Have you ever “doubted” your atheism?

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Discussion by: Boomerang Nebula
Hi.

I know this question is strange since atheism is all about doubt, but have you ever wondered if you were wrong?  Particularly if you come from a religious background, do you have any residual religious feelings, even though these feelings go against your rational thinking? 

My background actually isn’t particularly religious in that my family doesn’t believe everything the Catholic Church says, but there are strong beliefs in the supernatural.  I believed in God, ghosts etc. until I was about 15, when I started considering myself agnostic.  The trigger is something I will keep private, but let me just say I very suddenly realized all the arguments for God’s existence are totally unsound.  By 18 I called myself an atheist.  I’m 23 now and still do.  🙂

The problem is sometimes I will hear a strange “supernatural” story and it’ll get my brain all worked up wondering if there might be something out there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an outspoken atheist, I don’t believe anyone can experience anything outside their own brains, but I can still get freaked out, which disappoints me a little. 

Anyways, I hope I made sense.  Does anyone else feel this way, ever?

77 COMMENTS

  1. nope…never have because I’ve never been shown proof that ANYTHING that would convince me that there has EVER been a spirit or god or ghost that has existed. EVERY single instance or claim of such has been shown to be either unreliable or a fabrication. If just one person were to be able to show that they can predict the future…or if jesus descended and demonstrated an ability to change water to wine…and break the laws of physics…maybe then I’d believe but there is as much reason to believe in Ra as Yahweh…exactly none. Supernatural stories are just that. Every time. I’m no longer even polite when somebody tells me they saw a ghost. I just say, “no, you didn’t”. I don’t argue but I make that assertion and point out they assert just like I assert.

  2. It doesn’t matter if you believe, let’s say in ghosts. it may turn out that they are real. Believing that ghosts exist has nothing got to do with a belief in God. Don’t feel disappointed. The human mind is capable of many amazing things, including deceiving itself. Remember there are people who manage to overcome their hallucinations by ignoring them even if they are still around. The difference between a believer and a skeptic is that an explanation is always a hypothesis until proven necessary to be the case. How do I explain things like possession and exorcism? One may observe the phenomenon in front of you, but realize that explanations like ghosts, spirits or demons are not provable. They become even more implausible if the laws of physics are not suspended. The unexplained remains unexplained. As skeptics we wonder. We can wonder far. But we never forget that the place we wonder to may not be real.

    That aside, regardless of whether God exists, our morality does not change. Don’t worry so much. Leave the unexplained as unexplained. Don’t fear, the worst you can get is hell 🙂

  3. I sometimes catch myself being attracted to some supernatural bunk, but not religion; that’s too easy to refute.
    When something SEEMS plausible or to have the least scintilla of truth, look it up on a skeptics site and be reassured

  4. Yes. I went through a brief phase where I was less than 100% sure that Poseidon never existed, followed by a nagging sense that I should be talking the great Sumerian assertions about Gozer a bit more seriously.

    Oh, then there was that period following a convo with a Mormon – gee, maybe that bit about Joe Smith, and the golden tablets and the angel Moroni wasn’t just a story fabricated out of whole cloth by a huckster. I mean, why else would an intelligent fellow, as this Mormon was, go spend two years of his life on Mission, traversing over Europe to evangelize his belief?

    Then came that fling with Ra and Egyptian theology and their assertions about the mechanics of the afterlife. Why else would a society organize itself around building massive tombs, carefully preparing and equipping its exalted members for their career in the afterlife, if it isn’t true? I can think of no other reasons.

    So yeah, I’ve had my doubts. Right now in fact, I’m leaning a bit toward Quetzalcoatl.

  5. good question. Probably several different answers on the site.

    For me, no. Perhaps because I came to atheism slowly. I think for a long period of time I simply ignored the issue–did not want to think about it, and probably answered “Christian” to the question of faith. And then one day I woke up and realized I had lost my faith years ago. Soon thereafter, I started to study the origins of Christianity–and nothing will make you an atheist quite as quickly as studying it. Ask Price, Carrier and Ehrman.

  6. A few years ago, I was on a plane leaving Damascus for England. I got settled in when 3 Syrian guys about 30 years old came down the centre aisle and one of them sat next to me. The other two sat a few rows further back. I immediately noticed that the guy next to me was very nervous and I was also struck by the fact he was wearing a brand new suit with the maker’s name still sown into the jacket. He was obviously not used to wearing a suit either as he was very uncomfortable in it. Waiting to take off this guy kept looking back at his two colleagues and getting reassurance. I really thought, this guy is going to blow the plane up! It got worse too, because about an hour into the flight, having spent the time mopping his brow and talking to himself, he got up and with his mates all went down to the back of the plane. I can tell you, I was bricking it.

    When he reappeared, I thought I can’t take any more of this, so in broken English and Arabic, I asked him if he was ok. To cut a long story short, he was coming to work on a contract in England and this was his first flight and he had obviously got himself completely worked up with worry.

    So the question is … I felt like I was in a foxhole, I can tell you, so did I pray? Answer NO. Phew, I passed – no doubts.

  7. Remember that doubt and faith are not incompatible. Most believers doubt all the time about the utter bullshit they are to believe but still feel faith (sensation of presence, immensity, unconditional love…), and therefore rationalize (“The Bible doesn’t make sense, but I feel awe in churches, so Yahweh does exist, so the Bible is true”)

    In the same way, remember as well that atheism and agnosticism are not incompatible either. You can very well say that you neither know nor care if there are gods (agnosticism) and feel no faith (atheism). Those two are very compatible.

    So it’s not a matter of making sense of various theologies. Faith is what is required to believe what doesn’t make sense. Believing that gravity pulls you downward, even if you don’t understand how it works, even if Gravity is “just a theory”, is not a leap of faith. Believing that air contains 78% nitrogen (even if 12% would sound just as credible to you) is not a leap of faith. It’s just a piece of information. If astrophysicists decide tomorrow that no Big Bang ever occurred, that would not change my life. I would just take it as a new piece of information and still go to work.

    That being said, I catch myself “praying” all the time. Whenever I bet a million dollar playing head or tail, I think very strongly “Head ! Head ! Head” as if it had any influence whatsoever. I even talk to clouds so they get out of my sun (and it sometimes work). I also talk to my car and to my computer. When I think about it, it doesn’t make any sense at all. But one has to be thinking about something, and we think all the time. So why not think about what we want to happen ? It feels good.

    What is sure is that my car is not going to start if I don’t want it to start, and that if I were not outside looking for some sun, I would never get any. Wishful thinking is a necessary first step toward getting things done. Necessary, but not always that rational. The difference between a religious believer and myself is that, when I catch myself praying, I never forget to make privately fun of myself.

    And there is a very good Derren Brown programme about how irrational we are. Boy, this guy is scary !

  8. Maybe when I was first leaving Christianity, but I think a lot of that had to do with the fear instilled in me over years. A lot of that fear dissipated the more I read and learned. There are still little things here and there that make me internally cringe, certain jokes I won’t make, but it’s hard to overcome years of trained responses, especially when certain things are coupled with fear. There’s a self preservation instinct that kicks in.

    I had a lot of conversations with a professor of mine who had left Judaism and became a complete atheist. He still suffered some of the same trained responses, though, despite no longer believing. Once he wrote the name of God on the board and turned and walked back to the lectern. After a minute he said, “I’m sorry, I can feel it staring at me,” and had to go and erase it, which he found funny because he was uncomfortable despite not believing there was an actual power in it.

  9. Like you at age 15 I moved from being Catholic to agnostic, this eventually became atheism. I have never doubted this choice, members of my family are still beleivers and after my heart attack they did ask me if I had prayed or had any doubts and were surprised when I said no. there may come a day where I have doubts, just as religious people can have doubts but it is unlikely as my experinces have galvanised my opinion rather than causing me to question it.

  10. I’ve wished that religion were true at certain times, but I don’t think that I’ve been convinced of it for even a second since I became an Atheist.

  11. Have I doubted my atheism? No. Haven’t had a reason to.

    I am however open to the possibility that I might be wrong. But that requires that someone presents evidence that will prove the existence of a god. I consider myself open-minded enough that when I go through texts and web pages dealing with religion, I will accept views that are contrary to mine if they are true. So far no evidence have emerged to make me convinced that any other position than Atheism would be true.

    So I don’t actively spend time doubting my atheism, but I am open to someone else showing that I am wrong. I have been aware of my atheism for about 15 years now. I have dealt extensively with religious questions from various point of views (scientific, philosophical, political and moral) for most of this time, and so far I have never stumbled upon one single piece of evidence to support any religion. At this point I would also like to think that I’ve heard every single argument ever made for the existence of gods. And still nothing has convinced me. So despite me being open-minded, the likelihood that my atheism will crumble is practically zero, which incidentally happens to be the likelihood that a god exists.

  12. Have I doubted my atheism? No. Haven’t had a reason to.

    I am however open to the possibility that I might be wrong. But that requires that someone presents evidence that will prove the existence of a god. I consider myself open-minded enough that when I go through texts and web pages dealing with religion, I will accept views that are contrary to mine if they are true. So far no evidence have emerged to make me convinced that any other position than Atheism would be true.

    So I don’t actively spend time doubting my atheism, but I am open to someone else showing that I am wrong. I have been aware of my atheism for about 15 years now. I have dealt extensively with religious questions from various point of views (scientific, philosophical, political and moral) for most of this time, and so far I have never stumbled upon one single piece of evidence to support any religion. At this point I would also like to think that I’ve heard every single argument ever made for the existence of gods. And still nothing has convinced me. So despite me being open-minded, the likelihood that my atheism will crumble is practically zero, which incidentally happens to be the likelihood that a god exists.

  13. “Have you ever “doubted” your atheism?”

    Nope. What’s that saying again– once you go black you can’t go back or something like that. Just replace black with non-belief.

  14. When I was twelve or thirteen I often returned to god when I was especially frightened- such as when I read about ALS. I also was sent for brainwashing to several rabbis, who were nearly successful, but I eventually managed to refute everything they said.

    There’s still one Rabbi I’m not done with, quite scientifically literate, so maybe he’ll convince me. I don’t think so.

  15. All the time.

    Doubt is the natural state. Even when we have natural laws such as gravity that work consistently, we never have proof that it’s true, just a preponderance of evidence. Granted, a very great preponderance of evidence, but never proof.

    This is why we continue to attempt side-channel attacks in order to delve into unknowns, whether the size and shape of the spatial manifold to the existence (and properties) of human souls. (So far, flat with gravitational artifacts and none detected, respectively)

    And religions are engineered to invoke fear of doubt, and in some cases of admitting doubt. The Christian narrative of Eternal Hellfire is no small threat. The Islamic threat of summary death to apostates is a serious risk.

    In my twenties I sought to be able to understand the position of faith, and had an epiphany to imagine a religion I would like to be true (because the Abrahamic narrative with a serious jackass of a god ain’t that.) It was in this thought experiment that I discovered the failure of Pascal’s wager, that the plethora of religions that claim exclusivity and the innumerable variations that are outside of accepted dogma makes it impossible to depend on anything but luck to find salvation. And if the world was a construct by an intelligent creator, I’d expect it to have a sense of humanity.

    And besides which I don’t want to live my life with a proverbial gun to my head. (Nor should I have to.)

    In the occasional moment of irrationality, though I sometimes fear that one of the tens of thousands of religions that threaten eternal damnation and claim extra ecclesiam nulla salus might be true. And wouldn’t that just suck.

    But then I come to my senses and realize how completely remote that possibility is.

  16. Boomerang Nebula,
    I haven’t doubted my unbelief, however since my de-conversion was official less than a year ago I will say that old reflexes and sentiments die hard. For example, I find myself starting to talk to ‘God’ briefly when worried about something. It is only out of habit and I quickly catch myself and have a chuckle. I am still uncomfortable putting something on top of a Bible, because I was taught that the Bible is sacred and should never be under another object. Wandering back to the familiar, my mind will replay the comparison of what I know now versus what I was taught then. All of this is to be expected. I don’t know how it was for you, but for me acknowledging my unbelief was a big deal. It really did change my life, and I’m still reflecting on it daily. I wish you the best!

  17. I’m always… curious, I guess. Do I debate evolution? No; there’s overwhelming evidence to support it, paltry evidence against it, and I don’t have the background. Will I entertain a discussion on the origins of the universe itself, be it theist, deist, or pantheist, or not -ist at all? Sure; we still don’t understand the singularity from which this all sprang, and what’s the harm in a little discussion?

    Other things that crop up from time to time, like aspects of Eastern mysticism, or the ecstatic state, or unexplained phenomena, warrant more investigation, but being curious about them is not a bad thing. Ask questions. Look at evidence. Try to drop your confirmation bias, and if there isn’t a sufficient body of data, MAKE one (or at least wait until more comes in to make a final decision!). Doubt and skepticism are very healthy, and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with wondering once in a while what could have kickstarted the Big Bang. I would think it more dangerous if you rigidly held onto a belief (no matter how well grounded you felt it to be) without collecting the evidence to support it.

  18. Yes, of course. In fact I hold the fact that I occasionally am willing to entertain doubts about my atheism (and anything else I believe) to be a sign of strength. Its one of the things that differentiates trying to live via reason from faith. When I was younger (I was also raised as a Catholic) I would at times have doubts that were usually based on intellectual arguments, not so much the belief in supernatural things. I don’t recall having much doubt about the non-existence of God but more about the softer sort of social version of religion, if you are familiar with John Dewey’s pragmatism, schools of thought like that. IMO its a good thing to always question your beliefs.

    There was an article here a while back about bias and rationalization and how its built into all of us as human beings to seek out information that confirms what we already believe and to avoid information that does the opposite. IMO if we are really interested in truth we need to recognize that and always strive to continually challenge existing beliefs and be open to rethinking them. Doing so serves to constantly refine and refresh your arguments.

  19. Great question.

    I agree that those of faith-backgrounds may have extra challenges when it comes to residual doubts. Not unlike smoking, faith must damage the brain (if only metaphorically).

    While I gave atheism a serious chance when I was around 13-14, I succumbed to cultural pressures and didn’t kick the habit until just a few years ago. For me there were stages involved. At first, when I recognized I was truly atheist, I felt a great sense of relief. Then over a few months I had doubts and actually prayed about it. I think I had doubts because I came from a culture that taught Yahweh tests us. Considering I like to do well on tests, I wanted to devote a lot of time to examining my doubts.

    After a few more months, I suppose, my final examination came down to recognizing that what was important to me was to be honest with myself. I realized that even if I was ultimately wrong, I recognized that being scrupulously honest with myself was better than any other alternative.

    I’ve known others, my ex-wife for instance, who’ve said that after they realized that atheism was the logical position, their fears of ghosts, demons, hauntings, proverbial shadows in one’s peripheral vision, simply vanished. I’ve never had that extra level of fear, but I can see that if I did, it would have vanished also once the idea of supernaturalism became relegated to nonsense.

    So give yourself some time. You have some neural damage! It get’s better.

    Mike

  20. Sometimes I might witness an extraordinary coincidence, but I have never seriously considered it to be more than that once I learned about the Human tendency toward the irrational.
    Chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, biology, and logic have cured me of that.

    Until I see evidence…

  21. As I base my understanding of the world on evidence, and I know that new and contradictory evidence can come along at any moment, I am prepared to say that a summary of my position is “I doubt everything”.

    But I’ve never doubted that evidence for the existence of a Supreme Being will never be found, or that any of the “gods” described by the world’s religions are NOT the Supreme Being

  22. I think as long as you can accept the fact that we are imperfect at reasoning you can understand why you might be spooked in certain situations especially when a situation coincides with the Dogma you where brought up with. I think the correct response is to doubt your senses and emotions understanding that they are there for a reason and are sometimes very useful. So if someone gives me a story of some alleged miracle that I cannot explain I simply say I cannot explain it but re-enforce that we are imperfect witnesses especially where wish thinking is involved. Carl Sagan’s “Science a candle in a demon haunted world” goes through this in quite a bit of detail particularly in relation to the modern phenomenon of alien adduction, worth a look.

  23. Your story sounds a bit familiar to me except by 23 I was agnostic. Then I turned deistic. From thirties to my early forties I became a churchgoer – liberal, new agey. When I realized I didn’t believe much of what I was supposed to believe, I further chipped away at the God concept and especially my personal experiences. After abandoning Christianity, there was still plenty to dispute and make sense.

    My guess is that you know the typical arguments for Christianity and have not attacked the view of a deistic God and other woo. IMO the Abrahamic God is easy to argue – deism is more subtle. I suggest you start to look into some of the Utube videos of Dan Dennett. I found his research on perception to be good at helping me to realize how I connected the dots, improperly used creative thinking, etc. and also better understand how our consciousness is limited to our own material brain. I suggest checking out some skeptic sites maybe James Randi, read the Demon Haunted World.

  24. Even when I knew there was no such thing as monsters, as a child I would still worry. Eventually the idea just dropped away. Same goes for god-belief. I think the initial wondering is healthy, just the brain exploring possibilities until becoming sure of a dead end… like with seeking breeding partners.

  25. I try to be rational , not always succeeding but always doing my best. Looking at the evidence , the most reasoned approach concludes that there is no supernatural force operating in our universe. There are only laws , matter , light , sound , gas, etc, etc. These laws are obeyed clinically without favor or motivation. The only point you could possibly argue is where did the laws and matter originate from. I don’t know. I do know that once the elementary matter,gases and particles were introduced we have come to be as a result of natural laws,without intervention, demonstrated by physics ,chemistry and biology. Could you believe that for nearly 13.7 billion years a moral god twiddled his thumbs.before humans eventually evolved and then the real action got going. Why wait 13.7 billion years at all? Why not create the universe complete? Why the need for the evolution of chemistry and biology?

    If there is a creator of our universe , I know one thing for sure , man’s concept of it, is all fu*cked up.

  26. Not at all. I think there must be some sort of “believers” gene , that has completely bypassed me, and probably my whole family. It’s not just religion, but anything that sounds irrational eg crystal healing, numerology, astrology, you name it.

    Even though my grandparents etc were culturally Protestant , I had never heard them mention Jesus, praying, miracles or anything that sounded like the supernatural at all. We must have been from a genetic line of non-believers.. However, they would have still registered as Protestant on census forms, merely to distinguish themselves from the other denominations.

  27. Not since my mid teens. I did keep an an interest in parapsychology, NDEs, OBEs and various forms of mysticism for maybe a decade. Just part of the damage done by a Catholic upbringing. It leaves your immune system damaged and you’re prone to pick up minor infections for quite awhile 🙂

    Michael

  28. I consider my atheism and my physicalism/scientific materialism two separate aspects of my identity (though the first is of course the product of the latter). Ever since I reasoned myself snugly into the position that either there is nothing beyond/above nature, or that it can’t have any influence on our universe should there be, I haven’t doubted it.

    Every now and then I do doubt whether ghosts, gods, ‘paranormal’ abilities, etc. exist when I hear an exceptionally credible story, but never will I be convinced until presented with evidence. That hasn’t happened so far. In fact, most of these things seem to get more unlikely the more I learn about and experience in this existence.

    Short answer: Sometimes, but never crossing over to belief.

  29. After 50 years of consideration, here is my long-version answer to this complex question:

    Noooo….

  30. I can’t think of any “proof” that God exists that would actually convince me. If a giant figure were to peer through the clouds and announce “I’m real, everything the bible says is true.” I think I would assume that I was hallucinating or possibly that aliens had arrived and were playing a trick on the human race. There is ALWAYS a more likely explanation than ‘god did it”. Also if god did exist I would be really pissed off I certainly would not worship him, how dare the arrogance bastard portrayed in the bible try and interfere in my life. I can get along much better without him.

  31. No, I have never doubted my lack of belief in Thor, Zeus, Osiris, Isis, Woden or Jesus.

  32. As some of the other contributors here have already mentioned, the conditioning of one’s mind by a religious upbringing remains long after one has abandoned the religion intellectually and in practice. In my own case, I would say, yes, like you, I still experience effects of the conditioning of my religious upbringing (devout Catholic) – I too still handle the Bible as a sacred object on the now rare occasions when I need to consult it (though I do not kiss it first as I did in my Christian days), and I still occasionally catch myself bowing the head when saying the name of Jesus (it was customary to say Our Lord instead, or Christ if you were more into theology and scripture). But none of these quirks and feelings and so on have anything to do with my atheism, which is an intellectual position based on my agnosticism concerning whatever may exist beyond the humanly known and knowable cosmos.

    P.S. Did you hear the one about the scripture scholar who gave a talk to a community of nuns? He was puzzled because, every time he said the word ‘exegesis’, all the nuns bowed their heads.

  33. At the beginning, yes. But as I learned more about rational discourse and evaluating ideas. It’s still work in progress, that doubt pretty much vanished.

    There may be supernatural, but Heaven? Hell? Sin? Good versus Evil? Faith? All that bullshit? With the 1,000’s of religious denominations across the world? Playing Supernatural Top Trumps? Condemning the rest of the entire planet (make it, the universe while we’re at it) to eternal damnation because they happen to think their version of the Elusive One is slightly different? How narrow-minded and quaint!

    I’m an anti-theist. I want nothing to do with religions, their ideas are repugnant. And I don’t care if there is indeed something ‘out there’. I don’t need it, I don’t need its guidance, I certainly don’t need anyone to tell me what they think it tastes like.

    God is this, God is that. Who cares?!? Would he care? Looking at the world, probably not, and if he does, well, I want nothing to do with him either!

  34. In reply to #31 by jenog: “There is ALWAYS a more likely explanation than ‘god did it.”

    Absolutely right, Jenog. In fact, saying that God did it explains nothing, for God is not something known, no matter how much one believes in him.

  35. Have never felt the slightest reason to doubt my atheism,my experience has has only reinforced it.

  36. It’s not really important that you reject things that are outside of mainstream science (though some of those things are harmful, so rejecting them is nice) but that you remember, using whatever tools you’ve learned to use, to critically evaluate extraordinary claims. If you didn’t get excited or worked up about claims of the supernatural you wouldn’t be human – we’re not analytical robots after all – but so long as there’s a step between hearing about it and accepting it which involves critical thinking, then don’t beat yourself up about it.

    If I couldn’t suspend my disbelief in cool-sounding things (in my case science-fiction things) then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the works of Isaac Asimov or Gene Roddenberry, and then life would be boring!

  37. Have you ever “doubted” your atheism?

    The interesting thing about this question, is that when theists ask it, they nearly always have a particular god in mind!
    – Not a wider selection of gods!

  38. What if we wrong??? that is a very interesting question and I learned the answer from Prof. Dawkins. Here is the link on what he said in public from youtube. Enjoy 🙂

  39. Never.

    Brought up with no reference to God except Christmas carols. Went briefly New Age wooish in my late hippie teens as a way to improve my poor chances with women. Thought agnostic was the right description , then realised that religion was corrosive and a stand needed to be taken against the worst of it.

    The lack of evidence and illogic of religion came early but since then I’ve realised that the religious universe is hideous, small, and cheats the universe of its most wonderful attribute, being self made and like a most astonishing unfolding flower at once simple but with nuggets of boggling complexity….minds.

    The aesthetic the atheistic mode of thinking has led me to has ratcheted me here.

  40. In reply to #39 by my.logical.argument:

    What if we wrong???

    that is a very interesting question and I learned the answer from Prof. Dawkins.

    Here is the link on what he said in public from youtube. Enjoy 🙂
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mmskXXetcg

    Theists often quote “Pascal’s Wager”, and try to claim the chances are 50 – 50 (Their religion v atheism)

    It is a good response to point out there are many more than 2 possibilities with huge chances that THEY have chosen the wrong god, even if gods exist! – As this image humorously shows! – – – – Alt Text

  41. No, but like RD I’m willing to be convinced when someone supplies some evidence that shows that a god, any god, actually exists. So far science has studied everything it can from sub atomic particles to distant galaxies and everything appears to be produced from natural causes: Stars, Planets, Life etc. So why propose that an invisible god exists when there is no evidence to say that anything was created other than by natural means. The one thing common with all religions is they have no evidence for any of their claims – it’s all just made up!
    Sure there might be a god, ghosts or anything else we can imagine but without proof it’s simply unsupported guesswork.

  42. I’ve been an atheist since I was about 15 and for many years didn’t meditate upon it for any time at all.
    However, since the emergence of the Islamic death cult ; the foolishness of religious dogma drivel has been driven more to my attention.
    Some American politicians are almost as asinine.

  43. Not since I have had my eyes opened. All “religions” are derived from astrology. It’s all a fairy tale on a grand scale. Christianity being the biggest offender. The sooner people realise that it’s all a fabrication, the sooner they can attempt to live their lives the way they were meant to be lived without having to abide by the dictations of your religion. You can be more moral without religion, than with it.

  44. My atheism consists in my recognizing that I do not know how it is that the cosmos, of which humanity, including me, is a part, exists, and therefore in my awareness of having no reason or justification for asserting any cause of the existence of the cosmos. My atheism, then, is not the sort of thing that I can be doubtful about, for it does not involve my asserting or believing anything but rather my accepting the actual limits of what I am able to know. Positing God as the creator of the cosmos or of the spacetime pregnant with quantum energy from which this universe happened to emerge does adds nothing to our knowledge of the universe, for we thereby merely speculating that the universe we know may have as the cause of its existence some unknown transcendent being.

    Freed from the tyranny of religious dogma, I am very happy to be able to live in the world as it is naturally knowable, and to take responsibility for myself and my conduct as these too are naturally intelligible to me. There is plenty to learn, always more to learn, such is the complexity of the world and of ourselves, and there is plenty in our understanding of these things to be doubtful about, so that we need to keep an open mind and be ever ready to learn more and better. That is atheism in practice, and it is only called atheism (godlessness) for the historical reason that our ancestors believed in gods or God, because of their predilection to make some kind of sense of the world they inhabited by telling aetiological stories about it. It is really just a frame of mind whereby one distinguish between what is known (believed with justification) and what is not known (lacks justification for belief), and adheres to what is known. The gods of polytheism and God of monotheism, being mythological creatures of human storytellers, are not realities we know about the world we live in, and so they are banished from our worldview when we distinguish what is knowable from what is not knowable and see the sense of living according to what we know.

    Understood in this way, atheism is not something to doubt, for it is really no more than living according to a consistent use of reason. This is the most striking thing about the Pre-Socratic philosophers in contrast to those who preceded them and to the prevalent thinking in neighboring societies: they sought to explain the world in terms not of the actions of gods and other mythical entities but in terms of the naturally intelligible factors in the world itself, without reference to mythical entities. With them began the rational tradition of thought and enquiry that has characterized Western philosophy ever since.

    For emotional reasons one may be drawn to belief in God and to the kind of mental comfort that Christian or Jewish or Muslim communities may offer. We all desire security and stability in our lives, and godlessness can at times seem to leave us without the apparent stability of religious faith in God. If one does experience this kind of doubt about atheism, one hopefully has enough self-knowledge to recognize that it is not so much a matter of doubt as of emotional yearnings for such natural human needs as stable relationships, friendship and fellowship of mind and heart. Religionists may value people who share their religion, but people who live without belief in God value other people much more fully as fellow human beings. One needs to mature as a human being, learning to find satisfying relationships with others and also learning to attain some independence of emotional ties with others. In this way one becomes a happier, more fulfilled person, gaining from human fellowship and also able to maintain ones inner peace and joy in the absence of fellowship. Spirituality is part of human nature and requires no divine assistance or motivation.

  45. Hello everyone. Just signed up.
    Being an old man at 26 years of age I suppose I have been back and forth as to whether or not I believe in god. I’d imagine even some of you firm atheists out there have as well. I’m sure everyone who’s had a close call in a car accident or something similar, would of thought, “someone’s looking out for me”. I myself have had too many close calls to count and have often thought god was looking out for me. I suppose it’s natural to question your own believes. I’m sure religious people question their own faith. Especially when confronted by some of you lot out there.

  46. Personally I have never had a problem of not believing in Jesus or any of the other fictional characters whom human beings have invented and bestowed magical properties upon.

    I’m lucky. I never had it to begin with. It was always bollocks.

  47. I will give you a bit of background of my life. I am currently preacher/teacher at a very evangelical church. I am a very sincere atheist, however my circumstances require me to remain in my theological prison for yet a while. I am constantly surrounded by the stories that ‘can shake atheists’, as told by former drug users, alcoholics, and generally unaffected lay people. The type of stories that should be able to cast doubt on unbelief.

    I can fully affirm that I do not doubt my unbelief, even when under duress. It comes down to this: even when I am unable to explain certain circumstances (never) I remember a truth that always sobers me up. There has never been any confirmed evidence for paranormal existence. Even though I can’t explain something, the evidence directs me to unbelief – I REFUSE to substitute a ‘god of the gaps’ or ‘supernatural’ position. I have done that to the absolute detriment of my mental health and life.

    As far as deity belief goes, I am in a church. No matter what philosophical crap they shove towards me, I always remember that the bible says rabbits chew the cud, and God has the strength of a unicorn… doubt assuaged.

    The position I used to hold, fundamentalist non-thinker, actually keeps me from reverting to doubt. Religion absolutely damaged my life, and no matter what, I will never go back.

  48. I doubt my atheism partly cos I’m still struggling with religion after several years of serious consideration of atheism. You guys on this site mostly won’t understand how difficult separating oneself from religious belief can be, which is by no means a criticism of anyone here – it’s just that the experience of indoctrination is quite real for many people. I think that one of the major failings of the atheist movement is when atheists who have no concept of these issues and the stresses they can provoke in some ex-deists, then atheists can sometimes shoot themselves in the foot with their ‘so-what-its-all-bullshit-anyway’ approach. You wouldn’t have that attitude towards someone recovering from any other traumatic experience…know what I mean?

  49. In reply to #6 by GPWC:

    So the question is … I felt like I was in a foxhole, I can tell you, so did I pray? Answer NO. Phew, I passed – no doubts.

    I wish I could print this to show to three teachers who all to proudly proclaimed “there is no atheist in a foxhole.”

  50. Any time I hear or see anybody in the act of prayer; I giggle at the outright absurdity of it.

  51. In reply to #49 by theclassicist:

    I doubt my atheism partly cos I’m still struggling with religion after several years of serious consideration of atheism. You guys on this site mostly won’t understand how difficult separating oneself from religious belief can be, which is by no means a criticism of anyone here – it’s just that the experience of indoctrination is quite real for many people. I think that one of the major failings of the atheist movement is when atheists who have no concept of these issues and the stresses they can provoke in some ex-deists, then atheists can sometimes shoot themselves in the foot with their ‘so-what-its-all-bullshit-anyway’ approach. You wouldn’t have that attitude towards someone recovering from any other traumatic experience…know what I mean?

    Hi theclassicist.

    Although I am fortunately one of a few here who never had any religion, most of this Community were religious – of all types – and have struggled over years to free themselves from their faith viruses.

    Since these folk have been there, they can see the situation – and the evidence – from opposite points of view, and are able to voice their opinions much more clearly than anyone who has only been on one side of the divide.

    You’ll be very surprised at the breadth and depth of religious knowledge and experiences here, and there are many commentators who know more about religions and holy books than most of the Faithful.

    As a life long non-theist, I can say that theists have no concept of the disrespect, stresses and dangers they put non-theists and ex-theists through in life – especially since, whatever their faith asserts, imposes and demands, it IS all man-made, indoctrinated, mind-damaging, life-controlling, un-evidenced, mythical, delusional bullshit….

    Remember, these well-reasoned and science-backed opinions, which we may be quite ‘clear’ about, are about faith viruses and faith businesses, not their many victims.

  52. Thanks for all the responses everyone, I appreciate it. 🙂

    I should mention, and some of the comments have touched on this, that it’s true none of the supernatural stories I’ve heard, ever, directly involve God. Even the purported psychics on TV never claim to talk to or see God Himself, but his existence is inferred or sometimes mentioned by the dead people they say they talk to. The same is true for the stories I’ve heard. I agree that all the intellectual/philosophical or even historical arguments for God’s existence are totally unconvincing. And I mean totally, I don’t know why anyone takes them seriously.

    And I should also mention that I would feel guilty not capitalizing “Himself” so there are definitely some residual feelings left over. But at least there are understanding people here. 🙂

  53. In reply to #48 by Jogre:

    I just wanted to say that your story intrigues me, as a preacher you’ve probably heard a lot more than I have.

  54. In reply to #52 by CdnMacAtheist:

    In reply to #49 by theclassicist:

    I would just like to endorse this as another of the few always-atheist s here.

    This foundation of real knowledge and real experience of religion is one of the movements greatest sources of strength. As you can see here atheist knowledge of religion is second to none.

    There is a reason why atheism and a good knowledge of religion are strongly correlated.

  55. As a lifelong skeptic (not sure whether it’s congenital, or having an older brother stimulated a need to learn it), I’ve always been able to question whatever I heard as a matter of course. However, my imagination assured me that there was a monster under my bed. Rationally, I knew that no such thing existed, but rationality at a tender age is no match for the notion that there is something watching me in the dark. I suppose those kids who have Buddy Jesus as an imaginary friend had an easier time with it, i.e. let the superhero handle the monster and just go to sleep, but I never made that connection. Nor did I think of getting a night light, which of course would work to better effect.

    Fifty years later, I might be sitting alone in the house in the dark when that lurker-in-the-dark notion arbitrarily floats into my head, and I am both amazed and amused by my ensuing visceral reaction. A brief response from rationality informs me that my limbic hindbrain is amusing itself, and the moment passes.

    Religion thrives on that atavistic fear, and I despise those people who manipulate it in others.

    Being aware of both the power of suggestion and confirmation bias serves well to alleviate the weirdness.

  56. just keep telling yourself this simple bit of info,It works for Me, The only place that Gods, Ghosts, Angels,Demons,Faeries etc exist is in the minds of the weak willed individuals that have been Brainwashed from birth by their parent and peers for generations, The less developed the culture the stronger the grip religion & superstition has on the population, You only have to look at the middle east(islam) centralafrica(catholicism) and last but not least the bible belt of America. Wherever “Faith” is the driving force People dont really think for themselves, Douglas Adams summed it up God says “I refuse to prove that I exist for without faith I am NOTHING” in other words on the 7th day man invented God & then all the trouble started! Your comments are welcome.

  57. yeah.. Even I get this strange feeling sometimes. Its like before all this gamma rays and x rays are discovered, people might have said there are no such things. So this thought makes me wonder sometimes.

  58. I have swung like a pendulum from strong theism, to strong atheism to, theism, to atheotheism, to theism and back to atheism where I have settled now. There is nothing wrong and everything right in such toing and froing. It shows an intelligent mind seeking the truth and not allowing oneself to be straightjacketed. So keep on your search. You alone can make up your own mind if you are truly searching for the truth.

  59. In reply to #50 by astrophysics:

    In reply to #6 by GPWC:

    So the question is … I felt like I was in a foxhole, I can tell you, so did I pray? Answer NO. Phew, I passed – no doubts.

    I wish I could print this to show to three teachers who all to proudly proclaimed “there is no atheist in a foxhole.”

    A u.s.atheist military guy said in an article (paraphase) “when the action was hot, I thanked plexiglass, not god”. He got applause for that line!

  60. I came from a family that didn’t believe in god or follow a religion persay, however they believed in things that were clearly nonsense, like heaven, the place you go after you die.
    I’ve never questioned my athiesm, to date I’ve never seen any evidence to support any of the claims of religion(s), at the least the claims know about. This goes for all beliefs based on anything other than what science can illuminate.

  61. Heigh boomerang, when I was a kid I believed a ghost lived in the house i grew up in which happened to be my great grandmothers home also, I went up to the loft to explore it and find this ghost, there was an old wardrobe there and as I walked towards its door opened I can tell you the blood ran from my body, I insisted my father return with me so I could verify this “ghost” he explains that the very same thing happened to him when he was a boy and he was able to demonstrate how the door opened as I approached. this was caused by a lose floorboard that shifted the wardrobe and caused the finely balance door to swing open. There’s always a rational answer.

  62. Heigh boomerang, when I was a kid I believed a ghost lived in the house i grew up in which happened to be my great grandmothers home also, I went up to the loft to explore it and find this ghost, there was an old wardrobe there and as I walked towards its door opened I can tell you the blood ran from my body, I insisted my father return with me so I could verify this “ghost” he explains that the very same thing happened to him when he was a boy and he was able to demonstrate how the door opened as I approached. this was caused by a lose floorboard that shifted the wardrobe and caused the finely balance door to swing open. There’s always a rational answer.

  63. No. Ghosts, alien UFO’s, gods, wizards and Santa Clause have seemed far-fetched make-believe ideas since I was three years old.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  64. I can see what you mean. I Myself sometimes get spooked in one way or another of the supernatural but i know there is almost always an explenation.
    I am i guess you can say a “New” atheist. I was Baptized Catholic but i was never religious or practiced Religion like some of my relatives and friends but I did have a belief there was a god who watched and knew everything about me until a couple years ago.
    I’m 24 now.The “change” came through watching peoples views on God and debating with one another which eventually led me to discover Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.
    Since then ive watched many of their debates and Read their books on the topic and I must say that any Belief that was once there in a God Has No Doubt disappeared.
    And with that, Some of my fears also Vanished and It Opened My Mind. But I Think The fear or Misunderstanding of the unknown, Whatever that may be in any particular case, is always gonna be with us whether or not we believe in God.

  65. The only thing that freaks me out is my consciousness, that self-aware result of all the biochemical processes in this ephemeral body of mine.

  66. Yes I have, but I came to the soothing conclusion that even if I’m wrong and I find myself standing at the pearly gates, and St. Peter asks me, “Why did you not believe?”
    I can calmly reply that I was too busy appreciating the gifts God made me, and in my eyes, that is a far greater homage to bestow a creator, rather than to shun the world in prayers.
    – F.K.Hansen

  67. Over time I have seen more and more arguments for believing in God demolished. I disbelieve more strongly now than ever.

  68. That’s an interesting question. I was razed without religion, it never had the slightest pull over me. Although I was afraid of dying when I was a boy I largely outgrew that fear. However I have a fear of things associated with death such as graveyards, head stones, mausoleum and most of all cadavers. If you offered me $5,000 to spend the night alone camped out in a cemetery I would say, no thank you. I sometimes think that I can’t really be fully atheist as long as I have this irrational fear.

  69. Yes I have similar doubts but I put it down to the fact that that I grew up with those beliefs and they have become ingrained within my consciousness. That conditioning is difficult to erase since it was developed during I time when I believed everything my parents and elders told me. Now I can dismiss them when I react I rationalise why I think that way. Hang in there – think it through and over time it will get easier to dismiss.

  70. I am curious, what exactly would be your definition of atheism? This is not a specific question towards your post;
    though I am struggling with various atheistic concepts, and religious concepts; and thought that it would be a good
    question for everyone. Yes, I feel doubt sometimes, this seems like a healthy mode, that is to question reality, and
    reality’s structures – perhaps this is one of the fundamental qualities of science?

    I haven’t read any of Richard Dawkin’s books; however, I do support the general notion of a community based on
    logic. At the very least, metaphysical phenomenon, can be described as, “subjective”, in fact even any idea
    proposed by Atheism, is necessarily, subjective.

    The things we can say for certain are empirical facts – like, rain falls. So we know basically that “rain”
    involves gravity. I can say for sure that things like that are real. “Supernatural phenomenon” are
    mostly subjective; though there are now studies, supposedly proving some kind of thought -to-thought
    causality – my question to this would be specifically, what is the experiment? who are the participants?
    were there any controls? has this been reproduced since the original? Where is the data for these experiments?
    What type of “data mapping” models/techniques were used?

    I am excited about doing good science. From the materials that I have read, quite a few studies;
    there isn’t much data supporting “causal entities”.

    Though this doesn’t cancel my “openminded” position – it is clear to me that it is not so much
    a n issue of whether or not there is this or that, who knows, we know what we know….

    it is a practical question, what will this or that activity, contribute to civilization;
    in “this way”or “that way”.

    we can see that superstition, and ignorance have created more and more violence and
    insanity – in the name of what?

    my definition is based on “real’ priorities – though in the end we must stand on our
    principles, because in the past, that has been the position of philosphers, scientists,
    artists; refusing to yield to the insane, in all their strange varieties. Socrates, Hypatia…etc

    Here is a story referenced from the website -eyewitnesshistory-com June 20/2013-copied here for educational purposes

    Trial and Death of Socrates

    On a day in 399 BC the philosopher Socrates stood before a jury of 500 of his fellow
    Athenians accused of “refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state” and of
    “corrupting the youth.” If found guilty; his penalty could be death. The trial took place
    in the heart of the city, the jurors seated on wooden benches surrounded by a crowd
    of spectators. Socrates’ accusers (three Athenian citizens) were allotted three hours
    to present their case, after which, the philosopher would have three hours to defend himself.

    Socrates
    Socrates was 70 years old and familiar to most Athenians. His anti-democratic views had
    turned many in the city against him. Two of his students, Alcibiades and Critias, had twice
    briefly overthrown the democratic government of the city, instituting a reign of terror in
    which thousands of citizens were deprived of their property and either banished from the
    city or executed.

    After hearing the arguments of both Socrates and his accusers, the jury was asked to vote
    on his guilt. Under Athenian law the jurors did not deliberate the point. Instead, each juror
    registered his judgment by placing a small disk into an urn marked either “guilty” or “not guilty.”
    Socrates was found guilty by a vote of 280 to 220. The jurors were next asked to determine
    Socrates’ penalty. His accusers argued for the death penalty. Socrates was given the opportunity
    to suggest his own punishment and could probably have avoided death by recommending exile.
    Instead, the philosopher initially offered the sarcastic recommendation that he be rewarded for
    his actions. When pressed for a realistic punishment, he proposed that he be fined a modest sum
    of money. Faced with the two choices, the jury selected death for Socrates.

    The philosopher was taken to the near-by jail where his sentence would be carried out. Athenian
    law prescribed death by drinking a cup of poison hemlock. Socrates would be his own executioner.

    “What must I do?”

    Plato was Socrates’ most famous student. Although he was not present at his mentor’s death, he did
    know those who were there. Plato describes the scene through the narrative voice of the fictional
    character Phaedo.

    “When Crito heard, he signaled to the slave who was standing by. The boy went out, and returned
    after a few moments with the man who was to administer the poison which he brought ready mixed
    in a cup. When Socrates saw him, he said, ‘Now, good sir, you understand these things. What must I do?’

    ‘Just drink it and walk around until your legs begin to feel heavy, then lie down. It will soon act.’ With
    that he offered Socrates the cup.

    The latter took it quite cheerfully without a tremor, with no change of color or expression. He just gave
    the man his stolid look, and asked, ‘How say you, is it permissible to pledge this drink to anyone? May I?’

    The answer came, ‘We allow reasonable time in which to drink it.’

    ‘I understand’, he said, ‘we can and must pray to the gods that our sojourn on earth will continue happy
    beyond the grave. This is my prayer, and may it come to pass.’ With these words, he stoically drank the
    potion, quite readily and cheerfully. Up till this moment most of us were able with some decency to hold
    back our tears, but when we saw him drinking the poison to the last drop, we could restrain ourselves no
    longer. In spite of myself, the tears came in floods, so that I covered my face and wept – not for him, but
    at my own misfortune at losing such a man as my friend. Crito, even before me, rose and went out when
    he could check his tears no longer.

    Apollodorus was already steadily weeping, and by drying his eyes, crying again and sobbing, he affected
    everyone present except for Socrates himself.

    He said, ‘You are strange fellows; what is wrong with you? I sent the women away for this very purpose, to
    stop their creating such a scene. I have heard that one should die in silence. So please be quiet and keep
    control of yourselves.’ These words made us ashamed, and we stopped crying.

    The Death of Socrates

    Socrates walked around until he said that his legs were becoming heavy, when he lay on his back, as the
    attendant instructed. This fellow felt him, and then a moment later examined his feet and legs again. Squeezing
    a foot hard, he asked him if he felt anything. Socrates said that he did not. He did the same to his calves and,
    going higher, showed us that he was becoming cold and stiff. Then he felt him a last time and said that when
    the poison reached the heart he would be gone.

    As the chill sensation got to his waist, Socrates uncovered his head (he had put something over it) and said his
    last words: ‘Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don’t forget.’

    ‘Of course’, said Crito. ‘Do you want to say anything else?’

    ‘There was no reply to this question, but after a while he gave a slight stir, and the attendant uncovered him
    and examined his eyes. Then Crito saw that he was dead, he closed his mouth and eyelids.

    This was the end of our friend, the best, wisest and most upright man of any that I have ever known”


    We do what we can.

    Spraguelle

  71. i followed the link and it starts off with “an experiment”, a supposed satanic rite is performed, and then that’s where I stopped. OK I guess that makes me irrational – hahaha. I will no more take part in the sacrement now, then I will some “pseudo-satanic” – my sense was that it was a manipulation, and later would be revealed that he was using “christian” text…

    Is manipulation like this a good way to reveal the wonders, rationale, protocols, and processes of science? i think not.
    We are supposed to set a good example. What the responses of this “thread” tell me is that there exist a great many
    types of “Atheists”.

    This is a good thing, unless we are attacked for lacking cohesion and continuity. I am not saying, make an argument, using a comparison of “Atheism” versus Religion, in the end “Atheism” must stand on it’s own.

    There are better ways of converting the “irrational” – if we make fun of them, all this will do is result in “misunderstanding”, mistrust, anger, hate et al. “It is easier to catch bees with honey”…

    When I was a Catholic, I wasn’t a ‘devout” catholic, now that I am an “Atheist”, I am not a devout Atheist -but as I have stated there is no “proof” for a “causal nexus” or “causal entities”. Causality in the human sense is an existential affair.

    Spraguelle

  72. i followed the link and it starts off with “an experiment”, a supposed satanic rite is performed, and then that’s where I stopped. OK I guess that makes me irrational – hahaha. I will no more take part in the sacrement now, then I will some “pseudo-satanic” – my sense was that it was a manipulation, and later would be revealed that he was using “christian” text…

    Is manipulation like this a good way to reveal the wonders, rationale, protocols, and processes of science? i think not.
    We are supposed to set a good example. What the responses of this “thread” tell me is that there exist a great many
    types of “Atheists”.

    This is a good thing, unless we are attacked for lacking cohesion and continuity. I am not saying, make an argument, using a comparison of “Atheism” versus Religion, in the end “Atheism” must stand on it’s own.

    There are better ways of converting the “irrational” – if we make fun of them, all this will do is result in “misunderstanding”, mistrust, anger, hate et al. “It is easier to catch bees with honey”…

    When I was a Catholic, I wasn’t a ‘devout” catholic, now that I am an “Atheist”, I am not a devout Atheist -but as I have stated there is no “proof” for a “causal nexus” or “causal entities”. Causality in the human sense is an existential affair.

    Spraguelle

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