Let’s talk a little about atheism.

Atheism: lack of belief in any god or gods.

Note, That does not deny the possibility of any gods. It does not say that definitively gods do not exist. It means that I do not believe you when you say that gods exist because you have failed to provide credible evidence for them. You say specific gods exist, I say, “Bullshit, prove it.” Atheism is the null hypothesis. Without evidence, I have no reason to believe that any gods exist, and I have no clue why anyone who has ever questioned their beliefs would ever believe in something without evidence. As for faith, I have seen faith defined multiple ways.

1. Faith: belief without, or contradictory to, evidence. This is the most common way I define faith, and unless I state otherwise this is the definition I am using. I do not have faith. I think that faith is inherently harmful. I will expand this into a full post at some time in the future.

2. Faith: Trust in someone or something. How do you trust something that may not be, and by my estimation, probably isn’t, there? Isn’t that trusting something that you know is unreliable? If something or someone is unreliable, what is the point of trusting them? Why would you trust them? Isn’t that the definition of gullibility?

I don’t even like the second definition of faith. I don’t have faith in people at all. I have evidence that they consistently behave in a certain manner so I can estimate a probability of any likely action that they may take, which will either be confirmed or denied, which will then give me a better estimate for the next time a  similar situation arrises.

I am an atheist because I remain unconvinced of any credible evidence for any gods, much less any specific gods you happen to believe in.

 

Pretty soon I’ll probably start work on a definitions page. I’ll be staying off the internet for the next few days, so if your comment gets stuck in moderation, I apologize in advance.

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16 thoughts on “Let’s talk a little about atheism.

  1. I think we need to continue to put as much stress as possible on how harmful faith in an uncertain being truly is. If we look around at the world and so many of the problems that have already occurred and are still occurring, the continued trust and faith in a god is just downright dangerous, to both believers and non-believers.

  2. wordofwoz
    Faith is always harmful, not just about gods. Faith in ideas is much more harmful than god-belief. Religion is just the gateway drug.

  3. What are your feelings on faith in people? Now, granted, that should not be given out to just anyone, but there are some people I do have faith in. Although it’s possible that I’m intertwining faith with trust.

  4. I do not have faith in people. I have evidence that based on past behavior, they act a certain way consistently. I then use that evidence to assign a probability to any possible action they may take in any given situation. I then make a prediction based on that probability that will be confirmed or denied. I then have more evidence to make a better more accurate prediction of what they will do in the future. I covered this in the original post, but I will add something here. We almost all do this. We don’t always get it right, but that is how we function. The people we rely on are the ones that have shown that they are reliable by acting that way. If you want to call that faith, you are welcome to, but I do not see it as such. For me faith in people would be like my friend “Tim” who keeps giving chances to people who continually fuck him over because of his emotional attachment. But then, he is an emotional thinker. This does not mean that I lack emotional attachment to people, and that my biases do not get in the way. In fact, as cold as some people perceive me to be, I am actually way to emotionally attached to certain people. But I don’t trust people without good reason, even if I am emotionally attached to them. Doubt is a virtue, it keeps you on your toes.

  5. In my humble opinion, I still consider that to be faith, to an extent. No, you shouldn’t continue to rely on people who screw you over. However, the people you have gathered evidence for that you are more willing to trust to not let you down, you still don’t know for certain what they might do. The way I see it, any reliance on anything or anybody is faith, because you cannot say positively that you know for sure what’s going to happen. Even if you’re doubting, there’s still an element of faith in there.

    Sidenote: I’m amused at how your description of yourself sounds like almost the exact opposite of me. People perceive me to be very emotional and overly attached, but the truth is I’m very far from it.

  6. So, by your standard, you know that you could die in a car wreck every time you get in a car. You have faith that you won’t. I don’t. I just value the use of my car more than the probability of fatal accident. And I’ve totaled out 3 out of 4 of my past cars, flipping one. When I rely on someone, I always know that there is the posibility of being wrong, and I assign a probability so that I can take steps to plan for that. I don’t consider that faith, but hey, maybe I’m wrong.

  7. I think this is more a matter of perspective in a gray area, not so much a right or wrong thing.

    When I get into a car, I know the possibility of a car crash, and while I also know that some things in that area are out of my control, I also trust myself to an extent to know how to handle avoidable collisions and do everything that’s in my control to avoid them. That’s having a certain amount of faith in myself. If I didn’t know how to handle driving, I wouldn’t drive, but I trust my knowledge of the road. I know that there is a possibility that people will let me down, and even if I make other arrangements just in case, I’m still holding that as a back-up because I have faith that the people will come through.

    As I said before, I think this is just a difference of perspective and opinion on what is considered “faith.”

  8. I just wanted to say that I agree with your perspective. Also, I don’t think it is necessary to say that as an atheist or anti-theist I am not ruling out the possibility of gods. I clearly state that they do not exist and there is no cause or credible evidence to state otherwise. I will always change my position when presented with evidence contrary to my current position… that includes gods and the supernatural. I don’t need to state that as some form of consolation for those that want to argue. If they want to argue that I’m being closed minded I offer them a chance to present the evidence that would contradict my statement that there are no gods. I’ll go one further and state that not only are there no gods, but there is no reason to think gods or supernatural beings can exist. That does not say they don’t, it says there is no reason to think they can. Christians don’t believe in Kali or Thor and they will use the same arguments… meh

    If they have trouble with people doubting their ‘blind faith’ they should learn more about it.

  9. myatheistlife,

    Also, I don’t think it is necessary to say that as an atheist or anti-theist I am not ruling out the possibility of gods.

    I am responding specifically here to people who say that atheists deny the possibility of gods. They are factually incorrect, and I do not wish to have that arguement with them over and over again. Possibility does not equal probability does not equal existence. I find that the probability of any gods existing to be extremely low. On the Dawkins scale, I’m a 6.9. Sounds like your a 7.

    I will always change my position when presented with evidence contrary to my current position… that includes gods and the supernatural. I don’t need to state that as some form of consolation for those that want to argue.

    That statement was in regards to people who say that atheists take their positions like the religious do, on faith. This line of reasoning usually comes from people who consider themselves agnostics but not atheists.

    there is no reason to think gods or supernatural beings can exist

    I agree.

    I clearly state that they do not exist

    This is a positive claim, the burden of proof is on you. Prove that a deistic god does not exist. There is no reason to believe that one does exist, and I find the existence of one to be extremely unlikely, but that does not prove that it doesn’t.

    Christians don’t believe in Kali or Thor and they will use the same arguments… meh

    I think that you are usually conversing with Christians. That line of reasoning doesn’t work with Pagans, Deists, Pantheists, Panantheists, members of the Bahá’í Faith, and many types of Hindus. And don’t even get me started on the capital A agnostics who claim that atheists are just as bad as believers.

  10. I think you misunderstand me. To say that gods do not exist is not a positive claim, it is a summation of the facts. This cart before the horse argument is everywhere. When a judge looks at the facts of a case and says that the accused is not guilty, does that mean the judge has proof? The judge is simply summarizing the facts in the proclamation of ‘not guilty’. I do not have to prove anything more than the judge does.

    When I announce the summary, I am not worried if there might be gods because there is no reason for me to even begin thinking that there might be. To me, it is not even a question until someone finds and provides evidence that it is even possible.

    Most folk argue from the point of view that everyone thinks it is possible for gods to exist. I do not. Show me reason to think that a god can exist and you might have an argument.

    On non-Abrahamic faiths… I generally find that I have no problem with them, or their adherents. While I occasionally find them eccentric, they are not caustic and I have no major issues with them. With such folk I find it rather unlikely that my anti-theism will ever be a topic of conversation never mind an argument.

  11. I think you misunderstand me. To say that gods do not exist is not a positive claim, it is a summation of the facts. This cart before the horse argument is everywhere. When a judge looks at the facts of a case and says that the accused is not guilty, does that mean the judge has proof? The judge is simply summarizing the facts in the proclamation of ‘not guilty’. I do not have to prove anything more than the judge does.

    The judge is saying that ze does not believe that the prosecution made their case. He is not saying that the defendant is innocent. I say that I do not believe in any god or gods. I am the judge proclaiming not guilty. You are saying that there are no gods. You are saying that the defendant is innocent, and you need to make your case.

    When I announce the summary, I am not worried if there might be gods because there is no reason for me to even begin thinking that there might be. To me, it is not even a question until someone finds and provides evidence that it is even possible.

    Agreed, I am not worried about any gods existing. This still does not prove that no gods exist. And you are claiming that no gods exist.

    Most folk argue from the point of view that everyone thinks it is possible for gods to exist.

    I’m not. I’m arguing from the null hypothesis.

    I do not. Show me reason to think that a god can exist and you might have an argument.

    Again, now you are making a positive claim and asking me to disprove it. I’ll agree that there is no reason to believe that it is possible for any gods to exist, but if you are going to assert that it is impossible for gods to exist, then you need to provide evidence for that claim.

    On non-Abrahamic faiths… I generally find that I have no problem with them, or their adherents. While I occasionally find them eccentric, they are not caustic and I have no major issues with them. With such folk I find it rather unlikely that my anti-theism will ever be a topic of conversation never mind an argument.

    You must not have spent a whole lot of time around non-Abrahamic faiths. Some of them are pretty horrible. Certain types of Buddhism are extremely misogynistic. Branches of reconstructionist religions can be extremely racist. There is a die-hard contingent of white supremacists in a certain corner of Norse reconstructionism. Dianic Wicca is pretty heavily transphobic. Certain versions of Hinduism are classist. But most of all, even the ones that aren’t problematic in that way, with a certain percentage, I always have to defend my atheism. Generally speaking, the Pagans, Buddhists, Hindis, and Shinto’s are much better than the Abrahamic faiths. For one thing, they won’t try to convert you. But when you start comparing the extremist and conservative elements, you really won’t see much difference between them and the Abrahamic faiths. The problem is not religion. The problem is faith. Holding ideas to be sacred is the problem. Bad methodology is the problem. If you just go by the specific problems they cause, there are many more liberal live and let live Christians than there are conservative and fundamentalist Christians. So is Christianity a problem? Most of the members aren’t causing any problems. Hell, a good bit of the atheist community is transphobic, homophobic, misogynistic, or racist. They don’t use god to justify these beliefs. They use bad logic and pseudoscience. Again, not questioning your own ideas is the problem.

    But for me, all this is beside the point. My goal is not to destroy religion or deconvert anyone. My goal is to end prejudice, increase happiness, promote social and economic well-being, and encourage rational thinking. Do those, and religion will take care of itself. Religion does not survive rational thinking, a full belly and equality.

  12. People misuse the word Faith, far to often. It’s like a bad Christian Gospel song, always sappy, strange and ultimately wrong. The most common misuse is “I have faith in my friends”, when it actuality you have evidence that their character is sound though their actions, interactions with you, and the history of their behavior. Certainly, with little evidence of the character of a new person we meet, we may grant them a “neutrality” to whether we trust them or not, but we don’t have “faith” in them. To some degree that trust is based on their passive traits, or expressed believes, but once again, still not faith. People who have “faith” in other people just end up being gullible, and eventually used and abused by the system or person they have faith in.

    Faith in humanity is another fallacy. I believe that humans have the capacity to be better than they are because historically speaking they have proven survivability and because of sentience and the ability to use critical thought can shed the mumbo jumbo of our civilization’s origins. I find that these aren’t the only situations in which the meaning of faith is abused to mean something it does not. I’d even argue, other than religious faith, that most people tend to “out of a need for security” in decision making operate on a reasonable assessment of fidelity based on something they had observed rather than faith.

    Faith when it comes to religion is an exploitation of a persons need for security, and various other basic human needs that said faith preys on. Religion is a predatory ideology, thus why it still exists but also is it’s fatal flaw in a world with science… As I have put it before, a computer virus for your mind. However, eventually flawed logic fails because humans “in general” are far to curious to leave that scab alone. Pardon the rather unusual analogy. But I do generally as an atheist as well agree with your points.

  13. One of the dictionary definitions of faith is “Confidence or trust in a person or thing.”

    That can either be based on blind trust without knowing anything about the person, or trust based on the facts and evidence of the person being trustworthy.

    You are welcome to disagree with me on this, but I don’t think the word faith is misused, I just think it has gotten a bad reputation because of people who trust blindly.

  14. I can agree with that. I avoid the word faith because of said paradigm as a choice though. Faith originating of the word fidelis, or fidelity actually originally had no reference to the “blind, or without evidence sort of faith”. As with other things in our culture it has certainly been shanghaied but those with harmful end results. As a personal stance I still think that faith is not served by instances where trust or fidelity could be used, where demonstrated evidence is actually being spoken of. Preference aside, I see your point.

  15. Correction: It originates from the word Fidere (one spelling of fidelis)(Latin: To Trust). Just as with the word trust, it doesn’t conditionally apply absence or presence of evidence, or reasoning.

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