Some people believe that it requires some leap of faith to disbelieve god's existence. This is absolutely idiotic. Atheism is a lack of a belief in god. If you are religious, ask yourself: "Why do I believe in god?" Whether or not you claim to have evidence for your faith, the correct answer is because someone taught you about god. You did not know what god was until someone told you. Either you were taught, or you invented your own version of god, deluded yourself, and poisoned other minds with your falsehoods.

One cannot make the argument that atheism requires a leap of faith. Nonbelief is not an active conscious process. One would not continue throughout their day repeating "I don't believe. I don't believe. I don't believe." Justification of disbelief is a different process entirely. Rejecting belief is an active conscious process but maintaining disbelief is not because there is nothing to maintain. Belief is always an active conscious process. Belief requires constant reaffirmation e.g. "I believe because of this, that, and the other." Disbelief does not require this. Faith can only exist in the presence of a conscious appeal to the mind. If the conscious appeal is gone (or never existed in the first place) then one cannot believe. Arguing for the case of the opposite simply does not make sense. There is no conscious appeal to disbelief. The truth is, god is a concept invented by man.

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Comment by Daniel Rockwell on May 15, 2013 at 8:29am

"You're saying that to a guy who sat on the fence from for about fifty years? Are you counting on the word "directly" to save your case?"

I would argue that you were likely only sitting on the fence about whether or not you should be a believer, not whether or not you actually were one.  If your mind hadn't already made the switch, there would have been no conflict.  You saw the other side, and it drew you towards what you ultimately agreed to be the truth.

You weren't sitting on the fence, you were climbing over it.

Comment by Daniel Rockwell on May 15, 2013 at 8:40am

A person has to be honest with himself.  As I've said a couple of times in this very comment thread, in my mind I can toy with the idea of agnosticism.  I can entertain the notion of neutrality, and admit to myself that there is no way to prove or disprove of God's existence.  He is a possibility (in any form; not necessarily the Christian view).

However, when I get right down to it, I find that I do not believe that he exists.  Sure, he might, no one can prove that he doesn't, but I can never truly accept that.

I know that he is possible, I feel that he is impossible.

And what I am saying is that I believe that everyone (again, who has been presented with any information on the subject) has also made the same on/off switch in their "heart of hearts", no matter what their more rational mind might tell them that they should be thinking.

Perhaps this means that a true agnostic (or an atheist under Joseph's definition) does not actually exist.  Perhaps anyone claiming to have that viewpoint is just lying to themselves.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on May 16, 2013 at 3:24am

Daniel, I didn't know you were with me from about 1958 until several years ago, knowing better than I what was happening. How did you do it?

Or are you finding it easier to change dogmas than to give up the need for a dogma?

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on May 16, 2013 at 5:04am

Daniel, your "I know that he is possible, I feel that he is impossible" reminds me of the words of a man I knew who was nearing a Ph D. in psychology.

He said After the words "I feel", the word "that" precedes a thought, not a feeling.

No one has asked me to complete the sentence "I know that he is impossible, I feel...."

If someone does ask, I might say, "I feel safe in denying her/his/its existence."

Comment by Gary Clouse on May 16, 2013 at 8:29am

Daniel,

  Why would any one think there is a fence? A major precept of religious dogmas is the misconception of absolute opposites. The opposite of black is white. Why is black the opposite of white? Why not green or some shade of gray? Absolute opposites are a logical fallacy because they are often assigned arbitrarily.

 If you accept logical opposites, then the "us vs them" slogans and arguments reinforce this concept. "You're either with us or against us".  "If you are not part of the solution, you're part of the problem", and so on.   If the opposite of a cop is a criminal, then every law abiding citizen who is not a cop must be a criminal.

 Logically speaking, the opposite of black is not black,

 In his book "Stranger in a Strange Land", Robert Heinlein posited the idea of the "Fair Witness", a person trained to only report that which they witness, while making no assumptions. When asked  "What color is that wall?", the Fair Witness may  answer:"The side I see appears to be painted white."

  There is no fence to straddle. Instead there is a broad plain separating small walled cities whose denizens believe only what they are allowed to see within their walls..

Comment by archaeopteryx on May 16, 2013 at 12:06pm

RE: "He said After the words "I feel", the word "that" precedes a thought, not a feeling."

VERY perceptive, Thomas, I like that!

Comment by archaeopteryx on May 16, 2013 at 12:25pm

@Gary - RE: "In his book Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein posited the idea of the 'Fair Witness', a person trained to only report that which they witness, while making no assumptions. When asked  'What color is that wall?' the Fair Witness may  answer: 'The side I see appears to be painted white.'"

I REMEMBER that exact quotation! When I read it, suddenly the shades were drawn, the lava lamp bubbling, my hair was shoulder-length, "Innagoddavida" was cranking on the stereo, and there was the faint hint in the air of a burning substance that was definitely not tobacco.

Oh, wait - that was yesterday --

Comment by Daniel Rockwell on May 16, 2013 at 2:20pm

"Daniel, I didn't know you were with me from about 1958 until several years ago, knowing better than I what was happening. How did you do it?

Or are you finding it easier to change dogmas than to give up the need for a dogma?"

I don't mean to imply so strongly that I know your inner thoughts (especially those that came before I was even born!).  I only have a very strong hunch, based on an above-average layman's insight into human psychology.  I may be wrong (and judging by your response, I would suppose that I am) and you have my apologies.

As for a dogma, the only dogma that I am aware that I have is my own.  If it is inconsistent (even within the same sentence or stream of thoughts), then that is merely because that is the nature of the personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions of anyone with even the most remotely open of minds.  Sometimes the input of others changes your mind, sometimes you change your own mind.  

Generally, I hold all of my opinions to be facts.  I treat them as facts in my mind and when I convey them to others.  If I am not entirely sure of my opinions, to the point where I consider them to be facts, then why bother with having them?

But at the same time, there's a voice of reason and open-mindedness that keeps the door open, and reminds me that my opinions are fallible and are not truly facts, no matter how supported I believe them to be.

And speaking of thoughts and feelings, I do agree with your PhD acquaintance, on the basis that feelings and thoughts are made of the same stuff, only occurring at different levels of the mind.  A feeling is sort of a "proto-thought".  By the time you can consider and articulate a feeling, it has become a conscious thought.  That doesn't change its origin, though.

One of the luxuries of having a human mind is that not all thoughts have to arise from feelings,  and some of our thoughts can disagree with, or even influence, our feelings. (in fact, most of our "morals" do just that; our higher thoughts keep us from acting on our base feelings because our society has agreed that such actions are wrong)

And it is according to all of this that I can say that my higher thoughts tell me that God (while incredibly unlikely) is at the very least possible.  It's not that I don't have thoughts that tell me that god doesn't exist (because once you start consciously considering it, the mind begins generating all kinds of excellent rationalizations against his existence) and my opinion (which I hold to be the utmost truth) is that he does not. It's just that among those thoughts, there is the one little voice that arises from logic, reason, diplomacy, and open-mindedness that says "God is a possibility (though perhaps not as defined by man), because there is no proof that he does not exist"  

The little voice that says "you may be wrong".

Underneath it all, though, there is a subtle bubbling that is trying to shout down that last bastion of diplomacy.  There is a feeling that God cannot exist, because the entire notion is just foolish and wholly unfounded.  This feeling is not consciously controlled.  In order to keep the door open for that tiny crack of possibility, I have to fight this feeling.  It is the same with all opinions.

I'm going to be rolling a response to Gary's message into this one as well.

The truth is simply that belief in God (once you are aware of the concept) ultimately IS a case of absolute opposites.  There are two defined answers to the question.  A person believes either that he does, or that he does not exist.  There are no other options.  This really is a "black" vs. "not black" situation.

In this case, "not black" incorporates every possible shade of thought on the matter that is not the belief that he exists.  If you do not believe that God exists, then you fall on the other side of the fence.

But the problem (as I see it, of course!) is that ultimately, every shade of non-belief that one can claim to have boils down to actually believing that he does not exist.  You can say that you are unsure, or that it is impossible to know, or whatever other flavor of non-belief you adhere to, but when you get right down to it, you believe (or at least suspect) that he does not exist.

It comes back to the above.  Your higher thoughts are tossing around the notion that God is possible, or that you honestly can't know for sure, but the undercurrent has already made up your mind.

So a struggle with what you believe on this subject is not really a struggle over deciding what you believe.  It is a struggle over accepting what you believe.  Again, climbing that fence (and perhaps getting pulled back down, or losing your grip along the way).

Comment by archaeopteryx on May 16, 2013 at 2:55pm

My own thought, Daniel ( yeah, I know, "Who asked you?" Right?) is that that one minute particle of doubt, which you so well expressed, is simply not enough to waste a minute of my short life considering. Like the song says, "I got a lot of livin' to do --"

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