What's an Atheist? Catch-All

DSGamer wrote:

Here's a serious question, though. What would everyone consider someone who takes ideas from Buddhism or even say Christianity or Judaism and completely discards the metaphysical aspect?

A good learner.

Rezzy wrote:
LarryC wrote:

It seemed fairly definitively answered to me: it seemed as if if the Buddhist in question did not worship Buddha, then he was not a theist, right?

Belief and worship are not the same thing. Living in a non scientific frame of view does not, IMO, define theistic practice.

The question isn't one of simple worship. Worship does not define a theist. Belief in a god or gods does. So the question is: Does the Buddhist believe that Buddha is a god or, depending on perspective, do the powers and abilities ascribed to Buddha by this Buddhist qualify that characterization as a god, thus Theistic. Also possible is that this Buddhist chooses to revere Buddha, a simple man, while believing in, but not revering, the gods of other religions, Theistic by belief but not in practice.

Questions that can't be answered definitively without interrogating the individual. That's my point. We can assume about the group in general, but we cannot know without asking.

I rather think that the question of worship is more important in practice, though it may not seem to, linguistically or philosophically.

There are people who effectively worship money, the government, or other men and women. They act in ways that are consistent with a worship-centric lifestyle and world view.

I confess that I don't really see the significance of defining according to the perceived nature of other people's supposed shortcomings and inferiorities. I mean, yes it makes "Us" feel better by attacking "Them," but I'm a little short on understanding the basics of that to begin with.

LarryC wrote:

There are people who effectively worship money, the government, or other men and women. They act in ways that are consistent with a worship-centric lifestyle and world view.

You are correct, but this observation is exactly why we can't use the act of worship as a metric. Worship isn't confined to the concept of a god or gods... Theism and Atheism are.

Now if we want to make 'something or someone that is worshipped' the key criteria to defining a god then I'm with you, but I think you'll find a lot of people unhappy with that because... I'm not going to lie... That definition makes my penis a God. No one wants that.

LarryC wrote:

I confess that I don't really see the significance of defining according to the perceived nature of other people's supposed shortcomings and inferiorities.

... Leave my God out of this!

I tend to find that language is a tool. It is a tool that can be used to achieve some goal. Usually conveying understanding to the recipient of my communication.

I tend to think that trying to pin down exactly what an Atheist or theist is may be interesting to language scholars but what I want to know is, what is the point? Is it in trying to understand the various possible positions by listing them out?

It would be much better just to do that with convenient names and provided definitions. If you are trying to tease out peoples positions present them with alternatives and ask if they describe them.

Otherwise I might be missing what is going in in this thread.

Rezzy wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

Here's a serious question, though. What would everyone consider someone who takes ideas from Buddhism or even say Christianity or Judaism and completely discards the metaphysical aspect?

A good learner.

Yeah, that's part of why I was having a hard time calling the Unitarian Universalists and officially theist organization.
Thanks for picking up my argument, btw. I couldn't have made it better myself.

Cheeze: By the definitions of theist and atheist I'm familiar with, there is no "neither." Theist = a person who believes in at least one god/diety (with the definition of god/diety being defined by them). Atheist = does not believe in any god/diety (with the definition of god/diety being defined by them as well). A person who thinks we were brought to earth by an advanced alien race but that they were merely more advanced = atheist. A person who thinks the same thing, but worships the aliens as gods/dieties = theist. A person who hasn't considered the question of "is there a god?" cannot believe in a god, so they're an atheist as well. I don't mean people just haven't really thought about it either. A kid who believes in god because their parents told them he exists still believes in him, it's just a very weak belief.
You're asking "What's an atheist?" and I'm just telling you what I consider the answer to be.
I think my use of "dogma" is not that unusual. While it's true that his statement was not "not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from" it meets the "they can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, or issued decisions of political authorities" part of the Wikipedia definition and the Merriam-Webster definition. Sure it's not a strong or inviolate as Catholic dogma is supposed to be, but it's still dogma.

Stengah wrote:

Cheeze: By the definitions of theist and atheist I'm familiar with, there is no "neither." Theist = a person who believes in at least one god/diety (with the definition of god/diety being defined by them). Atheist = does not believe in any god/diety (with the definition of god/diety being defined by them as well). A person who thinks we were brought to earth by an advanced alien race but that they were merely more advanced = atheist. A person who thinks the same thing, but worships the aliens as gods/dieties = theist..

This is an interesting point, but a person that believes we were brought to earth by an advanced alien race (and created by that race), then in theory, they are our gods (creator) so I would argue that they are also theists. They might not use the word god, but they believe in a higher power and a creator. They just don't use the word "god" to describe them. In theory God is an all powerful alien (a Q if you will) that created man kind. I don't even think theists can dispute that, though they might not like the term alien.

Kier wrote:

Otherwise I might be missing what is going in in this thread.

Apparently there is some wonder over Atheists getting a bit annoyed when the term Atheist is used to describe a small subset of wingnuts.
Example:
Christians protested at a soldier's funeral this morning.
vs
The Westboro Baptist Church protested at a soldier's funeral this morning.

This thread is the search for a way to say 'crazy person' without saying 'Atheist,' with a few detours.

Rezzy wrote:
Kier wrote:

Otherwise I might be missing what is going in in this thread.

Apparently there is some wonder over Atheists getting a bit annoyed when the term Atheist is used to describe a small subset of wingnuts.
Example:
Christians protested at a soldier's funeral this morning.
vs
The Westboro Baptist Church protested at a soldier's funeral this morning.

This thread is the search for a way to say 'crazy person' without saying 'Atheist,' with a few detours.

Interesting thought, but hasn't the word "sane" been used repeatedly as a alternative to atheist in this thread, ergo equating theists with "crazy people"?

Nomad wrote:

Interesting thought, but hasn't the word "sane" been used repeatedly as a alternative to atheist in this thread, ergo equating theists with "crazy people"?

Yes, and that's the problem with this process. The terms Theist and Atheist make absolutely no statement of judgement on quality of character or mind... yet we are predisposed to imply that they do.
Why do we report that "Atheists burned a church in Oslo" when really we mean "Criminals burned a church in Oslo?"

Stengah wrote:

Cheeze: By the definitions of theist and atheist I'm familiar with, there is no "neither." Theist = a person who believes in at least one god/diety (with the definition of god/deity being defined by them). Atheist = does not believe in any god/deity (with the definition of god/deity being defined by them as well). A person who thinks we were brought to earth by an advanced alien race but that they were merely more advanced = atheist. A person who thinks the same thing, but worships the aliens as gods/deities = theist. A person who hasn't considered the question of "is there a god?" cannot believe in a god, so they're an atheist as well. I don't mean people just haven't really thought about it either. A kid who believes in god because their parents told them he exists still believes in him, it's just a very weak belief.
You're asking "What's an atheist?" and I'm just telling you what I consider the answer to be.

Okay, but I don't think it's just me who's going to have an issue with where someone who worships a transcendent spirit they refuse to define as a god/deity which they believe works by way of miracles and not merely by way of being more advanced falls under your definitions.

I think my use of "dogma" is not that unusual. While it's true that his statement was not "not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from" it meets the "they can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, or issued decisions of political authorities" part of the Wikipedia definition and the Merriam-Webster definition. Sure it's not a strong or inviolate as Catholic dogma is supposed to be, but it's still dogma.

It doesn't. "acceptable opinions" doesn't mean "I accept them, therefore they are my dogma." It means acceptable in the sense of being orthodox, of being free from error according to authority.

Otherwise anytime someone agrees with another person, that's dogma. One atheist agrees with another atheist philosopher about the problem of evil, that's dogma.

kazar wrote:
Stengah wrote:

Cheeze: By the definitions of theist and atheist I'm familiar with, there is no "neither." Theist = a person who believes in at least one god/diety (with the definition of god/diety being defined by them). Atheist = does not believe in any god/diety (with the definition of god/diety being defined by them as well). A person who thinks we were brought to earth by an advanced alien race but that they were merely more advanced = atheist. A person who thinks the same thing, but worships the aliens as gods/dieties = theist..

This is an interesting point, but a person that believes we were brought to earth by an advanced alien race (and created by that race), then in theory, they are our gods (creator) so I would argue that they are also theists. They might not use the word god, but they believe in a higher power and a creator. They just don't use the word "god" to describe them. In theory God is an all powerful alien (a Q if you will) that created man kind. I don't even think theists can dispute that, though they might not like the term alien.

I disagree. I mean, a creator does not need to be a god the same way a higher power doesn't need to be a god. That's why I left the definition up to the person. If we ever create an AI, I wouldn't consider us to be it's god (even though it's reasonable that others might).

CheezePavilion wrote:

It doesn't. "acceptable opinions" doesn't mean "I accept them, therefore they are my dogma." It means acceptable in the sense of being orthodox, of being free from error according to authority.

It's still dogma because he claims (witch such conviction) that it is impossible to look at the universe and not see overwhelming evidence of a creator. It's a belief which he doesn't think is open to debate. It's fine if you don't want to hold it to the same standards as other religious dogma (because you're right that it doesn't compare) but it still meets the definition.

Okay, but I don't think it's just me who's going to have an issue with where someone who worships a transcendent spirit they refuse to define as a god/deity which they believe works by way of miracles and not merely by way of being more advanced falls under your definitions.

I'm okay with you not liking my definition. I likewise have an issue with calling someone who doesn't believe that gods exists a theist. They can still be religious, sure, but not theist.

Stengah wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

It doesn't. "acceptable opinions" doesn't mean "I accept them, therefore they are my dogma." It means acceptable in the sense of being orthodox, of being free from error according to authority.

It's still dogma because he claims (witch such conviction) that it is impossible to look at the universe and not see overwhelming evidence of a creator. It's a belief which he doesn't think is open to debate. It's fine if you don't want to hold it to the same standards as other religious dogma (because you're right that it doesn't compare) but it still meets the definition.

We've been over this point before.

Okay, but I don't think it's just me who's going to have an issue with where someone who worships a transcendent spirit they refuse to define as a god/deity which they believe works by way of miracles and not merely by way of being more advanced falls under your definitions.

I'm okay with you not liking my definition. I likewise have an issue with calling someone who doesn't believe that gods exists a theist. They can still be religious, sure, but not theist.

So does that mean everyone is either religious or atheist? You say a higher power doesn't need to be a god--well, then what makes it a *higher* power?

CheezePavilion wrote:

So does that mean everyone is either religious or atheist? You say a higher power doesn't need to be a god--well, then what makes it a *higher* power?

One can be an atheist and still be religious. I do think that everyone is either a theist or an atheist. What makes a higher power a higher power is that it has more power than us. Let's consider omnipotent the top of the scale. A higher power would be above that scale than us humans. Essentially, it has more power over itself (and others) than we do.

Stengah wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

So does that mean everyone is either religious or atheist? You say a higher power doesn't need to be a god--well, then what makes it a *higher* power?

One can be an atheist and still be religious. I do think that everyone is either a theist or an atheist. What makes a higher power a higher power is that it has more power than us. Let's consider omnipotent the top of the scale. A higher power would be above that scale than us humans. Essentially, it has more power over itself (and others) than we do.

So, to a stone age primitive living in Iryan Jaya, would, say, you be a higher power?

CheezePavilion wrote:
Stengah wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

It doesn't. "acceptable opinions" doesn't mean "I accept them, therefore they are my dogma." It means acceptable in the sense of being orthodox, of being free from error according to authority.

It's still dogma because he claims (witch such conviction) that it is impossible to look at the universe and not see overwhelming evidence of a creator. It's a belief which he doesn't think is open to debate. It's fine if you don't want to hold it to the same standards as other religious dogma (because you're right that it doesn't compare) but it still meets the definition.

We've been over this point before.

Okay, but I don't think it's just me who's going to have an issue with where someone who worships a transcendent spirit they refuse to define as a god/deity which they believe works by way of miracles and not merely by way of being more advanced falls under your definitions.

I'm okay with you not liking my definition. I likewise have an issue with calling someone who doesn't believe that gods exists a theist. They can still be religious, sure, but not theist.

So does that mean everyone is either religious or atheist? You say a higher power doesn't need to be a god--well, then what makes it a *higher* power?

I would say that someone who believes we are caught in an eternal cycle of death and reincarnation but believes in no God is certainly not an atheist, nor are they a theist; they're just "spiritual". Don't see why there is a perceived dichotomy between belief/disbelief.

So people who believe in aliens (who have higher power than us by virtue of inherent or technological advantages) are theists? Especially people who believe in omnipotent aliens, I perceive, but that shouldn't exclude people who believe in less powerful aliens.

Paleocon wrote:
Stengah wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

So does that mean everyone is either religious or atheist? You say a higher power doesn't need to be a god--well, then what makes it a *higher* power?

One can be an atheist and still be religious. I do think that everyone is either a theist or an atheist. What makes a higher power a higher power is that it has more power than us. Let's consider omnipotent the top of the scale. A higher power would be above that scale than us humans. Essentially, it has more power over itself (and others) than we do.

So, to a stone age primitive living in Iryan Jaya, would, say, you be a higher power?

He'd certainly be able to consider me one. I'd consider us to be a very slightly higher power than our immediate ancestors.

The way I understand that definition, is that people are theists or atheists when they say they are; and otherwise they are not.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Don't see why there is a perceived dichotomy between belief/disbelief.

It's the definition of Theist/Atheist. Theist: believes in a god or gods. Atheist: believes in no gods.
In order to be a Theist you have to believe in a god. No belief in a god? Atheist. By definition. No other criteria are relevant using those textbook definitions. Which is why the common use of Atheist as a modifier is such a bummer because it encompasses everyone that doesn't believe, and also why the term Theist isn't in common use... Theists are usually self-branded into convenient clusters with their own titles. Which is why we can say the Westboros are nutters instead of Christians are nutters. Currently no handy clusters among Atheists.
And we are going to fix that problem by figuring out if aliens or highly advanced people count as gods and if being wrong about that means you aren't really an atheist.

Here's a question: Given that there is nothing that we can point to or measure to define a 'Real' god, which is more important? The perception of a god or the reality of a god?

Stengah wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
Stengah wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

So does that mean everyone is either religious or atheist? You say a higher power doesn't need to be a god--well, then what makes it a *higher* power?

One can be an atheist and still be religious. I do think that everyone is either a theist or an atheist. What makes a higher power a higher power is that it has more power than us. Let's consider omnipotent the top of the scale. A higher power would be above that scale than us humans. Essentially, it has more power over itself (and others) than we do.

So, to a stone age primitive living in Iryan Jaya, would, say, you be a higher power?

He'd certainly be able to consider me one. I'd consider us to be a very slightly higher power than our immediate ancestors.

I'm wondering then if the principle difference between the theist and the atheist is not so much the belief in god(s), but rather that approach one has to the examination of phenomenon he or she doesn't yet understand. Whereas the theist, would look upon a technologically advanced being (even of the same species) and think "god(s)", the atheist (at least in my estimation) would think "technologically advanced being".

To take it further, an atheist might see the phenomenon like the sun "rising" in the East and see evidence of the earth rotating around an polar axis while a theist might see it as evidence of god(s). An atheist might see a missed field goal as the combination of environmental factors and the effort of several opposing individuals while the theist sees it as evidence of god(s).

This seems to me a rather fundamental difference.

You know, part of the reason you're having so much trouble defining the word is because it deals with an imaginary concept. And we can always imagine new, weird corner cases that don't quite fit the old definitions.

There are no gods, so the definitions of theist and atheist are annoyingly difficult to nail down, once you really look at them. And there's no way anyone can be proved right or wrong, since the whole thing is about defining an imaginary friend. You can say an atheist is one thing, and we can say something else, and since it's all in relation to something that doesn't exist to begin with, there's nothing to measure against, nothing to prove.

The underlying concept doesn't work, so the concepts built on top are on an unstable foundation.

Rezzy wrote:
MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Don't see why there is a perceived dichotomy between belief/disbelief.

It's the definition of Theist/Atheist. Theist: believes in a god or gods. Atheist: believes in no gods.
In order to be a Theist you have to believe in a god. No belief in a god? Atheist. By definition. No other criteria are relevant using those textbook definitions. Which is why the common use of Atheist as a modifier is such a bummer because it encompasses everyone that doesn't believe, and also why the term Theist isn't in common use... Theists are usually self-branded into convenient clusters with their own titles. Which is why we can say the Westboros are nutters instead of Christians are nutters. Currently no handy clusters among Atheists.
And we are going to fix that problem by figuring out if aliens or highly advanced people count as gods and if being wrong about that means you aren't really an atheist.

Here's a question: Given that there is nothing that we can point to or measure to define a 'Real' god, which is more important? The perception of a god or the reality of a god?

Your last question is an entirely different issue. An interesting one, sure, but a different thread. As for theism/atheism, I don't care what the Webster's definition is, language is defined by usage, and I do think there is a difference between "theist" (believes in a God/Gods), "atheist" (no God), and "spiritual" (believes in something, but not a "God" person).

To take it further, an atheist might see the phenomenon like the sun "rising" in the East and see evidence of the earth rotating around an polar axis while a theist might see it as evidence of god(s).

I think you're close here, Paleo, but I'd word it a little differently.

When a theist looks at the world, he or she sees motive. The world spins around the Sun because God wills it to happen. When an atheist looks at the world, he or she sees a machine, a mechanistic process. The world orbits the Sun because that's how mass and gravity work, not because of intent on the part of anyone.

I'm sure there are theists who think of the Universe as a machine that God set in motion, rather than being something he/she/it constantly 'pushes', so to speak. But the motive thing is really, really common. I remember hearing, on NPR I think, a radio show about a woman who lost her faith, and her panic at realizing that the Earth was going around the Sun because of gravity, not because of God willing it. She talked about that very explicitly, that perceiving the Universe as a machine with no inherent love in it was a profound shock, one that really upset her. She wasn't being warmly cared for by a supreme being, she was in a cold thing of edges and points that would hurt or kill her without having the slightest capacity to care.

I remember thinking that I wanted to do nothing so much as to give her a cookie and a blanket, and say, "Welcome to reality, hon. Sucks, doesn't it?" And just sit there feeling a bit bleak for awhile, commiserating. The atheistic worldview is really depressing. It's also probably right.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Your last question is an entirely different issue. An interesting one, sure, but a different thread. As for theism/atheism, I don't care what the Webster's definition is, language is defined by usage, and I do think there is a difference between "theist" (believes in a God/Gods), "atheist" (no God), and "spiritual" (believes in something, but not a "God" person).

I disagree.
If the split between Theist and Atheist is the belief in 'something.' Then the boundaries of that 'something' become important. The only reason you can list 'spiritual' as separate is because the 'god' element is not clearly defined. The fact that you use the phrase "God" person illustrates the issue... your phrasing implies the limiting of 'God' to personifications. That scope would be too narrow for the various concepts that have and still embody the term 'god.' This could cause you to rule out 'higher powers' that don't fall within your notion of a god and create the illusion of requiring another classification, since 'spirituality' without a "God" person would be somewhat, but not really, Atheist.

Malor wrote:
To take it further, an atheist might see the phenomenon like the sun "rising" in the East and see evidence of the earth rotating around an polar axis while a theist might see it as evidence of god(s).

I think you're close here, Paleo, but I'd word it a little differently.

When a theist looks at the world, he or she sees motive. The world spins around the Sun because God wills it to happen. When an atheist looks at the world, he or she sees a machine, a mechanistic process. The world orbits the Sun because that's how mass and gravity work, not because of intent on the part of anyone.

I'm sure there are theists who think of the Universe as a machine that God set in motion, rather than being something he/she/it constantly 'pushes', so to speak. But the motive thing is really, really common. I remember hearing, on NPR I think, a radio show about a woman who lost her faith, and her panic at realizing that the Earth was going around the Sun because of gravity, not because of God willing it. She talked about that very explicitly, that perceiving the Universe as a machine with no inherent love in it was a profound shock, one that really upset her. She wasn't being warmly cared for by a supreme being, she was in a cold thing of edges and points that would hurt or kill her without having the slightest capacity to care.

I remember thinking that I wanted to do nothing so much as to give her a cookie and a blanket, and say, "Welcome to reality, hon. Sucks, doesn't it?" And just sit there feeling a bit bleak for awhile, commiserating. The atheistic worldview is really depressing. It's also probably right.

But it isn't terribly depressing. It's completely liberating. It means that the incredible and unlikely accident that resulted in your being self aware means you're here to enjoy it, witness it, and to some extent even shape it. You have the ability to make the world a better place for yourself and others and are not some will-less pawn in some silly gods' plans. And those cold edges and points? They are the tools for building that better tomorrow.

Paleocon wrote:
Malor wrote:
To take it further, an atheist might see the phenomenon like the sun "rising" in the East and see evidence of the earth rotating around an polar axis while a theist might see it as evidence of god(s).

I think you're close here, Paleo, but I'd word it a little differently.

When a theist looks at the world, he or she sees motive. The world spins around the Sun because God wills it to happen. When an atheist looks at the world, he or she sees a machine, a mechanistic process. The world orbits the Sun because that's how mass and gravity work, not because of intent on the part of anyone.

I'm sure there are theists who think of the Universe as a machine that God set in motion, rather than being something he/she/it constantly 'pushes', so to speak. But the motive thing is really, really common. I remember hearing, on NPR I think, a radio show about a woman who lost her faith, and her panic at realizing that the Earth was going around the Sun because of gravity, not because of God willing it. She talked about that very explicitly, that perceiving the Universe as a machine with no inherent love in it was a profound shock, one that really upset her. She wasn't being warmly cared for by a supreme being, she was in a cold thing of edges and points that would hurt or kill her without having the slightest capacity to care.

I remember thinking that I wanted to do nothing so much as to give her a cookie and a blanket, and say, "Welcome to reality, hon. Sucks, doesn't it?" And just sit there feeling a bit bleak for awhile, commiserating. The atheistic worldview is really depressing. It's also probably right.

But it isn't terribly depressing. It's completely liberating. It means that the incredible and unlikely accident that resulted in your being self aware means you're here to enjoy it, witness it, and to some extent even shape it. You have the ability to make the world a better place for yourself and others and are not some will-less pawn in some silly gods' plans. And those cold edges and points? They are the tools for building that better tomorrow.

I'm with you there, Paleo.

Paleocon wrote:
Malor wrote:
To take it further, an atheist might see the phenomenon like the sun "rising" in the East and see evidence of the earth rotating around an polar axis while a theist might see it as evidence of god(s).

I think you're close here, Paleo, but I'd word it a little differently.

When a theist looks at the world, he or she sees motive. The world spins around the Sun because God wills it to happen. When an atheist looks at the world, he or she sees a machine, a mechanistic process. The world orbits the Sun because that's how mass and gravity work, not because of intent on the part of anyone.

I'm sure there are theists who think of the Universe as a machine that God set in motion, rather than being something he/she/it constantly 'pushes', so to speak. But the motive thing is really, really common. I remember hearing, on NPR I think, a radio show about a woman who lost her faith, and her panic at realizing that the Earth was going around the Sun because of gravity, not because of God willing it. She talked about that very explicitly, that perceiving the Universe as a machine with no inherent love in it was a profound shock, one that really upset her. She wasn't being warmly cared for by a supreme being, she was in a cold thing of edges and points that would hurt or kill her without having the slightest capacity to care.

I remember thinking that I wanted to do nothing so much as to give her a cookie and a blanket, and say, "Welcome to reality, hon. Sucks, doesn't it?" And just sit there feeling a bit bleak for awhile, commiserating. The atheistic worldview is really depressing. It's also probably right.

But it isn't terribly depressing. It's completely liberating. It means that the incredible and unlikely accident that resulted in your being self aware means you're here to enjoy it, witness it, and to some extent even shape it. You have the ability to make the world a better place for yourself and others and are not some will-less pawn in some silly gods' plans. And those cold edges and points? They are the tools for building that better tomorrow.

Paleo, did you finally finish Atlas Shrugged? ; D

Paleocon wrote:

It's completely liberating.

Exactly the term that came to mind for me as well, but I felt I had piped up enough for a little while. I do apologize for stepping on some toes and chiming in, but this topic has been on my mind quite a bit lately so I'm glad the thread revived. Thanks, CheezePavilion!

CheezePavilion wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
Malor wrote:
To take it further, an atheist might see the phenomenon like the sun "rising" in the East and see evidence of the earth rotating around an polar axis while a theist might see it as evidence of god(s).

I think you're close here, Paleo, but I'd word it a little differently.

When a theist looks at the world, he or she sees motive. The world spins around the Sun because God wills it to happen. When an atheist looks at the world, he or she sees a machine, a mechanistic process. The world orbits the Sun because that's how mass and gravity work, not because of intent on the part of anyone.

I'm sure there are theists who think of the Universe as a machine that God set in motion, rather than being something he/she/it constantly 'pushes', so to speak. But the motive thing is really, really common. I remember hearing, on NPR I think, a radio show about a woman who lost her faith, and her panic at realizing that the Earth was going around the Sun because of gravity, not because of God willing it. She talked about that very explicitly, that perceiving the Universe as a machine with no inherent love in it was a profound shock, one that really upset her. She wasn't being warmly cared for by a supreme being, she was in a cold thing of edges and points that would hurt or kill her without having the slightest capacity to care.

I remember thinking that I wanted to do nothing so much as to give her a cookie and a blanket, and say, "Welcome to reality, hon. Sucks, doesn't it?" And just sit there feeling a bit bleak for awhile, commiserating. The atheistic worldview is really depressing. It's also probably right.

But it isn't terribly depressing. It's completely liberating. It means that the incredible and unlikely accident that resulted in your being self aware means you're here to enjoy it, witness it, and to some extent even shape it. You have the ability to make the world a better place for yourself and others and are not some will-less pawn in some silly gods' plans. And those cold edges and points? They are the tools for building that better tomorrow.

Paleo, did you finally finish Atlas Shrugged? ; D

tl;dr