DO ATHEISTS EXIST?: They Sure Do!

Logic_by_EdibleVegetableDo atheists exist?

Despite over 2% of the American population self-identifying as atheists, I guess some theists still try to pretend we don’t exist.

At least, that’s what one blog post and another ‘scientific’ article take a weak shot at trying to do. Here’s what I’m talking about:

This article begins by stating, “While militant atheists like Richard Dawkins may be convinced God doesn’t exist, God, if he is around, may be amused to find that atheists might not exist.” And it goes on to tell us, “Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.”

While Vittachi concedes that “this idea may seem outlandish,” he explains that what we believe is not something we decide on our own, but lies somewhere in our “much deeper levels of consciousness.”  He asserts that scientists claim “we are born believers … pattern seekers from birth, with a belief in karma, or cosmic justice, as our default setting.”

First off, you’re assuming that pattern seeking, karma or cosmic justice is the same as God belief. To be an atheist, you merely have to lack belief in God. That has nothing whatsoever to do with karma etc.

Second, even if we took this claim at face value and conceded that we’re born with the default setting of ‘God’, that in no way means you’re right about its existence. Hell, even if you were sure that God exists, you have no real way to distinguish which God is the correct one.

Vittachi continues by presenting evidence involving “invisible friends” – some person or persons with whom we all hold internal conversations – whether these are divine beings, spouses, near relatives or whatever.

There’s a huge difference between self-talk and believing your talking to a supreme, invisible being in the sky. Just because people talk out loud or in their heads doesn’t mean they believe in God. In fact, I’ve even talked to atheists who say they pray because it helps them sort through their thoughts, yet they don’t believe in God and they said they believed their prayers went nowhere.

But again, those things – spouses, relatives or whatever – with the exception of a divine being, doesn’t mean that someone isn’t an atheist. I could talk all day to my dead grandmother and that doesn’t mean I’m not an atheist.

Surprise! I still don’t believe your God claims or any other ones, either.

He relates how in social science studies, even those who claim to be atheist or agnostic, claim belief in some higher power.  Though he comes up with some attempts at evolutionary explanations we are still left with huge percentages of humankind who have some sense of purpose in the universe – even those who claim no religious affiliation.  He speaks of “the notion” of “an invisible moralistic presence” which motivates “religious folk.”

That’s because ‘higher power’ is a nebulous term that could mean almost anything. I could say I believe the universe as a whole is a ‘higher power’. Maybe I think black holes are a higher power. A ‘higher power’ doesn’t default to God.

Just because I’m an atheist, doesn’t mean I think my life or the universe is purposeless. It doesn’t take a magical being outside the realms of reality to make my life or the universe meaningful.

What the hell is an ‘invisible moralistic presence’ and which God is responsible for such a thing? I bet almost every religion claims their God handed down their moral strictures. What makes your God and your claims more credible? And even if (for arguments sake) I believed there was this invisible moralistic presence of which you speak, why would I jump to the conclusion that it was a supernatural entity and not a natural phenomenon?

One interesting argument he gives is that from literature.  There seems to be a “manifestation of cosmic justice in fictional narratives – books, movies and games.”  We’re told that “in almost all fictional worlds, God exists” – no matter what the “beliefs” of the authors.  “In children’s stories … the good guys win, the bad guys lose.”  The same goes for most adult stories.

So what!?

So if I write a fantasy novel that includes Gods, I’m no longer an atheist? Is someone going to drive by and yank my atheist card?

I could write all kinds of fiction that includes Gods, good vs. evil etc. and that wouldn’t mean I believe in God(s).

Atheists can appreciate those kinds of stories just like a theist. Should atheist children stories have bad guys that always slaughter the good guys?

I don’t get this argument. It sounds silly to me.

It would appear then that rather than to seek an explanation for belief in God as many professing atheists demand, we need to answer the question “where does atheism fit in?”

The article continues with much the same argument with similar data and concludes “…it might be wise for religious folks to refrain from teasing atheist friends who accidentally say something about their souls.  And it might be equally smart for the more militant of today’s atheists to stop teasing religious people at all.

Atheism fits in…all around you. We fit into the same places you fit in, you just might not know we’re there.

I don’t mind when religious people ‘tease’ me because I don’t usually get offended by teasing. Besides, if it comes to a debate, I have no problem defending my position. I don’t want to be one of those people that cry offense every time someone says something I don’t agree with or don’t like.

I also like deeper discussions like the ones typically spawned by talking politics or religion. I find them far more stimulating than talking about the weather.

As I implied earlier, these conclusions come close to, and even verify the biblical assertion that everyone is religious in some way or another, or at least has religious predispositions.

No…I beg to differ. They don’t come close to showing anything. At best, they show we’re predisposed to superstition. That in no way means belief in God. It certainly doesn’t mean atheists don’t exist. And it damn sure doesn’t make me religious.

By the way, I hope you look deeper than sites like All Gods People.com. I mean, they might have a vested interest in making it look like atheists don’t exist. I also read through your scientific article, and noticed two things.

  1. Despite making the bold claim that ‘scientists discover that atheists might not exist’, the article doesn’t provide links to these studies or any citations.
  2. The ‘science writer’ that wrote the article doesn’t seem to be an actual scientist or even have much to do with science. At most, he could be described as a science enthusiast.

Look, atheists exist. Just because we might self-talk, use religious language (bless you) while speaking, feel connected to the people, world and universe around us or like the same sorts of stories theists do, that in NO WAY makes us religious or means we believe in God.

We exist just like you do.

Speaking for myself, I won’t stop talking, writing about or examining religious claims or claims made by anyone else.

So you and every other theist might as well get over it and come to grips with the fact that atheists very much do exist.

 

Advertisements

45 Comments

  1. I had a chance to read his post, and I agree with you. The lack of reference to the article he mentions makes me suspicious of the source. There is no reason to suppose, nor any evidence to substantiate, that faith is an innate concept. Faith requires abstract thought at some level, and children do not start developing and honing these faculties until they are in late tweens / early teens – typically.

  2. Well said, but no discussion of the existence of atheists need be any more complex than:
    Please prove atheists don’t exist. Exhibit evidence for the nonexistence of atheists.
    When proof of existence is demanded, produce your paper napkin bearing the phrase “Atheists exist”, which is witnessed by the signatures of two (preferably long dead) complete strangers that no one has ever seen.

  3. Really. No one can prove or disprove god\ because \no evidence in either direction exists that is not entirely circumstantial. And if doubting the existence of god is the criteria for atheism, then pretty much everyone I know fits the definition.

    If you start counting believers vs. non-believers from your comments, you could call it as a study, then reference yourself. That’s the scientific method at its finest.

  4. I agree with you major points. Inclinations toward superstitions (my recent posts) or our cognitive dualism illusion (seem mind and body as separate – spooks and stuff) certainly do make it easy for the next step — god packaging, but does not necessitate it.
    I wrote a post about “Our Inner Theist” that even complicates the matter further — but it is at a level that few folks care.
    Indeed the recent stink about a study about kids raised religious being less able to tell fact from fiction was done by folks trying to disprove the “Born Religious” research. Both groups of studies were done poorly, however. We should stop focusing on the word “religion” and “atheist” and just focus on the various aspects of the mind — keep it scientific. Otherwise, this is all political wrestling.

        • Well, we aren’t really aren’t really sure we disagree on that.
          Like I said, I am fine with those words and use them all the time.
          I identify as an atheist too.
          However, when people are arguing definitions, usually the problem needs to be explored at another level — as my comment alludes to. So, for example, in this case, it is important to come to agreement or disagreement as to issue like the following with my answers in brackets:
          (a) Are humans born with the illusion of cognitive dualism [yes]
          (b) Are humans born with the illusion of essentialism [yes]
          (c) Can praying to the unknown in your head affect you [yes]
          (d) Is a huge part of religion, social bonding [yes]
          Then you have: Are cognitive dualism, social bonding, self-talk and essentialism a big part of religion? [yes].
          So, it seems huge factors that build religions are in-built. Right?
          After admitting that, we just have to discuss if we are inclined to packing that as a “God”? Now, THAT is a more interesting question.

          So hopefully that shows you how a more analytic, reductionist approach maybe more useful for:
          (a) bridging dialogue between highly different groups rather that just flying banners in endless unproductive conversations or yelling in echo-chambers.
          (b) actually building our knowledge about how phenomena (in this case, Mind) work.

          Wow, that was verbose, eh?
          So, do you still think you disagree?

  5. Long as the religious idiots are prevented from indoctrinating kids, then I pretty much don’t mind what they believe.

    The evidence suggests that more socially developed countries/ people are moving away from religion at a fair rare of knots.

    So it’s all good. Long as we keep a wary eye on certain folk applying for pilot’s licences and other religiously motivated anti-social behaviour

    Oh, and don’t mind Sabio. He enjoys agreeing with people in a disagreeable way until you agree with him. If you don’t he will allude to some sort of mental or logic deficiency on your part and bugger off – which is not necessarily the worst option.
    He’s like this all over blogville.

    • Ark’s reflexive pugilistic slander is so predictable – yawn.

      He just got scolded on Nate’s site for this sort of talk, so he is a bit sensitive this weekend, I’m sure. Nate even put up a comment policy this weekend to contain his sort of comments.]

      100% of my religious friends are not idiots at all — they are great people and most of them much brighter than myself (not a hard feet). So I find speaking in such general terms is not only unproductive, but outright wrong.

      How about you, Cranium, do you have smart, wonderful Christian friends? How about any atheists you’d rather keep your distance from?

      • Ark’s reflexive pugilistic slander is so predictable – yawn.

        Lol, Sabio. You still smarting because John banned you from his blog?

        This time your comments weren’t quite as asinine as usual so I kept my gloves on for my ‘pugilistic’ riposte.
        However, if you play true to form, it shouldn’t be that long before you post a comment on GC’s blog that will have me taking off my gloves and coming out bare knuckle. You do have a penchant for such truculent behaviour, not so?
        As Terry Pratchett is wont to say: A leopard doesn’t change his shorts.

        100% of my religious friends are not idiots at all — they are great people and most of them much brighter than myself (not a hard feet)

        So, what percentage are, in fact, idiots?
        By the way, There are creams for hard feet. Inquire at your local pharmacy.

      • I do have smart, wonderful Christian friends. There are also atheists I’d probably keep my distance from in real life.

        However, everyone is welcome on my blog, as are their points of view, unless they start swearing etc. They’re more than welcome to disagree with each other or with me.

        Thank you both for your comments. 🙂

  6. This attempt to prove “religious predisposition” is unbelievably childish. If you pretend something isn’t there, it doesn’t make it go away. You can’t just wish away the viewpoints of others with half assed aphorisms. “Where does atheism fit in?” Neither philosophy nor morality are puzzles that are fitted together.

    Do atheists exist? The question may be silly and immature, but the answer seems to me to have a very dark side to it. An attempt to eliminate atheists and agnostics scientifically, from a distance, en masse, by eliminating their ability to form their own ideas sounds to me like a desperate cry from the past. Disbelievers can no longer be burned, but perhaps the frightening, antisocial ideas they hold can be burned.

    • I agree. In this case, I don’t think they have a sinister agenda. I’ve talked to that blogger before and he seems genuinely curious.

      However, I think your point valid. I think it smacks of desperation. They can’t seem to cope with our arguments, so they must attempt to dismiss atheists en masse, as you put it.

      I would think it would be more courageous to actually address the arguments atheists put forth, rather than try to pretend we don’t exist.

      Thank you very much for your comment. 🙂

      • I’m curious. What arguments do atheists put forth that I as a religious person would need to address? I’ve always been under the impression that the only thing atheists have in common is a lack of a belief in a god. As not having a belief is just as valid as having a belief, I’m not sure what needs to be addressed apart from outlandish claims and counterclaims from those who hold extreme views from either side.

        • Good questions Barry. Here’s my answers.

          “I’ve always been under the impression that the only thing atheists have in common is a lack of a belief in a god.”

          Yes.

          “As not having a belief is just as valid as having a belief”

          Do you really think that belief in an five headed elephant deity or a resurrecting carpenter are just as likely as those things being mythologized or not happening at all?

          “What arguments do atheists put forth that I as a religious person would need to address?”

          There are plenty of books, websites, debates that address this question. Obviously they exist.

          • I’m not sure if I understand your question regarding a five headed elephant or resurrecting carpenter. I don’t have a problem with persons or events being mythologised. Such stories often convey a message better than other forms of storytelling. I am comfortable retelling stories from any mythology if delivers the message I want to convey, and if that includes a five headed elephant or a resurrecting carpenter, so be it.

            As far as discussion, websites and debates are concerned, I have obviously been looking in the wrong place. I’ve found plenty of atheist sites that claim the purpose of religion is to gain blind obedience of the masses, or claim that religious texts are deliberate lies and go on to “prove” it by carefully comparing inconsistencies. Their hatred of anything religious is comparable to many so called religious sites that spew hatred at anyone that believes differently.

            I think many atheists are convinced anyone who is religious, has a blind and unswerving faith in a dogma even if it contradicts evidence. They also expect the religious to be irrational and to worship a being/deity – I’ve often been told I have a “sky daddy” even though I have never claimed a belief in a deity. I have found it impossible to discuss the possibility that religion does not require dogma or that a religious person does not have to think that their own religion is the only correct one. I have stated that I believe the bible was not written by God, only to be told I’m a liar because if I don’t believe the bible is full of lies, then I must interpret it literally and apparently the bible says it was written by God. My options seem to be either interpret it literally or as a complete pack of lies.

            I’d really like to find some place where I can have a meaningful discussion with those who hold different views within experiencing hostility.

              • Wow. I started a conversation.

                I would like to respond to two of the responses, if I could.

                1. “In this case, I don’t think they have a sinister agenda. I’ve talked to that blogger before and he seems genuinely curious.” I love the term sinister agenda. It’s so directly threatening. Fortunately, I do not feel threatened by any sinister agenda, because I did not intend to imply that there was a sinister agenda. I realize, upon rereading my comment, that it does sound a bit melodramatic. That’s what I get for typing at two in the morning. I highly doubt that the author of this ‘scientific article’ truly wishes to burn disbelievers or even their ideas. This doesn’t sound like a deliberate attempt at ideological arson with a sinister agenda. Instead it sounds more like a kid playing with matches and lighter fluid. Those matches aren’t really any danger to my ideas. They are a danger to his own. This isn’t an attempt to destroy disbelief, even if it appears that way. To turn everyone in the world into believers at a core, subconscious, spiritual level is to say that belief can not be questioned. This leads to number

                2. Barry, you asked, “What arguments do atheists put forth that I as a religious person would need to address?”

                I have a different answer than Mr. Cranium. If his answers had been darts, then he would have hit the board, but it wasn’t a bullseye. What arguments do you need to address? None. The word ‘need’ does not belong in that question. You do not have to address, debate or even seriously consider the ideas or arguments of either Cranium’s atheism or my agnosticism. The important thing is that you can not pretend that our viewpoints do not exist. The attempt to destroy dissent is wrong. You do not have to accept my views or even hear them. But do not accept the argument of any ‘ingrained metaphysical outlook’. That is a philosophical inoculation. It IS possible to question or even reject a belief in God or an orderly universe. Masking an idea does not protect anyone from it.

                • Matthew, I was responding to Mr Cranium’s “I would think it would be more courageous to actually address the arguments atheists put forth, rather than try to pretend we don’t exist” which is why I asked which specific arguments should be addressed.

                  No where have I implied that your viewpoints don’t exist, nor would I want to destroy dissent. Quite the opposite in fact. Your viewpoints are valid, and I see no reason why you should have to change them.

                  I do accept your views and am more than willing to hear them. I’m not sure why you would think otherwise. While your views don’t sit with my personal experience, that doesn’t make them any less valid for you.

                  I have no idea what you mean by ‘ingrained metaphysical outlook’.

                  I agree it is possible to question or even reject a belief in God or an orderly universe. Again, I’m not sure why it was necessary to state it. How can there be discovery without enquiry? Was there something I wrote that suggested the opposite?

                  I am not sure how to interpret “Masking an idea does not protect anyone from it”. What do you mean by masking, and how can it protect anyone from an idea?

                  I’ll put it quite plainly: I don’t want to change your beliefs. Your belief is right for you just as mine is right for me. I am not closed to new information that may cause me to change my beliefs. That is why I am willing to enter into dialogue.

                  • I understood what you were responding to. If you’re concerned that I might have taken offense, don’t worry, I didn’t. If, on the other hand, I have offended you, I do apologize if it’s warranted.

                    You certainly have not implied or stated that anyone’s viewpoints do not exist. I doubt very highly that you’ve even thought that. But the scientific article and blog that are referred in the post above, they do. ‘Ingrained metaphysical outlook’ comes from a quote above. It reads “Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.” That’s what I was referring to. Your comment was response to Cranium’s response to my comment which was a response to the blog post, and I was only clarifying my original statement in light of those responses. (I had to reread that last sentence to make sure I’d gotten it right. I hope it’s clear enough.) Nothing in your comment led to me to believe that you agree with the sentiments that Cranium is arguing against in his response to the articles (Incidentally, Cranium, since I assume you’ll read this as well, is it all right to call you Cranium? It sounds better than Godless.). I certainly didn’t intend to imply that you indulge the ‘masking of ideas’, but there are others who do. That was the subject of the post. That original idea, that the concept of disbelief might not truly exist, is the light in the room, if you will. I guess I don’t look good in this light.

                    So, without humor, irony or any more clunky metaphors, let me assure you that my response carried no accusation towards you. If there was any accusation, it was leveled at whoever first wrote the words, “atheists might not exist.” Those are actual words from a quote in the post above.

                    Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s