Are Atheists Naturalists or Humanists?

57


Discussion by: Stardroid

Perhaps a little bit of a strange topic as, common sensically, one can be all three. 

(I’m new to the forums and I don’t know whether RDF.net is the appropriate place to call for a philosophical discussion on Atheism?)

As far as Atheism is concerned I’d really like to address those ‘positive’ Atheists who see Atheism as having some definite – if unclear – ethos and/or social programme.  (I consider ‘negative’ Atheists - agnostics or de facto Atheists -  to be happy-go-lucky instead of just lucky, and so excessive in some respect).  The social programme is typically Humanism, which is thought to have intellectual space thanks to the great success (isn’t it!) of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.  I am completely convinced that evolution by natural selection really does put the scientific torch to religious thinking, so kudos to humanity on that front.  The thing that makes me want to ask people more questions is this apparently blind acceptance of Humanism as naturally following on from the science.  Part of me wants to think that this is just because, ethically and politically, Humanism (especially through Human Rights Law) is the only game in town.  I have noticed, however, that the three terms Atheism, Naturalim, Humanism are used pretty interchangeably and I worry that Atheists are in fact conflating them while there are important differences that could be helpful.

As I don’t want to be too academic about it

57 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Stardroid, I would say this forum is the perfect place for such a discussion.

    From my perspective, atheism is merely a single position, the lack of belief in any gods. Anything else you wish to add to that such as humanism is extra. I agree, it is true that some people conflate the term with all sorts of other ideologies and I think that can be unhelpful at times. I can’t offer much insight into humanism per se, only that it sounds like a sensible approach from what I’ve seen.

  2. Those three definitions are not mutually exclusive. Imagine a three circle boolean diagram and you’ll get the picture. I think people often fall into the habit of associating atheists with some creed because they see it as the competition to religion, but really, it’s just the absence or the lack of the belief in god. An atheist may even belief in something irrational, but just because an atheist does it, it does not mean that it stems out of his/her atheism.

    Maybe it would help to stop thinking in packages. Just because religion comes in packages, providing supernatural beliefs, morality & political ideologies all at once, it doesn’t mean that atheism is the same thing.

  3. One can be an atheist without being either a naturalist or a humanist, but then there isn’t much to talk about with one. I suppose one can also be a naturalist without being an atheist, just not a very good one. The same goes for humanism.

    Personally, I am an agnostic atheist and a weak naturalist in the philosophical sense that I stop just short of making any metaphysical claims. I am also a humanist, but only because (sadly) humans are the most intelligent creatures I’ve encountered so far.

  4. I think you’ve described the trinity of anti-religion.

    Religion makes the claim for the existence of gods

    Atheism refutes this on the grounds of lack of evidence for any claims made by religion

    Religion claims to explain reality

    Naturalism refutes this on the grounds of emperical observation which describes reality in ever improving detail

    Religion claims to be the source of morality

    Humanism refutes this on the grounds of equality, which is central to morality but absent from all religions claiming to be true

    • In reply to #4 by SaganTheCat:

      I think you’ve described the trinity of anti-religion.

      Religion makes the claim for the existence of gods

      Atheism refutes this on the grounds of lack of evidence for any claims made by religion

      Religion claims to explain reality

      Naturalism refutes this on the grounds of emperical observation which describes reality in ever improving detail

      Religion claims to be the source of morality

      Humanism refutes this on the grounds of equality, which is central to morality but absent from all religions claiming to be true

      Well put- mind if I steal it?

      1. There are, as I’m sure you know, robust philosophical arguments in favour of a God hypothesis, which could be cited as evidence, even if you choose not to accept them.

      2. The reality to which you refer here is based on assumptions of materialism.

      3. “equality is central to morality”. Thanks for clearing that up.

      In reply to #4 by SaganTheCat:

      I think you’ve described the trinity of anti-religion.

      Religion makes the claim for the existence of gods

      Atheism refutes this on the grounds of lack of evidence for any claims made by religion

      Religion claims to explain reality

      Naturalism refutes this on the grounds of emperical observation which describes reality in ever improving detail

      Religion claims to be the source of morality

      Humanism refutes this on the grounds of equality, which is central to morality but absent from all religions claiming to be true

      • In reply to #26 by flipflop:

        There are, as I’m sure you know, robust philosophical arguments in favour of a God hypothesis, which could be cited as evidence, even if you choose not to accept them.

        Philosophical arguments do not count as evidence of anything, anyway they are not as “robust” as you may think.

      • In reply to #26 by flipflop:

        There are, as I’m sure you know, robust philosophical arguments in favour of a God hypothesis, which could be cited as evidence, even if you choose not to accept them.

        Many people have tried to cite “philosophical arguments for gods” as “evidence”, but they are just “immaterial” hypothetical castles in the air with no substance. They crumble when examined for defined properties, evidence based logic, or interactions with the material world in which we live.

        The reality to which you refer here is based on assumptions of materialism.

        The universe is material. “Immaterial notions” are non-existent in the material universe with its scientific laws. They are figments of wishful thinking with no substance and no evidence of substance!

        “Evidence” for “immaterial notions” is a paradoxical claim!

        • Thoughts exist. Ideas exist. Thoughts and ideas are immaterial, non spatial entities. But what impresses me most about your post is your closing statement, which nicely illustrates the absurdity of SagantheCats original comments.

          In reply to #37 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #26 by flipflop:

          There are, as I’m sure you know, robust philosophical arguments in favour of a God hypothesis, which could be cited as evidence, even if you choose not to accept them.

          Many people have tried to cite “philosophical arguments for gods” as “evidence”, but they are just “immaterial” hypothetical castles in the air with no substance. They crumble when examined for defined properties, evidence based logic, or interactions with the material world in which we live.

          The reality to which you refer here is based on assumptions of materialism.

          The universe is material. “Immaterial notions” are non-existent in the material universe with its scientific laws. They are figments of wishful thinking with no substance and no evidence of substance!

          “Evidence” for “immaterial notions” is a paradoxical claim!

          • In reply to #38 by flipflop:

            Thoughts exist. Ideas exist. Thoughts and ideas are immaterial, non spatial entities.

            Thoughts and ideas exist objectively in brains, but they don’t necessarily represent anything real. As an atheist I can still think about gods or faeries without believing that they really exist.

          • In reply to #38 by flipflop:

            In reply to #37 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #26 by flipflop:

            There are, as I’m sure you know, robust philosophical arguments in favour of a God hypothesis, which could be cited as evidence, even if you choose not to accept them.

            Many people have tried to cite “philosophical arguments for gods” as “evidence”, but they are just “immaterial” hypothetical castles in the air with no substance. They crumble when examined for defined properties, evidence based logic, or interactions with the material world in which we live.

            The reality to which you refer here is based on assumptions of materialism.

            The universe is material. “Immaterial notions” are non-existent in the material universe with its scientific laws. They are figments of wishful thinking with no substance and no evidence of substance!

            Thoughts exist. Ideas exist. Thoughts and ideas are immaterial, non spatial entities.

            In the material world, thoughts and ideas work as electrical impulses and biochemistry in the brain. They are not “immaterial”.

            It is not possible to have recorded data without using materials made of atoms or energy, and it is not possible to communicate information without using energy.

            The science of physics explains and measures these processes in terms of basic science, while neuroscience and psychology explain the more complex details.

            If you have evidence of some non-spacial entities, please present it. Thoughts, ideas and information are all expressed in material atoms or energies. Everything in the universe is a “spacial entity”!

            But what impresses me most about your post is your closing statement, which nicely illustrates the absurdity of SagantheCats original comments.

            “Evidence” for “immaterial notions” is a paradoxical claim!

            Really??? I thought Saganthecat’s first two claims were supported by “supernatural claims being paradoxical”!
            (If something influences the material world it is detectable and natural – not supernatural. If it has no material influence or effect, it is irrelevant or non-existent.)

            SagantheCat – Religion makes the claim for the existence of gods

            Atheism refutes this on the grounds of lack of evidence for any claims made by religion

            Religion claims to explain reality

            Naturalism refutes this on the grounds of emperical observation which describes reality in ever improving detail

            There is nothing absurd about these two claims.

            The third claim is a philosophical moral opinion related to human thought, and the “Golden Rule”.

      • In reply to #26 by flipflop:

        There are, as I’m sure you know, robust philosophical arguments in favour of a God hypothesis, which could be cited as evidence, even if you choose not to accept them.
        The reality to which you refer here is based on assumptions of materialism.
        “equality is central to morality”. Thanks for clearing that up.

        In reply to #4 by SaganTheCat:

        I think you’ve described the trinity of anti-religion.

        Religion makes the claim for the existence of gods

        Atheism refutes this on the grounds of lack of evidence for any claims made by religion

        Religion claims to explain reality

        Naturalism refutes this on the grounds of emperical observation which describes reality in ever improving detail

        Religion claims to be the source of morality

        Humanism refutes this on the grounds of equality, which is central to morality but absent from all religions claiming to be true

        I fear you may have spent much more time trying to write a witty repost to this than you did actually reading it, and certainly much more time than i did writing it. it was nothing but a pithy observation but since you’ve taken it to hold some importance I’ll humour you.

        you’ll note i referred to the trinity of anti-religion. i made no claim on the existence of god other than it is refuted. it is not a philosophical attempt to disprove god, but a demonstration on why religion is inherently wrong.

        as with most religious followers, you have found difficulty in separating the two. there are many “believers” i.e. those that truly believe a single, supernatural (probably penis carrying) intelligent entity created the universe, communicates with you balding apes, and sends your “soul” to an eternal happy place when you die. we all know people who believe their dead loved ones are in heaven but never attend church, care little for where strangers choose to put their penises and for the most part, accept that if they get sick, their best course of action is to visit a qualified physician. for these people, atheism may be of no use. they may choose to follow your enlightened path of accepting scientific reality when it suits them and making use of what they don’t understand to fit their personal wishes, but then they may still decide to accept humanism since there’s no dogma that suggests they need waste energy despising people because of what they believe, what their biological structure is or what qualities they seek in a romantic partner.

        In short, you should learn when someone takes a snipe at your religion, running to pop-philosophy to keep your god safe from criticism does no service to the relevance of the religion he represents

        so in response to each post: philisophical arguments, robust or otherwise, could not be cited as evidence. arguments are not evidence.

        assumptions of materialism are based on what is possible to detect, directly or indirectly, as actually existing. there may be more than is known, but when it’s found, it will not change the definition of materialism.

        your sarcastic response about equality fails to address the fact that no religion accepts equality of out-groups.

    • In reply to #4 by SaganTheCat:

      I think you’ve described the trinity of anti-religion.

      Religion makes the claim for the existence of gods

      Atheism refutes this on the grounds of lack of evidence for any claims made by religion

      Religion claims to explain reality

      Naturalism refutes this on the grounds of emperical observation which describes reality in ever improving detail

      Religion claims to be the source of morality

      Humanism refutes this on the grounds of equality, which is central to morality but absent from all religions claiming to be true

      This was interesting to me too, but it’s just too common sense… surely if atheism is to take a ‘positive’ mode it surely mustn’t just make use of angles of attack on religion (like it’s an opportunism in thought) but actually have a philosophical core that isn’t borrowed or sometimes-contradictory (and I think humanism contradicts naturalism – bit strongly put but there you go)… What do you think of this?

      • In reply to #34 by Stardroid:

        In reply to #4 by SaganTheCat:

        I think you’ve described the trinity of anti-religion.

        Religion makes the claim for the existence of gods

        Atheism refutes this on the grounds of lack of evidence for any claims made by religion

        Religion claims to explain reality

        Naturalism refutes this on the grounds of emperical observation which describes reality in ever improving detail

        Religion claims to be the source of morality

        Humanism refutes this on the grounds of equality, which is central to morality but absent from all religions claiming to be true

        This was interesting to me too, but it’s just too common sense… surely if atheism is to take a ‘positive’ mode it surely mustn’t just make use of angles of attack on religion (like it’s an opportunism in thought) but actually have a philosophical core that isn’t borrowed or sometimes-contradictory (and I think humanism contradicts naturalism – bit strongly put but there you go)… What do you think of this?

        interesting thought. i disagree that humanism contradicts naturalism but it could be my lack of understanding of your meaning so excuse me if i have it wrong. for me naturalism is another word for science, accepting the world for what it is as far as we are able to perceive it, whereas humanism is closer to a system of faith, it puts the importance of humans above other considerations, which naturalism doesn’t. as i write this i realise i’m getting close to defining NOMA but importantly I don’t believe humanism makes any claim to naturalism and can be destroyed by naturalism (e.g. you might have faith in humanity that evidence later destroys).

        Humanism doesn’t need to attack religion, it’s an alternative, just as judaism doesn’t need to attack christianity. if jews attack cristian values or vice versa that’s up to them but as belief systems they can co-exist (so long as they don’t act on their teachings too much).

        the important thing about developing a personal philosophy, from a humanist viewpoint, is that it can be what you want as long as you don’t feel it’s your role to impost it on others. that’s when it becomes a religion

  5. Atheism is a weird way of defining people by what they don’t have. If their were no religion, there would be no atheists. It would be like not being a facebook addict in the 1960′s. So, atheism doesn’t mean much, in the absolute.

    On the other hand, humanism and naturalism have absolute (if unclear) meanings, as philosophies respectively centred around humankind and nature. Traditionally, they both imply rejecting religions because religions, almost by definition, consider that humans are an inferior kind (compared to gods) and that nature is not what reality is all about.

    Can you be a naturalist and believe in a supernatural being ? I don’t think so. That seems contradictory. If so, you are a part-time naturalist.

    On the other hand, can you be a naturalist and feel unconditional love for an unexplained sense of infinite presence (or whatever faith feels like) ? That is no that contradictory, and human variability is such that you might find individuals of that type.

    The only believer I couldn’t argue with, didn’t tell me “God exists”. He told me “I feel faith”. This latest statement contradicts nothing.

  6. I have no idea what you are talking about.
    Atheism is simply not believing in a god or gods, full stop. One can be an Atheist and a serial killer or a member of Doctors Without Boarders.
    Again with Science, Science is just a method it is not more than a tool. One that can be used however the user implements it.

    At best, aligning ones self to Athiesm and Science could provide a greater chance to adopt Naturalism and Humanism tendancies simply because both these things require Rationality and Reason, two things that are also required to use/understand the formor.

  7. Thus far there has been one significant omission, humanity’s true beacon of hope and salvation: NIHILISM.

    Not surprisingly, it even comes in almost as many denominations as does Christianity; reference…
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/nihilism/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism

    For those interested in getting more involved, check out the Center for Nihilism and Nihilist Studies http://www.nihil.org, Granted that my understanding of ot is very naive, I can’t see why any true nihilist would bother; serious, interested or committed nihilist all seem to be oxymorons.

    • In reply to #12 by whiteraven:

      Thus far there has been one significant omission, humanity’s true beacon of hope and salvation: NIHILISM.

      Nihilism is old school in my book. Our choices, our aesthetic perceptions are far more constrained and (indirectly!) directed than enthusiastic nihilists would like to think. I’m with Damasio that purpose (and therefore meaning) is rooted in the proto-purpose essential to all evolved living things, homeostasis.

      Homeostasis is the essential principle for viable reproducing entities that there are restoring forces to all vital (sic) parameters, electrolyte levels, blood sugar levels and on up to higher levels. Viewed this way, drives to all actions are drives to restore ourselves to our lowest energy resting state (as my ex-wife shrewdly perceived). Thinking is (remarkably) energy consuming. Solving problems can bring an end to this and better ensure we stay at our nominal resting state. Itches must be scratched, desires complied with for release from them, and aesthetics itches scratched also.

      This Looking Glass inversion sees the motor for all our actions emerging from this proto-purpose of seeking a resting place most likely to net inaction. Evolution has organised us in just good enough ways to survive another day. Its problem solving often gifts us second order problems as a swap for taking the big ones away. It gifts us itches of innumerable and spurious sorts, which we must deal with as best we can.

      Driven subconsciously to seek stasis we accumulate an awful lot of purpose and get an awful lot done.

  8. Atheism is just a lack of belief in the supernatural, including gods. Any other personal philosophy an atheist follows will almost always be naturalist, and often humanist, but not necessarily, and is something in addition to atheism that makes up an individual’s world view.

    Atheism does not specify a particular world view of philosophy. People who grow up in secular societies don’t think of being an atheist at all, just as people who aren’t stamp collectors don’t spend much time wondering what kind of non-stamp-collector they are.

    I assume a naturalist, realistic, often humanistic world view would be common among atheists.

    Evolution doesn’t have much to do with humanism. Humanism is the belief that people can be good and lead meaningful lives without any supernatural help.

    Naturalism is simply the believe that the laws of the universe are all natural, and that there are NO supernatural events, beings, or rule suspensions.

    Philosophy is a rich field with many variations on naturalism including: empiricism, realism, idealism, etc…

  9. People who are atheists are often humanists but I don’t think there is any causal or logical relation either way. Plenty of famous atheists were not humanists: Marx and Ayn Rand for example. And even today I think Sam Harris is a lot closer to a US Libertarian then Humanism. And its possible to be religious and a humanist. I know some Unitarians who are definitely humanists. Or another good example would be the US “founding fathers”. Most of them were both religious (deism or more traditional protestantism) and humanists.

  10. Different terms describe different things. A naturalist is one who doesn’t regard supernatural explanations for natural events, and presumes that the world operates by a consistent set of natural laws. So, for example, when challenging spiritual ideas (say do humans have souls) we’d expect side-channel attacks to work (Looking for natural side effects during the moment of death: changes of mass, thermal shifts, electromagnetic fluctuation, etc.)

    As a naturalist, I am incidentally atheist on the grounds that divinity is supernatural. But I could easily become theistic if the definition of God is changed. (e.g. if God = Universe and doesn’t imply any properties such as sentience, then of course God exists, but then calling it God is pretty meaningless.)

  11. This topic is really right up my alley, but you’ve already gotten such great answers, haha. And I happen not to be what you’re calling a “positive” atheist, in that I certainly don’t think atheism has some coordinated and positive goal. I’m fond of saying there as many different atheistic ideologies as there are atheists, since the only thing necessarily tying a group of atheists into a unified bunch is the fact they don’t believe in gods – after that, everything’s up for grabs. I’m also fond of the expression that herding atheists is about as easy as herding cats.

    Was there anything after “As I don’t want to be too academic about it”?

  12. Personally I think the biggest problem we have inherited (largely) from religion is the idea that humans are different than animals, that they are all that counts, and that they are on a different plateau to other life (generally we consider ourselves to be better, more important, more successful etc).

    To the extent to which humanism carries on this thinking, I reject humanism in favour of naturalism.

    It sometimes needs reminding that we are great apes, with all the shortcomings of other animals. No more or less important than similar animals and we should see it as self-serving that we afford ourselves more rights than we do other similar animals.

    Additionally we should remember that we are basically causing a mass extinction of flora and fauna to various degrees across the planet, and we can’t easily be stopped… objectively speaking, humans are in plague proportions… it sounds dramatic, but it is basically true.

    • In reply to #17 by conmeo:

      Personally I think the biggest problem we have inherited (largely) from religion is the idea that humans are different than animals,

      well we are

      that they are all that counts,

      well I don’t agree with that

      and that they are on a different plateau to other life (generally we consider ourselves to be better, more important, more successful etc).

      To the extent to which humanism carries on this thinking, I reject humanism in favour of naturalism.

      It sometimes needs reminding that we are great apes, with all the shortcomings of other animals. No more or less important than similar animals and we should see it as self-serving that we afford ourselves more rights than we do other similar animals.

      great apes with language and tools and more recently laser and mobile funs

      Additionally we should remember that we are basically causing a mass extinction of flora and fauna to various degrees across the planet, and we can’t easily be stopped… objectively speaking, humans are in plague proportions… it sounds dramatic, but it is basically true.

      so we aren’t like other animals…

    • In reply to #17 by conmeo:

      Personally I think the biggest problem we have inherited (largely) from religion is the idea that humans are different than animals, that they are all that counts, and that they are on a different plateau to other life (generally we consider ourselves to be better, more important, more successful etc).

      To the extent to which humanism carries on this thinking, I reject humanism in favour of naturalism.

      It sometimes needs reminding that we are great apes, with all the shortcomings of other animals. No more or less important than similar animals and we should see it as self-serving that we afford ourselves more rights than we do other similar animals.

      Additionally we should remember that we are basically causing a mass extinction of flora and fauna to various degrees across the planet, and we can’t easily be stopped… objectively speaking, humans are in plague proportions… it sounds dramatic, but it is basically true.

      Sure I can get down with this antihumanist take, scifi has long compared humanity with a virus that destroys life. Still, naturalistically wouldn’t you say that a species that destroys others is just as purposeless as one that helps other species?

  13. heigh stardroid ,I became an atheist because of my lack if belief in any gods,ghosts,goblins,demons, tooth fairys, Easter bunnys. And I found a lot of people on this site who could articulate themselves very well.
    however there is a common assumption that atheist are automatically humane good ppl this isn’t always the case.

  14. My views:

    I would say that naturalism is a position derived from evidentialism. If there is anything outside of nature (supernatural) we simply can’t know about it, and without evidence we can’t justify belief in it epistemologically.

    Skepticism (‘scientific’, not ‘radical’, skepticism) is based on the idea that one’s confidence in a belief should be proportional to the evidence supporting it. Therefore skepticism becomes a very solid path toward atheism.

    Atheism, by its broadest and most inclusive definition, is simply a lack of belief in theistic gods (ones which have a mind and get involved with human affairs). We generally find the use of the word ‘god’ as a metaphor (as some physicists like Einstein and Hawking have done in the past) to be more problematic than useful, because it tends to make the religious claim that you support their views. A deistic god that started things off and is now uninvolved could be described as functionally atheistic but with a failure to apply Occam’s Razor (before natural explanations like evolution via natural selection and the big bang model of the cosmos, this was more reasonable).

    Agnosticism recognizes that we simply cannot know the ontological status of all the possible definitions of ‘god’. The more a religion defines its god, the more ability we have to examine it critically or test it empirically, but they can always move the goalposts and alter their definition to keep their idea of god a little out of reach. Oddly enough, a god-believer who ultimately falls back on faith as the basis for their belief is also necessarily agnostic, since faith is belief in lieu of (or even contrary to) evidence, and without evidential support they can’t honestly claim to know. If everyone, believer and non-believer alike is technically agnostic, the term has little descriptive use on its own, though I will sometimes use “agnostic-atheist” to try to head off the tendency for some to confuse my position with that of the next group.

    There are some atheists which go beyond a ‘lack-of-belief in god(s)’ into a ‘belief-in-a-lack of god(s)’, but in my experience, few truly fit into that narrower definition, and those with active belief that there is no such thing are necessarily a subset of those who simply lack belief. To specify that subset I suggest the term ‘negatheist’.

    Some atheists simply don’t know about or care about the ‘god question’. They will often call themselves agnostic, but I like the somewhat tongue-in-cheek term ‘apatheists’. Perhaps someday our culture will be such that it is no longer necessary to use the term ‘atheist’, which ultimately describes us by saying what we are not, and shouldn’t be any more relevant than ‘non-astrologer’ or ‘disbeliever in leprechauns’. Then we can all be apatheists!

    Some regard god-belief as harmless, and while it could be in some mildest of forms, religions do often cause harm. I would define the recognition and opposition of that religiously-caused harm as ‘anti-theism’.

    Finally, we come to humanism. I think atheism clears the way, removing broken divine-command ideas of morality, but as noted above it only indicates a lack of belief in gods, and that alone doesn’t provide a basis for a system of morality. However, recognizing that we are all in this together, only having one another to depend on if we want to pursue the objective of making our lives the best they can be, leads us to humanism. Evolution has caused us to develop the capacities for empathy and reason. Extending empathy to be inclusive of all humans (or all sapient life, should we meet others at some point) and using our reason on questions of ethics to examine the implications of our beliefs and the consequences of our actions forms the basis for a sound system of morality. I call that moral system based in care and fairness ‘humanism’.

    Sorry, that turned into a bit of an essay, but hopefully it’s useful in some way.

  15. Atheist I think is an invention, like all *ist files in your computer should be deleted as soon as. There is a lot to be said about raising the conscience of everyday people. But in the end all this tagging of the comcept (whether it exists or not) is a major fallacy that take but one major ‘God-like’ event to move on, in the sense oof a meteor impact obviosly!

    • In reply to #23 by henjimmy:

      Atheist I think is an invention, like all *ist files in your computer should be deleted as soon as. There is a lot to be said about raising the conscience of everyday people. But in the end all this tagging of the comcept (whether it exists or not) is a major fallacy that take but one major ‘God-like’ event to move on, in the sense oof a meteor impact obviosly!

      Of course the word ‘atheism’ is an invention… all words are. Words are symbols for things, actions, and ideas.
      ‘Atheism’ is a word that represents the lack of belief in theistic gods, and I can assure you the concept exists because I’m an atheist.
      Disparaging words for ending in ‘-ist’ or ‘-ism’ is nonsense. How else should you refer to a violinist or the paining technique of pointillism? You may as well attack most adverbs for using the suffix ‘LY’.
      The words ‘consciousness’ and ‘conscience’ have rather different meanings, which you may wish to review if you have a coherent statement to make there.

      [Edited by moderator to bring within Terms of Use]

  16. it’s my opinion that the more outspoken atheists do share certain humanist views. the reason for this is if i were an atheist who didn’t care about the world or morals i wouldn’t have any opinion on religion. it’s caring about the damage and ignorance caused by religion that encourages me to give naturalist reasons why gods almost certainly don’t exist, or more to the point, even if you accept there is a possibility that gods exist, what is known through science, social politics and history suggests achieving the goals of a healthier, happier and more humane society are best achieved by leaving the act of believing in gods well alone

  17. Perhaps a little bit of a strange topic as, common sensically, one can be all three.

    It seems odd to put atheists in a box like this. Perhaps some are Humanists,
    perhaps some are Naturalists. Could you explain what you mean by these terms?

    Humanist: religion for peoplewho don’t like to admit they’re religious
    Naturalist: belief the universe works only by natural laws.

    I’m an atheist and naturalist. I’m not a humanist and I’m a bit suspicious of them.

    (I’m new to the forums and I don’t know whether RDF.net is the appropriate place to call for a philosophical discussion on Atheism?)

    as good as anywhere else. The google group talk.origins may be of interest too.
    There are people who post there who know about the philosophy stuff.

    As far as Atheism is concerned I’d really like to address those ‘positive’ Atheists who see Atheism as having some definite – if unclear – ethos and/or social programme.

    what I’d call “Evangelical” or “Strong” Atheists. I object to the term “Positive”
    As I class myself as “Weak” or “Negtaive” atheist.

    (I consider ‘negative’ Atheists – agnostics or de facto Atheists – to be
    happy-go-lucky instead of just lucky, and so excessive in some respect).

    excessive!? I knew I didn’t like the “negative” terminology! I don’t believe in god.
    I don’t see this as prequel to social reform. Other people can believe what they like
    (provided they don’t interfere with other people).

    The social programme is typically Humanism,

    who ses?

    which is thought to have intellectual
    space thanks to the great success (isn’t it!) of Darwin’s theory of evolution by
    natural selection.

    thought by whom? I fail to see the connection between NS and Humanism, and
    between Humanism and Atheism.

    I am completely convinced that evolution by natural selection really does put
    the scientific torch to religious thinking,

    well it palpably doesn’t! There are a billion cathlics in the world.

    so kudos to humanity on that front.

    do you mean humanism? Humanity seems pretty keen on religion still.

    The thing that makes me want to ask people more questions is this apparently
    blind acceptance of Humanism as naturally following on from the science.

    well so far you’re the only one I’ve heard claim this. It seems complete
    bollocks to me.

    Part of me wants to think that this is just because, ethically and politically,
    Humanism (especially through Human Rights Law) is the only game in town.

    again obviously untrue.

    I have noticed, however, that the three terms Atheism, Naturalim, Humanism
    are used pretty interchangeably

    not by me! They seem pretty independent to me.

    and I worry that Atheists are in fact conflating them while there are important
    differences that could be helpful.

    you seem to see Atheists as a monolithic block that all clone the same thoughts.

    As I don’t want to be too academic about it

  18. Gosh I’ve posted this discussion ages ago and absolutely missed all the hoo-ha! darn!

    Anyhow, as you can tell the post is cut short, the full text (detailing the issue further) is:
    Perhaps a little bit of a strange topic as, common sensically, one can be all three. However, I feel that we can cop out on some important problems if we are to be able to articulate a legitimate ground for a naturalistic Atheism.

    As far as Atheism is concerned I’d really like to address those ‘positive’ Atheists who see Atheism as having some definite – if unclear – ethos and/or social programme. (I consider ‘negative’ Atheists – agnostics or de facto Atheists – to be happy-go-lucky instead of just lucky, and so excessive in some respect). The social programme of Atheism is typically Humanism, which is thought to have intellectual space thanks to the great success (isn’t it!) of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. I am completely convinced that evolution by natural selection really does put the scientific torch to religious thinking, that’s not at issue with me. The thing that makes me want to ask people more questions is this apparently blind acceptance of Humanism as naturally following on from the science. Part of me wants to think that this is just because, ethically and politically, Humanism (especially through Human Rights Law) is the only game in town. I have noticed, however, that the three terms Atheism, Naturalim, Humanism are used pretty interchangeably and I worry that Atheists are in fact conflating them while there are important differences that could be essential.

    As I don’t want to be too academic about it I’ll boil it down to the fact that Humanism violates the well-known tenet of Naturalism that the universe is purposeless, given that ‘Humanism’ includes some (or all) of the following:

    1) That the individual is the most important determinant of our social and political lives (what should be special about the individual given a potentially complete Naturalistic explanation of it?)

    2) That if our beliefs change and we reach consensus on belief, the world will change (surely this causality is the wrong way around?)

    3) That we can indeed change our beliefs via an act of free will (a big discussion, I saw something else in the discussions the other day, but insofar as this will is not itself fully explained it remains supernatural)

    4) That there is a ‘human nature’ that determines history as well as possible motivations (which for the Naturalist is always relative and unhelpful as a principle)

    5) That we have absolute needs (needs stand relative to purpose and the universe is purposeless. Or, looking at it biologically, even if our bodies have to eat to maintain themselves, there is no special significance of this over the need for our bodies to be eaten by other bodies, or even destroyed by viruses.)

    6) Education is a ‘road to reason’ following more-or-less well tuned cognitive models (for the committed naturalist reason is emergent relative to forms of life. Our view of education is something we are doing as creatures, and cognitive models are therefore structuring rather than descriptive)

    There may be some other differences I could try to characterize but I hope I’ve hit the main ones.

    My question to you all is simple – seeing that there are some important differences, is it an example of intellectual dishonesty to default to Humanism as an alternative ethics to religious ones as a ‘natural’ consequence of Naturalism? Do you think this is because it will do as an ethics for now, and we’ll think of something better later? Is it because Atheists feel they need something to point to and talk about, as a ‘thing’ educated religious people will be loosely aware of? What do you think not falling foul of these thoughts would do?

    Hoping for some interesting discussion,

    Stardroid


    OK so that’s the full post!!!

    I’ll now read your comments and hope to discuss with you if you’re still interested!!

    Edit: Duplication!

  19. Quick reply to Nick Keighly:

    “excessive!? I knew I didn’t like the “negative” terminology! I don’t believe in god. I don’t see this as prequel to social reform. Other people can believe what they like (provided they don’t interfere with other people).”

    Yes I think ‘weak’ (or ‘negative’) atheism is excessive, which I think is borne out somewhat by the differences you’re finding with the observations I’ve made. For example, when I say that evolution puts the torch to religion, and that it is thought to be extended into humanism I don’t mean to prove these things in a thesis, I simply note:

    1) the power of natural selection against religion. Is there anything more effective just because it is scientifically true, and have more promise for our understanding? i.e. listen to Dawkins talk on this topic, natural selection can’t be overemphasised!

    2) that atheism means humanism in the media and in people’s minds, and that if you’re (or not you, because something tells me you could be difficult) at a dinner party and someone asks you to give an atheistic account of actual morality, you point to humanitarianism based upon humansim (99% of the time exclusively expressed as human rights law).

    These statements are not meant to be arguments from any kind of authority (I haven’t been to many of those dinner parties, but I know they happen), just fair observations.

    And if you want to say that there are ‘obviously’ other ethical/moral systems available, you can go beat some passers-by with some textbooks but you won’t get very far. The public awareness of alternative political or philosophical systems is very limited and I mean to note is that humanism is mainstream thinking (even if it contradicts other mainstream thinking) and is in this sense the ‘only game in town’. If you disagree well whatever, walk another path.

    You write “you seem to see Atheists as a monolithic block that all clone the same thoughts”. I don’t think anything of the sort but it’s good that you finally had a crack at trying to understand what I’m thinking, rather than making an ENTIRE post being faux naif (look that one up).

    So I think negative atheists are excessive. Yes I do.

    • In reply to #35 by Stardroid:

      Quick reply to Nick Keighly:

      “excessive!? I knew I didn’t like the “negative” terminology! I don’t believe in god. I don’t see this as prequel to social reform. Other people can believe what they like (provided they don’t interfere with other people).”

      Yes I think ‘weak’ (or ‘negative’) atheism is excessive,

      I think we are using different dictionaries. What do you mean by “excessive”? “Excessive speed” means going too fast, so in what sense are weak atheists “excessive”. I think the people with social program are the excessive ones!

      which I think is borne out somewhat by the differences you’re finding with the observations I’ve made. For example, when I say that evolution puts the torch to religion, and that it is thought to be extended into humanism I don’t mean to prove these things in a thesis, I simply note:

      1) the power of natural selection against religion. Is there anything more effective just because it is scientifically true, and have more promise for our understanding? i.e. listen to Dawkins talk on this topic, natural selection can’t be overemphasised!

      evolution by natural selection has no impact on most religion. Only on parts of the doctrine of a minority (mostly in America) of christians.

      2) that atheism means humanism in the media and in people’s minds,

      cite. What media and what people? What do you mean by “humanism”?

      and that if you’re (or not you, because something tells me you could be difficult) at a dinner party

      oo! What at the pseudo intellectual dinner parties we’re all supposed to toe the party line. If people don’t want a discussion about humanism/atheism they shouldn’t one!

      and someone asks you to give an atheistic account of actual morality, you point to humanitarianism based upon humansim (99% of the time exclusively expressed as human rights law).

      well you’d be unsurprised I wouldn’t invoke “humanism”. Morality is practical (iterated prisoners’ dilemma, golden rule), pragmatic (I don’t want to live in a place where the streets are unsafe), fair (I don’t like to see people go hungry) and historical/traditional (attitudes to marriage, alchol cosumption and even queing vary from society to society). No gods needed.

      These statements are not meant to be arguments from any kind of authority (I haven’t been to many of those dinner parties, but I know they happen),

      right. perhaps you’re a bit of an awkward customer too.

      just fair observations.

      opinions dressed up as facts

      And if you want to say that there are ‘obviously’ other ethical/moral systems available,

      well yes. The major religions for instance. Even the “atheists” don’t agree on everything.

      you can go beat some passers-by with some textbooks but you won’t get very far.

      I don’t need to beat up passersby (this is something for the religious and the Strong atheists). If someone is interested I can simply list examples.

      The public awareness of alternative political or philosophical systems is very limited and I mean to note is that humanism is mainstream thinking (even if it contradicts other mainstream thinking) and is in this sense the ‘only game in town’. If you disagree well whatever, walk another path.

      your way or the highway. So you just come here to plonk your opinions on other people. And you call me excessive!

      “you seem to see Atheists as a monolithic block that all clone the same thoughts”.

      I don’t think anything of the sort but it’s good that you finally had a crack at trying to understand what I’m thinking, rather than making an ENTIRE post being faux naif (look that one up).

      So I think negative atheists are excessive. Yes I do.

      get a dictionary

  20. “I consider ‘negative’ Atheists – agnostics or de facto Atheists – to be happy-go-lucky instead of just lucky, and so excessive in some respect.”

    What a terrible fate, to be excessively good natured. Did I miss something?

    • In reply to #36 by TheAllKnowingAgnostic:

      “I consider ‘negative’ Atheists – agnostics or de facto Atheists – to be happy-go-lucky instead of just lucky, and so excessive in some respect.”

      What a terrible fate, to be excessively good natured. Did I miss something?

      Haha, yes I know that sounded strange. Someone who is ‘happy go lucky’, long held to be a virtue though goodness knows why, is an unreflective optimist. The world could be crashing down around them and yet they retain a naive and a foolish nature. I really do think negative atheists are in this position, as they are ultimately unaware of the origin or meaning of their position (i.e. as atheists), and that this should mean more to them. This might sound presumptuous as even the most high profile and reflective atheists are negative atheists, but when the spirit of struggle is absent from a person’s beliefs I really wonder why.

      Best

      • In reply to #39 by Stardroid:

        In reply to #36 by TheAllKnowingAgnostic:

        “I consider ‘negative’ Atheists – agnostics or de facto Atheists – to be happy-go-lucky instead of just lucky, and so excessive in some respect.”

        What a terrible fate, to be excessively good natured. Did I miss something?

        Haha, yes I know that sounded strange. Someone who is ‘happy go lucky’, long held to be a virtue though goodness knows why, is an unreflective optimist.

        I don’t consider myself either unreflective or unreasonably optimistic. I think forcing your opinions down other peoples throats is rude and counter productive. I think it shows a distinct lack of respect and an arrogance towards other people. In my morality people have to live their lives any way they choose, that does not have a negative impact on other people. This makes the quietly contemplative religious person more moral than the noisy and intrusive atheist.

        The world could be crashing down around them and yet they retain a naive and a foolish nature.

        following your social program does not seem to me a way of shoring up our social system.

        I really do think negative atheists are in this position, as they are ultimately unaware of the origin or meaning of their position (i.e. as atheists),

        you don’t know me. I pretty well how and when and why I became an atheist. And I don’t see any deep Meaning in my position. You’re as bad as the religious, you think anyone who doesn’t agree with you is wrong headed, naive or derranged.

        and that this should mean more to them. This might sound presumptuous as even the most high profile and reflective atheists are negative atheists, but when the spirit of struggle is absent from a person’s beliefs I really wonder why.

        and people like you really make me wonder.

        • In reply to #55 by nick keighley:

          In reply to #39 by Stardroid:

          In reply to #36 by TheAllKnowingAgnostic:

          “I consider ‘negative’ Atheists – agnostics or de facto Atheists – to be happy-go-lucky instead of just lucky, and so excessive in some respect.”

          What a terrible fate, to be excessively good natured. Did I miss something?

          Haha, yes I know that sounded strange. Someone who is ‘happy go lucky’, long held to be a virtue though goodness knows why, is an unreflective optimist.

          I don’t consider myself either unreflective or unreasonably optimistic. I think forcing your opinions down other peoples throats is rude and counter productive. I think it shows a distinct lack of respect and an arrogance towards other people. In my morality people have to live their lives any way they choose, that does not have a negative impact on other people. This makes the quietly contemplative religious person more moral than the noisy and intrusive atheist.

          The world could be crashing down around them and yet they retain a naive and a foolish nature.

          following your social program does not seem to me a way of shoring up our social system.

          I really do think negative atheists are in this position, as they are ultimately unaware of the origin or meaning of their position (i.e. as atheists),

          you don’t know me. I pretty well how and when and why I became an atheist. And I don’t see any deep Meaning in my position. You’re as bad as the religious, you think anyone who doesn’t agree with you is wrong headed, naive or derranged.

          and that this should mean more to them. This might sound presumptuous as even the most high profile and reflective atheists are negative atheists, but when the spirit of struggle is absent from a person’s beliefs I really wonder why.

          and people like you really make me wonder.

          It wasn’t my goal to get up people’s noses (honestly). Maybe if I tried a different way of saying ‘unreflective optimist’ – how about the idea that negative atheists simply state their modest version of atheism as such because they don’t want to be disliked. This is atheism for others, and it assumes that what is most desirable is the disarming of the issues in some paradise of moderation. As for forcing opinions on people, well I’m not in your house so I don’t know why you’d think that I’m forcing anything on you apart from actually having an opinion in the first place. Maybe you’re upset because unlike you and the other poster I actually think my opinion is true. What negative atheists usually have is an opinion in a self-relativising and self-effacing way, and I’m not a fan of those opinions because the world is actually in a mess and you actually live in it thinking that at some basic mental level everything is ok. Just don’t break out singing Jerusalem or I’ll come out in hives.

          As for morality :

          “well you’d be unsurprised I wouldn’t invoke “humanism”. Morality is practical (iterated prisoners’ dilemma, golden rule), pragmatic (I don’t want to live in a place where the streets are unsafe), fair (I don’t like to see people go hungry) and historical/traditional (attitudes to marriage, alchol cosumption and even queing vary from society to society). No gods needed.”

          You got all that with no Gods needed? As the kids say: zomg.

          I suppose noticing that these things are separable from Gods is kind of useful, but really now, what a meagre collection. Surely, fairness is an interesting idea when you’re an adolescent (when you realise that your childish concept of fairness doesn’t do any work anymore as you grow in responsibility in an unfair world), but surely not really as an adult, when you see that common sense is destructive and inadequate?

          I don’t know why you think the prisoner’s dilemma is a model of morality (unless you are Jasper Carrot – up the Villa Jasp!). Also, history and tradition, studied, show how our choices are historicised, and this does not tend to legitimize moral values in any University I have ever heard of!

          And this is the reason you cannot simply ‘give examples’ if people ever asked you about atheistic morality – which they shouldn’t, because you are wrong. Perhaps you’re better off learning about Humanism and cite that next time, even if people like me point out that it’s inadequate, saying that morality has to be developed and worked on is at least better than saying that it’s fully formed in the everday. I suppose you prove my point that ‘happy go lucky’ means unreflective.

          And by the way you don’t know my ‘social program’, as if I said I had one, you simply find actual politic offensive because you’re politically oversensitive (and I assume you live in the UK, because that attitude is epidemic here). As for ‘excessive’ yes we have the same dictionary, just stop pretending so hard and being cowed by what others may or may not think of you. (so there?)

  21. Hi Am new to this site and it was this thread that actually got to me sign up so I could post my two cents worth. Here are my briefly presented ideas on the topic; some of which will be reduntant to much of what has been covered but I’m writing this not only to actively engage in this thread but also just to get my own ideas, concepts straight.

    Atheism, to me is simply disbelief in ‘god’ – a rejection of supernatural. metaphysical based deitic belief as beings, persons, etc. as creator, as ‘higher authority’…… An atheist simply says; “I don’t believe in god(s).” Its that simple – no great humanistic, naturalistic, philosophic explanation, elaboration is needed; although something IS usually added…… Atheism then becomes a negation, a reaction to belief in god. But what IF the concept ‘god’ had never been invented? or what IF a person had never believed in ‘god’ in the first place? The ‘atheist now no longer has anything to react negatively to. Hence ‘atheism’ cannot exist without first the concept ‘god’. Therefore athesits need a god to Not believe in! Is this unbelief?? I find it hard to accept any of this which is why I rejected ‘atheism’ years ago as a viable positive, ‘life afrfirming concept. Athiests need a god to NOT believe in…..

    Believers in ‘god’ don’t need athesim but Atheism does need a ‘god’; in order to not beleive in whatever the god is or isin’t. Almost comedic to me which is why I laugh at atheists; ‘atheism’ is a great place to start, a ‘zero’ if you will on the philosophical number line but now that you’ve rejected ‘go’ when are you Mr. Atheist going to start growing?? I’ve known atheists who have been atheists for decades. At some point in their life they rejected belief in ‘god’ and that is where they’ve stayed – they might as well ‘backslide’ and return to church; or whatever.

    Humanism; to me is simply so much anthropocentirc BS: taking ‘god’ off the thrown and simply placing Humanity on it. Basic christian doctrine without the veil of an authoritative ‘god’; without the god. “OK we got rid of ‘god’ and we accept the ‘reality’ that we; Humanity; are the center of the Universe……… Sorry Folks! I get ‘lost’ at that one.

    Naturalism – this, in general is the accepted idea by practically everyone sane. Some folks think the Natural world was ‘crerated’ by some ‘god’ diety, etc and others think that the Natural World/ Physical Existence stands on ‘its’ own but few persons outright reject Naturalism and most of those are in some ‘nuthouse’ or probably should be…………

    I did want to add a few things on ‘Nihillism’ because it was mentioned ‘up north’ somewhere that ‘it’ is ‘old school’. Well so is everything else mentioned in this thread but I will add something on ‘nihllism’ maybe later since I think all of the worlds religions, atheism, agnosticism, humanism are all nihillisitc; I can even argue that ‘Naturalism’ and even ‘Science’ are. Thanx and have a good day…………….INTJonn

    • In reply to #40 by INTJonn:

      Welcome to the site.

      Hi Am new to this site and it was this thread that actually got to me sign up so I could post my two cents worth. Here are my briefly presented ideas on the topic; some of which will be reduntant to much of what has been covered but I’m writing this not only to actively engage in this thread but also just to get my own ideas, concepts straight.

      Atheism, to me is simply disbelief in ‘god’ – a rejection of supernatural. metaphysical based deitic belief as beings, persons, etc. as creator, as ‘higher authority’…… An atheist simply says; “I don’t believe in god(s).”

      Or “I don’t believe there is any evidence for gods. – (absence of evidence is evidence of absence)

      Its that simple – no great humanistic, naturalistic, philosophic explanation, elaboration is needed; although something IS usually added…..

      Dis belief is not a philosophy. A philosophy of life without using gods as a basis, is separate. Apart from cultural history and social and political intrusions from theists, gods are irrelevant.

      Atheism then becomes a negation, a reaction to belief in god. But what IF the concept ‘god’ had never been invented? or what IF a person had never believed in ‘god’ in the first place?

      That particular civilisation would have a culture without gods.

      The ‘atheist now no longer has anything to react negatively to. Hence ‘atheism’ cannot exist without first the concept ‘god’.

      Atheists are not preoccupied with “reacting negatively to gods”, unless they are surrounded by theists puishing their gods at them.

      Therefore athesits need a god to Not believe in! Is this unbelief??

      Atheists no more need gods not to believe in or a church to not attend, , than non-football supporters need a football team to not follow or a stadium to not sit in on match days!

      I find it hard to accept any of this which is why I rejected ‘atheism’ years ago as a viable positive, ‘life afrfirming concept.

      Positive philosophies are simply built without gods or books of holy myths.

      Athiests need a god to NOT believe in…..

      You seem focussed on some particular god and seem to ASSUME its existence. There are thousands of gods. Can I ask – Why a particular one? – other than it is simply one you grew up with in your locality?

      Believers in ‘god’ don’t need athesim

      That would indeed be a contradiction.

      but Atheism does need a ‘god’; in order to not beleive in whatever the god is or isin’t. Almost comedic to me which is why I laugh at atheists; ‘atheism’ is a great place to start,

      I’m afraid it is your concept which is comedic! Which god would that be?
      Would we go searching out remote jungle tribes to find more gods to refute?
      Bear in mind most of the religious, are atheistic about all gods except their own, so perhaps some of them would join us on such wild goose chases?

      ‘atheism’ is a great place to start, a ‘zero’ if you will on the philosophical number line

      Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. It makes no more pretence of being a philosophy, than an a-leprechaunist, an a-stamp-collector, an a-fairyist, an a-astrologer, or an a-football-supporter.
      An atheist’s philosophy is about life, people, human relationships, not gods, or anything else people don’t believe in!.

      but now that you’ve rejected ‘go’ when are you Mr. Atheist going to start growing??

      Strange question? Growing away from evidenced rational thinking towards fantastical beliefs without-evidence – encapsulated as “faith”!

      I’ve known atheists who have been atheists for decades. At some point in their life they rejected belief in ‘god’ and that is where they’ve stayed – they might as well ‘backslide’ and return to church; or whatever.

      This suggests you assume a Christian god is the norm. (It may be in your locality) Thousands of people past and present have believed in other gods with equally no material evidence to support their claims.

      Humanism; to me is simply so much anthropocentirc BS: taking ‘god’ off the thrown and simply placing Humanity on it.

      Humanism does indeed centre on consideration of honest relationships with other humans.

      I would have to think of it as rather comical and ironical , that a Christian view, – with the Earth and humans as the centre-piece of their god’s universe, should regard Humanism as anthropocentric!

      Basic christian doctrine without the veil of an authoritative ‘god’; without the god.

      “OK we got rid of ‘god’ and we accept the ‘reality’ that we; Humanity; are the center of the Universe……… Sorry Folks! I get ‘lost’ at that one.

      I don’t think many humanists think “humans are the centre of the universe”. They just think that moral codes in dealing with other humans are required.

      Naturalism – this, in general is the accepted idea by practically everyone sane. Some folks think the Natural world was ‘crerated’ by some ‘god’ diety, etc and others think that the Natural World/ Physical Existence stands on ‘its’ own

      Indeed many do generally, but when it comes to applying natural science to supernatural claims, many religious believers compartmentalise their supernatural beliefs in their thinking, away from their contradicting scientific naturalism.

      but few persons outright reject Naturalism and most of those are in some ‘nuthouse’ or probably should be…………

      Various surveys show there are many more than you would think. There are also great variations between countries and between education systems. (For example there are many anti-science Young Earth Creationists in the USA, and many anti-science fundamentalists in Arab and Asian countries.)

      I hope this helps with your understanding of atheism.

      • Welcome to the site INTJohn, I’m new here myself.

        I think Alan is roughly right about some of the things he says, but I also think many of those things did not need to have been said (I dislike it when people reply line-by-line, I think it’s very presumptive). Therefore just a couple of things from me on just a couple of sections:

        In reply to #43 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #40 by INTJonn:

        Therefore athesits need a god to Not believe in! Is this unbelief??

        Atheists no more need gods not to believe in or a church to not attend, , than non-football supporters need a football team to not follow or a stadium to not sit in on match days!

        Very different ideas. Atheism requires the root ‘Theos’ meaning God in Greek, so INTJohn is strictly correct. However, in practice it is Atheism that opens out on the world without a God in the strictest sense, and does not require the Theos concept to refer to anything. These are two different things, but essentially we can say that INTJohn is saying that Atheists have a history necessarily involving belief in God (for the language to be talking originally about some God or Gods. You may add that they do not have to exist, and then you’re in agreement!

        Athiests need a god to NOT believe in…..

        You seem focussed on some particular god and seem to ASSUME its existence. There are thousands of gods. Can I ask – Why a particular one? – other than it is simply one you grew up with in your locality?

        Well, yes. That’s what he’s saying. He might think Atheists prove the existence of God by ignoring the way language works (i.e. a reference failure for ‘Theos’), but that’s another point.

        ‘atheism’ is a great place to start, a ‘zero’ if you will on the philosophical number line

        Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. It makes no more pretence of being a philosophy, than an a-leprechaunist, an a-stamp-collector, an a-fairyist, an a-astrologer, or an a-football-supporter.
        An atheist’s philosophy is about life, people, human relationships, not gods, or anything else people don’t believe in!.

        I think Atheism has a Philosophy of life behind it that can be encountered by the mind, for what it’s worth.

        Humanism; to me is simply so much anthropocentirc BS: taking ‘god’ off the thrown and simply placing Humanity on it.

        Humanism does indeed centre on consideration of honest relationships with other humans.

        I would have to think of it as rather comical and ironical , that a Christian view, – with the Earth and humans as the centre-piece of their god’s universe, should regard Humanism as anthropocentric!

        I agree, but Humanism is anthropocentric by definition.

        • In reply to #44 by Stardroid:

          Welcome to the site INTJohn, I’m new here myself.

          I think Alan is roughly right about some of the things he says, but I also think many of those things did not need to have been said (I dislike it when people reply line-by-line, I think it’s very presumptive).

          Methodical analysis is a key part of evidenced reasoning. Leaving issues hanging and unaddressed, just makes discussions untidy and confused.

          In reply to #43 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #40 by INTJonn:

          Therefore athesits need a god to Not believe in! Is this unbelief??

          Atheists no more need gods not to believe in or a church to not attend, , than non-football supporters need a football team to not follow or a stadium to not sit in on match days!

          Very different ideas. Atheism requires the root ‘Theos’ meaning God in Greek, so INTJohn is strictly correct.

          This is just semantics. The underlying issues are the same.

          However, in practice it is Atheism that opens out on the world without a God in the strictest sense, and does not require the Theos concept to refer to anything.

          That is the real world situation. You will note that most of my comments are from the perspective of a scientist.

          These are two different things, but essentially we can say that INTJohn is saying that Atheists have a history necessarily involving belief in God (for the language to be talking originally about some God or Gods.

          Atheists only have a need to discuss gods when associating, or discussing, with the religious – unless they are studying human history. When I discuss science or engineering with scientists, gods are not even mentioned.

          You may add that they do not have to exist, and then you’re in agreement!

          This is only required in the above circumstances. In the absence of theists, the subject need never arise.

          Athiests need a god to NOT believe in…..

          You seem focussed on some particular god and seem to ASSUME its existence. There are thousands of gods. Can I ask – Why a particular one? – other than it is simply one you grew up with in your locality?

          Well, yes. That’s what he’s saying. He might think Atheists prove the existence of God by ignoring the way language works (i.e. a reference failure for ‘Theos’), but that’s another point.

          The Xtian theist assumptions of a God with a capital “G” and the presumption that because some Xtians are constantly propping up their faith by reasserting their belief, atheists must be in the reverse position of “propping up their disbelief in the one and only God”! This is illustrated by pointing out the other gods from history and around the world. Ancient Greek atheists in BC were not preoccupied asserting their disbelief in a Xtian god, and neither are confident atheists or atheists living among Buddhists for example. The projected reverse theist image is simply wrong. Theists often confuse semantics with existence in material reality.

          ‘atheism’ is a great place to start, a ‘zero’ if you will on the philosophical number line

          Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. It makes no more pretence of being a philosophy, than an a-leprechaunist, an a-stamp-collector, an a-fairyist, an a-astrologer, or an a-football-supporter.
          An atheist’s philosophy is about life, people, human relationships, not gods, or anything else people don’t believe in!.

          I think Atheism has a Philosophy of life behind it that can be encountered by the mind, for what it’s worth.

          Atheists have personal philosophies which vary from person to person, – as is to be expected with non-dogmatic free-thinkers, but atheism per se, has no philosophy. It is an absence of gods in its thinking – in the same way a non-cricket supporter has no preoccupation with with not-supporting a cricket team. They are simply thinking about other issues.

          There is no negative “philosophy of not supporting football or cricket teams”, in remote areas where they have never heard of football or cricket, just as there is no negative philosophy of not believing in a particular god in geographical areas where they have never heard of it!

          This notion of a preoccupation with some particular local god, is just a theist reverse projection of their own thinking.

  22. INTJohn – In a country without religion or people who believe in God we would have no need of the term atheism, we would nevertheless ALL be atheist. You could just say ‘people’.

    I could propose the existence of a great flying squirrel in the sky. This squirrel demands many varied nuts and redheaded virgin sacrifices, or some random nonsense. If this belief somehow became widespread, to the point that people just assumed you believed in this great flying squirrel in the sky and all the encompassing madness you would likely find some term to differentiate yourself from these people. At which point it could be asserted that yours is a ridiculous, laughable position because you couldn’t even be an asquirrelist or whatever if you didn’t really believe in the great furry beast that soars above us!

    “Is this unbelief”!?

    Yeah I’m pretty f**kin sure it is!

    Atheism doesn’t define me or how I choose to grow as a person, no more than any idea you have ever considered and dismissed as irrelevant defines you. Religions claim to have all the answers already (albeit weak ones). That’s why religious people have such a difficult time with open honest debate, they are stuck in one place. You can’t look at information and new ideas openly and honestly when everything has to fit into your religious worldview. I would have to argue that it is religion that often keeps people from growing and becoming better people. Look at the prejudice towards homosexuals by many religious groups, or the teaching to children that women who go out on their own or uncovered are at fault if they get raped. To those of us who have been taught to think for ourselves (to me at least) the teaching of these ideas to children as absolute truths is a terrible act which I think stunts their personal growth and their ability to rationalize the world they live in. I hope that all made sense, I have to catch some zees.

    And no one said atheism was supposed to be a life affirming concept, its the rejection of theistic ideas and nothing more.

    Oh and welcome to the forum!

  23. OK; I’m back. Let me get it one thing on the record that I’m a Secular Naturalist or Natural Pantheist; or ?? sorta as I generally shun having a label placed on me; makes me want to take a shower especially when I’ve put the damn dirt on myself………

    Since I live in the Natural world and don’t give the credit to ‘god’ I also do not give the credit to humanity……… however since Humanity is a small part of Nature (‘Nature’: do I have to define this?) whatever is brought forth by Humanity is also a small part of Nature; hence Humanity’s invention of ‘god’ for better or for worse; is not only ‘real’ but also a part of Nature; at least in terms of a Human metaphysic ( also please don’t ask me to define ‘metaphysic’ either as all of this typing & editing is tedious – I’ld rather chat on ‘Facetime’).

    therefor; the existence of ‘god’ as a human invention cannot be denied but rather as an inventive ‘tool’ – humanity has invented many such tools; inumerable. …………and is it Humaities ‘fault’ that the inventive ‘tool’ has been misappropriated, misused, etc. in the overall developement of ‘The Human Condition’?

    I.E: I gave a Presentation/Lecture a couple years back on ‘God as an Imaginary Number’ or titled something like that as I found the similarities and parallels of the Human ‘discovery of ‘god’ as an invention quite striking with the mathematical conception discovery and invention of i………. I shared this, presented this, talk to a group of atheists; agnostics, freethinkers, whatever, etc.; Now just because i is not a ‘Real Number’ doesnot mean it should be dsicounted although for centuries it was – discounted by most of the world’s scientists, mathematicians , etc as folly ,poppycock; stupidity at best a bit of whimsy…….

    However; today we scientists, mathematicians understand that the concept i is invaluble for so many engineering fields of Reality……… Now; Sociogenically, ‘god’ needs or can be utilized in the same way as i: it to is a concept invented by humanity and the fact that this idea – ‘god’ has not been utilized in a more conctructive fashion does not mean that We the inventors and those few of us builders should simply discard it. To me Humanity needs to learn and by Humanity I’m talking about those of us who are in position to recognioze the usefulness of such an invetive tool as ‘god’ and learn to utilize this tool ; like we have with i.

    Thanx and have a good day………………….INTJonn

    • In reply to #47 by INTJonn:

      Since I live in the Natural world and don’t give the credit to ‘god’ I also do not give the credit to humanity……… however since Humanity is a small part of Nature (‘Nature’: do I have to define this?) whatever is brought forth by Humanity is also a small part of Nature; hence Humanity’s invention of ‘god’ for better or for worse; is not only ‘real’ but also a part of Nature; at least in terms of a Human metaphysic

      therefor; the existence of ‘god’ as a human invention cannot be denied but rather as an inventive ‘tool’ – humanity has invented many such tools; inumerable. …………and is it Humaities ‘fault’ that the inventive ‘tool’ has been misappropriated, misused, etc. in the overall developement of ‘The Human Condition’?

      While god-myths are certainly made up by humans, I do not think that gods were “invented” by humans. – Rather they were evolved delusions of conscious and unconscious parts of the brain talking to each other, with the subconscious egotistical “god-spots” deluding the more conscious areas of the brain, as to their nature.

      Externalised projection is a feature of this deception, which helps the “spiritual areas of the brain to dominate the personality of believers, over-riding more rational thinking areas. The neuroscientists are making good progress in working to show the mechanisms behind this.

      Distinct ‘God Spot’ in the Brain Does Not Existhttp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm
      “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”

      In the most recent study, Johnstone studied 20 people with traumatic brain injuries affecting the right parietal lobe, the area of the brain situated a few inches above the right ear. He surveyed participants on characteristics of spirituality, such as how close they felt to a higher power and if they felt their lives were part of a divine plan. He found that the participants with more significant injury to their right parietal lobe showed an increased feeling of closeness to a higher power.

      the fact that this idea – ‘god’ has not been utilized in a more conctructive fashion does not mean that We the inventors and those few of us builders should simply discard it.

      Gods have been used to con and manipulate groups of people for centuries, causing wars and conflicts which have caused suffering to millions.

      Psychological deception, delusion, and manipulation may well be useful to power-hungry theocrats and politicians, but substituting a delusion-free and deception-free culture, would look like a much more ethical option.
      Backwardness, abuse, political mismanagement, poverty and ignorance, are closely associated with countries and cultures, with a high religiosity.

      There is another article here:- Selective Brain Damage Modulates Human Spirituality, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100210124757.htm

      Those looking for gods, should make sure they look in the right place! Alt Text

  24. “Humanism” as a useful term has been corrupted. “Atheist” is probably the best term to use if you wish to make an impression on people.

    I have concluded that true atheism must hold that not only God does not exist, but logically God CANNOT exist. Anything less would be more precisely termed “agnosticism.” If one is unable to assert that God cannot logically exist, then (even if that person declares there is no God), he must concede to the possibility of God’s existence.

    • God is an idea, which can take many forms. I am atheistic towards (almost) all the Gods I have heard of, except maybe in the sense that Einstein used the term. I use the term Atheist because I KNOW there is not a Christian God, or an Allah, etc. The idea of an entity being simultaneously all-knowing and yet intolerant, petty, sexist, and demanding (or caring about) being constantly worshiped is bloody ridiculous. How can you look at ALL the options and say you know they are false, some may not even have been presented yet, or could be very different from any we have encountered. Any rational atheist is agnostic on some level, even Dawkins. When I read God Delusion he said he would turn me into an atheist. I thought, not likely buddy. He solidified a lot of my thoughts but he didn’t really change my mind, except to make me realize I was already very close to as atheistic in my beliefs as him I just defined them differently. I am still agnostic, but the term atheism states more boldly to anyone who hears it that I don’t subscribe to their particular brand of nonsense.
      In reply to #51 by jack.blair.10:*

      “Humanism” as a useful term has been corrupted. “Atheist” is probably the best term to use if you wish to make an impression on people.

      I have concluded that true atheism must hold that not only God does not exist, but logically God CANNOT exist. Anything less would be more precisely termed “agnosticism.” If one is unable to assert that God cannot logically exist, then (even if that person declares there is no God), he must concede to the possibility of God’s existence.

    • In reply to #51 by jack.blair.10:

      I have concluded that true atheism must hold that not only God does not exist, but logically God CANNOT exist.

      Your use of “God” with a capital “G” presumes a particular god usually taken as an Abrahamic god.

      Anything less would be more precisely termed “agnosticism.”

      It is quite possible to be 100% atheist in regard to some gods with ridiculous material characteristsics and claims, while being agnostic or technically agnostic about unfalsifiable vague deist possibilities.

      If one is unable to assert that God cannot logically exist, then (even if that person declares there is no God),

      Numerous gods can be dismissed because there is no evidence to support them and their claimed properties are falsified by science and reason.

      he must concede to the possibility of God’s existence.

      Not at all. Until theists define and explain the properties of their god claim, – producing supporting evidence, their use of the word “god” is meaningless, so there is nothing to refute. If they define it as having the same undetectable properties as “nothing”, there is still nothing to refute – so it is simply dismissed.

      (Mt. Olympus has been surveyed in detail, and no evidence of Zeus has ever been found! Did you mean some other god?)

Leave a Reply