What is an atheist?


Absolutely, friend. You’re entitled to your own opinion. I cannot deny you that. In the context of a philosophical discussion on the existence of a god, though, where knowledge is exchanged to ascertain the truth, an opinion is insufficient and unproductive. The framework I laid out are just the classical positions that can be held in the context of such a discussion. They are mutually exclusive options and claim high certitude (and truth demands high certitude). I’m not meaning to disparage you, individually, if that’s how I came off.


In reverse, so you would be an agnostic theist.
I would say you go from agnostic to gnostic by some direct experience of X that you believe is attributed to the supernatural.
Like how I will state that I know I saw someone’s hand get cut off after witnessing the event. I am gnostic about that claim that someone’s hand was cut off. Then later if the magician came out and showed me what they actually did, then I would still be gnostic that I witnessed that event, but that I am gnostic to the magic trick of someone having their hand cut off. I know I witnessed something, but my interpretation for why is limited to its accuracy based on what I currently understand about what I experienced. I can know that pitcher had water in it, and now it has wine in it. I’ll tell people that the guest speaker changed the water to wine, but then later on, I found out that my wife went down to the cellar and brought up some wine when I wasn’t paying attention. I still experienced water and wine at the dinner, but my interpretation was wrong. Not because I was willfully lying but that was the best explanation I could come up with given the information I had at the time.


Emotional states are physical states. They are chemical states in a physical brain.

Valor, Kindness, etc. are labels we use when people physically act out these processes. That
is how we are able to determine when someone is acting kind verse just eating dinner. They are adjectives that are in reference to a process someone is executing. That person is moving faster than a walk, so lets label that process “running”. That person is holding hands with someone else, kissing their cheek, tuning everyone else out but their partner, we’ll label that process “love”.

Religions make direct physical claims of reality from their religion all the time. Dust turning into people, mass floods, cancer tumors receding, water to wine, flesh to bread, missing keys appearing, earth forming before the sun, multiheaded beasts exist, etc.


Yes, you, do not seem to understand the difference between “I don’t believe X is the case.” and “I know X to be false.” There is a difference between knowing something and being convinced of something. The default position is to not believe someone else’s claim about reality until you have been presented enough evidence that brings you to believe that to be true. Otherwise you’ll end up believing contradictory claims about reality at the same time.
I don’t believe the supernatural exists because that is the default position to start from and the arguments put forth and the complete lack of evidence of the supernatural has yet to persuade me from the default position.

I don’t see how this follows? There is evidence of atheists existing. I am one for example.

There is zero evidence that we can coorelate to the supernatural. To be able to determine if X is due to the supernatural, you first have to determine if the supernatural is there at all. Then determine what it can and can not do in reality. Determine every known natural cause ever so that you can understand where there is no overlap of the possible natural and the possible supernatural. Then you can determine that X is due to the supernatural, not the natural. This is why the process of science works. It only allows possible pathways of investigation based on what we currently understand about reality, not what we can imagine to be the case. If we run into a wall, then we say, we don’t know and continue to investigate. We don’t allow for example unicorns to be the cause of my toast this morning since unicorns have yet to be established as being part of reality. Unicorns are not allowed as a reason for anything at all until we can demonstrate that they first exist and then what they can actually do that is independent from say a toaster or fire pit or clothing iron or anything else that can make toast as well.

We are open-minded to becoming deists. But we’re not so open-minded that any imagined idea is possible. You have to demonstrate your idea is part of reality first. That’s all. Can you at least do this? I can demonstrate evolution for example, I can demonstrate gravity, I can demonstrate electricity, can you demonstrate the supernatural at all to be part of reality?


Peace, brother.


But wouldn’t stating “There is no God” be arrogant? It is impossible know there’s no God because He’s often attributed properties beyond our ability to test.

In which case the word no longer serves any use.


Is God a concept? A human term for an observed behavior or set of behaviors? Or is God actually something that exists on it’s own, or as a human shorthand for a class of observed phenomena?


As God is believed to exist outside space and time it would be shocking to find material evidence for this inherently abstract concept.


This is the obvious problem that otherwise intelligent people fail to see.

If God must be dismissed for lack of ability to be measured then why not dismiss everything else people believe in that isn’t material like law or love or beauty? What’s the limiting principle?

Some think, in fairness, there isn’t one. Enter nihilism, the most gun-in-mouth philosophy there is.


Does the brain state trigger the emotion or the emotion triggers the chemical activity?

Sam Harris admits to ultimately being unable to determine the causal direction. But if you can prove it, the Nobel committee has some money for you.

Otherwise it’s like God - an idea you believe in and can’t prove.


So God is a concept. Agreed. People do dismiss all manner of concepts when they don’t believe in them or find them faulty descriptions based on their own experience of life.

I don’t believe that unconditional love exists. I don’t believe that real peace exists. Those are nice ideas to toss around, but I find no evidence of them in reality. However I understand that those concepts DO exist to some people. They believe in them and order their life around them.

In the same manner I believe that God, a concept, exists to some people and they order their life around it.

I too have concepts I believe in and order my life around.


Either your critical literacy could use a little work or you’re deliberately misstating what I’m saying.

God is non-material. As such there won’t be material evidence directly for it.

Hardly a unique position as virtually anything outside science’s dominion can be similarly described.

I agree fully. Whether they’re always right to dismiss an idea, of course, is another question entirely.

I didn’t say “unconditional love”, so please don’t widen my goalposts. “Love” was all that was referenced. As was law and beauty which you hopefully understood as an allusion to the millions of non-material abstractions human beings objectively need in order to function as persons and communities.

That’s a reasonable statement. The evidence satisfies the subjective requirements for those folks, but not you.

I’m sure you do. Hopefully they are shared by your community, fostering in you a much needed sense of belonging and hopefully the basis for your concepts is transcendent so as to avoid crises of meaning that are so privately common among the non-religious (even as that reality would never be admitted to when in defensive-mode on a religious forum - which I do really understand).

Human beings do have “a God-shaped hole”. It’s why religion evolved - from an anthropological perspective. Intelligent man is not inherently atheist. If we’re smart enough to look out and ask why, we’re smart enough to look at ourselves and ask why. Religion evolved to give a psychologically meaningful answer.


These are you earlier words that led me to believe you were saying God is a concept. I wasn’t intending to mis state you. This would appear that you presented God as an inherently abstract concept.

My reference to unconditional love was not a response to anything you’ve presented. I was simply stating my own beliefs, not refuting yours. sorry for any misunderstanding there.


I want to address this because I think it’s important. I do think that many people sense a need for a transcendent meaning. I belong to a variety of religious, philosophical and atheist forums and people commonly bring this up. However there are people for whom this isn’t a problem. Human minds are wired in a variety of different ways, and while I think it is most common for people to seek some kind out meaning beyond the material for existing, there truly are a reasonable % of humans that don’t seek or seem to need that.

The idea of there being no atheists in fox holes or in private or whatever, stems from this idea, that all people have a god shaped hole they they seek to fill. I think that most do, hence the pervasiveness and power of religion, but some just don’t, and it’s not a put on.

I have found a similar break down of personalities among all the various religious and atheist folks I’ve been in contact with. No difference between Christians, Pagans, Atheists as far as that goes, including philosophical discussions. I don’t find this surprising but many atheists on the forums I belong to are horrified that we aren’t better than the average bear when it comes to behavior, social interaction, status in life, etc. And many Christians are horrified that atheists aren’t worse than the average bear either. Nor Pagans. We pretty much run the gamut of education levels, social consciousness, behavior etc.

I am one of those people who doesn’t feel any need for a transcendent meaning. I’m not bragging or claiming that makes me smarter, more reasonable or whatever. I did nothing to become this way, I’ve always been like this. It doesn’t make me any better or worse than anyone else or make my life easier or harder (as far as I can tell), but it is the truth about me.

I haven’t found atheists to be more open minded than Christians. Sure, when it comes to a subset of beliefs they might be since they aren’t bound to one set of dogma, but overall when it comes to beliefs and preferences in all the areas of life, they are pretty much the same.

This is something that it seems like neither side is usually willing to accept.

There is a little example that I often hear. A believer in god asks an atheist what is it like to not believe in god? And the Atheist says, pretty much like you not believing in all the other gods but yours. The only difference is that we believe in one less god than you.

I think that’s true. Christians don’t usually go around worrying about all the things they don’t believe in, neither do most Atheists. They are busy living according to what they do believe in. Sure, in both groups there are vocal “anti this or that” people, but for the most part, they are attending to the business of life.


Sure. your great point here is that “people” on the whole defy absolutes. This is one of the reasons why the social sciences and the “hard” sciences will typically occupy different buildings on your college campus.

That said, I think the % of folks who don’t need metaphysical meaning is tiny. Far smaller than the percentage of folks who are atheist or something approximating it.

My favorite example of the atheist struggle with meaning is Sarah Silverman and her honest and revealing commentaries on it. “One minute I’m like ‘yay! we’re all beautiful molecules flying through space for a limited time, so live it, people!’ then the next I can’t breathe because ‘everything I do is meaningless because there’s no such thing as objective meaning’”

does she represent all atheists? No. Who does? But I think her honesty represents most of them.

I think that the pleasantness of modern society depends critically on the religious underpinnings of it for the last… well… all human history until the 1900s AD.

Lol, I’m closer to you than you might think (as I’m a theist that is more than happy to concede that God may not exist after all).

My wife informs me that I might be a sociopath because of it. :joy:

I’m not nearly as interested in what God is (as it’s unknowable in any deterministic material way) as I am interested in what God does for individuals and groups. Odd as it may sound, I think there’s less conflict because of religion than there would be without.

Not my experience, but if that’s the side from which you view it.

Sure. I’m interested in the underpinnings of those beliefs and the required commonality in order to create our necessary tribes.


I admit that is has surprised me how many atheists do say they feel a need for transcendent meaning. I thought it would be a lower % than it is. The % is higher than for believers but still sizeable.

I didn’t realize how unusual my feelings on the matter were or that that was why so many people seek religion. When something is your default position I guess you think that it’s fairly common, until you realize that it isn’t.

I had a very hard time understanding why people believed as they did until I found out how pervasive that need is. My ex husband called me a nihilist because I’m fine with this being all there is, with my purpose being to cycle matter and energy same as anything else. To him that idea was very cold and sad, to me it’s not that way at all.

Even as a kid the idea of eternal life was abhorrent to me. When I’d watch TV shows were someone sought to live forever or was granted that wish, I thought they were insane. Why would anyone want that?
I love life and people and have no death wish, but I’m fine with no afterlife. I don’t find life meaningless at all. I understand that people want reasons and explanations and there to be some reason or justification for suffering, but there just aren’t any other than that’s how things are.


Oh, of course there is difference between those propositions:

  1. X knows that not-Y.
  2. X believes that not-Y.
  3. X does not believe either Y or not-Y. (For example, X didn’t think about Y.)
  4. X has a good reason to think that not-Y.

Of course, we think that option 1 is impossible for atheists, as it is impossible to “know” something that is false. And we do not consider option 4 all that likely either.

But it sure looks like in one case you tried to claim option 3, and in another you admitted option 2.

And they are not just different - they are incompatible.

Maybe you should read the whole sentence: “Oh, you mean I should have said ‘There is actually zero actual evidence of atheists in general (and you specifically) being so perfectly honest and open-minded.’?”. :slight_smile:

That’s a lot of words for “I am not really all that open-minded.”… :slight_smile:

Do you expect arrogance to be made any better by adding dishonesty and cowardice to it? :slight_smile:

Someone who really believes that God does not exist should not try to pretend to believe something else instead just because he has no good reasons for his belief. Especially if he does not even have enough skill to fool anyone.


Yeah a lot of atheists are not antitheists
According to Christopher Hitchens an antitheist is some one who not only does not believe in God, but does not want there to be a God.

Any antitheists here?


So the answer is, “We don’t know yet.” But all evidence so far points to a physical brain with physical chemical processes. That is why antidepressants work. We physically alter the chemical brain states and viola, you have an altered emotional state. There is zero evidence to indicate that reality is anything but the natural so far.


Sure and the same goes for any sort of God.

Any further scrutiny begins to evidence a possible double standard.

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