My Photo

The Out Campaign

Atheist Blogroll

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 05/2005

« Sex in the City, But Lost in the Desert | Main | New Fishnet Story: "For Love or Pay" »

Comments

Sharmin

I like today's Meme of the Day. I see so much inspiration and feel so much hope for humanity when I think of all the great things people have accomplished. The idea that we need god to believe in something bigger than ourselves is ridiculous. The greatest goal in the holy booksis the end of the world followed by a segregated afterlife. I feel much more inspired by the things that are bigger than myself when I think of what humans are capabe of than when I think of a plan predetermined by god.

Thanks for writing!

Bruce Gorton

It is one of the big things that always gets me with religion, the arrogance in thinking that something or someone greater than oneself HAS to be a God.

There are plenty of people who are just all round better than me - that doesn't make the gods.

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1193275073

Thank you for posting this, GC.

This reminds me of the time when a Catholic priest told me that "Atheists don't believe in anything greater than themselves."

Maryann Spikes

Greta, beliefs held by x 'because' x is x, are x beliefs. If you wouldn't believe it if you weren't an x--it's an x belief, even if that belief or assumption is a 'provisional conclusion. For example, if someone wouldn't believe a particular belief if they weren't a capitalist, that marks that belief as a capitalist belief and is part of what it means to believe as a capitalist believes. Your meme, "Atheists do believe in something bigger than ourselves. We just don't believe that it's God, or anything supernatural. We believe in the universe, in humanity, in the arc of history, in principles of kindness and justice, and so on." Since no one who isn't an atheist believes those things are "bigger than ourselves" or that the "something bigger" isn't "supernatural"--that is part of what it means to believe as an atheist--if you do, in fact, speak for all atheists. All that is really required to count as an atheist, of course, is to believe (even if 'tentatively') in a world with no God. When I was an atheist, I didn't fit your meme, being a nihilist.

Maria

Still not getting it?

Theism is the belief that one, or more deities exist.

The A in atheism is a prefix meaning not, or without.

Atheism means without a belief in one or more deities.

It's not inconsistent with being an atheist to believe in things like the universe, humanity or kindness and so on - but it does not define atheism!

If you are a non-stamp-collector who also happens to be a socialist. Does that mean then that non-stamp-collecting can be defined as a socialist ideology?

Greta does not speak for all atheists, the meme simply states that atheism is not inconsistent with beliefs in the things she mentions, since it is only the rejection of the god hypothesis on the ground of there being insufficient evidence for it. It's a common claim that being an atheist means not believing in anything at all, and the meme simply refutes that claim.

That's all.

Greta Christina
Since no one who isn't an atheist believes those things are "bigger than ourselves" or that the "something bigger" isn't "supernatural"

???

Of course there are theists who agree with me about these things. Of course there are theists who believe that the universe, humanity, the arc of history, principles of kindness and justice, are bigger than ourselves. There are even theists who believe that some or all of these things are not supernatural.

These beliefs of mine -- "beliefs" is actually probably not the best word, why don't we say "conclusions" or "acknowledgments" -- are not dependent in any way on my atheism. I believed these things were bigger than me when I was a believer; I continue to believe them now. They are only tangentially related to me atheism: I prioritize some of them more now that I don't believe in the supernatural. But they are not "part of what it means to believe as an atheist."

And I have never presumed to speak for all atheists. Perhaps you missed the introduction to the memes, where I say, "Pass this on; or don't; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own."

Maryann Spikes

Quoting from the meme: "Atheists do believe... We just..."

To me, that sounds like there are atheist beliefs, and that Greta is speaking on behalf of all atheists. The only thing Christians think is "bigger than ourselves" and worthy of worship/reverence, is God.

"Believing in something bigger than ourselves" to me sounds like you are using a phrase synonymous with "worship" or "revere".

The universe is unworthy of worship. Humanity is not bigger than ourselves--we are humanity. Being imperfect, we are unworthy of worship. The arc of history is unworthy of worship. Kindness and justice, if they correspond to anything that isn't imperfect, correspond to God. If they don't correspond, they are unworthy of worship.

Eclectic

Maryann, we're foundering on the two common divergent meanings of the phrase "believe in".

On meaning is "to accept as factually true". I may not like bubonic plague, AIDS, nuclear weapons, global warming, or the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, but I believe they exist.

Some people believe in the devil as a physical force.

The other meaning is more "to trust to do good". This is commonly used when discussing a person. Some people believe in the free market or enlightened self-interest. I remember the line from the movie Real Genius "we believe in the honor system here".

I believe the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a real thing, but I don't believe desirable consequences will flow from it. Do I, then, "believe in" the occupation?

I think Greta was using the first sense.

The second sense is closer to your words "worship" or "revere", but it still seems a very long way away to me. Where do you get that meaning from?

Believing in the existence of Yahweh does not necessarily imply worshipping him, as Tim Maroney's famous rant Even if I did believe explains better than I could.

Maryann Spikes

Eclectic--what misconception is the meme trying to correct? That is the sense of "believe" Greta is using. Is there really a misconception that atheists don't believe any facts whatsoever? No. Of course I agree believing God exists does not equate to worshipping him, just as believing you exist does not equate to worshipping you--but that is a tangent.

Maryann Spikes

For clarity's sake...you could exchange "equate to worshipping" for "equate to revering you as bigger than myself".

Eclectic

Maryann, you wrote:

"Believing in something bigger than ourselves" to me sounds like you are using a phrase synonymous with "worship" or "revere".

I understood you to be saying that "believe in" was being used synonymously with "worship or revere", thus my response. If I have misunderstood your words above, my apologies. Perhaps you could clarify?

Indigo

@ Maryann - I have frequently encountered theists who followed this line of logic: Atheists don't believe in God. God is a being that is, in some sense, above or beyond or greater than human existence. Therefore atheists must think human existence is the highest, furthest, greatest thing in the universe. Some go a step further and conclude that each atheist therefore thinks s/he her/himself is the ultimate pinnacle of existence and the most important thing in all the cosmos. Since this is clearly bullshit, they conclude that atheists are both a) wrong and b) extreme megalomaniacs.
Without wanting to speak for Greta, my own response is: What? No! Look, I don't believe there's a god who's our moral superior to which we must all bow in terms of knowledge and understanding. That doesn't mean that I think human beings are the awesomest things ever and that nothing else matters by comparison. I certainly don't think that about myself.
I think that our own little blue planet is an amazing, fascinating place; that the fact that we all got here more or less by accident is one of the most mind-blowing things I could ever contemplate; that in "we" I include, you know, banana slugs and algae and Douglas firs and viruses; that the universe is so amazingly vast and bizarre and completely beyond our ability to comprehend that it's absurd to think it was all created for a bunch of hairless apes who tell stories and really like to boink; that if I were to die tomorrow, this little blue planet would still go on spinning and there would still be war in the Middle East and concerts in Hyde Park and plays on Broadway, and people would still go on working and singing and arguing and cooking and painting and raising their kids.
I am not ignorant of how incredible and wonderful and horrible and diverse the world is, or at least I don't think I'm more ignorant of it than the average person who believes in God. I just don't think there's a single person, or group of people, who have lots of power and made it all happen.
Um. That got a little long (hope it doesn't count as comment hogging - if so I'll move it elsewhere).
TL;DR version: not thinking God is at the centre of the universe doesn't mean thinking the universe is small and pathetic, or that human beings take the place we once thought was God's.

Maryann Spikes

Eclectic...you were saying Greta believes those things are "bigger than ourselves" but that she doesn't "believe in" them('revere'...consider 'sacred'). To believe they are bigger is to believe in them. She wasn't just merely stating she believes they are part of reality--she was stating she believes they are bigger than ourselves.

Indigo...yeah...it is pretty mind-blowing. I wonder what Greta meant by believing humanity is bigger than ourselves. I don't think God personally did all of those things, but I do think he began the physical and sustains everything (past, present, future) so that those things can happen. Sure, that requires faith, and it isn't the only 'clue' we have that God exists. But it also takes faith to believe conclusively that the physical popped into existence on its own. This is a bit of a tangent from the original meme, though.

DSimon

"But it also takes faith to believe conclusively that the physical popped into existence on its own."

However, it doesn't take faith to say "I don't know" about things we don't (as yet) know anything about, such as the origin of physical reality (or even whether or not it has an origin). That's the strategy I recommend, and the one that seems best at helping us to avoid misleading ourselves.

Maryann Spikes

DSimon, I disagree. Although this is a tangent, I think if you're thinking about this issue seriously, you either accept the evidence, or you reject it and conclude there is no God, because love is not love (God is not God) w/o demonstration. If you reject the evidence (and foretelling) of that demonstration, then you should be an atheist. If you choose "I don't know" then you've settled on a god concept unworthy of the title 'God'--a god who is not love.

themann1086

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

DSimon

Maryann, I don't understand what you're saying. By saying that I don't know the answer to "What is the origin of physical reality?", I'm not choosing any kind "god concept" at all; I'm just saying that the question remains unanswered.

Maryann Spikes

DSimon, that the physical has a beginning that could not just have come from nothing (no being) is not the only clue/evidence (you don't know if being can come from no-being?). I should have said that before I said the rest. Pardon the confusion, themann.

DSimon
DSimon, that the physical has a beginning that could not just have come from nothing (no being) is not the only clue/evidence

It's not very good evidence; it's a vague philosophical claim about a topic which confuses people (astrophysicists) whose job and life goal is to be as legitimately unconfused about it as possible.

Also (to paraphrase something Greta says a lot), if you introduce God as an attempt to explain where physical reality came from, then an obvious next question arises: where did God come from? And if your response is "Well, God didn't have to come from anything because X", why can't that X just apply to physical reality?

Maryann Spikes

One thing scientists are not confused about, is that physical reality has a beginning. Read Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos" for why God's beginninglessness cannot apply to the physical. It has to do w/ quantum mechanics and entropy--things which do not apply to God.

Maria

And how do you tell which things do, or do not, apply to god?

DSimon

Maryann, some groups of physicists think that time did not have a beginning. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclic_model

In any case, you're missing the larger point: even if I grant that we know that time has a beginning, that still doesn't tell us everything about how that beginning worked. Until there is evidence for the details of such an event, the best answer is "I don't know".

Maryann Spikes

Maria--if God is subject to those things, he is finite, and not God.

Actually, DSimon, even cyclic model theorists (modelists?) admit a beginning--same book I referred you to earlier, same reasons I gave earlier. The physical cannot come into existence by its own bootstraps that don't yet exist, just like circular arguments are crap. Your telling me that maybe there is some explanation we still haven't found is just like telling me there is some circular argument that isn't crap--we just haven't found it yet. You are satisfied with making the physical universe into a circular argument. That's just not logical.

Maria

Maria--if God is subject to those things, he is finite, and not God.

So basically you are saying that you can conceieve of a sentient being for which there are no known limits, and for which no natural laws apply, and so on... You call this concept 'God' and then concludes from mere ability to think this being up - that it must exist? And that that must be what started something that we don't know how it started?

DSimon
The physical cannot come into existence by its own bootstraps that don't yet exist

You are assuming that you can intuitively reason based on your everyday experiences of time about the behavior and nature of time near to/during the Big Bang. This is just not true; ask an astrophysicist.

The universe does not need to have a beginning just because the idea of something beginningless feels really weird; compared to everyday experiences, the origins and/or extended past of the universe are really weird. That's why we have to be careful to ground claims about those subjects on strong evidence, so we don't accidentally fool ourselves like so many past philosophers did about similarly mysterious subjects (i.e. Aristotle was a smart guy but he got early physics way wrong due to intuitive reasoning biases).

Also, I have no idea what you mean when you call my argument circular. My argument is that until there is evidence for a particular explanation for a phenomenon, it's most correct to admit ignorance about how that phenomenon works. Where's the self-referencing part?

Maryann Spikes

Nope, Maria. I made no such argument. I said only that if a being is subject to those things, it is finite, and not God. That does not assume/argue a God exists. I didn't make an argument for God's existence until replying to DSimon.

Bruce Gorton

You are satisfied with making the physical universe into a circular argument. That's just not logical.

Look up the definition of a circular argument - pointing out that we do not have enough information to state something definitively is not the same as presenting a circular argument.

Maria

Nope, Maria. I made no such argument. I said only that if a being is subject to those things, it is finite, and not God. That does not assume/argue a God exists. I didn't make an argument for God's existence until replying to DSimon.

Ah, yeah... and I am of course incapable of reading your replies to him, and other people, and so also incapable of getting what you really mean! *sigh* (Not to mention that you never actually answered that question. You never described the method one would use to actually know these things, only that according to your own definitions of what a god is, it couldn't be otherwise.)

That's just silly! Everything you said in here so far makes it clear that that is precisely what you are arguing, and I can of course take that into consideration when I comment, and don't have to reply only to the exact words you may have said only to me.

What I said above IS basically what your claims boil down to. The way you have defined a god, makes you think such a thing can not NOT exist - that is the only "evidence" you have of its existence. It's all the usual fallacies wrapped up in arrogance with a slice of irony in accusing DSimon of 'circular arguing'.

Maryann Spikes

How Dawkins' belief scale shows atheism is a belief, a lack of faith: http://www.examiner.com/apologetics-in-san-francisco/how-dawkins-belief-scale-shows-atheism-is-a-belief-a-position-of-faith

Greta Christina

Maryann: Please don't make identical comments in multiple posts. Thank you.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Subscribe/ Donate to This Blog!

Books of mine

Greta on SSA Speakers Bureau


  • Greta Christina is on the Speakers Bureau of the Secular Students Alliance. Invite her to speak to your group!

Your email address:


Powered by FeedBlitz


Powered by Rollyo

Some Favorite Posts and Conversations: Atheism

Some Favorite Posts and Conversations: Sex

Some Favorite Posts: Art, Politics, Other Stuff