Are we born atheists?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by aaqucnaona, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. Rav Valued Senior Member

    The type of person you're describing would be more accurately described as a devoutly religious theist. Such adjectives exist for a reason. They allow us to be more specific.

    Theism by itself is a broad term. As noted by Wikipedia, it derives from the greek word theos, which means "god", and we all know what an "ism" entails.

    Further, I didn't say that you are a theist. I said you are inclined towards theism. That is, you are inclined towards what is essentially "godism" (a few people actually use that word).

    If the devoutly religious theists want to try to hijack the word, and play games with it for the purposes of excluding certain people from their 'group', then good luck to them. Perhaps over time the definition proper will change. But that hasn't happened yet.
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member


    So ancient or older or low-tech or non-Western peoples were what: Immaterial angels that never had to disturb anything connected to the earthly environments that they floated around in? Those statues on Easter Island, of course, were presents from alien visitors rather the work of superstitious folk stripping their island of trees to transport them to the shores so as to please the gods so that the curse of the gradual devastation of their island would cease.

    The layers of artifacts, campsites, dumping grounds, and ruins of ancient peoples that are studied are fictional examples of leaving a footprint on the world? Ancient peoples never burned-off lands and chopped down forests, riddled the landscape with battles and mining, hunted and butchered animals (it was a Lassie and Life and Times of Grizzly Addams world)? That is, I don't sense a theme of "more people equals more of their bad practices and beliefs and the effects of their mistakes to deal with" here, but rather an undercurrent of alternative cultures were *nice* and the *evil* comes from Western tradition.
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  5. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

    The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
    newspaper & the first
    newspaper published
    on the web

    BOOK REVIEW: “Just don’t be so silly”
    A secular call to stand against faith’s intrusions into reason’s turf
    By Roberto Perez-Franco
    April 20, 2012

    God and the Folly of Faith

    By Victor J. Stenger

    Prometheus Books

    April 2012

    Victor Stenger has written a wickedly powerful book, so sharp and heretical that had it been published four centuries ago, the author would have been extra-crispy by the time the nearest bishop was done reading the preface. God and the Folly of Faith, with its straightforward argumentation and encyclopedic scope, is a veritable handbook on the fundamental incompatibility of modern science and religion. In the context of the new atheism movement, Stenger’s book serves as the prosecutor’s closing argument in their collective case against religion. The book’s ambitious agenda, with the simultaneous grinding of many axes (from near death experiences and quantum consciousness to intelligent design and cosmic fine-tuning), takes a toll on the reader. The dissection of the multiple arguments and counterarguments that are currently used to support and refute faith makes this no light reading for a lazy spring afternoon. Albeit peppered with zingers, the work as a whole comes across as what it is: a thick and serious discourse on one of the most important intellectual conflicts in history, very much alive to this day.

    At least four threads can be identified in the book’s narrative:

    Firstly, there is a historical summary of the increasingly uneasy relationship of science and religion. Stenger argues that, albeit with a common origin in prehistoric thought, science, and religion developed over millennia into two unblendable worldviews, with irreconcilable epistemologies.

    Secondly, Stenger offers a primer on the current scientific understanding of reality, including evolution, quantum mechanics, cosmology, and the nature of consciousness, as well as a brief description of the methods science uses to differentiate the ice cream from the bologna.

    Thirdly, Stenger rejects the idea of a benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent God as an utterly failed hypothesis with no predictive power, of religion as a bankrupt worldview with no basis on evidence, and of faith as detrimental folly with increasingly deleterious effects as its influence widens in scope from the individual to society and mankind at large.

    Finally, Stenger makes a call to secular thinkers everywhere to stand up against religious nonsense and to fight back the encroachment of faith in high-stake policy issues — such as global warming — that should be addressed largely through science and reason. The book delivers nicely in these four fronts, but I do fear it may be preaching to the choir.

    Stengers conclusion is searing: “Religious faith would not be such a negative force in society if it were just about religion,” which it is not. In the last chapter of his book, Stenger illustrates this point in the context of the global warming debate by presenting evidence of a correlation between religion and the denial of climate change. Stenger argues that “many who deny the dangers of global warming do so out of religious conviction,” adding that this “denialism is a part of a growing distrust of science in America,” prominent in, but not limited to, evangelicals or conservatives.

    He also sees a sinister element — corporate greed — behind this phenomenon: “Antiscience, fueled by religion, is being exploited to prevent the U.S. government from taking actions that might be essential for everyone’s welfare.” Stenger argues this is nothing new: “From its very beginning, religion has been a tool used by those in power to retain that power and keep the masses in line.” It may be an old trick, but it remains a perilous one.

    A magnificent example (cited by Stenger) of how religion has come to shape the debate, and possibly also the policies, regarding global warming in the U.S. is found in a March 2009 hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. Congressman John Shimkus, speaking about the role carbon emissions play in global warming, described CO*2 as “plant food,” and then quoted from the Bible God’s promise to Noah not to destroy the Earth by a flood. He meant it as evidence that mankind need not worry about rising sea levels as a result of climate change: “I believe that is the infallible word of God, and that’s the way it is going to be for his creation.” Shimkus even went as far as to state that “there is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet.” Astoundingly, Shimkus went on to become the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and Economy, with a central role in shaping the climate change policy of the world’s second largest energy-related CO2 emitter.

    In light of such an Alice in Wonderland scenario, there are two calls I hope Americans would heed. The first is Stenger’s request to keep religious faith out of the debate on global warming and other high-stake policy issues. Given the Bible-thumping Shimkuses and Santorums of the world, Stenger’s Catilinarian against the “folly of faith” is timely, welcome and fully justified. The second is the plea that Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, delivered during his visit to The Daily Show: “I’m afraid politicians only do the things that their people tell them to do, and I’m afraid the people of the United States are not telling their politicians to be concerned about climate change.” When it comes to global change, Nasheed advised, “be concerned.” And above all, “just don’t be so silly.”
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  7. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    Neither were they able to do what you are doind right now. With more and new powers come more responsibilities, and being humans, we sometimes mess up. I mean, really, if those things are really what you think makes modernity bad or inappropriate, you dont fully appreciate what modernity has done for us in the lass 2 centuries. Perhaps a month in the rainforest or a desert town would help, no?
  8. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    There can be no theism without devotion.

    This is a categorically atheist understanding of theism.

    No, this is just how you see it.

    You're basically arguing for the supremacy of atheism.

  9. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    Its seems he hit a nerve - telling the truth was he? You dont seem to deflect unless someone is telling an unpleasant and you dont have a retort. You will disagree, in which case do try to retort without deflecting.
  10. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    Woah, another one of those big assertions. Care to elaborate/substatiate?
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Your cynicism is duly noted.
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Because the most reasonable thing to do when someone is being mean is to try to appease them by submitting oneself to them, right?

    More of your usual control freakery, eh?
  13. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    Right, and the theists [who tremble for invisble ghosts and speak in stupid tongues, worship potential diseased rats and still sacrifice animals] have a better, more sophisticated and objective definition than the intellectuals of philosophy and theology. Driving a car doesnt allow you to define how it works.

    Fine, prove us wrong. See, thats why assertions are bad, you immediately shift [but rarely shoulder] the burden of proof onto yourself.

    A likely and refreshing change it would be were that to happen. Seeing how atheism is on the rise in the west and the fundies and creationists are having their ass handed to them, it seems that it will eventually happen.
  14. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    So is your curt deflection.
  15. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    No, no matter what the emotion, any argumentative discussion must have retort that either accepts the argument of the opposition or makes a logical and sensible counterclaim. You do neither, you take the dishonest road of deflection unless your presumptions are confirmed and your argument not defeated.

    No, just the expression of the usual frustration in conversing with a theist.
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    That's Logic 101 For Thugs then.
  17. Rav Valued Senior Member

    So every dictionary is produced by atheists who have, for some unknown reason, decided to omit words like devout and devoted from definitions of theism, huh? And this extends to Wikipedia as well? And Encyclopedia Britannica? But wait. Here's a Christian website that does the same thing. And another one. But let's not stop there. Conservapedia, which is a decidedly Christian endeavour, makes the same glaring omission. What are we to make of this?

    What is interesting, though, is if you look up a word like 'religion', you certainly will find other words like practice, and adherence, and devotion. You know, all the things that are missing from definitions of theism.

    Further, if you do a google search for the phrase "devout theist", you'll get a shitload of results. But why? If the definition of theism already automatically entails devotion what's with the superfluous adjective? It's there because, as demonstrated, it is indeed absent from definitions of theism, even those supplied by theists themselves.

    I'm arguing for the supremacy of established definitions (over personal ones), and effective communication (over the ineffective sort, which is so often rendered as such due to the use of personal definitions instead of established ones).
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2012
  18. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    In church, babies don't appear to be following the service.
    Ask them about the sermon afterwards and they haven't a clue,
    (too busy sticking their fingers in their mothers ears)
    but I would say that they are probably agnostics rather than atheists.
  19. Balerion Banned Banned

    Agnosticism is itself a view, so you can't argue that they aren't atheists because they don't understand complex concepts and then say that they are holders of a complex concept.

    If you had to choose one of the three (theist, atheist, agnostic) the only term that would fit is atheism, because one definition of atheism is a lack of belief in a god or gods. This can be interpreted as a neutral position, because one is technically an atheist in regards to gods they have never heard of. If a child has no concept of god, then it's fair to say that we are born (in a loose sense) atheists. But again, this is only if you had to choose one of these terms to apply to babies.

    Otherwise, you can't really say we're born with anything other than predispositions. And, frankly, I really hate the idea of saying we're born as anything other than humans (aside from ethnicity, of course). As much as I may disagree with them, there are implications to the term "atheism," and in a practical sense it is an intellectual position rather than simply a default (in terms of my atheism regarding, say, some aboriginal tribe's local gods from a thousand years ago). You wouldn't say a child is born a Christian, you wouldn't say they're born a Republican, so you shouldn't say they're born as an atheist or agnostic. Let's let our children grow up and make the choices for themselves.
  20. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    What are we to make of this? Two things, for starters:

    1. That there are things that go without saying.
    2. That for different people, different things go without saying.
    The things that go without saying for atheists, are not the same things that go without saying for theists.

    If dictionary definitions could settle anything, there would be neither need nor use for discussion.
  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    No, it's your false conclusion that if you are frustrated talking to someone, it must be that you are talking to a theist.
  22. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Aww, JDawg has a soft heart!

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  23. wellwisher Banned Banned

    One point that is overlooked is connected to conditioning such as education. Education allows people to become smarter than they would on their own. Some people have no common sense and if there were no book to read or people to copy they would appear far less intelligent. Education plants ideas in people's heads that they would never think up on their own. If there were no books, the brain would be empty for many people. But once you program them, many people can appear to be more on the ball, innately. There is a smoke and mirrors.

    The point is, you can't answer the question of atheist at birth after any form of indoctrination, since you can program the result you wish to get, even in air heads who would be blank without it.

    If you wanted seek truth and run an unbiased experiment, you would need to do it with small children before indoctrination when they are spontaneous and natural. The age would need to be closest to birth, old enough for them to talk and relate, yet too young to be a overly biased by external conditioning.

    Qualitatively, if the small child was innately atheist at birth, they would be rational and scientific at birth, since this is how atheism is pitched. They would already know cause and affect and how to reason at birth. If children were theistic at birth, they would have a lot of imagination and therefore believe in things were cause and effect break down so even the non casual is possible.

    Maybe this is over simplified and we could add other tiers of criteria. For example, since animals don't practice religion, an atheist at birth would act like a baby animal which is innately in touch with the cause and effect of the environment, relative to their natural instincts. The theist at birth, would be more in the world of imagination where anything is possible, since God by definition can do anything.

    Maybe the theists and atheists can add their own tiers then we will run an experiment and see the results.

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