you seem to carry some water for the crusty old guy.

          •  That's funny (none)
            but irrelevant.

            I wish agonistics and atheists were better treated in our culture, but talk of FSM and Santa Claus just ghettoizes us. I'd rather try to address the problem by understanding and respect, rather than mockery.

            Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

            by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:48:12 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  not mockery so much (none)
              as the brutal mirror of objectivity.

              Christianity holds no primacy to/for me.  Honestly, FSM, Santa, Great Pumpkin, its all the same watery pablum to me.

              I am not agnostic, I am not anti-theism, I am simply not oriented towards a need for a mythology.  

              What I do have issues with is what is so well stated in this diary, that interstitial space of conflict between the venn diagram of my own non-theistic peaceful non-aggressive world-view and that of the messianic pushy "dominant" theistic culture that cant mind its own bidness.

              If it takes some brutal sarcasm then so be it.  

              I am a pessimist tho.  I am not waiting for the faith-monkeys to:

              1. stop demanding that I believe in THEIR god
              2. stop interfering with my right to be free of theistic bondage
              3. stop interfering with the lives of other brave peoples who wish to have their own actual honest to god PRIVATE LIVES.

              Nope, I expect them to continue as they do now.  

              I shelter-in-house and homeschool and work hard to keep my family from being injured by the damage that a theistic aggressive and domineering society can bring to gentle little children minds.

              •  And my point (none)
                exactly was that the equivalence with Santa Claus is not objective, but informed by the diarist's prejudices. It was not the "brutal mirror of objectivity" in any real sense.

                Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

                by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:36:14 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  It's just as rediculous to.... (none)
      believe that evolution is a lie, that the fossil record was created by the devil to fool us, that there's no possible way that blood clotting, bacterial flagellum, or the human eye could evolve, that the earth is flat, that the Apollo missions were faked, that life begins at conception, that the Plan B aborts a unborn soul, that frozen fertilized embryos are should all be born and poor children should have there lunches taken away from them, that Jesus walked on water, that God speaks to George W. in his gut, that by blowing yourself up in a hotel lobby you'll go to Heaven and be met by 70 virgins, that God is going to turn his wrath on Dover, PA. that the guys who created Chic-fil-a and Dominos pizza have an inside track on the mind of God and theology, that we have the right to destroy our planet because and old book said Man should have dominion over "all the earth" (and that these people are fit to hold environmentally sensitive cabinet positions)

      I could go on and on and on and on and on and on. All these things are AT LEAST as rediculous and a lot are AS EASILY verifiable as a toy shop at the North Pole.

      You may think it trivializes a very important aspect of someones life... if that's true you should have listened to DarkSyde's warning and not read the dairy.

      •  Yes (none)
        I think you are right that a lot of those beliefs are easily verified as false. However, DarkSyde bases his scorn primarily on the unverifiable question of the existence of God. If I have scorn for a religion, I base it on verifiable facts. Fundametalists do not accept evolution, Catholics do. Therefore I do not scorn Catholics, at least on that basis.

        Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

        by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:55:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  good point (3.50)
      In the spirit of this diary, I thought folks would like to know what it's like being me--a critic of atheism and atheists. If you're offended by this as an atheist, please don't read any further.  I don't want to burst any bubbles, or bruise any egos.

      Respect for others belief systems:
      I respect others' views. I have been surrounded by atheists and agnostics for most of my life--not evangelical Christians. Most of my friends and family do not believe in God. What bothers me is a lack of respect for anyone else's belief system, which is what I see in this diary. In many instances, I consider it a rationalization for a form of bigotry more than anything else.

      On Atheists:
      Evangelical atheism (that speaks about others' beliefs in a public way) is like the intelligent design movement--in reverse.  Since this is about belief and not science--metaphysics and not physics--the scientific method does not apply.  People who passionately claim to know other people's religious beliefs are false--including devout atheists and anti-theists-- are missing an important irony about their belief system.

      What I see in this diary:
      A serious topic treated like a football game. A sophomoric metaphor drawn-out way too long; flogged and ultimately tortured until it dies.  Then high-fived in the comments in some sort of scientific hegemony rally.  And then defended in this comment thread on the basis of a few physics and philosophy courses.

      I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking. --Cartoon Dog, The New Yorker

      by markymarx on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:05:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bingo... (none)
        "A sophomoric metaphor drawn-out way too long."  You took the words right out of my mouth.  I got his point in three paragraphs, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.  

        Fringe is the new black. - Me

        by chillindame on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:09:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  me, too (4.00)
          I found this diary to be uninteresting and tedious.  I too prefer to treat the subject with the seriousness it deserves and there are simply no depths to plumb here in the weak and unoriginal Santa analogy.

          It was always my sense that most people who question the religion they were brought up with go through this rebellious phase in college (once they're away from their religious parents) when they think that religious people just don't get it, that they're being really really stupid, it's just like Santa, etc.  There is a lot of the questioning authority and Freudian stuff thrown in too.  Then most of us catch on to the notion that we don't have it all figured out, due to experiences in our lives that show us beyond a doubt that there are limits to what we can know and can control.  The more intelligent among us realize that life is about asking questions, not about being certain.  The main thing is acknowledging the "unknown unknowns" as Rummy likes to say.

          The fatal problem with this diary and with other typical glancing blows at the question is that they utterly fail to acknowledge the unknown unknowns.

          One of the greatest misconceptions about religion is that it offers an easy certitude to the believers.  Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.

        •  I doubt it. (none)
          I got his point in three paragraphs

          The point wasn't "God is like Santa, ha ha ha!" It was, "here are all the ways current US society affects me as an atheist."

          If you stopped at three paragraphs, then you didn't see all the ways.
  •  God Certainly Exists (none)
    I have no doubt, having personally questioned the existence of God, and being positively answered.

    Religion, on the other hand, is mostly way off the track. No one else can force feed you belief.

    If you are one of the many who have thought about it, and concluded that there is no God, ask yourself why you think language, which all rational thought is based on, has the ability to deal with this? There is a reason that God's real name cannot be spoken. The spiritual world does not translate; it must be experienced.

    This is CLASS WAR, and the other side is winning.

    by Mr X on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:27:15 AM PST

    •  asdf (4.00)
      I hurt my head trying to understand your question.
    •  I Refer You To My Comment Below (none)

      9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

      by NewDirection on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:31:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Just another rewrite (none)
      of the Ontological Argument, adapted to today's ID movement.  Kant thoroughly proved, once and for all, that the existence of god cannot be proven.  He was especially critical of the ontological argument.

      Mark Twain -Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.

      by Kingsmeg on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:59:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, It's Not (none)
        I never even heard of the "Ontological Argument", and I think ID is crap.

        I never provided any argument. I stated that my questions were answered, for me.

        Furthermore, since abstract symbols, i.e., language, are not the same as existence, you can neither prove nor disprove any real experience.

        You may try to explain my experiences, but only I have experienced them, and I believe in God as a result of them.

        This is CLASS WAR, and the other side is winning.

        by Mr X on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:24:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, (none)
          I am studying behavioral genetics and I know that these experiences represent real mental events, not some sort of insanity.  My diary on this very subject is here.    (I am not as hostile to religion as is DarkSyde, or most of the posters on this thread)

          I respect that your experiences cause you to believe in God, and that is certainly your right.  What I dispute is the present-day ID argument that having these experiences is proof of the existence of God.  They are merely proof that the human mind is capable of having an experience often interpreted as contact or communion with God/the divine/the universe, or many other ways, depending on a person's upbringing and cultural environment.

          I offer an evolutionary explanation as to how the human mind came to have this ability.  I understand that many people of faith will reject my explanation outright, simply for containing the word evolution.  I don't lose any sleep over it, nor will it stop me from pursuing my academic career.

          Mark Twain -Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.

          by Kingsmeg on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:32:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Whoa, dude. Deep. (none)
      Or perhaps just intellectually effete.

      As for your answer: The human mind is not constrained (obviously) to only rational thought. Language, being a human construct designed to convey thoughts, rational or otherwise, has been adapted to handle discussions on any subject humans can think of. Doesn't that seem obvious to you?  Is it your opinion that just because language can handle discussions on a topic it thereby justifies the worthiness or verifies the truthfulness of that topic?

      In regards to why "God's real name cannot be spoken": too many consecutive consonants? You try pronouncing Ztkgllhtgrdwcsnpdpb.

      /International treaties? We don't abide by no stinkin' international treaties./

      by sigmarthebad on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:24:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Knowledge v. Belief (none)
      If your certainty of this deity's existence springs from belief then the challenge to such a holding is difficult. But just because you or anyone else believes something is neither evidence nor proof a thing is true. If, however, your belief is a result of some knowledge then it is incumbent upon you to offer proof. But be warned. Extraordinary claims require extaordinary proof. You might also know that powerful minds from Augustine and Anselm to Thomas have failed. Perhaps it was because one can't prove the existence of that which doesn't exist?
  •  yup (4.00)
    my experience exactly.  When I was a kid I used to look around at church and feel a sense of wonder. Not that kind of wonder.. wonder about wtf was wrong with all these people.  

    That's what I'm on about. Did you see him repressing me?

    by sommervr on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:28:33 AM PST

    •  As an atheist who avidly avoids church... (none)
      I haven't been in one in a long time. But I married a Catholic woman who insisted I accompany her to our daughter's baptism. Being the loving accepting father I am (and wishing to keep the peace), I agreed.

      Now, perhaps my impression was affected by the fact that this particular ceremony (Roman Catholic) was conducted in a foreign language that I don't speak (and therefore I paid more attention to what was happening rather than what was being said), but my reaction to the service was one of utter astonishment.

      Never have I witnessed such an excessive excersize in pomp, tedium, pretentiousness, and self-aggrandizement. Two and a half hours of humming, chanting, singing, kneeling, standing, swinging some smoking device here and there, circling the altar this way and that, covering a chalice with first this piece of cloth then another then replacing it with different ones while making all these ridiculous gestures with crosses and hands and bobbing of heads, all while maintaining the unshakable seriousness of purpose. And that doesn't even address the 'ceremony' of the baptism!

      Wow. I was stunned. And to think these people sit through this EVERY WEEK.  Unbelievable.

      /International treaties? We don't abide by no stinkin' international treaties./

      by sigmarthebad on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 02:50:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sense of wonder (none)
      The stained glass is heavenly when the light shines through it. The choir sounds angelic. These sensory experiences would be just as beautiful outside of a religious institution. More. "God" is in art and music and nature.
  •  I am definitely ignorant because I believe in God (4.00)
    So ignorant in fact that I would appreciate the Santa analogy and in fact wouldn't appreciate this diary if not for the Santa references.

    The contempt expressed here and the degree to which people love to profess their intellectual superiority for not being "brain washed" is always amazing.  

    This semi-annual practice of atheistic evangelism is very interesting and troubling in amount of confidence in their superiority that they share with the far right.  

    I am not so confident however and will always gravitate to the humble few who share my values. I don't see any here.  

    Never have so few taken so much from so many for so long.

    (-6.75, -3.85)

    by mapKY on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:31:29 AM PST

    •  nobody in this thread has mentioned being... (none)
      nobody in this thread has mentioned being "brain washed", i searched the thread and it isn't there.  that is a tired old canard. but god is cultural and enforced through cultural mediums, constantly and incessantly. if god is not part of your experience it gets tiresome and frustrating particularly when some folks want to impart their beliefs of god into the law, thereby making me a de facto practitioner of their faith.  no thanks.  

      we live in a society that is highly theist, from new age blah blah to hard core fundie blah blah. so you come across a little atheist/non-theist/agnostic/"your preffered label"  blah blah and you are all upitty about it. now imagine living in a society that was 90% atheist and all you ever heard was this atheist/non-theist/agnostic/"your preffered label"
      blah blah.  please, cut us some slack.

      god don't like it, and i don't either- willie mctell

      by cereal breath on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:53:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I apologize for using the term brain washed (none)
        Which I put in quotes because I hear it all the time and good reading comprehension skills allow me to draw conclusions as to the meaning of words and phrases that imply brain washing.

        Please substitute my use of the term "brain washed" with "insane".  Different terms but the needed connotation is achieved and indeed directly quoted and repeated multiple times (five times in the diary).

        Never have so few taken so much from so many for so long.

        (-6.75, -3.85)

        by mapKY on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:21:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The Vitriol Always Amazes Me (3.57)
      If those who are atheist are truly as confident as they profess that 90% (using someone's figure above; I have no idea whether it is accurate) of the world's population is indeed "delusional", "psychotic", "crazy", "ignorant" "stupid" or anything else merely because that majority believes in some form of deity; and if that the 10% who do not are truly convinced that this is because the 10% possess superior reason, sanity, reality testing and intellect, why is so much angry energy spent by non-believers on labeling the 90% as dysfunctional/psychotic/crazy? After all, you cannot reason with truly crazy people.  Everyone knows that - or should know that.

      I personally have never claimed that my religious beliefs make me superior to anyone else.  I have never labeled anyone inferior or ignorant or psychotic or stupid just because they didn't believe in a deity.  People truly secure in their faith don't need to resort to one-upmanship and namecalling.  Yet I've (as part of the collective who is in fact religious) been subjected to it repeatedly by folks who claim to be certain that I am wrong in my beliefs.  Particularly here on DailyKOS, where I can almost set my watch by waiting for someone to again call believers "psychotic".  

      Despite this, as one of the psychotic 90%, I going to do a very sane thing:  reiterate that I genuinely don't care whether non-believers come around to my viewpoint or not, where God is concerned.  Them not seeing what I perceive to be truth does not make them crazy/psychotic/delusional/ignorant - just people with a different viewpoint than mine, equally unable to discern "ultimate truth" and therefore inherently handicapped in these discussions since none of us are possessed with human understanding, deeply flawed as I'm sure even the most strident atheist would admit.  

      So, I'm happy to just agree to disagree about whether there is a God, or many Gods.

      What I cannot agree to disagree about is whether a person's disbelief in God makes their intellect, reason, or anything else superior to mine.  It categorically doesn't, no matter how many times they choose to run to the well of personal insult in making their arguments in support of their non-belief.  IMO, the fact that too many cannot just assert their nonbelief securely without such behavior evinces deep insecurity, unresolved anger and, IMO, fear.  It is not enough to be a non-believer, for them. They must knock down as low as possible belief itself.  Perhaps because if it is not rendered low, they are less sure of the strength of their own personal pedastal of non-belief.  I genuinely don't know what motivates it.  And if it was not so hurtful to people of good will, genuinely wouldn't care.

      To his credit the OP tried to stay away from a lot of that, and I appreciated the diary for its ability to discuss the issue without going to the well of insult too much, many others responding to the diary wallowed in it like pigs in the mud.  It is unclear what was accomplished by that, except perhaps a personal sense of satisfaction akin to that which people experience jerking off.

      It certainly didn't accomplish persuading anybody to believe anything different than what they believed before the entire diary began.  Which I thought was, at least in theory, the point of these regular "there is no God" diaries. In the end, non-believers may be right, they may not be.  But rightness is not and never has been a license to be a jerk when it comes to human dialogue.  A ground level sense of decency in how one speaks to others, even those who one profoundly disagrees with, is not too much to ask from adults. IMO, anyhow.  

      These discussions would get a lot further in terms of building political coalition if the "I'm more rational than you, you psychotic crazy God-believer" chip got knocked permanently off some shoulders and we could get to a discussion in which the assertion of a belief of God in a positive way (i.e. not in a "you're going to go to hell, you sinning non-believer" way, which I'd find equally inappropriate) did not cause folks to react like a hot poker had been stuck up their ass.  

      After all, if you don't believe the poker exists at all, how can it possibly hurt you?

      All IMO, of course.

      My separate place for mental meanderings: Political Sapphire

      by shanikka on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:09:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Vitriol" (4.00)
        If those who are atheist are truly as confident as they profess that 90% (using someone's figure above; I have no idea whether it is accurate) of the world's population is indeed "delusional", "psychotic", "crazy", "ignorant" "stupid" or anything else merely because that majority believes in some form of deity
        Sorry, I already saw the movie (Contact), so I know how this one turns out....  They make that argument, but then one of the crazy religious people sneaks inside, tries to shoot people, etc., etc..
        I personally have never claimed that my religious beliefs make me superior to anyone else.
        You don't have to.  If you believe that you are going to Heaven while people who believe differently are not, your sense of moral superiority is already implicit.
        It is not enough to be a non-believer, for them. They must knock down as low as possible belief itself.
        I always have trouble understanding how Christians can feel under attack in this society, where they control everything.  Everything!!
        if you don't believe the poker exists at all, how can it possibly hurt you?
        If you really believe that you are going to get the eternal carrot and everyone else the eternal stick, why such thin skin?
        •  What? (none)
          You don't have to.  If you believe that you are going to Heaven while people who believe differently are not, your sense of moral superiority is already implicit.

          How is that inherent to religious belief? It's not even part of the belief for a lot of deists. And a great many more of us take the very reasonable stance that not being God we're not really sure who would go to heaven. Not our department.

          If you want to mock something, at least learn enough about it to make it meaningful.

        •  Umm (none)
          Sorry, I already saw the movie (Contact), so I know how this one turns out....  They make that argument, but then one of the crazy religious people sneaks inside, tries to shoot people, etc., etc..

          Ummm...if the underpinnings of your response to what I wrote are grounded in what you saw in a movie, I have to question your good faith -- the entire point of what I wrote.

          You don't have to.  If you believe that you are going to Heaven while people who believe differently are not, your sense of moral superiority is already implicit.

          That makes no sense.  Moral superiority over whom? Over a non-believer? How, exactly, solely by believing that through my faith, post-death my soul will rest in a place called Heaven - a place that nonbelievers assert is a figment of mere delusion? Your claim looks like a whole lot of projection to me.......

          I always have trouble understanding how Christians can feel under attack in this society, where they control everything.  Everything!!

          What on earth does control and power have to do with a discussion of faith?  Setting aside that question, if you don't understand how referring to people as "crazy", "ignorant", "delusional" and "psychotic" (a regular practice here on DailyKOS undertaken by folks who claim to be nonbelievers in religion) isn't attacking someone, I'm not sure what to say other than:  "Sure.  OK.  Whatever you say."

          If you really believe that you are going to get the eternal carrot and everyone else the eternal stick, why such thin skin?

          Oh, I get it now.  A test of the depth of someone's faith is their willingness to put up with bullshit deliberately thrown at them by folks who don't know how to simply just state their opinion in a respectable manner.  Thanks for clearing that up.

          My separate place for mental meanderings: Political Sapphire

          by shanikka on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:35:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Re: Umm (none)
            That makes no sense.
            It makes total sense.  If you feel that you are going to Heaven and you feel that other people will go to Hell, then you feel that you are morally superior to other people.  Whether I believe in Heaven is immaterial to your implicit smugness.
            What on earth does control and power have to do with a discussion of faith?
            Control and power are as pertinent in discussions of religion as they are in discussions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual relationshsips for that matter.
            referring to people as "crazy", "ignorant", "delusional" and "psychotic" (a regular practice here on DailyKOS
            Well, the truth pretty much speaks for itself.  But are you trying to say that DarkSyde's diary here makes that claim by presenting an analogy of radical Santa Claus believers?  Because that's projection.
            If you really believe that you are going to get the eternal carrot and everyone else the eternal stick, why such thin skin?
            Oh, I get it now.  A test of the depth of someone's faith is their willingness to put up with bullshit deliberately thrown at them by folks who don't know how to simply just state their opinion in a respectable manner.  Thanks for clearing that up.
            Somehow I get the feeling that you wouldn't make a very good martyr for your religion.  But no, what I was trying to say is this:
            After all, if you don't believe the poker exists at all, how can it possibly hurt you?
            Religious people are the ones simultaneously holding the hot pokers of oppression and crying persecution.
      •  One false assumption.... (none)
        Actually, you can reason with crazy people; I've done it.
    •  I'm ignorant too (none)
      But I don't believe in 'god'.  

      I'm not confident that any of the established religions has it right about what is, but I will take from each their denial of the veracity of the others.

      I'm ony one degree more atheistic than a monotheist.

  •  Snark On (4.00)
    I'm so sick of you amoral atheist secularists persecuting us God fearing Christians. It's bad enough that I have to put with hearing "Happy Holidays" every once in a while. (I always shout back "It's Merry Christmas you ignorant heathen bitch!), but now you want me explain listen to this diatribe about how bad things are for you? You liberal atheists control everything and us Christians are just trying to fight against centuries of persecution. Now shut up, stand up, and say "under God" when you pledge your allegiance to the flag!

    Snark Off

    Very good diary. I thoroughly enjoyed even though I am a theist.

    I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game... -Howard Zinn

    by Jawis on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:34:18 AM PST

  •  god is a myth. bfd. end of story. (3.50)
    how to live with all the inhabitants of myth-ville ??

    rmm.

    Grassroots Organizing Should Be for The Community, By The Community - NOT for "Leaders" http://www.liemail.com/BambooGrassroots.html

    by rmdSeaBos on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:37:11 AM PST

  •  Great diary! (none)
    I swear you took the exact way I feel and put into words.
  •  Chimney? Santa has a master key for all locks. (4.00)
    I laughed all through your diary.  My brothers and I from before we could read constructed elaborate explanations for how Santa must have a master key to all houses that didn't have chimneys.  We didn't---not even one for a furnace.

    We went on from there to constructing explanations for supernatural events we heard about in Sunday School.  We did something like the pontoon bridge for fleeing Egypt before the Reader's Digest story was published.  

    Gods help the Mormon or Fundie or whatever missionary who came by our house.  My mom let us invite them in and then split for the other end of the house and just checked in now and then.  We think they finally put a mark somewhere around our house because they stopped coming----never could find it, though.

    DarkSyde, I was luckier than you in that I had younger brothers who were right with me with the questions, and parents who let us range wherever we wanted as long as we let them have an idea where we were at on things.  That's along with keeping us in Sunday School and church children's choir.  At least until we rebelled---but they were good training and fantastic social outlets.

    Boy does this sound cynical.  Nope.  I enjoy the background and being able to swap Bible quotes with fundies and even being able to visit churches and sing many of the hymns from memory.   But do I believe in all of this?  

    Is there a category between agnostic and atheist?

    In the name of fighting terror, we have terrorized, and in the name of defending our values, we have betrayed them. Leonard Pitts

    by maybeeso in michigan on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:39:03 AM PST

  •  Did you (none)
    hear about the dyslexic atheist?  He knew that there was no dog.

    Halley Seven, United States Nil - You see, it can be done!

    by ian1973uk on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:42:10 AM PST

  •  Why I Never.... (3.75)
    ....have heard such a lot of anti-Santaist bigotry in one place.
  •  I am hoping to be post #500 :) (none)
    First Excellent Diary.  I am trying to figure out who to forward it too.

    Second, except for the horrible definition thread near the top, there are some excellent comments and questions down below.  I don't think this is a topic we should be shy about.  However, i am not looking forward to the "Why I am NOT and Atheist" and "Why I am NOT a NON-Artiest" and the "Will you all shut up about Atheism" diaries currently in the works.

    Third:  Like many of the Atheist commenting in this thread, I grew up in a very liberal not very religious part of the country, however there were still times when being a atheist was very uncomfortable.

    The unspoken elephant in any conversation about this is that many Atheist really do think there is something "wrong" with people who believe, serious.  And this is a hard thing because most Atheist I know are really caring open minded people who except people for who they are.

    Fourth - This Diary does not begin to touch on the thing that I have found to be the hardest about being an Atheist, raising kids (especially in the Midwest).  Just last night my 4 year old asked why we didn't go to church.  This is probably coming from her classmates, or teachers, or even Grandma, but I didn't spend time finding out.  It was really hard when my PC answers were not satisfying her to not just say:  "Because people who go to church and worship an invisible being who no one can prove exist is just plain nuts dear, now eat your veggies."

    Midwest Center for American Values - Progressive ideas in an easy to swallow pill.

    by ETinKC on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:51:02 AM PST

    •  Why Is Raising Kids Outside of Religion Hard? (none)
      I believe in God, but I'll be damned before I inflict organized religion on my kids.

      Sure, there were plenty of times, like whenever they visited my Roman Catholic mother-in-law, that they asked why they didn't get to do whatever. I would just say, "Because your mother and I think it does more harm than good. Now let's talk about spiritual things, and I'll tell you what I think about."

      They're both in college now, and they both thank me for it.

      This is CLASS WAR, and the other side is winning.

      by Mr X on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:33:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  434 Comments (4.00)
    for a story that's been posted a little more than seven hours? Not bad, not bad at all, my friend.

    Thank you for posting this. It does help to understand your perspective.

    Street Prophets: where the cookies live now...

    by pastordan on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:55:33 AM PST

  •  You're priceless, Darksyde! (4.00)
    I am so with you on this one.  But I go a bit further.  I think that the belief in a god is the single most pernicious idea homo-sapiens have come up with.  It relieves them of responsibility, separates them from the natural world, and is, in my opinion, a fountainhead for moral and ecological destruction. Plus, at the rational level, it's a non-starter.

    You might enjoy a book I'm currently reading titled "Our Inner Ape: Why We Are Who We Are" by primatologist Frans De Waal. De Waal finds a basis for morality, ethics and altruism in primate psychology (as well as for murder, incest, et al.) As some of the religous comment, "it is there for people with eyes to see."

    There is no need to invent a supernatural being to explain human nature.  But that of course would require being clear-eyed about who and what we are, recognizing our limitations, and organizing ourselves politically by playing to our strengths.  Ah ... I dream on.

    Highly reccomend!  

  •  Atheist (4.00)
    I have always felt that it's arrogant to be an atheist.  It's just as arrogant, for me, to be of any other faith. Being an atheist implies that you have objective knowledge that God doesn't exist. I can't say I've been able to get that data from any sources.

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for people of faith.  It takes something huge to throw everything out the window and believe in something you can't experience in any place but your heart.  It's like when one of those football coaches puts that third stringer in, because he feels in his heart that the kid has something in him for this play.  The coach could lose his job if the kid screws up.  But, that coach just had a feeling.  

    I tell every religious person I know- I don't have anything against God, I'm always here, and I assume he knows where I am.  I haven't seen any evidence of attempted communication.

    •  You can not prove a negative (none)
      No matter how hard you try, you can not prove a negative. You can no more prove that god doesn't exist than you can prove there are not invisible elves and reindeer at the North Pole.

      Atheist simply see no compelling reason to accept a belief in a supreme being. I think most people would  see no compelling reason to beleive in invisible reindeer. People are not widely accused of being arrogant for failing to accept the existance of invisible reindeer. Despite the lack of evidence that would prove there were no invisible reindeer.

      In our culture it is considered perfectly normal to deny the existence of invisible reindeer yet it is immoral not to accept the invisible hand of god.

      A lack of belief in the unlikely is neither arrogant or humble. It just is a funtion of a rational mind seeking to know reality without resoting to mysticism to fill in the unkown.

      Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the begining of wisdom. ---Bertand Russell

      by leeroy on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:52:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  asdf (4.00)
    I was raised Catholic and felt the same way as the diarist.  I have never believed in God and that is just how I am.  I don't think about it and make no decisions based on my belief or non-belief.  I raised 3 wonderful kids who also don't believe in god.  Probably because they were not indoctrinated.  If god or the belief in god was discussed it was done in a purely academic and not emotional fashion.  In fact, I remember when my son went to church for the first time with a friend, he came back with a very astute comment.  He said "it's a cult, mom!"  Anyway, I don't think believing in God is the problem, really.  I think Religion is the problem.  Group think is the problem.  Forcing people into conformity is the problem.  Hate in the name of god is the problem.  As a side note -those mega churches on tv give me the creeps.
  •  Being an optimistic atheist, (none)
    I think I was a little older than you were when I had my "omigod--they really believe it!" moment. My personal take on grown-ups vis à vis religion when I was growing up, was that they were pretending to believe in God because they thought it was good for kids to believe in God. I think that's why the Santa analogy is so persistent. But I was into my teens before I finally owned up to the fact that so many adults actually believed it.

    I still don't understand why, but I don't think it's a matter of intelligence. There have been recent findings in the neurosciences, about things like credulity, skepticism, and other "personality variables", which someday might shed some light on this issue.

    Greg Shenaut

  •  Well said (none)

    Fellow Traveler.  Well said.  Over time, one becomes skilled at merely shaking one's head in disgust and bewilderment (in actuality or mentally) when those around you make clearly illogical and blatantly irrational statements about reality as they imagine it.


    I've taken another personal step, diligently over the many years as well.  I've made myself into a physically intimidating person that goes a very long ways to deterring those who would otherwise get in my face to try and FORCE their beliefs into objective reality and attempt to banish my reality-based nonbelief system.  Works a trick.  That and being a true scientist through and through goes a long ways to blowing the annoying chaff away.

    The more physically aggressive believers stay back and the more socially aggressive believers are easily quashed by scientific fact.

    "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." --9th Amendment

    by praedor on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:19:55 AM PST

  •  invasion of the mind-snatchers (4.00)
    I too am atheist and I want you to know you are NOT alone.  (I am also a scientist and am very compassionate to my neighbors usually but your screed is always there for me too)

    Mankind is in a serious retrograde slide, America is rotting a bit faster than other world powers.

    DO not get down, know that you are not alone.

    My entire life, when I have become overwhelmed by the massive stupidity of the ignorant and malignantly theist masses, I remember my main feeling towards them, PITY.

    Pity because they self-medicate with a mythology that blocks their intellectual development.

    To not stand in the moment, stand before the void, stand before your own mortality and that of everything you love, you waste the very opportunity of sentience - quasi-wholistic perception of the universe that we populate and just how little and how much you as a tiny bit of protoplasm can effect it.  There are many other lessons, a multitude, but humbleness is a good place to start (especially for god-bloated christianists)

    Instead they pull muave felt hats over their heads, put their fingers in their ears and scream, "I cant hear you!" and then have the rudeness to ask why they can never really understand their own lives.

    Thats bullshit.  Even if you are born into a fundamentalist xtian family, you can rise above that, you can bootstrap a real understanding of real life.  

    You have no excuse and you are not excused to abuse others who are not gulping the kool-aid fast enough.

  •  Unelectable (none)
    In Texas, North Carolina and some other States, we atheists are prohibited from holding public elected office. Nice, uh?
  •  nailed it (none)
    Great diary, many thanks. Possibly, just possibly, you overdid the Santa metaphor, but I don't care; the central point is rock solid. Looking forward to the second installment.
  •  the real faith of atheist (4.00)
    What atheists do believe in is reason and the veracity of the senses and memory. These may not seem like things you need to believe in, but clearly they can't be proved through reason; they are the grounds through which other things are proved. Evolution is not concerned to evolve sensory equipment and data processing that are truthful, only that favor survival, and sometimes that entails favoring misleading things - for example, the geese who "read" a profile differently depending upon the direction it is moving: goose one way, hawk the other.

    Thank you for sharing your experience of living as an atheist, and thanks also to the others who shared the spectrum of such experiences. I wonder what a poll might have revealed about the relative frequencies?

    I sometimes wonder whether atheism is indeed a part of wiring, a kind of "god-blindness" that parallels being color-blind.  Folks who are color blind don't know that they are, at first, and never truly experience the world as people with color sight do. This does not mean that their experience necessarily leads to a less accurate image of the universe, only one that focuses on different aspects. The very best colleague I had for taking immunofluorescent pictures (which are in red and green) mentioned he was red-green colorblind. It seemed amazing to me that he took such marvellous pictures, and he himself couldn't really express how he did it. He did accept that the rest of us could see a color that he didn't see.

    Color blindness also makes scouts better at detecting camouflage - there are probably some nuggets to be mined from that.

    -- Be the change you wish to see. Gandhi

    by Wee Mama on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:41:54 AM PST

  •  thank you DarkySide (4.00)
    You have really captured the experience we have.
    I'm very content to be a life-long atheist. I don't shy away from telling people I am an atheist or a non-believer.
    Except I can't do it with my in-laws and my husband's work group since he is an agnostic but works in the religion field (imagine the cognitive dissonance HE feels) since it could create problems for him.
    I take solace in the fact that many Europeans
    and Canadians are also not believers (or only
    nominal believers, essentially agnostics).
    I guess its time for another trip to Europe!  

    Pro-Choice and Proud of It!

    by powwow500 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:44:56 AM PST

  •  476 comments (none)
    by the time I was alerted to and read this diary - but I still want to say thank you for posting this.  My sentiments, all of them, exactly.
  •  How do I raise my kid as an atheist? (3.60)
    She's 4 months old, and I'm scared for her.  I'm an atheist, and it seems there's a lot of social pressures that will likely push her into believing in one more god than I do.

    I love your diary, I did dyslexify 'Santist' into 'Satanist' as I was reading, but that's my own take on the ones who believe in an omnipotent being acting with a purpose in giving people tooth decay, making old people lose control of their bowels, and  giving disease to children.

    •  Seriously. (4.00)
      I mean this as a serious question.  Religionists seem to think our modern depraved world is supportive of atheism, but Darksyde pointed out
      For example; your kids better not repeat any Santa skepticism, or they'll be teased horribly at the very least and might get the shit beat out of them by other kids from time to time.
       which is similar to my father getting beat up becase he had to wear a Catholic school uniform on the way to school.

      Our society is not supportive of atheism.  We athiests can't lazily go to atheist temple each week and enroll our kids in bible-skepticism class, and expect some atheist preacher to counsel them.  We have presidents that say:

      No, I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God. -- G H.W. Bush

      And my comment earns a two from 'BAS'?  Maybe it's because I ripped off a bit from a half-remembered Joseph Heller passage.  I think dKos has a good number of atheist parents and this is as good a place as any to ask how one raises atheist children.  Heck, we even have whole diaries devited to finding a googleable quote.  Maybe I'll repost my question as a diary.  Darksyde's Santa story tapped a nerve for 500+ comments, maybe a question on raising a kid might help split the discussion.

    •  I am going through the same thing with my kids (none)
      right now (comment is above).  It ain't easy, but it does remind me of a joke:

      I was dating a girl in college and we were pretty serious except it wouldn't have worked out for religious reasons.  She was an Atheist, I am agnostic, we couldn't decide what religion not to raise our children. (hat tip to w. allen)

      Midwest Center for American Values - Progressive ideas in an easy to swallow pill.

      by ETinKC on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:18:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It is hard (none)
      I have an 8 year old.  We live in a fairly mainstream conservative area.  Still mostly Democrats, but conservative socially.  

      I hve made sure that my son never belittles another for his or her faith.  

      You can't be religion is going to snatch your child.  If it happens, and you're a good family, your child won't turn down the wrong road of religion.

      I always talk about religious items.  "Some people believe that Jesus was... and that's why some celebrate Christmas.  We celebrate it as a family time." For a long time, my Son saw no difference between Zeus and Hay-Zeus.

    •  How do you raise atheist children? (4.00)
      That's an interesting question.  

      I have one for you - should you raise atheist children?  

      My wife and I struggled with that when our kids were little.  She is I guess what you would call a deist and I'm an atheist.  Our kids have never attended church, but we haven't gone out of our way to indoctrinate them into atheism, deism, or any other philosophical position.  

      I think the kids (they're barely "kids" anymore - 15 and 18) probably would self-identify as atheists, but I wanted them to keep their minds open so that once they matured they could adopt whatever position they felt comfortable with.  I may have gone overboard occasionally pointing out how scientifically wrong certain "fatih-based" concepts are (such as creationism/ID) but I've tried to be fairly non-judgemental.

      Maybe the best answer is - don't indoctrinate, just try to instill a sense of reason, justice, and help them see that "good" people don't need religion to make them "good."

      Then - let them go and be their own persons.

    •  I don't have children, but (4.00)
      I was raised as an atheist.  So here are some pointers:

      Don't overdo it.  Mocking a 4/5/6 year old for asking what God is is not a good idea.  Ranting and raving is not a good idea.  It just makes you look like a lunatic, and can be seriously frightening if you get up too big a head of steam.  Your child does not need to hear all your frustration with the religions of the world.  It is your responsibility to express the truth without burdening your child with your issues.

      Tell the truth.  Children seem to be hardwired to learn.  They want to know everything they can about everything there is.  So when the question comes up: what religion are we?  What is God?  Tell the truth as you know it.  Keep it appropriate to the age, but don't sugar coat it.   If you do it right, your atheism will be more convincing than other people's religion.  Remember, children are voraciously hungry for information about the world they live in.  Keep it true and real and direct and simple, and you won't have problems.

      Put everything in perspective.  Explain your sense that there is no proof that God exists, and why you feel that proof is important.  It might be helpful here to reference the flying spaghetti monster, as in: "without proof someone could tell you that there was such a thing as a flying spaghetti monster, and you'd just have to believe them, even though we all know that spaghetti is just food, and good food, too."

      Be prepared to comfort.  Children can feel ostracized and alone so easily...if religion becomes an issue at their school (and let's hope it doesn't), don't ignore it, and don't dismiss it.  Hugs are warranted.

      Make sure your kids know they can come to you if anyone picks on them. (But don't worry them before anyone DOES start picking on them.) And if anyone does seeem to be pushing it too far, make sure you go to bat for them with the teachers at the school.

      Find places where your children can belong: church provides a wonderful social network for most people; as an atheist, you may find the need for a substitute.  UU congregations can be good this way.  I'm sure there are other non-religious  social networks you can find or build.  

      Finally, don't worry too much.  Despite the horror stories, and despite some nasty episodes in any childhood, believe it or not most kids don't spend all that much time either talking or thinking about religion.  Atheists, christians, jews, etc., are very capable of playing well together in the playground and at camp...because without parental prompting, religion just isn't a major concern for most children.

      All the best,
      BMP

    •  Rather than pointing out bad things about religion (none)
      Read her happy and good stories from many different religions.  Exposure to the plethora of beliefs might not only help tolerance, but seems a sure cure for indoctrination by any one religion.

      And the Golden Rule is universal.  They all have good stories.  I'm thinking some Hindu kids books probably have way cool pictures, too.

      Also, don't spare the science.  Encourage curiosity.  If she has the slightest interest, get her one of those hundred-and-one physics experiment kits, and a chemistry set, and building toys like Lego or Lincoln Logs, Capsela was fantastic if you can find it.

      I have no children, but I had a wonderful father.  I remember he told me once, "The E-Ching is basicly the Bible without all the Jesus stuff.  Just the common sense stuff like tie your shoes and be nice to your neighbor."

      There are probably a lot of new responses posted, sorry if I'm being redundant.

  •  Atheism v. Agnosticism (none)
    I am either an Atheist or an Agnostic, depending on your definition.  I've always found it interesting that people try to shove the "Agnostic" definition down my throat-- even fellow Atheists / Agnostics, because I accept the fact that God may or may not exist.  As if it's a way out, just in case God really does exist, and is angry that you don't believe in him.

    I am a scientist.  Not by profession-- That's just the way my mind comprehends the universe.  Anything that can't be explained by science is pure conjecture, and therefore is probably not true.  As a scientist, it's necessary to admit there are many things that are beyond science's ability to explain.  Some will be explained by future generations of scientists, but there will always be unanswerable questions, and whatever our beliefs there will always be something greater.

    Some people call this thing "God".  Some people tell me I must believe in God because I believe there is more to the universe than is observable.  To me it's irrelevant.  Until science can prove or disprove it, it's just a guess.  It might as well be the flying spaghetti monster.

    What really kills me is people who justify their belief in God while admitting they really don't believe, by saying, "Just in case God is real, don't you want to believe in him so you can go to heaven?"  This makes no sense to me at all.  Everything I've ever heard about God indicates that if he DOES exist, he is all-knowing and all-loving.  Why would an all-loving God want me to suffer through eternity because I question his existence using the rational brain he gave me?  You don't treat people you love that way.  An all-loving being especially so.  

    Whether or not there is a definable God, as described by religion, or a benevolent force that guides us, or just a series of random occurrences that guide the universe, it doesn't minimize what we as human beings have accomplished on earth.  It doesn't change our responsibilities to ourselves, and our fellow human beings.  Some people who use God to justify the otherwise unjustifiable DO use this belief as an excuse to do whatever they want, regardless of its inherent immorality, and blame god for their actions.

  •  God only knows... (none)
    "I damn you all to hell
    I speak in the name of God
    I know him intimately
    I speak in the name of the name of that white-haired old man in the clouds
    Always a man
    Dispensing lighting justice from his figure tips
    (You are born sinful)
    As self-rightous and vengeful as those who created him
    A cruel desert god with no sense of humor
    How do you feel old man
    How do you feel with these fanatics speaking for you
    Is heaven full old lord..of these babbling creatures and god-fearing bigots
    Well I know where I'd rather be..away from this cocaphany!"

    This is our story...

    by Karmakin on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:50:49 AM PST

  •  reasons (none)
    The reason I'm not an atheist: My refusal to believe that life is an accident with no  purpose other than to be born, exist and die.

    The reason I'm an agnositic: My belief that we, as humans, are in the infancy of our reign on Earth and we are constantly acquiring new scientific knowledge that may one day explain our existence. Oh, and I believe in life on other planets.

    The reason I'm not Christian: I refuse to believe that Adam and Eve really exisited; that Moses was 700 years old, and that the Bible is the true word of God. In short, rational.

    "Democrats have the heart to care."

    by jeepdad on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:53:53 AM PST

  •  Beware nihilism (none)
    In the essay above, replace the words "God" with "moral law" and the "atheist" with "nihilist".  The strength of the argument presented is unaltered.  If the logic here seems convincing against the existence of God and in favor of the rationality of atheism, then so too should that same logic be convincing against the existence of a moral law and for the rationality of nihilism.

    The liberal Christian is derided for defending the rationality of theism.  Yet the existence of God guarantees that the moral order we all sense inside of us, what Kant called the "categorical imperative", is actually meaningful.  Without an appeal to a higher order, our moral instinct could easily be viewed as nothing more than an evolutionary aberration (perhaps altruism conveys some benefit to survival in the wild).  Or worse, it is merely fantasy that we all tell each other in order to numb ourselves to the ultimate futility of our lives and the final destruction  that follows.  If morality does not exist outside of us, then how can it bind us in any meaningful or rational way?

    The political ramifications of such a world view are as dire and as they are clear - morality and altruism are for the weak. Those who appeal to such notions (love thy neighbor as thyself, etc.), should be viewed with contempt.  In contrast, those who proclaim that "Greed is good" at least have the intellectual courage to face the cold and dark universe we inhabit.  They are willing to reject the fantasy realm that others try to impose on them and strive to make the best of a bad situation.  

    The liberal atheist faces a difficult challenge.  She advocates political altruism (universal health care for instance) but insists on asserting that we are not answerable to any higher authority.  Altruism and morality are no longer seen as binding imperatives but rather are reduced to preferences akin to any other desire.

    In this nihilistic state of the world, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the most rational way to live one's life is to embrace self-interest and reject the interests of others unless they coincide with one's own.

    •  I'm sorry, but... (4.00)
      I hear this argument all of the time and I think it is, in a word, asinine.

      Religious people, for whatever reason, think they have a monopoly on morality; that without some sort of higher power morality is meaningless or that there is no standard for morality.

      Morality,m when it gets right down do it, is not complicated 99.999% of the time. Morality is simply doing whatever you can to help people and not to hurt them. That's it. Religion tends to complicate morality, not strengthen it, by adding this whole class of actions it considers immoral somehow in that they are "offensive against god," whatever that means.

      I'll admit, some people probably need religion to live a moral life, just like some people need immediate, physical punishment to lead a moral life.

      However, if you have truly internalized morality, and if doing good is its own reward, and doing evil is its own punishment - as it is for me and I suspect most of my fellow atheists on the board - then you don't need some divine retribution or reward to motivate you to do the right thing.

      There are, of course, atheists who do take the selfish path you suggest, Ayn Rand being the most famous example, perhaps. They're called conservatives. But there are also religious people who clearly have chosen the "I'll recant my sins on my deathbed but do whatever I want until then" approach to morality. Religiosity and morality, in my mind, are not only wholly seperable, they're entirely seperate.

      It's not that I disagree with Bush's economic policy or his foreign policy, it's that I believed he was a child of Satan sent to destroy the planet Earth. -BH

      by Ben Grimm on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 07:14:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  misunderstood (none)
        You misunderstood the argument.

        The argument is not that only religious people can be moral.

        The argument is that moral behavior is irrational and ultimately meaningless if one cannot appeal to a higher power.

        You also dodged the point that DarkSyde's critique of theism can be equally applied to the idea of morality.  The arguments behind "God is nonsense" do not differ much at all from those that would support the contention that "moral concerns are nonsense".

        •  No (none)
          I didn't misunderstand your points, I simply think they are completely unsupportable. Moral behaviour is only irrational if you lack empathy; because I am able to envision what immoral behaviour does to people, being moral is not meaningless. If you truly think that morality without a deity is meaningless then it means that you are lacking in empathy. Empathy is what gives morality meaning.

          I didn't dodge the point that his critique can be applied to theism; rather, I think it's a totally false analogy. This too comes back to empathy. Empathy is a very real thing - not tangible of course, but easily definable. You eqivalancy is itself nonsense because morality does not rest on the same assumptions that religion does.

          It's not that I disagree with Bush's economic policy or his foreign policy, it's that I believed he was a child of Satan sent to destroy the planet Earth. -BH

          by Ben Grimm on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:58:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  please (none)
            Empathy is a feeling.

            So is desire.

            So is greed.

            Who is to say which is greater or which should govern our actions?

            What exactly are you appealing to?

            Your are arguing that people should be nice for the sake or niceness.

            That's just weak.

            •  You're talking like a sociopath (none)
              If what you're saying is true, religion is all that is keeping you from acting out of total selfishness.

              And maybe it is.

              In that case, you apparently need it. I don't. I don't need any sort of "reward" for doing good, and if you do, I pity you.

              It's not that I disagree with Bush's economic policy or his foreign policy, it's that I believed he was a child of Satan sent to destroy the planet Earth. -BH

              by Ben Grimm on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:15:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Think harder (none)
                Quit building straw man arguments.

                "If what you're saying is true, religion is all that is keeping you from acting out of total selfishness."
                Bullshit.  This is not my claim.

                "Religious people, for whatever reason, think they have a monopoly on morality;"
                Bullshit.  This is not my claim.

                "that without some sort of higher power morality is meaningless or that there is no standard for morality."

                There ya go!

                So far you have identified "empathy" as the basis for morality.  That's not compelling at all.  Empathy is one of many feelings humans experience.  Please identify a standard by which we are to decide which feelings to act on when they conflict?

                Claiming that empathy makes morality binding on human behavior is no different than saying we should be nice to each other ... because we like being nice.

                •  Why is your morality more meaningful (none)
                  Morality is not complicated; helping people is good and hurting people is evil. Empathy allows you to see which one of the two you're likely to be doing. You use empathy to try and establish which one of the two an action is. It isn't a feeling, it's a tool.

                  In what way is your "morality", predicated on fear of retribution or desire for reward - as it is defined in religious systems - any more meaningful than mine. I think being good is its own reward, I don't need anything more than that. I think the religious view of morality cheapens it by adding incentives. I see people who do good only to go to heaven like I do a celebrity who makes a big donation to charity to distract a crime he just comitted.

                  It's not that I disagree with Bush's economic policy or his foreign policy, it's that I believed he was a child of Satan sent to destroy the planet Earth. -BH

                  by Ben Grimm on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:45:40 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  please don't troll rate me (none)<