My Own Personal “Myths” about Atheists.

15 Nov

I’ve never argued with an atheist. I think first and foremost, I don’t quite have the personality that would attract such an audience. I wouldn’t say I have a desire to argue with one, simply because I feel I would be wasting my breath, unless I knew I could convince an atheist to change his/her mind. It’s futile. Just like it’s futile for an atheist to convince me that there is no God. I guess I have some of my own “myths” about atheists, like, atheists are always angry at Christians. I’m sure its not true, because if you believe that Christians all have “faith” in some mythical, magical, imaginary character named “God”, then why would you be angry at them? Its like getting angry at a child who believes in the tooth fairy or the boogie man. I’m sure there are atheists who don’t cast judgments, just like there are Christians who don’t “cram” their “religion” down people’s throats. Another myth I have is that all atheists were hurt by Christians, or by God at some point in their lives. I was told that Atheists weren’t born Atheists. I believe that to a point, because in the book of Romans, it says that there is an innate knowledge of a Creator, that also, there’s a law of righteousness written in the hearts of men. But I’m sure there are people who have never believed in some supreme, superior being, whether they call it God or some other terminology. I’m sure there are more “myths” that I have Atheists. An argument with one would be the last thing I’d want. Although, I would love to get a sincere answer to two questions:

1. Do Atheists hope for things? Like, does an atheist “hope” for a better life, or do they “hope” to have children some day. Do they “hope” for world peace, a better, brighter future. If the answer is yes, then what’s the difference between hope and faith? Are Christians invalid in their “hope”, because of the object of their “hope” is God? Hope is not an instinct. Its not even a chemical reaction in our brains. Why do we hope?

2. If atheism is true (that there is no God, no Supreme Sovreign Coordinator of my life), if evolution is true (that we are just products of an organic, biological process, if we are just higher forms of animals) then… does that mean there’s no purpose in life? There’s no meaning to the question: “why am I here?”. Does it mean that there’s no rhyme or reason for my existence – just sheer luck that I get to live, have a consciousness, then in the end there is nothing. If there is really no purpose in life, then why live? If my children are just products of this process, then why care about their future? If we are just animals, then why hope? why dream? why do we aspire for a better life? It’s not an animalistic instinct to love the unloveable, so why care for the less fortunate? Its not an animalistic instinct to sacrifice, or give of ourselves, so why do we do it? If I am nothing more than an animal, then why care for others?

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14 Responses to “My Own Personal “Myths” about Atheists.”

  1. NotAScientist November 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    “Its like getting angry at a child who believes in the tooth fairy or the boogie man.”

    This is true.

    But if that child grows up and still believes in the boogie man and then tries to enact legislation based on that belief, people might get angry.

    “If the answer is yes, then what’s the difference between hope and faith?”

    Let me explain by way of analogy.

    I buy a lottery ticket for a prize of $100 million. I can either have hope that I will win, or have faith that I will win.

    If I have hope that I will win, that doesn’t necessarily change how I act. I have no evidence that I’ll be more lucky than anyone else who bought a lottery ticket, but I hope.

    If I have faith that I will win, then I’ve already quit my job and started buying houses and cars on credit, even before the numbers are called.

    See the difference?

    “If there is really no purpose in life, then why live?”

    If there is no purpose, then every second you live is an amazingly unlikely event, and you should do all you can to get as much out of it as you can.

    “If I am nothing more than an animal, then why care for others?”

    Why not?

    If you’re going to live with your god for all eternity, why care about what happens in 70 years on Earth?

    • Vancouver Juls November 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

      So hope and faith is different, in that, faith results in action. But hope isn’t measurable. It’s unscientific. It goes against any logically notion we have as conscious, complex beings. I’m trying to understand how faith is so easily dismissed, while we can get away with saying hope instead of faith. I was trying to draw the comparison in their similarity in that, according to science, they are both unnecessary, unobservable, illogical. Things like love, compassion, these are things that are unnecessary to the evolutionary process, yet we cannot deny they exist.
      While faith does command action – as it should, hope is not completely free from action. For example, “I hope to graduate University in 4 years.” – still implies that action needs to be taken. To use your analogy, you hope to win the lottery, but don’t have faith that you will – yet you still bought a ticket. What does that say about hope? It makes you do something that is illogical, that goes against every instinct, and every logical notion. Even though you may want to reason with yourself, you know that its unreasonable to invest in a ticket, but you buy it anyway, because you hope to win. Hope still causes you to act. In the book of Hebrews, the writer says, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, of things not seen. I would say that hope and faith are the same, but faith gives you something to hold on to, that hope cannot give.

      As for caring for others — its because of love. But again, is love logical? or is it like faith? they are both unnecessary in the evolutionary process, yet they exist. Does an Atheist believe in love? If so, where did it come from? Why is it in us? Why is there hate? Are these results of an organic, physical process? Is it our genetics to have the capacity of love or hate?

      • NotAScientist November 15, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

        “But hope isn’t measurable. It’s unscientific.”

        It’s an emotion. And as measurable as any other emotion, through study of the brain.

        “I was trying to draw the comparison in their similarity in that, according to science, they are both unnecessary, unobservable, illogical.”

        So?

        I base what is true on the scientific method. My emotions are personal and subjective, and may or may not match up with reality.

        “While faith does command action – as it should, hope is not completely free from action.”

        It’s not just about inspiring action. Hope inspires action to complete the thing desired. Faith inspires action with the assumption that the thing desired already exists. The latter is potentially dangerous, while the former not so much.

        “It makes you do something that is illogical, that goes against every instinct”

        I can’t speak about your instincts, but mine don’t go against hope.

        Perhaps your understanding of human instinct is incorrect.

        “they are both unnecessary in the evolutionary process, yet they exist”

        Define what you mean by ‘unnecessary’.

        In a social mammal species, like homo sapiens, ‘love’ helps us survive. That seems very necessary to me.

      • Vancouver Juls November 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

        wait, are emotions measurable? I know you had some really good points throughout the whole comment but, I need to understand this more. Can we actually measure the amount of love one father feels for his son, then compare that to how much he loves his daughter? Are there units? Or is it measured in electrical synapses? Is it measured in the result of the emotion – the measure of love displayed? Consequently, can you measure hope against hope? Like, I have greater amount of hope than a homeless man. I may not know much when it comes to scientific terms, but I do know this much, that there are things in life that even science can’t answer. Even the formation of a single thought – still eludes the most brilliant of minds. Even the brightest minds will say that there is yet a realm that we perceive with our eyes, yet we do not understand. Please clarify (for my sanity!) how emotions are measured.

      • Shamelessly Atheist November 15, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

        This caught my eye… “But again, is love logical? or is it like faith? they are both unnecessary in the evolutionary process, yet they exist. Does an Atheist believe in love?”

        Well, actually, love isn’t necessary to the evolutionary process per se. It is a result of evolving in a social survival strategy setting. So, of course atheists believe in love. Love is the emotion which binds people together and cooperate closely.

        “If so, where did it come from? Why is it in us? Why is there hate? Are these results of an organic, physical process? Is it our genetics to have the capacity of love or hate?” It’s more complicated that “it’s in our genes”, but a good chunk of it is. We evolved in social groups which competed with one another. So, for the group (and hence the individual) to survive competition, “in group” (cooperative behavior, which includes the emotions we call love) and “out group” (competitive behavior, which includes wthe emotion we call hate) had to develop. This is where a large part of lvoe/hate comes from.

  2. Shamelessly Atheist November 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Well, I do sometimes get annoyed at Christians. When I hear the same tired old refuted arguments over and over, I get annoyed. Or when I hear some ridiculous preconceived notion of atheists, like “atheists don’t believe in anything” (a trope so ridiculous and insulting I can’t help but take great umbrage to). The worst is when I am told what I do and do not believe by a Christian who speaks authoritatively on something they do not have the first clue about. And you did just that. You didn’t mean to, but you still did it. No one is born a Christian, Muslim, Jew or atheist. There is no “innate knowledge of God”, no matter what it says in Romans. The bible also says hares chew their cud. They do not. Similarly, I certainly do not have and have never had to my recollection any such knowledge. In fact, there is no such thing as innate knowledge. Knowledge must be demonstrable. The whole “I know there is a god because I feel it” is not knowledge. It is belief, and belief – no matter strongly held – is not knowledge. And if there is this ” there’s a law of righteousness written in the hearts of men”, why do we argue over ethics so much? The existence of a deity is completely unnecessary to the existence of a moral sense (see below).

    But why would you not want to argue (I am using the word in the context of “discussion”, not screaming at each other)? Not talking is the worst thing anyone can do in order to understand each other’s position. Avoiding discussion is to maintain wrong preconceived notions and avoid learning. I simply do not understand this.

    To get to your questions, yes we do hope for a better future. The difference between “hope” and “faith”, though, is that to create that better future I work towards it. I do not just have faith that it will happen. There’s a huge difference between the two. “Faith” as Paul defines it is a worthless commodity. It is believing in things without evidence, and that is absolutely anathema to a skeptic. Worse, that kind of thinking leads to all manner of harmful behaviors. People stop going to their doctors, eschewing evidence-based medicine to be “treated” by quack homeopaths. There is no evidence homeopathy works, and thus is not a good idea to engage in it and refusing treatments which have indeed been shown to be efficaceous. It is a potentially harmful way of thinking.

    There is no meaning to the question “why am I here?”. But just because there is no over-arching purpose to life does not mean we can not find purpose in life. This is why most atheists understand how precious and valuable I’m going to my fencing class tonight. Why? Because I find enjoyment in it. Why live? Because there is enjoyment in living! It’s that simple. Why care for your children’s futures? If evolution hadn’t found a means to do get parents to do that for offspring which require a great investment in time and resources, our species would be extinct. Do you get enjoyment out of taking care of your children? So do we. It’s as simple as that. Why live? Because life is worth living. I don’t spend my time contemptably worry that it will end. What kind of life would that be? I do things in life that enhance it because there is a reward in this life when I reap what I sow.

    “If we are just animals, then why hope? why dream? why do we aspire for a better life?” Seriously? The answer lies within the very question you asked! We aspire for a better life because we would then it would be better. It’s a sad life indeed should no one try to improve it for themselves. Moping over the fact that I will one day cease to exist and I might as well be dead.

    “It’s not an animalistic instinct to love the unloveable, so why care for the less fortunate?” This is demonstrably wrong. Helping the less fortunate is a result of living in a social environment. When we help others, we are doing so in the expectation that we ourselves would be helped if we find ourselves in that situation. Every social mammalian species does this to varying degrees. We just happen to be the most proficient at it.

    “Its not an animalistic instinct to sacrifice, or give of ourselves, so why do we do it?” Again, social mammalian species will in fact do this. For example, experiments with chimpanzees have shown that if one chimpanzee will receive a shock if another takes food from a dispenser, the second chimp will rather starve. I’d say that’s sacrifice. We do the same thing. It’s a result of our ability to empathize. We can feel how it would be like to be in another person’s shoes. It’s vicarious suffering, and to alleviate that suffering we can help those truly suffering. None of this comes from a god. I care about others because in acting on that they in turn enhance my life. No one lives on an island in isolation. Everything we do has an impact on others. And generally what goes around comes around, so why not do something good?

    It’s interesting to note that you are concerned with the consequences of there being a god. I am only concerned with whether or not there is one. The rest are details. So if turns out that you have a realization that there isn’t one, will your life fall apart? Not likely. I’ve never had the experience of conversion to atheism. But my life is just fine. I am not mortally depressed, I have a great career and a fantastic wife that I’m building a life with. The world hasn’t ended for me. Quite the opposite. And I get to sleep in on Sundays.

    Have I given you an understanding secular humanists are at?

    • Vancouver Juls November 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

      Thanks for the feed back. And I appreciate that the tone didn’t turn contentious (atleast how you worded your argument). Just to clarify, I’m not concerned about the consequences of the existence of God. I guess, if I was concerned about anything, it would be how a child is concerned about pleasing his father. I guess the biggest divide is, and will always be – faith. I honestly appreciate your comments… and sleeping in on Sundays is overrated… ha! kidding! And yes, you’ve given me a clearer, less angry understanding on secular humanism. Thanks.

      • Shamelessly Atheist November 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

        I wanted to put this in terms of “secular humanism” because atheism is about what we do not believe. It is much more important to understand what we believe than what we don’t believe. The reason is that we act on what we believe, not what we don’t believe. What we don’t believe limits what we do believe, but doesn’t directly inform our actions. This is why the “insert nasty atheist dictator here” argument is irrelevant to anything. I know I don’t have any inclination to go around and massacre people, yet I’m an atheist. Atheism in and of itself does not lead to anything. Secular humanism, however, does.Not all atheists are secular humanists, but a good deal are.

      • Vancouver Juls November 15, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

        Wow, that makes sense. My basic assumption would be (and please correct me if I’m headed in the wrong direction here) that True, Pure Atheism doesn’t lead to social benefit, whereas Secular Humanism, atleast celebrates our community, our existence and co-habitation. Is there a place for people of faith within that community? I ask because, Atheists seem to want to destroy the remnant of God/Vishnu/Mohammed, etc. It seems that they are bent on breaking the faith of those that hold it. In Secular Humanism, is there room for people who also promote community, brotherhood, and good for all mankind — who happen to believe in God?

      • Shamelessly Atheist November 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

        Atheism is simply a position on a specific claim. That is, the claim that god ‘x’ exists. That’s it. Many get it wrong and think that atheism is some kind of philosophy or world view. It’s nothing of the kind. Secular humanism (something many atheists adhere to) IS a philosophy. So I would not expect atheism to either be a benefit or detriment to society.

        Believers can be humanists, but not secular ones. One of the tenets of secular humanism is the belief there are no gods. Humanists of either secular or sectarian stripes have a lot in common, just not that. It was humanists (both types) which largely lead to abolition, but secular humanists didn’t have the problem that our holy book (we don’t have one) actually endorses slavery, and Christianity itself was largely responsible for the lateness of abolition. So, yes. Believers can be humanists, and there are many.

        As for wanting “to destroy the remnant of God/Vishnu/Mohammed, etc.”, it’s actually magical thinking in general we want to stop. Or at least many of us do. It’s certainly not limited to religion, but religion is the biggest legitimizing agent of bad actions. But I don’t see belief that homeopathy preforms better than a placebo is any different a type of thinking than believing in a god is. Both are faith-based. That is, belief in the absence of – or, as I would say, in the presence of contradictory – evidence. I have a very, VERY difficult time respecting that. In point of fact, I don’t.

        But believers seem to take offense to the mere existence of atheists because we threaten very closely-held beliefs. I make no apologies for being an atheist, and if someone puts there beliefs into the public arena they should not do so in the expectation that they will not be critically appraised. Perhaps that is what you perceive as us trying to destroy religious belief. That is not the same thing. Because a belief is religious does not exempt it from criticism so long as I can back it up. For instance, I think the idea of transubstantiation is one of the most daft ever invented by humans. The idea that wine can turn into the blood of someone deceased two millennia ago even though it still tastes like wine is ridiculous. Several years ago Irish priests complained when the government lowered the maximum blood alcohol level for driving because they sat around after mass getting soused on the sacrificial wine. Unless Jesus himself (who may not have existed in the first place) was an alcoholic of epic proportions, I think this can be taken as evidence that the wine is still wine and transubstantiation is nuts. The usual excuse that it’s simultaneously wine and the blood of Christ is but you can’t tell it’s the blood of Christ is untestable and therefor nonsense. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s pretty much a duck, and the wine is still just wine no matter how hard people believe it changes.

        As a skeptic, my first question will always be “what is the evidence for your claim?” If none is offered, I am justified in asking a second question: “why on earth do you accept the claim if there is no evidence in support?” That’s not destroying belief. That’s questioning it, and unexamined belief is bad belief. Faith is just an excuse.

      • Vancouver Juls November 17, 2011 at 12:06 am #

        I guess my most honest answer is that, you cannot prove faith. You cannot physically test it, you cannot handle it, cut it, feel it, or smell it. In the realm of science and logic, faith does not have place. But faith can be displayed, like how a child jumps from a table, and into his father’s arms. Even if you can’t physically test it, you can’t deny that that child had faith – displayed it, even tested it. TRUE faith (not some wacky doctrine like transubstantiation), I liken to a child believing in his father. I wish I had a more scientific, or logical explanation, but that’s all I got, just a belief in my Father.
        As far as Transubstantiation goes, that is one of the most sickening practices of the catholic/anglican/unitarian/lutheran church. Jesus used the wine as a picture of His blood. In the greek, there was no line between grape juice and alcoholic wine, but why would Jesus use alcoholic wine (a picture of fermentation, death, corruption of the grape juice) to picture His blood? He didn’t, He used the picture of grape juice, which many times He used to picture His relationship with us. I hope you are not lumping all believers in the same heap as catholics, anglicans, so on and so forth – just as I’m trying not to lump you into the angry – burn all the bibles – kind of humanist.

      • Shamelessly Atheist November 17, 2011 at 12:30 am #

        Ah, but you are conflating “faith” and “trust”.Many people do this, and it is invalid. For instance, a child can see a father’s outstretched arms and from previous experience know that the father will make the catch. Watch what happens the next time you miss. These evaluations of trust are evidence-based. Faith (if you use Paul’s definition) isn’t. They aren’t even remotely the same. Imagine now that the child is going to jump and can not see the father, let alone the arms and knowing he’s in Baltimore. Is that kid going to jump now? Now THAT would be faith.

        And I disagree that you can’t measure faith. If you couldn’t how would you be able to tell the difference between someone who has it and someone that doesn’t?

        Don’t underestimate science. For instance, I am often told that I can’t demonstrate that I love my wife. Poppycock. I can point to past actions like buying my wife flowers, cooking dinner for her, etc. These are all demonstrations that I actually care and want to do things for her. Someone that doesn’t care simply would not do these things.

        Could I be faking? Sure. Is it likely? No. But I can always stick someone in a MRI and perform functional imaging tests which would show that when a picture of someone they love is shown to them those parts of the brain which are involved in experiencing the emotion we call love are seen to be activated if they do love that person. People often think that things we routinely measure can not be measured. We need more science education.

        “He didn’t, He used the picture of grape juice, which many times He used to picture His relationship with us.” I’d like to see the evidence on which you base this claim. Wine was a common drink of the time. And I don’t care if it’s wine or grape juice. That’s just a detail. Transubstantiation is still daft.

        No, I don’t paint all Christians with the same brush. I can only assess each claim as it is made. Nor do I judge Christianity on the actions of Christians, good or bad actions. That has nothing to do with the truth of the claims being made. Well, save one: The claim that being a believer makes one a better person is utterly false. In matters of ethics, atheists generally outscore believers.

        But there is one thing that all beliefs share, whether they are Christiian, Muslim, Jew, Jain, Hindu, etc. That is that none have any evidence going for them at all. I don’t need to disprove any religious claim to not believe in it. That would be to succumb to the burden of proof shift fallacy. All I need to know is that no evidence for any exists. (I often get the tried-and-true “Well, you can’t prove it isn’t true!” canard.) And that pretty much sums up the position of most atheists.

  3. spock1013 November 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    I just wanted to say I really like this post. As an atheist most of the time when people who are religious make posts about it they seem to make more assumptions and not ask questions. I love that you pointed out assumptions made by both sides and asked about things that genuinely confused you about atheism. The other commentors have probably answered your questions in a better more clarifying manner but I would still like to give you my own answers as well.

    1. On the question of hope, I would say that yes, most atheists do hope. I know I do personally. I hope for a better life and to achieve my dreams and goals and things most people probably hope for. I believe the difference in hope and faith are the basis and actions revolving around them. I base my hopes on my own personal qualities and take action to make sure that these hopes are achievable. I hope to some day publish a book, so I use my talent as a writer and also work hard on developing my skill and receiving feedback on my work to help get me to a point where publishing a book would be a possibility I could reach. Faith seems to have a less solid basis. It is based more in the abstract and less on the concrete, at least to me.

    2. This one is a bit more complicated and really took some thinking on my part to come up with what I really wanted to say about it. Personally, I do not think there is some big philosophical answer to the question of “Why are we here?”. Scientifically and biologically humans are here because we adapted to survive in our environment and as such we have thrived. Individually I believe partially luck is involved but also that there must be something important genetically or psychologically in that person for them to exist. Everyone has something to offer, some sort of lesson or trait or quality, that they can share with the people in their lives. I think it is these ripples in the water, so to speak, that make the existence of individuals important. In our life we pass on ourselves and our personalities to those around us and in death we give our physical bodies back to the earth to replenish it and help life carry on.

    Now this isn’t what all atheists believe by a long shot, but that’s my opinion on the matters. I hope these helped you with your questions. 🙂

    • Vancouver Juls November 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback. I genuinely felt that your answers were personal and sincere, which is actually so refreshing. I’m not going to bounce back with my take on theology or some other subconscious way of proselyting. I just want to say thank you.

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