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What makes an atheist not believe in God?


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'Pascal's Wager' posits that it is rationally better to believe in God since if he does exist, this ensures posthumous admission to heaven, but if he does not, then one has merely wasted a little effort. It would be a gain to believe in any one religion even if there were a thousand different ones, since at least then you would have a 1/1000 chance of going to heaven rather than facing certain damnation for unbelief.

 

But there are two problems with this. First, if you try to make yourself believe in God just for the selfish, utilitarian reason that you are trying to improve your chances of not going to hell for your unbelief, then any serious God would certainly see through that false sort of belief. Kant says that it is necessary for religion that we don't know that God exists, for if we did know, then we would just be selfish in doing good things, since we would be acting just for our own interests in getting into heaven. The same reasoning applies here: If we force ourselves to believe just for our own ends, that insincerity would not impress a significant Deity worth believing in. Also, is it even possible to force yourself sincerely to believe something?

 

The other problem is that it is not cost-free to have faith in God, since this requires the believer to commit intellectual suicide, which can be extremely painful to anyone who truly cares about intellectual honesty. So the costs of faith would have to be weighed against the risks of losing a chance of a posthumous heaven for not believing, and if the odds of the latter seem small, then the costs of faith easily outweigh them.

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Same reason I don't believe in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, leprechauns, unicorns, Thor, etc... there's no evidence for their existence, and so I assume they are irrelevant, which means they can be

To Imatfaal: Good for you. I guess the people on this Forum is not representative of the average. And I have no backup for my percentages, it was a way of speaking. But there is a reason why religions

I've read the Bible, cover to cover. I was strongly Christian during my childhood. The more I studied it, the more I found it to be lacking in rigor. At the same time I was beginning to read about

'Pascal's Wager' posits that it is rationally better to believe in God since if he does exist, this ensures posthumous admission to heaven, but if he does not, then one has merely wasted a little effort. It would be a gain to believe in any one religion even if there were a thousand different ones, since at least then you would have a 1/1000 chance of going to heaven rather than facing certain damnation for unbelief.

 

But there are two problems with this. First, if you try to make yourself believe in God just for the selfish, utilitarian reason that you are trying to improve your chances of not going to hell for your unbelief, then any serious God would certainly see through that false sort of belief. Kant says that it is necessary for religion that we don't know that God exists, for if we did know, then we would just be selfish in doing good things, since we would be acting just for our own interests in getting into heaven. The same reasoning applies here: If we force ourselves to believe just for our own ends, that insincerity would not impress a significant Deity worth believing in. Also, is it even possible to force yourself sincerely to believe something?

 

The other problem is that it is not cost-free to have faith in God, since this requires the believer to commit intellectual suicide, which can be extremely painful to anyone who truly cares about intellectual honesty. So the costs of faith would have to be weighed against the risks of losing a chance of a posthumous heaven for not believing, and if the odds of the latter seem small, then the costs of faith easily outweigh them.

 

True. I agree. I wanted to add that Pascal's Wager is also flawed in the sense that it assumes the odds of a god's existence or non-existence are 50/50. By Pascal's Wager logic, I can tell someone that:

 

"If you don't wear lederhosen everyday then you are going to hell. You may not believe me, but it's in your interest to just do it because I could be right."

 

Once you open that logical door, that any conjecture automatically starts at 50/50 odds, you can't close it. Every conjecture that comes along automatically becomes worth believing no matter how outlandish.

Edited by mississippichem
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I think if we accept or reject the notion of God, depends completely on how we define God.

 

Missisippichen, I am sorry, but I am not willing to accept the truth of anything someone says, without good reason to believe it is true. That gravity causes things to fall to earth appears self evident. That there is a creative and controlling force also seems self evident to me, because I perceive an organized universe. However, the stories of holy books are not so self evident, and many are flat impossible to believe, unless interpreted abstractly. That is why we argue, to prove our arguments are good ones. So what is your argument that I should I believe what you say is true?

 

 

 

Edited by Athena
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I think if we accept or reject the notion of God, depends completely on how we define God.

Agreed. But one must be sure to have a useful and strict definition, and not one that is all encompassing.

 

Missisippichen, I am sorry, but I am not willing to accept the truth of anything someone says, without good reason to believe it is true.

I don't claim that you are. I'm saying that if you accept the logic of Pascal's Wager, then you must in order to stay logically consistent.

 

That gravity causes things to fall to earth appears self evident. That there is a creative and controlling force also seems self evident to me, because I perceive an organized universe.

This is where our opinions diverge. How can you claim that the universe is ordered when you know of no other universes with which to compare or contrast? As has been said here often before, a puddle of water in the road would find that hole in the road perfectly fit for it; Naively neglecting the fact that all possible holes of the same volume would fit him perfectly.

 

However, the stories of holy books are not so self evident, and many are flat impossible to believe, unless interpreted abstractly. That is why we argue, to prove our arguments are good ones. So what is your argument that I should I believe what you say is true?

There is yet to be one phenomenon objectively attributed to the supernatural. Most phenomena previously thought to be of supernatural origin have since been proven to occur by natural means. Lightning used to be the anger of Zeus, the setting sun was Ra's battle with the serpent, and more recently prayer has been shown to be ineffective in a multitude of double blind trials:

 

1) J Med Ethics 2008

2) Harvard Gazette Arhives, n=1800!

 

So, in light of the fact that there is absolutely not one shred of empirical, objective or even strong circumstantial evidence of the supernatural. You should believe what I'm saying.

 

The same empirical standard that is par for the course in science must also be par for the course in spirituality/religion. Everyone expects objectivity with respect to every other facet of our lives: science, math, engineering, law, accounting, business, government etc...The question I have for you is, why should belief in God be exempt from that? You can't just exempt some facet of a worldview from critical logic. Either there is an objective knowable truth, or there is not. No middle ground, no prisoners ;) .

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If atheism is wrong however, you'd be risking your whole after-life in the Hell-fire, according to some religions, so my question is why take the risk in not believing in God? The rewards for believing in a God in some religions are infinite happiness (and other positive feelings that we are unable to comprehend in this life) and the punishment is infinite pain (and other negative feelings that we are unable to comprehend in this life).

 

Belief to be meaningful must be based on something deeper than "deciding to believe".

 

I certainly know "religious" people who flaunt their "belief" so flagrantly that it casts doubt on whether they really believe or are simply to scared to state otherwise. As far as I am concerned there is a rather fine line between "deciding to believe" and hypocrisy. I value honesty. I think many religions do too.

 

I know some moral atheists. I know some immoral priests, bishops and pastors. I know moral Christians, Budhists, and Muslims. I don't trust politicians no matter how many church services they attend.

 

I have respect for those with genuine religious belief. I also have respect for those who genuinely do not believe. So long as they respect the right of the other side to their own belief.

 

I have a friend who, nearing the end of life, has "confessed", become very religious, and completed a proselytizing mission for his church. I am, to say the least, a bit skeptical. He burned the candle from both ends, plus the middle, prior to his transformation. I would like to acquire the movie rights to his confession.

 

Declarations of belief alone do not impress me.

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Declarations of belief alone do not impress me.

 

Indeed. Some of the best Christians I know are Atheists.

 

That gravity causes things to fall to earth appears self evident.

 

But do you understand gravity and all of its ramifications? I sure as hell don't. Nor do any of my educated professors. What you see as self-evident is really only what you define as self-evident.

Edited by A Tripolation
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It's a reference to the fact that Christianity preaches forgiveness and atheists reject Christianity.

Do you realise that many, if not most, atheists do not reject forgiveness, they just reject the idea that it's a good thing because the sky fairy told them it's good?

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Do you realise that many, if not most, atheists do not reject forgiveness, they just reject the idea that it's a good thing because the sky fairy told them it's good?

 

We just cut out the middle man. I can forgive someone for the wrong they did against me without the aid of the anthropomorphic bearded sky fairy. It forces us to reconcile disputes as humans.

 

I forgive you Lemur. :)

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Do you realise that many, if not most, atheists do not reject forgiveness, they just reject the idea that it's a good thing because the sky fairy told them it's good?

Well, technically I'm a "believer" who doesn't reject atheism as being in opposition to theism/Christianity because I think you can believe in the ideas and meanings of theology without necessarily thinking of the entities involved as material instead of spiritual. I see materialism as its own branch of thought and spiritualism as broader, though you could also speak of "the spirit of materialism."

 

Anyway, if you believe in forgiveness I would say you are practicing Christian ethics even if you don't attribute them to Christianity. There is a certain logic to forgiving others and experiencing forgiveness (from God) in Christianity that I'm sure is possible for anyone to experience regardless of what religion they attribute their beliefs to. However, there is also unforgiveness that people put on themselves and others that causes them to live in shame and shame others. It also causes people to reject each other and themselves without hope of redemption.

 

My post was just a superficial play on the idea that Christianity teaches forgiveness so non-Christians wouldn't forgive Christianity for things the Christianity would them. In practice, there are people who call themselves 'Christian' who wield shame and unforgiveness and judge just as their are non-Christians who forgive and refuse to judge. Really, this topic deserves its own thread because you can get into all sorts of topics such as how to forgive without legitimating sin and how things like anti-Semitic persecution have been caused by Christians who blamed and refused to forgive Jews for the crucifixion. I have to admit I've also wondered if Judaism also teaches forgiveness. Yes, I think I'll repost this paragraph in a new thread.

 

 

 

 

 

I forgive you Lemur. :)

Thanks Missichem smile.gif

 

 

 

 

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The real Jesus forgives your Jesus for being an asshole. :P

Actually, I think blasphemy of the holy spirit is the one unforgivable sin. I have tried to figure out what this means and why and the best I can come up with is that "holy spirit" means acting/believing in good faith as a opposed to insincerely or with malintention. So if people intentionally pervert Christian teachings, strawmanning Jesus as being unforgiving, etc. I think that might be a product of blaspheming holy spirit. I think Jesus forgiveness comes with honest mistakes but not with intentional trickery, although theoretically someone could confess their past blasphemy and become redeemed from insincerity, I think.

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Actually, I think blasphemy of the holy spirit is the one unforgivable sin. I have tried to figure out what this means and why and the best I can come up with is that "holy spirit" means acting/believing in good faith as a opposed to insincerely or with malintention. So if people intentionally pervert Christian teachings, strawmanning Jesus as being unforgiving, etc. I think that might be a product of blaspheming holy spirit. I think Jesus forgiveness comes with honest mistakes but not with intentional trickery, although theoretically someone could confess their past blasphemy and become redeemed from insincerity, I think.

 

IIRC from my protestant upbringing; blasphemy of the holy spirit is living your entire life without acknowledging the divinity, death, and resurrection of Christ. Once one believes in this, God forgives all sins. So not believing this equates to having to pay the fine for a lifetime of unforgiven sin, i.e. an all expense paid trip to Club Hades for the next [math] \infty [/math] years.

 

Other sects of Christianity may believe differently. I think Catholics don't emphasize the hole "salvation" idea as much. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

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If we were all now to form a conspiracy to empower ourselves as a priesthood, claiming special powers over those we can recruit to 'believe' in our made-up system, so that we could extract from their belief in our message and their obedience to our instructions both social power and income from donations, what would we most fear? We would most fear that we would lose power by people ceasing to believe in this made-up idea, especially because they suddenly started laughing at the false idol we had set up to empower ourselves as its priests. Thus blasphemy would be 'the one unforgivable sin.'

 

But if God were real, why would he care if anyone made fun of his reality, of which he would be certain? Why would he care whether inferior beings disbelieved in his existence because of their inferior minds? These things would likely be of minimal concern to a real God, even though they would necessarily be vital to a made-up God, whose priests would be constantly nervous that people would see through their deception.

 

So these exaggerated concerns over blasphemy seem to point to the unreality of religion.

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If we were all now to form a conspiracy to empower ourselves as a priesthood, claiming special powers over those we can recruit to 'believe' in our made-up system, so that we could extract from their belief in our message and their obedience to our instructions both social power and income from donations, what would we most fear? We would most fear that we would lose power by people ceasing to believe in this made-up idea, especially because they suddenly started laughing at the false idol we had set up to empower ourselves as its priests. Thus blasphemy would be 'the one unforgivable sin.'

 

But if God were real, why would he care if anyone made fun of his reality, of which he would be certain? Why would he care whether inferior beings disbelieved in his existence because of their inferior minds? These things would likely be of minimal concern to a real God, even though they would necessarily be vital to a made-up God, whose priests would be constantly nervous that people would see through their deception.

 

So these exaggerated concerns over blasphemy seem to point to the unreality of religion.

I think that's why Jesus became so unpopular with the pharises. I.e. by proclaiming all blasphemy forgivable except for blasphemy of the holy spirit, he was basically saying that people only had to obey their inner-voice to the extent they identified it as divine revelation. So people were no longer indentured to religious authorities and had no need to support them as such if they chose not to. Of course, Jesus told people to take care of the poor but he didn't protect the clergy from poverty, which imo has a lot to do with why he was persecuted, though I'm sure this is highly disputable.

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If we were all now to form a conspiracy to empower ourselves as a priesthood, claiming special powers over those we can recruit to 'believe' in our made-up system, so that we could extract from their belief in our message and their obedience to our instructions both social power and income from donations, what would we most fear? We would most fear that we would lose power by people ceasing to believe in this made-up idea, especially because they suddenly started laughing at the false idol we had set up to empower ourselves as its priests. Thus blasphemy would be 'the one unforgivable sin.'

 

But if God were real, why would he care if anyone made fun of his reality, of which he would be certain? Why would he care whether inferior beings disbelieved in his existence because of their inferior minds? These things would likely be of minimal concern to a real God, even though they would necessarily be vital to a made-up God, whose priests would be constantly nervous that people would see through their deception.

 

So these exaggerated concerns over blasphemy seem to point to the unreality of religion.

 

bold added

 

I would tend to agree with the exception of the last sentence.

 

I do not equate religion with established, organized churches. I think that your points apply to the latter, but not the former.

 

A friend sums up the position of the local dominant superstition as the "100-10 plan". 100% church attendance + !0% tithing equals salvation. This puts in concrete form your observations about the misplaced priorities of many organized churches.

 

I have a great deal more regard for religion than for churches. I have more regard for church members than for the hierarchy.

 

On the other hand I do have some physical evidence that some clergy have a tie to the Almighty.. In my younger days I used to attend a Presbyterian Sunday school whenever my parents forced me to go. Then a friend talked to me and I saw the light -- and joined the Baptist softball and basketball teams. I often rode to the games with the preacher. Anyone who drives like that and survives has a direct line to God.

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I see priests, religions, and churches on a continuum. Why does the first person in some primitive society step forward and say that he has a special revelation about some transcendent mystery? He hopes the rest of the tribe believes that assertion so that he can become a shaman, have special authority, special privileges, and not have to do real work, but just sit around and recite incantations over sick people. For him the key to his power is his ability to induce people to believe in his special access to this transcendent insight, and while sceptics posing a rational challenge to his assertions might weaken his authority among the few thoughtful people in the tribe, public ridicule can destroy his authority among the mass of the people quite quickly.

 

Thus from the shaman at the bottom of the system up to the established church at the top, the whole of religion has always had to fear blasphemy the most.

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For those who are atheists, what is it that makes you believe there is no God?

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I do not believe there is no God, I simply state that there are no Gods, they are just human inventions. They are invented for deluding people.

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I do not believe there is no God, I simply state that there are no Gods, they are just human inventions. They are invented for deluding people.

 

I don't think they were invented for deluding people, so much as the were invented BY deluded people.

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For those who are atheists, what is it that makes you believe there is no God?

 

Scientifically, there has been no evidence to suggest that there is no God, so why don't these people believe in a Creator?

 

Scientifically, there has been no evidence to suggest that there is, either. I don't dismiss a creator due to evidence, I dismiss a creator due to lack of evidence. I've also come to the conclusion that a creator is illogical, and that the available cosmological theories are much more reasonable and logical than the theory of a creator.

That's all there is to it.

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