Don't tell me you never had this question asked to you, subsequently to your, usually politely, explaining to whoever asks about your religion, that you're an atheist and do not believe in any god; you're an atheist and do not believe that a god exists; or whatever combination of words you choose.

That's pretty much how it goes.

Even people who know that atheists do not believe in a god will sometimes still assume they share a common set of beliefs or principles, and have common political tendencies.

"So, what do atheists believe?", is their question.

If you ask me, I've had a wide variety of comebacks, depending on my mood at the moment, most of them facetious, but most likely, after explaining that atheists (as a group) do not have a common set of beliefs, I say that *I* believe in love, in humanity and our good faith... just to keep it simple... because, quite frankly, we don't "believe" in science - we find it verifiable. We don't "believe" in the universe and its wonders, we have seen them through amazing telescopes. I guess you get my point.

So what do you, fellow atheist, believe in, or what do you think is the best answer to this question?


Side note: This discussion is focused rather on the best comeback to the question in it, which in this specific context, is always asked as "opposed to your non-belief in god, what do atheists believe?"

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I also agree with that, but I just want to add a big "To the extent of our knowledge" to that. Who knows, we might face a "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" type scenario lol.

@Brian   We don't really KNOW that other people have feelings or suffer because we can't feel what they feel. We seem to analogize from what we go through and make the leap that they must feel something similar by the fact that they behave and respond the way we do.


Think the predicament we'd be in guessing what's going on in others if they had no facial expressions, gestures, and behaviors as an anchor for the analogy.


I'm not sure why you place such emphasis on planning. Some of the worst crimes people commit are simply impulsive. Fits of rage. Jealousy. The attack of a gang of thugs on someone they sense as vulnerable. Are these any less evil than a planned attack?


Actually, in many ways the planned attacks can be sometimes more excusable. Wars are frequently justified to those who plan them, and perhaps to others looking on dispassionately as well.


Capturing territory is something so elemental that even plants do it. Recapturing territory lost to rapacious attacks is something gangs of animals do, as do people.Who's to say it's wrong or evil for them to take what they feel is theirs?


What's evil is always from someone's point of view, and of course it seems to be a concept lost on animals.

I disagree ... I think there were studies that indicate other animals have levels of conciousness. Seems to me it's only our personal conceit that makes us think that way.



You're welcome to your opinion but I'd appreciate references to the studies you speak of. The reference I gave above of Stanford is very comprehensive and admittedly 'consciousness' is a controversial field of study. 


As I said, "I think" there were studies (I recall reading some such) ... I will, however, see if I can find some of the articles though I doubt they'll be "scholarly" in the sense of being direct psychology articles.


EDIT: Hmmm ... you mention Stanford, I typed "consciousness in animals" into Google and it came up with an "Animal Conciousness" page from that a late paragraph of which (7.5) says,


The increasing willingness of scientists to discuss consciousness in animals has also fostered renewed speculation about the evolution of consciousness. Ginsburg & Jablonka (2007a,b) attribute a primitive form of “overall sensation” as a by-product of even the simplest nerve nets in animals, but they argue that it is only as these states became harnessed during evolutionary time to learning and motivation that they acquired the functional properties of “basic consciousness”. They propose that this transition occurred in invertebrates, perhaps as early as the Cambrian. Cabanac et al. (2009) also refer to the motivational properties of consciousness as key to understanding its evolution. Citing evidence that amphibians lack certain physiological, anatomical, and behavioral markers of emotion — e.g., in response to handling frogs do not show a slowing of heart rate (aka emotional tachycardia) — they locate the key transition in the origin of the Amniote vertebrates, the lineage that includes reptiles, birds, and mammals. Edelman & Seth (2009) survey evidence for consciousness in birds and cephalopods, and they conclude that while the evidence for cephalopod consciousness is suggestive, it is not as good as the strong evidence for avian consciousness.


Does that not suggest a willingness by workers in the field to be open-minded about the possiblility and even seems to suggest that the evidence for avian conciousness is quite strong?



I concur with Unseen.

did you know that there is a type of primate (Apes, I think) which actually has organized warfare?? with WEAPONS?

Taxonomically humans are are apes too. We belong to the great ape family

I meant Gorillas, sorry.

sure ? how do you know ?

I tried to find the Nat. Geo article I read it in, but failed. (BTW, it's chimpanzees, not gorillas). Look at the first para

What do you mean? How are we classified as great apes? Assuming that is your question the asnwer is we (scientists) classified us as such on the basis of the available taxonomic evidence (as Stev said).



What do you mean? How are we classified as great apes? Assuming that is your question the asnwer is we (scientists) classified us as such on the basis of the available taxonomic evidence (as Stev said).


Don't believe everything that scientists say.....



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