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Understanding an Atheist POV

Jim Yingst
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[AS]: On this note I would like to hear your answers to these questions:
I pretty much agree with Michael Ernest's answers, but feel like elaborating:
Would you tell a child that there is no God?
A child, or my child? The latter is currently hypothetical, but if I had a child I would probably wait until the subject came up, and then say that I don't believe there's a god - but the kid would be encouraged to learn some more about the idea and decide for him-/her- self. At younger ages this might simply translate as "no, there is no god" but I'd be sure to clarify my view as the child matures and is better able to understand what I mean.
If it's someone else's child - depends on age to some extent, but for anyone younger than a teen I'd probably stick with "you should ask your own parents about that" unless asked very directly about my own beliefs (in a way indicating the child had already been exposed to the idea that not everyone believes the same thing).
Would you prefer your child to be an atheist?
Oh, I suppose I'd prefer an atheist, but that's not very important to me. I mean, I'd also think it was cool if my child was left-handed and enjoyed science fiction and Thai food, but I'll try not to be too disappointed if that doesn't happen. I'd be much more concerned about teaching tolerance of other views, regardless of what views the child had.
Are all atheists pessimists?
I don't think so. We just reject certain forms of deluded optimism.


"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Michael Morris
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I mean, I'd also think it was cool if my child was left-handed and enjoyed science fiction and Thai food, ...
Jimbo are you a southpaw? I envy lefties. I coached baseball and a little football over the years and it just ain't fair the advantage that lefties usually have. My middle son, the All State lineman, is a total lefty. I do some things left-handed but am basically right-handed. Right brainers tend to shy away from computer science, too logical. So now I'm curious.


Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction. - Ernst F. Schumacher
Michael Ernest
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Left-handedness isn't so hot if you want to be a baseball catcher.
Jim Yingst
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Jimbo are you a southpaw?
Yup.
I envy lefties. I coached baseball and a little football over the years and it just ain't fair the advantage that lefties usually have.
Dunno much about that; I never played much of either. I'd heard left-handedness is something of an asset for baseball pitchers (it's where the term "southpaw" came from) - how does it affect football? I never noted much effect in raquetball. I did a little bit of fencing in college, where I remember that the main effect was to confuse the opponent, as everything was on the wrong side than they were used to. Two lefties against each other were both confused. On the other hand this "natural advantage" also allowed us to be lazy - a righty who knew what he was doing could exploit that.
Right brainers tend to shy away from computer science, too logical.
Could be - I haven't seen any stats on that. I remember reading somewhere that much of the left-brain / right-brain dichotomy was based on studies of right-handers more than left handers, and that lefties were more likely to use both halves (more) equally rather than favoring one side. Could be because growing up, we're subtly (or not-so-subtly) coerced by our environments into doing many things right-handed even though it's not so "natural" to us. May also make us more variable as a group - I've heard that there's a higher incidence of lefties among some "elite" groups such as astronaut trainees, but also among some, err, not-so-elite groups such as people in insane asylums. Dunno how meaningful or accurate such stats may be; they seem to be mostly anecdotal.
[ June 24, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
Michael Morris
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
Left-handedness isn't so hot if you want to be a baseball catcher.


Best catcher I ever coached was a lefty. True, they have trouble with a right handed batter and a throw to second or third on a steal, but this dude hustled like nobody I ever coached. He nailed a lot of guys wandering too far off first after a pitch. That's a definite advantage to being a lefty catcher. But, in general you're right, the rule is no lefty catcher or shortstop.
The main reason lefties usually have an advantage in sports is because it does throw everybody off from their normal game. Like in football you usually set your defense a little stronger and quicker to the left to cover a right-handed QB rolling out. Left handed pitchers usaually scare the crap out of batters, especially right-handed batters when they throw curves, it breaks inside on them. Lefties also tend to have an awkward motion, further distorting the norm, probably because they have had to adjust to a right-handed world.
David Weitzman
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I envy lefties. I coached baseball and a little football over the years and it just ain't fair the advantage that lefties usually have.
Among people newer to fencing, being a lefty gives you a noticable advantage too. The right-handers don't know what to do with a lefty, but the southpaws sure know what to do with normal people...
Jim Yingst
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That sounds somehow familiar.
Michael Morris
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but the southpaws sure know what to do with normal people...
Normal people? I've always jokingly called the lefties I've coached "freaks of nature". There is actually a class of lefties known as "sit down" lefties. They are only left handed when they sit, like eating and writing. Many of our recent Presidents have been in that category. I shoot and bat left handed, left-eye dominant. Almost all the men in my family do at least one thing left-handed.
Jim Yingst
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Almost all the men in my family do at least one thing left-handed.
!!!
(I won't say it... nope, nosiree...)
John Smith
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MM: I've always jokingly called the lefties I've coached "freaks of nature".
It was not a joke in Russia. In elementary schools, the lefties were forced to write with their right hand. I am a product of that: when I throw things, I use my left hand, but I write with my right hand.
P.S. I looked it up, and it turned out that Russia was not unique in its pursuit of righteousness. Here is a fact from Lefties: "Ronald Reagan: actor, California governor, U.S. president (born left-handed but forced to change)"
-----------------
"Everyone is born left-handed. You turn right-handed when you commit your first sin." -- sign on Norman Schwarzkopf's desk.
[ June 24, 2003: Message edited by: Eugene Kononov ]
Jim Yingst
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That was true in this country as well, though fortunately the idea was mostly dead by the time I was born.
John Smith
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That was true in this country as well, though fortunately the idea was mostly dead by the time I was born.
Yeah, thanks Jim, I added to my post before I read yours. Sometimes I get a feeling that America today is Russia 50 years from now.
Richard Hawkes
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Originally posted by Eugene Kononov:
In elementary schools, the lefties were forced to write with their right hand.
Lefties? That would have been all Russians right
Jim Yingst
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"Ronald Reagan: actor, California governor, U.S. president (born left-handed but forced to change)"
Really? Hadn't heard that one. Of course, the reverse was true for his vice-president, for somewhat different reasons...
Michael Morris
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Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
Almost all the men in my family do at least one thing left-handed.
!!!
(I won't say it... nope, nosiree...)

My only ambidextrous ability.
Manav Mitra
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:

I'd sure like to answer those, since I have two kids.
It doesn't occur to me tell my child how the world is; I am far more interested in what they see and how they express their view. My son in 8 and doesn't think there is a God. My daughter doesn't seem to care much about the question.
I would prefer that my children be happy and treat themselves and others well. Whatever belief system gets them there is fine with me.
Why would an atheist necessarily be a pessimist? Why would anyone who believes in a God necessarily be an optimist?

I wholeheartedly agree with Michael!!
- Manav
Michael Ernest
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Being left-handed seems like a pretty decent advantage in basketball. At 5'8" I'm not too imposing on the court, but a little agility and a left-handed shot go a long way. I don't get my shots blocked nearly as much as right-handers the same height do. But to my earlier point, there just aren't any left-handed catchers in baseball. The disadvantage at that level of play is so acute that no one even considers a left-handed catcher, period.
Now, since I helped start this drift, I'll try to steer back a little:
*I* think the greatest potential for atheism is one that is defined by an affirmation of the observable world, rather than the negation of other belief systems. Many facets of atheism derive their ethos by reacting against belief in a Supreme Being; that's historically accurate. But given the postulates of some religions -- that there is a conscious, active higher power Who intervenes in or simply shapes human affairs, or a passive, indifferent Power that nonetheless maintains influence over what happens to all of us -- it seems likely that the most strident voices in atheistic policy merely parallel the absurdity of god-myths taken as literal truths.
When Pirsig hypothesized that there are an infinitude of hypotheses for every scientific test we can devise, I believe he meant that the idea of God is one of many hypotheses. It's also one of the most compelling and satisfying hypotheses put forth on why we're all here. But no would confuse compelling and satisying assumptions as provable or even reasonable information. So why get so upset at the rejection of the idea of God? It doesn't appear to threaten whatever it is so many of us want to know and can't know, does it. Or is it just that some would-be atheists enjoy watching believers get caught up in the absurdities of their own religious legacies?
Any theistic structure in its highest form, I think, would promote religious practice as a way for the individual to understand as well as they can what God is. If that search starts with the premise that He must be out there, not that He might be, then the search is simply flawed; I see no distinction between a search based in reason or faith, on that point. Faith is not the emotive necessity of presuming one's beliefs are true. Faith lies in continuing the search despite overwhelming evidence that suggests, maybe even appears to prove, the contrary.
Religious forms like Catholicism in my opinion go too far by asserting not only the existence (and the likely temperament!) of God, but a complete, fantastic and untenable structure of other-wordly energies and rules that shape and guide human action. Many religions try to codify the otherworld of spiritual forces, and yet virtually all those same religions also assert that God is unknowable; God is beyond the comprehension of a mortal mind.
Well, which the f*** is it? Is God unknowable, sp the best we can do is make social contracts that bind us believers are to a common vocabulary, a common form of practice? Have many of us given up on an ethical form of search and settled on absolutes because it's frustrating to reveal our ignorance to our children, undermines human authority to suggest that human authority is just a made up thing with no foundation other than survival of the group?
The history of math and science is utterly plagued with the same problems: straight lines, indivisible atoms, cold fusion. The only difference I see is that the defenders of math and science often leave themselves the prerogative of being wrong. Which id good because on any given day a well-respected mathematician is just as likely to have his head up his ass as a priest is likely to have a favorite altar boy (no lightning bolts yet...).
For a free burrito: who said wisdom begins when a person who says "I don't know?"
[ June 25, 2003: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
John Smith
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ME: *I* think the greatest potential for atheism is one that is defined by an affirmation of the observable world, rather than the negation of other belief systems. Many facets of atheism derive their ethos by reacting against belief in a Supreme Being; that's historically accurate. But given the postulates of some religions -- that there is a conscious, active higher power Who intervenes in or simply shapes human affairs, or a passive, indifferent Power that nonetheless maintains influence over what happens to all of us -- it seems likely that the most strident voices in atheistic policy merely parallel the absurdity of god-myths taken as literal truths.
You are obviously a talented writer, my friend, although your linguistic constructs seem to overpower the meaning they carry. It's either that, or I simply lack the reading comprehension skills. Confessedly, the latter is more likely, given my cultural background, although your writing style is also certainly un- (if not anti-) American.
In particular, I am not sure I follow your line of reasoning. It seems to me that a theist who starts with an assumption that there is God is as closed-minded as an atheist whose assumption is that "things that I can't see or prove do not exist". Is that what you are trying to convey to us? Or are you saying that an atheist is in a superior starting position?
Eugene.
Michael Ernest
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You see how I write when I'm in a hurry. To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, I'd make it shorter and simpler if I had more time.
Earlier I suggested atheism is really a form of philosophical materialism; I'm backing away from that now. What I mean now is that atheism in its best form doesn't see hold an a priori higher power accountable for the natural universe. I don't think what I'm calling "true atheism" refutes or even denies that a God can exist, but simply points to an utter lack of compelling evidence. "A-theism" seeks answers that eschews faith as means to finding the answers they're seeking.
After all, someone who actively denies God exists is someone I would call anti-theist, not a-theist.
John Smith
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Earlier I suggested atheism is really a form of philosophical materialism; I'm backing away from that now. What I mean now is that atheism in its best form doesn't see hold an a priori higher power accountable for the natural universe.
Thanks for that clarification, Michael, although now I am disapointed. I was looking forward to a great fight, but now that you backed away from your earlier proposition, we all seem to agree, so there is nothing to fight about. That is, unless the Texan boy can throw something heavy at us ambidextrously.
[ June 25, 2003: Message edited by: Eugene Kononov ]
Jim Yingst
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I was looking forward to a great fight,
We can always try something like "did left-handers fare worse under Communism or under Fascism". :roll:
John Smith
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JY: We can always try something like "did left-handers fare worse under Communism or under Fascism".
Illegitimus non carborundum.
Richard Hawkes
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Originally posted by John Dunn:
Yes! This is an awesome book and IMHO a must read for developers. It definitely got me to re-examine the way I shyed away from learning new things around the time C went to C++....I've never stopped learning new things and picking up current skills
When I first started it I thought it was just going to be a Sophie's World type of general philosophy discussion, but its full of many practical ideas. I'm just starting on his chapters about "gumption"! I can see how you might be inspired to rethink how you tackle technical problems. If it changes my life, I'll let you know
[ June 25, 2003: Message edited by: Richard Hawkes ]
John Dunn
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It's been some time since I've read it, so I don't remember the topics, per se; (which means I should maybe re-read it.) I only keep books I want to re-read or feel I'll give away b/c they're worth the read. I kept this one to re-read.
I do remember how he talks about the fear people have with technology, when what we need to solve the problems is available and just needs to applied. (i.e. the manual.)
Now and again, I notice that fear other developers. Ask them to switch database drivers and they'll freak out. (And I don't mean the eve before a big release, either.) Or better yet, ask them to install a new release of some server and the panic sets in...


"No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does."
Michael Ernest
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Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?
Bert Bates
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Lefties rule!
I do everything lefthanded except play hockey and guitar. It has always seemed to me that 'normal' guitar playing favors lefties, most of the complex stuff uses one's left hand more than one's right. Seems also true for orchestra stringed instruments...
Anybody know why these instruments are 'backwards'?


Spot false dilemmas now, ask me how!
(If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
Jim Yingst
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All right, Bert! Another reason I like you.
I never played a stringed instrument, so I dunno. How does it typically work for guitar - left hand on frets, right hand on pick (or barehand or whatever you call it)? Would this correlate at all to melodic and harmonic complexity vs. rhythmic complexity? Traditional western music typically favors the former, while many other world musics favor the latter, I understand. I wonder if the approach to playing a sitar for example is significantly different from a guitar in this aspect - would they position the right hand where it can handle rhythmic complexity, while a guitarist has the right handling harmonic complexity? No idea what the answer is; just wondering. And some lefties have restrung their guitars to accommodate their left-handedness, haven't they? Jimi Hendrix is the one the comes to mind.
On another note, I was recently reminded that the QWERTY keyboard seems to favor the left hand slightly, as commonest letters E, T, A are all on that hand. Though my own typing still sucks. Perhaps it would have been worse if I were a right-hander, perhaps not. There's been some recent rebuking of the "QWERTY myth" which may or may not be valid, but no one seems to have contested the part of the myth where QWERTY was originally designed to slow down typists to prevent keys from getting stuck because they had been hit too closely together. So perhaps this is a case where today's lefties benefit because QWERTY was intentionally designed against the majority case. Very strange.
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Bert Bates:
Lefties rule!
I do everything lefthanded except play hockey and guitar.
That's funny... the only thing I do left handed is play hockey?!


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
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Jim Yingst
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Separated at birth? Or evil twin maybe.
Michael Morris
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
That's funny... the only thing I do left handed is play hockey?!

What's Hockey?
Amitabh Sharma
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:

It doesn't occur to me tell my child how the world is; I am far more interested in what they see and how they express their view. My son in 8 and doesn't think there is a God. My daughter doesn't seem to care much about the question.
I would prefer that my children be happy and treat themselves and others well. Whatever belief system gets them there is fine with me.
Why would an atheist necessarily be a pessimist? Why would anyone who believes in a God necessarily be an optimist?


Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
[AS]: On this note I would like to hear your answers to these questions:
I pretty much agree with Michael Ernest's answers, but feel like elaborating:
Would you tell a child that there is no God?
A child, or my child? The latter is currently hypothetical, but if I had a child I would probably wait until the subject came up, and then say that I don't believe there's a god - but the kid would be encouraged to learn some more about the idea and decide for him-/her- self. At younger ages this might simply translate as "no, there is no god" but I'd be sure to clarify my view as the child matures and is better able to understand what I mean.
Would you prefer your child to be an atheist?
Oh, I suppose I'd prefer an atheist, but that's not very important to me.
Are all atheists pessimists?
I don't think so. We just reject certain forms of deluded optimism.

I apologize for responding so late.
I think primarily those people who are unhappy with their own lives in some way are the ones who begin to question God's existence. If your parents were not atheists then probably you too started out as a boy who believed in God (not talking about religion here). Then the way things happened in your life being an intelligent person you had to question if there really is a power called God who is just and who fixes things. And an atheist is born. So IMHO most atheists are sad people and thereby pessimist. Because I want my child to have the comforting idea of God being there for him I will lie to him that there is a God looking out for him.
Once you start to accept that there is no God, no simple laws of justice and so on there is no way you can be an optimist. Faith in God definitely helps in times of major difficulties. That is why old people are more religious and the younger population is more likely to be bold enough to be an atheist.
I commend M.E. and Jim Y. for being confident enough to not believe in God and have faith in your own abilities. Also for being honest to your children about your own believes.
[ July 02, 2003: Message edited by: Amitabh Sharma ]
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Michael Morris:
What's Hockey?

http://www.nhl.com
Michael Morris
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

http://www.nhl.com

So that's where they got the idea for those game tables in bars!
John Smith
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Originally posted by Amitabh Sharma:

Because I want my child to have the comforting idea of God being there for him I will lie to him that there is a God looking out for him.

What does that mean, -- you don't believe in God but you will tell your child that there is God? Are you serious? How about you being there to comfort your child?
Richard Hawkes
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Originally posted by Amitabh Sharma:
I think primarily those people who are unhappy with their own lives in some way are the ones who begin to question God's existence... Once you start to accept that there is no God, no simple laws of justice and so on there is no way you can be an optimist.
I think many atheists will disagree. Some people simply don't believe in God, and that's all there is to it. It doesn't necessarily follow that they are more or less unhappy with their lives than anyone else.
I could just as easily claim that the most religious believers (such as reborn Christians) are so devout because of unhappy past experiences in their lives. There are many stories of people who have saved themselves from drink, drugs, crime etc by turning to God and the church, yet I'd say that (all other things being equal) the average Christian and the average atheist would be just as content with their lives.
Jim Yingst
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"I used to think that life was unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse, if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."
- Marcus to Franklin, "A Late Delivery From Avalon" (J. Michael Straczynski, writer)

[ July 02, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
R K Singh
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I think primarily those people who are unhappy with their own lives in some way are the ones who begin to question God's existence.

What are you saying man?
I am questioning existence of God since I was in class 3rd.[age 7 yrs.][I dont remember anything before that or its not very clear]
I think I am/was as happy and being taken care by my parents as you or anyone else. and still I think I got the best parents as anyone could think abt their parents.
If your parents were not atheists then probably you too started out as a boy who believed in God (not talking about religion here).
My parents are religious.
And for them I do worship God.
If it makes them happy I dont mind visiting temples or to light Agarbatti in the morning in Puja room.
So IMHO most atheists are sad people and thereby pessimist.
Oh bro,
I think I am more capable of believeing in myself because I dont belive in God.
Because I want my child to have the comforting idea of God being there for him I will lie to him that there is a God looking out for him.
I think I will show him everything and let him decide what he wants to believe.
But that is for sure that I wont lie to him.
I cant lie.
Once you start to accept that there is no God, no simple laws of justice and so on there is no way you can be an optimist.
I would prefer to believe in Laws of courts of the country where I am living, which are also more or less like God's law.
Faith in God definitely helps in times of major difficulties.
Agree with you .. we need some one to blame OR look upon in the time of crisis, some call it fate, some call it God.
That is why old people are more religious and the younger population is more likely to be bold enough to be an atheist.
I could never understand this funda of Generation Gap. IMO there is nothing like generation gap.


"Thanks to Indian media who has over the period of time swiped out intellectual taste from mass Indian population." - Chetan Parekh
Amitabh Sharma
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Originally posted by Eugene Kononov:

What does that mean, -- you don't believe in God but you will tell your child that there is God? Are you serious? How about you being there to comfort your child?

That is somewhat true. My son is just 8 months old so this question is not going to come up very soon. But yes if he asked me this question at an early age (say 5- 15 years) I will tell him that "yes there is God". I think that is good for him. Let me clarify about my own beliefs, I am not a "complete" atheist. I question God's existence from time to time. But I cannot confidently say that there is no God.
[ July 03, 2003: Message edited by: Amitabh Sharma ]
Michael Morris
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Originally posted by Amitabh Sharma:

Exactly. My son is 8 months old now so I dont really have to worry about these things right now.
What I mean is that even though i am not convinced that God fixes anything, I am going to bring him up as a normal kid i.e., he will say his prayers, visit temple once in a while and so on.

Umm, this is interesting. Why, if you are convinced that God does not exist would you tell him otherwise? I can see letting him come to his own conclusions later in life and you explaining your understanding but not teaching him something contrary to your own beliefs. What happens when he finds out that you don't believe and you have been hypocritical? It would seem to me that someone who claims to be an atheist yet tells their own children otherwise is not so convinced that they are right.
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Michael Morris:
Umm, this is interesting. Why, if you are convinced that God does not exist would you tell him otherwise?

Did you tell your children that there was a Santa Claus?
 
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