The January 2023 Philosophy Book of the Month is Entanglement - Quantum and Otherwise by John K Danenbarger.

From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm 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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Dlaw
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From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Dlaw »

Is atheism closest to a choice, a rebellion or something more like color-blindness.

I've always been an atheist so sometimes it's hard for me to understand to understand the impact my atheism has on others.

I feel like I take religion and religious people seriously, but sometimes that seems like it might be worse - might appear cynical or insulting in some way.

Thanks.
Dlaw
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Dlaw »

Oh, sorry about the lack of question marks there.
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by LuckyR »

Dlaw wrote: November 26th, 2022, 9:36 pm Is atheism closest to a choice, a rebellion or something more like color-blindness.

I've always been an atheist so sometimes it's hard for me to understand to understand the impact my atheism has on others.

I feel like I take religion and religious people seriously, but sometimes that seems like it might be worse - might appear cynical or insulting in some way.

Thanks.
Well, on the subject of how atheists make religious folk feel, it SHOULDN'T make religious folks feel anything. In reality though, some of the religious think that atheists look down on them, or think that they are naive and gullible. And I'm sure that SOME atheists do think that. But IMO you shouldn't live your life based on what other people (especially people whose opinions you don't care about) think.

The dynamic can be similar to a smoker feeling uncomfortable around former smokers who have now quit. Or meat eaters feeling uncomfortable around vegetarians.
"As usual... it depends."
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by N693 »

Is it your "fault"? If this means "are you responsible", yes. But responsibility has mitigating factors: I may be objectively wrong about something but not culpable because I am innocently ignorant of my error. Or, I could be wrong about something and culpable because I willfully choose to be wrong, or I willfully choose to be ignorant of the truth.
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Count Lucanor »

Dlaw wrote: November 26th, 2022, 9:36 pm Is atheism closest to a choice, a rebellion or something more like color-blindness.

I've always been an atheist so sometimes it's hard for me to understand to understand the impact my atheism has on others.

I feel like I take religion and religious people seriously, but sometimes that seems like it might be worse - might appear cynical or insulting in some way.

Thanks.
One is born without particular beliefs about entities of the world and their attributes, so being godless comes by default. Socialization then instils in us beliefs such as religious ones. Being an atheist involves the choice of getting rid of that particular form of indoctrination. It's your right and you're not offending anyone.
The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct.
― Marcus Tullius Cicero
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Pattern-chaser »

Dlaw wrote: November 26th, 2022, 9:36 pm Is atheism closest to a choice, a rebellion or something more like color-blindness.
In this, if no other way, atheism is the same as theism: a belief. And I'm not sure how we come by our beliefs. They feel like we are just accepting what is obvious, but if they were that obvious, everyone would have the same beliefs, and they don't.

So, do we consciously choose our beliefs? I don't think that's right, either.

For me, the most likely explanation is that our beliefs are unconsciously accepted, with little or no input from our conscious minds.

My answer to your question is that it's a choice, but not a conscious one.
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Dlaw
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Dlaw »

Thank you all for your comments. They really get to the point of my question(s).

Here's one of the aspects I'm thinking of: I'm an atheist but I don't hate religion at all because, well, it's just literature to me. I mean, I don't hate Moby Dick, I don't hate Sumerian tablets inscribed with the story of Gilgamesh, so why would I hate the Koran? Obviously it's heinously sexist, for example, but back then outright slavery and murdering civilians in war was just normal so I try to put it in context. The Koran may not have told people a virtuous way to live but I'm sure it was enormously aspirational at the time, given the audience.

The Dome of the Rock is an icon, the pantheon of Hindu gods is really cool, Jesus is awesome. It's just that God doesn't play a role in them because there's no such thing and no rational argument that there is such a thing. Rather than attacking or defending a belief about God you don't have to worry about it at all.

But I fear that my attitude is, if anything, even more insulting towards religion than a "militant atheist" attack.
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by N693 »

Dlaw wrote: November 27th, 2022, 5:10 pm Thank you all for your comments. They really get to the point of my question(s).

Here's one of the aspects I'm thinking of: . . .
If your claim is true, it suffers from the indeterminacy problem: How do you explain that your brain can have a mind-independent, objective assessment of the situation? If your brain is merely a complex chemical reaction, you think what you think merely because the chemicals reacted that way. Chemical reactions are not "right" or "wrong", they just exist. What standard tells you that you have the ability to know your assessment is true?
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Dlaw »

N693 wrote: November 27th, 2022, 5:28 pm If your claim is true, it suffers from the indeterminacy problem: How do you explain that your brain can have a mind-independent, objective assessment of the situation? If your brain is merely a complex chemical reaction, you think what you think merely because the chemicals reacted that way. Chemical reactions are not "right" or "wrong", they just exist. What standard tells you that you have the ability to know your assessment is true?
I think "mind-independent" and "objective assessment" are being elided here. I clarify these questions for myself by separating perception and facts in evidence. So I look into the night sky with a telescope and I see the moon. The moon is a fact in evidence. There's no question that it exists because it generates multiple forms of evidence that I don't have to see for them to be facts. Also, the more facts I search for, the more facts I will find. Moreover, I use observations related by people I don't know and who died long ago and they perfectly predict the behavior of the moon, so nothing about my perception is independent from the facts, even the models I use.

But if I'm trying to generate a theory of why the moon is the way it is I may be basing my theory on facts but it's a question of perception as to whether these facts add up deductively or inductively to a factual thesis.

The line between fact in evidence and perception is never totally clear. There's space in the middle. For example, an apple isn't red but depending on the context a human may state as fact that an apple IS red. An apple might be red by some objective measure but the an apple's redness is pure perception.

I guess the trouble I have with your point is the word "merely". It seems tendentious. Even the simplest animals react coherently to environmental stimuli and evolution tells us they must be getting the answers more right than wrong. Chemical reactions turn out to be pretty smart. An external fact can clearly create an internal fact. Added to that animals guess all the time. So they must have an internally-generated model of the world.

I
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Sculptor1 »

Dlaw wrote: November 26th, 2022, 9:36 pm Is atheism closest to a choice, a rebellion or something more like color-blindness.

I've always been an atheist so sometimes it's hard for me to understand to understand the impact my atheism has on others.

I feel like I take religion and religious people seriously, but sometimes that seems like it might be worse - might appear cynical or insulting in some way.

Thanks.
It's just common sense.
Why would you ever want to believe in something which does not make any sense.
On another Forum I have been informed that "God is energy"; implying that energy is god.
How are we supposed to win when Theists can't agree what god is?
Since I believe in the existence of the idea of energy - that it is a meaningful category. According to this thread I am no longer an atheist,
So If you are so worried by the "impact atheism has on others", just tell them that you believe that dogs (choose whatever!) are god, and so you are not an atheist.
Dlaw
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Dlaw »

I think it's worse than that. To me, the White Whale in Moby Dick is more real than God or Gods in the Scriptures but I don't really have any reason to say that. Religion is literature so what's my argument?


To me, a religious person and I are looking at the same thing but they making conjectures that are crazy. It's not that I want to "win" against theists. I just see their Scriptures in a totally different way (let's be honest, maybe not that different)"

But, like, there are a fair number of Mormons where I live. They are really nice people. They have helped me out, invited me to their churches, invited me to their homes. Their theology is just wacky though. So what is one supposed to do? Again, I don't want to hurt their feelings. I'd rather try and figure out why their brand of Christianity translates into a lot of really compassionate behavior AS WELL as being totally wacky.
N693
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by N693 »

Dlaw wrote: November 27th, 2022, 7:38 pm
N693 wrote: November 27th, 2022, 5:28 pm If your claim is true, it suffers from the indeterminacy problem: How do you explain that your brain can have a mind-independent, objective assessment of the situation? If your brain is merely a complex chemical reaction, you think what you think merely because the chemicals reacted that way. Chemical reactions are not "right" or "wrong", they just exist. What standard tells you that you have the ability to know your assessment is true?
I think "mind-independent" and "objective assessment" are being elided here. I clarify these questions for myself by separating perception and facts in evidence. So I look into the night sky with a telescope and I see the moon. The moon is a fact in evidence. There's no question that it exists because it generates multiple forms of evidence that I don't have to see for them to be facts. Also, the more facts I search for, the more facts I will find. Moreover, I use observations related by people I don't know and who died long ago and they perfectly predict the behavior of the moon, so nothing about my perception is independent from the facts, even the models I use.

But if I'm trying to generate a theory of why the moon is the way it is I may be basing my theory on facts but it's a question of perception as to whether these facts add up deductively or inductively to a factual thesis.

The line between fact in evidence and perception is never totally clear. There's space in the middle. For example, an apple isn't red but depending on the context a human may state as fact that an apple IS red. An apple might be red by some objective measure but the an apple's redness is pure perception.

I guess the trouble I have with your point is the word "merely". It seems tendentious. Even the simplest animals react coherently to environmental stimuli and evolution tells us they must be getting the answers more right than wrong. Chemical reactions turn out to be pretty smart. An external fact can clearly create an internal fact. Added to that animals guess all the time. So they must have an internally-generated model of the world.

I

But you are going beyond physical stimuli to mental response; you are abstracting and assigning meaning. In a mechanical universe, what standard tells you that your abstractions are correct?
Dlaw
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Dlaw »

N693 wrote: November 27th, 2022, 8:42 pm But you are going beyond physical stimuli to mental response; you are abstracting and assigning meaning. In a mechanical universe, what standard tells you that your abstractions are correct?
The standard of an apple being red. You know it, I know it, it just doesn't happen to be true. We don't inhabit a mechanical Universe, we inhabit a Homo sapiens, monkey universe. You can't draw a direct correspondence between the Universe as it is and our perceptions.

Our perceptions precede the facts of our Universe. We sense all kinds of things that aren't really there or aren't there to the extent that we sense them. And of course there are a huge number of things that impinge on our bodies but make no impact on our perception.

There is correlation between the Universe as it is and our perception but as always correlation is not causation.

So I was a few decades old before I encountered a fire ant nest. I had read about fire ants. I had seen people react to fire ants. I had seen not-very-good pictures of their nests. When I stepped on a fire ant nest I happened to be with my toddler. I didn't look down, I didn't do anything to confirm it was a fire ant nest, I just picked her up and walked into a pond up to my knees.

So, I reacted not to the external world. I reacted to what other humans had told me. I had formed a model of the world that was correct about a physical thing based on THEIR experience, not mine. The Universe didn't reach through them and touch me. They generated reactions in their bodies in order to communicate just because that's what monkeys do. I CHOSE to accept their model of the Universe because of my pre-existing instinct to imitate and my self-conscious ability to judge what instincts and impressions probably correlate best to the Universe.

So when it comes to religion, I FEEL that what religious people say is real, and some part of it is true in human terms. I know that people have a deep emotional relationship with their religion. My question here is what obligation I have to take that religious relationship seriously. Can I really relate to religious people and respect their values if I think that the central idea of their faith is made up?

For example, as far as I know, some Muslims believe that a person has an obligation to heed the Prophet. Is my belief system hostile to that or do just have a different sense of what "heed" means?
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by N693 »

Dlaw wrote: November 28th, 2022, 6:46 pm
N693 wrote: November 27th, 2022, 8:42 pm But you are going beyond physical stimuli to mental response; you are abstracting and assigning meaning. In a mechanical universe, what standard tells you that your abstractions are correct?
The standard of an apple being red. You know it, I know it, it just doesn't happen to be true. We don't inhabit a mechanical Universe, we inhabit a Homo sapiens, monkey universe. You can't draw a direct correspondence between the Universe as it is and our perceptions.

Our perceptions precede the facts of our Universe. We sense all kinds of things that aren't really there or aren't there to the extent that we sense them. And of course there are a huge number of things that impinge on our bodies but make no impact on our perception.

There is correlation between the Universe as it is and our perception but as always correlation is not causation.

So I was a few decades old before I encountered a fire ant nest. I had read about fire ants. I had seen people react to fire ants. I had seen not-very-good pictures of their nests. When I stepped on a fire ant nest I happened to be with my toddler. I didn't look down, I didn't do anything to confirm it was a fire ant nest, I just picked her up and walked into a pond up to my knees.

So, I reacted not to the external world. I reacted to what other humans had told me. I had formed a model of the world that was correct about a physical thing based on THEIR experience, not mine. The Universe didn't reach through them and touch me. They generated reactions in their bodies in order to communicate just because that's what monkeys do. I CHOSE to accept their model of the Universe because of my pre-existing instinct to imitate and my self-conscious ability to judge what instincts and impressions probably correlate best to the Universe.

So when it comes to religion, I FEEL that what religious people say is real, and some part of it is true in human terms. I know that people have a deep emotional relationship with their religion. My question here is what obligation I have to take that religious relationship seriously. Can I really relate to religious people and respect their values if I think that the central idea of their faith is made up?

For example, as far as I know, some Muslims believe that a person has an obligation to heed the Prophet. Is my belief system hostile to that or do just have a different sense of what "heed" means?

I'm not talking about Realism, or modified Realism, or any of that. I'm not talking about if we perceive objects directly or indirectly, or whatever. I'm talking about the metaphysical truth claims of your argument (or any argument). You assume the ability to objectively evaluate the veracity of your opponent's argument. Why? If there is no necessary being (i.e. God), and matter is self-referential, your opponents think what they think because they are a complex chemical reaction that does whatever it happens to do, not because there is a metaphysical truth to the question. You are evaluating whether or not your opponents **OUGHT** to think as they do. But there is no such thing in a universe of self-referential matter; there is no **OUGHT** in a universe without a necessary being. You are a theist, you just aren't admitting it.
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Re: From a Religious Viewpoint, is it My Fault That I'm an Atheist?

Post by Dlaw »

N693 wrote: November 28th, 2022, 9:09 pm
I'm not talking about Realism, or modified Realism, or any of that. I'm not talking about if we perceive objects directly or indirectly, or whatever. I'm talking about the metaphysical truth claims of your argument (or any argument). You assume the ability to objectively evaluate the veracity of your opponent's argument. Why? If there is no necessary being (i.e. God), and matter is self-referential, your opponents think what they think because they are a complex chemical reaction that does whatever it happens to do, not because there is a metaphysical truth to the question. You are evaluating whether or not your opponents **OUGHT** to think as they do. But there is no such thing in a universe of self-referential matter; there is no **OUGHT** in a universe without a necessary being. You are a theist, you just aren't admitting it.
What's more self-referential than God? God is the quintessence of self-reference.

If I - or any other animal - want to live and do what we do, they WE are the "necessary beings". There may be light without life, but there's no literature. There were many, many dark centuries during which God - particularly your (flawed, always flawed) concept of God was completely silent.

I think your problem is with free will. In your model there is only God's will which is, as always, very hard to define.

Creatures choose because they must. They have free will because they don't have an alternate method of dealing with the inevitable choices their semi-informed brains and bodies get them into. What you're looking for is a mechanical process for solving this riddle.

You're saying the world either works through true randomness (Evolution tells us it can't) or that it works by the edict of an ineffable ultra-being. Either way is an impossibility.

I don't think that I'm a real atheist. I believe in human stories and the values in those stories. God is often the easiest way in to a dense and otherwise confusing narrative - and the language is so good! If I find so much about religion to be so valuable but God is just sort of a non-starter for me, is my atheism a fault? is it my fault?
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