Attitudes Toward Atheists & Beliefs About Atheists

Discussion in 'Religion' started by StrangerInAStrangeLand, Oct 15, 2017.

  1. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    No, it really isn't.
    A number of my close family are agnostic theists.
    They genuinely believe that God exists, and they believe in God.
    They also accept that they do not know God but, for whatever reason, they do actually believe.
    They don't believe scripture is divine revelation but believe that much of it makes sense, including, to them, the notion of God.

    If you asked them whether or not they believe in God then they would say that they do, so they are theist (or would recognise that as a label applicable to them).
    If you asked them whether they have knowledge of God they would say that they don't, only that it feels right to believe, that they are comfortable with it, that it makes sense to them, etc.
    That makes them agnostic.

    Put the two together and you don't suddenly get an agnostic atheist.

    Without other theists around, these agnostic theists are still theists, and still believe in God.
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  3. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    I said nothing about whether the position is tenable or rational & the many possible reasons for belief are beside the point.
    Either 1 reasonably knows something or 1 does not. If 1 knows, 1 must believe. As someone else on this forum said recently, belief comes from knowledge, not knowledge from belief. He did not say anything about belief which does not come from knowledge, I assume because it was not relevant to that discussion.
    Belief which does not come from knowledge inherently comes with the belief that 1 knows. It cannot be otherwise. Whatever the belief is rooted in or caused by.
    Belief comes by being convinced. If 1 is convinced, either they know or they believe they know.
    I am not saying people cannot believe without knowing but those who do so must unavoidably believe they know.
    They may as well say they know yet they do not believe as to say they believe yet do not know. Saying you do not know says you cannot believe. Saying you do not believe says you do not know.
    People saying they believe but do not know does not mean they do not believe they know.

    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The detail of one's knowledge of one's God is not the defining matter. Belief in the existence is.
    Admittedly that is not the etymology or root of the noun "agnostic", and it should refer to a category of knower rather than believer - but it doesn't. And in defense of the common meaning, note that your folks are not actually knowledge-free - this God they believe in has various properties not all Gods have, and lacks some features found in other Gods, and is in operational fact something of a known entity (one can make claims about their God they would regard as wrong).
    Do they describe themselves as agnostics?
    Exactly. Pair with this:
    and we have case for discarding the noun "agnostic", and restricting the word to adjective only, and me not writing sentences about "the agnostic" or "an agnostic".
    But not a case for those who believe in the God of the Bible being agnostics.

    Meanwhile, nobody on my end of things is taking anyone of humility lightly or unseriously.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
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  7. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Yes, it can be otherwise.
    If we are to take knowledge to be a justified true belief, notwithstanding the discussions by Gettier et al, then while knowledge can not exist without their first being a belief, belief does not need to stem from knowledge at all.
    If one accepts that the veracity can not be assessed (e.g. until after the fact) then one can believe that the outcome will occur without knowledge that it will, and while also accepting that one can not know that it will.
    Simply put, if one accepts that God is unknowable then, by definition, one accepts one can not have knowledge of God.
    But one can still believe in God.
    And there is no implication in this that one believes one knows, rather an explicit rejection of this possibility.
    Conviction does not necessarily equate to either knowledge or belief of knowledge.
    It could simply be a weight of probability but without the certainty of (belief of) knowledge.
    Simply not true.
    It is a matter of how convinced one is, and the certainty with which one holds the belief.
    Agnostic theists accept that they can not know.
    That excludes the possibility of believing that they know.
    Yet they choose to believe for other reasons than believing they know.
    If one is certain in ones belief absent knowledge then you could be right.
    But if one starts by accepting the position that one can not know, then believing one can know is illogical.
    And in the absence of knowledge (one can not know) and belief of knowledge (one can not logically believe you know something that you accept is unknowable) one can still end up believing.

    It is a matter of being convinced, but not to the point where one necessarily believes one knows.
  8. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Only in so far as you are limiting your discussion to what is believed, or not believed, to be true.
    If you start discussing the reasoning behind ones position on belief then agnosticism rears its head, for both sides, although far more commonly for the atheist.
    In a philosophy forum it refers (or should refer) to what one knows, or considers knowable.
    They are knowledge-free.
    They know about the concept they believe in, but they accept that they do not / can not know whether or not this God actually exists.
    In a religious discussion, those I know would likely side on the agnostic aspect, as I think they find their justification for subsequent belief far more personal and difficult to explain.
    They would more likely argue about whether or not God is knowable than justification for belief.
    Sure, in discussion about belief, "agnostic" only really has meaning as an adjective.
    Yet they can be.
    They simply can't say that they know that what they believe is true, but they believe it anyway, because it makes sense to them (or whatever reason).
    They won't accept that scripture is divine revelation, though, no matter how much some of it might make sense to them.
    As such they wouldn't label themselves as your typical Christian who believes the Bible is the word of God etc.

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    Good to know.
    I actually find them the most fascinating to talk to as they start from the same position (agnosticism), don't try to claim knowledge, yet have somehow ended up believing whereas I do not.
    You tend to avoid all the issues about proving claims of existence and all that stuff, and just get to the detail of why one believes.
  9. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    1 can be convinced something is probable without being convinced that it is. 1 might be convinced that it is by the seeming probability but that is illogical. Either way, either they are convinced or they are not. If they are convinced, they think they know. It cannot be otherwise, no matter what they claim.
    I cannot know whether it is a case of cognitive dissonance or what. I do not know whether you or they do not understand words such as know, believe & convinced. Perhaps they are most comfortable trying to straddle the fence.
    Agnostic theist is an oxymoron. You may as well claim a square triangle or a false truth.

  10. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    To believe something is not necessarily to claim knowledge of it.
    Knowledge is a justified true belief (notwithstanding the discussions by Gettier and co).
    If they accept that they can not establish the veracity of something then they accept that they can never know it.
    But that doesn't stop them believing, from being convinced enough to believe.
    They simply accept that the actual veracity is unknowable.
    Hence they are agnostic, while being sufficiently convinced to believe.
    They leave room for being wrong, though.
    And no, I do not seen "convinced" as being 100% belief that one is correct.
    I see it as having more than sufficient justification to do something rather than not doing.
    I see it as stronger than mere persuasion, for example.
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  11. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

    For most of my life, if asked about my religious preference, I would say "I'm not religious enough to call myself an atheist". I did nothing special, no tactics of avoidance, I simple didn't run into religion very often, probably because I didn't go looking for it. I was fine until "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" came along. That made me realize that the extremist religious groups were trying to control a subject they knew little or nothing about, science. Trying to invade the science classrooms and alter reality to fit their personal beliefs was the last straw for my patience with the raucous babble of Gods vs. God.
  12. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Who says anyone has the right to demand that another person, of any opinion or persuasion, on any subject, explain or justify their belief or disbelief.
    I have never once, on any forum or in any room, gone up to a Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or Jew and challenged them on their god, on the tenets of their faith, on their ceremonial practices, or on any doctrinal matter whatsoever. Not once. Though I have many times defended myself against unfounded accusation, undeserved defamation and unsolicited counsel.
    I have never tried to forbid any of them to do whatever they like among consenting adults, or restricted their freedom to marry or make end-of-life decisions according to their convictions, attempted to deny them education, health care or citizenship.
    I just don't understand how I'm persecuting them.
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    There is so much that is wrong with this caricature. Here's a brief list:

    1. Atheists are people who don't believe in gods. That's all. There is no requirement about believing anything about evolution, or the big bang, or dinosaurs or whatever. True, there is probably a correlation between being atheist and being a person who accepts established science rather than denying it, but being reasonable is not an absolute requirement of atheism.
    2. Atheism and science have nothing to say about whether the universe started with "nothing".
    3. The big bang theory is a scientific theory. There is nothing "magical" about it. Science is concerned with nature, not magic.
    4. The big bang theory describes how the universe "exploded". The theory is supported by real-world observations and evidence of many different kinds.
    5. Chemistry and physics are not "magical", and neither are things that rearrange themselves in accordance with physical and chemical laws of nature. Physical laws do not count as "no reason".
    6. Dinosaurs were an accident, essentially, just as human beings are. If we were to run evolution on Earth again, there's no guarantee there'd be anything like* a dinosaur or a human being after 3.9 billion years.

    Oh, and yes, it does make sense if you bother to educate yourself just a little.

    * Well, it depends how "like" you want it to be, and in what ways.
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  14. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Correlation is worthless, James. I've tried discussing this aspect with identifying, evangelical atheists, and they're pretty much unreasonable. The assertion of reasonability has precisely nothing to do with atheism. Watching atheists freak out about it actually makes your line about correlation feel like a really skeezy lie. I mean, honestly, for how hard atheists at Sciforums, for instance, throw down on the point of extending rational consideration beyond screeching that there is no God, It's true, that part of your answer really, really, reads like a bad joke.

    But that's the thing: I think I get what you're after. It just doesn't prove out in practice.

    Would you agree with the following statement: "There is no practical reason to explore how the Bang came about, or how its circumstance developed, as this has nothing to do with the Bang itself."

    If you agree with that statement, your answers suit the circumstance.

    If you don't, then science has something to say about such questions unless it is simply incapable.

    (There is also a religious answer of Bang ex nihilo.)

    Or we could be strictly rationalistic and remind that science has nothing to say about anything: It's the scientists who do the talking.

    Hmph. You mean science might have something to say about scientific issues?

    Imagine that.

    It's always good advice.

    Like this story I tell about how the atheist at Sciforums who couldn't have the argument unless we redefined the word "religion" to make his argument easier.

    Bait like the topic post tell us more about that poster than anyone or anything else.

    Funny thing is that religious people tell me lots about hwo awsome and smart their faith is, too. The difference is always one of abstraction compared to reality.

    Of whatever you do and don't remember about your time here, James, can you remember the early days? It's one thing to complain about religious evangelization, but in the whole of Sciforums our "atheissts" have never really transcended the religious fanatics they hate. Calling oneself an atheist is easy. Saying rude things about religious people is easy.

    And as an identity, that sloth is the point.

    As a matter of logic and rhetoric, the atheistic assertion has its clear function as a counterassertion against religion.

    Otherwise, it just is: It's just this idea, you know? It exists as a potential whether we identify it or not; the answer is only relevant if the question arises. In the end, this counterassertion against religion is reactionary, which, incidentally, is why it is even possible for me to tell the story about the time the atheist apparently hopping his track decided the rational thing to do was start redefining the words.

    The result of this is that the atheism we witness in the public discourse is a weird mix of revolt and surrender.

    An example from life, and having nothing to do with God:

    Corporate personhood — Wait, what? Okay, so there was a case before the U.S. Supreme Courty, it is known as Santa Clara, and pits a county against a railroad company. There came a point where the objections flying back and forth compelled the Court to smack them all down at once, and in order to get through this part of the trial they were going to skip arguing the ontology of the corporation and just look at it as a normal question of a person's rights. Corporate personhood was not explicitly argued or resolved by the 1886 decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co., nor explicitly decided. The first publication of the decision lacks any substantial resolution or address of the question. However, two railroad men, namely the Chief Justice and the Clerk of the Court, exchanged letters afterward and decided that the latter would enter a headnote to the syllabus asserting the the Court had resolved coroporations to have the same rights as individuals. Subsequent questions on the matter simply referred to precedent. One of the reasons it is hard to argue against corporate personhood is that there really isn't anything to argue against.​

    Most of what atheists argue against is backfill. Consider this rational argument:

    If [Theist] says [God] does [_____],

    and [Atheist] can demonstrate [_____] false,

    then God does not exist.​

    This slothful fallacy is the primary "atheistic argument". What makes it unreliable is allowing what it considers unreliable to assert and set conditions. That is to say, the reaction is against an irrational proposition. Extending that logical resolution—e.g., that the Earth exists as such, as compared to this silly, untestable seven-day thesis—to a larger framework can be, and in this range generally is, inappropriate.

    If you let someone else set the terms, and you demonstrate that two plus two does not equal five, what is anyone else supposed to say if your argument tacitly requires that it equal three? The problem might be your math or not; it also might be that you agreed to argue irrational terms.

    Why would anybody do that, by the way? Quite simply, because they're human, and start focusing too narrowly on what annoys them.

    What we witness in the Sciforums experience is far different than we see in the world, but the way it all works out, people might not notice, especially if they disdain issues operating outside the immediately workable range of the physical sciences. The thing is that there are a lot of nonbelievers that haven't the strange trouble discussing history and theology that identifying atheists do; the reason they don't is they're not wasting their time on such petty satisfactions. And, you know, okay, they're human, so they probably are in some way, shape, or form, but matters of proportion might explain why it doesn't stand out so much. We can argue all we want with the SBCs, SDAs, LDS, Kingdom Hall, traditionalist Catholics, ad nauseam, and all we ever win out of it is that no, their personal perversion of what "God" means does not represent a real or true condition in this Universe except as a thought in someone's mind and subsequent practice of their will.

    Comparative theology isn't a physical science. Neither is pschoanalysis, and especially not as a paraliterary exercise such as we might find in classicist Norman O'Brown's "psychoanalytic meaning of history". Still, though, there is this: The historical record we have is the historical record we have, and unless we intend to abandon all questions of "meaning" and "purpose" beyond the immediately utilitarian. To wit, sure, it would be nice if everyone could come right out and say it, but Perdurabo↱ is not necessarily wrong, and, sure, the commentary is as pretentious as the pretense is ridiculous, and it really, really helps to understand the man ineffably loathed his parents. It actually helps to not believe; Perdurabo does appear to approach proximity to genius, but that can also be an illusion fostered by madness. These days he would merely be annoying; we probably would have banned him three or four times after he got his ego on. In his day, he was astonishingly crazy, and largely because people had forgotten about Newton.

    In mythopoeic terms, I am the parallelogram, and don't ask, but it's also true I find that point hilarious. I use the word "Apathetic" to describe my outlook on God; I am neither theist nor atheist nor agnostic, and I literally do not care if God exists because it is just a word, and in the monotheistic framework describes an abstraction; this notion is not any pioneering work of my own, but something I learned from reading really smart people giving their best historical analyses to notions they personally didn't believe.

    And I also learned that bit about accretions, years ago, from Sufis.

    The error I perceive in points 2-4 has to do with your framework, which in turn seems reactive; it's one of those things by which I think I get what you're after, but you're hemming yourself in by surrendering terms to the theists, and thereby ... I think overstating what you mean.
  15. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    As a committed atheist I must (well must is a bit strong) protest as being counted in the group agnostics - which used to be those who state god does not exist


    Atheism is one thing: A lack of belief in gods.
    Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods

    NOTHING else flows from a disbelief in gods

    Anybody who who tacks on ANYTHING else, ANYTHING else, is incorrect in their belief (or interpretation) of a atheist

    Every discussion I have engaged with about being a atheist has had some sort of "Oh so you......?"
    No matter what they put in the ...... I always, always fail to see any connection

    I don't believe in (.........) so you ........


    Anybody who has found a link between atheist and anything else please provide a link to the evidence

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  16. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

    Anybody who doesn't positively affirm their uncritical belief in a "supreme being" gets lumped into one pot by the people who are atheistic about the gods they don't believe in. It's really rather funny.
  17. Hipparchia Registered Senior Member

    I don't believe in atheists, but I am agnostic about theists.

    It makes life simpler.
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  18. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    I happen to be an atheist & consider agnostics to be cowardly atheists hedging their bet in our modern USA culture.

    In some cultures, an agnostic might be a cautious atheist. Who wants to be hung, ostracized, or denied various basic rights for admitting to be an atheist?

    BTW: I wonder how many claim to be believers based on Pascal's wager: If there is no god, I lose nothing by being a believer. If there is a god, I am in serious trouble if I do not at least claim to be a believer.
  19. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Most atheists, in my experience, are agnostic.
    Agnosticism is a separate issue with regard God.
    Epistemology rather than ontology.
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  20. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    That's insulting. (But that's ok.)

    The word 'agnostic' has nothing to do with the United States, it was coined by Thomas Huxley (Darwin's bulldog) in England.

    As he tells it, the occasion was his becoming a member of the Metaphysical Society and noticing that everyone else seemed to have a label that they proudly wore like foxes wear their tails: atheist, theist, Christian, pantheist, materialist, idealist... It seemed to Huxley that each of them seemed to think that they had the secret of the universe all figured out. But as for poor Huxley, the more he thought about it, the less sure he was about any of it. It all remained profoundly mysterious to him. So, feeling a bit inadequate, Huxley coined the word 'agnostic' from the Greek 'a-' (not) and 'gnosis' (knowledge). He then paraded it around the Society, to show that he too had a tail.
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  21. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    Everybody's agnostic. Atheists and believers just don't know it.
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  22. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

    Tell what I'm unsure about.
  23. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member


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