Category Archives: Atheism

What Is An Atheist?


Not that long ago, I sent out a post asking my readers a series of questions. I don’t think we’ll get many more responses to those questions in the near future, so we’ll being making posts on what we to be the most relevant areas of that post. I’ll begin with a post on Atheism.

If you remember, I asked what atheism is. While most people answered that it is a lack of belief, or disbelief, in gods, we did get some more interesting responses. Here are the most interesting responses that we received:

“Atheism: To believe some thing is living and some thing is non-living is Atheism. To negate ritual and traditions of theist is also Atheism. Atheism is contradictory, thereby it is false.”

“Atheism is just another theism — a theory. You cannot prove or disprove god; Atheists are just stupid enough to try and stop the unstoppable — you can’t stop a belief; it is form of hope. Hope to see loved ones again, a hope life is not meaningless, a hope that something lies beyond the misery of this world.”

As I’m sure many of you already realize, these definitions are wrong. But they made us realize that it is important to actually discuss what atheism is. Defining our terms will help eliminate any miscommunication, and it is also an important step that must be taken before any real education can begin. So what is an atheist? Well, an atheist is defined as “a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.” To call yourself an atheist is to make a belief claim. It is to say that you do not believe that there are any gods. It is not a knowledge claim. To say that you know that there are no gods is to be a gnostic atheist. Most atheists are agnostic atheists, ie. they do not believe that there are any gods, but they won’t say that they know there are no gods. To save time explaining, here is a useful chart:

Agnosticism-Atheism

As you can see, it is possible to be gnostic or agnostic while also being either a theist or an atheist. Basically, if you don’t believe that any gods exist, or that it is likely that any gods exist, you are an atheist. However, if you believe that gods exist, or that it is likely they exist, you are a theist. I feel it is necessary to add that not everybody who is an atheist wishes to label themselves as such, and it is that person’s choice to label themselves as they see fit. But I would like to mention that labeling yourself an atheist adds one more face to the label, which make it harder for people to discriminate and challenges the stigma associated with being an atheist. As such, if you find that you are an atheist, I would encourage you to use the word to describe yourself. It is not a bad word and it does not make you a bad person.

Now to the first quote about what atheism “is.” The commenter wrote that atheism is “To believe some thing is living and some thing is non-living.” If this were true, then everybody would be an atheist. Who doesn’t believe that they are alive and the sidewalk they walk on is not alive? They go on to say that “To negate ritual and traditions of theist is also Atheism.” Many atheists celebrate Christmas. Is this not a theist tradition? Atheism is not about traditions and rituals. It is very easy to believe that the Bible is made up while still celebrating the holidays with your family. Some atheists do negate these rituals and traditions, but that is not what atheism is. Here is a podcast that discusses this very issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IidLsnn1WL8. They conclude by saying “Atheism is contradictory, thereby it is false.” How is atheism contradictory? Nothing in their explanation of atheism contradicted anything else they said (assuming it was true). And the actual definition contains no contradictions either. It is a simple statement of disbelief. To say that atheism is false at this point is unsupportable. In fact, given the actual definition, the only way to show atheism to be false would be to prove that there are gods.

The next commenter said that “Atheism is just another theism — a theory.” Neither atheism nor theism are theories. A theory is “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” Atheism is a belief claim. There is no intent to explain anything. And atheism is the opposite of theism, thus the “a” in from. Theists, as the chart above shows, believe that there are gods, or a god. Atheists believe the opposite. To say that atheists are theists is insulting to both sides. They go on to say “Atheists are just stupid enough to try and stop the unstoppable — you can’t stop a belief.” While there are atheists out there who want to get rid of religion, that is not part of what it means to be an atheist. Most atheists are happy to live in harmony with religious people so long as no one tries to force us to abide by their religions beliefs. While it is difficult, you can actually stop beliefs, at least on an individual level, but that’s really irrelevant. They then claim that “it is form of hope. Hope to see loved ones again, a hope life is not meaningless, a hope that something lies beyond the misery of this world.” While those are pretty words, they don’t really mean anything. Atheists have hope. And this world is not miserable, at least not to most people. Again, most people are not interested in stopping anyone from believing, but the ones that are aren’t trying to take peoples hope away. I had hope when I was religious and I still have hope today. Most people who deconvert feel the same, so the idea that taking away a persons belief will take away their hope is kind of silly.

I’m sure this is all basic information for most of you, but I hope this post will help some of you understand what we mean when we say we’re atheists, and I hope it will help bring about mutual understanding in the future.

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An update on my most basic assumptions.


Well some of you might recognize that what I’m about to say is a little bit different then what I’ve said in previous posts. No worries while it’s more than just a refinement it is still largely the same, just better. Also now with videos :D. I assume the rights to change my mind and further refine things later. Since this will be by no means necessarily complete or flawless. Feel free to suggest additions and corrections.

So my first premise as basically as I currently think they should go.

P1. Knowledge and the pursuit knowledge is better than to wallow in ignorance.

From here we can address the question of reality existing, the whole brain in a vat/matrix scenario.

Since we cannot prove definitely that we exist and that the world we see around us is in fact the reality we actually exist within, but if we stop there, allow for this grand ignorance to overwhelm us then well knowledge is unattainable.

the conclusion we can draw from this first premise is the following.

C1. Since the pursuit of knowledge is better then ignorance we can when be a faced with the option of ultimate ignorance, or the possibility of being wrong about everything we should choose the chance of being wrong.

From that conclusion it is safe to say that reality exists, since if we are wrong we haven’t actually lost anything (since otherwise everything is a lie or illusion).

Which leads (eventually) to the second conclusion that

C2. Reality exists, and we have some means of interaction and learning about said reality (if we didn’t gave some means of learning about reality then we are once again trapped in compete ignorance).

Now for some more basic premises.

P2. There are only natural causes for things that happen in the reality around us.

P3. There is consistency in the causes that operate in the natural world. (this could still mean that physical law change some from part of the universe to another, but so long as this happens in a consistent manner it’s still fine) This means that when we do experiments and make observations to determine the natural causes of reality these finding (should they be correct) will remain consistent elsewhere and at different times assuming all other constants remain the same.

Here is a proper account of what Natural means by Gary Edward which is very clean and helpful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbh5vIimhgk&list=UUrnYMlsoyNeXuYNNh6xkv3Q

What’s lovely about this sort of basic assumptions about the world is that you can possibly determine if they accurately represent reality. Is there consistency within reality, as well it does not exclude the possibility that non-natural things exist with in reality, it just assume they don’t. Though should you prove such supernatural things would exist which you can do you will prove the assumptions that all causes are natural to be wrong. Fail state a useful addition to any axiom or set of assumptions as it allows you to know if you’re wrong. It also allows for probabilistic statement about the probability that your theory is correct.

I’ll be liking once more to Gary as he explains how Naturalism is more probable then a God claim.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXzWt5LWXtA&index=2&list=UUrnYMlsoyNeXuYNNh6xkv3Q

Obviously he has an anti-Christian fundamentalist bend, but then again so do I.

This is a really handy explanation as to how naturalism has a likelihood greater than .5 ublike unfalsifiable claims like many forms of gods, the invisible pink unicorn who watches you while you sleep, and the Celestial Teapot. All of which have probability values of 50/50 or .5.

Withteeth


Why I Can’t Agree With the Bible: Exodus: Part 3


At this point the Israelites are travelling. They have escaped the Egyptians and are travelling to the Canaanite land.
At one point the Israelites look up and see the glory of the lord. What is “the glory of the lord”? There’s no explanation as to what they’re looking at and why it matters.
The people are given very clear instructions about how they will survive. They are told to go out and collect the magic bread to eat. They can only collect so much of it. They are also told not to save any. Why did Moses get angry because some of the people saved their bread? Isn’t it their loss when it goes bad? Later, they are told that they must save some because none will form on the Sabbath day. Why did Moses get reprimanded because some people are forgetful? It hardly seems like a big deal. They had to go out every other day and weren’t allowed to save any. One day the rules change. Who wouldn’t be likely to forget?
The length of time that it took the Israelites to get to the Canaanite land makes no sense. Why did it take 40 years to get to the land of Canaan? It didn’t take Joseph very long to get to Egypt from Canaan. At that rate they could have walked around the Earth and ended up back in Egypt…several times.
Then the Israelites are attacked. This event also makes little sense. So God sent the Israelites to the Canaanite lands the long way so that they would not get scared back to Egypt by an attack, but when an attack comes Moses sends Joshua to fight the attackers off while he stands on a rock with his hands in the air? Why didn’t they just do that to start with? Surely the Israelites wouldn’t run back to Egypt after watching one man defeat an army.
How did Jethro hear about what God had done for Moses? Jethro says “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods.” Did Jethro doubt this before? And we once again see evidence of polytheistic beliefs among the Hebrew people.
We later see more evidence of God’s lack of omnipresence. The Israelites are said to have ate in the presence of God. This means that it is possible to not eat in the presence of God. So he’s not always there.
Thousands of Israelites left Egypt. We know this because Moses needed help managing all the issues. He has people who handle thousands. How did that work? Logistically that would have been a nightmare.
Why did God choose the Israelites over all others? What was so special about them? They seemed to just annoy God.
God makes some odd rules along the way. Why would God decree that anyone who touches the mountain should die? Why is he concerned about animals touching it?
All of the Israelites met God. They saw the smoke and heard his voice, but Moses is told to not let the people near him. It sounds like he’s saying “I dare you.” It also goes against the belief that nobody has ever seen God. Clearly thousands have. At least, they have if the Bible is true.
How is it moral to punish a child for their parent’s actions? Or their grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s? How is it moral to reward thousands for one person’s love? How does that even make sense. If one parent is godly and the other angers God, what happens to the child?
The people already heard God, but they were afraid that they would die if they heard God. Moses response was that they were being tested and that God meant to put fear in them so they wouldn’t sin. How is it moral to scare somebody into obeying you? Isn’t that called bullying? If he doesn’t want the Israelites to sin, why doesn’t God try a better method? Like reasoning? And what is with all the tests? How paranoid is God?
A good portion of Exodus is given over to laws. Many of the laws are odd. “Do not make any gods to be beside me.” So people create gods then? “And do not go up to my alter on steps or your private parts might be exposed.” What? Seriously, what? Is God 12? “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” Right…that seems logical. God seems to really like killing though. He seems to think a lot is deserving of the death penalty. And slaves (at least the male ones) seem to have more rights than women. So many of these laws go counter to today’s moral standards. They fit perfectly into a historical perspective, but they challenge the view that God’s law never changes and God is always the same. Either God has changed, our society has gone so far from God’s path that even the most fundamentalist of Christians or Orthodox of Jews is screwed, or there is no god. “Do not allow a sorceress to live.” But magicians are okay. And are these just Israelite sorceresses or all sorceresses? Seriously, magic was fine a little while ago, what’s wrong with sorceresses? “Whoever sacrifices to any other god than the lord must be destroyed.” This only applies to those who follow this god…right? It doesn’t apply to none Israelites (the being destroyed, not the doing the destroying)? “You must give me the first born of your sons.” In what sense? Do they have to sacrifice them? Or are they supposed to become priests?
Some of God’s laws make the Republicans look bad. “Do not show favoritism to a poor person.” That parts easy for them. But then it says “Do not deny justice to your poor people.” At least these laws show some real morality.
God goes on to say “Be careful to do everything that I have said to you.” We definitely don’t follow half of these laws today. Luckily they only applied to the Israelites. But, if someone believes that the Bible is the literal word of God, shouldn’t they make sure to follow all of these laws? “Do not invoke the names of other gods.” More polytheism. Clearly the Israelites were worshiping other gods. Why would God care if they didn’t exist?
Why does God want to wipe out the other Hebrews? The genealogy says that they are as much decedents of Abraham as the Israelites. And why do they worship other gods? Didn’t their parents pass down the same religious beliefs as the Israelite’s parents?
“I will take away sickness from your land and none shall miscarry or be barren among you.” This is incredibly easy to falsify. This is all that is needed to say that this God is a liar.
“Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods.” So they can talk to the other gods?
At one point it talks about Moses and the elders going up and seeing God. It talks about Gods feet. They ate and drank with God. God wrote the ten commandments. God is given very human features.
This God would be very easy to prove.This is a very physical God. This God has physical features. And the people can talk to this God. It sounds like the other gods are the same. This means that they can be tested for and proven to exist. It also means that it makes more sense to be an atheist until the gods show themselves than it does to be a theist until the gods are disproven.


How Should We Treat Others?


Lately I have been troubled by the “us vs. them” mentality between groups of people. Particularly where religion is concerned. As an atheist, I find that it is quite common to find other atheists who think of theists as the “other.” This is not very shocking: it is hard to comprehend somebody who has a completely different world view from ones self. But it is nonetheless problematic. Atheists want to be accepted in mainstream society. We want to be trusted and treated as equals. This is more of an issue in the United States than it is in Canada, but even here there have been studies that show that people mistrust those with no religious beliefs. Atheists debate about how best to create acceptance within society. Some believe that we must be loud and proud and get noticed in order to be accepted. I agree with this: if the people who mistrust atheists get to know an atheist then they will likely realize that atheists as a group aren’t untrustworthy. However, the way that some atheists go about getting attention is easily taken as an attack by theists. I don’t disagree that debating theism is a worthy pursuit, but I do disagree with doing so in a tone that suggests that we are out to get all the religious people. I believe that this problem is created when we confuse the institution of religion with religious people. We claim to be attacking the institution (which I believe is something worthy of attacking) but we condescend the theists that we are talking to. We use an “I clearly know more than you” tone that attacks the person and confuses them with the institution. This is problematic because the people tend not to be the problem. I can’t help but think that going out of our way to befriend religious people and get ourselves known in our communities is a far superior way to gain equality. Unfortunately, many people disagree with me. They believe that we need to be louder and get in more peoples faces. We need more debates. We need more Dawkins’ and more Dillahunty’s. Do we really need to continue to isolate ourselves? Do we really want to create this sense of otherness?


Interfaith Dialogue


I have been an atheist for years. I was in high school when I discovered that I no longer believed in the Christian God. Now I am almost finished university. For years the religious world seemed to be one that wasn’t open to me. It was a foreign world that I only braved when my family made me. It is awkward being surrounded by people who believe something that you do not. I didn’t like feeling out of place, so I avoided it. However, lately I have found myself entering the interfaith sphere more. I volunteer at the interfaith center at my university, and I actually went to an interfaith conference over the summer. It has been a great experience for me. My personal beliefs haven’t been affected, so I still feel that awkward sense of “these people share something that I do not,” but I have grown to understand people that were once very foreign to me. I have made new friends and have developed a sense of respect for people who do not share my beliefs. I think that it has been a wonderful experience for me. I also want to encourage others to make an attempt at understanding people who do not share their personal beliefs.


“Don’t be sads, it’s Christmas”


Today I read an article in the Toronto Sun paper. It was titled “Don’t be sads, it’s Christmas.” It was quite a problematic article and showed many misconceptions about atheists. I wrote this response to the article:

“Dear Michael Coren,

My name is Hesse. I am a 24 year old university student attending the University of Calgary. I am writing you in regards to your article “Don’t be sads, it’s Christmas.” I am writing you because I am the president of the Freethinkers club at the university as well as the student lead of the Faith and Spirituality Center’s student team (FASST). I am also a committed atheist. At least I assume I fit into your definition as a committed atheist. I must admit, I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “committed.” I am not writing to convince you that atheism is right. I don’t care what you believe. And I am not writing to attack Christmas. I, like many Canadians, enjoy the Christmas holiday. I am merely writing to discuss some of the problems that I found in your article. I hope that you read my letter and I hope that it gets you thinking about some of the assumptions that you have made. In your article, you wrote “It’s an atheist’s nightmare, Christmas coming just a couple of weeks after Pope Francis was named Time’s Man of the Year.” I don’t quite understand where you are going with that comment. First off, I don’t really care who Time names as person of the year. It’s a magazine. And they have named plenty of people “person of the year,” religious or not. It really has no effect on me. Nor does it affect anybody else that I know. Second, Christmas comes every December 25. We were expecting it to come December 25 this year as well. Frankly, I like Christmas. It gives me a chance to take a break from school and work. It is my chance to relax and spend time with family and friends. That’s what Christmas is all about for most atheists. It’s also what Christmas is all about for my Catholic family. I never even heard the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season” until I was an adult. Christmas is a wonderful holiday, and it is for everybody. If you want to keep it religious, fine. But you cannot force your religion on anybody, nor can you force everybody to accept Christmas as being strictly Christian. We all get to celebrate and we all get to do so in our own way. You went on to say “OK, let me qualify that — one of the most unhappy, lugubrious and neurotic. I’d forgotten feminists and socialists” as a description of atheists. I guess two out of five isn’t bad. Well, four. Unhappy and lugubrious mean the same thing. I am happy to admit that I am in fact both a feminist and a socialist. I believe that I deserve all of the same rights as you despite my femaleness. Don’t you? I also fully intend to vote for the NDP in the coming election. I am hoping that more people realise the problems with Harper’s Conservative government and vote Liberal or NDP. I am not, however, unhappy or neurotic. And I’m pretty sure that you don’t get to determine another person’s mental state without their direction. Unless you happen to be a certified Psychologist. You seem to be quite confused by atheism and what atheists believe. To clarify some of the misconceptions which your early comment suggests that you hold; atheists are not atheists because we are angry at god or want to sin. We are atheists because we happen to not believe in any gods. You go on to show your lack of understanding of what atheism means by saying “I suppose that if you are convinced the world is a hateful place and everybody is against you, it must seem rather dark.” I don’t believe that the world is dark and hateful. I just don’t believe that it was created specifically for people. I do happen to believe that the world is far better than it was in the past. We have clean hospitals with medicine that have drastically improved our lives. Originally hospitals were a place where people went to die. We also have an abundance of food to eat and amazing technology at our finger tips. Life in general is far more pleasurable and relaxing than it has ever been. Yes, there are issues in the world, and I do believe that it is our job to change these issues. But who exactly thinks that the world is nothing but sunshine and daisies? Most Christians don’t seem to, despite your saying “Christians, on the other hand, assume the opposite, and are convinced the world is full of light.” I’m not saying that Christians think that the world is a bad place, but some do. Some are convinced that the end times are near. Some think that the world deserves to burn because we allow gay marriage. Some are more than willing to abuse people who are immigrants, or non-Christians, or who they perceive as living sinful lifestyles. Those people don’t seem to think that the “world is full of light.” They see evil everywhere and are quite fearful. As I said in the beginning, I hope this letter allows you to rethink some of your perceptions about atheists. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you for your time and I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas holiday,

Hesse”

It is quite common for people to assume that atheists are angry and hate Christmas. I don’t understand this thought process. I love holidays. I love spending time with my loved ones. And I enjoy being able to take a break from the hassles of life. What I have a problem with is people trying to force their beliefs on others. If we all just accepted that holidays are for everybody and we are all free to celebrate how we wish, then we will all get along a lot better.


Why We Want to Blog


My partner and I are both university students. I am studying History and Philosophy and my partner is studying Botany and Philosophy. We have recently decided to try our hands at blogging in order to better understand our interests, improve our knowledge, and meet others who have similar interests. Some of the topics that we intend to talk about include books and writing, graphic novels, history, philosophy, chain mail and blacksmithing, politics and feminism, gender and sexuality, and religion. As you can see, we have a variety of interests and aren’t really interested in bogging ourselves down with one topic.

I am currently writing a fantasy novel and a graphic novel and am hoping to discuss writing and graphic novel art as my main focus.

My partner has been dabbling with chain mail and blacksmithing and would like to focus mainly on those two interests.

We are looking forward to sharing our interests and hearing from those with similar interests.


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