Fellow Atheists/Agnostic Atheists - Let's Chat: Do you feel it is risky being "out" these days?

Larry

I rarely say things like this online or IRL, but I think it's pretty f*cking rude to go around throwing 'don't say that! don't offend me!' stuff in the thread I started, then come in here and start arguing as if you've been on the side of evidence all the time.

Worse than rude, it seems to show a fundamental inconsistency in your character.

ruhk, thanks for mentioning that. I always try to being that point up because I think it is extremely important.

By definition, atheism is opposed to theism. As in they are opposites, not at war or something.

Gnostic or Agnostic just qualify it, it is not a third position.

1Dgaf:

Huh. To my knowledge, I was discussing things consistent with what Paleocon was mentioning (about religious practices in Asia vis-a-vis tolerance and such). If you could PM me about the content that's offensive, I will edit the post to remove it. I confess that I don't really understand what you're saying. I'm on the side of evidence? Which side is that?

Yonder wrote:

Actually being theist means that you don't have proof or I don't believe that you have logical reasons or evidence to believe in God, and yet you choose to believe in Him anyways.

Being Agnostic means that you don't have proof, logical reasons, or evidence to believe in God, so you don't believe in God.

Being Atheistic means that you don't have proof, logical reasons, or evidence to believe in God, so you believe there is not a God.

"Agnostic" isn't a third state between atheism and theism, though a lot of people seem to wrongly consider it as such. Agnosticism is a statement about knowledge, atheism/theism is a statement about belief. Saying you are agnostic simply says that you don't have knowledge of whether a god actually exists or not, it doesn't say whether or not you believe one does. I'm atheist. I'm also agnostic. Most of the other atheists I know are also agnostic. Likewise, theists can also be agnostic, though I imagine it's far less common, given that the religious tend to view their holy books/artifacts as proof of their religion.

LarryC wrote:

KrazyTaco[FO]:

That's the other side's problem. America's culture is individuality. I know if my parents have issues with me not baptising my kids or have problems with my life then they can "suck it". In other words, it's my life and not theirs, and their opinions do not dictate what I do.

Is it? I don't know that it is. For a culture that prides itself on individuality, you guys can seem mighty clannish a lot of the time - in all the wrong ways.

Is it this "honesty" thing again? Is it expressing your belief whether or not it offends your parents? I confess that I don't understand. It's not uncommon for us to use rituals and traditions of other faiths, "just to be sure." We had a bunch of incense and a feng shui expert look over the house ritually. The Parish Priest saw nothing wrong with it. They even talked about occupational stuff afterwards during the luncheon - and of course the feng shui expert was Taoist.

Hell, I've attended a Ramadan fast and the evening feast. It was fun.

When it comes to family matters I would say that America is pretty individualistic (not 100% of people of course). Of course there are clannishness to many aspects of America (religion being numero uno), but when it comes to doing what you want to do, or doing what your parents say is best for you, 9 times out of 10 you will do what you want. So, even if my father said that I have to study and become a doctor, but I want to be an artist, I would bet the average American would become an artist.

LarryC wrote:

I'm not really what you would call religious. I go to Church and all that, but I don't have extra-curricular stuff going on. I am Catholic, but I'm also agnostic. Agnostic means that I don't have proof or I don't believe that I have logical reasons or evidence to believe in God. That doesn't mean that I can't choose to believe in Him anyway.

Can you please stop being combative, then? I made this thread for atheists and agnostics. I risked Certis' wrath by creating it and I chastised Robear (lightly) for steering this potentially into the direction of this thread. From your comments on the old thread and now this it's clear you're just here to troll or get a rise. Please. Stop.

LarryC wrote:

1Dgaf:

Huh. To my knowledge, I was discussing things consistent with what Paleocon was mentioning (about religious practices in Asia vis-a-vis tolerance and such). If you could PM me about the content that's offensive, I will edit the post to remove it. I confess that I don't really understand what you're saying. I'm on the side of evidence? Which side is that?

I think the offensive thing is that it seems that you're suddenly an agnostic just so you could jump into this thread and bring some of the baggage from the locked one along with you. DSGamer started this thread specifically to focus on what it means to be an "out" atheist/agnostic in a theist/gnostic society and politely asked that religious people not weigh in an effort to keep confrontation and the same tired arguments from cropping up. Most of your posts in this thread have been comments on how atheists/agnostics are somehow being insensitive, rude, or hostile by refusing to pretend to be religious or pay lip service to their family's religious traditions, which is a continuation of the derail that got 1Dgaf's thread locked.

Larry,

You said in the other thread (my bold):

"As for expression of belief, I think it's acceptable for atheists to express what they believe in in positive and life-affirming ways. If the core of your belief system is tearing down the beliefs of others, it's not a very good belief system. Not all atheists believe in the same thing; it's just a label to say that they don't subscribe to the majority religion, usually the one they come from, or which is prevalent in their home country."

"Those are acceptable ways to express belief in something other than a Christian God."

Atheism deals in evidence and logic. By your reasoning, only 'life affirming' evidence should be discussed. And an atheist's logic isn't seen as being 'positive', then it's unacceptable that they present it.

You suggest atheism is a belief system. It is not. Atheism has nothing to do with the 'majority religion'. Atheism is a position on one thing - there is no evidence for God/s.

From now on, if you tell people atheism is anything else, you'll be lying.

Here's the thing - I don't want you delete your stuff. Because I'm not trying to censor you. If I'm offended, I'm offended; that's for me to deal with. All that matters to me is what is true. This is where we differ.

Anyway, I think I've slunk around P&C for a bit too long. I'm sure you'll all have ribald discussion, but I'm bowing out of this one.

deleted per request

Actually, I learned not too long ago (maybe here, actually) that the true meaning of 'agnosticism' is that you don't think the question of God's existence can ever be answered. It's commonly used to indicate a lack of belief, because it's a less loaded word than atheism, but it's different from believing that you can't know the answer.

Most current agnostics, by the original meaning of the term, are actually weak atheists; they don't believe in God, but aren't willing to actively assert that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

Weak atheism is a lack of belief. Agnosticism is a belief that the question is unanswerable. Strong atheism is a belief that the question has been answered negatively.

edit: fixed a typo.

Malor wrote:

Weak atheism is a lack of belief. Agnosticism is a belief that the question is unanswerable. Strong atheism is a belief that the question has been answered negatively.

That's always how I've heard of the word used, as well. It also describes me pretty accurately. There's so much about the world that we don't understand, it seems silly to take the presence or absence of a deity as given with only weak evidence either way. (And there's always the third option that we, as humans, have no god watching over us, but sheep, or cows, or aliens hundreds of light-years away do.)

Plus, hey, it works well with the whole mythology-geek thing.

Oh, yeah, I didn't even think about that -- there might be a God, but it doesn't care about us at all, it's busy guiding the plant people of Epsilon Ceti IV.

It strikes me that weak atheism should be the default position, and then you should move from there based on the available evidence.

Malor wrote:

It strikes me that weak atheism should be the default position, and then you should move from there based on the available evidence.

Exactly my position.

Malor wrote:

It strikes me that weak atheism should be the default position, and then you should move from there based on the available evidence.

I agree with you on that for some specific definition of god. One that includes testable hypothesis.

But given the way god is commonly portrayed, an entity able to avoid all detection except by the faithful, as a hypothesis that is simply not falsifiable. This means that in this case for all practical purposes there is no difference between god and one that does not exist.

I realize this is not the argument I should be making in this thread. It has been done to death before in the others.

So instead: I came out as an Atheist at family dinner. An uncle and my dad were arguing over the particulars of some religious matter. It was all quite silly and I said the the now immortal words "Thank god I'm an Atheist". This produced a good laugh all round. Mum and dad are still active in church though I think it's more of a social thing these days. We still pray before dinner, though I'm just silent for a minute. Overall little has changed so far.

I'm quite happy there. Though I still have to apply a mental break when discussing with people who hold strong believes. Something about their believes just ribbs me wrongly. I want to go and shout "look thats where you are wrong". But that wouldn't be very respectful.

It's interesting to read the "to baptize, or not to baptize" posts - I was baptized in the Anglican church when I was 4 or 5 years old and my sister was still a baby. The only reason my parents bothered was because my mother's mother was horrified that we hadn't been baptized and kept referring to my sister and I as "little heathens".

My grandmother doesn't attend church except for weddings and funerals generally, but she was adamant that my sister and I be baptized. My mother said it was easier to not argue. I remember being a bit bored at the baptism and telling the...priest? pastor? not sure of his title, that I didn't want any water on my head. There were cookies after though, and I remember enjoying that part quite a bit.

If I'd chosen to have children of my own, I wouldn't have them baptized - though I'd be supportive if they chose to have themselves baptized later on in life.

I think my most unpleasant experience with religion and churches was assisting my ex-husband in getting an annulment from the Catholic church. We had got married in the Catholic church to please his very Catholic mother, and we divorced a few years later. When my ex met someone new and wanted to remarry, his fiancee, and both his and her mother, planned on a big Catholic wedding. That meant getting the annulment. I was agreeable to helping him get it; we were still reasonably friendly then.

The process was rather awful though - I've never been asked so many intrusive questions! What were my sexual proclivities, was there any madness in my family, why had we used birth control instead of having babies etc. Even worse, my ex had lied on his affidavit (or whatever it's called) and told the church that I was a bubble-headed moron who hated kids, and that he was shocked to learn that I wasn't religious at all, never mind a good Catholic. Oh the things I could have told them about his not-so-Christian behaviour! But, I didn't. I was pretty upset by his letter and the questions being put to me by the priest and could barely collect my thoughts at the time.

Needless to say, he and I are not on speaking terms anymore. But he got his annulment - I decided later I couldn't be bothered to correct the lies in his letter, and that it hardly mattered if a priest I would never see again thought I was a bubble-headed baby-hater.

Barring that one time, all my experiences with believers have been very positive - even when they know that I do not believe - and most seem content to let me go my way while they go theirs. I figure so long as I treat people (and am treated) with some measure of basic respect as a human being, then it's all good. So, no, I haven't felt any risk about being out as an athiest, but then religion doesn't come up much for me or the people I spend the majority of my time with.

Edited to actually address the OPs post!

Mimble wrote:

The process was rather awful though - I've never been asked so many intrusive questions! What were my sexual proclivities, was there any madness in my family, why had we used birth control instead of having babies etc. Even worse, my ex had lied on his affidavit (or whatever it's called) and told the church that I was a bubble-headed moron who hated kids, and that he was shocked to learn that I wasn't religious at all, never mind a good Catholic. Oh the things I could have told them about his not-so-Christian behaviour! But, I didn't. I was pretty upset by his letter and the questions being put to me by the priest and could barely collect my thoughts at the time.

Needless to say, he and I are not on speaking terms anymore. But he got his annulment - I decided later I couldn't be bothered to correct the lies in his letter, and that it hardly mattered if a priest I would never see again thought I was a bubble-headed baby-hater.

And religious folks wonder why a few run-ins with the church might turn us away. Criminy. I'm so sorry that happened to you.

Hey Mimble, if I may ask: what was the process of going to the classes, the promises, likely lies told to get to that point of the Catholic wedding? Even Catholics I know end up lying about living together, birth control, pre-marital sex.

One friend quite recently had her atheist fiance going through those same hoops.

Ultimately, it seems to never end well for the couple.

KingGorilla wrote:

Hey Mimble, if I may ask: what was the process of going to the classes, the promises, likely lies told to get to that point of the Catholic wedding? Even Catholics I know end up lying about living together, birth control, pre-marital sex.

One friend quite recently had her atheist fiance going through those same hoops.

Ultimately, it seems to never end well for the couple.

I think it really depends on your priest. I went through the catholic church wedding prep stuff and we were living together at the time. But I know another couple in our prep class was convinced to separate until the wedding, the poor guy was sleeping on the floor of his cubicle! As I recall, we hid our cohabitation from the people leading the class, but did not hide it from the priest officiating the wedding. We did have to say we were planning on having kids (honestly I thought I was back then, so that wasn't a lie), and he had to sign a pledge or something to raise them catholic (that would have been a potential issue when it came down to it). Oh, and the marriage prep class had a LOT about birth control and the husband getting to have the final say on things that I just had to keep from rolling my eyes. But as far as I understand, the "test" at the end of the class is more to make sure your answers line up with each others about expectations rather than if they are the "right" answers.

Yellek wrote:

We did have to say we were planning on having kids (honestly I thought I was back then, so that wasn't a lie), and he had to sign a pledge or something to raise them catholic (that would have been a potential issue when it came down to it).

It probably would have caused a ruckus with the family, that's for sure. But when the molesting priests scandal broke wide open, I decided that it would not happen. Since we'll never had kids, the point is moot now.

LarryC, do you consider agnosticism to be at odds with either the Nicene Creed or Apostles' Creed, which are considered the most basic tenants of Catholicism?

KingGorilla wrote:

Hey Mimble, if I may ask: what was the process of going to the classes, the promises, likely lies told to get to that point of the Catholic wedding? Even Catholics I know end up lying about living together, birth control, pre-marital sex.

One friend quite recently had her atheist fiance going through those same hoops.

Ultimately, it seems to never end well for the couple.

The priest that married us, Father Paul (aka Father What-a-Waste by the young ladies who attend that church) was great. He was very upfront with us and said that as a priest he had very little idea of what made a marriage good or long-lasting; so he brought in couples from his parish to speak to us instead. Some had been married only a few years, others had been married for 50 or more and they spoke to all of us on every conceivable subject: children, chores, finances (including wedding related debt), sex, religion and the day to day things that can make or break a marriage.

Father Paul also recognized that many couples were already living together and probably sleeping together before marriage, and he said he thought that was tolerable so long as everything involved having great love and respect for each other as people.

After an afternoon of talking, and getting a lot of good financial advice, we each had to take a test. Father Paul then sat down with each couple individually to go through the answers. The test was devised to ensure that we'd talked over the important things we'd eventually have to deal with as a couple, and to see how well we matched up on our answers. I admit that while I feel that I was truthful on my test, I know now that I was also very much looking at things through the rose tinted glasses of being newly engaged - it was a lot of fun to feel so ridiculously happy, but it doesn't help you see things more realistically.

I think the marriage course can be an eye-opener about important issues - esp. things like money and kids where compromise isn't always possible. If you're the sort to save carefully and you haven't quite decided about kids, but your beloved is a spendthrift who wants a hockey team worth of babies...better to find that out sooner rather than later and deal with it.

In my case, my ex and I married far too young and we were really fooling ourselves, each of us assuming that things would just work out because we loved each other. And no amount of classes was going to really fix that because we were so happy to be wearing blinders about everything. I think we should have lived together for another year or two before getting engaged and then taken the course, maybe if everything hadn't been so shiny and new, we could have been more realistic about what we could compromise on and what we couldn't.

So, in a case where the couple is more concerned about where the wedding happens, and photo opportunities, and The Dress, and all the other frills and trappings, or are simply so blinded by their sense of rightness for each other, or are using the phrase "our love" (I nearly peed myself trying not to laugh when I heard that one at the course) - and all that stuff is taking precedence over how the relationship works, the course is a nice idea, but not helpful in the long run.

DSGamer wrote:
Mimble wrote:

The process was rather awful though - I've never been asked so many intrusive questions! What were my sexual proclivities, was there any madness in my family, why had we used birth control instead of having babies etc. Even worse, my ex had lied on his affidavit (or whatever it's called) and told the church that I was a bubble-headed moron who hated kids, and that he was shocked to learn that I wasn't religious at all, never mind a good Catholic. Oh the things I could have told them about his not-so-Christian behaviour! But, I didn't. I was pretty upset by his letter and the questions being put to me by the priest and could barely collect my thoughts at the time.

Needless to say, he and I are not on speaking terms anymore. But he got his annulment - I decided later I couldn't be bothered to correct the lies in his letter, and that it hardly mattered if a priest I would never see again thought I was a bubble-headed baby-hater.

And religious folks wonder why a few run-ins with the church might turn us away. Criminy. I'm so sorry that happened to you.

Thanks - it was pretty sucky!

I have to say, I was never particularly interested in being a member of an organized religion, but the annulment process - mostly the interview - made me think that the authorities of the Catholic church in particular were a bunch of gossipy busybodies as I couldn't see how any of that information was any of their business. They explained that they needed it for understanding the spirit in which the marriage was made so that they could decide whether it was a marriage at all - and the annulment essentially wipes the slate clean - but for me, my legal divorce from the court house was all the authority I needed. Plus, my own desire to not be married to my ex anymore - I think that's pretty authoritative too!

As to the whole Agnostic/Atheist distinction, I remember us coming to a pretty good consensus in some previous thread that there are basically 4 categories:

Gnostic Theist - You believe in the existence of specific god(s)
Agnostic Theist - You believe in the existence of an unknown and/or unknowable god(s)
Agnostic Atheist - You don't believe in any god(s)
Gnostic Atheist - You believe there are no gods.

I think the vast majority of folks who identify Agnostic or Atheist fall into the Agnostic Atheist category. There are some folks (GioClark, my mom, etc) who fall into the Agnostic Theist, wherein they have a strong belief in some form of god/gods/higher power but don't claim to know the specifics.

I personally fall into the AA camp because I leave the possibility that the AT folks are right and there is some higher power out there. I do, however, fall into a weird anti-GT position wherein I believe with certainty that all Gnostic Theists are wrong.

If we have to have these degrees of breakdown I'm certainly agnostic atheist. I just always figured that, for me, agnostic seemed most apt because it was my way of saying that I pretty assume there is no higher power as I have no evidence, but I have no proof that one couldn't exist.

kaostheory wrote:

I personally fall into the AA camp because I leave the possibility that the AT folks are right and there is some higher power out there. I do, however, fall into a weird anti-GT position wherein I believe with certainty that all Gnostic Theists are wrong.

That's where I am too.

DSGamer wrote:

If we have to have these degrees of breakdown I'm certainly agnostic atheist. I just always figured that, for me, agnostic seemed most apt because it was my way of saying that I pretty assume there is no higher power as I have no evidence, but I have no proof that one couldn't exist.

Technically, none of us has proof that a god couldn't exist. I'm not trying to troll here, but in that intellectual definition, how could anyone be a gnostic atheist? I'm having a hard time seeing a distinction between AA and GA, following Kaostheory's list.

NSMike wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

If we have to have these degrees of breakdown I'm certainly agnostic atheist. I just always figured that, for me, agnostic seemed most apt because it was my way of saying that I pretty assume there is no higher power as I have no evidence, but I have no proof that one couldn't exist.

Technically, none of us has proof that a god couldn't exist. I'm not trying to troll here, but in that intellectual definition, how could anyone be a gnostic atheist? I'm having a hard time seeing a distinction between AA and GA, following Kaostheory's list.

[Edit]
Gnostic Atheism is much like Gnostic Theism. It's a belief not founded in proof or fact. It's not an entirely rational position, but it as valid a position as any of the others.
[/Edit]

I think the GA group is the smallest group by a very large margin, but you have to acknowledge that the viewpoint exists, especially since most religious folks assume that everyone who is an Agnostic Theist or Agnostic Atheist is actually a Gnostic Atheist.

NSMike wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

If we have to have these degrees of breakdown I'm certainly agnostic atheist. I just always figured that, for me, agnostic seemed most apt because it was my way of saying that I pretty assume there is no higher power as I have no evidence, but I have no proof that one couldn't exist.

Technically, none of us has proof that a god couldn't exist. I'm not trying to troll here, but in that intellectual definition, how could anyone be a gnostic atheist? I'm having a hard time seeing a distinction between AA and GA.

I'd say someone who believes (on a religious level) in some non-spiritual explanation for our existence (i.e. aliens, computer simulation of some alternate universe). I suppose you could consider Hawking's theory that the universe simply popped into existence a gnostic atheist explanation. An agnostic atheist is saying "we don't know yet (and it may not be possible to know)," a gnostic atheist is someone who is saying "we know, and it's not due to a higher power."

The "creation myth" is just one part of a belief structure. I want to make sure there is a distinction between science and religion. You can be anywhere on the theist-atheist spectrum and believe in the Big Bang, or alien insemination of earth, or whatever.

However, I do think you're on to something about how a Gnostic Atheist sees the world (I can't really say, because I'm not one. And I don't think I've seen anyone on these boards have a Gnostic Atheist worldview, so we aren't likely to get that POV here). "There is no god(s), there is science and knowable fact." Basically, disregarding the uncertainty as too improbable to discuss. Yes, light could be caused by magical fairies, but the evidence is so overwhelmingly against it that it's not worth considering... for now. Though if someone sees some fairy wings, I'll look into it, skeptically.

Throughout my life I have been all four of those.

Now I think I am AT in the Catholic tradition.

I know for sure I won't ever be GT again. Never was good at it.

GAs think they more know than they do.

AAs I respect. And some days I feel like I am AA.

So basically, gnostic atheists are just as irrational as someone acting on religious faith.

I once said in a post on these boards that I thought observable supernatural phenomena are a myth, and I still hold to that idea. Does that make me a gnostic atheist? Or would I have to say that the possibility of observable supernatural phenomena is a myth?