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Atheism as a Faith: The (Hopefully) Final Debate

Discussion in 'Christianity and World Religion' started by leftrightleftrightleft, Aug 27, 2010.

  1. leftrightleftrightleft

    leftrightleftrightleft Well-Known Member

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    I'm really tired of people debating whether atheism is a faith or not, so I want to try and settle it here. I know this is probably futile, but I'll try anyway. So, lets begin.

    First, the definition of faith from dictionary.com:

    faith
       /feɪθ/ [​IMG] Show Spelled[feyth] [​IMG] Show IPA
    –noun
    1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
    2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
    3. belief in god or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
    4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
    5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
    6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
    7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
    8. Christian Theology . the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.

    I think the reason people get so riled up on this issue is because of a difference in definition. After all, there are 8 listed definitions of the word.

    Atheists do not have faith with regards to point number 1 in the definition above. They do not have confidence or trust in a person or thing. You can't have confidence or trust in your biological brother if you only have biological sisters. You also can't trust that your car will start on a cold morning if you don't own a car. It makes no sense.

    Point number 2 is more contentious because of the word "proof". Proof is listed as a synonym for "evidence". So number 2 can be reworded as "belief that is not based on evidence". In this case, from the viewpoint of the atheist, he does not have faith because he claims he does have evidence. Likewise, a theist would also claim that he has evidence. Both sides claim their "belief is based on evidence". The problem is that both sides disagree on the authenticity of the other's evidence. So lets say point 2 is moot and does not factor into the argument because it gets us nowhere from either side.

    Atheists do not have faith based on number 3 because they don't believe in God(s).

    I don't think point 4, 6 or 7 apply because they are using "faith" in an entirely different way than what we are concerned with.

    Point 8 doesn't apply because it is strictly concerned with Christianity.

    So, by my understanding, atheists do not have faith in anything.

    Agreed?


    This next bit is less logically sound and can be ripped apart a lot easier, but we'll try it out anyway:

    You'll notice I conspicuously missed number 5. Because there's another facet to this argument. Whether or not atheism is a faith system (ie religion).

    Point 5 states "a system of religious belief". Point number 5 requires the definition of religion.
    Religion is broadly defined as "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs; a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed on by a number of persons or sects". Nowhere in the definition does it say that a religion necessitates a belief in the supernatural nor does it necessitate moral codes or devotional observances.
    Belief is broadly defined as "an opinion or conviction; confidence in the truth of something".

    Consider the statement: "There is/are no God(s)". I would say, atheists have an opinion or conviction as to the truth value of that statement. They have some level of confidence in the truth of that statement.

    Therefore, I would say that, atheists do have a belief, opinion or conviction that the statement "There is/are no God(s)" is true.
    Consider the following statements: "The universe was formed without a supernatural designer", "The universe as a whole progresses without an overarching, objective purpose", "The universe is governed by certain changeless laws as discovered by the scientific method, some of which may be true in all cases, some of which may be undiscovered and some of which may have been discovered but are not fully understood."

    I would say that all atheists have a certain degree of confidence that those three statements are true along with the first statement. I am not fond of generalizations or overarching statements, but I think (I think) in this case, those four statements are universally true for any atheist. Please correct me if this is an invalid assumption.

    By this, atheism is a religion because atheism then has "a set of agreed upon opinions or convictions, concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe". Atheism also has "a specific fundamental set of opinons or convictions generally agreed on by a number of persons or sects." (Atheism doesn't really have any specific "practices" that I know of).

    If you accept all this, then it is logical to say that atheism is a religion and therefore that you can have the Atheistic Faith (going waaaay back to point number 5).

    So, in conclusion.

    Atheists do not have faith but Atheism is a faith system. Atheists do have fundamental beliefs.


    Let the disagreement ensue.
     
  2. leftrightleftrightleft

    leftrightleftrightleft Well-Known Member

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    Also, another question:

    If you are an atheist, does that automatically mean you don't believe in the supernatural?

    Buddhism is atheistic, but still believes in an afterlife and other supernatural ideas.

    Is there a more adequate term for someone who does not believe in God(s) as well as believes only in the physical universe with no afterlife or things beyond this universe? Do such people exist?
     
  3. Eudaimonist

    Eudaimonist I believe in life before death!

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    They may, but not necessarily. What makes them atheists is that they lack belief in God(s), and that alone.

    Atheists do have beliefs, but not as "atheists".

    Atheism is not a "faith system" or belief system. My belief system isn't "Atheism", but far transcends that, since atheism is only a lack of belief in God(s) and isn't a system at all.

    If I have a belief system, I would call that Eudaimonism. Really, in its absolute fullness it is Mark-ism. This particular belief system is obviously not shared by all other atheists.

    Some atheists are Secular Humanists. Others are Objectivists. Others are Existentialists. Others are Buddhists. Yet others are unnamed, because they aren't formal systems.

    No.

    Buddhists can, in principle, be atheists.

    Sure, I can think of several that mean just that: physicalist, naturalist, metaphysical naturalist, and scientific realist.

    Yes, certainly. Reductive materialists, such as Marxists, are like this.

    I might also be one, as long as the concept "physical universe" may encompass the emergent property of awareness, which I see as fully natural and a part of the natural universe.


    eudaimonia,

    Mark
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2010
  4. Jane_the_Bane

    Jane_the_Bane Gaia's godchild

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    "Atheism" as a descriptor is just as fuzzily generalized as "theism": it does not communicate much beyond "world view that includes a lack of belief/belief in god(s)".

    What exactly these world views contain beyond that single feature, or even the exact nature of that single aspect is not revealed by these basic terms.

    A Hindu is just as much of a theist as a Muslim, a (neo-)pagan, a Christian, or even a Setian - and yet, I guess we can all agree that there are some profound differences between all of these (apart from the fact that two of them claim the same god for themselves).

    The same applies to atheistic/apatheistic world views: Buddhism, Communism, naturalistic pantheism, secular humanism, Marxism, Objectivism, Eudaimonism...

    Again, I think we can all agree that these are not that much alike. In fact, some of them are diametrical opposites.
     
  5. Glass*Soul

    Glass*Soul Senior Veteran

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    Why is it important to apply this one word, using two of its different meanings, to two different worldviews? Do you feel that, as a Christian, you are scoring some rhetorical point against the world's atheists by doing this? Having a little joke at our expense? Defanging us?

    I don't get it.
     
  6. dewaddict84

    dewaddict84 meh

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    ha HA! Good luck with that.
    But that is a pretty in depth look at the subject.
    Huh, actually I find myself agreeing with that. Bravo, good job.


    No. But most probably don't.


    Well, a lot of people have certainly deified the buddha. I'm not sure if that counts.


    Hello.


    Naw, it's been one of those things that gets through around a lot here and it makes everyone confused when people assume different definitions.

    I never really understood why some atheists get annoyed when it's called a belief.
     
  7. Tenka

    Tenka Guest

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    Atheism requires no faith because to any religious question an atheist can simply respond "I don't know".

    Atheism only requires one thing, lack of belief in any god. Anything aside from that is up to the individual and not necessarily part of being atheist.
     
  8. Witchy Bee

    Witchy Bee Alis volat propriis

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    I don't see why there needs to be a debate at all. If atheists don't consider it a faith then why do you care? Why must we classify everyone based on whether or not they have faith in something? It's not like, by saying atheism is a faith, all atheist who disagree will start calling it as such.
     
  9. leftrightleftrightleft

    leftrightleftrightleft Well-Known Member

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    You'll notice that one of my conclusions is that atheists don't have faith in anything. So, no, its not just me trying to bash atheists. Its simply me searching for clarification of language using dictionary definitions of given words.

    I should never have started this thread. Is there any way to delete it?
     
  10. leftrightleftrightleft

    leftrightleftrightleft Well-Known Member

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    Lets just call this thread dead. Atheism is not a faith. Atheists don't have faith in anything. Conclusion reached.

    Thread finished.
     
  11. mandyangel

    mandyangel Regular Member

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    atheism: a cover for depression, there miserable so they have to make everybody else miserable 2, and a cover to bring lawsuits agianst government buildings
     
  12. ks777

    ks777 Start singing

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    I've never thought about this before, but I guess it's easy to argue either way. I tend to think everyone has faith in something.. Acording to this definition,

    "belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact"

    even aithiests have beliefs, just not beliefs in god/s. For example, they may trust and have faith in factless theories from scientists. I suppose another belief that is not based on proof is that something doesn't exist. If you can't prove something doesn't exist, then it's your view or belief that that something doesn't exist.

    I agree, I wouldn't call atheism a faith though. But athiests can still have faith in things, for sure. That thing in question doesn't have to be God.
     
  13. Jane_the_Bane

    Jane_the_Bane Gaia's godchild

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    QUOTE=mandyangel;55573870]atheism: a cover for depression, there miserable so they have to make everybody else miserable 2, and a cover to bring lawsuits agianst government buildings[/QUOTE]

    [​IMG][
     
  14. ks777

    ks777 Start singing

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    Saying faith as a noun rather than a verb to me implies a collection of beliefs, but athiests don't necessary follow a collection of beliefs so I wouldn't call it a faith. I'm still adament that it takes more faith to be an athiest though.
     
  15. Eudaimonist

    Eudaimonist I believe in life before death!

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    Q: What makes someone a theist?

    A: that someone believes in the existence of divine beings.

    Nothing more can be said about a theist. Theism is not itself a worldview. It may be a category into which worldviews may be placed, but it doesn't name anything remotely like a complete worldview, even in sketch form.

    Likewise, atheism is not itself a worldview. It's just a category into which various, often very different, worldviews may be placed.

    So:

    Category
    - Worldview
    -- Individual

    Theism
    - Christianity
    -- leftrightleftrightleft's personal set of views on life
    - Islam
    - Judaism
    - Buddhism
    ...etc.

    Atheism
    - Secular Humanism
    - Objectivism
    - Eudaimonism
    -- Mark-ism
    ...etc.

    This obviously is abstract, but it should help show just why one shouldn't compare Atheism to Christianity. You are comparing apples and oranges. Those concepts exist at different levels of abstraction.


    eudaimonia,

    Mark
     
  16. Eudaimonist

    Eudaimonist I believe in life before death!

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    Dictionaries are worse than useless in these sorts of discussions. They only name popular uses of a word, as broadly stated as possible, and not necessarily the best use of a word in a particular situation. Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. If you want to know how words are used, ask the people who are closest to them.

    Hint, hint. Atheists seem to best understand what atheism means. ;)

    Incidentally, I don't like "faith" as a synonym of "belief". Atheists certainly have beliefs, but not necessarily "faith", at least as atheists understand the term.


    eudaimonia,

    Mark
     
  17. oi_antz

    oi_antz Opposed to Untruth.

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    Oh yes they do, friend. They have faith that there is no God, they have faith that their belief in the origins of existent are correct, they have faith that there is no afterlife. All of which contain sufficiently different beliefs than other religions to define athiesm as "the unorganised religion sweeping the world by storm". Already there are people fighting athiesm and there are converts.

    Already this religion is taking over our states, schools and medical institutions. I heard of a Christian school proposal refused by the ministry of Education because the statistics said the region didn't need another Christian school even though the land was purchased, the plans were ready to go and there was sufficient commitment from the church to run it as a private institution. These church members were desperately crying out to the government "we need another Christian school" but they put their fingers in their ears. This is nothing short of antichrist behavior coming from a government official enforcing their atheistic faith.
     
  18. Eudaimonist

    Eudaimonist I believe in life before death!

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    No, I don't. I simply lack belief in God due to the lack of persuasive evidence for such a being.

    Atheism is not tied to any particular view of origins. If you are going to speak of "them", you might as well call them "atheistic evolutionists" or "atheistic advocates of the Big Bang". This would at least narrow it down to the right group of people.

    Evolution actually just a best view based on a rational evaluation of evidence. There's no real faith involved, because there is no commitment involved. My views on origins can change in the light of new evidence. This is faith? Can there be faith without commitment?

    I don't have faith in this. It's just a conclusion draw from the evidence. I have seriously considered afterlife scenarios, and find the Buddhist model of rebirth at least somewhat plausible, but not quite enough to convince me. Not much faith here.

    By storm! How dramatic!

    There are no converts to atheism, only deconverts from religions. "Atheism" is not a worldview that one can convert to.

    Atheism is also not a position in politics, so one can only fight the Ministry of Education, for instance, or the political establishment, or some political party, or some other organization, but not atheists as such.

    Assuming the details in your horror story are correct, I would be on your side in favor of letting the private school be built!

    Incidentally, I doubt that atheism was a motivation at all in your story. It sounds like the usual problems with any government that is heavy with bureaucracy, regulations, special interest groups, etc.


    eudaimonia,

    Mark
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2010
  19. oi_antz

    oi_antz Opposed to Untruth.

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    But you have faith in yourself that you are right to do this, despite that there are people all over the world who have found their own "sufficiently persuasive evidence" - that is to say that if you're determined not to be persuaded then you are consciously deciding that you will not believe in God and you are in fact demonstrating to us that you have faith that cannot be challenged.
    I believe athiest denominations will be refined into groups as you are suggesting, probably over the next few centuries. Did you ever see the south park episode on Atheism? They were fighting over the name of their club!

    Of course there can, it is called growth.

    You know inside what your heart says to you and so do I. Are you saying if you were convinced to believe something you would suddenly have faith? Because logically your believing in nothing requires faith - greater faith than me it would seem.

    I know, it is a very aggressive movement, it needs to be if it is to topple the religions it is coming up against.

    I think this is a matter of opinion.

    Well I was almost about to mention the beast of revelations but I thought twice. This time I'm telling you plain that I see the beast of revelations is rising to take the world away from God and to make it his own. The less Christians around to hinder him the better. This antichrist is the driving force behind these sorts of events. What I'm saying is if you are not on side with God you are on side with the enemy. (Ignorance does not make you immune to it).

    And this is why atheism really should become organised and proclaim it's place as a world religion. The code of morals and ethics from atheist's is some of the most unbiased and balanced moral opinion I have noticed.

    Well anything to suppress Christianity specifically is a direct attack on Christianity.

    eudaimonia,

    Mark
     
  20. Jane_the_Bane

    Jane_the_Bane Gaia's godchild

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    Some people just don't want to learn. They are too happy being deeply immersed in their stereotypes and prejudices, and probably also happy to be part of a scenario where they can clearly demarkate the front line between "Us" and "Them".

    This whole weird "culture war"-thing has been cooked up by the religious right, as if conservative Christianity wasn't already one of the most dominant forces in US media.
    But of course, it's a brilliant propaganda ploy that's been used by others before: portray dissenters as part of an unpatriotic conspiracy, and claim that you are the underdog trying to defend the "truth" against an overwhelming opposition that's trying to smother everything in lies - when in fact, people simply disagree with you because YOU ARE WRONG.
     
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