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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

Steve L.
user 33772732
London, GB
Post #: 23
There are quite literally millions of people out there who don't think they're atheists but who are, and those are the ones we need to wake up to reality. That's the point we need to communicate: IF you don't believe in a god then you are an atheist whether you choose to adopt the term actively or not.

Completely agree with you. This problem arises because people, (atheists and theists), routinely misunderstand the term 'agnostic'. They tend to think it is a middle ground between theism and atheism, when it is no such thing. Of the two terms, (atheist/agnostic), it is the latter which is the positive claim. I will run through it briefly for anyone that falls into this error.

I would assert that we can know that a god does not exist, (of course it need be mentioned that it's dependent upon definition of what a god is). This is a very lengthy issue I am currently explaining in my one-day to arrive book. As you'll hopefully notice, my positive stance here is that "we can know that a god does not exist". I am thus not agnostic. If one positively asserts that you cannot know whether a god exists or not, then they are agnostic.

There is a secondary usage of agnostic which most regard as 'don't know'. Again, you'll see this has to do with a positive position regarding knowledge or lack thereof, (epistemological). You'll hopefully also notice that whether you can know, can't know, do know, don't know - we have no idea whether you believe in a god or do not believe in a god. If you say "I don't know if I do believe in a god or do not have belief in a god," then you would be accurately labelled: confused.

1. I assert that we can know that gods do not exist
2. I do not have a belief in gods

They are entirely different things, (epistemological stance/ontological stance). You can add your own particular positions, but they will always follow this pattern.

1. I assert that we can't know if a god exists or not/I don't know if a god exists or not.
2. I believe a god does exist/I don't believe a god exists. (Mix and match in any manner you feel like).

It is this, I would submit, that has the greatest impact on polls and so on and the thing that needs to be fixed pronto.

Regards,
A former member
Post #: 48
The term 'Atheist' correctly should be a description that applies only to sentient beings. As Steve pointed out, when people compare a newborn baby to a rock and claim they're both atheist, the statement may be accurate -- but it has no value.

Whether a newborn baby is an atheist is irrelevant given that the baby does not yet have the faculty to think, to reason or even to hold any sort of positive belief. However it still is true that at the first instant that any child acquires the practice of thinking; they will by default have a lack of belief in any supernatural beings. Any knowledge, ideas or beliefs acquired are consequently a result of the free will of the child, their effort of thinking or lack of it, questioning things, evasions of facts, blind acceptance of what their parents tell them, etc.
Adrian
KingHell
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 408
This problem arises because people, (atheists and theists), routinely misunderstand the term 'agnostic'. They tend to think it is a middle ground between theism and atheism, when it is no such thing. Of the two terms, (atheist/agnostic), it is the latter which is the positive claim.

Yes indeed, that is a big problem. In each case it's a fundamental lack of understanding the meaning of the two most important terms for non-believers. I think because of the incorrect use of the word 'agnostic' to function as a half-way house between theist and atheist, as you say, then it also fits the 'not doing any harm/not looking for an argument' dismissive approach that many who should be atheists employ to avoid dealing with subject at all.
Richard F
user 2543752
London, GB
Post #: 968
Ginny,

"You may not agree with what people have given as examples, but that wouldn't necessarily mean they disingenuous?" True. But it is not my disagreement that is at issue (I have disagreed before but been happy to change my mind if proven wrong). It is that there have been no warrants for the claims that have been given. You gave angry, confused teenagers as an example of an irrational entry into atheism. But I asked if their rejection of a god could be assumed as genuine. No one answered by question. It is their claim to atheism that I think is disingenuous and therefore should not reflect upon what atheism is.

btw, you said earlier that "we're not going to be able to change the meaning back". And yet, at the language debate that we had a few weeks ago, you said that the meaning of words can change. Have you changed your mind or are you being hypocritical? (gaud, gaud;)

I think we are taking things at face value if someone says "They haven't thought about it". One simple enquiry usually reveals that there has been a 'Don't make sense' moment and thats enough for them (Paul, for example). This may not be a fully fleshed out, rational argument but neither is it irrational.

I look forward to your valid, verifiable, actual examples of irrational paths to atheism.
Richard F
user 2543752
London, GB
Post #: 969
Reda,

"when people compare a newborn baby to a rock and claim they're both atheist, the statement may be accurate -- but it has no value. Whether a newborn baby is an atheist is irrelevant given that the baby does not yet have the faculty to think, to reason or even to hold any sort of positive belief."

I completely agree with you and I thank you for making my point for me. I shall remind you of my very first post (as it was so long ago;)

"Although technically, we are all born atheists as there are no gods, I do think that we are devaluing atheism if we just see it in those terms."

"However it still is true that at the first instant that any child acquires the practice of thinking; they will by default have a lack of belief in any supernatural beings. " Unfortunately, research seems to suggest otherwise. Again from my very first post - "Children rapidly make mistakes in their interpretations of the world around them by seeing agency in events when there are none. They also make errors in pattern recognition that lead to supernatural interpretations (please see research by Bruce Hood et al). These, I would argue, are the rudimentary beliefs in godheads."

Therefore, wouldn't we both agree that atheism is more than just a lack of belief. To give it real value, shouldn't it be seen as a decision?

Richard F
user 2543752
London, GB
Post #: 970
Steve and Adrian,

I completely agree that definitions are a mine field. However, I think it is beneficial to challenge people on what they think is the meaning.

Let's try this one.

Instead of saying - 'Atheism is a lack of belief in gods'.

How about - 'Atheism is without the practice of fabricating supernatural agency'.

They essentially say the same thing but the latter is a more positive view. It puts theists onto the back foot because they then have to prove that what they believe in hasn't been made up, rather than atheists having to provide warrants for why they don't believe.

Don't forget that I haven't made this definition up. It's what atheism originally meant before it was devalued by an oppressive monotheistic system.

What do you think?
A former member
Post #: 49
"Children rapidly make mistakes in their interpretations of the world around them by seeing agency in events when there are none. They also make errors in pattern recognition that lead to supernatural interpretations (please see research by Bruce Hood et al). These, I would argue, are the rudimentary beliefs in godheads."

Richard,

I need you to clarify some things. Are you suggesting that before a child acquires the practice of thinking they will have innate beliefs that they are born with? If so, where do these beliefs come from? Is a child destined to start out with delusions? Where does free will come into it?

You say "Children rapidly make mistakes in their interpretations of the world around them by seeing agency in events when there are none". Does that mean all children must at one point have had an imaginary friend?

What about the instant when a child starts making sensory connections before it begins to "rapidly make mistakes in their interpretations..." ?

I think you've been arguing the whole time under the false premise that we are all born with some sort brain defects and as we get older some of us begin to 'cure' ourselves which leads to atheism. Is that what you believe?
Georgi L.
Guffaw
London, GB
Post #: 1,164
Ginny,

"You may not agree with what people have given as examples, but that wouldn't necessarily mean they disingenuous?" True. But it is not my disagreement that is at issue (I have disagreed before but been happy to change my mind if proven wrong). It is that there have been no warrants for the claims that have been given. You gave angry, confused teenagers as an example of an irrational entry into atheism. But I asked if their rejection of a god could be assumed as genuine. No one answered by question. It is their claim to atheism that I think is disingenuous and therefore should not reflect upon what atheism is.

You gave a couple of scenarios and I answered that we can think of many more scenarios, some where the teen is rebelling and being disingenuous, and some where they're rebelling but not being disingenuous, and some where they're not rebelling but simply wanting to declare their atheism...perhaps some other combinations as well! I agree that if the decision to be atheist or say you're atheist is driven from emotion, then that's not to say that there can't be a grain of some rational thought first. Or maybe a whole lot of rational thought beforehand. But if it is the emotion of the moment that has driven them over the edge rather than a thought out reasoning (as in the way you described Greek rationalists coming to atheism) then that is probably an irrational reason for becoming atheist as far as I can see. The reasoning may come later, or it may not. Maybe for some it is enough to say they don't believe in god, and then give the matter no more thought. Just as many identify as Christian or whatever don't actually believe in god but are at ease with saying they're xtain anyway. Can that not be the case?

btw, you said earlier that "we're not going to be able to change the meaning back". And yet, at the language debate that we had a few weeks ago, you said that the meaning of words can change. Have you changed your mind or are you being hypocritical? (gaud, gaud;)

LOL, I see your goading, and I raise you... that of course meanings can be changed, but in order to do so we have to produce compelling reasons. You seem to think I want to change your mind about something, but it's simply that I can't understand why it is so important to change the meaning of a word 'atheism' when another word 'rationalism' already covers what we want to say. That's the only sticking point for me ...I can't see the point of it. And neither can anyone else, apparently ...that's why I said we're not going to be able to , not that it isn't possible to if enough people are convinced of the reasons to change it.
A former member
Post #: 69
I've read the whole thread and I fail to understand why being an atheist should automatically be considered an achievement of some sort Richard. I am firm atheist but I certainly don't need a medal for it as a reward...
Georgi L.
Guffaw
London, GB
Post #: 1,168
I've read the whole thread and I fail to understand why being an atheist should automatically be considered an achievement of some sort Richard. I am firm atheist but I certainly don't need a medal for it as a reward...

Well to be fair, I don't think that's what Richard is saying. As I understand it anyway, Richard seems to feel that it is germane to try and change the neutral definition of atheism into a positive one (for reasons I don't yet understand!). I think we'll all agreed that the position of not believing in deities, for whatever reason, is in itself a positive one -no, Makis and all? I agree Richard, that "'Atheism is without the practice of fabricating supernatural agency' would be a great definition, but is it actually true that all atheists don't believe in, for example, astrology? So as I said, the only sticking point, for me at any rate, is that the positive definition is already covered by rationalism, so I can't see the point in trying to change the definition of atheism, especially since I'm not sure that any alternative definition can really apply to all atheists.

And I take your point about not glorifying atheism Makis; this is what puts me off the terms 'Brights' and 'Humanism' ...to a higher or lesser degree the terms comes across as though they've discovered something radical and amazing and now need to have a venerated title. Whereas actually the positives they engender should just be the default position of every human being and are covered by rationalism plus empathy?
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