Posts Tagged 'Beliefs'

Defining Atheism, for the Sake of my Sanity

I’m sick of people misrepresenting what the word “atheism” really means, so I’m going to spell it out here and refer back everytime someone spouts nonsense about what atheism is. It bothers me to no end when people say that atheists believe this and that, because “atheism” doesn’t describe what beliefs someone has, all it says about someone is what beliefs they don’t have.

Theism = The belief in a god or gods

And just like apolitical means without political association, asexual means without sex, or asymmetrical means without symmetry…

Atheism = Without the belief in a god or gods

That’s it! If you ask someone: “do you believe in god?” and they say: “no”, they’re an atheist, simple as that.

Oh, FYI, saying “I don’t believe in ___” is not the same as saying “I believe ___ can’t/couldn’t exist”. Got it?

Being an atheist just means that you don’t believe in any gods. People who describe themselves as atheists can believe in ghosts, goblins, hell, heaven, unicorns, psychics, leprechauns, Santa Claus, they can believe the Earth is flat or there are aliens living on Venus, they can be tyrants or saints, they can be any type of person you can imagine, as long as they don’t believe in any gods.

All you can deduce when someone tells you they’re an atheist is that they don’t have any god beliefs.

One more thing: there’s no need to bring the word “agnostic” into this definition. Theism/Atheism is a true dichotomy, meaning if you’re not a theist you’re an atheist. There’s no need to pretend that “agnostic” is a middle ground (it’s not, gnostic/agnostic deal in knowledge, where as theism/atheism deal specifically in god belief), because atheism is a spectrum from the people who don’t really believe in god but would be easily convinced, to the people who assert that there’s no such thing as god and it’s not possible for a god to exist.

Really, the only important parts of this whole post are the bolded parts, the rest is just me imagining to possible objections to my definition. If you object to the bolded parts I’ll be doing this:

Likely followed shortly by this:

On Coming Out as an Atheist

So last night I was sitting there at my computer looking at facebook, reading over the news feed from the past day, and kept seeing things like “praise the Lord my kids are asleep”, “thank God tomorrow’s Friday”, “So sad Church service was cancelled”, “pray for me”, and so on. It’s not like this was different than any other day, in fact, it might have been a slow day for God references on the part of my facebook friends, but I was suddenly overcome with the urge to proclaim my godlessness.

I clicked on the little box where you enter your status updates and I started typing.

And then I remembered that I just added my grandmother to facebook…and that my best friend’s grandfather had just passed away…and that my religious sister might feel disrespected that I didn’t tell her privately first…and…well, so many reasons popped into my head and I chickened out.

This is a familiar pattern with me. I work up the courage to out myself, and then I bombard myself with objections until the idea of declaring myself an atheist is beaten into submission. I can never find the right time to come out.

Why is it so hard? I’ve been without god-belief for well over a year now, and the only people that know are my non-religious friends and family members. I feel like if I tell a believer that I’m an atheist I’m basically saying “you’re an idiot”, or at least that’s what they’d think I’m saying.

But I’m excited about my skepticism, about everything I’ve learned about nature and the universe since shedding my thought-controlling beliefs. I want to scream it from the rooftops, I want to talk about how happy I am to be a freethinker on facebook, and I want to be honest about who I am to the people I care about. Why can’t I???

Are you an out atheist, and if so, how did you come out? Or, are you a believer, and if so, any suggestions on approaching the topic of atheism with believers?

Police Officer Fired for his Spiritualist Beliefs

Alan Power is claiming he was wrongfully fired from the Greater Manchester Police when his superiors found out that he believes that psychics can help in investigations:

Alan Power, 62, won a ruling from a judge that his spiritualist beliefs qualify as a religion which should be protected in the workplace.

The decision clears the way for Mr Power to bring a discrimination case over his sacking by Greater Manchester Police.

I’m not sure why it matters whether or not his beliefs are a religion, nobody should be fired on the basis of their beliefs.

He claims he was fired from his job training special constables after just three weeks, when his bosses became aware that he believes messages from beyond the grave could help in criminal investigations.

I’m curious as to whether he was fired because of his beliefs, or because he was telling the constable trainees that they should use psychics in their investigations. If that’s the case, then yeah, he should be fired. But if he kept his beliefs to himself and was training the constables to use evidence- and reason-based investigation techniques, then reinstate the guy!

Can Your Beliefs About Religion make it Across This Intellectual Battleground?

The Philosophers’ Magazine has an interesting little test to see how reasoned your beliefs about religion are.

Give it a try: Battleground God

I suggest you try the test before reading my results below.

I was awarded this:

It’s given to about 46% of people who complete the test, because I didn’t take any “hits”, and only “bit one bullet”.

Here’s what it said about me:

You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity without being hit and biting only one bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and well thought out.

A direct hit would have occurred had you answered in a way that implied a logical contradiction. The bitten bullet occurred because you responded in a way that required that you held a view that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable. However, because you bit only one bullet and avoided direct hits completely you still qualify for our second highest award. A good achievement!

The question I bit the bullet on was this one:

You answered “True” to questions 6 and 13.

These answers generated the following response:

You stated earlier that evolutionary theory is essentially true. However, you have now claimed that it is foolish to believe in God without certain, irrevocable proof that she exists. The problem is that there is no certain proof that evolutionary theory is true – even though there is overwhelming evidence that it is true. So it seems that you require certain, irrevocable proof for God’s existence, but accept evolutionary theory without certain proof. So you’ve got a choice: (a) Bite a bullet and claim that a higher standard of proof is required for belief in God than for belief in evolution. (b) Take a hit, conceding that there is a contradiction in your responses.

I chose option a, because I feel that the evidence for god would have to be exceptionally strong to convince me. If I were asked the question again though I would probably have to change my answer. The evidence for evolution is so good that an equivalent standard of evidence for god should be enough to convince me, and I hope would convince me that there’s a god.

As far as I know, no scientific theory has “certain, irrevocable proof.” I’m pretty sure that proofs only exist in mathematics. My logic faltered there, but I know that I should hold the same standards of evidence for anything that I hold to be true.

“You can always change your mind”

Last week at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival I was walking around with a friend taking it all in, when a street musician asked us if we wanted to see a trick. I love magic so I would have loved to stop, but my friend was on a mission and politely declined. That’s when the magician said this:

“You can always change your mind.”

I turned around and flashed him a huge smile before my friend dragged me away.

He had summed up the philosophy I now try to live by. Changing my mind is what it means to be a skeptic. It’s about basing my knowledge on evidence and new information, and being open-minded enough to change my mind in spite of  my prior beliefs.

Cheers  to you, Mr. Fringe  Magician Dude!


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