** Begin at the beginning -- what's the correct question?
Assuming that you're not another xian troll looking for a paper topic at some xian madrasa -- like Liberty U or Oral Rob U --
Then -- here's the Straight Dope. If your question means (as it probably does) what do atheists *believe in* -- then you're asking exactly the wrong question. That's a question coming from the wrong framework of understanding -- a religious, big-3 monster-theism western bias -- a perspective inculcated by religious institutions to benefit their holy ponzi schemes and fund their secular political power grabs.
What do xians have to believe-in to be orthodox -- fundies, catholics, even borderline cases like 7th day adventists -- a common creed -- a set of beliefs-in that is exactly 1,688 years old -- you've probably had to recite it in public many times.
It'll be a close variant of the Nicene Creed put together by orthodox xian bishops in 325 CE in a once important Roman city in Asia Minor (now Turkey), Nicea. For details, just check Wikipedia -- if you can write to this site, you can search there. As the Catholic Encyclopedia proudly crows -- "The profession of the Christian Faith common to the Catholic Church, to all the Eastern Churches separated from Rome, and to most of the Protestant[s]...." Not even the catholic haters can deny the Nicene creed -- something fundies ruefully admit although very much in the footnotes.
Otherwise, you're some sort of heretic -- mormon, universalist, quaker, xian scientist... OK -- that's your belief structure, like it or not.
The very short atheist viewpoint -- atheists believe-in nothing -- no faith-based statement has any claim to knowledge at all. For example, atheists reject the xian "God" -- Father/Son/Holy Spirit -- so much fiction and useless mythology.
Atheists offer reasons (based in logic or science or history) for not believing that the xian "God" exists. Note the key phrase here: believe-that -- reason ranks higher than trust in ancient hearsay in matters great and small.
In short -- xianity is not a fact-based view of reality; scientific theories are our best current view of reality, though ones not immutable, but always changing in detail, and sometimes in substance -- like modern evolutionary theory, or Einstein's theory of Gravity -- the General Theory of Relativity.
Rather than pursue the topic further -- you might consider buying (as I did recently) a copy of Atheism for Dummies (McGowan 2013) -- as good a guide as any atheist could wish others to read.
happy exploring -- just remember don't confuse believing-in (trusting in what you're told) with believing-that for good reasons -- a totally different epistemological viewpoint.
Hi Mercedes – Do you believe that you are empowered by your faith?
What you might consider doing is to get a pen and paper and write down the 5 most important beliefs about your faith. Beside each gives reasons why you hold those beliefs to be true without saying because the Bible says so or because you have always been told that by others. Just do this for yourself privately.
You are very welcome here so please ask anything you like.
Why is this such a hard excercise?
Mercedes! You're still here, I was afraid you had left.
Yeah, it is a lot. Take your time. Go at your own pace.
Some good questions! Honestly, I'm happy that you have come searching out of your comfort zone to actually find out some real answers. Many of us here have often heard ridiculous things repeated back to us as if those absurdities were the honest truth.
So what do I believe? Well let me state that this is simply my opinion. I don't profess to speak for anyone other than myself. I have a few beliefs, but they probably aren't what you are looking for. I believe that most people try to follow the rules that govern us. I believe that people while being capable of both good or evil do good more often in their everyday lives than evil. I believe that being in love is the greatest feeling in the whole world despite the extra stress and heartache that often come with it. I believe that the weissbier from Kloster Kreuzberg monastery is the greatest beer in the world. I believe that the human race will never travel to other stars unless we find a loophole in this whole "speed limit of light" deal. In all honesty, there are far more things that I don't believe. If you'll notice though, you can change "I believe" to "I'm of the opinion" and it makes just as much sense. When it comes to beliefs, it's better to remember that we aren't talking about facts but opinions.
"What is your stance on the Bible? And what about Jesus himself?"
It's far to long and dull. Have you ever tried to read it from front to finish? What a chore! Don't get me wrong, there are some good parts. The Book of Job is one of my favorites. It reads like a tragedy... until the end. It's like someone cut of the ending and pasted on a deus ex machina where the machina is also deus. It's the equivalent of not liking a story that you are reading to a child and cutting it short by saying "they lived happily ever after. The End." Over all the Bible is full of very spotty history and fable for the old testament. Biblical archeology is really big with Israeli universities. There are a lot of excavations that have been found over the last two decades that have really shed light on how little correlation there is between the Bible and history. The New testament... It's got some wisdom in it like all things concerning people, but it's still full of ancient middle eastern culture. Reading through the Gospels, there's a lot that has to do with getting into heaven and being rewarded for living like God says to and not much regarding any other reason. As for the letters from the Apostles and Paul, it's all big on explaining how to be a better Christian. There's not much of what I would call general wisdom in there.
Jesus... well, I highly doubt he was what he was made out to be. I do think that he did preach a new type of religion which focused on redemption for the outcast, helping the poor, sick, and injured, and being rewarded in heaven despite suffering injustice in life. All of these things were (and still are) appealing to the large numbers of people in society who suffered because of the way that society was setup. It's one of the reasons that in stable, developed societies, religious affiliation is starting to wane. I think many of the miracles were tall tales meant to give support and credence to why people should believe in his message. We are found of saying around here that (to paraphrase Carl Sagan who may have been quoting someone else) that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It's the same now as it was then. People weren't likely to believe these claims, but when they heard a story from a trusted source that he performed this or that miracle, then they were more apt to agree.
If Jesus did say some of the things that are attributed to him like "Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world," then I'd say he was kind of a crazy person.
"Do atheists have any central or core values they live by?"
The best way to answer this is by first acknowledging what I said to begin with. I can only speak for myself. What you have to understand is that there isn't an "atheist manifesto." There is no guide book. There isn't anyone whose profession it is to tell you how to live life that you can consult. There is nothing that holds together the atheist community, and if we lived in a culture where religion was non-existent (or at least substantially unimportant), then there wouldn't even be an atheist community! We are a bunch of people from all walks of life and all different places. The only thing that really brings us together is that we are surrounded by religion and feel like we need to converse about how silly we think it is to believe a myth is accurate history (*cough* Creationsim *cough*) so that way we don't go crazy or feel so alone.
But that didn't really answer your question. There have been many many ethicists through human history some of which were wrapped in religion. Thomas Aquinas and Lao Tzu just to toss out some names. Some of them date back to before Christ like the works of Aristotle, Epicurus, or Plato. Many came into prominence with the Renaissance and then the Enlightenment. If you have never really looked at ethics, here's a place to start. I've found after a good bit of reading, that I tend to use a number of ethical ways to determine what I should or should not do. I don't find any one singly satisfying, but many are useful.
Jimminy Christmas, I feel like writing a whole lot tonight. My core values start from a naturalist point of view. I value my life. From that, I value the prolonging of my life and the quality of it. And that's where things get tricky. How does one live a quality life? How does family fit into it? One's place in society? One's friends and their place? So many questions arise from just one value. I suppose that's what I was trying to get at with the subject of ethics. It helps me live a greater quality of life than I would without.
"How is it possible that Jesus never existed? And I believe the Bible is proof that God exists. How does one say it's just made up? Especially since there are so many prophesies that have already come true."
Some people think that. I don't. It seems more likely to me that his life was exaggerated and mythologized to the point where what really happened can't be separated from what is story. Some parts of the Bible are made up. Moses for instance never lived. There was no enslavement of all the Jews by Egypt. Of all the history of Egypt that we still have there is only the most minute of references to them as a people among the Canaanites. In fact, archeological evidence shows that they didn't even practice monotheism until they were allowed to return to their home land after being captured by Babylon. It was then that they got rid of all the other idols, consolidated and edited their religious texts, and became the Jews that you commonly think of.
If the Bible proves God's existence and archeological evidence has shown the Bible to be misrepresentative of history, then what does that make God's existence? If there was really prove for God's existence, then the concept of believing by faith wouldn't be such a big deal. From memory, I can think of John 20:29, Mark 5:34, and Mark 10:52.
Well those prophesies are kinda... made to work. Some of it was hindsight and some of it is outright picking things out of context. Two examples:
Jesus's lineage: There are two different accounts. Neither one matches up. Do you think illiterate peasants really had the means to know their lineage past the memories of their oldest living relative, assuming those memories were correct? Someone along the line decided that he needed to be traced back to a king so they made it work. It doesn't mean it was actually true. Then there was him being from Bethlehem. It comes from Micah, Chapter 5. By verse 5, you can clearly tell that he is talking about a real king that will protect them for a real military threat. He's not talking metaphorically. Micah actually died close to the height of power for the Assyrian Empire. This is an example of taking one line out of context.
It sparked my curiosity. It was taught that atheists have no "center" and that it ends up being whatever you make it.
Let me put it to you this way, if you suddenly woke up tomorrow and realized you didn't believe in God anymore, you might be lost and confused, but you probably wouldn't go out and rob someone. Even without the reasons you currently have for your actions, you still would act similarly to the person you are now. I know because that was me at one point. I realized that I never did anything just because I thought that's that God wanted me to do. Whenever I lacked a reason, I thought about it and came up with a good reason for whatever it was I was doing. Conversely, if I couldn't come up with a good reason, then I just stopped doing whatever it was.
I like this "choosing your center" bit. The reality is that everyone chooses their own core values. Sure you might have been brought up with these particular values, but are you not choosing them? Essentially you are choosing to have those values for yourself.
The interesting thing is that Christians as a whole don't act according to their values as often as I'm sure they would like to think so. If they did, I'd probably like them a lot more. Tales of church group gossip, split factions, broken relationships, people being outcast and shunned, and all other manner of personal human tragedy are as common in a church as they are in any community. Being a Christian doesn't necessarily make one a better person. Just because someone says that they should love and forgive everyone doesn't mean that they will do it. Professing to have these core values doesn't mean a person lives by them. When it comes down to it, people are who people are sometimes because of what they believe and sometimes regardless of it.
So, yes, I do choose my own values. At some point, I like to think that everyone (although it may not actually be everyone) decides what it is that they value in life. I see it as reaching a sort of intellectual maturity and a point where we recognize that we have to own our lives rather than keep going with what we were simply raised on.
Well, that's it! I hope I've been of some help. Feel free to ask anymore questions!
To add my cent and a half worth to what Sagacious said, the part that bothers me most about the New Testament, is the fact that Yeshua (Jesus' real name) is quoted often as saying he believed in the stories of the Old Testament, most of which have been proven to not be true. If he ever actually existed, and didn't know any better than that, then he was no different from anyone else of his time and certainly not a being with supernatural powers.
We read, we research.
That fancy device you use to talk to us on here has access to all the knowledge of the human race. We use it to do our research, very carefully.
Also, many people here were extremely religious in their earlier days, so they (unlike me) speak from first hand experience with religion as well.