Serious misconception about atheism

During the debates I had so far on this board, I noticed that there is a common misconception about atheism. It seems that most people here believe, that atheists at some point in their life choose to not believe in (a) god.
Becoming an atheist is not a decision, it is a realisation. One day you realise, there is (are) no god(s). Once you’ve come to that conclusion, you do not have a choice anymore, like
Choice A - believing in gods
Choice B - not believing in gods.
In order to choose between alternatives, those alternatives have to exist in the first place.

Therefore the allegation that atheists actively refuse, reject, be angry with, or hate God is not valid from the atheist’s point of view. One cannot refuse a non-existing thing.

Furthermore, the advice to pray to [God|Jesus|Mary|some saint] in order to find God or the circular statement “you have to believe first, before you can believe” won’t convince any atheist for the very same reason.

If someone buys one of the general arguments for god’s existence (intelligent designer, 1st cause, moral, even argumentum ad populum), only then there is a choice to make, i.e. which religion to follow.

I hope, this will help in future discussions.

well put, thank you for this. It’s been hard for me trying to explain this concept but you put it quite well. I truly do hope this ends the discussion. The notion of free will seems to inspire this belief that atheism is a conscious choice as oppose to a “happening”, or a realization as you put it. Its hard explaining such things when that is the case.

I beg to differ, but atheism is a choice, plain and simple. There is ample evidence indicating a divine creator, you just choose to disbelieve. As you could contend that there is no way for me to convince you that God exists on an empirical level, you can neither do the opposite. It comes down to a matter of faith, a matter which unfortunately eludes you. Atheism is a choice to not accept the natural or supernatural explanations for the cause and purpose of life itself, and reduces definition of life to a series of chemical interactions that ulitmately ends in entropy.

I choose to believe that my life has a bigger meaning than to interact with the environment, creating spontaneous chemical and physical interactions with it until the molecular structure of my body dissociates and returns to its essential atomic components. In the end, athiesm is a hopeless religion, as there is no chance for achieving ultimate perfection. If there is no hope in that, then what is the point of living?

Do you believe in UFOs?

(If you do believe in UFOs or give them at least some credit, exchange “UFOs” with “Vishnu” or “Smurfs running a cantina on Jupiter”.)

If not, did you choose not to?

There is ample evidence (thousands of sightings, as many witnesses), yet I don’t buy it. But I have never actively choosen not to believe in UFOs, I simply don’t.

On the other hand, to give a positive example, I never decided to believe in gravity. There wasn’t really a choice involved in realising that things fall down.

BTW, atheism is not a religion. That’s another common misconception. Atheism lacks all attributes of a religion, namely faith in some sorts of dieties, worshipping, a canon, priests, …
Atheism is the absence of religion not another one.

If atheism is a religion, then darkness is a source of light.
(Well, you should like that analogy. :D)

Actually, not bad. Reminds me a lot of St John of the Cross. For many, it is only through a path of darkness that light can be distinquished …

but that’s thread drift.

Here’s an exercise for theists who have never been atheists: try for the next 5 minutes to TRULY not believe in God. Don’t turn away from a God you know is there, change your worldview to one where God cannot be distinguished and come to the conclusion that He does not exist. Do you have that choice? To just change your mind RIGHT NOW?

I always liked this one:

Atheism is a religion like baldness is a hair color.

That’s a good exercise. I dare predict, it is impossible to perform for most believers.

It is possible to be an Atheist through realization. In my mind to be an Atheist is to require a burden of proof that is greater than God is, at this point in time, willing too provide for the particular person who professes atheism. Faith precedes the miracle and without a desire to believe it is possible to turn over the evidence and not be compelled to believe have a desire to believe (this being said most atheist are former theist who left something they found distasteful for some reason). There is a consistency in Atheism that I refuse to deny. When one looks at the evidence for God, it is possible to define the threshold necessary to acknowledge that the question deserves further consideration at such a level that the manifestations of God that so many theist originally saw in the world is not enough to seek.

Theist:

God of the gaps?

Atheist:

Poor inductive reasoning. We do not understand what fills those evolutionary gaps, but just as so many have been filled by science before these will too.

Theist:

Compassion and Morals?

Atheist:

All animals have instincts. Humans have communal instincts and a higher brain to direct communal actions. This results in compassion, morals, and society.

Theist:

Inherent sense of right, wrong, better, and best behaviors and the universality across many societies for the basics?

Atheist:

Society teaches these, and as above their roots are in the “instincts” of humans.

Continued…

A few things that I fault you for though are as follows:

There are few Atheist who have never considered that question, “Is their a God?” It is not too possible to grow up a human and not be confronted with this decision. So to say that the Atheist never made a choice relative to this answer I would say is not entirely correct. An Atheist will have gathered evidence for and against a God and CHOOSEN the thresholding that is necessary to further assess the question. If the Atheist has not CHOOSEN the threshold yet, then they are Agnostic. So Atheist have surely made a choice.

You are what I call an evangelical Atheist. I have not read too much of what you are posting, but you certainly are defending Atheism. If your goal is for theist to understand you or your goal is convert theist to a more reasonable position, you are still an evangelical atheist. As an evangelical Atheist who walks in religions circles, you would be woefully flawed if you had not considered the question, “Is their a God?” To put forth pro-Atheist arguments in a theist crowd without having considered this question would demonstrate a hole in your apologetic. If you have not thought about this from the other side enough to have asked this question, you have no business being an evangelical atheist.

I generally do not understand evangelical atheism anyway. What benefit will you and your “God” derive from “converting” or “creating understanding” from others?

Now, as and evangelical theist I suggest that if you have not asked, “Is their a God?” that you do so. I believe that it is important to focus on some positive aspects of God when this is done. I believe faith proceeds the miracle, but with but a small desire to believe or know the miracle can come. I have given atheism at least this much thought.

Charity, TOm

The word ‘choose’ here seems to be interchanged equally with ‘decide’. When in reality, the choice comes after the decision. The choice is the action and follow through of our decision.

Decide- To settle conclusively all contention or uncertainty about.

Choose- To select from a number of possible alternatives; decide on and pick out

We decide which flavors of ice cream we like best- we choose rocky road.

We decide if we have enough time, if we have other things to do, and if we’d like to see certain people. We choose to go to the party or not.

I think when discussing a topic we cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt (UFO’s, God, ghosts, etc.) we are presented with evidence, we make decisions on its validity, its probability and other attributes, then we compare that information with the information we already know to be true. Then we choose to accept the evidence or not.

The reasons behind why we choose to accept or deny evidence are as varied as the stars in the sky- and our choice can happen instantaneously.

Just because we don’t actively choose something- doesn’t leave out the fact that if we have considered something we have probably made decisions about it. (it’s truthfulness, its appropriateness, if we like how it looks, et. al.)

You are right when you say you can’t make a choice about something that doesn’t exist.

But you can make decisions about it. And you have. You may have decided there is no evidence. You may have decided something else. Passing information through your mind and sorting it requires a decision.

When it comes to religious people, we have decided that the evidence confirms enough for us to pursue the thoughts and truth of God (and in turn the lifestyle) further. We use a heavy dose of faith to help us through the tough times, because we choose to live the life.

In short, we decide whether there could be a God, we choose to believe there is a God or not.

re·li·gion ** (P)Pronunciation Key(r-ljn)
n.

a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion

Seems to me like some of you fit definition four :whistle:

Peace

Someone else on these boards posted a good website
www.ex-atheist.com and it is run by an ex atheist who will tell you so many interesting things and how you can correctly debate with atheists as they are alot like mormons when they come to your door, they have all the answers to your questions, its well worth a look, this guy who has this site came back to the Lord and tells so many good things.

God Bless:D

[quote=Shiann]The word ‘choose’ here seems to be interchanged equally with ‘decide’. When in reality, the choice comes after the decision. The choice is the action and follow through of our decision.
…]
Just because we don’t actively choose something- doesn’t leave out the fact that if we have considered something we have probably made decisions about it. (it’s truthfulness, its appropriateness, if we like how it looks, et. al.)
…]
In short, we decide whether there could be a God, we choose to believe there is a God or not.
[/quote]

Yes, I could subscribe to that.
The problem is, that most theists think that atheists are willfully ignoring god(s) despite the evidence. You have pointed it out quite well, one makes decisions upon the evidence (summarising experiences, teachings, observations,litarature) and then comes to a conclusion.
It is not like seeing two paths, one leading to God, the other to atheism, and then choosing one. It is more like considering those two paths, and then conclude only one is valid. I see a big difference here.

Huh. Okay. I’m willing to take you at your word, since it is after all your belief. So you know what you believe, and as a Catholic I know what it is like to have others tell me what I believe and have to defend against those faulty ideas of what I believe.

Where we come to blows so to speak is that our two truths are absolutely counter to each other… your truth and my Truth cannot actually co-exist. We cannot both walk away from an argument and each believe that the other was equally right. So either there is no point to having the discussion, or the point to any debate is conversion.

So the question is, why do you participate in the discussion? Is your point to convince us that God doesn’t exist? Or is your hope to be convinced that He does?

[quote=AnAtheist]That’s a good exercise. I dare predict, it is impossible to perform for most believers.
[/quote]

And that’s all it is. An exercise. For an atheist, choosing to say “I believe in God” is a lie. An act of hypocrisy.

Making a choice to interpret the world we live in as one being created by God is not in their experience. And I would daresay, most don’t think that it would be possible to believe in God, so such a choice is completely outside their perceived ‘set of choices’.

It doesn’t prove that there is no element of choice in atheism. It’s a natural tendency for people to look at the world in the way that makes most sense to him or her.

To a certain extent we choose what sorts of things to ponder and what sources to consider for clearing up questions that we have. We can choose sources that we know will reaffirm our current beliefs and we can choose sources that will conflict with our current beliefs.

So, basically, there’s choice … and then there’s choice …

Let me ask this. What would it take for an atheist to “realize” that God does exist? Facts?
Written proof?
God Himself?
At one point in time, God could make Himself known to you. And if He did, would you “realize” then His existence? Perhaps you want to be where you’re at right now. You choose now based on your “realization” of the non-existance of God. (This, I might add, is your realization. Some of us realize God does exist. In the case of the saints, they’ve had proof that has made their reality quite concrete, but that’s entirely another matter.)
If you’re interested, and you may not be, The Case For Christ is a good, factual-based book. Another thing:
Jesus was either what he said he was, or he was a madman. In those times, if you were mad, you acted in ways entirely different from how Christ acted.

Please disregard this if you’re happy with where you’re at, and in that case, so let it be.

I have some 2 cent advice. (maybe a penny)

Don’t argue with atheists on their terms!
Don’t argue at all!

I have atheists friends and we don’t argue. Unless you are G.K. Chesterton and have all your philosophical ducks in a row in order to at least make a fun, entertaining, GOOD argument, then I would concentrate on relationships instead. My friends and I get nowhere arguing. I just put my faith to use by loving people.

Truth is, when you start an argument from two different presuppositions, you will not end up in the same place. It is the presuppositions we hold that first change and lead to further changes (realizations, etc.)

Challenging presuppositions is the core of intelligent debate.

Accepting the “realization there is no God”, as one person put it, is presupposing a certain truth about reality. They are presupposing that what they see is what they get and that’s all folks. Regardless of their assertion that they are not choosing because “that’s just the way it is” is presupposing what all of Reality is. They are presupposing a definition of what a God should be, look like, act, etc., and if the God doesn’t fit their “idea of God,” then it simply doesn’t exist. It is taking the stance that Reality is composed of what they see right now, right here, on Earth, in this particular time and space in history. To come to the conclusion, or the realization, there is no God, is accepting a particular presupposition about what consitutes ALL of REALITY. We do choose our presuppositions (consciously or we may not be aware of the presuppositions we hold).

I have to agree with Oswald Chambers, who writes, “Belief is not merely an intellectual act; belief is a moral act whereby I deliberately commit myself. Belief must be the will to believe. There must be a surrender of the will, not a surrender to a persuasive power. The hindrance is that I will not trust God, but only my mental understanding.”

Well, that’s my 2 cents worth, or penny, or half a penny, whatever.

Peace to all of you!

K

What is the point of any one of us trying to discuss this?

This person stated they did not come to this board for help, to be changed, etc. if you don’t come with an open heart and mind looking for change then your not ready for it and your closed to the truth. I left the Catholic church for 4 years and in that time my mind was closed to the truth, if I would have come to this message board during that time you could not have told me I was wrong, my ears were closed to the truth, when my heart was open and my mind was open I was ready and hungry for the truth and only then could the truth set me free.

I think this person simply enjoys debating and having people debate him, he has NO intention of changing his views and only serves to get people heated up and upset, we keep feeding him and he keeps coming back, stop feeding him and he will go away.
Pray, pray, pray for those who don’t know God that they will open their eyes and see and know that he is Lord, but until they are willing and ready to hear the truth all you can do is pray.
Say a prayer for all the unbelievers every day and let it go and then go out and help those who Want your help.
Peace to all you :thumbsup:

Kamz:

AMEN!

One last observation: I think it is interesting that a “confirmed atheist” (not a seeker) would want to hang out at a Catholic Forum???

When I wanted nothing to do with God, I stayed as far away as possible from Church-related stuff.

Oh well. I suppose debate can be entertaining in itself. (I used to debate in High School a long, long, time ago!)

I say “Come on In” and sit a spell. Personally, I am not interested in arguing for the sake of arguing so I don’t go to Atheists chat rooms or forums. There are other positive activities I can pursue.

God Bless ya!

[quote=Trinitatem]Let me ask this. What would it take for an atheist to “realize” that God does exist? Facts?
Written proof?
God Himself?
[/quote]

I would say that I would except proof if it was like the proof in Carl Sagan’s Book Contact. In the book the main character is told by the aliens that they have discoverd binary code hidden deep within (several billion decimals) pi. When she uses an algorithm (or something simular, I can’t remeber what), the computer prints out a circle as the answer. Something built into the fabric of the universe I would consider proof . The only thing is, it would prove that God exists, not that the he/she/it is the Xian god.

At one point in time, God could make Himself known to you. And if He did, would you “realize” then His existence? Perhaps you want to be where you’re at right now. You choose now based on your “realization” of the non-existance of God. (This, I might add, is your realization. Some of us realize God does exist. In the case of the saints, they’ve had proof that has made their reality quite concrete, but that’s entirely another matter.)

You know, Atheists do look for god. I would like to believe that there is an all loving entity. But I have yet to see any proof that holds water. It is nothing but logical fallacies, hearsay, and conjecture. No religion has any more or less proof for it than Xianity does.

Once that changes I would immediatly convert. It hasn’t yet

Another thing:
Jesus was either what he said he was, or he was a madman. In those times, if you were mad, you acted in ways entirely different from how Christ acted.

So why is a christ complex considered psycotic?

He killed a fig tree for not growing figs out of season., Sounds pretty mad to me…

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