The psychology of atheists and theists

Discussion in 'Religion' started by James R, Aug 31, 2018.

  1. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    Very few atheists say that & of those, most say it only in direct response to the unsupported claim that there is a god. You know that.

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  3. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    Then why do you pretend to not understand science???

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  5. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    I've proven what I set out to prove: You've failed to understand your own question. Yet again.
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  7. Goldtop Registered Senior Member

    Fyi - Hearts are used to pump blood, brains are used to think about things. Atheists have no reason to say such a thing considering the possibility and probability (however minuscule) that some God somewhere exists. So, where would such a statement originate, Jan? Do people just get up one day and state emphatically to themselves that there is no God? No, Jan. It doesn't work that way and you know it.

    Here's how it works, please pay attention.

    Theists will claim the existence of God, just like you did, stating emphatically that existence is an attribute of God, that's just the way it is, you said.

    You make this claim from a position of faith and nothing more. Then, you state, without any reason whatsoever that atheists claim there is no God.

    So, it would seem there are a number of delusions you hold that have nothing to do with anyone but yourself.

    In conclusion, this is little more than a false position of superiority on your part, that you have some special knowledge we don't possess, but in reality, it's just an delusion in your mind.

    That's how it works, Jan.
  8. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Ticked like, mainly for that word, which equals the remainder of the post

    Love it when people don't pussy foot around and call it like it is

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  9. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    Sometimes I feel hindered by the rules.

  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Jan Ardena:

    Are you saying I am wrong?

    All indications are that you believe you know God is real. But you are consistently unable to say how you know.

    Strike "accept" and you're stating a definition.

    Replace "accept" by "believe" and you're right.

    So theist or atheist doesn't come into it, then?

    Does atheism "taint" intelligence, in your opinion?

    Human beings tend to have a social heirarchy, like the other apes. I agree.

    Then what's wrong with human moral systems, compared to God's moral system (whatever that might be)?

    I've read what many theists say about morality, and formed my views on that basis. How about you?

    The vast majority of them do. You're in a minority there, Jan.

    I see. You're willing to overlook the errors that those other theists make, because at least they are theists. The real enemy is the atheists?

    Oh no, I have reasons. The main one is the total lack of evidence for God. I'm hoping you have some, though. I'm willing to change my mind, I assure you. I've started a thread on the topic.

    Do you ask that question objectively or subjectively?

    Subjectively: you don't need to. Everything's fine and dandy with you regarding your belief in God. I assume you're happy and comfortable with it, so why risk upsetting yourself?

    Objectively: you really ought to check whether it is reasonable to hold the belief, all things considered. If it isn't, then you might be wasting your time on an delusion. Philosophically, truth may be preferable to happiness. Arguably.

    Whether you choose to take a long, honest, look at your own beliefs, in the end, has nothing to do with me.

    I've already been through the process. You haven't really started. But it's okay. I'm not evangelising. I have empathy and I don't want to upset your apple cart.
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Or, it might be indicative of the psychological state of theists of your ilk. That is, one in which the definition of God is deliberately kept nebulous, so that it leaves you free to complain that no definition of God used by atheists is satisfactory. Nothing meets your criteria, therefore no atheist is ever talking about God "properly".

    I see it as an evasive tactic. If the definition of God is never locked down, then endless time can be wasted discussing possible definitions.

    The obvious thing for the theist to do would be to provide the required definition of God in the first instance, rather than reserving the prerogative to reject all proposed atheist definitions.

    What does it say about the theist that he refuses to define God and stick to one definition?
  12. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Exactly. You can give a definition of God, Jan can call you an ignorant atheist and quibble about your definition, and the conversation is effectively derailed.

    I have noticed different approaches by the theists on this group to arguments. Jan tends to try to derail any argument he is losing. If he is kept on track eventually he just stops posting and starts another thread. Musika gets more and more condescending and arrogant until all content is gone, and it becomes a stream of thinly disguised personal attacks. I have yet to meet a theist here who can carry on a discussion without trying to deflect, distract or just plain run from the topic. (With the possible exception of Bowser; he has managed to remain fairly civil and rational even when he disagrees and eventually disengages.)
  13. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    You would think god would do the right thing and show up to help them out

    OR at least give you a little smiteing for being the heathen

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  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    I agree. Jan tends to lose focus and continually drifts back to his favorite talking points ("you are an atheist so for you there is no God" etc.) Musika tends to preach about how his opponents lack the requisite qualifications to discuss things with him.

    The reason that conversations between iceaura and Musika typically go nowhere is that both of them spend all their time painting caricatures of the other ("Abrahamic theists always ....", "Atheists can't talk about God because they lack the requisite education about God...") and accusing each other of posting in bad faith.

    What is missing from Jan and Musika, consistently, is on-topic content. I think they view discussions mostly as a kind of verbal sparring match, rather than being interested in any honest exchange of ideas and opinions. Probably what I find most annoying is their inability to answer direct questions with actual answers. Instead, over and over, we see questions answered with questions, distraction or evasion - including the ever-useful cop-out of "I've already told you. Go look for where I answered you previously, because I'm not going to repeat myself, or point you to where I answered the question."

    I don't know whether the behaviour we see is typical of the kind of theist who likes engaging in these kinds of debates on internet forums, or whether it is more of a specific defence mechanism used by theists who feel out of their depth on a science forum. I am aware that the theists here are probably in the minority, but it still surprises me that they are so unwilling to say what they actually believe. It's almost like they are constantly apologising for holding their beliefs, instead of proudly displaying them. Or, perhaps more likely, they are aware of the vulnerabilities in their beliefs and so they try to present what they regard as the smallest possible target.

    I get the impression that they regard it is a "win" if they can shift the focus away from their own specific beliefs, or from the particulars of theistic belief in general, and instead make the discussion a battle of personalities - especially exposing the know-nothing atheists for what they believe them to be.

    The constrast between what we typically see here and the real-world discussions I have with reasonable, thoughtful theists, is quite striking. In the real world, I find that theists are usually happy to talk about their beliefs and stand up for them, while admitting that they don't have all the answers. They are also usually quite happy to explain exactly what it is that they believe, and their reasons for the belief. But here, things are very different. The theists won't tell us what they believe, except in the most superficial way. Their attitude at the start of conversation is not one of sharing, but rather of putting up a wall to defend against expected assaults on the belief. At times, reading between the lines, they seem almost ashamed to hold the belief, so that they feel like they have to hide it away. And they never admit that they don't have all the answers; on the contrary, they tell us directly that they know all the answers already. But how they know is a closely-kept secret, never to be revealed.

    I'm really not sure what the theists are afraid of. It's not like the big bad atheists are ever going to be able to prove that their gods aren't real. So maybe it's more a case of their not wanting to examine the reasons for their own beliefs too closely, because they are too fragile to withstand the challenge. Or something like that.
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You have made a couple of small changes that alter my posting - that is no quote of mine.

    The closest I come would be something like "overt Abrahamic theists who post on science forums" - clearly a subcategory or tribe, not the same as "Abrahamic theists", right? The "overt" is especially significant - most readers here, and a large fraction at least of posters, are Abrahamic theists who do not post or read from that identity as a stance or position, impose a fundie framing, or behave as Jan and Musika and the rest of their tribe behave.

    A more accurate paraphrase of my posting would not be a caricature, then. They are posting in bad faith, for example, continually and in characteristic ways, on these science forums - it's a field mark, among others. The scientific issues they ostensibly address are pretexts for personal disparagement of science and scientists and any associated worldviews, such disparagement making up the bulk of their posting. That's interesting - that's a topic of some import.

    As you have noticed yourself:
    And speculated about:
    There is another context, besides personal psychology, one might explore: the political leverage of fundies in the US, and the role of repetitive personal attack in fascist propaganda. The Jans and Musikas of the real world just elected a President, in no small part by attacking intellectual authority - especially scientific.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    It wasn't intended as a direct quote. Sorry if it came across as such.

    I agree with you that "overt Abrahamic theists posting on science forums" is a particular subcategory of "Abrahamic theists". We can certainly discuss the psychology of the forum group without necessarily including all of the latter group.
  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member


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    is a logical fallacy in which one party simply assumes that the other party is wrong and explains their reasons for wanting to believe it rather than addressing the argument itself. It combines Circular Reasoning with the Genetic Fallacy.

    The Other Wiki expresses Bulverism as:

    • You claim that A is true.
    • Because of B, you personally desire that A should be true.
    • Therefore, A is false.
    In short, it can be summarized as "You're only claiming X to be the case because you want X to be the case!". This is fallacious, as whether or not someone wants something to be true has no bearing on whether or not it actually is.

    The term was coined by C. S. Lewis in an essay of the same name in which he describes the (fictional) origin of the fallacy: a boy named Ezekiel Bulver heard his parents arguing when his mother said "Oh you say that because you are a man." at which point Bulver realized that "refutation is no necessary part of argument".

    Lewis himself summed up the fallacy as "to assume without discussion that he [your opponent] is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly."

  18. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Definitely. The theists I know are pretty candid about their beliefs; a common one is (to summarize) "Yeah, I'm not sure that I believe that the communion wafer actually turns into the flesh of Christ, but it seems like a pretty meaningful ceremony so I don't have an issue participating in it - because it's really supporting this church I like." They maintain a willing suspension of disbelief on issues of the supernatural to reap the benefits of membership in a religious community, and they realize that not everything in their religion makes sense. And I can respect that.

    Part of the problem people run into here, I think, is the engineering/scientific mindset; if an engineer or a scientist sees a burning bush that isn't consumed they are going to want to understand it - take clippings of it, run independent tests, get an infrared camera. Not because they hate religion, but because wood that can burn without being damaged would help an awful lot of people in the world. And if there's no good explanation - but people insist that it happened - they are going to want to get answers. It's easy to think that people who don't have that same need to understand things are "dumb" but that's a pretty superficial approach. A great many smart people don't understand how elevators work but are happy to use them every day, for example. They have faith (to misuse a term) that the engineers who designed the elevator knew how elevators worked, and that's good enough for them.

    And so once a theist says something like that to me - "Look, I know it doesn't make complete sense, but it's important to me to believe it" - I am fine with that. What really irks me are the theists who say "Look, the reason you don't understand is that you're an idiot - because I believe it and I'm not an idiot." And unfortunately we have a lot of them here.
  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    It is also false as a paraphrase, or representation - and the claim it supports (that I am dealing in caricatures) is thereby unsupported.

    And if you attempt to bolster its support in other ways, say via accurate paraphrases and the like, I believe you will run into difficulties.

    The larger claim, of which misrepresenting my posting appears to be a part, is that the increasing public visibility of atheistic views (the pejoratively mislabeled "evangelical" atheism) is presenting caricatures of religious belief, that it amounts to one side in a both sides poothrow of equivalently delusional and baseless insult from equivalently powerful positions of societal support.

    And that, imho, is a political stance - a propaganda meme, that has undermined reason and the public discourse. Steven Pinker says some arguably foolish things about the malleability of the human mind and moral grounding,
    - but he also says solidly observant and well argued things about how we can allow for ourselves, he can be argued with,
    - and relevantly, neither he or anyone like him is in charge of the NEA's policies toward religious education. Betsy Devos is.
  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    This thread is not about the argument itself. It is explicitly about the reasons for holding the beliefs, and the approaches adopted when attempting to defend the beliefs, and the psychological precursors to both of those things.

    In other words, you are mistaken if you think I am making any attempt in this thread to argue against the beliefs that theists hold. Your reference to "Bulverism", while interesting, is irrelevant to anything I have posted here.

    On the other hand, perhaps your post was obliquely aimed at Musika and Jan Ardena.
  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Me too.

    I also think there is a reluctance on the part of many believers to think too hard about the foundations of their belief system, because to do so risks starting a slide down a slippery slope. Consciously or unconsciously, they prefer not to risk the comfort and familiarity that goes with religion and religious community. Potential rewards at the end of the slippery slope can be hard to visualise when you're at the top of the slide, and there can be a natural fear of trading a good thing for something that might turn out to be less comfortable.

    Also, people can be really good at dealing with cognitive dissonance. They can often rationalise away, or simply ignore, apparent inconsistencies and inconveniences in their belief systems. That is especially true for religion, because most people don't come to religion by a process of reasoning. Rather, they tend to be indoctrinated into it, in an environment where the foundational beliefs are taken for granted.

    Scientists and engineers love to pull things apart to find out how they work. But a lot of people aren't worried, as long as things "work" well enough.

    Some people think that the typically reductionist approach of science takes the mystery and wonder out of life, and they are on an endless quest for more mystery. Knowing too much about the wrong things threatens to destroy the fun, I guess.

    Equally, I don't mind the theists who say "Look, nobody knows the answers to this (yet), but I choose to believe that God is involved", or similar - provided that they are talking about something for which the statement that "nobody knows" is true. After all, we don't know what we don't know. It's okay not to know everything right now.

    The flip side of that is that theists who pretend to knowledge tend to irk me. I take some care not to be so arrogant as to make definitive pronouncements about stuff I don't know, and I don't admire that kind of arrogance in others.

    If you say you know something, I think it's quite reasonable for me to ask you how you know. Unfortunately, we have a lot of theists here who are continually telling us they know this or that, but who are also consistently unable and/or unwilling to tell us just how they know. Their tendency when questioned is to try to bluff it out, or change the subject, only to repeat the same claim at a later date.
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  22. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Prompted by something that came up in another thread...

    I'm wondering if the usual theist process regarding their belief is "believe first, ask questions later"?

    Consider the process of arriving at the god belief in the first instance, which typically happens during childhood. It would be understandable if children start to believe that God is real because their parents, family, teachers, priests tell them that. After all, children have little option but to rely on others to provide reliable information about the world.

    As the child grows into an adult and asks more questions about the world, it is possible that a child raised in a religious environment has to face a difficult choice if he or she starts to doubt the reality of God. On the one hand, giving up the belief could be perceived by the child as a rejection of family and community. On the other, maintaining the belief and selectively tying to rationalise it might reinforce feelings of comfort and security and membership of a community.

    It seems to me that, in a religious environment, it is a much easier path to take to maintain the God belief than to question or reject it. The belief helps to grease the social wheels, and it distinguishes those who are part of the community from outsiders.

    My suggestion is that because it is easier - indeed, often advantageous - not to question theism, this creates an understandable reluctance in the theist to think too deeply about the foundational tenets of the belief, or else to ignore or gloss over niggling issues about the belief.

    How much of theistic psychology is about the acceptance of others, or being a part of a religious community?
  23. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member


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    Yeah! Because atheists invented science, and came up with the scientific method.


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