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Mapraputa Is
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Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
TP: Well, no. Agnostics say exactly the same thing and they aren't atheists. An atheist takes the positive belief that God does not exist. It is a faith in that sense. An agnostic says that there is no evidence either way so they neither believe nor disbelieve.
The American heritage dictionary:
1.a. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
b. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
2. Godlessness; immorality.

for the "2".

"Disbelief in the existence of God" is what the author means. I agree that it would help to distinguish between atheism and agnosticism, but in practice the distinction is blurred. I checked B. Russel's article on this topic, and he said that strictly speaking he considers himself agnostic, but practically this means he doesn't believe in God and this is very close to atheism, and many people do not understand the difference, so he often calls himself "atheist".
They say that god can not exist but that is a faith because they have no scientific basis to say that the existence of god is impossible.
They say that the very definition of God is self-contradictory to start with, so the God how it is defined cannot exist.
JW: Therefore it is indeed a religion (though atheists would never acknowledge that).
Actually, atheism in the form it was practiced in the Soviet Union has a lot in common with religion. One thing, all children were taught in school that there is no such thing as God before they could evaluate the arguments. Another, all college students without exceptions had to take "Scientific Atheism" class and pass the exam. And of course in those classes non-existence of God was questioned no more often than existence of God in churches.

I noticed that many people appeared to believe because they thought it was expected of them (If you ever watch TV Evangelist shows, you'll see this happen. Nobody ever jumps up and says "Hang on! That doesn't make any sense at all!" - everyone sits there, nodding and Amen-ing at everything the preacher has to say. Don't talk while the vicar is speaking, don't question, just listen and accept it. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing)
Adrian Barnett. Why do people become atheists?

-- the same could be said about our atheistic classes.
Certainly there are atheists who are atheists because they were brought up this way, just like there are Christians because they were born in predominantly Christian society, Muslims because they were born in Muslim society etc., but this doesn't mean all atheists are atheists only because they did not/cannot examine their beliefs. Many of them are, in fact, former believers; here is one explanation how "spiritual devolution" happens (from the same source):

Many of the rules and regulations laid down by religion tend to be arbitrary or irrational, and those that are not do not appear to be Divinely Revealed anyway. People lose their faith when their religion has nothing substantial to offer, and better answers, philosophies and ways of life can be found elsewhere.

[ October 13, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]

Uncontrolled vocabularies
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Jim Yingst

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
Of course, if your beliefs are somewhere on the border between these two groups, then it doens't really matter whenther you identify as atheist or agnostic; either way you'll have no shortage of people giving you tedious lectures about what you really believe any time the subject comes up. :roll:
I'm not interested in defending the bulk of the article Map cites, but I do like the unicorn analogy. I don't believe in unicorns. If pressed, I'd say that I'm pretty sure unicorns don't exist, but I suppose that I can't claim to have absolute proof of that. After all, they're supposed to be very elusive creatures, notoriously difficult to photograph. So OK, if someone else believes they really exist, fine, I don't care that much anyway - I just don't particularly believe in them myself. If someone asks if I believe in them, I say no. If someone asks if I can prove that they don't exists - well no, I can't really. Not in terms that will convince the devout unicornist. Do I therefore assert that it's ultimately unknowable whether unicorns exist? I suppose I could. But this is unsatisfactory, as many people who hear this assertion may well interpret it to mean that I think there's a significant possibility there are unicorns wandering around somewhere in the world. I don't.
For comparison, I'm also not 100% sure that the sun won't go nova in the next 24 hours, but I tend not to worry about this too much, and go about my business as if the sun will still be there tomorrow.
Now evidently some of the pro- and anti- unicorn camps consider it really important to distinguish between "there are absolutely no unicorns, period" and "the existence of unicorns is unknowable", and whether either of these groups should be considered a religion. Unless and until one of those groups starts getting tax breaks for being a religion, I don't really care either way. I'd just like to be able to say "I don't believe in unicorns" without a bunch of people quibbling over which group I'm really in.
For those who consider these issues important, please answer the following, so we can get a better idea of where people stand:
Do you believe in unicorns?
Is the existence of unicorns unknowable?
Is Aunicornism a religion?

"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
HS Thomas
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Dunno if this helps, but in the Yellow Pages/Directories no atheist organisations are listed under Religous Organisations. Being religous is synonymous with believing. What the belief is could be just about anything, even the existence of unicorns.

Atheism does not lend itself to forming organisations, by itself.
"We are an organisation that does not believe in God." Well, duh!
There is nothing to focus on. Similarly ,an organisation that does not believe in unicorns has no focus. Everyone knows what a unicorn is supposed to look like and no one has seen one within living memory in the last centuries. So there is little credibility there.
Atheism does surface as part of the dogma of organisations such as the Communist Party. I imagine it would be difficult to be religous AND be a member of a Communist Party.
When 'push' comes to 'shove', who'd you dig deep in your pockets for, to make a substantial donation ?
R K Singh
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:

Why do people become atheists?

Did any one read the funny, sad, inspiring stories in this page ??
I read 3-4 stories, so I might be wrong, but there no one was atheist but everyone was running away from its 'own' religion's God's existence.

"Thanks to Indian media who has over the period of time swiped out intellectual taste from mass Indian population." - Chetan Parekh
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
They say that the very definition of God is self-contradictory to start with, so the God how it is defined cannot exist.
Which definition of God? How did the Universe begin? Where did it come from? Give me an explanation for the creation of the universe which is not contradictory?
The issue of unicorns is a red herring. There are no questions of the universe that can be answered by assuming the existence of unicorns. We have many questions about the creation of the universe and God is a theorem that matches the available evidence. To disregard it because it is "contradictory" is non-scientific.
Atheist: God does not exist.
Believer: Then where did the universe come from?
Atheist: I don't know.
Believer: Then how do you know that there is not some super-human intelligence that created the universe.
Atheist: Because that would be God and God does not exist.

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When technical people are invited to discuss world's greatest civilisations and the philosophies behind those, then eventually the fate of these philosophies is in jeopardy
Please don't hate or think negative about any relgion or code of life because this would lead to antagonism and hostility. We all ( well in 90%cases) accept the religion/philosophy of our parents and the society where we take birth. No body, at least technical people, has time to do some research on the religion before they associate theirself with that. And then "I heared...." phenomenon takes place.
World politics and politicians are the ones who reap most out of fatalities based on any divide among people of the world. You may take the example of Brundi and Rwanda where local politicians gained most of Huto and Tusti tribe wars, or take India and Pakistan, where whenever the politicianes from both ends of divide found internal troubles they would amass troops on the borders to distract people from the issues they face due to poverty, security and joblessness. If I go a little further, 9/11 gave Bush a more time and a perpetual issue so all the time he can do whatever and where ever he wants to invade and ask its people he is doing it for people of US, as a matter of fact its giving him a pretext to save face from his people where joblessness and financial problems is the real worry.
So my friends, I agree with the name of this heading as "Meaningless Drive".
Don't hate people based on their religions as they have little to do while associating theirself with that religion, because they inherit it from their parents like any other thing that they may get from their parents and have little time to study other religions and the beliefs.
------------ Love for all the people of the world -----------------
Jim Yingst

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
[Tom]: The issue of unicorns is a red herring. There are no questions of the universe that can be answered by assuming the existence of unicorns. We have many questions about the creation of the universe and God is a theorem that matches the available evidence.
I think the existence of God is more an axiom than a theorem, and to me it just replaces the questions with different questions.
The unicorn analogy wasn't intended to imply that unicorns and god are equally credible. But my point was that it's possible to just say "I don't believe in unicorns" without people putting stupid arguments into your mouth because all nonbelievers in unicorns must think alike. Would that this were true where God is concerned.
To disregard it because it is "contradictory" is non-scientific.
Mmmm, I'm not sure what Map meant about what "they" say; I'll leave it to her to explain or defend. While some definitions of God may be mutally exclusive, and some may even be self-contradictory, I don't believe all or even most such definitions are self-contradictory.
However I will note that if something really is self-contradictory, that would indeed be a perfectly good reason to disregard it, from a scientific perpective. But that's not really relevant here unless someone wants to put forth a particular definition of God which turns out to be self-contradictory. And if it's self-contadictory, well, that person was wrong then; it doesn't tell us anything about other people's definitions of God.
Atheist - one who denies the existence of God.
Well, how strong a denial is required? I don't believe God exists. I believe he most likely doesn't exist. I don't claim to have proof of this, or require that anyone else accept my beliefs for themselves. I think that Tom would probably still classify me as an agnostic - true? It think that absolute atheists as per Tom's definition are pretty rare. From my experience, most people who identify themselves as atheist mean do not mean that they positively deny the existence of god, just that they view him as probably nonexistent. (I think that those who do make more absolute statements about the matter do so mostly because they enjoy riling up theists, not because they sincerely believe what they say. But I may be wrong.) Tom and others may wish to insist that people who call themselves atheists withough making absolute statements denying the existence of God aren't real atheists - well, fine, whatever. Go discuss the matter with a "real atheist" then if you can find one. (Maybe Damian, since he felt like stirring up this issue in the first place?) Meanwhile, there are real people who consider themselves atheists, and dont fit into the box being painted for them. Here are some examples of what self-identified atheists have to say for themselves:
What is Atheism?
Atheism vs. Agnosticism
Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism
The Atheism Web: An Introuction to Atheism
Introduction To Activistic Atheism
I also glanced through the American Atheists site, but couldn't find a good clear overview of what they're about. I suspect you may find more aggressive "there is no God!" statements on their site; my impression is that they attract a more vocal and sometimes obnoxious crowd than some of the other organizations. Maybe they'll be closer to "true atheists" then. :roll: . Part of the problem here is that the people who speak out most loudly about any issue are often the people with the strongest feelings about it. Thus, the views you hear tend to come from more extreme factions, and aren't necessarily representative of the majority. This is true in many aspects of human experience; I think it applies to atheism reasonably well.
[ October 14, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Actually there are a lot of atheists, even by my definition. The Skeptical Inquirer has a slew of them who write on a fairly regular basis. It seems to me that they are found mostly in university science departments where they can enjoy mocking the religious.
Doubting the existence of god is not a big deal to me. Even the Saints have doubted god exists at one time or another.
Mani Ram
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So, in Java terms can I say, given the following program

The responses will be
Atheist: This program won't compile because the class God doesn't exists.
Agnostic: I don't know whether God class exists or not. However, that method call is not necessary for this program and I will comment it.
Theist: God class certainly exists and the class will compile and execute with out any problem.
Religious Fundamentalist: God class EXISTS. It is mandatory to make a getBlessings() call, else the system will crash.
[ October 14, 2003: Message edited by: Mani Ram ]

Quaerendo Invenietis
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
Tom: To disregard it because it is "contradictory" is non-scientific.
Jim: Mmmm, I'm not sure what Map meant about what "they" say; I'll leave it to her to explain or defend.

I referred to this passage:
In many cases, atheists will say "That God does not exist", not because they choose to do so, but because, from the description of the God, it cannot exist due to contradictory attributes. In the same way that a square circle cannot (and therefore does not) exist, a God defined as (for example) all-knowing, yet cannot see into the future, cannot and does not exist because the definition is self-contradictory. If you describe your God with self-contradicting attributes which make it logically impossible, then I may safely say that such a thing does not exist as described. This is not faith - this is reason.

Tom wrote a while ago: Geroge Washingotn was silly? Albert Einstein was silly? Winston Churchill was silly? But Stalin wasn't.
Are you saying that Albert Einstein was a believer? I clicked on GoogleAd for "Biology of Belief" book and just read there:

Notwithstanding his statement to Danish physicist Niels Bohr that “God does not play dice with the Universe,” repetition of this quote in a mythological context was a source of irritation for Einstein. In responding to a letter that questioned the accuracy of an article about Einstein’s religious beliefs, he wrote:
It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
Jim Yingst

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
Map: ahh, thanks. I didn't read all that article too closely since, particularly towrds the end, the author seemed a bit of a schmuck. So let's see - Barnett is taking about how "in many cases" there are particular attributes people ascribe to God which are self-contradictory, and therefore it's possible to say that a God with those attributes does not exist. (While saying nothing at all about whether some other form of God may exist.) That seems a reasonable argument that could be made, if indeed there's a particular description of God under discussion, and we can verify that the description is self-contradictory. Placed as it is in Barnett's web page, the argument doesn't really convince anyone of anything, lacking as it does any verifiable details. It merely describes in vague term a type of argument atheists might make. Not much good without specifics.
Then Tom refers to Barnett and ascribes his words to "them" (all atheists? some vauge subset of them?) and also distorts the Barnett argument to apply to "god" (general), rather than a particular description of him, and also randomly conflates [lack of belief in God] with [belief there is no God] and also with [asserting that God is impossible] with no justification, asserting that they're all the same. :roll:
In retrospect, Map's subsequent statement about what "they say" was perfectly correct. I just had gotten lost in the quagmire of Barnett and Tom's arguments before that point, and glossed over them. Thanks, Map.
[Tom]: Actually there are a lot of atheists, even by my definition.
That could well be true I suppose. I just know there are a lot of atheists who are outside your definition, given that it seems to require the assertion that God cannot exist. But there could well be more "strong ateists" out there than I imagine, as in my own reading I tend to just tune them out as schmucks if they seem to be overly emphatic about their beliefs and have gaping logical holes in their arguments. Then too, there are a lot of close-minded and obnoxiously self-certain believers out there also, but I try not to let that taint my opinion of believers in general.
[Tom]: Doubting the existence of god is not a big deal to me. Even the Saints have doubted god exists at one time or another.
Ummm... OK. So does an atheist who allows for possible doubts still qualify as an atheist, by your definition, or has he lapsed into agnosticisn? I'm still not entirely sure which I am, by your definition. I thought I was excluded, based on my lack of insistence that God cannot exist - but if the believers are allowed to have doubts, maybe the nonbelievers can too.
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: Division of world population.
It's not a secret anymore!