What do Atheists believe? (Other than the non-existence of God...)

One of my close friends, who happens to be a Christian, once suggested to me that, "He who believes in NOTHING should have exactly that... Nothing."

At first, I took this statement as a terrible insult and attack on my views regarding Atheism, religion, God, etc. However, after more thought on the issue, I have a different opinion on how one should respond to this statement. A fellow A.N. user that I will not name, suggested the question, "What do we, as Atheists, believe?" He/She was essentially asking, other than not believing in God, what do we believe in, even without evidence?

Truth be told, my simple answer is that I do not BELIEVE in anything, without supporting evidence. (Basically, I do not have FAITH in anything.) I do, however, believe that certain instances of practices which are shrouded in faith and superstition, can have a real impact on our existence within the physical world. However, this is NOT for the ridiculous reasons that the "believers" would have you admit.

For instance, Tai Chi is a practice that is based on the primitive idea that all living things are full "chi" or "qi", an essential "life force", if you will. The movements in the forms for Tai Chi are supposed to help with the flow of Chi, in an individuals body. As I do not necessarily believe in Chi, as defined by the traditional practices and beliefs, I do think that, there is a level of physical aid, provided by Tai Chi, that most likely relies on the principle of "mind over matter", though I do NOT have any observable evidence to support my claims.

Is this illogical? No. So how does this method of thinking differ from the method used for our decision to be atheists? Because we admit that we COULD be wrong when it comes to Tai Chi or any similar practices. Religion, however DOES NOT ALLOW for the possibility of ANY explanation outside the traditional beliefs. It is a one-way street and God is always the answer.

So, a better statement would be, "He who believes in eternal damnation, will have it his entire life. He who believes in 'nothing' will be troubled by exactly that... Nothing." ^_^

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Comment by jakeatkisson on March 30, 2010 at 1:34am
Atheists don't necessarily believe in nothing at all. We specifically do not believe in any unverified and unsubtantiable god-figures. In a lot of other matters, we tend to range a very full gamut of skepticism in colorful degrees on many subjects.

An atheist perceives no obligation to obey edicts of an absent and undemonstrable god-figure. We do not accept the high-browed condecensions of theists presuming to judge us for not obeying/revering their deity of choice when it is pointedly and demonstrably clear that they're really just riled that we're not obeying them.

After all, they're the mouthpieces, authors, interpreters and alleged 'experts' on what their god(s) are, want, mean and demand. To deny the validity of their god-figure(s) is to strip them of their own much-laureled (and very much enjoyed) moral, political and social authority.

So, naturally, they hate atheists. They say "In the name of god, trust and obey!" and we say "There is no god, and we do not trust nor shall we obey you. Let your god come forth and make his/her/it/their own demands, or stfu and gtfo. Kthxbai."

But on a lot of other stuff? Well sure. We're human, after all, and we're fairly well given over to a great deal of 'magical thinking'. This isn't inherently bad, or wrong, and certainly not 'evil'...but, like any tool misused, our capacities for imagination and irrationality do us no good favors when we lazily try to rely upon them for all the answers.

It's easy to just...make up any ol' feel-good answer to questions like "What happens when we die?" and "Where did the universe come from?" and so on. Very easy; humanity's been at it for a long, long time!

But is it useful? Once upon a time, it might well have been. Even now, such myths and fables may indeed be valuable as points of examination for the better understanding of how humanity copes with unanswerable debacles as well as for historical purposes.

Should we scrap the science programs, throw out the doctors, execute all the scientists and burn down all the hospitals in favor of turning to prayer and MagicHolyText referencing for every answer to everything?

Only if you fancy living the life of a nomad, herding sheep and doing nothing with your life but fighting to survive should the answer to that be 'yes', 'cause here you are, reading this post on a computer screen brought to you and powered by...

...sophisticated technology working in precision-formatted fashions, courtesy of a whole lot of people not relying on cheap, easy cop-out feel-good 'answers' to questions such as "What is that skyfire and how does it work?"

Theists would essentially still have us worshiping lightning, hurricanes, earthquakes and thunderstorms (or more literally, worshiping a god-figure of their own invention in seeking protection from inexplicable skyfire, storms of godly wrath and condemning bellowing of the god-figure so mighty as to shake the foundations of the earth!) if the most loudly trumpeted 'values' they extol in mainstream media and across the US of A are to be considered as validly representative of their core and vital interests.

So...he who believes in nothing should have nothing?

I say to your friend that he who is free of sin should cast the first stone.

O'whoops. Smacked down by his own gosh-durned holybook's teachings.

Derp.
Comment by Dave on March 29, 2010 at 6:28pm
No one really thinks that atheists don't believe things in the normal sense. If an atheist says 'I believe I'm the only one here who speaks Spanish', nobody turns a hair. The misleading common usage which is relevant here, with its embedded stereotypical prejudices, is the contrast 'believer/nonbeliever', 'believer/unbeliever', and so forth. Top of the suspect usage list is the affirmation 'I believe!', which epitomises the folk-psychological notion often described by Daniel Dennett as 'belief in belief'. This notion extrapolates from the simple idea that beliefs are good for you - a typical example is the successful placebo effect - to the idea that having a belief of a certain kind imparts to those who hold it some inherent and unspecified moral superiority unavailable to those who don't.

It's hard to combat deeply embedded common usages, and atheists don't always help by adopting them themselves. I like your style of response, TheIrishFrog, which directly and aptly targets the belief-formation process, and spells it out that some grounds for believing are more adequate, reliable and truth-conducive than others. Here are some other possible ways one might respond:

[1] Address the underlying 'moral superiority' prejudice directly, e.g. 'There's no evidence at all that people with religious beliefs behave any better than others' (there isn't, as far as I know).

[2] Avoid negative construals ('I don't believe', 'unbeliever', 'disbeliever', nonbeliever') if possible. One way to do this is to treat any belief as a simple proposition ('God exists', 'planes fly', 'prayer works', 'the market knows best'), and to state your (positive!) belief that it's true, false, highly probable or highly improbable, for various reasons.

[3] Recast the terms of the discussion provocatively but affirmatively: 'You believe God exists, I believe human beings exist and that that's a belief worth working with'.

[4] Recall that the boundary between belief and opinion is quite indeterminate. Someone confronted with the idea that 'God exists' is simply her opinion may find it quite difficult to explain exactly why that's a 'belief' rather than an 'opinion'.

[5] Hand your friend (if this is appropriate for you) a pocket copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and say 'this is a pretty good representation of my beliefs and values. Which ones do you disagree with?'
Comment by Sonny Mobley on March 29, 2010 at 1:49pm
I believe that existence precedes essense. ^____^
Comment by Matt A on March 29, 2010 at 12:53am
I believe plenty of things, but none of them are beyond the bounds of reality. I believe in that which is, and that which through hard work, can be.
Comment by Tak G. on March 29, 2010 at 12:24am
"Religion, however DOES NOT ALLOW for the possibility of ANY explanation outside the traditional beliefs. It is a one-way street and God is always the answer."
Bingo!
Comment by Howard S. Dunn on March 28, 2010 at 11:56pm
Delete Comment I am of the strong persuasion that this is my one shot at life. Because of this, I want to be as beautiful as I can. My idea of redemption is that of an ongoing process of progress by which humanity and all beings we affect are progressively better off for our having affected them.

For me, death makes life precious. Atheism is more about solving mysteries than relying on faith, more about having courage than an eternal soul, about doing beautiful, responsible, kind, generous, and compassionate things because they are the right thing to do rather than to avoid eternal pain or achieve eternal bliss.

I feel that we are each responsible for our actions, both helpful and harmful, and all have the potential to do more good than harm - and vice versa. I feel that the only way that a human mind is of any value is if its uniqueness is celebrated through its application to the challenges and promise of this extremely rare opportunity - life.

I feel that any organization that imposes unyielding rules and dogmatic ideologies on large groups of people through the application of fear, especially from early childhood indoctrination, and with the pretense of the might of a Supreme Being is a heinous drag on human progress and stultification of human potential.

The golden rule is valid. Love is more productive than hate. Violence is the coward's way. War is the last resort of incompetent leadership. Tyranny is a result of the abdication of power by the masses. Knowledge is power and, therefore, should be disseminated as rapidly and evenly as possible. No one knows who has the next great idea - so all should be listened to.

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