Orlando Humanist Association Message Board › ARTICLE/SURVEY: "Atheists, Emotional Motivation, & Self-justificati

ARTICLE/SURVEY: "Atheists, Emotional Motivation, & Self-justification?..."

Orlando, FL
Post #: 407
Atheists, Emotional Motivation, & Self-justification?...
By Swami, 120218

In a forum I attended, Christian apologist William Lane Craig stated that atheists actually come to such a position by emotion, but claim it is intellectual in an attempt to give the position legitimacy. This article was prompted by this statement.

This is actually my second attempt at writing this article. I started out by giving a simple working definition of “atheist” (i.e. one without belief in God(s)) then proceeded to attempt to construct a useful classification of types of atheists. My thinking was, and still is, that the wide range of atheists implies a wide range of reasons for taking such a position. The problem came in trying to organize a comprehensible hierarchy from identified pertinent factors. Then, as I endeavored to survey some people to get some input, I realized challenges even in identifying such factors. Things were getting too complicated, and I was losing clarity. It was time to step back; to reevaluate…

It seems that fully evaluating Dr. Craig’s statement may not be so easily done, including my initial thoughts to discount it. Given the range of atheists it seems unlikely that ALL come to such a position through emotion, but couch it intellectually to give it legitimacy. Of course, this does not discount the possibility that SOME might. Furthermore, the answer will likely be different from a theist than from an atheist.

So, I’ve decided to put this out there for consideration and feedback. Any participation would be appreciated. TIA.

Here’s a SHORT SURVEY to help get a better picture…

1) Self-identify (theist/atheist/other)?
2) Personal nature (emotion vs. intellectual, or other)?
3) Belief status before (theist/atheist/other)?
4) Upbringing (theist/atheist/other)?
5) Opposition/resistance int. (y/n)?
6) Opposition/resistance ext. family (y/n)?
7) Opposition/resistance ext. societal (y/n)?

- To fill out, simply copy/paste, and leave only your answer in the parenthesis. For #1, please specify type. If “other”, please specify. Also, if any comments seem pertinent, feel free to include them. And, of course, any views in general, or in particular, are welcomed.

So, is it true that “atheists actually come to such a position by emotion, but claim it is intellectual in an attempt to give the position legitimacy”?
Susan C.
user 14450097
Winter Park, FL
Post #: 3
Just wanted to post that this is tomorrow at the UUUS near UCF if anyone is interested.

February 19th
Jennifer Hancock "The Power of Compassion"

Compassion is one of our strongest emotions and when wielded correctly, it has the power to create positive social change. Jennifer Hancock will provide a Humanist perspective on the role compassion plays in our lives. Jennifer Hancock is a writer, speaker, and Humanist. She is the author of the new book, "The Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom." She is the Tampa Humanism and Freethought Examiner for Examiner.com and writes a monthly freelance column about Humanism for the Bradenton Herald Newspaper. She also has her own blog and podcast about the Humanist Approach to happiness. Jen is on the web at: www.jen-hancock.com
A former member
Post #: 53
Well, humans are very emotional creatures to the point that besides breathing, I don't think that there
is ANYTHING we do that does not have at least some emotion attached to it.

But here are my answers :

1) Self-identify - atheist
2) Personal nature - intellectual (but not exclusive)
3) Belief status before other - agnostic/skeptic
4) Upbringing - attempt at Baptist and Judaism, , nothing sounded right.
5) Opposition/resistance int. No
6) Opposition/resistance ext. family Yes
7) Opposition/resistance ext. societal No

Adam N.
user 12059978
Orlando, FL
Post #: 27
Hi Swami,

For me the answers are simple I came to atheism through intellect and the avoidance of emotion in the decision making process. First the answers you requested:

1) Self-identify (Atheist)?
2) Personal nature (Intellectual)?
3) Belief status before (Doubter/ Agnostic)?
4) Upbringing (theist/ Catholic )?
5) Opposition/resistance int. (n)?
6) Opposition/resistance ext. family (n)?
7) Opposition/resistance ext. societal (y)?

I dispute the assertion that my atheism, or for that matter the non-theism of most atheists I know, is emotional. In fact the opposite is true. I became an atheist because there was no rational basis for religion and my intellect demanded a rational basis for my world view. Following that imperative I arrived at atheism purely by critical thinking and objective reasoning. At first, rejecting the fables that were related to me in my early years by authority figures was emotionally challenging, so if emotion would have controlled, I would have succumbed to irrational superstition. As it was, intellect and reason easily overpowered superstition and guided me to my atheism.

I personally find it disingenuous for any representative of religion which has NO CHOICE BUT be based on emotion, to trivialize the intellectual journey that most atheists I know followed to arrive at their non-belief.

I have met few that used emotion to guide them and find that the propensity to eschew emotion and embrace reason and critical thought is the main characteristic of the Atheists I have known. There are rare exceptions, but overall my experience both internally and externally indicates that reason and intellect lead one to non-belief and emotion leads one in the opposite direction.
Orlando, FL
Post #: 408
Tnx, Marshall.

Yes, I agree: some level of emotion is involved in most, if not all, human decisions. The real question here is, do some atheists arrive at their position by emotion, but CLAIM it's intellectual to give an air of legitimacy to the claim?

I would further surmise that atheists have emotional REACTIONS to the circumstances that lead to their atheist position. But this is a different aspect of emotion and atheists than the focus of the article/survey.

Tnx, again.

Orlando, FL
Post #: 409

Tnx, for your contribution.

Yes, I see the majority opinion from atheists is that they arrive at their position through intellect/reason/logic, and intentionally attempt to NOT let emotion unduly influence their decision. I just wonder how much of this view is from living an anecdotal life, and from the eyes of a non-theist. I have a good Christian friend who encounters a different segment of atheists and has different discussions with them. He did not buy Craig's statement absolutely, but was more willing to agree with it for some people. This gets at my comment that the answer may be different from a theist vs. an atheist. Now, in addition to different experiences of the two groups, they may also have different motivations in assessing Craig's statement.

Tnx. again.
Orlando, FL
Post #: 410

Tnx for the notice. I happened to have listened live to Jen's appearance on the NEPA podcast today (she did a great job) and caught mention of this gig at UCF tomorrow. I might go.

I should (gently) say though that this notice might better by made in a separate post. It will get more attention there, and will not interrupt this thread. Tnx.

A former member
Post #: 5
To start out, I would like to point out that atheism is, by nature, not something so much "arrived at" as returned to. It is, in fact, the default position. No one is born a theist, they have to be made into one, just as no one is born Republican or Democrat, a Nihilist or a Positivist, and so on. Non belief is the baseline. Theism requires an alteration. So one need not have ANY emotional involvement to become an atheist. If a child raised by wolves spontaneously found themselves believing the tenets of Xtianity (or any other very specific religion), that would indeed be bizarre, and certainly might give an atheist pause. Of course, this has never happened. Oddly enough, only those who are raised in or exposed to the culture of a particular theism ever come to adopt that belief. Yet all people start out as atheists.

As for my survey results:

1) Self-identify: atheist.
2) Personal nature: I prefer the intellectual, as emotions are unreliable guides to decision-making
3) Belief status before: other, doubter I would say, and I was raised nominally presbyterian and converted to Judaism before I got married
4) Upbringing: Nominally theist...but pretty noncommittal
5) Opposition/resistance int.: No
6) Opposition/resistance ext. family: Not really.
7) Opposition/resistance ext. societal: Not much, though there have been people who didn't believe me when I said I was an atheist...a weird fact in and of itself.
Orlando, FL
Post #: 411
@Robert: Tnx, as usual:)

I have heard this claim that "atheism is the default position". I guess it depends on one's definition of "atheism" and how it is viewed. If it involves "lack of belief", then technically, we are born with lack of belief in ANY/EVERYTHING! But in another (real-word) sense, "atheism" is a reaction to "theism". This relationship is at play in most (many?) people's self-identification as an "atheist". Specifically, one would not take such a position if one were not aware of theism in the first place. And as a reaction, emotion could certainly (though not necessarily) be involved.

And back to definitions one uses, some involve "disbelief in", "denial of", and "rejection of". All of these first require an awareness of the thing in question. And as such, this "atheism" is not an innate position.

Furthermore, in a strict sense, an "ism" is a "belief in", so by some definitions there is no "athe-ism".

In the end, it depends how one defines the word "atheism" (or "atheist"). But perhaps a more interesting consideration is: "Why does one choose to make the statement that 'atheism is the default position'?" A bit off -topic for this thread, but interesting none the less.

As you can tell, I'm big on language, including the question of "intent" behind usage, which is of particular importance in understanding where people are coming from, and hence of real, practical value.

Tnx, again.
Norma Jeane Y.
user 10853625
Winter Park, FL
Post #: 26
1) Self-identify (theist/atheist/other)? Freethinker;
2) Personal nature (emotion vs. intellectual, or other)? Ethical---observed hypocrisy between belief & practice. . .the gap between belief & practice disallusioned me (emotion AND intellectual)
3) Belief status before (theist/atheist/other)?
4) Upbringing (theist/atheist/other)?
5) Opposition/resistance int. (y/n)?
6) Opposition/resistance ext. family (y/n)?
7) Opposition/resistance ext. societal (y/n)?

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