A deep one.

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A deep one.

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Jan 31, 2016 2:15 pm

I have been having a bit of a deep argument in another place and thought that I would see what the Wizards think.

The question is simply; Is atheism a religious belief?

A theist believes in (a) god.
An atheist believes that there is no god.

I have used the word "believes" in both sentences deliberately, because my belief is that there is no god. To my mind that means that I have a religious belief.

I would be really interested in any thoughts you may have.

As an aside, I have spelt "god" without a capital letter not because I wish to insult anyone, but I want to make it clear that I am not referring to any particular faith or tenet.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: A deep one.

Post by BonnieL » Sun Jan 31, 2016 6:51 pm

I would think it would depend on the atheist. Do you believe there is no god, or do you not care about others' belief in god? I suppose the latter might be closer to agnosticism, but those who are evangelistic (no other word for it!) about there being no god do seem to have a religion of sorts.
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Re: A deep one.

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:20 pm

aaa
Here is what American Atheists have to say about themselves:
Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion. While there are some religions that are atheistic (certain sects of Buddhism, for example), that does not mean that atheism is a religion. Two commonly used retorts to the nonsense that atheism is a religion are: 1) If atheism is a religion then bald is a hair color, and 2) If atheism is a religion then health is a disease. A new one introduced in 2012 by Bill Maher is, "If atheism is a religion, then abstinence is a sexual position."
The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.
________________________________________________

I don’t spend much time thinking about this sort of thing. I am not a theist nor am I an atheist. I suppose I’d have to say I’m an agnostic. Show me the money! Until I see irrefutable proof for one or the other I shall remain on the fence. For social reasons and because I agree with their aim to do good and be good I am a Unitarian, which doesn't care one way or the other if you believe in god/God or not and don't inject god into their ceremony.

Merriam-Webster's simple-ass definition is:

Agnostic: a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not.

Their slightly more detailed definition is:

Agnostic: a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god.
______________________

Ken — January 31, 2016
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Re: A deep one.

Post by tony h » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:59 pm

I note you put down definitions for theism and atheism but not for religion.

Looking at my Oxford dictionary the first definition includes a "superhuman controlling power" which would seem to rule out atheism unless nature etc is "a superhuman controlling power" which seems a reasonable position to take.
Looking at the second definition "a particular system of faith" this does not.

In that I would regard it as equally difficult to prove the existence or absence of "a" god or "gods", in my view either position is a matter of faith and therefore the code by which an atheist leads their life is correctly described as a religion.

PS.
In my youth ...
1. "religion" was defined to me as "the set of rules which influences a persons life".
2. we had various family friends who were "ministers" of various faith and non-faith dispositions from around the world. This frequently lead to deep discussions. One of the positions that seem contrary to faith but commonly, though not universally, stated was that : it is not necessary for God to exist to believe that God existed and it was the belief that was important in the influence on life.
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: A deep one.

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:15 pm

Tony:

It seems to me that the basic concept "the set of rules which influences a person's life" is a superset which can be taken to include the (non-exhaustive list of) (often overlapping) subsets "religion", "the law", "the rules of an organization", "style guides", "the Highway Code", "conscience", "social pressure" and "forcible coercion by others".

You also wrote, "In that I would regard it as equally difficult to prove the existence or absence of "a" god or "gods", in my view either position is a matter of faith and therefore the code by which an atheist leads their life is correctly described as a religion."

With regard to the difficulty of proving the existence or absence of a god or gods, how would you distinguish between faith and mere opinion, i.e.
"in my view either position is a matter of faith"
versus
"in my view either position is a matter of opinion"
?

I consider myself to be an agnostic leaning towards atheism whose opinions on this issue are merely that — opinions. Like Ken, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the existence or non-existence of a god or gods. (In any case, there is no necessary connection between believing in a god or gods and the existence of a set of rules by which one must live one's life. For instance, Greek mythology was full of gods and goddesses who might need to be propitiated, flattered or feared, but to the best of my knowledge, none of them are described as having laid down a set of prescriptive rules or guidelines for mortals to follow.)

Of much greater concern to me is the ever-growing pile of evidence that it is the behaviours of believers that are connected with their religious dogmas and practices that we most need to worry about.

Bob:

You wrote,
A theist believes in (a) god.
An atheist believes that there is no god.

I have used the word "believes" in both sentences deliberately, because my belief is that there is no god. To my mind that means that I have a religious belief.
I find your use of the term "religious belief" here problematic because the term is ambiguous: you can have a belief about (a) religion(s) which does not itself require you to have any belief whatever in the religion(s) and any associated dogmas.

In other words, the popular usage of the term "religious belief" covers two quite separate concepts. I strongly suspect it is this ambiguity/confusion of terminology which has inspired your question. If we had two distinct terms for these two separate concepts, you would not have felt the need to ask it.
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Re: A deep one.

Post by Phil White » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:55 am

To answer the question (for yourself), you need a clear understanding of what you mean by (at least) all of the following terms:
god
believe
faith
religion
How long do you have?

If I am an atheist, do I
a) believe that there is no god
b) not believe that there is a god
c) hold the considered opinion that there is no evidence that stands up to scrutiny in favour of the existence of a god and there is therefore no question to answer?
The difference between the three options depends on what you understand by "believe".

As Erik says, there is a difference between having beliefs or convictions or opinions about religion and having religious beliefs.

I suppose that if you make a lack of belief in a god or gods a cornerstone of your ethics and moral behaviour, it could be said that it is a religious belief for you, but in my experience, atheists draw their moral judgements not from their lack of belief in a deity, but from other quarters.
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: A deep one.

Post by tony h » Mon Feb 01, 2016 1:45 am

Erik_Kowal wrote:Tony:

...
With regard to the difficulty of proving the existence or absence of a god or gods, how would you distinguish between faith and mere opinion, i.e.
"in my view either position is a matter of faith"
versus
"in my view either position is a matter of opinion"
?
Opinion is knowing a spider in England is not dangerous.
Faith is reacting as though it is the most fearsome beastie in the universe.

And I agree : dogma is dangerous - religious or otherwise.

I have always thought that atheism must be rather boring rather like spoiling a magic trick at a children's party.

And you never know, or maybe you will, one day when I cross over and find there isn't just nothing then maybe my part time membership of many religions will stand me in good stead. There's nothing to lose in having a little faith. There is no advantage to being an atheist.
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: A deep one.

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Feb 01, 2016 2:28 am

Tony:

Hm. You didn't actually answer my question in my previous posting about the difference between faith versus opinion in the context you used it in. The spider analogy is not an adequate response to that question, where I was hoping instead for a proper definition or line of argument.

As for there being nothing to lose in having a little faith, I seem to be temperamentally incapable of belief in supernatural phenomena even if I thought that such a belief might be useful. Some people would probably regard that as a personal failing or limitation, but I much prefer it this way. I find that the advantage of being an atheist (pretty much) is that my lack of religious convictions makes it a hell of a lot easier for me to spot hypocritical or coercive bullshit, and to identify when religion is being used to manipulate or otherwise deceive the ignorant or weak-minded. It saves me a lot of time and personal psychic angst, though of course the things that many believers say and do in the name of their faith can really piss me off. (I also question the value of having 'a little faith' in several different religious traditions as a sort of postmortem life insurance policy. Doesn't that turn your beliefs into a mere exercise in expediency and intellectual dishonesty, especially if they contradict each other? And how can you have only 'a little faith'? Surely you must either make an effort to believe in your religion, or else you don't bother with it at all. The wisdom of Yoda must apply here: "Do. There is no try".)

Note that I'm not writing off the entirety of religiously-based perspectives and traditions, despite their various shortcomings in both conception and implementation: there have been many religious thinkers who have made significant contributions to the development of ethics as a branch of philosophy, as well as many individual believers who have applied their religious ethics to serving their communities, and who may have made great sacrifices on behalf of others which were significantly motivated by their religious ideals. These are believers whose individual integrity I can certainly respect.
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Re: A deep one.

Post by tony h » Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:03 am

Erik:

briefly ... I may give a more considered reply later.

I suppose my spider analogy was attempting to demonstrate the difference. Opinion is a position you achieve intellectually whereas faith governs the actions you take almost subconsciously. Sometimes they will be the same; sometimes, as with spiders, they will be different.

From my upbringing I have never suffered the need for my god(s) to be all-powerful supreme beings. Indeed the Judeo, Christian, Muslim god is really quite out of character for gods across the world. As I am writing this there seems to be an analogy, seen for the first time by me, between the structure of government in the HRE and now Germany compared to its brief interlude with having a supreme leader. The later being impressive but flawed.

Most gods are far less ambitious, less certain and more flawed. (I am using god in a gender neutral form). To a certain extent they exist whether a person wants them to or not, not a matter of faith, and a person can choose to acknowledge them or not. They seem to embody a moral code and a fatalism that simply provide a coping mechanism for tragedy, guidance for good behaviour, and a recognition of good fortune.

PS. I was brought up socially as CofE with a bishop as a de-facto god-father. He was an exemplar of moral Christian behaviour but without the belief in the existence of a supreme being as an actual entity. His view of heaven and hell was what you left behind for your children and the world.
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

End of topic.
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