While at the pool last night, I was sitting around with a group of people, I wouldn't call them friends, but the discussion of my atheism came up in a round about way and I could tell people were uncomfortable. One person made a comment about relating atheism to satanism which I'm sure is a common misconception, although one that the religious would love to have everyone believe. However the comment that got me going was when someone said "everyone has to believe in something", at which point I said, well sure and I believe in human beings. The conversation pretty much ended after that. I'm sure that left the person unsatisfied and I wanted to go further but didn't. So I was hoping for some suggestions or comments how to address the comment.

 

How would you handle that remark? What would be your answer to this? I would love to hear thoughts.

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What you're talking about isn't faith, it's belief based upon repeated behaviors and observations.
Andrew, You have described it perfectly in one brief sentence.   I just came from a luncheon, complete with an invocation. Being deaf, I didn't hear a word of it.  But everyone put their head down, so it was a prayer or everyone but me was 'nodding off'.  This I doubt, as it was only a bit after 12 noon.  :-)

Tonights guest on the Podcast is Richard Carrier, here is answer to the question,

So what do you believe in?

I believe in many things. I believe in the potential of humanity, in the power of reason, in the comfort of love, and in the value of truth. I also believe in the beauty and joy of human experience, and the nearly unlimited power of the human will to endure almost any hardship or solve almost any problem.

I believe that faith can mislead people into falsehood, and that we need reason and doubt as necessary checks against our capacity for error. I believe that we need to allow our fellow human beings to make choices for themselves and to live the life they wish to, in mutual peace and goodwill.

I believe that political negotiation and compromise -- fuelled by an honest measure of respect for different opinions, beliefs and lifestyles -- is the only way the world will find universal peace and goodwill, and that using the scientific method is the only way the world can arrive at an agreement on the truth about anything.

I believe that it is better to preach the gospel of "be good to your fellow man, and love each other as life itself," than to preach the gospel of "believe in our religion or be damned." For it is better to be good to each other and to build on what we all agree to be true, than to insist that we all think alike.

The three things everyone (who wishes to function normally) must believe in: 1) I exist 2) The outside world exists 3) There is something that I can know about the outside world. Everything else is exploration and free choice

When someone says that to me, my reply is:  I believe I'll have a beer, and go get one.

'I believe in evidence, exploration, common sense and beauty'
I believe that a friend with weed is a friend indeed
I would tell him I have good news for you & I have bad news.  The good news is there IS no satan or hell. The bad news is there is no god or heaven.  This is it. It's all you get, regardless of WHAT you believe.

Adrienne's response reminds me of something I have said before in similar situations but forgot to mention yesterday.  The person was confusing atheism with nihilism.  Point out his ignorance:

 

"You realize that atheism is not the same thing as nihilism, don't you?"

 

This will then give you an opportunity to explain that atheism is not the same thing as having no values, which is what the person was really trying to imply.

And if they continue to give you flak, threaten to cut off their Chonson!

"what makes you think I won't cut you?"
My first instinct would probably be a to make a bit of a silly smart arse remark along the lines of "I believe in plenty of things, like people and lemonade and toilet paper...I just don't believe in God".

On a more serious note, however, I think a distinction must be made between having "belief in" something, and having the "belief that" something is the case.

Believing in something can mean believing that it exists (e.g. "I believe in fairies") but it also means putting your trust in something (e.g. "I really believe in you")

If belief in God is used in the latter sense, meaning that you place your trust in God, then this attitude automatically presupposes that such a being exists.

You can't trust in something if you believe that no such thing exists.

So perhaps "I believe in human beings" is a much more sensible response after all, if it means that you place your trust in people (rather than in a great imaginary magician in the sky).

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