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I Do Not Choose to Be an Atheist
Posted: 01 January 2011 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m posting this at a few different forums. I’m trying to get some feedback on it and see what other’s thoughts on it are.
It’s something I typed up when I had some free time after the question had been put to me.

I do not want to be an atheist.
This is one thing that has struck me when I spoke openly about my atheism.
“Why do you choose to believe this?”
I find sympathy with those of the homosexual community when I hear this.
I do not choose to believe this. With my education at its current point, it is the conclusion I’ve arrived to.
There was a time when I could make myself believe in religion. I held it close to my heart, though as time passed and I grew older I began to clutch it. Much as one does a favored toy when they begin to just grasp the pointlessness of the toy.
It is not that I don’t want to believe it, in fact at times I want to, and used to deeply. But just because you want to believe something, doesn’t make it true.

I am asked at times how can I find meaning in this life, if I do not have the grace of heaven to look forward to up on my passing.
This is a question I have problems answering. Not because of any nihilism I find in my life’s outlook, in fact far from that, but instead because when I was a theist, I found no satisfaction in my faith.
I have found much more satisfaction in life recently, and only some of it of is due to relinquishing my faith. Much more has come from other reasons. I can’t really weigh my life while a theist against my life as an atheist.
The most I can say about it is, while I was a Christian, it was preached to me that God would provide my calling. So I sat and waited. That’s not to say I didn’t do anything, but I waited for revelation to show me what I was destined to do.

Since I’ve become an atheist, I’ve taken into my own hands to find where my future will go.
I am still struggling with finding my heading in life, though now I begin to see some real possibilities that never crossed my mind before.

To me, I do have to add, that the repeated indications of Heaven as the goal leads me to find the Christian view somewhat lacking. Is there nothing good on this Earth except as a proxy towards entrance to heaven?

My only gripe is that could have been here much sooner, but why bother myself with sand already passed?
When it comes to the religious texts, well…
To me, the words of scientists like Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, or Steven Hawking, or fiction writers like Isaac Asimov, or Gene Roddenberry, or Terry Pratchett, are much more enlightening and inspiring than the Christian Bible, the Jewish Talmud, or the Islamic Quran, among the many other religious texts of the world.
Give me Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, or Richard Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces, Steven Hawking’s a Brief History of Time, or any number of books that offer in personal insights into our present, and into our future.
Carl Sagan once said in Cosmos that
“Science is a collaborative enterprise spanning the generations we remember those who prepared the way seeing for them also.”
I believe this is not just true in science, but all things. Everything we do recalls in some form or manner some person we knew who had an influence in our lives.
They are present in how we speak, in how we think, in how we interact with one another. We are all of us the legacy of one another. It is up to us whether the legacy we pass on is one for which others will be proud to remember us by.
To me, atheism is a much a part of me as my hair color, and is as about as important to me. Which is to say, not much.
However, despite it not being important to me, it has come to be important to me.
Religion is something I am being constantly assaulted with. In the news, in politics, in merchandising, and on the radio.
  I hear from a president that I am not a citizen. Yes, I know, there’s no source for the quote, but it’s more important that people take it seriously, treating it as if it were true. One side doesn’t care, the other quite definitely does.
Atheists are, in the United States are the least trusted minority.
This, more than anything has made me take it personally.
Do I love my country?
This is a odd question.
Being born in this country has given me access to some great opportunities in the past (which I’ve mostly squandered.) and some great opportunities in the future (which I hope not to squander.)
Yes, it’s by luck I was born here, but it was luck that had me born to my family, and luck that had me find my friends. I can’t help but find some sort of attachment to them.
At times, with what I hear from the media or local religious foundation,or even within my own family, it makes for something of a strained relationship.
However, as I mentioned before I care little that I am an atheist. I see the affect that religious fundamentalism. Which I don’t hold quite true… those in the States who are supposed to be fundies tend more towards that unique version which benefits themselves, more strict than more tolerant religious groups, but similar in vein.
I find myself agreeing with Christopher Hitchens when he writes he leaves the destruction of religious edifices to those who are most adept at it, that being those who are also religious.
However, when it affects those things I care about, like the sciences, people, and my country… there I must admit I find a voice and passion to speak about something that I find was really something that was never really important to me in the first place.

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Posted: 01 January 2011 02:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I can relate to what you are talking about Shadowsot.

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Posted: 01 January 2011 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The more I read and hear on this subject the more I come to believe it’s purely a matter of demographics. It has never occured to me that having to deal with religion was a requirement .

In Province in which I was born , the last census wherein it was legal to ask about religion the majority of people put ‘no religion’. I’ve never once been asked about religion nor has it intruded on my life. My father was an artist and my mother a writer. My father was much older than my mother and was raised in a Residential school ( this is no place for it but read about Canadian residential schools and you will see why my father had no time for religion). They were both extremely well read, liberal and seekers of beauty. Our home was at the edge of the rainforest and those dark and lovely places were the cathedrals of my childhood. The ‘laws’ that applied there or even in my parents extensive gardens were the ‘laws of nature’.  My parents did encourage their children to be informed and we were encouraged to read mythologies ( including religious works) so I wasn’t ignorant of religion - it just..didn’t matter.

Nor has it ever mattered. My life has been rich and full and I hope I have helped others.

Being politically and socially aware and a lover of the study of history, I do hold religion to be one of the most destructive forces humans have ever unleashed upon themselves. Hearing people write of the peace they have found in religion(s) puts me in mind of the security some feel in the possession of nuclear bombs and having mutally assured destruction treatys keeping them ‘safe’.

Choosing to abide by or not abide by religious mores has always been a ‘choice’. I am sorry you did not know that at a young age. Also, if you don’t want to be an atheist, make up your own religion or set of metaphysical beliefs if it will make you happy - you don’t have to wear borrowed clothes to keep warm.

Pelagic

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Posted: 02 January 2011 02:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I like to ask people, “Do you have a choice to believe whether or not you’re hearing this question right now?”

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Posted: 02 January 2011 02:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Can I give you an “Amen”? I can relate with every word!

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 02 January 2011 03:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Whether we choose our beliefs depends upon what is meant by choose. Choose can be defined in such a way so that we do choose our beliefs and it can be defined in such a way so that we don’t.

The subject interests me because it’s a question of where people are drawing the lines and why they are doing it.

I have the same sense that others do that we don’t choose our beliefs but why exactly I don’t know. I can take the view that we do choose them and make the case.

So I’m agnostic, I choose to be agnostic. What makes it a choice? In order for it to be a choice I must have alternatives, I must consider the alternatives weigh up the reasons to believe each one against each other and come to a conclusion (however tempory) based on the process.

And that’s what I’ve done, so I do choose to be agnostic.

I think the argument against is that I don’t have the right kind of way of selecting another option.

So I think it comes down to exactly what is the right kind of way and why.

Stephen

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Posted: 02 January 2011 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Also, if you don’t want to be an atheist, make up your own religion or set of metaphysical beliefs if it will make you happy - you don’t have to wear borrowed clothes to keep warm.

Heh, I’m sure I have my own beliefs that fit the mold, though I’m not aware of them.
My point, though, is that I can’t make myself believe, I have to be convinced. 
I wouldn’t be able to make myself believe in a religion,even one I made up.

Very simply, I do not choose to be an atheist… I just am.

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Posted: 02 January 2011 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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ShadowSot - 02 January 2011 07:37 AM

Also, if you don’t want to be an atheist, make up your own religion or set of metaphysical beliefs if it will make you happy - you don’t have to wear borrowed clothes to keep warm.

Heh, I’m sure I have my own beliefs that fit the mold, though I’m not aware of them.
My point, though, is that I can’t make myself believe, I have to be convinced. 
I wouldn’t be able to make myself believe in a religion,even one I made up.

Very simply, I do not choose to be an atheist… I just am.

The only thing I’m sure of is that it isn’t simple ShadowSot.

What do you mean by make yourself believe?

Can my daughter make herself like sprouts? If not does that mean she doesn’t choose carrots over sprouts and why?

Or if so what has it got to do with choice in any case?

Stephen

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Posted: 02 January 2011 02:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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The only thing I’m sure of is that it isn’t simple ShadowSot.

I think you’re making it complicated.

What do you mean by make yourself believe?

I mean convincing myself of something that runs contrary to my own experiences and understanding, based off of no evidence.

Can my daughter make herself like sprouts? If not does that mean she doesn’t choose carrots over sprouts and why?


Y’know what you like to eat is dependent on your taste buds, how they detect taste coupled with the food you’ve been exposed to in life. Somethings develop in to an acquired taste, others you just may never will like.
We do choose whether or not eat foods we like, but we are already inclined not to eat them.

Myself, I have tried to make myself believe in religion. I managed to digest some of it, but never liked the taste. Given the option I left it behind as soon as I could. Not by choice… just couldn’t keep up the mental effort to force myself to believe.

Or if so what has it got to do with choice in any case?

 

I have seen it often asked, and had it asked of myself, why atheists choose not to believe in God.

I’m stating I don’t choose, I find religion innately unsatisfying.

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Posted: 02 January 2011 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I do apologise , Shadowsot. I did something that I find irritating when other people do it - responding to some perceieved emotional ‘tone’ in your first post. The title of your post read like a reluctant stance. The rest of the post served ( to me) to back up that initial inaccurate perception.

If you just meant ” I’m an atheist because that make sense to me”, I would not have responded as I did. I’m glad if discovering the man behind the curtain has been a liberation for you.

Nobody in real life has asked me why I am an atheist ( in my cultural surrounds that would be considered an extremely rude, over-personal and invasive question!) but if they did, I’d simply respond that the reason I am an atheist is for the same reason I believe in gravity.

But I think you may be in error in this: that there is no ‘choice’ involved in religious belief or non-belief. People make irrational or self-serving choices all the time, even ones that hurt them, and will find a way to rationalize those choices to themselves and others.

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Posted: 02 January 2011 04:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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pelagic - 02 January 2011 03:39 PM

But I think you may be in error in this: that there is no ‘choice’ involved in religious belief or non-belief. People make irrational or self-serving choices all the time, even ones that hurt them, and will find a way to rationalize those choices to themselves and others.

The difficulty I have about “choice” (I’m suspecting ShadowSot shares this) can be illustrated with the following example:

Consider the following options. For convenience, let’s rule out any other options or labeling this a false dilemma.

The apparent movement of the Sun throughout a given day is best described by:

A: Kepler, Newtonian, Einsteinian theories

B: A secret message only described by dolphins

C: The last fortune you read out of a fortune cookie

My question is, do you have the ability to firmly convince yourself that options B or C are true with the same conviction that you might have with option A?

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Posted: 02 January 2011 04:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Kaizen - 02 January 2011 04:32 PM
pelagic - 02 January 2011 03:39 PM

But I think you may be in error in this: that there is no ‘choice’ involved in religious belief or non-belief. People make irrational or self-serving choices all the time, even ones that hurt them, and will find a way to rationalize those choices to themselves and others.

The difficulty I have about “choice” (I’m suspecting ShadowSot shares this) can be illustrated with the following example:

Consider the following options. For convenience, let’s rule out any other options or labeling this a false dilemma.

The apparent movement of the Sun throughout a given day is best described by:

A: Kepler, Newtonian, Einsteinian theories

B: A secret message only described by dolphins

C: The last fortune you read out of a fortune cookie

My question is, do you have the ability to firmly convince yourself that options B or C are true with the same conviction that you might have with option A?


I assume you meant the ‘impersonal you’? LOL  And I’m sorry, but I’m quite sure you could find many people that would choose B and C. No, seriously. The reason is that people tend to make choices based on their subjective needs, not on empiracal data. They also tend to make choices based on the information available to them and which they have been told is true. If this were not the case, how could one classify bible literalists?  People were not less intelligent 500 years ago yet they believed things people today would find incredible. It would be wrong to mock the people back then as they could only work on what they thought of as ‘truths’. I’m sure 500 years from now ( should our species last that long) people will look back on what was commonly believed to be ‘the truth’ today and laugh at our ignorance.

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Posted: 02 January 2011 05:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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pelagic - 02 January 2011 04:46 PM
Kaizen - 02 January 2011 04:32 PM
pelagic - 02 January 2011 03:39 PM

But I think you may be in error in this: that there is no ‘choice’ involved in religious belief or non-belief. People make irrational or self-serving choices all the time, even ones that hurt them, and will find a way to rationalize those choices to themselves and others.

The difficulty I have about “choice” (I’m suspecting ShadowSot shares this) can be illustrated with the following example:

Consider the following options. For convenience, let’s rule out any other options or labeling this a false dilemma.

The apparent movement of the Sun throughout a given day is best described by:

A: Kepler, Newtonian, Einsteinian theories

B: A secret message only described by dolphins

C: The last fortune you read out of a fortune cookie

My question is, do you have the ability to firmly convince yourself that options B or C are true with the same conviction that you might have with option A?


I assume you meant the ‘impersonal you’? LOL  And I’m sorry, but I’m quite sure you could find many people that would choose B and C. No, seriously. The reason is that people tend to make choices based on their subjective needs, not on empiracal data. They also tend to make choices based on the information available to them and which they have been told is true. If this were not the case, how could one classify bible literalists?  People were not less intelligent 500 years ago yet they believed things people today would find incredible. It would be wrong to mock the people back then as they could only work on what they thought of as ‘truths’. I’m sure 500 years from now ( should our species last that long) people will look back on what was commonly believed to be ‘the truth’ today and laugh at our ignorance.

The question wasn’t about whether we could find someone that might actually accept B or C. This question was posed specifically to those who are educated enough that they already presume A to be the best answer. So, can YOU specifically make yourself choose to believe B or C over A with the same degree of conviction that you currently hold for A?

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Posted: 02 January 2011 07:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Kaizen - 02 January 2011 05:55 PM

The question wasn’t about whether we could find someone that might actually accept B or C. This question was posed specifically to those who are educated enough that they already presume A to be the best answer. So, can YOU specifically make yourself choose to believe B or C over A with the same degree of conviction that you currently hold for A?

You can’t eliminate all the possible choices then ask what choice a person could make! Well, you did. But here’s the thing - my answer still stands. Humans will make a choice dependent on whether it suits their needs *even* if they have the information that a choice they make may not be ‘right’ or ‘rational’.

Inspite of all evidence to the contrary, how many people think skin-colour and intelligence are some how related?

Inspite of all eveidence to the contrary, how many people still think a person * they* love still loves them ( when the other person has ceased to care for them)? Even really, really educated people?

Despite all evidence to the contrary, how many people will believe bibical stories?

A friend and I once came up with wonderful justifications to back up the hypothosis that that cows were the most intelligent creatures on earth and at the top of the food chain. Do I believe it? Not really, but I can make a case for it others might believe. LOL

A person *can* make themselves believe whatever they want to , *even* if they know what they believe may not be true. Humans are not 100% rational as I’m sure you already know.

[ Edited: 02 January 2011 08:07 PM by pelagic ]
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Posted: 02 January 2011 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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pelagic - 02 January 2011 07:55 PM

You can’t eliminate all the possible choices then ask what choice a person could make! Well, you did. But here’s the thing - my answer still stands. Humans will make a choice dependent on whether it suits their needs *even* if they have the information that a choice they make may not be ‘right’ or ‘rational’.

Inspite of all evidence to the contrary, how many people think skin-colour and intelligence are some how related?

Inspite of all eveidence to the contrary, how many people still think a person * they* love still loves them ( when the other person has ceased to care for them)? Even really, really educated people?

Despite all evidence to the contrary, how many people will believe bibical stories?

A friend and I once came up with wonderful justifications to back up the hypothosis that that cows were the most intelligent creatures on earth and at the top of the food chain. Do I believe it? Not really, but I can make a case for it others might believe. LOL

Just because we can find people who believe in weird things, doesn’t mean that my point doesn’t stand and because of this, I think you’re missing my point. The point of the question was to show that we don’t appear to have a choice. We, as a result of whatever justification, are inclined to go with “A” and I thinking you’re avoiding that.

If it’s true that we can choose to believe between a number of alternatives, then it would follow that you would have the ability to sincerely convince yourself of options B or C to the degree that you are currently confident of option A. I don’t think you have that choice. Another way of phrasing this is illustrated by the following question: “Do you have a choice to believe whether or not you’re reading this question?”

Also, if you do indeed have a choice, what does it matter if you have 3 or 100 different choices? You could simply convince yourself of whatever’s available. Unless you’re saying you can’t choose between just the 3 options. Can you?

A person *can* make themselves believe whatever they want to , *even* if they know what they believe may not be true. Humans are not 100% rational as I’m sure you already know.

I think you’re equivocating with the word “believe” here. Could you define how you’re using the word?

[ Edited: 02 January 2011 09:16 PM by Kaizen ]
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Posted: 02 January 2011 09:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Kaizen - 02 January 2011 09:02 PM
pelagic - 02 January 2011 07:55 PM

You can’t eliminate all the possible choices then ask what choice a person could make! Well, you did. But here’s the thing - my answer still stands. Humans will make a choice dependent on whether it suits their needs *even* if they have the information that a choice they make may not be ‘right’ or ‘rational’.

Inspite of all evidence to the contrary, how many people think skin-colour and intelligence are some how related?

Inspite of all eveidence to the contrary, how many people still think a person * they* love still loves them ( when the other person has ceased to care for them)? Even really, really educated people?

Despite all evidence to the contrary, how many people will believe bibical stories?

A friend and I once came up with wonderful justifications to back up the hypothosis that that cows were the most intelligent creatures on earth and at the top of the food chain. Do I believe it? Not really, but I can make a case for it others might believe. LOL

Just because we can find people who believe in weird things, doesn’t mean that my point doesn’t stand and because of this, I think you’re missing my point. The point of the question was to show that we don’t appear to have a choice. We, as a result of whatever justification, are inclined to go with “A” and I thinking you’re avoiding that.

The fact that you can find *millions* of people that believe weird things actually proves my point . I’m hardly missing the point. Or are you positing a case for an ‘n’ of one?

Kaizen - 02 January 2011 09:02 PM

If it’s true that we can choose to believe between a number of alternatives, then it would follow that you would have the ability to sincerely convince yourself of options B or C to the degree that you are currently confident of option A. I don’t think you have that choice. Another way of phrasing this is illustrated by the following question: “Do you have a choice to believe whether or not you’re reading this question?”

So, are you suggesting that people simply *don’t* have a say in which choice they make? Why is that? Could you give an example?

Kaizen - 02 January 2011 09:02 PM

Also, if you do indeed have a choice, what does it matter if you have 3 or 100 different choices? You could simply convince yourself of whatever’s available. Unless you’re saying you can’t choose between just the 3 options. Can you?

You just contradicted yourself.

And no, I don’t equivicate. Unless I’ve made the choice to LOL . I am using the word ‘believe’ in it’s common venacular case.

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