Alex's view of Atheism

#1
This has been bugging me for a while, but hearing Alex in his last podcast has me honestly questioning if perhaps skeptiko is more parody disguised as a serious podcast. The levels of hyperbole are through the roof.

Here are some points I'd love for Alex to clarify, and I should see no problem in him doing so considering his fixation on the atheist community.

1.
Atheism just means a non-belief in God. Bullshit
No. Not bullshit. Ignoring that atheists fall into all kinds of groups with different sets of belief (outside of a non belief in god) is just plain bizarre. This is akin to the stuck on stupid tactics skeptics use, such as "All proponents believe in bigfoot". It's just total garbage, and for Alex to not see that he's just using the same tired approach is really disappointing.

2.
None of these guys wanna come on and talk. Atheists don't want to debate this stuff because their goal is really just top be left alone and comfort eachother in their athiestic journey
This is the kind of hyperbole I'm talking about. It's just so patently absurd that I wonder if Alex is being serious. What is most likely the case is that they don't want to talk to Alex. But atheists debate non atheists constantly. Matt Dillahunty, whom Alex accused of running away from a discussion (haha) takes live phone calls from ANYONE on his show every Sunday and has done so for nearly ten years. He debates constantly and has challenged William Lane Craig who refused him because he's not a PHD. He has debated on Unbelievable, an excellent Christian podcast which pits atheists against theists every week in some great dialogs. If Alex wonders why some atheists won't get into scientific debates it's probably because of his misunderstanding of what an atheists actually is.

3. On atheists social positions:
social positions that I find very compatible with my own....are issues that the atheists are on the right side of, even if they're on the right side of them for the wrong reasons.
How is this possible? What are the "wrong reasons" he mentions? Alex's unwillingness to make sense of this or even discuss it with any depth at all is disappointing.
 
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#2
This has been bugging me for a while, but hearing Alex in his last podcast has me honestly questioning if perhaps skeptiko is more parody disguised as a serious podcast. The levels of hyperbole are through the roof.
I'm going to assume that if you wanted only Alex to answer, you'd have started a conversation with him instead of a forum thread. So . . .

Atheism has a concrete and simple definition - a belief that there are no deities.

Agnosticism means not having a belief in either the existence or non-existence of deities.

IOW atheists are naysayers, agnostics are genuine skeptics.


The one area that seems unclear to me is the spiritual/non-physical/supernatural. Does atheism preclude being open to the actuality of those?
 
#3
I read your OP immediately after reading Massimo Pugliucci's "Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements" (from the thread Saiko started). The stage on which this plays out generally seems to be characterized by demonization and mischaracterization. It is unfortunate that Alex has elected to join this arena (unfortunate for those of us interested in "Toward a true integration and a dialogue (as opposed to a shouting match) with the rest of society, when we will not need special organizations and dedicated meetings, because secularism, skepticism, and political progressivism (including feminism) will be part of the normal cultural landscape, embedded by default in ongoing discussions on how to make this a better world.").

Linda
 
#4
Atheism has a concrete and simple definition - a belief that there are no deities.

Agnosticism means not having a belief in either the existence or non-existence of deities.
I might disgree with parts of this. Atheism is not necessarily a claim that there are no gods. It is a lack of belief. Why there is a name for this and not a name for something like "a lack of belief in flying monkeys" I'm not exactly sure. It must come down to the preponderance of belief. Put simply if you don't believe in God I'd say you qualify as an atheist.

Agnosticism I would say has to do with a claim to actual knowledge of the existence or non existence of God. So for example someone could qualify as an agnostic atheist, or someone who doesn't make a claim as to the existence of God and still does not believe. Should people who do not have a personal relationship with God because he has not revealed himself to them believe for some reason?


The one area that seems unclear to me is the spiritual/non-physical/supernatural. Does atheism preclude being open to the actuality of those?
I would say that many prominent atheists will adopt a position that the supernatural does not exist. But in my personal life I know many many atheists who are completely open to the supernatural and who have an open and curious view of what kind of mysteries the cosmos might hold. Many atheists I know are absolutely humbled by what we clearly do not yet understand. And of course there are plenty of atheists who are know-it-alls. But making broad generalizations about atheists is insulting. As an atheist myself I am sometimes puzzled when someone gives me a hard time about my right to feel a kind of spirituality, which I do.
 
#5
I read your OP immediately after reading Massimo Pugliucci's "Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements" (from the thread Saiko started). The stage on which this plays out generally seems to be characterized by demonization and mischaracterization. It is unfortunate that Alex has elected to join this arena (unfortunate for those of us interested in "Toward a true integration and a dialogue (as opposed to a shouting match) with the rest of society, when we will not need special organizations and dedicated meetings, because secularism, skepticism, and political progressivism (including feminism) will be part of the normal cultural landscape, embedded by default in ongoing discussions on how to make this a better world.").
Agreed in full.
 
#6
This has been bugging me for a while, but hearing Alex in his last podcast has me honestly questioning if perhaps skeptiko is more parody disguised as a serious podcast. The levels of hyperbole are through the roof.

Here are some points I'd love for Alex to clarify, and I should see no problem in him doing so considering his fixation on the atheist community.

1.
No. Not bullshit. Ignoring that atheists fall into all kinds of groups with different sets of belief (outside of a non belief in god) is just plain bizarre. This is akin to the stuck on stupid tactics skeptics use, such as "All proponents believe in bigfoot". It's just total garbage, and for Alex to not see that he's just using the same tired approach is really disappointing.

2.

This is the kind of hyperbole I'm talking about. It's just so patently absurd that I wonder if Alex is being serious. What is most likely the case is that they don't want to talk to Alex. But atheists debate non atheists constantly. Matt Dillahunty, whom Alex accused of running away from a discussion (haha) takes live phone calls from ANYONE on his show every Sunday and has done so for nearly ten years. He debates constantly and has challenged William Lane Craig who refused him because he's not a PHD. He has debated on Unbelievable, an excellent Christian podcast which pits atheists against theists every week in some great dialogs. If Alex wonders why some atheists won't get into scientific debates it's probably because of his misunderstanding of what an atheists actually is.

3. On atheists social positions:


How is this possible? What are the "wrong reasons" he mentions? Alex's unwillingness to make sense of this or even discuss it with any depth at all is disappointing.
I know a lot of atheists myself. Way more than the average person, I'm a Unitarian Universalist, which welcomes atheists as part of the UU culture, so I'm familiar with the various gradations of atheism. Alex is focused on a subset of atheism and he appears to have mistaken it for the whole, which it is not.

A certain percentage of atheists are ideologues and this percentage seems to be in line with the ideologues of religions around the world. Ideologues of all stripes have some things in common: Intolerance, literalism, an aversion to new ideas, blind allegiance to their authority figures, etc.

I think it's these ideologues that Alex is dealing with and that he's referring to.
 
#7
I know a lot of atheists myself. Way more than the average person, I'm a Unitarian Universalist, which welcomes atheists as part of the UU culture, so I'm familiar with the various gradations of atheism. Alex is focused on a subset of atheism and he appears to have mistaken it for the whole, which it is not.

A certain percentage of atheists are ideologues and this percentage seems to be in line with the ideologues of religions around the world. Ideologues of all stripes have some things in common: Intolerance, literalism, an aversion to new ideas, blind allegiance to their authority figures, etc.

I think it's these ideologues that Alex is dealing with and that he's referring to.
Here’s a perspective that might be helpful in addressing this topic
We come into this world of a god and a goddess (mom and dad) that appear to us when our eyes open and begin to focus. One could reduce that to mere biological processes but is that really all it is? Could this process be based on deeper structure in the universe – sacred geometry, platonic forms, Aristotle’s formal cause - Jungian archetypes? I believe through experience, observation and inference that the imago dei or image of god is something hardwired in the psyche. You even hear that with evolutionary biologist and neuro-scientists like Andrew neuberg that this is “why god won’t go away”. As to whether God exists in some transcendental form is up for debate but it’s pretty clear to me that the god urge is a primary driver. If it is constricted to the self you have a narcissistic personality and if it’s projected onto ones intimate other you may have a borderline, if its projected onto ones tribe then you have a world situation like at present. If it’s accessed through suitable ritual software (which many religions, spiritual practices, and some secular philosophies provide)which makes it clear that our ego’s are not god and need to be ritually sacrificed for sake of all beings as with the bodhisattva then we have what I would consider an optimal model for a functional society. imho
 
#8
Here’s a perspective that might be helpful in addressing this topic
We come into this world of a god and a goddess (mom and dad) that appear to us when our eyes open and begin to focus. One could reduce that to mere biological processes but is that really all it is? Could this process be based on deeper structure in the universe – sacred geometry, platonic forms, Aristotle’s formal cause - Jungian archetypes? I believe through experience, observation and inference that the imago dei or image of god is something hardwired in the psyche. You even hear that with evolutionary biologist and neuro-scientists like Andrew neuberg that this is “why god won’t go away”. As to whether God exists in some transcendental form is up for debate but it’s pretty clear to me that the god urge is a primary driver. If it is constricted to the self you have a narcissistic personality and if it’s projected onto ones intimate other you may have a borderline, if its projected onto ones tribe then you have a world situation like at present. If it’s accessed through suitable ritual software (which many religions, spiritual practices, and some secular philosophies provide)which makes it clear that our ego’s are not god and need to be ritually sacrificed for sake of all beings as with the bodhisattva then we have what I would consider an optimal model for a functional society. imho
I honestly don't think that ideologues, even when they're explicitly religious, feel it. And it cannot be merely a biological process because it can drive people to right great wrongs and end massive injustices, even at great personal sacrifice. The "selfish gene" does not permit that.
 
#9
I might disgree with parts of this. Atheism is not necessarily a claim that there are no gods. It is a lack of belief. Why there is a name for this and not a name for something like "a lack of belief in flying monkeys" I'm not exactly sure. It must come down to the preponderance of belief. Put simply if you don't believe in God I'd say you qualify as an atheist.
lol. So then . . you want to rework what atheism means to suit your own preferences? What I stated is fact, it is actual and accurate. IMO to attempt to say otherwise is ether ignorant, disingenuous, or both.

Atheism is a belief. A strong belief. That much is certain. One doesn't get passionate when lacking a strong belief. Which is why agnostics rarely get fussed about the God question. Atheists on the other hand . .whoa. "Run for the hills . the atheists are coming." As many have pointed out, atheism is in fact a religion. I'd even go further and place it as a type of religious fundamentalism.

I'll add that, though it's not that uncommon, it always puzzles me when people take tacks like yours. You want to identify as something yet you want to alter, or don't really grasp, what that something means.
 
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#10
lol. So then . . you want to rework what atheism means to suit your own preferences? What I stated is fact, it is actual and accurate. IMO to attempt to say otherwise is ether ignorant, disingenuous, or both.

Atheism is a belief. A strong belief. That much is certain. One doesn't get passionate when lacking a strong belief. Which is why agnostics rarely get fussed about the God question. Atheists on the other hand . .whoa. "Run for the hills . the atheists are coming." As many have pointed out, atheism is in fact a religion. I'd even go further and place it as a type of religious fundamentalism.

I'll add that, though it's not that uncommon, it always puzzles me when people take tacks like yours. You want to identify as something yet you want to alter, or don't really grasp, what that something means.
Saiko, the accepted definitions of atheism and agnosticsm have evolved over time. If you look these words up in various dictionaries you will see versions of both definitions present.

Bishop's definitions are the ones I've always used. and is the one that I've seen commonly used among atheists.

Your version is also known today as hard atheism. Bishop's as soft atheism. There are many atheists who use Bishop's definitions so just be aware when you see someone identify as an atheist that there is a good chance that they are thinking about it in Bishop's definition and not yours. Many atheists (myself included) consider themselves Agnostic atheists: lacking a belief in any god, but considering it impossible to ever have knowledege that no gods exist.
 
#11
About definitions...are they meant to be descriptive or are they meant to be prescriptive?

I always thought it was the former, but perhaps I'm wrong.

The question on the Pew survey is:

"What is your present religion, if any?"

When the answer is "none, nothing in particular, no religion" etc., the question is:

"Would you say that's atheist, agnostic, or just nothing in particular?"

Some other surveys ask, "do you believe in a deity?"

I suspect that many people who self-identify as "atheist" won't be an atheist per Saiko's definition. However, I also suspect that many of the people who would embrace Saiko's definition for themselves are what Alex is referring to with his assertions.

ETA: Note that in the research on atheists and non-believers performed by Hunsberger and Altemeyer (http://www.amazon.com/Atheists-Groundbreaking-Study-Americas-Nonbelievers/dp/1591024137), there is little to no difference between "atheists" and "agnostics" in terms of dogmatism, imposition of their (non)belief (on education, on their children, on other children coming to them for advice), doubt, etc. All these characteristics are lower than for believers (except "doubt", which is much higher).

Linda
 
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#12
lol. So then . . you want to rework what atheism means to suit your own preferences? What I stated is fact, it is actual and accurate. IMO to attempt to say otherwise is ether ignorant, disingenuous, or both.

Atheism is a belief. A strong belief. That much is certain. One doesn't get passionate when lacking a strong belief. Which is why agnostics rarely get fussed about the God question. Atheists on the other hand . .whoa. "Run for the hills . the atheists are coming." As many have pointed out, atheism is in fact a religion. I'd even go further and place it as a type of religious fundamentalism.

I'll add that, though it's not that uncommon, it always puzzles me when people take tacks like yours. You want to identify as something yet you want to alter, or don't really grasp, what that something means.
What, you have the monopoly on truth? Talk about intellectual dishonesty. Yikes.

Why don't you point me to place where only your definition exists, which is exclusively an outright claim that there are no gods and nothing else. Good luck with that.
 
#13
Here's a question for you, Bishop: if you do not identify as "strong" atheist, and consider yourself...what? Strong agnostic? Soft atheist? Does it matter? Why, as Saiko put it, get your panties in a bunch over Alex attacking your "beliefs" or "atheist beliefs" when by definition atheism means lack of belief in God. How can you get upset over someone attacking non-existent beliefs? No belief mean no beliefs to attack. You would be in essence attacking nothing.

And the rest is just word play. Everyone plays it. Everyone attempts to redefine words as they see fit to add validation to their argument or in an attempt to invalidate another's. It's all ridiculous. Soft atheist, weak agnostic, strong agnostic, blah blah blah. That's all bullshit. See: "it depends on what your definition of is,is". I see this all the time here "it depends on your definition of information" or " it depends on your definition of God" or "it depends on your definition of meaning". Jeeeeeeesuuuuus! Nothing stops a discussion in its tracks like the whole "definition" garbage.

Problems occur when people want to define themselves. Then get angry at others when their self proscribed definition is attacked by others. Why the need to define oneself? Am I an atheist? Hmmm...gun to my head I guess I'd say yes. But really my answer is sometimes I think a god could exist, other times I think not. Fact is, I don't know. Pure and simple. Call that weak atheism, strong agnosticism, whatever. I don't care. I feel no need to define myself like that.

The moment you define yourself as any one thing, you automatically put limits on your own beliefs and subsequently close your mind to ideas that may differ.
 
#14
Here's a question for you, Bishop: if you do not identify as "strong" atheist, and consider yourself...what? Strong agnostic? Soft atheist? Does it matter?
Apparently no, it doesn't matter.

Why, as Saiko put it, get your panties in a bunch over Alex attacking your "beliefs" or "atheist beliefs" when by definition atheism means lack of belief in God. How can you get upset over someone attacking non-existent beliefs? No belief mean no beliefs to attack. You would be in essence attacking nothing.
Did you read my original post? Why don't you try addressing some of the points I raised instead of taking things on this tangent. The OP was never about me and my beliefs.


And the rest is just word play. Everyone plays it. Everyone attempts to redefine words as they see fit to add validation to their argument or in an attempt to invalidate another's. It's all ridiculous. Soft atheist, weak agnostic, strong agnostic, blah blah blah. That's all bullshit. See: "it depends on what your definition of is,is". I see this all the time here "it depends on your definition of information" or " it depends on your definition of God" or "it depends on your definition of meaning". Jeeeeeeesuuuuus! Nothing stops a discussion in its tracks like the whole "definition" garbage.

Problems occur when people want to define themselves. Then get angry at others when their self proscribed definition is attacked by others. Why the need to define oneself? Am I an atheist? Hmmm...gun to my head I guess I'd say yes. But really my answer is sometimes I think a god could exist, other times I think not. Fact is, I don't know. Pure and simple. Call that weak atheism, strong agnosticism, whatever. I don't care. I feel no need to define myself like that.

The moment you define yourself as any one thing, you automatically put limits on your own beliefs and subsequently close your mind to ideas that may differ.
Yeah, labels suck I agree. And yet we sort of need them, and we all use them.

Would you like to actually discuss the points I made in the OP?
 
#15
The moment you define yourself as any one thing, you automatically put limits on your own beliefs and subsequently close your mind to ideas that may differ.
I hear what you are saying and it is for that exact reason I make a conscious effort not to identify with any particular ideology.

That said, we still need to communicate and our primary means to do so - particularly over the net - is through words. The problem is, people often mean different things by the same words. I agree that pausing a discussion to define terms is dull but the alternative is having two people seeming to be having a discussion about the same thing, but in reality each person means something different and they end up participating in two separate discussions and talk past one another.

I'm not sure how to optimally fix this problem, other than to pause the discussion to define terms when clues start to appear in the conversation that suggests a disconnect. How do you think this problem should be addressed?
 
#16
Would you like to actually discuss the points I made in the OP?
I thought I was. My point is, why get upset over Alex "attacking" a set of "non-beliefs"?

If Atheism only means a lack of belief, there should be nothing to attack. Kind of like when a Christian fundamentalist tells an atheist they are going to hell for not believing in God. The only logical response from the atheist would merely be that they don't believe that, since they neither believe in God or hell.

Everyone exists on a spectrum. We're all shades of gray. I'd say theism is the black end of the spectrum, full saturation. Atheism is the white end. Agnosticism is everything in between.

But make no mistake, saying one does NOT believe in God IS a belief system. As is professing a non- belief in vampires or Bigfoot or the efficacy of alternative medicine.

Or, if you prefer, it is an opinion, based on a belief system.
 
#17
.I'm not sure how to optimally fix this problem, other than to pause the discussion to define terms when clues start to appear in the conversation that suggests a disconnect. How do you think this problem should be addressed?
I understand all that, but it seems each and every time the discussion starts down that road, it never recovers and is permanently derailed.

Edit: it could be addressed by having a sticky thread of prior agreed upon common definitions. Or, when in doubt, agree on the standard dictionary definition. If the dictionary provides more than one definition, use the first. KISS. (Not implying you are stupid btw)
 
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#18
I thought I was. My point is, why get upset over Alex "attacking" a set of "non-beliefs"?
If Atheism only means a lack of belief, there should be nothing to attack.
I wasn't getting upset. I was pointing out three things about Alex's approach that I think he should address. He talks about atheists every podcast. Are you perhaps suggesting that we should pretend he isn't doing this because there's no such thing as an atheist? Why do you have an issue with people identifying as atheist?

My three points, condensed are as follows:
1. Alex is making sweeping generalizations about atheists, about who they are and what they believe, and his unwillingness to break it down with any kind of nuance looks to me to be general disinterest in having a real discussion about it.

2. Alex said Atheists want to exist in a vacuum and comfort each other like little babies and not engage anyone but other atheists. This is clown-like absurdity on the face of it.

3. Alex said in a recent podcast that atheists often fall on the right side of the fence on social issues "for the wrong reasons". I want to know first, how he thinks this is possible, and second what are the "wrong reasons". I know I'm being hard on Alex in this thread, but this question is as straightforward as it gets.

Everyone exists on a spectrum. We're all shades of gray. I'd say theism is the black end of the spectrum, full saturation. Atheism is the white end. Agnosticism is everything in between.

But make no mistake, saying one does NOT believe in God IS a belief system. As is professing a non- belief in vampires or Bigfoot or the efficacy of alternative medicine.
Ok. Why do you think we have a word for non-belief in a god but not a word for a non-belief in Bigfoot or vampires? Honestly if you think there is no reason then I don't think you're serious about this conversation in the slightest.
 
#19
Atheists get so touchy and hide behind semantics. They clearly don't believe God exists. I don't believe unicorns exist,

but I don't lack a belief in unicorns. I lack a belief they exist, but I don't lack a belief of what they are.

Also it's difficult to assume all atheists are the same. Some have more experience than others, and some have less, the latter can be assumed to rightly lack a belief in God, because maybe they have never heard about God for whatever reason, But after having some knowledge of God,

you can not lack a belief in God, You can only believe God exists or not.
 
#20
Here's a question for you, Bishop: if you do not identify as "strong" atheist, and consider yourself...what? Strong agnostic? Soft atheist? Does it matter? Why, as Saiko put it, get your panties in a bunch over Alex attacking your "beliefs" or "atheist beliefs" when by definition atheism means lack of belief in God. How can you get upset over someone attacking non-existent beliefs? No belief mean no beliefs to attack. You would be in essence attacking nothing.

And the rest is just word play. Everyone plays it. Everyone attempts to redefine words as they see fit to add validation to their argument or in an attempt to invalidate another's. It's all ridiculous. Soft atheist, weak agnostic, strong agnostic, blah blah blah. That's all bullshit. See: "it depends on what your definition of is,is". I see this all the time here "it depends on your definition of information" or " it depends on your definition of God" or "it depends on your definition of meaning". Jeeeeeeesuuuuus! Nothing stops a discussion in its tracks like the whole "definition" garbage.

Problems occur when people want to define themselves. Then get angry at others when their self proscribed definition is attacked by others. Why the need to define oneself? Am I an atheist? Hmmm...gun to my head I guess I'd say yes. But really my answer is sometimes I think a god could exist, other times I think not. Fact is, I don't know. Pure and simple. Call that weak atheism, strong agnosticism, whatever. I don't care. I feel no need to define myself like that.

The moment you define yourself as any one thing, you automatically put limits on your own beliefs and subsequently close your mind to ideas that may differ.

It depends on what you definition of,

It depends what your definition of,..............................................Is.
 
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