What's an Atheist? Catch-All

So? The comment was that atheism is a religion. Religions *depend* upon belief in a supernatural power and the concomitant practices and rituals and behavioral codes. Atheists specifically don't believe in supernatural powers, they don't have religious rituals or practices, moral codes based on divine dictates, explanations of how the supernatural impinges on the world. Atheism is not a religion.

Robear wrote:

Atheist. No god, no religion. So how is that a religion? The initial comment was that "atheism is itself a religion". It's not. It's a disbelief in gods and all observances, rituals, beliefs and the like that come with them.

I can buy this since I also believe that belief that god does exist is also not a religion. People misuse the word religion to mean believe in one or more gods. Religion is more the public practice of such a belief usually with a structure and hierarchy involved. There are people that believe in god that are not religious.

Now, if atheists start forming a hierarchy and start publicly practicing their disbelief in god, I argue that would be a religion.

All religions involve belief, but not all beliefs are religions. Beliefs *about* religion are not themselves religions.

Kraint wrote:
Robear wrote:
So what's the word for someone who believes god does not exist?

Atheist. No god, no religion. So how is that a religion? The initial comment was that "atheism is itself a religion". It's not. It's a disbelief in gods and all observances, rituals, beliefs and the like that come with them.

Atheists don't believe in God. Whether they don't see evidence for a god, or "have faith" that gods don't exist, the disbelief in something is not a religion. Disbelief in god is not a statement on the nature, beginning or meaning of the universe; it involves no supernatural beings, and no devotional or appeasing rituals, practices, or moral codes; and it says nothing about the purpose of the universe. It is not a religion, no matter whether one has not seen evidence, or is convinced that there is no god even without good evidence. Doesn't matter. Religions involve belief in supernatural entities and practices intended to appease them (like following a moral code, killing animals, burning things, reciting magical words or making wishes). Atheism does none of that.

Why is this not obvious? Yes, I believe in one less God than Christians do. That does not mean I believe in any god, or follow any religion, nor is that disbelief a religion in itself. Geez. It's not hard to understand this.

Note that disbelief = lack of belief, not belief w/o proof in a contrary position. If someone could show measurable proof of divine intervention, many atheists would become theists.

Then that means disbelief = belief that the evidence is not sufficient. Lack of belief in a god? Sure. Lack of belief in any religious path (for lack of a better term)? I agree. Just not lack of belief, full stop.

Regarding the belief in one less god thing: it is not quite correct (at least for agnostic atheists), since gnostic theists generally actively disbelieve in the deities of other religions.

This is interesting. Atheism not as belief in OR against, but belief about the state of the evidence?

Again, the statement was "atheism is a religion". It's not. We can argue over whether lack of belief is a belief, but in neither case is it a religion. Agreed?

kazar wrote:

Now, if atheists start forming a hierarchy and start publicly practicing their disbelief in god, I argue that would be a religion.

Then it'd just be organised religion atheism. Which you might say already exists given there are a few atheist organisation.

edit:

Derp. Officer, I'd swear this comment was fresh when I found it.

CheezePavilion wrote:
Regarding the belief in one less god thing: it is not quite correct (at least for agnostic atheists), since gnostic theists generally actively disbelieve in the deities of other religions.

This is interesting. Atheism not as belief in OR against, but belief about the state of the evidence?

For a lot of (agnostic) atheists, yes. There are certainly those that actively believe in the lack of a higher power, but the most common approach (from what I've seen/read/heard in larger atheist groups) is the insufficient evidence statement. Just because I have never seen a horse with a narwhal-style horn and rainbow-patterned droppings doesn't mean they don't exist, but the historical, pan-global lack of any evidence of the existence of such a creature doesn't lead me to expect to ever see one.

I'd heartily recommend, if you are curious, going on the DebateAnAtheist subbreddit (not r/Atheism, that is all memes and facebook pictures) and checking out some of the discussions there. A lot of very smart and eloquent posters have spent time laying out informed opinions and discussing the ideas they've had or gained from authors and public figures.

The reason people get uptight about the definition of atheism is that the word presupposes that something exists in which not to believe. If there are no gods, and there never were, someone who doesn't believe in gods doesn't need a special name. It's just "a person".

The special name should be attached to the people who believe in the existence of a supernatural being.

It is odd that people that just lack belief would use a word with theist in it, huh?

It's pretty much why I always assumed I was agnostic. there is no evidence for or against a God, in my opinion. It seems that atheists, accurate to their name, seem very adamant that there is no God. A few years ago when I made the point that I didn't think there was evidence either way, it was the atheists who were the most offended. It was a great transgression to even suggest there could be a God, or Gods.

It's also why atheists get the same crap that Christians get. For some reason, their lack of belief seems like something very important to them.

It's all semantics. I don't make a single life decision based on the existence, or non-existence, of God.

It is odd that people that just lack belief would use a word with theist in it, huh?

lol Try to define the concept without referencing the concept of gods...

There *could* be a god. I just have not seen any reason to think there is, and plenty of things ascribed to a god or gods don't actually require them at all. I don't fall on the "we don't know, so we can't say" side of the divide, but rather on the "evidence suggests there is none, that's my working hypothesis" side.

Jayhawker wrote:

It is odd that people that just lack belief would use a word with theist in it, huh?

No, it isn't. If theist describes someone who believes in the existence of one or more gods, then it stands to reason that someone without that belief would be an atheist. As Malor already pointed out, the word only serves to distinguish the non-believers from the believers. If nobody believed in gods, there would be no need for the word.

It seems that atheists, accurate to their name, seem very adamant that there is no God.

Implying that all atheists are "adamant that there is no God" is like saying that all theists are adamant that the world was made from the body of Ymir. Some atheists certainly take that stance, but when you have a catch-all term to describe anyone who doesn't believe in gods there are going to be a lot of different subsets of that group with differing opinions.

Robear wrote:

So? The comment was that atheism is a religion. Religions *depend* upon belief in a supernatural power and the concomitant practices and rituals and behavioral codes. Atheists specifically don't believe in supernatural powers, they don't have religious rituals or practices, moral codes based on divine dictates, explanations of how the supernatural impinges on the world. Atheism is not a religion.

As someone with a background in religious scholarship, I have to point out that you are incorrect. Religion does not require a belief in a supernatural. Religions do usually include a belief in some supernatural, but this is not necessary. Those that don't are more likely to involve strong adherence to ritual, or to moral codes. But ritual doesn't need to involve any divine being or supernatural world, and moral codes need not be received from a divine power either.

As much as I hate to mention it: consider Scientology. I'd agree that there's some kooky-ass sh*t going on there--and that believing in UFOs and soul-recycling stations on Mars aren't very well grounded in reality. But I wouldn't say that it's supernatural in the same sense that believing in Yahweh or Amaterasu or Anansi or fairies or domovoi would be. But at the same time, I think we'd agree that they've got a religion going on. (Or at least "a cult", which is more or less "some might call it a religion, but I think it's too kooky to call it that".)

Over all, religion is one of those terms where "everybody knows what it means", or "I know it when I see it". And that type of term is very very tricky. In the Western world, it's also tied up in traditional ways that are summed up by the following from the entry on "religion" at wikipedia:

One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

I'd say that I, personally, am a religious person. I am an atheist, I do not believe in the exists of supernatural forces or beings, I do not believe in miracles, I do not practice specific rituals of worship, I do not hold to any code of ethics or morality received from an outside source. But, at the same time, I hold certain metaphysical beliefs very strongly. I believe that the universe as it exists is a marvelous marvelous thing that we should all seek to behold and understand. I believe that we, as thinking beings, and any other thinking beings in the universe, have the capability of transcending our origins--in the case of humanity, of going beyond the capacities and constraints that we are born with and becoming something greater. I believe that there are metaphysical truths that, like physical truths, cannot be beheld directly but only through observation of the world around us and the way we as thinking beings interact with each other, and that a variation of the scientific method is appropriate for trying to plumb these philosophical truths.

I wouldn't say that these are question of spirituality to me. They're something else. They're how I understand the world and my place in it, and how I understand questions I ask myself about what kind of person I would like to be. The most "supernatural" of them is my belief in an absolute metaphysical truth as a goal of studying ethics--and even then, it's not even as supernatural as Plato's theory of forms. I just believe that if we explore the entire universe of possible interactions, certain ideas will stand out as "right", and that by studying those ideas we can approach some kind of truth... just like when looking for a fundamental theory of physical forces. We may not ever get there, but there's a there that we're looking towards and reaching towards. (But, of course, any understanding we do achieve might some day be supplanted by a more thorough understanding based on something we've never even thought of.)

Anyway: Religion is not that simple a concept. It gets messy, and there's a lot of give in terms of how different people use it. My own personal definition would be "a religion is a philosophy that you live by".

--

Short form: Instead of assuming people mean the same thing by "religion", define your terms. Tell people what you mean by it and demand they do the same and avoid any confusion. Or use some other less heavily-loaded term... something that it's harder for the reader to accidentally assume some meaning into.

Hypatian, I *did* define my terms in clarifying my point. Your objection is very little different, and I don't see you actually asserting that atheism *is* a religion. I understand that you've got a highly nuanced definition, and you define it widely based on my experience, but I'm not arguing the point for a philosophy of religion paper. I'm trying to look at it practically.

I'd say that I, personally, am a religious person. I am an atheist, I do not believe in the exists of supernatural forces or beings, I do not believe in miracles, I do not practice specific rituals of worship, I do not hold to any code of ethics or morality received from an outside source. But, at the same time, I hold certain metaphysical beliefs very strongly. I believe that the universe as it exists is a marvelous marvelous thing that we should all seek to behold and understand. I believe that we, as thinking beings, and any other thinking beings in the universe, have the capability of transcending our substrate--in the case of humanity, of going beyond the capacities and constraints that we are born with and becoming something greater. I believe that there are metaphysical truths that, like physical truths, cannot be beheld directly but only through observation of the world around us and the way we as thinking beings interact with each other, and that a variation of the scientific method is appropriate for trying to plumb these philosophical truths.

For me, I'd say this is spirituality, but you disagree. That's fine. But it's a definition that does not really fit with common usage (as philosophical terms often are). Note that you actually cite a supernatural capability within each of us. And remember, even in Scientology, there are souls (Thetans) - a typical supernatural explanation for consciousness. And you also believe there are truths that are not subject to scientific explanation (although as you seem to say they can be explored with some of it's tools - but presumably not comprehensively.) Someone with a naturalistic philosophical approach (like me) would refer to that as a belief in supernatural explanations. That's cool, but it's not part of traditional atheism.

I wouldn't say that these are question of spirituality to me. They're something else. They're how I understand the world and my place in it, and how I understand questions I ask myself about what kind of person I would like to be. The most "supernatural" of them is my belief in an absolute metaphysical truth as a goal of studying ethics--and even then, it's not even as supernatural as Plato's theory of forms. I just believe that if we explore the entire universe of possible interactions, certain behaviors will stand out as "right", and that by studying those things we can approach some ideal truth... just like when looking for a fundamental theory of physical forces. We may not ever get there, but there's a there that we're looking towards and reaching towards. (But, of course, any understanding we do achieve might some day be supplanted by a more thorough understanding based on something we've never even thought of.)

And yet there's a growing field of science that provides a non-metaphysical explanation of human behavior, ethics and morality. We don't *have* to turn to non-natural (supernatural) explanations, even for ethics. I put it to you that while you may be an atheist, you've incorporated elements of the supernatural - the "transcendant" - into your thinking. Others, like myself, work to remove that. It's a matter of how you approach the world. It's fine to admix - we are people, after all, not machines - but it's not congruent with a practical understanding of everyday atheism.

I am an atheist. I practice no rituals of atheism. I have no atheist devotionals. Atheism does not guide my moral or ethical senses. It does not tell me anything about how the world works, or what it's purpose is. I am not part of a religion. My own belief is that a chosen philosophy is a philosophy you live by. It might or might not be based on religion, but just because atheism could also be considered a philosophy, that does not mean that it's necessarily a religion.

Short form - Religions always provide explanations for things which are not understood, and those are usually supernatural (I'm having trouble thinking of counter-examples, actually). Religions usually involve ritual practices, and usually provide rules for living in accordance with the dictates of the higher power. Atheism does none of these. It's not a religion in anything like a practical sense.

Jayhawker wrote:

It is odd that people that just lack belief would use a word with theist in it, huh?

It's pretty much why I always assumed I was agnostic. there is no evidence for or against a God, in my opinion. It seems that atheists, accurate to their name, seem very adamant that there is no God. A few years ago when I made the point that I didn't think there was evidence either way, it was the atheists who were the most offended. It was a great transgression to even suggest there could be a God, or Gods.

I'm an atheist because there is no evidence for God. There doesn't have to be evidence against something; belief in God is a positive statement, someone is saying "God exists". That positive statement requires something requiring proof, of which there is none I have come close to seeing.

To paraphrase the cartoon above, I don't believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, or the Easter Bunny. I mean, sure, I've never seen the Easter Bunny, but this is a big world; nobody has ever provided me actual proof the Easter Bunny doesn't exist and maybe he just hasn't hit my subdivision yet. If I claim the Eastern Bunny exists, it's on me to prove it. Same with "God".

I'm not sure how to better explain the whole gnostic/agnostic/theist/atheist thing here, as tends to happen with these subjects we're kind of into "hard to discern if people are being difficult/arguing just for the sake of it" territory.

Lacking a belief is not a religion, but moreover I hold that active disbelief is not a religion either. Were it so it would mean that each of us have a few thousand if not million religions which I hope we can all agree is absurd.

See also the humorous take;
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/lD2ZV.png)

Hypatian wrote:

Depending on context, it may mean simply "disbelief in the existence of a divine authority", or more generally "disbelief in the existence of anything supernatural", or more weakly "not interested in any divine authority whether or not it exists".

Is this true? I thought atheism is solely the disbelief in a supernatural deity. I didn't think it extended to other supernatural beliefs such as believing in ghosts or magic. I would expect someone who doesn't believe in god to be less likely to believe in these too, but I would bet that lots of people consider themselves atheists but also believe in the supernatural.

Robear wrote:

For me, I'd say this is spirituality, but you disagree. That's fine. But it's a definition that does not really fit with common usage (as philosophical terms often are). Note that you actually cite a supernatural capability within each of us. And remember, even in Scientology, there are souls (Thetans) - a typical supernatural explanation for consciousness. And you also believe there are truths that are not subject to scientific explanation (although as you seem to say they can be explored with some of it's tools - but presumably not comprehensively.) Someone with a naturalistic philosophical approach (like me) would refer to that as a belief in supernatural explanations. That's cool, but it's not part of traditional atheism.

Okay, I give you the thetans. Note, however, that my "transcedence" thing is not in any way shape or form about the supernatural. The ability I posit is absolutely natural, and a part and parcel of the condition of being self-aware and intelligent. In my opinion, those features trump biology. Yes, we're biological creatures with biological urges, but we have the capability to analyze ourselves and our behaviors and make reasoning choices about what we wish to do. Those are all purely physical processes.

As far as truths that are not subject to scientific explanation--yeah. Those are harder. Fundamentally, it's a question of whether there's any point in trying to understand how to be better more moral beings. How do we determine, for example, when violence is appropriate? Certainly, every case is different--but by looking at individual cases, can we observe rules about when violence is and is not appropriate? Can we look at two possible and conflicting rules and reason about whether one is better than the other? And if we can't, will examination of more cases possibly allow distinguishing one rule as better than the other?

I'd argue that if there is no true morality out there for us to reason about and discover, then it is difficult to do anything other than accept either the dictates of biology or the dictates of a particular society. And the problem with that is that when societies mesh we wish to choose the better ideas of those societies, not just pick one at random. And when different biologies some day clash (or perhaps biologies vs other constructions), we wish to be able to work out reasonable rules for the collective group without needing to appeal to base biology/base whatever for the answer. Having the idea that whenever faced with two ideas we can [em]eventually[/em] determine one to be better than the other seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do. The connections with scientific principles are the principles that new evidence can overturn old results, that ideas should be tested against reality to determine which is better, and that even though base reality is absolute (no miracles) knowledge is always approximate and never absolute.

Think of it like an extension of mathematics and logic, but muddied by the requirement of building a model of the actual universe. All of these are mental constructs and subject to certain constraints. And all of them have some relation to the world as it is observed, although not as direct a relation as the sciences do.

Another way to look at this might be: Perhaps there's no universal truth of morality, but there is a universal truth of logic, and there is a universe of rules and implications. At the very least, we can evaluate potential sets of rules and their outcomes and their logical consistency in comparison to other sets of rules, and choose which sets of rules we prefer. Time and experience should result in more robust sets of rules that are more acceptable and more productive of social order (or perhaps some other thing we desire). Whether or not there's a "true morality" out there, at the end of the day we have explored more of the space and understand the implications more completely. And without needing to appeal to syncretism.

Robear wrote:

And yet there's a growing field of science that provides a non-metaphysical explanation of human behavior, ethics and morality. We don't *have* to turn to non-natural (supernatural) explanations, even for ethics. I put it to you that while you may be an atheist, you've incorporated elements of the supernatural - the "transcendant" - into your thinking. Others, like myself, work to remove that. It's a matter of how you approach the world. It's fine to admix - we are people, after all, not machines - but it's not congruent with a practical understanding of everyday atheism.

I am an atheist. I practice no rituals of atheism. I have no atheist devotionals. Atheism does not guide my moral or ethical senses. It does not tell me anything about how the world works, or what it's purpose is. I am not part of a religion. My own belief is that a chosen philosophy is a philosophy you live by. It might or might not be based on religion, but just because atheism could also be considered a philosophy, that does not mean that it's necessarily a religion.

Short form - Religions always provide explanations for things which are not understood, and those are usually supernatural (I'm having trouble thinking of counter-examples, actually). Religions usually involve ritual practices, and usually provide rules for living in accordance with the dictates of the higher power. Atheism does none of these. It's not a religion in anything like a practical sense.

I hope I've gone some distance to explaining to you how my suppositions do not need anything supernatural, and perhaps why I am unsatisfied with historical and reductionist models of ethics. I worry specifically, that biological models of ethics may easily turn into excuses rather than goals. (Kind of like the worst sorts of "social Darwinism" that people glommed onto.) Trying to understand the origins of these things is laudable--it helps us understand why we make the choices we do, and why we have in the past. But it doesn't give us a direction to go with that knowledge. What I'm trying to suggest is that even when we know how we came by our ideas of ethics, we still have to make new choices about where to [em]go[/em] with it. Those discussions going into the future aren't supernatural things, but they are the transcendence I'm talking about: our ability to say "Oh! Many human societies have demonized 'teh gay' because of X. But now that we understand that tendency we don't have to pay any attention to X if we don't want to. Excellent! Let's carry on, then." Bingo, we have now transcended that tendency in human behavior. (Or at least begun to transcend it.)

In short: The ideas I described as "religious" above do in fact have to do with things that I believe without evidence. But they're not things that are supernatural, they're simply things that I think are nice ideas which are compatible with the observed world and that I should assume are true until it's proven otherwise.

--

I will agree, however, that "atheism" is not a religion. "Atheism" is simply a position statement on one classical idea about how the universe is ordered. Depending on context, it may mean simply "disbelief in the existence of a divine authority", or more generally "disbelief in the existence of anything supernatural", or more weakly "not interested in any divine authority whether or not it exists".

I would bet so, too. That's why I said more generally and more weakly. A lot of avowed atheists certainly don't believe in anything supernatural. Some who would describe themselves as atheists still very much believe in the supernatural (Buddhists, for example). I'd guess the most basic mainstream meaning of "atheist" would be "doesn't believe in any form of the god of Abraham, doesn't much think about any other possibilities". Or maybe "doesn't subscribe to anything they would think of as a religion".

Robear wrote:

We're discussing religious celebrations, don't widen the discussion without reason.

No. In fact, the *presence* of such religious celebrations damages the game. It introduces controversy where there should be none. How would evangelicals react if one of the Muslim players because to kneel in the prayer bow towards Mecca after every touchdown? Somehow, I doubt you'd see them excited to follow suit and celebrate his beliefs...

As a sometime evangelical, I'd be totally cool with it.

I,I "How many virgins do I get in the afterlife for every touchdown, coach?"

(Apologies to any Muslims reading for the gross stereotype. I just think it's a funny image.)

Kraint wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
Regarding the belief in one less god thing: it is not quite correct (at least for agnostic atheists), since gnostic theists generally actively disbelieve in the deities of other religions.

This is interesting. Atheism not as belief in OR against, but belief about the state of the evidence?

For a lot of (agnostic) atheists, yes. There are certainly those that actively believe in the lack of a higher power, but the most common approach (from what I've seen/read/heard in larger atheist groups) is the insufficient evidence statement. Just because I have never seen a horse with a narwhal-style horn and rainbow-patterned droppings doesn't mean they don't exist, but the historical, pan-global lack of any evidence of the existence of such a creature doesn't lead me to expect to ever see one.

What's got me thinking is that phrase you used 'actively disbelieve'. There does seem to be something different going on in the rejection of Deity No.s 2-1,001+ for theists whereas for atheists it's more like 'second verse--same as the first!'.

I'd heartily recommend, if you are curious,

Don't worry--I'm no stranger to these questions. In fact, what I was bringing up is the difference between two common themes in defining atheism: it's just one less god, or it's like the hair color of a bald man. The explanations swing back and forth depending on the context.

wordsmythe wrote:
Robear wrote:

We're discussing religious celebrations, don't widen the discussion without reason.

No. In fact, the *presence* of such religious celebrations damages the game. It introduces controversy where there should be none. How would evangelicals react if one of the Muslim players because to kneel in the prayer bow towards Mecca after every touchdown? Somehow, I doubt you'd see them excited to follow suit and celebrate his beliefs...

As a sometime evangelical, I'd be totally cool with it.

Most Americans, though, would lose their minds.

I'd argue that if there is no true morality out there for us to reason about and discover, then it is difficult to do anything other than accept either the dictates of biology or the dictates of a particular society. And the problem with that is that when societies mesh we wish to choose the better ideas of those societies, not just pick one at random. And when different biologies some day clash (or perhaps biologies vs other constructions), we wish to be able to work out reasonable rules for the collective group without needing to appeal to base biology/base whatever for the answer. Having the idea that whenever faced with two ideas we can eventually determine one to be better than the other seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do. The connections with scientific principles are the principles that new evidence can overturn old results, that ideas should be tested against reality to determine which is better, and that even though base reality is absolute (no miracles) knowledge is always approximate and never absolute.

Check out Michael Shermer's works on the evolution of good, evil, morality and the like. There's strong evidence from biology that we don't *choose* moral codes - after all, even infants and toddlers have what we'd call moral reactions to situations, and they have not been given a choice between frameworks - and there is growing evidence that evolutionary principles underlie the codes of societies. We *have* to acknowledge biology and specifically neurophysiology when considering the basis of actions. There's no way around that - and that's a fairly recent understanding, not one that was available before the first part of the 20th century in anything like the detail we have today. One of the explicit results is that we as people *don't* compete ideas against each in most circumstances; instead, we fixate on a particular system of belief and actively work to *reinforce* it moving forward by rejecting ideas we don't like. It takes tremendous effort to change this. This is why scientific results don't actually result in quick changes in society. It takes a lot more than evidence to sway people who are not committed to being swayed by evidence.

Heck, we can induce religious experiences in unbelievers with magnetic stimulation of a particular area of the brain. Biology is unavoidable.

I hope I've gone some distance to explaining to you how my suppositions do not need anything supernatural, and perhaps why I am unsatisfied with historical and reductionist models of ethics. I worry specifically, that biological models of ethics may easily turn into excuses rather than goals. (Kind of like the worst sorts of "social Darwinism" that people glommed onto.) Trying to understand the origins of these things is laudable--it helps us understand why we make the choices we do, and why we have in the past. But it doesn't give us a direction to go with that knowledge. What I'm trying to suggest is that even when we know how we came by our ideas of ethics, we still have to make new choices about where to go with it. Those discussions going into the future aren't supernatural things, but they are the transcendence I'm talking about: our ability to say "Oh! Many human societies have demonized 'teh gay' because of X. But now that we understand that tendency we don't have to pay any attention to X if we don't want to. Excellent! Let's carry on, then." Bingo, we have now transcended that tendency in human behavior. (Or at least begun to transcend it.)

I can understand your point here, and I agree that you're not appealing to the supernatural. I agree with your worries about Social Darwinism - again, I can't recommend Shermer enough, he's deeply into all this stuff (and qualified to discuss it). Transcendence can work in the way you describe, but that's also a description of social evolution - ie, there's a "reductionist" explanation as well as one that's not perhaps directly reductionist (although I'd argue that it really is).

I'm glad you see the atheism =/= religion point I was making. I was running a list of practices of Scientology which are pretty clearly religious. It's interesting to consider that religions tend to *start* in the search for explanation for things around us, and then reinforce themselves through practices, shared beliefs and shared behaviors. But it's clear that religions are not *just* belief; they comprise behaviors as well, which is how they more easily survive. One could conceivably argue that the behaviors and rituals of science are religious in some way, but I'd in turn argue that it's missing the central idea of a higher power or powers, even if that power would be somehow naturalistic. It would certainly be possible to build a religion around the worship of nature, however, and use science as it's ritual. Interesting idea (and one that's been explored in science fiction, actually.)

But atheism itself is clearly not religion.

Most Americans, though, would lose their minds.

And, in fact, burn down the player's house... That's what happened to Chris Jackson, aka Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, as an eventual result of his refusal to stand for the national anthem at the start of a basketball game in respect of his Islamic beliefs.

According to Wikipedia - perhaps someone can find the source - he refused to stand because he didn't support the United States' history of tyranny. He should do more research.

DSGamer wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Robear wrote:

We're discussing religious celebrations, don't widen the discussion without reason.

No. In fact, the *presence* of such religious celebrations damages the game. It introduces controversy where there should be none. How would evangelicals react if one of the Muslim players because to kneel in the prayer bow towards Mecca after every touchdown? Somehow, I doubt you'd see them excited to follow suit and celebrate his beliefs...

As a sometime evangelical, I'd be totally cool with it.

Most Americans, though, would lose their minds.

False premise: Most of those Americans are unlikely to have firm command of their minds to begin with.

Bazinga.

Robear wrote:

Heck, we can induce religious experiences in unbelievers with magnetic stimulation of a particular area of the brain. Biology is unavoidable.

Token quote just so I'm quoting a message and you know where I'm replying to.

Anyway, yeah, I hear you. I just believe that even when we are so frequently conditioned by our origins to do things in certain ways, and even when we are always subject to biology, we continue to have the [em]potential[/em] to look beyond that and do more. Our biology did not make us capable of flight. Our biology [em]did[/em] make us capable of figuring out how to fly despite that. You can look at that as "biology made us capable of flight after all, we're still no more than biology made us", or you can look at is as "our biology provided us with an intellect that allowed us to transcend our other biological limits and do things that are not on the face of them required for natural selection". Or you can look at it as a little of both.

My concept of transcendence is primarily that I believe we [em]should[/em] look for those places where we have no biological [em]imperative[/em] to do something, and consider how and whether we wish to do them anyway. We'll never circumvent the laws of nature, because that's simply impossible. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't aspire to do more cool and awesome things to the extent that it's possible.

It's true that most people don't aspire to do these things—that we most often let ourselves be ruled by our biology. I do it as often as anyone else, even in the obvious ways. In the less obvious ways (suggested by studies about how political ideology relates to perception of disgust, for example) I'm sure there are a lot of ways I do it that I'm not aware of. But should we be satisfied, individually, with that scenario? Or [em]should[/em] we try individually to pay attention and know when our biology is leading us and think about whether we really want to go that way? And [em]should[/em] we try to encourage others to behave the same way, to apply reason to their actions and not simply go with the flow?

Of course, this is a metaphysical argument: because the study of nature tells us about the processes established by our biological evolution and how many of those things feed into the way we behave. Studying nature doesn't tell us anything about what we "should" do overall, only what will result in being able to procreate (individual genetic survival), or to maintain the species (community genetic survival). Still: it'd be a bit sad if that's all we did.

So I like to believe that we can do more.

Okay. End of digression.

My concept of transcendence is primarily that I believe we should look for those places where we have no biological imperative to do something, and consider how and whether we wish to do them anyway. We'll never circumvent the laws of nature, because that's simply impossible. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't aspire to do more cool and awesome things to the extent that it's possible.

Oh, I agree with you entirely. I just don't see any reason to mix that up with religion or spirituality. I definitely understand why you're frustrated with a strict behaviorist viewpoint. But even with an understanding of the neurophysiology of belief, say, or the nature of societal evolution, reductionist explanations are *building blocks*, not destiny. At least that's how I look at it. We are more than the sum of our parts. I call that emergent behavior, though, not transcendence. But I could use that word too.

Very thoughtful comments, Hypatian. Nice digression. Good tea.

Sane.

Malor wrote:

The reason people get uptight about the definition of atheism is that the word presupposes that something exists in which not to believe. If there are no gods, and there never were, someone who doesn't believe in gods doesn't need a special name. It's just "a person".

The special name should be attached to the people who believe in the existence of a supernatural being.

This response is so perfect, IMO, that it could just as well have ended the discussion.

But since the discussion continues ... what's the word for people who don't believe Santa Claus exists? what's the word for people who don't believe that the Loch Ness Monster exists? what's the word for people who don't believe there's a tiny teapot orbiting the sun?

To put it a slightly different way:

person A purports something supernatural, unknown and unknowable exists.

person B sees no evidence or reason to believe that this purported being exists. Thus holds no belief that the being exists.

Person B needs a special name why exactly?