Are we all born an Atheist?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Dark Matter
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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Dark Matter » June 19th, 2018, 8:09 pm

Eduk wrote:
June 19th, 2018, 5:44 pm
DM if I could think of something unimaginable then it wouldn't be.
Besides your will hypothesis doesn't explain itself. So as far as I can see you have only posited one category.
No, it doesn’t explain itself. Neither does unstable nothingness. That’s the point of Buridan’s Ass: it’s a leap of faith either way.

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Eduk » June 20th, 2018, 3:27 am

Exactly. So you agree you have presented only one option. Something from nothing. A logical impossibility. There is always the option that something has always been. Of course this is another logical impossibility. Conclusion is not that there must be only two options, but that the options are unknown. Once again not knowing something means you don't know.

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Steve3007 » June 20th, 2018, 5:53 am

I don't know why people say that "something from nothing" is logically impossible. Sure, it's not something that we ever experience, but that doesn't make it logically impossible. It just makes it unheard of so far in human experience. To be logically impossible it would have to be impossible regardless of any experiences. You wouldn't need to consider any experiences in order to decide that it was logically impossible. For example "something and nothing" simultaneously sounds to me like a better candidate for being logically impossible.

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Steve3007 » June 20th, 2018, 6:19 am

Regarding the OP. If I have to decide whether we start life as theists or atheists I'd go with theists, in the sense that something that could be seem as a religious tendency does indeed seem to be either hard-wired or learned at a very early age, regardless of background. I think that's what the evidence suggests. Aside from any formal studies on the subject, it seems to me anecdotally that young children have a natural tendency to think of things (not just things that were manufactured by humans) in terms of purpose. They think that everything should be "for" something.

Here's a study on the subject that might possibly be interesting, although I haven't finished skim-reading it yet:

https://www.bu.edu/cdl/files/2013/08/20 ... iYanni.pdf

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Eduk » June 20th, 2018, 8:10 am

I guess it depends on how you define logic Steve. For me though there is no logical way to go from nothing to something. Perhaps there is a logical way and it is simply my failing.

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Thinking critical
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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Thinking critical » June 20th, 2018, 9:28 am

Dark Matter wrote:
June 19th, 2018, 2:19 pm

While I appreciate the sentiment, I don't think this is a fair assessment when the whole situation is taken into account. Study after study has shown that it more likely than not that the tendency toward religion, while optional, is hard-wired. Agnosticism with a tendency toward religion, not atheism, is the default position.

Humans may have some sort of cognitive predisposition to believe in supernatural forces in order to reason why certain aspects of life are how they are, however I can't see how it is even remotely possible the we are hard wired to believe one sort of philosophy (religion) over another? What study are you referring to?
As we purse the question as to why there is something rather than nothing to its ultimate conclusion, we are left with two possibilities: unstable nothingness or the presence of will. Here, we encounter the dilemma of Buridan's Ass: which bale of hay do we choose? Both require a leap of faith because, logically, one doesn't make any more sense than the other. Yet, nothing is more more consequential.
If we were to push the analogy even further, we can say that some donkeys don't even like hay....so they will walk away at eat some grass and live happily ever after, in other words for many atheists and agnostics I have spoke to there is no dilemma cause they simply don't care.
The two options you stated is also a false dichotomy, on what grounds is the origin of the Universe an either or proposition? Secondly, Burdian's ass is based on a 50:50 possibility where either option is so equally rational that a logical choice is impossible, for someone who doesn't even contemplate the possibility that gods exist, the idea that the Universe was willed into existence is not only illogical but also highly irrational. Burdian's ass is a poor analogy.
This cocky little cognitive contortionist will straighten you right out

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Steve3007 » June 20th, 2018, 10:46 am

Eduk wrote:I guess it depends on how you define logic Steve. For me though there is no logical way to go from nothing to something. Perhaps there is a logical way and it is simply my failing.
Yes, like many words, the words "logical" and "illogical" don't have a single fixed meaning in everyday usage. To me, a statement or argument is "illogical" only if it is internally inconsistent; if it contains a contradiction in terms. To find out whether it is illogical we don't have to think about any of our experiences of the world. We simply have to consult the standard meanings of the words being used. So it's not the same as saying that it is empirically false.

If I say "it's raining outside" when it isn't I'm not breaking the rules of logic. I'm just making a false statement that can be tested by experience. The same thing applies if I make a more general empirical statement about a principle of Nature, like, for example: "two positive electric charges attract each other". Again, this statement is false but not illogical. Its falsehood is demonstrated by experience.

I think the statement "something can arise from nothing" is another example of an empirical claim that is essentially similar to the previous two examples. As a statement of a general principle of Nature (a conservation principle), we know it to be false by experience. But it is not illogical. You said "there is no logical way to go from nothing to something". I think the word "logical" is misplaced there. I don't think it makes sense to think of the real-world empirical challenge of getting something from nothing (or any other empirical challenge) as a problem of logic. I think it would make more sense to say "there is no known empirical method to get something from nothing and we therefore assume that it is a general principle of Nature that you can't get something from nothing", or something like that.

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Dark Matter » June 20th, 2018, 1:56 pm

Eduk wrote:
June 20th, 2018, 3:27 am
Exactly. So you agree you have presented only one option. Something from nothing. A logical impossibility. There is always the option that something has always been. Of course this is another logical impossibility. Conclusion is not that there must be only two options, but that the options are unknown. Once again not knowing something means you don't know.
The question at hand is whether we are born atheists so I'll try to stay away from the question of God's existence.

It seems that the answer is no: we are born agnostic with a tendency towards religion. Why? Why this tendency towards religion? The idea of evolution has been a productive one for the scientific imagination, but the theory has its dangers outside the field of the natural sciences.

We are told that the first men, seeing their shadow, or seeing their own image in a dream, conceived the idea of an apparitional soul or ghost soul. But whatever the historic data on this subject may be, it is evident that the act of Reason, which we are aware of in ourselves by experience as much as we are of sight and touch, is not reducible by any number of intermediary terms that evolutionary theory depends on. And Reason is the fundamental condition of our psychology that we are not bound up in our own sensations and in perceptions of ourselves -- we are born philosophers.

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Dark Matter » June 20th, 2018, 2:27 pm

Thinking critical wrote:
June 20th, 2018, 9:28 am

Humans may have some sort of cognitive predisposition to believe in supernatural forces in order to reason why certain aspects of life are how they are, however I can't see how it is even remotely possible the we are hard wired to believe one sort of philosophy (religion) over another? What study are you referring to?
It's not definite, but it seems to be the case. And it's easy enough to run a search on the internet
If we were to push the analogy even further, we can say that some donkeys don't even like hay....so they will walk away at eat some grass
that option isn't available.
in other words for many atheists and agnostics I have spoke to there is no dilemma cause they simply don't care.
True. Cockroaches don't care, either.
The two options you stated is also a false dichotomy, on what grounds is the origin of the Universe an either or proposition?


What alternative do you propose?
for someone who doesn't even contemplate the possibility that gods exist, the idea that the Universe was willed into existence is not only illogical but also highly irrational.
Of course. That's the point. But the alternative is equally irrational.

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Eduk » June 20th, 2018, 3:31 pm

DM as already pointed out the question of whether we are born atheists depends on definition.
For example I'm certain that an individual separated at birth from all human contact (ignoring survival issues) would not invent Christianity or Islam or Scientology or any other recognised religion. But chances are high, though not 100%, that they would invent a belief system which could be called a religion.

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Dark Matter » June 20th, 2018, 4:13 pm

Eduk wrote:
June 20th, 2018, 3:31 pm
DM as already pointed out the question of whether we are born atheists depends on definition.
For example I'm certain that an individual separated at birth from all human contact (ignoring survival issues) would not invent Christianity or Islam or Scientology or any other recognised religion. But chances are high, though not 100%, that they would invent a belief system which could be called a religion.
Exactly. As Thomas Aquinas pointed out, "In the end, we know God as unknown." The possibilities on that end are endless and personal; the possibilities with respect to our ultimate origin are two.

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Eduk » June 20th, 2018, 6:12 pm

Steve I somewhat get your point. I think something from nothing is more than an empirically wrong statement though. For starters I'm not sure it is empirically wrong, after all I believe I do exist.
If I said it was raining when it wasn't you would say I was wrong. If I said it was raining clowns when it wasn't you might consider me insane. If I said it was raining a slightly dizzy feeling you might then question the logic behind such a statement?
By the way what expression/term do you think would work better. Something from nothing is what? I can't say it's impossible because I don't know. Saying it's unlikely seems far too soft. Maybe I could call it infinitely improbable?

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Thinking critical » June 21st, 2018, 1:00 am

Dark Matter wrote:
June 20th, 2018, 2:27 pm


that option isn't available.
I thought you would say that, thank you for highlighting the fact that Hume also pointed when people use analogies. They are nothing more than a type of strawman argument which cherry picks one logical act to which we can relate to then insists that because the act is true and logical within the framework of the analogy that it must also be true outside of the framework......this leading to a epistemological fallacy as the analogy assumes that the either or dilemma is inherently true.
True. Cockroaches don't care, either.
Again highlighting the weakness of the analogy, what this has to do with cockroaches I don't know? How ever the point still remains, people can be happy and content not knowing.
What alternative do you propose?
In response to the analogy dichotomy the truth is the best response, we simply don't know.
We maybe part of an eternal multiverse there for no need to rely on any cause? Or the explanation may be so unfathomable and foreign to us that any hypothesis which we come up with may not even be close. An either or statement based on the absence of knowledge is not a valid proposal in any philosophical discussion.
Of course. That's the point. But the alternative is equally irrational

Maybe the alternative you provided is, however it is not irrational to say nobody knows.
This cocky little cognitive contortionist will straighten you right out

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Dark Matter » June 21st, 2018, 3:42 am

Thinking critical wrote:
June 21st, 2018, 1:00 am

In response to the analogy dichotomy the truth is the best response, we simply don't know.
So, the ass starves. Well, I guess that's a choice, too.

Look, you started this thread by asking whether we're all born atheists. The answer is "no." The fact that you don't like the answer isn't going to change that.

To be human is to philosophize, to ask questions like 'who or what is the author of all nature?' 'why is there something rather than nothing?' 'who or what is the impetus that makes the universe the way it is?' We also supposes a morality: that man is a rational being and the order of nature is not an order of blind necessity, but an order infused with reason. By refusing to choose, people lose touch with the basic issues of their very existence.

Do not presume (like Greta) that I'm making all this stuff up. I just purchased a book by Rollo May that came highly recommended: The Cry for Myth. Wiki writes this about it:
The Cry for Myth (1991) is a book by the American existential psychologist Rollo May, in which he proposes that modern people need myths to make sense of their lives, and that without myth they are prey to anxiety and addiction.
I haven't read it yet, but the point is clear enough.

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Re: Are we all born an Atheist?

Post by Steve3007 » June 21st, 2018, 5:12 am

Eduk wrote:Steve I somewhat get your point. I think something from nothing is more than an empirically wrong statement though. For starters I'm not sure it is empirically wrong, after all I believe I do exist.
Why does believing that you personally exist constitute empirical evidence that something can come from nothing?

Aside from that, I also am not sure that it is empirically wrong. It just seems that way from my experience, and the experience of other people, so far. So we've all decided to call it a universal principle. In some contexts it's referred to as "conservation of mass" or "conservation of mass-energy" or some such thing. But in more everyday terms it's simply "you can't get something from nothing" or "there's no such thing as a free lunch". But obviously, as with any general principle derived from specific instances, it's always possible that a falsifying instance might be discovered, however unlikely that may be deemed to be. That makes it different from a logical error.
If I said it was raining when it wasn't you would say I was wrong. If I said it was raining clowns when it wasn't you might consider me insane. If I said it was raining a slightly dizzy feeling you might then question the logic behind such a statement?
Yes, I would say that last one is a logical error because it's a mismatching of concepts - an incorrect use of language. Unless it's a poetic metaphor of some kind.
By the way what expression/term do you think would work better. Something from nothing is what? I can't say it's impossible because I don't know. Saying it's unlikely seems far too soft. Maybe I could call it infinitely improbable?
As I said earlier, I think it works better to treat it as a statement of a general principle that has been derived from our observations of the world. Essentially the same as other statements of general principles. As with those other general principles it seems to be something that we learn from experience.

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