I wanted to ask this for a while.....is it weird to be an atheist and not be into science? I have never really been into science, so that had nothing to do with my becoming an atheist. For me, I just figured out all of the superstition, and silly stuff credited to god and religion were bull.
I guess I just need to meet more atheists, and remember that we are not all alike. We think different things, like different things and are as individual as any other group out there. It just feels to me, sometimes, like scientific minds reach this more quickly or easily. I could be wrong....
Agreed. I'm scratching my head on Madhukar's comment.
Atheism is lack of belief. Absence of belief. It's the default stage. Infants do not believe. Whether they are capable of believing or not is irrelevant. The important fact is that there is an absence of belief. That makes them atheists.
In addition, Madhukar, EVERYONE on this planet is an atheist to one degree or another. For instance, a Christian does not believe in Odin. That makes him/her an atheist as it pertains to Odin and other Norse gods. A Buddhist does not believe in Allah. That makes them an atheist.
As Dawkins famously said to a Christian, "You are also an atheist. I just believe in one less god than you."
I like Dawkins' comment very much, and also the observation that as Northern Hemisphere children reach a certain age, and figure out that Mom and Dad are the people who fill the stockings and put the packages under the tree, we become a-Santa-ists.
I sort of miss that bit of trickery. When I was very young, my parents did the whole living room after my sister and I fell asleep on xmas eve; the stockings, the tree, candles, holly, mistletoe, everything. Waking up on xmas morning was magical. Like walking into a wonderland. Except...we weren't allowed to open anything till Dad shot about two full rolls of 35mm Kodachrome slides. Took forever.
Dan and sk8eycat, what is your evidence that a lack of knowledge, and therefore agnosticism, isn't the default?
Without evidence, what do you have but faith?
"Agnostic" was a sort of satirical word that Thomas Huxley made up about 150 years ago. It pretty much means the same thing as "atheist," it just doesn't carry the emotional baggage and bad PR that "atheist" does. Huxley just thought that a term meaning an "I don't know-ist" was funny.
"Atheism" doesn't mean "an absolute knowledge that there are no gods." It just means a lack of belief in gods. I mean, theists don't have any positive proof that their particular gods do exist, all they have is faith.
A-theists lack that faith. That's all.
Some atheists will say, "There are no gods," in conversation, but most honest ones will say, "I don't know, but I've never seen any good evidence for such a critter." Or something like that.
Theists are the people who claim that their god(s) exist. It's up to them to provide the proof. Atheism will always be the default position until someone comes up with some proof. And it better be GOOD.
"Outrageous claims require outrageous proof." Carl Sagan
PS: There is an orange cat standing on my lap, kneading away. I have to reach around him to type. So if there are any spelling or punctuation errors in here, it's all his fault! This time.
sk8eycat, I'm feeling a need to pick some nits.
"...but most honest ones will say, "I don't know, but I've never seen any good evidence for such a critter." Or something like that."
Your claim is not outrageous, and so does not require outrageous proof. It does however leave me asking what the remaining honest atheists, and the dishonest atheists, will say.
We can each define a word as we wish, or can rely on whatever dictionary we like, but the New Oxford American (NOA) defines atheism as "the theory or belief that God does not exist." This is not agnosticism as NOA defines it. I haven't queried any newborns for their thoughts on the matter but I will be surprised if any tell me your definition is the default.
Finally, in your "...it better be GOOD" does "GOOD" mean "satisfying to the author"?
Again Tom, even if a lack of knowledge is the default it means we are born without a god of any sort. You can't make a decision whether to believe in or not believe in something you don't know exists and thus atheism is the default.
I think maybe the confusion some people have is perceiving the only definition of non-belief as a conscious choice that is excerised knowingly by the individual. While that is true, it is also true that atheism is not limited to that. Why do you think Christian Missionaries were insistent on "spreading the gospel"? If agnosticism was the default position, South American infants would be born with the knowledge of the Christian God and the Missionaries would have went there just to convince them that God did exist. But that wasn't what happened. Missionaries went there to introduce the concept of the Christian God to them. South Americans a thousand years ago didn't even know there was a group of people that believed in the Christian God. They didn't know there was Christianity and thus didn't know there was God. So if you had asked them if they believed I'm pretty sure, if you spoke their language, their response would be something akin to "Who is that?". They didn't even know your God existed until you mentioned it.
Agnosticism is a choice. It is a conscious decision made by an individual who decides that there is no possible way they could know either way. To become agnostic you have to at least know that there are people who believe in a god. You can't be agnostic about an idea you don't even know exists. Even when it is merely mentioned, you become aware.
For instance, if I say to you, "Do you believe in Pruit?" You instantly become aware that someone beleives in something named Pruit. There are 3 paths you can take at this point: 1) Believe in Pruit too. 2) Reject belief in Pruit. or 3) Decide that you can't know either way and become agnostic to Pruit.
Prior to my mentioning Pruit, would you say you were agnostic as it related to Pruit? Of course not because before I mentioned it, you didn't even know Pruit existed.
Such is the state of infants when they are born. Unless you are suggesting that somehow infants are born with inherent knowledge of the arguments for and against the belief in God and due to their undeveloped brains have still managed to decide that they can't possibly know.
Dan, the New Oxford American defines atheism as "the theory or belief that God does not exist."
You, like Humpty, are free to define it as you wish.
I think this discussion triggers on whether you define atheist to be someone who REJECTS religious teachings, or whether an atheist is someone who may simply never have thought about the existence of a deity (if such people exist!). I don't know whether small children would think about the existence of magical beings if they were never talked about -- since I was not raised Christian, I never thought about Santa Claus (except tangentially, since I saw pictures of him in magazines, etc.), but I DID believe in the tooth fairy.
I don't think belief is natural; I think it is taught. But it must satisfy some primal need, because there is evidence of prehistoric funeral customs, which imply belief in a hereafter. I don't think the idea of something beyond us is untenable to those who have no other means of explaining the world in any other way -- I think atheism can only ring true to those who DO have the scientific, historical and philosophical background to understand it.
I guess I'm saying that I think theism is really important and necessary to some people, but that doesn't give them the right to persecute and massacre those who don't follow the same belief system.
I think an atheist can be both... someone who has never been taught, or someone who rejected the religious teachings presented to them.
As for primal need: there is evidence that elephants perform funerals. I don't think this is necessarily a sign that one believes in an afterlife, but rather that something recognizes loss.
I think the only primal need for religion was in the need to understand. When people couldn't explain something about the world, they accredited it to a god or gods. As we learn more about the world around us, we realize we can explain things humans once thought must be controlled by gods with science. Oh, how i love when that happens. I am an atheist because I am OK with the unknown. I know that simply because we don't rationally understand a certain phenomena, it doesn't mean there isn't an explanation we have yet to discover or use to explain. Our species has come a long way in a very short time. I hope that as we continue to advance, more people will understand that there is no need for superstition or the supernatural, but rather become comfortable with saying "I don't know", or find an rational explanation.
Have you ever read about Koko, a gorilla who has been taught American Sign Language, beginning when she was an infant? One day somebody asked her where she would go when she died (or where all gorillas go when they die), and she signed, "Hole in the ground." That's as good as "Dirt Nap," IMO.
I don't plan to take a dirt nap. I joined the Neptune Society years ago...so I guess my shes will be "Phish Phood." Whatever...I don't care as long as no religious words are said when I'm scattered. "Ta-ta!" is enuf.
And...on another subject...I would dearly love to see a world where everyone has the honesty, or courage, to say, "I don't know." Maybe they could add, "But lets fiind out." Wouldn't that be fun?
sk8eycat - i love that story :)