Dichotomy, Atheism And The Transition Point

Dichotomy, Atheism And The Transition Point

The following analogy is independent from the subjective human preference for light over darkness. 

Complete darkness is the absence of light.    Light is not the absence of darkness.  
Real atheism is the absence of any faith.  Faith is not the absence of atheism.    

Day and night, light and darkness are dichotomies.   
Faith or the absence of faith, delusion or the freedom from delusion are dichotomies.  

But they are not really dichotomies, because there is a transition phase between them.  
There is twilight, it is either dusk or dawn.  
There is often either a phase of doubts or of the replacement of the content of the faith.   The shift is gradual from the most obvious irrationality like a personal god to more vague irrationality like spirituality, woo-woo, new age beliefs.   

Simple lamps function by the dichotomy, that they can only be either turned on or of. 
Using the lamp requires a dichotomy of a decision, when to consider it as night and turn the light on and when to consider it as day and turn the lamp off.  
The conscious self-labeling functions by the dichotomy of either defining oneself as an atheist or as a believer of something.   In situations, when behavior is either determined by faith or by the absence thereof without any neutral third option, the choice of this behavior depends upon the self-label.    

The transition point is sometimes fuzzy.  
Individuals have different subjective perceptions for brightness, and people linger sometimes before acting, so that they do not turn the light on or off at the same time during dusk or dawn.   
The perception, when rational doubts are as strong as the irrational needs and attractions of faith, is very subjective.   Individuals are under very different external influences, and people linger sometimes before acting.   The trigger for the transition to become an atheist is different for every individual.  
For someone sitting in a room without windows, where the lamps are operated by another person, day and night are truly dichotomous.   That person inside is ignorant of the amount of light outside.   
For a person ignorant of what goes on inside another person's head, this person's belief system is dichotomous according to his self-labeling.   The person either declares to be an atheist or not, but how much or little he really believes is hidden.   

Here ends the simple analogy.

There are many transitions, when proactive behavior, expectations for behavior, expectations towards others and legal rights change in a dichotomous way.    When the transition point is vague and invisible and not clearly defined, this can sometimes cause confusion.    This problem is solved by externally defining and fixing the transition point by a transition ritual.    

Most transition rituals are connected with growing up.   There are initiation rites in tribal groups. religious ceremonies to become a full member of a religious congregation, the reaching of legal age, ceremonies when getting a degree and many more.   

Fixing the transition point by a transition ritual has some psychological consequences. 
1. It defines the subsequent appropriate social role for the individual.  This ends confusion and cognitive dissonance between own inclinations and the role before the transition.
2.  It helps others to know, how to perceive and treat the person.
3.  It hides the information, how much or how little the person really fits the requirements of the new role.    
A transition ritual is helpful also for the transition from faith to atheism.    In Germany, every member of the two major religions is automatically paying church tax along with income tax, until the person formally declares the end of the membership.   Appearing personally in the town hall for this act serves as a transition ritual.  
In other countries, people can decide from one moment to the next to never make use of any religious service anymore, and declare themselves to be atheists at any moment.   But as this is only in their mind, instead of experiencing one clear transition point, they easily continue oscillating between self-labeling themselves as atheists and relapsing to temporary faith.  
While real atheism means the complete absence of any faith, the transition point, from where people dichotomously self-label themselves as atheists, is not yet the point, where real atheism has been reached, it is only the point of the predominance of the doubts over faith.    Self-labeled atheists can be either void of any faith or their atheism is only skin-deep, while they are rationally fighting against their wish or need for a faith.      Some of the skin-deep atheists will never really get void of all substitute beliefs, others are still on the way of overcoming all of their previous faith.    


This text is a copy from my ERCP-blog

Views: 75

Tags: atheism, ritual, transition

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Comment by Tenken on November 1, 2011 at 9:32am

@John

I define belief the way you define faith, as an acceptance of ideas without proof. I define faith as trust, or expectation, placed in those ideas...

This is something that annoys me.  To have faith in something does require trust, but we already have a word for that: trust.  What we need is a word for belief without or despite evidence.  You have claimed this is your definition of belief, which then leaves the reader wondering what you have now defined as the traditional meaning of belief.  What do you call a belief based on evidence?

Comment by Maruli Marulaki on November 1, 2011 at 8:52am

John:

I have to recommend a bit more brevity in your writing. Lots of compound sentences make it tough to keep track of the beginnings of each line, and thus the points being made.

Thanks for this feedback.   Writing in a foreign language makes it difficult to be aware of this.

 

Tenken:  You made me aware, that I should make a difference between atheism and apistia.   So far, I used both as synonyma.   

 

Comment by John Camilli on November 1, 2011 at 2:47am

Ok, I suppose that'a good enough reason to censor comments. Still don't like it :-).

 

Anyway, your clarification made sense to me. I have to admit, I didn't get that impression from what I read. I tried to stay focused on what you were saying as I was reading it, but for the sake of you being able to better communicate your ideas, I have to recommend a bit more brevity in your writing. Lots of compound sentences make it tough to keep track of the beginnings of each line, and thus the points being made. But now I get what you meant, and I essentially agree.

 

I define belief the way you define faith, as an acceptance of ideas without proof. I define faith as trust, or expectation, placed in those ideas (which goes beyond mere acceptance). But we are each certainly entitled to our own definitions, since even dictionaries tend to disagree on them.

 

If you haven't heard of it, I recommend you check into the philosophy of Pyrrhonic skepticism. It seems right up your alley.

Comment by Tenken on October 31, 2011 at 11:34pm

There are initiation rites in tribal groups. religious ceremonies to become a full member of a religious congregation, the reaching of legal age, ceremonies when getting a degree and many more.

None of these artificial rituals or the others you mentioned are similar to a natural phenomenon like belief.  They are similar to the artificial phenomenon of labeling oneself.  You made this distinction, which is important, but I don't think you established its importance.

You are mistaken about the definition of atheism.  It refers only to the lack of a belief in deities.  Defining "faith" as "belief in the absence of or despite evidence," it may be impossible to truly lack faith, although it is certainly possible to externally hold a strictly anti-faith stance, invalidating any belief identified as faith.  This requires the nature of the belief to be brought to your attention first though.  Also, your last statement is bothersome.  It sounds like you are equating atheism with naturalism or possibly some other belief system, as if "real" atheists don't hold supernatural or superstitious beliefs.  This isn't true.  There is no belief system implied by atheism.  There is only one thing implied by atheism: a lack of belief in deities.

 

Belief is dichotomous.  If you don't positively assert that a claim is true, you don't believe it.  You doubt it.  It may be the most probable explanation you are aware of, such as the Big Bang theory, but if you don't actively believe it to be true, then you lack the belief in it, period.  Whereas you are attempting to call out "superficial" atheists, the truth is there probably aren't many.  There are, however, a very significant amount of superficial theists.  They are "unsure," "doubting," "skeptical," "questioning," but they reject the atheist label despite lacking an active belief in deities, no doubt because of the negative consequences of this action and the negative connotations of the label.

 

You have alluded to the concept of certainty.  In common usage, we confusingly make statements like "I believe it with 80% certainty," when in reality, this means "I believe there is an 80% probability it is true."  Your belief is in the probability, not the claim.  If you do not feel 100% certain, you do not believe it.  It is common to believe something with 100% certainty, yet still admit that there is a possibility (in any degree) that it is untrue.  This is more of a formality, because it is not possible to willfully control the natural phenomenon of belief.

 

A commonly cited problem to the argument that belief is dichotomous involves the idea of suspension of belief.  (A lot of the points I'm hitting on are topics within themselves, but I'm trying to cover them as briefly as possible.)  Is it actually possible to suspend belief?  I'm going to start a new discussion about this lol.

 

The transition from self-labeling as a theist to an atheist might be interesting and useful to study, but I really don't see the purpose of developing some ritual, and you don't seem to have identified one in your post.  To be frank, I found myself unable to follow your logic throughout much of your post.  And I just realized how long this reply is to a post that seems not to even have a purpose.  Oops!

Comment by Maruli Marulaki on October 31, 2011 at 9:49am
I am approving EVERY comment, as long as someone, who is stalking me with unsuitable comments on my other blog, does not start to do the same here.   Censoring would mean selective approval.
You're trying to boil down all of human behavior into simple dichotomous relationships.

I was doing exactly the contrary.   In the lamp analogy, I was pointing out, that the behavior of turning on or of the light is a dichotomous reaction to a non-dichotomous situation of the transition from light to darkness.   My point is that when people decide to call themselves atheists, it is one option in an artificial dichotomy.   They do not mean the same by the label, and others cannot know, what the label means and what in a non-dichotomous way is their mental situation.
I can't really agree that atheism is an absence of faith. I'd say its an absence of superstition, and a lack of belief in God, or gods, but atheists still use belief and faith to make everyday decisions.

I use the word faith as the non-doubting taking for true of claims and appearances.   Faith is the contrary of applying skeptical and scientific thinking.   The contrary of faith is estimating probabilities.
Comment by John Camilli on October 31, 2011 at 9:24am
Oh yeah, I forgot, you censor people's comments. I must remember to avoid talking to you then, as I do not enjoy being censored.
Comment by John Camilli on October 31, 2011 at 9:23am

Wow, that was thick. You're trying to boil down all of human behavior into simple dichotomous relationships. But, as you pointed out, many or all relationahips that are perceived as dichotomous, actually are not. Your lamp analogy, for example: it can be off or on, but it can also be being turned on or off while the electricity is traveling through the wires, or it could be turned on while unplugged, making it both off and switched on at the same time.

 

I can't really agree that atheism is an absence of faith. I'd say its an absence of superstition, and a lack of belief in God, or gods, but atheists still use belief and faith to make everyday decisions. For example, most of us believe in causality, and have faith that when we instigate a cause, that it will have an effect (whether or not it is the one we desire). However, causality is a theory, and it cannot be proven or disproven...ever, so to think of it as a correct theory is to believe in it, and to act accordingly is to have faith in that belief.

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