Atheism is not an idea Bob. It's not meant to compete with anything. Your obsession with trying to put the rejection of a stupid idea on the same level as a stupid idea will never succeed no matter how desparately hard to try to shove that circle into a square...though I have to say your insistence is remarkable.

@Davis Goodman has chased me around any number of threads here with this insistence, and I'm curious what the rest of folks here think.

For me, religion is just an area where people have competing ideas.  Some religions believe in One God, some in many gods.  Atheism is just part of that range of competing ideas, the one that maintains there are no gods.  There are communities of individuals who self-identify - I am a Catholic, I am an atheist, etc. - and they argue for their positions or against the opposing ideas.  Those can be animated arguments, to be sure, but they are principled.

By contrast, there are people who choose just to oppose another group.  They spend their days railing about how bad or awful or stupid some other group of people are.  For me, these are hate groups.  They aren't making a principled argument for their own idea(s), they are instead simply trumpeting how awful other folks or ideas are.

It's the difference between making a principled argument in favor of traditional sexual morality and being a homophobe.  The former is arguing in favor of a position; the latter is vilifying a group that holds a different practice or idea. 

So which one is atheism?

Is the notion that there are no god(s) a principled idea, which competes with various religious notions that there are god(s) of different sorts?   I think that it is, myself. 

Or is atheism not an idea, and people who self-identify as atheists really aren't advocating for a position, they're just united by their opposition to the ideas and practices of others?  Sometimes here we see this, too, complete with hate-speech like associating religious instruction with "child abuse."

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As Pope B has very capably hit the first and last paragraphs, I'd like to address the middle paragraphs:

This is a faith-based claim.  It has as its basis faith that the notion of atheism is right, and just has to be revealed to more people, even though admittedly atheism makes no claims, offers no guidance, etc.

It also shows an almost irrational belief in humans, in that it expects if they give up one "bullshit" idea that they won't find other "bullshit" ideas that are even worse ;-).

So we've learned that 1) the correctness of atheism is faith-based and presumably not based on evidence or lack thereof; 2) we'd better not give up religion lest we come up with something even worse; and 3) belief in an omnipotent deity of indeterminate existence is preferable to belief in human beings.

I don't know—if nothing else, that's a pretty unappealing defense of religion, Dr.

And once again your position seems to boil down to merely "religion is useful" rather than "religion is true". I keep getting the impression that you and I both know it's baloney, but you're on religion's side as a critically important cultural institution and are wary of those seeking to undermine it's truth-claims. I, on the other hand, am greatly concerned with discerning the truth and take religion's utility to be of secondary concern (i.e., we'll deal with that once we've sorted out fact from fiction). I've noted your example of "energy" as fictional, but I just can't get over how different religion's claims are from what essentially amounts to a convenient and deliberate scientific construct. Ultimate truth will continue to elude us, but I do have a conviction that we can approach it by at least weeding out the clearly wrong ideas. What's your take?

Can we approach better understanding just by weeding out wrong ideas?  No, of course not.  It also requires having new, better ideas to choose in their stead.  


Bob- "It's not a matter of fear, it's a matter of being a genuinely and deeply held view of the world, nothing more.  The "fear" meme is part of your mythology about us, not reality."

Really? I passed a church front sign this week that stated "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

Fear appears to be an essential element of worship. The fear of retribution, eternal damnation, unanswered prayer, etc. Your God is an angry god, no?

"Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom" I believe is a biblical quote from one of the Wisdom books of the Old Testament. 

This is where we trip over translation issues.  While the original is translated into English as "fear" most frequently because that's what KJV did and it's become the common usage, the idea is more like deep respect.   In Catholicism, it shows up as one of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it's never taught as being afraid of or fearful of God.

I am not fearful of retribution, eternal damnation, unanswered prayer or all the rest, nor is my God an angry god (where did that come from?).  

I do think that sometimes poorly educated leaders use fear as sort of last-gasp defensiveness for their own lack of understanding, to get others to comply.  We see this in some modern American politicians (fear of terrorism rather than deeper understanding of the Middle East), in American cultural institutions (fear of lawsuits/legal challenges rather than commitment to good practices)... lots of places.    I am opposed to such approaches, probably because I have somewhat limited patience for leaders who are not well educated. 

Bob- "I am not fearful of retribution, eternal damnation, unanswered prayer or all the rest, nor is my God an angry god (where did that come from?."

Please, tell me you have read the numerous accounts in the Old Testament where your God ordered the Jews to smite, kill, murder, & destroy countless cities and peoples (Gentiles?) who had the audacity to "piss off" your heavenly creator. Or is this a misunderstanding on my part?

It is a misunderstanding. We have no reason to believe that God has ever been angry because that narrative is an old one and not in keeping with modern sensibilities. Clearly anything god-like that conflicts with western-values...was somthing written by infaliable humans who misunderstood God's will. So when it was written that God ordered his armies to murder and torture and pillage and rape and burn and destroy entire have to understand that God never said that but that it was a misunderstanding by the scribes. How do we know that? could an all knowing all powerful all caring God act like that? He couldn' it's obvious he never commanded such a thing. Only a moron would think that. As for evidence? Any primary school student can read random chapters of the first five books of the bible and encounter conflicts and notably nasty behaviour by God. Obviously both versions cannot be correct. Instead they are different points of view...and so while the text itself is considered holy...some of them are somewhat kind of wrong. And that is all the evidence we need. Right?

I've read the Old Testament, sure.   What part specifically do you think should make me feel that fear is an essential element of worship?

Atheism in and of itself is not an idea but a simple rejection of the concept of supernatural beings. If religion is considered a principled idea what are those principles upon which it is formulated? There does not appear to be any uniformity or consistency of thought in relation to the concept of god(s) when you look at the long history of religion. Our civilization has created a plethora of religions that differ substantially from one another. And there remains the insurmountable problem of producing credible evidence to support these myriad supernatural belief systems.

I do have to take issue with your characterization of the atheist attitude toward religious indoctrination as a form of hate speech. We are critical of the indoctrination of naive gullible captured audiences, specifically children. We are not purposefully trying to insult, offend, or threaten anyone by our commentary. I do find it highly distasteful to mold a young mind in a manner that only offers one perspective on matters of religion. Does the fact that a parent/teacher was taught a specific singular belief system grant them the right to teach their offspring/student the same belief system? Or is it more honorable to expose that pupil to the reality that there exists hundreds, if not thousands, of differing religious ideology? True, it might present a great deal of consternation and confusion for the student when they stop and consider the overwhelming choices available and how to decide which, if any, is the correct ideology to follow. But that should be their choice and they should not be expected to always follow lockstep with their family's religious practice.

I cannot offer a principled argument for my lack of belief. There is no need to defend a negative position. On the other hand, Dr. Bob, you and your ilk need to offer something tangible for the atheist to mull over and digest. There is glaring little evidence to be presented thus far.

You sure did.  I think you make some very important points, Belle. 

My two cents worth:

I think the most interesting aspect of this post rather than whether atheism is an "idea" (I hate discussions that descend into definitions of terms), is the reasons why @Bob has raised it. It is true that @Davis has doggedly replied to Bob on various threads reiterating the "rejection of an idea" motif. However, in all the cases that I saw of this it was in response to Bob lamenting that atheism has nothing to offer. 

I was thinking about this and wondered, Bob, if the following is a fair analogy for your view. Imagine a political election where each of the candidates is from a different religion. They all stand up and outline their policies which differ or are similar to each other in varying degrees. At the end of the line is the atheist candidate. All he does is stand up and sneer "all of these others are wrong". When asked his own policies he simply says he doesn't have any.

Based on this, it wouldn't be rational for anyone to vote for the atheist candidate. I wonder if this is what you mean, Bob, by atheism not being the rational choice? The thing is, though, this is where drawing comparisons with atheism and religion is unfair. Rather than atheists positively striding out on election day to vote for the atheist candidate (that would be anti-theism) the atheist position is that he doesn't understand why there is even an election. It is a non-event. Davis uses the phrase "rejection of an idea". It means something similar to this to me.

However "rejection of an idea" I also think is a problematic definition. Imagine a woman who has been raised in isolation from society (for whatever reason) and so has no idea what a God or gods are. When asked whether she believes in God (or gods) she cannot answer because it has no meaning for her. You might as well ask whether she believes in "garblegooks". She cannot reject the idea because she doesn't know what the idea is. And yet she is an atheist, is she not? She doesn't believe in God (or gods).

This has an interesting parallel with the old "everyone is born an atheist" idea. If that is true then atheism cannot be rejection of the idea because babies and toddlers do not reject the idea of God for the same reason as above (they don't yet know what it is). 

Yes...the phrase "chasing around Dr. Bob" on the website was pretty helarious. It sort of gave me the idea of hide and go seek. You are the seeker and you have to find the guy who does world play on all the different threads. Winner gets a big lollipop.

Indeed for "rejection of an idea" you are right. It is not the rejection of an idea at all. This is what people like Dr. Bob end up doing, is having us adopt their terminology after repeating it ad infinitum. I had never used the term "rejection of an idea" until recently but "rejection of a statement".

An igtheist (or ignostic) goes much further than rejecting the statement. The person in your through experiment is an ignostic. They will not accept, reject or think about a statement on religion or god (or anything else for that matter) until it is presented to them. The objects must be clearly defined and some tentative evidence must be presented. Until that happens, the existence of God (or something similar) isn't even a proposition worth debating. It is "not even wrong". I am an ignostic. I don't reject the statement "God exists". Instead, to me, it's a meaningless statement that doesn't deserve a response until I get a defintion and tentative evidence. Dr. Bob has avoided giving even the most minimal of definitions and changes the subject every time evidence comes up. Those who have never encountered god or god like phenomena (there are very few)...are igtheists in that sense...and once presented with some statement of god, will either accept it, reject it or ask for better definition and evidence or go "meh...I don't care"· which is the apatheists response.

Based on this, it wouldn't be rational for anyone to vote for the atheist candidate. I wonder if this is what you mean, Bob, by atheism not being the rational choice?

In some ways, I suppose.  Then you go and dodge the issue with "why there is even an election", unfortunately.   Regardless of whether we have elections or live under The King of the North, we all have choices to make, and if we are rational, we base those choices on ideas.  If we're not rational, we go with whatever our group says or whatever moves our emotions at the time, I suppose.  I don't recommend that, do you?

If atheism doesn't offer a better framework for individuals and for societies to base choices, it's not worth anything.

A woman raised in isolation is sort of a meaningless thought experiment because she has no language, no science, no history, no culture, and no need to interact with fellow humans for good or ill. It's hard to say much of anything. 

Or perhaps that's another illustration that atheism is useless for humans and humanity, because none of us live in isolation?

I'll lay odds, though, that she's not an atheist, but a spiritual animist of some sort.

I think you are correct, though, in that the definition of atheism here I find odd, which is why I was asking.  The atheists I know are a-theists.  They're just not interested.  The posters here, however, define atheism in opposition to theism (a "rejection" of the idea), rather than just indifference and disinterest.  That seems like anti-theism to me.


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