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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Question about atheism/agnosticism

Question about atheism/agnosticism

A former member
Post #: 1
Ok, I was out with some of the folks on the board last night, and the question was asked me, 'how long have you been an atheist?' My response was 'I'm really more of an agnostic,' basically because at this point I am unable to deny the existence of a creator.

Background: I'm new to Objectivism, and come from a fundamentalist religious upbringing.

So, two questions: The only place I really get hung up is the origin of the universe, I do not believe in a personal deity, and think that there 'may' be a creator of some sort, based on the inability of Physics to exhibit a good understanding of the singularity at the origin of the universe, as well as the first 10^-43 seconds. I suppose I might be considered a 'deist,' but that has judeo-christian overtones that I am not really comfortable with.

First question: what would you call me?

I have spent a good deal of time today looking at papers and articles on the Hartle-Hawking theory of Quantum Cosmology, and if true, QC says that there is a large non-zero probability that a universe like ours would appear ex nihilo with no cause, which then removes any necessity for a creator. I have read several papers which make reference to confirmation of QC by observational evidence, which would then make my hang up go away, but I have been unable to locate any of said evidences, probably due to looking in the wrong places. That being said, I would like confirmation, I don't intend to just believe in QC because someone says there is evidence supporting it, I would like the evidence.

Second question: Any ideas of papers showing said evidences?

Any other comments would be welcome.
A former member
Post #: 205
Do you require a label? :)

Welcome to our group.

I'm far from being a physicist or astrophysicist, but what makes you think the universe hasn't always been here? What hard and fast evidence is there for a singularity or "big bang"? Just a couple of big.

If you seriously want to explore some of these questions from the Objectivist standpoint, I'd suggest you check out the course on physics available at the Ayn Rand Bookstore by David Harriman.

And at least you gotten past the need for a creator. :) However should you find yourself in need of a diety to donate CASH to...I'm available.

Pontifex Maximus of the Known Universe

A former member
Post #: 2
LOL... point made... I'm not sure I exactly need a label, it's more that I'm trying to clarify exactly what I think, out loud, sorta...

And there are two major issues with the universe having always been here:

1) Entropy and temperature. As time shuffles on, the average disorder in the universe increases and heat moves from hot things to cold things. After enough time goes by, the entire universe will be the same temperature, really, really, really(!!!!) cold. Like liquid helium cold. That amount of time has obviously not gone by, therefore there was a beginning in the finite past.

2) Einstein's relativity (which is actually a very poor name for them, but I digress) equations prove an expanding universe, and said expansion has been measured (you've probably heard of red shift) and is consistent with those equations. Expanding from what? A hot 'big bang.' There is also background radiation throughout the universe that is consistent with a hot 'big bang.'

And thanks for the tip on David Harriman, I'll look him up.
McKinney, TX
Post #: 76


I've never been religious so the need of a prime mover has always puzzled me.

The notion of such a being is a floating abstraction. And as such, I don't give it anymore credence than I do the notion of unicorns or leprechauns.

But here are a couple of creator party questions:

Who created the creator?

How does one create everything out of nothing?

And just for jollies:

If there was an All knowing, All powerful being--and He would have to be if He was the creator of all existence--then freewill could not exist. This would mean that the all knowing, all powerful creator of the universe was evil. Why else would one deposit Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Charles Mason, and the other one billion or so other rapists and murderers that have graced our tiny planet. Obviously, I don't think our fictional deity is evil; I just think he lacks credibility.

I look foward to meeting you at one of the next meetings.
Karen G.
Sulphur, OK
Post #: 34
Hi Jason and Welcome!!

I too have some of the same questions you do. Usually it is confined to the wee hours of the morning when I wake up and wonder what the world will be like after I don't wake up anymore. It is hard to accept that 'I' will cease to exist - hence the draw of the masses to religion.

At first, I looked up atheist sites which to me read with the same fanaticism as the religious ones. Then I looked up agnostics and felt they were a religious conversion just waiting for the right zealot to find them. I am not really sure what an 'Objectivist' is - Objectivism seems like more of a mindset to strive for than a label to hide within. But I am still learning.

A former member
Post #: 63
Hi Jason,

I am also puzzeled about how the universe started and if it has not always been here what was before it.

I have a hard time with both "always" and "nothing". If the universe hasn't always been here in some form then there has to have been a time of nothingness, or at least something else.

None of that stuff is easy for me to grasp.

Also I don't understand gravity very well. I think that we are probably working with a pretty half ass model of the physical universe.

I the big white book about Objectivisim (which I can never remember the name of) it says that everything has some cause, but then it says that we should believe that existence exists and always has. (I probably paraphrased it wrong, but that is pretty close). So I guess Objectivist are supposed to believe in the concept of always and give the entire universe a pass on needing a cause. I think all of that is in the metaphysics part. I choked on it and never made it to Epistomology.

If you get the Universe figured out please explain it to me. I'm confused by it existence existing, but I grant that it does just to keep my sanity, and I try not to think about why it does to avoid loosing it again.

McKinney, TX
Post #: 77

I believe you misunderstood what Peikoff was explaining in OPAR.

"Existence exists" is an axiom. It is the foundation of all knowledge. It doesn't tell you anything about anything--just that it exists.

There are no passes in Objectivism--only objectivity.

I think it's a fatal mistake to "jump the shark" just because science hasn't reached the point of being able to explain the universe in all it's magnificent glory. Remember, the notion of God isn't even a valid concept--because valid concepts must be tied to reality.

However, people will always find God wherever they look for him.

I would recommend the first five chapters of OPAR. It deals with this issue quite thoroughly. And I would also recommend George Smith's "The Case Against God."
Plano, TX
Post #: 659
I am not going to try to answer any questions regarding the origin of the universe, etc., because 1. I am not all that scientific; 2. I think there is still a lot to be learned about the origin of the universe (although I think there is nothing that will prove there is a God).

However, I am responding because I too had a very rigid religious upbringing, and up until about probably 7 years ago, believed in God. When I left my religion, I started to research other religions, and found all of them lacking because they didn't seem to make sense. Either they didn't follow the bible, are were so detached from reality there was no way they could be correct. That was a hard time for me.

I then started questioning, well, if all these texts are wrong about God - what if all the concepts about God are wrong, and what if God isn't real? This was a much harder one for me, and I guess when I got to that point I was agnostic.

I will be blunt here: Sometimes I WISH there was some form of benevolent Creator. Not the one describe in the Bible or the Koran or (insert some other "holy" text here). I remember when I was younger and was having a hard time how much better I felt if I prayed - it was a fleeting feeling because it didn't solve my issues, but hey, boy did I like the idea of putting my problem in someone else's hands.

However, the more I have looked for proof, the less I have found. I was taught that I could look to the wonders of nature to confirm belief in God. But no, it doesn't. I truly believe now that if there was a God, there would be actual proof.

The point about free will - I think that is key. I don't know your background, but in my upbringing we were told we had freewill - basically the freedom to serve God and get everlasting life, or not serve God and not get everlasting life. That didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. How is THAT free will? "Obey me, my minions or die?" Again, not knowing your background, I was taught we were created to serve God, that was our purpose in life. Really? Then why do we have some many different interests? Why would I even have the desire to or ability to think about doing things other than serving God?

This is a complicated subject - and, no disrespect to those here that have never believe in God, but I think sometimes people underestimate the hold and emotional and psychological hold that faith in a creator has on those of us that were brought up with it.

There are so many premises we were taught that have to be reasoned through, and I am glad to see you have brought up this subject. I have a hard time articulating my reasons for letting go of God, as it were, not because I believe there is a God, but because I am one of those people that when I made the realization there is no basis in reality that there is a God, I was over come and very upset.

This is why I have always thought that unless someone gets to the point of at least being agnostic, they may not be emotionally ready to handling delving into studying Objectivism.

Anyhoo - this is a good group of people, and I hope more that used to believe in God share why the do not any longer. The ones here that never believed in God can also give us good reasons not to (and have on this thread) but sometimes seeing how others integrated this information that used to believe in God can help drive it home a little more.
Scott C.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 71
I don't have nearly as long or good a story as Sherry, but I think I will share anyway. I decided I was an Atheist when I was 10, shortly after I was forced to go to my first Sunday school (religious indoctrination school for those of you who have not ad the pleasure.) I did not know what the word Agnostic meant at the time, and may have considered myself one at the time if I did. I wasn't honestly an Atheist until I became an Objectivist (though I did call myself one). Prior to learning about Objectivism, I thought that God was unproven, and probably unprovable, but I did not think the idea was simply impossible.

My argument at the time was the the idea of God made no sense, and especially not the Christian god. It made no sense to me that no one seriously thought Zeus was real, and I could not figure out how he was much different than the Christian God.

My arguments have become more sophisticated sense then, but that was good enough to convince 10 year old me.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 772
Sherry and Scott,

Thank you for writing your posts about your intellectual journeys.
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