An amusing little conversation for your entertainment…
I’m a big fan of StumbleUpon and my “about me” paragraph at the top of my page attracts many funny emails:
Although some atheists (and they are in the minority) may claim to know that there is no god, most atheists claim no such thing. Atheism means “absence of theism”, a “lack of belief in gods” and nothing more! An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god.
The most recent, from Freq, was quite enjoyable, albeit frustrating…
Nice blog…you are claiming…………….. “An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god.”…………….. that you are completely neutral about the existance of supreme beings…that you have neither a belief nor disbelief…simply a mental state of void on that issue….how do you maintain that? I mean it’s like a vacuum state…it seems that you would have to fill that in with something?! I’m not judging…just astounded by that state of mind…it’s like never making up your mind one way or the other…just blank.
Actually, I am not neutral; I simply have no belief because there’s no evidence for the existance of any gods. To say I believe there are no gods is just as bad as saying there are gods. Faith is a symptom of the lazy mind. I find the idea of god completely illogical. If a god is the “designer” then who designed him? If a goddess is the First Cause then what “caused” her? I feel there is a 99.999% chance that there are no gods of any kind but there is always a possibility that there is something strange “out there” that may be called a god (certainly not Jehovah or Allah or Zeus or any other I’ve ever heard of). So, to me, the only logical position to assume is that of the Atheist – the non-believer. When a god proves its existance to me (and many others) then I’ll be a believer. This is the essence of Atheism.
You might like to check out this website…
I DO NOT BELIEVE ANYTHING
This remark was made, in these very words, by John Gribbin, physics editor of New Scientist magazine, in a BBC-TV debate with Malcolm Muggeridge, and it provoked incredulity o the part of most viewers. It seems to be a hangover of the medieval Catholic era that causes most people, even the educated, to think that everybody must “believe” something or other, that if one is not a theist, one must be a dogmatic atheist, and if one does not think Capitalism is perfect, one must believe fervently in Socialism, and if one does not have blind faith in X, one must alternatively have blind faith in not-X or the reverse of X.
My own opinion is that belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence. The more certitude one assumes, the less there is left to think about, and a person sure of everything would never have any need to think about anything and might be considered clinically dead under current medical standards, where absence of brain activity is taken to mean that life has ended.
I’m not trying to change you, not trying to condemn…I’m only seriously trying to understand! I have to admit that in the case of a belief vacuum I might have been semantically challenged. Never-the-less, I must say that whether John Gribbin or Spocko it doesn’t matter to me…I’m not impressed by letters at the end of a name, so whether you say it or
Mr. Gribbin says it is all the same to me. Most of the folks that run our country went to Yale and Harvard and have fantastic degrees and you see all that they don’t accomplish! But Mr. G does provide an excellent reference to what you claim to be atheism. My main question and interest is the concept of a belief void and vacuum. You see, I don’t believe that a vacuum is possible in the human system…or in nature…so let’s have a go with this.
Mr. G says, “the more certitude one assumes, the less there is left to think about.” That means to me that there would be no definitive statement regarding the existence or non-existence of anything. That means that any possibilities exist, that any reality is possible. This is upheld in the website that you referenced as well. Mr. G went on to say, “As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.” So this is a definition of an atheist! An atheist would say that there is nothing conclusive that proves or disproves the existence of a supreme being. Since atheism is usually related to a supreme being I’ll continue to use that example. If one were to say I think there may be a SB then they are no longer an atheist. If one were to say, I think there is no SB then they are no longer an atheist. Since an atheist can have no ‘certitude’, then anyone that does have any certainty is not an atheist. This is in line with what you describe and what I refer to as the void or vacuum….and that makes sense to me! I’m making progress!
Using Mr. G as the guideline, when asked if there is a SB, an atheist would have to say I don’t know! To go either side of 50% would be a measurable amount of certainty, a certain amount of confidence and therefore reaching towards a conclusion. So a true atheist would not have an opinion either way, they would have a completely uncommitted stance where they were willing to accept either side as a possibility equally.
Got it! I can completely understand that! Now to apply it? I don’t know that I can, and it appears that neither can you!
But you have reached two fairly strong conclusions! You say that you feel there is a 99.999% chance that there is no SB…that’s the first break with atheism. Then you say, “certainly not Jehovah or Allah or Zeus or any other I’ve ever heard of”. That would be the second break with atheism. I think two stated beliefs are well on the road to having a doctrine with a high degree of certainty.
You may think you are an atheist as defined by Mr. G but you have failed in your attempt to conform. This actually confirms my belief that it is not possible to stand in the middle of an issue. You have to lean in a particular direction, I don’t think its possible for a human to take absolutely no position. That’s a vacuum, a void and that’s just not natural. You’ve proven my point by making statements with fairly
So, it’s not atheism that you are practicing, its something else, and since it involves specific beliefs regarding a supreme being, I would call that a religion! But certainly not atheism. So Mr. S, what are you? Using Mr. Gribbin’s definition, you have proven yourself not to be an atheist and have proven to me that there can be no void. I think to truly be an atheist you should more closely read Mr. Gribbin’s
Regardless of your direction or beliefs, thank you for an excellent example of the improbability of a belief void!
All the best!
I did not intend to make an “argument from authority” as you seem to assume. The “letters” at the end of Gribbin’s name are irrelevant. I was simply suggesting another source for the “I don’t believe anything”
point of view.
I don’t agree with the notion of a “belief vacuum”. Belief is excess baggage – it is more like a wart protruding from the body than a necessary part of it. We are all born atheists, it is only thru indocrination and incessant programming that we become believers. We should all shed this dead weight as soon as we’ve grown.
There is no doctrine of atheism. It is simply the absence of belief. The word quite literally means “without belief” (let’s stick to talking about gods here). To say that atheism means “belief there is no god” is oxymoronic.
I do not know there is a god and I do not believe there is a god. I’ve seen no evidence for such a thing. I do not believe in that for which there is not a scrap of evidence.
I completely disagree that one must remain on the fence 50/50 to be an atheist. Mr. G’s opinion on certitude notwithstanding, it is an easy thing to look around, experience the world, and accept the reality of it. There is nothing evident to lead one to believe in gods. Take the Bible for instance; not one original thought in the whole thing, not a scrap of knowledge that shows evidence for a supreme mind, nada! When I first read the Bible cover to cover is when I became (once again) an atheist. Prior to that I had believed what the Priests told me.
You can not group atheists together, they have only one common trait; non-belief. Period. I do not believe in gods and am, therefore, atheist but this does not mean I can not have strong opinions about these fakers that have been paraded thru history. I believe Jehovah is not a god for the same reason I believe Apollo is not a god. I believe the sun will rise tomorrow because it has done so every day of my life. These statements are not part of some doctrine; there is no “Book of Atheism”, there are no rules, there are no priests. My convictions are based on my experience and knowledge of the evolution of gods and religion/shamanism. I will listen to hearsay no longer, and that’s all that religion is – hearsay. There are thousands of religions to choose from, each claiming that they are the one “true” religion and all others are false. If
you’re born in the US you’re most likely a Christian, if you’re born in Syria you’re most likely an Moslem, if you’re born in India you’re probably Hindu. Most people just swallow the “blue pill” and never advance beyond that.
I do not “think I’m an atheist by Mr. G’s definition” and I’m very much anti-conformist (geez it’s the religious that conform!). There are indeed atheists that believe there are no gods. I prefer the simpler, literal definition, and only claim “no belief”.
Atheism “requires” no specific beliefs of any sort and there is certainly nothing to “practice”. Having “strong convictions” that one fairy tale or another is most likely not true is NOT being religous. It’s called rationality. When I opened my eyes and decided to reject the indoctrination of my youth and return to the atheism I was born with, I did not replace that belief with another. It is not a contradiction to have no belief in gods and believe specific “gods” are false. It is also not
religion to believe strongly that Thor is just fantasy.
So, if you must insist there is a slot in our brains dedicated to belief in gods then mine is indeed empty. If you are speaking more generally of belief in any subject then that’s another story. I have a great many beliefs – what is important to me is whether those beliefs are based in “reality” or whether they are just acquiesence to the word of others. I resist the latter.
Well, to make my point as brief as possible, when you say “an atheist does not believe there is no god” but then you say, “there is no god”, that’s a straight out contradiction! Mr. G says that “nothing can be certain” and so an open mind is the more likely trait of an atheist. You both claim that there is no doctrine and that there is no belief yet on http://www.atheist.org a great deal of time and space is spent proving that without a doubt, there is no god. That is a belief! It’s not the absence of belief! It’s a belief that there is no god! Everything I’m seeing is a complete contradiction!
When I look at the atheist.org website, Moslems have a crescent, Christians a cross and Atheists a symbol that appears to be a partial atomic
symbol! The site does nothing but further the BELIEF that there is NO god! Based on the dictionary, those are doctrines and dogmas!
So, the statement that an atheist has no belief about god is not true! The truth is an atheist does have a belief about god or gods and that
is that they don’t exist! You have professed that belief many times. Since they evangelize that position, accept donations, offer
scholarships to members that profess the atheist’s belief in no god, have a membership, have regular meetings and all this is concerning a belief about gods then I would classify that as a religion.
But hey, that’s just me.
Thank you for the lively debate, I very much enjoyed it! All the best to you….and I really don’t mind whatever you believe or not!
Freq, you are trying to put words in my mouth. Nowhere in our conversation did I say “there is no god”. I do find it extremely unlikey but I
allow for the possibility. I am completely open minded on the subject. When a god appears to me (and others) and proves its existence then I
From what I can see, http://www.atheist.org does not attempt to prove there is no god – such a thing is not possible and not required of atheists.
Indeed, it is a silly notion; e.g. I don’t believe in unicorns, what would folks think if I ran about trying to prove they don’t exist?! It is for the person making the claim – “there are unicorns” – to prove it.
I just read about the symbol being used by the group you mention – American Atheists. It sounds innocent/secular enough to me. Surely, you don’t think a symbol is all it takes to create a religion? Hell, there’s a pony on the front of my 2005 Mustang (wink) does that mean I’m a member of the Church of Ford? Uh, ok, maybe it does! ;o)
I do not agree with your definition of religion, either. My dictionary says; 1) an institution to express belief in a divine power 2) a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.
The AA says…
Atheism is NOT a “belief.” Atheism is derived from the Greek, atheos, and means simply “away from the belief in a god or gods.” Atheists do
not “believe,” and it is incorrect to assume that the belief in a supernatural entity or entities is, somehow, equivalent to the “non-belief” in those same beings. It isn’t.
I would agree with them but please remember, there are a million different types of atheists (at least). Sure there are some who like to get
together for fellowship, those that form clubs, those that are left, those that are right, black, white, friendly or not, this or that. There
are, indeed, atheists who ALSO BELIEVE there are no gods (you may want to look-up strong-atheism and weak-atheism). Again; there are no rules
to non-belief. To me, belief is not a dirty word. Belief can be based on evidence, experimentation and experience OR it can be based on faith. You can guess which I prefer. I also consider belief an analog device rather than a digital one. I believe in various things in varying degrees based on my current knowledge of the facts at hand.
There is only one requirement to be an atheist; answer “no” to the following question…
“Do you believe in gods?”
I, of course, do not.
Cheers back at ya.
You said this: “I do not know there is a god and I do not believe there is a god. I’ve seen no evidence for such a thing. I do not believe in
that for which there is not a scrap of evidence.” When I read, “I do not believe there is a god”, it sound to me that that is a belief…not a absense of a belief. When you answer, ““Do you believe in gods?” I, of course, do not.” Phrasing that back says I do not believe in gods. Those are your words. That’s not “no belief”, that is a belief that there is none. When you state that belief, and when there is an atheist institution, then the dictionary 1) is close…an institution to express a belief in a divine power.
That’s just how I see it….but what do I know…I’m just riding around in circles on a rock!
Here’s to ya commander….live long and prosper!
I think you need to read what you just wrote.
You are saying that “I do not believe…” is the same as “I
When I say “I do not believe there’s a god” I am saying “I have no belief there is a god”. This is absolutely not the same thing as saying “I
believe there is no god”. The former is lack of belief, the latter is belief.
Peace and long life!
Blah…When someone says “I do not believe” It is the statement of a belief! That’s been my whole point…Like this…I can make a statement of my stance on an issue:
I disagree; I agree; I have no opinion.
These are all possible acceptable statements regarding an issue…or at least what they boil down to.
So, are there gods?
Yes, No, and I don’t have an opinion; are the 3 answers.
You have consistantly said NO there are no gods but just as consistantly you have said, I don’t have an opinion….that’s been the missing logic to me all this time. That’s been my main point.
Pick any issue..Fords are the best.
If I say Yes there are but then say that I don’t have an opinion about them you would wonder what the heck I was talking about.
So, you say no gods and then say you have no opinion and, you guessed it, I’m wondering.
So the pattern is: question: affirmative; negative; undecided….pick one.
You hae been picking two and so has Mr G and so does the Atheist web site….
And it’s pretty much as clear as mud to me….just seems like, well, confusing! If y’alll would pick ONE i could get on with my life;)
The problem is we’re talking about belief here. There are only 2 answers, not 3. “Yes” I believe or “No” I don’t. If the question is “Do you believe in gods?” then my answer is “No”. Period. I don’t believe.
If the question is “Are there gods?” then my answer is “I don’t know” (but I doubt it for the same reason I doubt there are Leprechauns).
I (and the majority of atheists) do NOT say “I believe there are no gods” because I (we) do not know for a fact that there are no gods. I have no evidence there are no gods. I only *believe* in things for which there is solid proof. When additional or contrary evidence is discovered then I adjust my belief accordingly.
For example; If I’ve never seen any evidence for Mustangs and I live in view of a major highway *I* would say “I don’t believe in Mustangs” but someone might have one hidden away in a garage somewhere. If I said “I believe there are no Mustangs” I would be wrong. When one says “I don’t believe” it can be because they simply don’t know.
It is OK to NOT believe if you don’t know and don’t see any evidence.
It is NOT OK to believe something without a scrap of proof. IMO!
My logic professor would have loved this conversation!
we have arrived at the crux of the problem.
you say that belief is binary.
I say that it can ternary.
If i were to say as objectively as possible that there was no god but then i found empirical evidence for spirits in the haunting of a house…i might then consider that a spiritual realm exists. but it would be inconclusive yet it would strongly suggest that other forms of existence are possible. I may or may no draw a connection to that knowledge and the possibility that other more elaborate spiratual existences are possible as well. without solid evidence i would have to say that I’m not really sure at all if there are gods…perhaps my definition or expectations are flawed…as they were before i encountered a house inhabited by some sort of entities.
So now I still have doubt that gods exist or not and without more information I have to say I don’t know…i can’t say yes or no because i have no proof to confirm or deny….So I’ve arrived at a third conclusion.
Of course saying there can only be two answers completely ignores Agnostics don’t it?
closed minded logic.
Sorry Freq but I think you are confusing belief with knowledge. You say the third option is that you “don’t know”. This is not an answer to the question “Do you believe?” this is only a cop-out. When you say that you don’t know if you believe or not, you are only refusing to evaluate/state your belief.
An agnostic is one who says they don’t know or can’t know if there is a god; guess what, that means they are not believers. Philosophical fence sitting is not belief therefore agnostics are atheists.
I am both agnostic and atheist – I do not know there is a god and I do not believe there is a god. It’s a bit of an apple and oranges thing.
I am completely open to evaluate evidence for god. Do you have any?
PS. I don’t believe in spirits. ;o)
To me there is no confusion. There can be doubt in either direction. Doubt works for belief since most people that say they believe doubt. I’m sure there are a few ‘non believers’ that doubt. Ultimately they come down on either believers or non believers. And your statement: “An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god.” says there are two ways and the other is to believe there is a god that would be three.
three possibilities…you introduce two of them:
1 – people that believe
2 – people that don’t believe (believe there is no god….which you say
you don’t do)
3 – people that have no belief (the no opinion folks, the folks that
say there is nothing conclusive enough to judge the void and vacuum)
You state the last two as distinct and separate states of belief.
I started from the beginning saying that the third option can not exist, and still say that it can not exist. You have to pick from the first two….been saying that all along. The third option is only an abstract but your statement says it exists and it is what atheists believe. My issue has been that portion of your statement…you claim to be a 3 but talk like a 2. the websites all support the concept of a 3 but then all just talk like a 2.
i’m not trying to convince you of anything. it doesn’t really matter to me what you believe. it was never my intention to convert you to anything, convince you of any gods and i have no other agenda. This is not leading to anything else and is not an attack against your belief state. The spirit scenario was only to make a point of a possibility which I thought you would agree with since it was as close as I could come to a 3 but I just keep missing an analogy to that one statement that is so ambiguous to me….“An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god.”… which says, “an atheist does not accept statement #2, rather an atheist says #3.” If you have no belief there is a god then that would be a void or vacuum which I have said from the beginning is not possible…and you have constantly confirmed that every time you have said, there are no gods. Something is logically wrong with that statement…I’m trying to clarify it, to make it so that only two states of belief exist. You started saying
that there were three but now you say that there can’t be three. All along, that is all I’ve been try to clarify…you’re inability to do clarify your statement and then your denial of the premise that you present makes this an impossible discussion to resolve.
It was interesting….thank you.
Ok, your first paragraph doesn’t make sense; I am talking about atheism when I say “An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god”. You say there’s a third option; to believe in god – this is NOT an option for atheism! There are only 2 options for atheism; people that have no belief there is a god and people who believe there is not a god. The majority of atheists claim “no belief” – this is called “weak atheism”, a minority of atheists take the extra step and say they “believe there’s no god” – this is called “strong atheism”. (man I hate labels!)
Then you list 3 possibilities (in regards to belief about god – not atheism)…
1 – people that believe – yeah I’ll agree here
2 – people that don’t believe is NOT the same as belief there is no god
3 – people that have no belief IS the same as people who don’t believe
Most atheists fall into category 3.
You are trying to make a distinction between “don’t believe” and “have no belief” – these are the same thing.
Your list *should* look like this…
1 – people who believe there is
2 – people who believe there is not
3 – people who don’t believe there is (have no belief there is)
(note: if you have no opinion or “don’t know” this does not mean you are a believer therefore you are an non-believer)
You put words in my mouth again in your last paragraph when you say that I said “there are no gods”. I did not say that anywhere. I said I don’t have belief in gods. This is not the same thing.
Again and again you say “this or that is what atheists believe”, “I’m not trying to change your belief”, “you can believe what you want I’m not trying to convert you”.
You just can’t wrap you brain around the idea that an atheist is one who has NO BELIEF!! You can call this a vacumm or void if you wish but you are wrong when you say it can’t be. This is exactly what atheism is about. Absence of belief.
touchy! babble on dude.
My question: Do you think non-belief in gods is impossible?