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London Atheist Activist Group (informal community) Message Board 1. MAIN FORUM - (non-Islam) › We are not born as atheists

We are not born as atheists

Richard F
user 2543752
London, GB
Post #: 935
Sorry Reda, I didn't explain that example well enough. I didn't mean that the priest becomes an atheist because he was raping children. I was talking about the rape victim becoming an atheist because "How could there be a god if this is happening, particularly when I prayed for the rape to stop?" Although there is immense emotion behind this process, there is also a rational conclusion. Documentaries like "Deliver Us from Evil" shows victims saying "It doesn't make sense that this could happen if there was a god." It was enough of an event to blow away the fog of irrationality.

Please can you give an example of how irrationality (not logical or reasonable) can lead to atheism.
A former member
Post #: 35
Sorry Reda, I didn't explain that example well enough. I didn't mean that the priest becomes an atheist because he was raping children. I was talking about the rape victim becoming an atheist because "How could there be a god if this is happening, particularly when I prayed for the rape to stop?" Although there is immense emotion behind this process, there is also a rational conclusion. Documentaries like "Deliver Us from Evil" shows victims saying "It doesn't make sense that this could happen if there was a god." It was enough of an event to blow away the fog of irrationality.

Please can you give an example of how irrationality (not logical or reasonable) can lead to atheism.

Richard,

I understood your example and I too was referring to the victim rather than the rapist in that situation. I still think that's a great example of how irrationality can lead to atheism.

I think we need to be very careful when we use the word 'rational'. Rationality doesn't mean to just connect some syllogisms together starting from the totally wrong premise. Rationality means: using reason to discover reality using the process of logic. It means a total commitment to reason, and a total logic in all of your conclusions. For example: A bank robber may be very 'rational' in devising and executing a plan to rob a bank, but in order to even arrive at the point of implementing his actions, he must have abandoned or neglected his reason in order to convince himself that he should rob a bank. You couldn't say a bank robber is rational.

Another person may believe there was once life on mars because he had a dream that aliens landed there millions of years ago. And scientific research in a hundred years may prove that he was actually correct, but it doesn’t mean that this person was rational.

Using the 'reasoning' in your example, a person who got raped by a priest may come to the conclusion that god doesn't exist because he wouldn't have allowed her to get raped. But another person may say that god exists because she was never raped. Both are not rational arguments.

To arrive at the right conclusion using the wrong premise doesn't mean you were being rational, therefore a person who got raped by a priest and becomes an atheist because of emotional distress couldn't be rational.
A former member
Post #: 58
I think

"Cogito ergo sum" (French: "Je pense donc je suis"; English: "I think, therefore I am") proposed by René Descartes

should be rewritten as:

"I think rationally therefore I am an atheist"
Georgi L.
Guffaw
London, GB
Post #: 1,103
I think

"Cogito ergo sum" (French: "Je pense donc je suis"; English: "I think, therefore I am") proposed by René Descartes

should be rewritten as:

"I think rationally therefore I am an atheist"

Well, perhaps a more accurate version would be "I think rationally about the question of deities, and am more likely to be rational about other issues than most people". Not quite so snappy though ;-)

How about this?
A former member
Post #: 59
Ha. i like the cat!

Is it Schrödinger's cat that went missing in the experiment in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency? Douglas Adams found by using clairvoyance to see inside the box, that the cat was neither alive nor dead, but missing, and Dirk Gently's services were employed in order to recover it, Dirk deducing that the cat had simply grown tired of being subjected to the experiment and wandered off.

No we know where it went! It was on the mat the whole time! Quite a rational thing for an atheist cat to do!

Now what would happen if we gave it a hat, green eggs and ham before we put it in the box?
Georgi L.
Guffaw
London, GB
Post #: 1,104
.. I didn't mean that the priest becomes an atheist because he was raping children. I was talking about the rape victim becoming an atheist because "How could there be a god if this is happening, particularly when I prayed for the rape to stop?" Although there is immense emotion behind this process, there is also a rational conclusion. Documentaries like "Deliver Us from Evil" shows victims saying "It doesn't make sense that this could happen if there was a god." It was enough of an event to blow away the fog of irrationality.

Please can you give an example of how irrationality (not logical or reasonable) can lead to atheism.


I think we need to be very careful when we use the word 'rational'. Rationality doesn't mean to just connect some syllogisms together starting from the totally wrong premise. ...

To arrive at the right conclusion using the wrong premise doesn't mean you were being rational, therefore a person who got raped by a priest and becomes an atheist because of emotional distress couldn't be rational.

Very well put I thought Reda. When I've been on American discussion boards I often get told that some teenagers become atheist to rebel, but then most of these revert to being Xtian later on. This is another example of irrational atheism.

Richard, as Reda says, when an emotional rather than a well considered thought process has led you to becoming atheist, this isn't a rational atheism...and these people are probably not rational in other aspects either. And as Rav said, rationality in the vast majority of cases will include atheism, but this is far less certain the other way around. We've all met atheists who are anything but rational in general.

I think we have to be careful not to get so attached to our labels that we venerate atheism so completely that we lose objectivity. That's what the religious do. But that's not to say atheism should be devalued ...it is undoubtedly a positive position because however arrived at, is still a rational one. And it still needs to be voiced in its own right because people don't otherwise make the connection. It's like abolitionists were for equality, but voicing equality wasn't enough ...they had to specify abolishing slavery because that was arguably the most pertinent antithesis of equality at the time. Similarly we have to state atheism even though it is 'only' part of rationality until the deity issue becomes default 'no', as with slavery.

The best way IMO is to state them in conjunction...atheism stated as the positive it is, but as part of rationality in order that we distinguish from those who want atheism at any price, or by any means, or who venerate all atheists regardless of how rational they otherwise are.
Richard F
user 2543752
London, GB
Post #: 936
Wow. Where do I start?

Reda. I appreciate that semantics is a black hole for debate but I see no conflict between a person who has been shocked into seeing the logic of "How can there be a loving, divine god who doesn't answer the prayers of rape victims?" and - "Rationality means: using reason to discover reality using the process of logic." I would suggest that "How can there be such suffering in the world?" is one of the main logical, rational arguments for atheism. It isn't the emotional trauma itself that makes this person become an atheist, it is the fact that the trauma has blown away the fog of religious irrationality that has allowed them to understand the logic. Do you accept this?

"Using the 'reasoning' in your example, a person who got raped by a priest may come to the conclusion that god doesn't exist because he wouldn't have allowed her to get raped. But another person may say that god exists because she was never raped. Both are not rational arguments." I'm sorry but this is invalid. The first is a logical, rational conclusion, because a divine, loving god would prevent the rape from happening, and the second isn't rational because a lack of abuse doesn't necessarily prove that there is a god.

"It means a total commitment to reason, and a total logic in all of your conclusions." I have looked at several dictionaries and haven't found this addition. Is it yours? That is quite a challenge. So only people who totally commit to reason and total logic in every aspect of their lives can call themselves Rationalists? In that case I have never met a rationalist. However, I'm impressed with your abilities to be perfect like that. Good on you. Does this mean that you are never influenced by your emotions and always make the right decision each time or have you realised yet that life is like the weather - so complicated that it is impossible to get it right every time? As long as you are not attaching yourself to a label and venerating it so completely that you have lost objectivity. Cheeky, aren't I?

To clarify, I am not saying that atheism is better than rationalism or that rationalism isn't better than religion. I am just saying that atheism has been corralled into a very narrow view of itself by an oppressive, monotheistic system. It is more than 'just a lack of belief' or else we would call trees, dogs and rocks atheists. I think atheism, as a system, inherently includes a rational approach, but it isn't Rationalism (by your definition, anyway). Atheism isn't the-be-all-and-end-all but it does tend to lead to a better understanding of the world around us. Is it a guarantee of happiness or perfection... of course not. Is it better than a theological system... oh, yes.

Ginny. In your discussions with these rebellious Americans, did they say that they actually rejected the concept of a god or were they calling themselves atheists just to strike back at their parents/peers? I still suggest that any person that genuinely becomes an atheist will do so rationally. You are right to say that this doesn't mean that they will be rationalistic in ALL aspects of their lives (and we certainly have both met evidence of this!!!) but I don't think anyone is or even always can be/should be (Please see below).

I accept that atheism is now seen as just one issue but I don't think that the Greek atheists would agree. I think they used the concept of god as a paragon of what they didn't like about how humans explore the world. I would argue that they wouldn't believe in ley lines, astrology or homeopathy, even though none of these have anything to do with the gods; people like Epicurus rejected the concept of the afterlife and different supernatural forces, as well as the gods. I see nothing wrong with using a paragon as an identifier as long as it is seen as one, but once it becomes a single issue then we are missing the deeper understanding of what the Greeks were talking about.

I don't think that this position is an example of how people 'get so attached to labels that they venerate something so completely that they lose objectivity'. It is simply a different view based upon further reading. I am happy to change my position (and have done so in the past) as long as there is a valid negation to this point.

"The best way IMO is to state them in conjunction." I completely agree with you. I have said several times (and been ignored each time) that there is an overlap even though they are NOT the same thing.


btw

This is obviously for another discussion (or even a topic for a meeting) but I think logic is not as straight forward and 'definitve' as some make out. There are times when emotion should drive us and logic should take a back seat. However, this debate can be for another time.
A former member
Post #: 36

Reda. I appreciate that semantics is a black hole for debate but I see no conflict between a person who has been shocked into seeing the logic of "How can there be a loving, divine god who doesn't answer the prayers of rape victims?" and - "Rationality means: using reason to discover reality using the process of logic." I would suggest that "How can there be such suffering in the world?" is one of the main logical, rational arguments for atheism. It isn't the emotional trauma itself that makes this person become an atheist, it is the fact that the trauma has blown away the fog of religious irrationality that has allowed them to understand the logic. Do you accept this?

I agree that a traumatic event may cause a person to start exercising their reason. The real issue is whether becoming an atheist always means that a person used a rational thought process. A person who believes something without having good reasons for it is not rational — and that includes both atheists and theists. People are atheists for all sorts of reasons for example: just being born into an atheist family, peer pressure or trying to fit in (such as in the scientific community), rebellion, not liking the character of the Judeo-Christian god, preferring the idea of reincarnation rather than an afterlife with a god, etc.


"Using the 'reasoning' in your example, a person who got raped by a priest may come to the conclusion that god doesn't exist because he wouldn't have allowed her to get raped. But another person may say that god exists because she was never raped. Both are not rational arguments." I'm sorry but this is invalid. The first is a logical, rational conclusion, because a divine, loving god would prevent the rape from happening, and the second isn't rational because a lack of abuse doesn't necessarily prove that there is a god.

I was merely trying to show that if you don't start from the correct premise, you can cheat, twist and misrepresent the concept of 'reason' to justify anything. When you say "The first is a logical, rational conclusion, because a divine, loving god would prevent the rape from happening" then you have made an assumption that I haven't as to the reason chosen by that individual to become an atheist (which I agree is logical). However that person may have become an atheist because of a fear of priests, and that overwhelming fear caused her to reject the idea of god. An undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and any random associational connections someone might happen to make is not a rational thought process.


"It means a total commitment to reason, and a total logic in all of your conclusions." I have looked at several dictionaries and haven't found this addition. Is it yours? That is quite a challenge. So only people who totally commit to reason and total logic in every aspect of their lives can call themselves Rationalists? In that case I have never met a rationalist. However, I'm impressed with your abilities to be perfect like that. Good on you. Does this mean that you are never influenced by your emotions and always make the right decision each time or have you realised yet that life is like the weather - so complicated that it is impossible to get it right every time? As long as you are not attaching yourself to a label and venerating it so completely that you have lost objectivity. Cheeky, aren't I?

Yes cheeky, but I think it's good fun biggrin

However, I think you misunderstood. Firstly I never claimed to be a perfectly rational person; it’s a mistake for you to think that. Secondly I never meant that in order for a person to be considered rational that you need to be 100% totally rational all the time. You can be rational or irrational on any given issue at any time in your life. It is the integrated sum which determines the degree of your rationality. However for a single action or a single statement to be considered rational, then yes it needs to intrinsically have a total commitment to reason, and a total logic. A partly 'rational' statement is not rational, it’s either rational or not. Although people may have degrees of rationality, there are no degrees in a single statement or action (such as turning atheist).


This is obviously for another discussion (or even a topic for a meeting) but I think logic is not as straight forward and 'definitve' as some make out. There are times when emotion should drive us and logic should take a back seat. However, this debate can be for another time.

I disagree emphatically, but let’s save that for another time biggrin
Rav
user 57355212
London, GB
Post #: 5
neither are they mutually exclusive. I am an atheist and a rationalist. There are no conflicts there.

I acknowledge that you didn't say they were mutually exclusive. I was commenting on "they are not necessarily the same". They are not. There may not be conflicts for you because I assume you know the reasons behind WHY you are atheist, and moreover apply reason to most aspects of your life. This doesn't apply to all atheists.

"Therefore it is virtually impossible that a rationalist would not be an atheist". This is not true. At the risk of sounding like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, how can something be 'virtually impossible"? It could be rational, given social pressures and conditions, NOT to be an atheist. Many scientists, philosophers and scholars still believe in a deity. I argue that you could be a rationalist and also a deist.

Big fan of BBT, so all good ;-) But non-sequitur. You cannot use the idea of undue pressure in order to legitimize what is rational or not in this context. In the case of being threatened, a rationalist may choose to play a religious person, but that doesn't mean that they believe it. If someone is a rationalist in most part (no one can be entirely reasoned all the time), yes, it is virtually impossible they will not be an atheist given that the deity question is one of the most fundamental. It has been commented on by Sam Harris and others that if you look at how scientists who say they're deists are funded, by the American Government for example, it becomes obvious how this cognitive dissonance (or lying!) is often arrived at!

For me, the key is the trend towards a better way of understanding the world around us. Atheism doesn't make you immune to delusion, bigotry or prejudice (as we have seen from another atheist meetup group) but it is better than having a system that is actually built from those flaws (theism). Also, atheism shouldn't be devalued just because individual atheists aren't perfect. The system is sound if not the practitioners. However, theism as a system is inherently unsound so although individual practitioners can overcome those flaws, the trend is towards delusion etc

Of course.

There are many reasons for arriving at atheism, some intellectually objective and others emotively driven i.e. raped by a priest. However, they are all based on 'It doesn't make sense'. Can you please give me an example of an irrational reason for being an atheist?

Seems to have been done by others already. Emotional triggers or knee-jerk reactions. But there are of course a wide variety of these, some where people will have had thoughts about 'it doesn't make sense' before the emotional trigger, and the event was all that was needed to drive them over. And they may well become rational about the atheism when they look into or think about it. But not all atheists look into the REASONS for being atheist, they do not consider the evidence.

Richard F
user 2543752
London, GB
Post #: 937
Thank you Reda for being honest and accepting that "a traumatic event may cause a person to start exercising their reason".

Equally, do you accept that a rebellious person may call themselves an atheist (along with partaking in copious amounts of drugs and sex) to strike back at their parents/peers but they are not genuinely atheistic? When a religious person argues that atheism consists of drug taking and debauchery, would you not disagree with them?

Equally, do you accept that religious people who call themselves atheists just because of pressure or persecution are not really atheists?

In other words, is it fair to devalue atheism because of illegitimate uses of the word?

The real issue is that, in practice, genuine atheism is based upon a rational decision, whether it be as simple as "it doesn't make sense" or a more cognitive, detailed argument; either way, it is more than 'just a lack of belief'. I have yet to hear a valid negation to this.


Hi Rav, good to hear from you again; thought I'd lost you;)

"I acknowledge that you didn't say they were mutually exclusive. I was commenting on "they are not necessarily the same". They are not." - "There may not be conflicts for you because I assume you know the reasons behind WHY you are atheist, and moreover apply reason to most aspects of your life. This doesn't apply to all atheists. "

But you do accept that it applies to me? Sorry but I am not sure of the point that you are making here; aren't you splitting hairs? If I understand the reasons for why I am an atheist (as many do) isn't that rational? If I have used rational thoughts to become an atheist then why isn't there an overlap? Every atheist may not practice rationalism in all aspects of their lives but does that mean that atheism itself is not a rational position? Is atheism rationalism? No. Is atheism a rational position? Yes. Why are you so protective of the 'purity' of rationalism particularly when you accept that rational people can be just as guilty of cognitive dissonance as others?

I agree with you that an invalid use of a word should not devalue it but I would argue that that is exactly what's happening to atheism. As you can see from above, I have yet to hear a genuine irrational cause for atheism.


In conclusion, even if someone cannot give a detailed justification for why they are atheists, "It doesn't make sense" is still a rational position. If it isn't, then can we change the definition of rationalism from " using reason to discover reality using the process of logic" to "really, really, really using lots of elaborate reason to discover an exhaustive form of reality using the process of meticulous, comprehensive logic."?
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