Twilight of the godless: The death of atheism?

Discussion in 'Religions & Cults' started by Mighty_Emperor, Nov 13, 2004.

  1. Coastaljames

    Coastaljames Justified & Ancient

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    Atheism always rather puzzles me. To say you don't believe in something rather suggests that there is a something to not believe in.

    It's negation gives it validity.
     
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  2. escargot

    escargot Beloved of Ra

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    Where the norm is to believe though, or at least to act as if you do, and not believing will get you ostracised or worse, there certainly is 'something to not believe in.'
    This won't get you in trouble where I live as religion isn't enforced but in past times here and in certain parts of the world now it wouldn't be wise to come across as too free-thinking. It's hard for us in the modern West to understand how tight a grip religion can have on society.

    Also, to state that one doesn't personally believe in religion may be a polite way of saying that one finds the whole thing a pile of bollocks which oppresses the human spirit and blights progress.
     
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  3. Shadowsot

    Shadowsot Devoted Cultist

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    I don't believe in unicorns or leprechauns, or flying bright pink fairies.
    The something is a concept, one that many people thinks exists in reality, and a comparatively few don't.

    The majority believing in something, makes it so not believing in that thing makes you an anomaly, and we like to label things to differentiate them from other things.
     
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  4. Coal

    Coal Gentleman, scholar, acrobat.

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    Even in the early 20th century the local vicar (UK) would tell you who to vote for and how you'd burn in hell if you voted for anyone else. Not that long ago.
     
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  5. Coastaljames

    Coastaljames Justified & Ancient

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    To define yourself by what other's believe. Seems an odd thing to do.

    Just my thoughts :)
     
  6. Coal

    Coal Gentleman, scholar, acrobat.

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    Quite normal though. We (i.e. human beings) mostly operate on the desire to belong to a group and to be part of a group is, for most part, a positive experience as it provides identity, security and even enables you in your (shared) beliefs. Even if you personally don't 'do groups' I invite you to take a look around at all us other 'non groupists' on the board... :)

    If, in order to have all that good warm stuff, you feel obliged to believe in what the others believe, it's often easier and more comfortable than being rational about it and ending up 'outgroup'. It's not a coincidence, for example, that the worst punishment in Viking society was 'outlawry'. Formal exclusion from the group.

    Welcome to tribal social thinking. :cool:
     
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  7. Coastaljames

    Coastaljames Justified & Ancient

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    Huh. Well you're very welcome to it mate!
     
  8. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...

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    ... And yet that's exactly what any given society's mainstream majority, following the easy path of conformity, have always done.
     
  9. Coastaljames

    Coastaljames Justified & Ancient

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    Which seems to me an utterly ridiculous thing to do. Particularly when it comes to matters spiritual/mystical.
     
  10. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...

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    This definition-by-negation aspect of the concept does appear strange if you only treat atheism as a general philosophical or theological position that's been argued for millennia. However, this overlooks the historical context within which such a negative starting point becomes more understandable.

    'Atheism' in the sense of such a general position rejecting all deities (or equivalents, depending on how one draws the lines ... ) dates back only some 500 years.

    In ancient (e.g., Greco-Roman) times, 'atheist' was a pejorative term applied to those who didn't accept the prevailing 'gods' in a given sociocultural context. For example, Romans criticized early Christians for being 'atheists' because they rejected the Romans' deities.

    The key element both then and now is the unavoidable necessity of proceeding from negation / rejection because one is responding to an entrenched / institutionalized norm.

    "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." (The Usual Suspects)

    ... Off which I'd play to claim:

    The greatest trick the God franchises (i.e., religious establishments) ever pulled was to insinuate themselves so deeply into their sociocultural settings that no one could question their legitimacy without onus or even reprisal - i.e., convincing the world they were consensus 'givens'.
     
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  11. Shadowsot

    Shadowsot Devoted Cultist

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    I have to admit, I've never really understood this line of thinking.
    Theists started using the term first to describe nonbelievers, eventually the label was adopted as a response.
    I agree in a sense it doesn't provide much useful information. It tells you nothing of my personal beliefs, my politics, and very little of my personal philosophy of life.
    However in a country like the US, at least the part I'm in, not believing is a big thing.
    It's a distinction that can have a major effect in your life.
    From social and business isolation, to loss of access to parts of society, to being part of a subgroup readily mocked by parts of our supposedly representative government.
    Having a joint label that will help identify other people of similar mindset, or tribe, is a good thing.
     
  12. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

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  13. escargot

    escargot Beloved of Ra

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    Here in the UK religion is a private matter and one can perfectly respectably live a non-religious life, which it seems most do. It doesn't generally trouble us unless we have a strong religious background to rebel against.
     
  14. Shadowsot

    Shadowsot Devoted Cultist

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    Which is why I tend to think that's why while you all have Atheist speakers it seems they are more popular here.
    Though part of it is also that we tend to have a sort of celebrity culture in general.
     
  15. Coastaljames

    Coastaljames Justified & Ancient

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    Nah. Not for me.
     
  16. escargot

    escargot Beloved of Ra

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    Yes, I can understand that. We Brits might not grasp how free we are in our mainly secular daily lives.
     
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  17. Shadowsot

    Shadowsot Devoted Cultist

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    Cool. Most people do.
     
  18. graylien

    graylien Justified & Ancient

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    I don't think agnostic theism is being unsure whether God exists. I think it's more that - as limited beings - it's impossible for us to have absolute knowledge about a being unlimited by matter, time or space.

    Religions don't define themselves by the simple assertion of the existence of God. They define themselves by claiming privileged knowledge of God's nature and moral philosophy.
     
  19. Ermintruder

    Ermintruder Existential pixelfixer

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    The majority also claim absolute exclusive rights to the primacy of their particular brand of gnostic insight.

    I've often wondered: if one considers the high percentage commonality of canon shared between Protestant Christianity, and classic Catholicism, yet they mutually consider each-other as being nearly-heritical. So goodness knows how any kind of reconcilliation could ever be achieved at a fundamental level between apositional fundamentalists....
     
  20. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...

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    When did it become widely acceptable to treat 'gnostic' / 'agnostic' as a formal duality partitioning (in the strict sense of logic / set theory ... ) the set of possible positions?

    Treating them as such (cf. the graphic posted in post #162) makes for a neat 2X2 matrix, but it butchers these terms' longstanding usages and connotations.

    Some cursory 'Net rummaging seems to indicate this oversimplified and misleading pseudo-duality has been proliferating since circa 2009.
     
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  21. Coastaljames

    Coastaljames Justified & Ancient

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    The majority, or the minority come to that, can do as they please. Means not a thing to me.
     
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  22. Shadowsot

    Shadowsot Devoted Cultist

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    I've been trying to collect opinions from around the States and from places like the UK and Australia. It seems like many speakers and writers come from fairly lightly religious areas, while their popularity is usually in very highly religious areas.
    Not strictly, I can think of several counter examples. But it seems a general trend.
     
  23. Coastaljames

    Coastaljames Justified & Ancient

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    I'd definitely argue that, unlike in the U.S., the U.K. doesn't have areas one could call highly, or lightly, religious.
     
  24. JamesWhitehead

    JamesWhitehead Piffle Prospector

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    The grip of Methodism on Wales may be weakening but I doubt if it has been so diluted that a thirst for Dry Sundays and the wish to chain up the swings in the parks has disappeared entirely! :p

    The power to do so may have waned but I remember the reality! More the lost swigs than the swings.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2017
  25. Ermintruder

    Ermintruder Existential pixelfixer

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    Precisely the same case holds true for much of the Free Church, in the Scottish isles.
     
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  26. PeteByrdie

    PeteByrdie Privateer in the service of Princess Frideswide

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    Perhaps if you word it that way, it does. The problem is, people say, 'I don't believe in such and such,' when what they mean is they believe something doesn't exist. When most people say, 'I don't believe in ghosts,' they don't mean they neither believe nor disbelieve, they usually mean that their world view simply doesn't include ghosts, and they find it odd that some people are so deluded as to take the subject seriously.

    If that's what you mean. On the other hand, if you mean that when someone says, 'God doesn't exist,' or, 'I believe God doesn't exist,' that they're somehow proving he exists by discussing him at all, then you're wrong.
     
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  27. PeteByrdie

    PeteByrdie Privateer in the service of Princess Frideswide

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    Also, it's just a picture someone drew. I can't say I recognise it as representing many of the people I've known.
     
  28. rynner2

    rynner2 Great Old One

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    Exactly.
     
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  29. Coastaljames

    Coastaljames Justified & Ancient

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    Who is God if he doesn't exist?
     
  30. PeteByrdie

    PeteByrdie Privateer in the service of Princess Frideswide

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    Who Sherlock Holmes if he doesn't exist?
     

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