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Atheism or atheisms?

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by Augustus, Aug 25, 2015.

  1. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    But, if you "lack belief in everything", then you necessarily "lack belief in God". There is no requirement for contemplation to lack belief in anything. I "lack belief" in everything I don't know about, right? Remember, "to lack" something merely means "to be without" it.
     
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  2. Ouroboros

    Ouroboros Coincidentia oppositorum

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    That means that somewhere, at some point, the first humans (who where atheists by default) must have invented religion (something they didn't believe in or knew what it even was). Otherwise, where would culture, indoctrination, and proselytism come from? Religion must have been invented by atheists.
     
  3. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    It is certainly a reasonable theory that religion was invented as a method as control. More likely, however, it was created to provide explanations for natural events that, at the time, were not available.
     
  4. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    this has got me thinking....

    in order to be an atheist (as an adult) you have to have some background beliefs about science and nature that will inform that belief. e.g. the validity of the theory of evolution means there is a lack of evidence for creationism. that is what is different. An adult can be an atheist because they say "I lack belief in god because" where as a child has absolutely no beliefs to the point where they don't even know what a belief is. they still have an animal level of awareness in terms of sensation and emotion, but not the higher faculties that develop in adulthood. The alternative would seem to imply that my cats are atheists even though they will never know they are cats or even what an atheist is because they lack the faculty to understand it. Its absurd, but I think you can see what I'm getting at.
     
  5. Ouroboros

    Ouroboros Coincidentia oppositorum

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    Where did those religions come from? And the ones before that? And the first religions, where did they come from? From the early humans (maybe even Australopithecus?), who were atheists. They barely could communicate. Language hadn't evolved much yet. They didn't believe in God, but yet they invented God to believe in so they could indoctrinate their children about it. What was the reason do you think these atheists invented God?
     
  6. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    You could say that your cats are "atheistic", but the term "atheist" only applies to people, I believe ... at least according to every definition I've looked at.
     
  7. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    The article seems to suggest that it might well be though.

    Anyway, religion is to do with thought and behaviour, and cognitive abilities develop from birth onwards. Why must the default as regards anything cognitive be established based on the state of a newborn baby?

    I'm not aware that it takes any effort. But then again I'm not aware of many things that I do.

    In the past, I would have agreed that atheism was the default position, now I think I was wrong to make that assumption (for numerous reasons, not just this).

    I don't think than any specific religions are natural, just that there is the possibility that we might have a predisposition to certain concepts associated with religion in general.

    The cognitive science of religion is a discipline that studies questions like these, it is not religious apologetics though. Within this discipline their are a range of views on how 'natural' god/religious style beliefs are.

    I don't know a huge deal about the subject beyond a few superficial readings, but there seems to be more than enough evidence within these to make it rational and 'scientific' to ask people to justify their claim that atheism is the axiomatic default position for humans.

    I'm not qualified to say what the default is from the perspective of cognitive science, I will happily admit I don't know. I'm not sure why people who consider themselves 'rational' think I have to unquestioningly agree with their arbitrary assertion that atheism is the default position though and agree with their claim that this is an objective and value free assumption.
     
  8. Ouroboros

    Ouroboros Coincidentia oppositorum

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    Why invent explanation to natural events when they didn't believe there was anything outside this world that could affect it? The default position was a non-belief in such things. And how would people fall for such plots of control when they didn't believe? How do you convince a person to believe that doesn't? Also, the person who invented it must have not believed it him/herself.

    Many of the early religions are older than society. Animism or whatever it's called. We're born non-believers in that too, and it's not a religion that creates a lot or any control on people. It rather addresses the "soul" or "spirit" part of a human being and life in general. But these people were born without the belief in these things. The early humans didn't have these beliefs either. So someone, who didn't believe it, must have invented it, at one single point in time. All religion then should be blamed on one person, somewhere, maybe 150-500,000 years ago, who somehow created this idea that everyone swallowed whole without questioning. Is that a correct explanation of the roots of religion?

    What about the ability to believe? Do we have it, or is that also something that's learned or indoctrinated? Are we born with the ability to believe?
     
  9. paarsurrey

    paarsurrey Veteran Member

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    A good argument.
    Thanks and regards
     
  10. Jumi

    Jumi Well-Known Member

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    I never chose the belief and even as an adult I don't base my atheism on naturalism. It's true that I believe evolution, but it was not a prerequisite for my lack of belief. I learned science only later and got into studying modern biology as an adult. If evolution proved to be wrong, it would change nothing for me.

    I'm like the blank slate atheist. Debates with theists often center around science since they seem to want to discuss evolution and such out of a misconception that it's somehow important to me. I would guess the amount of atheists who consider evolution the reason they are atheists way smaller than theists like to think.

    Before you were taught and when you were young, did you ever feel like thunder was caused by something living?
     
  11. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    from my very basic understanding of neuroscience- I'd say that children haven't formed the nerve endings to actually have X, Y, Z belief. a child lacks the brain development that have a belief, it carries a different meaning. so we can attribute a lack of belief to a child, but they simply don't have the cognitive capacity for such belief or lack of.

    I suppose I'm looking at belief in a particular way. what we believe has a function, as part of our relationship between what we think and what we do as we interact with our envrionment. we form beliefs based on these interactions as an adult, whilst we lack those interaction as a child. So "lack of belief" in god of a adult person means not going to church, reading scripture or celebrating christmas (but for purely social reasons :) ). where as lack of belief in god in a child or a cat has no function at all. it is the fact that belief is a function that means you have to connect it to other beliefs; so that there is a relationship between atheism and evolution in so far as we no longer think god created all species and so that we can use evolutionary processes for our own ends by domestic selection, e.g. breeding chickens for meat or egg-laying, cattle for meat, etc. In this sense, the decrease in the number of functions we attribute to god ultimately increases our power to change the natural world. Atheism has this implication for an adult but not for a child.
     
  12. Jaiket

    Jaiket Well-Known Member

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    Well, pal, what about the world's population of bacteria? They definitely don't believe in God and they make up much more of the biomass of the planet than we do. Clearly on Earth atheism is therefore the default position.

    Infact, almost none of the universe believes in God. Only some humans who are a piddling, vanishingly tiny ratio of the matter that exists. Atheism holds over the entire cosmos!
     
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  13. Jumi

    Jumi Well-Known Member

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    It's one article, while it gives food for thought about false pattern recognition I don't think it's useful for thinking about atheism despite what the author(s) said.

    If we base the default on what was taught then the default is of course different based on the culture they were taught in. Like Daniel Everett discovered, not all "primitive" people have religion. So the default will vary widely.

    Has your own position changed?

    Indeed, as I've said before, people naturally recognize patterns in things based on how developed their intelligence is they can predict what pattern follows. I don't think there is a predisposition to have a certain interpretation of what a pattern means, but children who don't know what causes the pattern may think that it was the work of someone or something.

    Yes, I even considered studying the subject once. I had friends in the faculty and I wanted to make sense why people opt to be religious and I've widely read sacred texts. I still have textbook that was used for entrance material, what bothered me about it was that the authors were quick to jump to conclusions compared to the hard sciences for example.

    It's a matter of interpretation. If we take blank slate to mean nothing or we take pattern recognition to be equal to theism then obviously atheism wouldn't be the default.

    I wouldn't agree that it is arbitrary, but I also look forward to studies on supernatural beliefs of children.
     
  14. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    Keep in mind, it wasn't nearly as hard back then to convince people of the supernatural due to their severely lack of understanding of the physical world.
     
  15. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    I agree, but this merely illustrates the difference between "implicit" and "explicit" atheism, right?
     
  16. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    As part of a broader body of research, it is useful for questioning whether or not atheism or 'religious type beliefs' are (more) natural.

    I agree with this (apart from the word default).

    Yes.

    When I was younger if someone had asked me 'Is atheism the default position?' I would have said yes.

    If someone asked me now, I would say that for numerous reasons, it is inherently problematic to consider anything regarding this as 'default'. Both 'religious type beliefs' and atheism can be described as natural though.

    I certainly don't buy into the 'if it wasn't for indoctrination, we'd all be atheists' type arguments.

    This is a problem in many academic disciplines, and will certainly also apply to this one. I'm not going to say, one 'scientific' article claimed this so it's true, within the context of this discussion I'm aiming for the incredibly low bar of refuting the statement atheism is axiomatically the default position based on 'common sense'.

    I'd say my current position is best summed up by this:

    In the end, religiosity and atheism represent entrenched cognitive–cultural habits where the conclusions drawn from sensory input and the output of cognitive systems bifurcate in supernatural and naturalistic directions. The habit of atheism may need more scaffolding to be acquired, and its religious counterpart may need more effort to kick, but even so, that does not, ipso facto, make the latter more natural than the former.
    Religion is natural, atheism is not: On why everybody is both right and wrong http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048721X09001298 (requires database access)

    Both atheism or theism can legitimately be described as natural, both are possible from a 'blank slate' developing free of external indoctrination. It is a question of probability, rather than a binary and, anyway, whether or not one is more probable or instinctive than the other doesn't equate to 'naturalness'. If a blank slate would become 'religious' or atheist is dependent on characteristics of the individual's mind and their environment (even if we could exclude indoctrination). It is possible that the same blank slate might reach a different worldview if they had a 2nd life in a different environment (free of external influences).
     
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  17. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    Perhaps. there are obviously very deep philosophical differences between implicit and explicit atheism. But I'm not sure how you can sqaure the lack of belief in god with the lack of cognitive faculties to reason. "lack of belief" is a rejection of the arguments for gods existence, but not the possibility of god's existence and so still involves considerable reasoning which a child doesn't have.
     
  18. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    This is where I disagree completely with your reasoning. There is no necessity to think that a "lack of belief" is a "rejection of belief". "Lack of belief" means "being without belief". The term "disbelief" could possibly be used to express a necessity for contemplation/reason, but certainly not "lack of belief". I, for example, "lack" everything that I don't know about and, thus, don't own/posses, right?

    "Lack" means a deficiency or absence of something needed, desirable, or customary (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lack). In this context, "belief in the existence of God" is "needed" for theism.

    And, you can't possibly claim that atheism is the deficiency of belief in the existence of God, meaning that atheists are those that believe in God, just not enough, right?
     
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  19. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    I would say that atheism as 'lack of belief' is a deficiency of evidence and reasoning to substanciate a rational belief in god rather than the absence of any belief at all. I've toyed with the idea that atheism and deism are opposite ends of the same spectrum of attempting to establish rational grounds for belief or non-belief in god. As theism is based on revelation it falls somewhat outside this spectrum.
     
  20. JoStories

    JoStories Well-Known Member

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    Hmm..interesting take there Leibowde. I would disagree still. For me, being agnostic means that one has no particular belief in God or gods but one also does not deny the possibility. Sort of like someone searching for answers but those answers have yet to reveal themselves. I can see your take and understand it, of course but I would disagree that knowledge of God in strictly unattainable. But then, I am Buddhist and we have a more unique view of this. At least IMO>
     
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