Atheism. What you’re getting into.

There are many reasons I think that people should abandon their beliefs in the supernatural, but if that happens, you must deal with where to go next.

Atheism is defined as the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods, but it has gone under revisions in the public realm. Atheism is now often equated with angry brooding in dark rooms, screaming at god, and being a smart-ass to anyone/everyone that you come across.

This is a development that has been dissipating as atheism is becoming more prevalent. More and more people are starting to realize that atheists are people just like themselves. We simply have come to a different conclusion regarding the nature of existence.

-AB

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  33 comments for “Atheism. What you’re getting into.

  1. July 24, 2014 at 12:21 am

    AB~ I’m a little more cynical in my outlook, I guess. We do have a bit of work to do to humanize ourselves to the public, but it’s a little like digging a grave for an elephant with a teaspoon. As long as there are people who will lie purposefully about atheism in order to further their agenda, accommodation-ism is a band-aid at best. We need to work to set the record straight. Confront the lies where there are.

    • July 24, 2014 at 12:33 am

      Here would be a good recent example: Let’s play who can spot the lies- [winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/if-militant-atheists-formed-their-own-country-what-would-it-look-like/]

    • July 24, 2014 at 2:40 am

      I completely agree that atheists should confront people that outright lie about atheism. In my opinion this is a large contributing factor for how we have made the progress that we have. I strongly encourage calling out bull-shit at every turn.

      Thanks for the comment!

      -AB

      • July 27, 2014 at 2:16 pm

        And what if someone says that atheists don’t believe in free will, responsibility, and morality? You have several posts on the subject of free will, insisting it does not exist.

        The article by Dr. Eddy Nahmias’s on “Willusionism“ (the belief that free will is an illusion) cites several experiments showing that people who hear statements like “free will is an illusion” are likely to “cheat more, help less, and behave more aggressively”.

        (see http://www2.gsu.edu/~phlean/papers/Neuroethics%20Response%20to%20Baumeister.pdf )

      • July 27, 2014 at 7:08 pm

        Yes – many Christian apologists or sympathisers lie or mislead others on the nature of atheism. I think you’ve made a good case here as to how we can change the presentation of our convictions in order to appeal to the sense of humanity that theism apparently appeals to in others. Maybe a change of approach is due…?

  2. fortyfive9s
    July 26, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    I don’t like tags, labels so I don’t identify with being an “atheist” and I’ll tell you why. The word “atheist” is a construct. A word constructed to describe something or someone. Who did that? Who is responsible for the definition? Not me that’s for sure. It would appear that we place too much emphasis on labels. I am simple a person who follows my own truth. My truth is that there is not and never has been a creator. I base this on my research, my knowledge and experience. I have a right to this belief and it is my personal truth. You and everyone else has their own personal truth and you all have the right to have it. You and I also have the right to believe that ours is the only truth but you nor I nor anyone else has the right to push your own personal truth on someone else. If you aspire to wear an “atheist” tag, go for it, but do not demand others aspire to it as well. If you do, you are doing what every religious zealot does, push your “religion” on others. Do you the problem?

    • July 27, 2014 at 2:03 am

      I completely understand the aversion towards labels. In my personal experience however, I have found it easier when asked if I’m and atheist, to reply “yes.” When I say yes, I am only subscribing to the definition of atheist in the most basic sense of the word; Someone who does not believe in a God or gods.

      I dislike using the word in many instances, but I don’t believe that the utility of the word in many social contexts should be overlooked. I am an atheist. But that is it. Any other connotations that someone may apply to the word is a problem of their own.

      • July 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm

        Like Matt Dillahunty points out, using the word atheist gets straight to the point. Rather than using some other, less scary sounding label, saying that you’re an atheist gets the desired point across. Say, for instance, you use Thunderf00t’s PEARL label, which you then have to explain, at length, to arrive at “I don’t believe God claims”, where simply acknowledging up front that you’re an atheist would have been the more acceptable lead in to the conversation.

        From your point of view, what’s so wrong about using the word? It describes an aspect of your life, and you already say that the other connotations people apply to atheism is their problem, not ours.

        For me, in a world that is so steeped in religious nonsense, saying I’m an atheist sets me apart from them in a particular way in which I quite like. However, my circumstances make this particularly easy for me, so your mileage may vary.

        Anyway, thanks for the sub to I Fucking Hate Facebook (http://ifhfb.wordpress.com/), I’m sure we’ll have many good conversations on these issues to come.

    • July 27, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      I don’t like it when people compare the assertion of humanistic values as being similar to religious zealots or extremists. I completely get the tone of your response and get what you mean be not using labels – especially on those who haven’t made the choice to fall into a labelled category – but let’s be honest – doing so is not the same as the efforts of religious nut jobs who publicly refuse to separate fact from fiction. To tell someone who doesn’t want to hear it that there are better ways to live one’s life and there are no positive reason to sacrifice your existence in the hope of the afterlife is no the same as imposing religious doctrine on others, making them submit to the world of the creator that you claim to carry, committing human rights violations in the name of the the god they’re propagating…

      When the truth you’re propagating has the conditions of eternal torture and hell attached the notion of refusal, then you may have a point, but until then, they will never be the same.

      Another quote from Ricky Gervais – “I”m a militant fundamentalist atheist. I’m going to get on a crowded train, unbutton my coat and say rational things. People will be hurt”

  3. July 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Nice post.
    I often think about this point. The Bible is reasonably mild in some areas and dark and barbaric in others – making regular reference to Satan and the enemies of god. As a youngster, one of the things that stood out to me in church was all this talk about ‘defending’ yourself from attacks of the devil and ‘being on one’s guard’ for the enemy and so on. It was easy for me to imagine the figures in the Bible being faced with these situations, but I struggled to reconcile myself with what I was supposed to consider ‘of Satan’ or an ‘enemy’. I’d barely been in a school yard brawl, yet alone ‘prepared myself for battle’.
    I have been thinking back at this lately and having observed the pious and discussed the issue with many religious and non religious acquaintances I have concluded that of course there is no devil or enemy in reality, simply those who oppose faith or cause one to question their faith – similar to the Jesus parable of sticking his two fingers up to Satan when presented with temptation during his ‘test’.
    Atheists and those of other religious beliefs are considered the enemies of faith that the Bible talks about. As part of the Christian indoctrination many have been brought up with, they are trained to recognise any attack on their faith or their personal god to be an act of Satan or the enemies of god. Of course this isn’t true for all Christian believers but it is most certainly true for a large number. Just an observation.

    • July 27, 2014 at 2:09 am

      I love this reply. You have addressed something that in my opinion is a large contributing factor to the ‘bad’ connotations attributed to atheism.

      We are not simply human beings with a different view point in the eyes of many religious people. We are attacking them. We are thought of as mediums through which the devil is testing their faith.

      I think humanizing atheists is a battle worth fighting. We are not attacking God. We are attacking a flawed system of thinking.

      Thanks for the comment!
      -AB

      • July 27, 2014 at 7:03 pm

        I was just reading the blog of a Christian evangelist who regularly puts up hints and tips about living a Christian lifestyle.
        Her latest series of posts discusses the topic of what tactics Muslims’ use in order to attack the Christian faith and the faith of the believer. In her introduction she discusses why she chose to write about the tactics of Muslims –

        “There are many faiths that attack Christianity. I am pointing out tactics used by Muslims because that is the most concentrated group which is attacking Christianity at this time, except for perhaps the atheists.”

      • July 27, 2014 at 7:32 pm

        There are several things atheists seem to be doing which would lead a reasonable person to think they were attacking Christianity.

        One is the attack upon the notions of free will, responsibility, and morality. This is misguided, because these are secular terms for secular issues.

        Another is the claim that Jesus never existed, but was invented as some kind of hoax. While it is reasonable to dismiss all the miracle stories and myths, it is not reasonable to suggest that there was not somebody named Jesus (a popular name at the time) preaching to the public. Heck, there might have been several Jesus’s doing that.

      • July 27, 2014 at 7:37 pm

        Yes I agree – their perception of being attacked differs from those who are reasonable on the issue. To suggest that it is not reasonable to suggest that there wasn’t a man called Jesus is a strange thing as it depends on the evidence. Considering we don’t have any empirical evidence at all, not a shred of the stuff – I think it is reasonable to suggest that it is unlikely to be true.
        If one was to make the assumption that the Bible is true and is in fact the word of god, then, on the back of that assumption, I’m sure one would consider it unreasonable to suggest that none of the truth claims are true. The unsafe assumptions christians (or any other religious believer) make in order to support their beliefs don’t involve reason at all – at least not the kind that I am familiar with.

      • July 27, 2014 at 8:51 pm

        The writings collected in the New Testament are empirical evidence. The birth myths can be dismissed, of course. But the record of his travels, his preaching, and his crucifixion cannot be dismissed out of hand as fiction. All of them are plausible.

        And the existence of the Christian movement, witnessed by other historical writers, would suggest there was some real person around whom the movement was formed.

        Even some “miracles” may have occurred, either by simple suggestion to someone with a psychosomatic illness, or perhaps a staged deception like some modern preachers have done. There is even a reference to another guy, unknown to the disciples, who was performing “miracles” in his name. Why would that be there at all? It would be totally unnecessary to a fully fictional account.

        It is more likely that there was a teacher named Jesus, who acquired a small following of disciples, who became popular in certain areas, who pissed off the local Pharisees, and who got crucified for it. That is not an unreasonable or implausible scenario.

        And there is no way to prove that he did not exist at all. So, other than to get the Christian upset, what is the point of us making up stories of complex conspiracies which we also cannot prove??

        We cannot sell rationality if we embrace irrationality.

      • July 27, 2014 at 8:57 pm

        I understand the point you’re getting to here, but you cannot classify superstitious documents compiled in iron age Palestine as empirical evidence. At all. The historians that you refer to all work on the back of the assumption that the Bible has any truth in its claims. If one was to reject the Bible entirely then there is no evidence to suggest that Jesus existed.

        You asked questions like why would they be there at all or why would the author of the book in question make any reference to something that wasn’t true at all? well, look at the bible. this is an absurd question considering how absurd the bible is. the one theme we can decipher is the desire to mislead people into believing there is a god. The book is full of historical inaccuracies, myths and lies. I am surprised that you would even entertain such a question as opposed to more damning questions – like the concept of original sin? Why would it be in the bible if it wasn’t true? Why do so many characters within the Bible believe in prayer if it didn’t work? I can go on. The mistake you make is to look within the bible for answers. There are none – just confusion and lies.

      • July 27, 2014 at 9:42 pm

        Would you include Paul’s letters to the newly formed Christian churches as “superstitious documents”? In many he was dealing with practical problems of negotiating old rules against the need to acquire non-Jewish members to expand the church. There was apparently a dispute between Paul and Peter regarding circumcision. Is Paul also a fictional character? Were the churches fictional?

        If Paul is not fictional, then what about Peter. Peter was supposedly one of the original disciples.

        And there are the works of Josephus, born 37 AD, who wrote a 20 volume a Jewish history. He was not a follower of Jesus. But he does mention Herod having killed John the Baptist. And in another section he refers to James, the brother of “Jesus, the so-called Christ”. (From “Jesus & Christian Origins Outside the New Testament” by F. F. Bruce).

        So you are really going out on a limb to “reject the Bible entirely” as a work of fiction. It is certainly a collection myths, and poetry, but also some history. The Old Testament characters, like king David, are often presented with all the human flaws you’d expect in real people.

        Some of the accounts must be based upon real people and real events, even if we reject the miracles and the supernatural.

      • July 27, 2014 at 9:52 pm

        Firstly, yes I would consider the work fiction considering there is no evidence to support any of it. Thee are further works by early historians and biblical scholars that appear to support the teachings of the bible on the grounds that they considered it an accurate account. Thee are no historians alive today that will make the same assumptions as the ones who commented on the bible hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
        The differences that Paul and Peter highlight in the New Testament are not to do with accuracy at all. When Christianity developed out of the monotheistic teachings of Judaism, the ideas were flawed and apparently, Paul noticed this by observing the obvious – many wouldn’t turn their back on Christianity if they had to devote themselves to the Jewish laws. The argument ensued as to what methods would most likely encourage the most people to respond favourably. Hence Paul writing to a church to give his view on what is expected of someone who wants to avoid hell and follow god. The problem is it is very very likely that the assumptions they’ve made are false and untrue. Even if they were real people with real issues, they are basing everything they say on a theory that has no evidence whatsoever. Some of the stories appear to be similar to events that we know took place or involve figures that we consider likely to have existed, but just because many people wrote on the subject after the fact doesn’t hold any weight to the subject being true.

      • July 27, 2014 at 10:11 pm

        I view “Heaven” and “Hell” as describing a basic truth of morality. The conditions of our lives and the future lives of our children can be better than today or much worse than today.

        We’ve seen genocide in Germany and more recently in Africa. We know about the drug kings in Mexico that murder the judges and police that they cannot buy. We’ve seen gangs of kids selling drugs in America and shooting each other along with innocent bystanders to secure their turf and earn a living.

        Living under those conditions would be Hell. They result when people seek good for themselves at the expense of others. And that would be immorality.

        So morality leads to heaven and immorality leads to hell.

        What are we doing to cultivate morality in ourselves, our children, and our community?

        This is not a new question. It is the question around which religions were formed to secure a working and effective answer.

        If you are going to eliminate the solution in place, you had better have another plan ready to replace it.

      • July 27, 2014 at 10:16 pm

        Well of course, humanism and secularism. Religion was indeed an attempt to understand the world around us and an attempt to understand our place in the world and our duties to one another but surely we have gone passed this as a form of reference to how we value morals? Do you really think the source of morality is religion? I thought you were a humanist.
        If you want to use heaven and hell as metaphors of versions of reality that you don’t like, go ahead by all means, but that is not what the bible means by those terms and you should know this. You may be able to sit down and scour the bible for good examples of morality and love, but why would you bother? why not Shakespeare? Unless you happen to believe that the veracity of the truth claims of the bible stand up to scrutiny? I don’t understand what your beliefs are from reading your views on how people can derive morals from the bible – of course they can, but it doesn’t mean the bible is even close to being a moral source.
        Demands to believe the impossible do not lead to peaceful outcomes.

      • July 27, 2014 at 10:26 pm

        The source of religion is also us. The source of myths, stories to teach our children morals, is also us.

        I believe that we should always distinguish truth from fiction. But we also recognize that some truths are conveyed in stories. Like you said, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Old Testament Stories, DC Comics, Buffy, etc.

        But I think we owe it to our kids to also have an organized learning experience, similar to Sunday School, to make sure everything is covered. Or, we could do it with regular schools.

        I just feel that the Christians have an advantage in this area, and we should do better.

      • July 27, 2014 at 10:28 pm

        I agree that education in the Bible and other religions is of paramount importance to help a prepare a child for the world. As an educator myself I believe it is our duty to educate young children in a balanced way, allowing them to decide for themselves how they view the world. I cannot for the life of me understand why you would think that Christians have an advantage in this area? I don’t even know what you’re talking about – do you mean that education needs to focus more on values and morals?

      • July 27, 2014 at 9:56 pm

        The fact that you claim the writings in the New Testament are empirical evidence creates a profound barrier between our understanding of evidence.
        I imagine that you consider Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey as evidence that Greek gods existed?

      • July 27, 2014 at 9:59 pm

        I consider them evidence that Homer existed.

      • July 27, 2014 at 10:01 pm

        You consider the title of Homer’s Iliad – when we have no idea who the true author was – be it Homer or anyone else – as empirical evidence that Homer existed?
        So, the Qur’an is clearly evidence that muhammad and Allah existed at least at the time?

      • July 27, 2014 at 9:56 pm

        PS: Regarding “The mistake you make is to look within the bible for answers.”

        I don’t look there for answers. Most of the answers from the Bible I acquired growing up.

        There is some profound wisdom in “love your enemy, do good to those who hate you and spitefully use you”.

        The whole point of morality is summed up in “Seek good. And seek it for others as you seek it for yourself. All ethical rules serve these two.” (a Humanist paraphrase of Matthew 22:35-40).

        There are some good stories there, morality tales, etc. Some poetry too.

        Also a lot of begats, tedious rules and rituals, etc. that will bore you to death.

        But there is enough value in the book to sustain several pretty large Christian denominations.

        So it cannot be dismissed out of hand.

      • July 27, 2014 at 9:57 pm

        It can and it should be dismissed. Are you insinuating that one can learn lessons on morality through the bible that cannot be attained elsewhere?

      • July 27, 2014 at 10:16 pm

        Quite the opposite. The morality in the Bible is the creation of man. But it is the place where a lot of your fellow humans learned their morality.

      • July 27, 2014 at 10:21 pm

        The morality you claim that our fellow humans have learned through the bible have come at an expense of intellectual freedom and ethical honesty. To live by these values through fear of god or fear of death somehow dilutes them, as well as mixes them with absurdities. The truth is that there are no values in the Bible that mankind hadn’t already discovered.
        The golden rule – treat others how you would like to be treated – well, societies that didn’t manage to practice these forms of ethics simply didn’t survive. Mankind knew these moral lessons before the very idea of god came into existence – The bible isn’t a source for these values at all, they distort values and perceptions of reality. An act of goodness simply for the sake of our solidarity towards one another ins’t taught in the bible – as all moral lessons and codes come with either the promise of a reward or threat of eternal torture. I’m not judging you though – if you needed the bible to reconcile your morals then good for you!

  4. July 27, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    The problem with “atheism” is that it is a “non-belief” in something, and tells you nothing about what a person does believe in.

    I always refer to myself as a Humanist, because we have positive beliefs. We believe that humans are responsible for the creation of ethics (and “God” for that matter) and that humans have moral value. The objective goal of ethics and law is the best possible good for everyone.

    All humanists are also atheists, of course. Even religious humanists.

  5. Scott Kaelen
    July 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    You said: “Atheism is now often equated with angry brooding in dark rooms, screaming at god, and being a smart-ass to anyone/everyone that you come across. ”
    People like that are sometimes mislabelled as being atheist, when, let’s be honest, anyone who ‘screams at God’ is obviously a believer, albeit one who feels let down by their chosen deity.
    Such people are good candidates for letting go of their already tenuous hold on faith/prayer/worship and moving over to atheism.

    No real atheist would ever ‘talk’ directly to a being whose existence can never be proven (unless they were doing so ironically).
    Dave Mustaine of Megadeth wrote the song ‘Peace Sells’ way back in ’86. The song contains the lines: “What do you mean I don’t believe in God? I talk to him every day.” Mustaine was an atheist back then. Some years later he became a born-again Christian.

    It’s just so unfortunate that in 2014 there are still some 6 billion religious people on the planet (out of 7.25 billion and rising, for anyone who’s interested.) The only way an atheist could be converted from fact to faith is when their Achilles heel gets broken (no, I don’t mean Achilles tendon!). In Mustaine’s case he always needed something; he used to take a plethora of drugs, drink a lot and indulge in dark rites and all that rubbish. It all failed to help him find whatever he was looking for, so he turned to Christianity… and found something he could stick with.
    You see, people like Mustaine need something outside of their control, something they can blame when it all goes wrong, something they can say controls their thoughts and actions due to its very existence. I don’t thin he was ever an atheist.

    • July 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      I agree with you. Mustaine’s case just goes to show that if you try to become an atheist overnight, without learning anything about why, it’s not going to last.

      Religion does provide a ‘crutch’ for people in many instances. It gives them a way to forgive themselves when they do something wrong. It gives them a community if they previously did not have one, etc.

      We can only hope that people find a different medium through which to deal with their problems.

      Thanks for the comment!

      -AB

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