Ok sorry for the click baity title but it is what it is. Just a thought I came across the other day. There are two very different statements I hear from theists. The first is “I believe in god” and the second being “There is a god”. While on the surface they may sound like they are saying the same thing but the are very different indeed. One is a statement of belief, and the other is a claim to knowledge. I know that sounds arbitrary but the distinction is important.
Lets start with the first statement “I believe in god.” The key words here are “I believe.” This doesn’t make a statement of fact. Things one believe doesn’t make them necessarily true. For instance, believing that a four-leaf clover brings you luck, they don’t but you might feel better about things. That’s what believing there is a god does, gives you warm fuzzies. And that’s fine, I’m not here to tell you what to believe. I however have come to look to verifiable, falsifiable evidence (more on that in another post) for me to believe things. One believing in something can be a true statement, it doesn’t require outside evidence to be true. Your personal experience is all that is needed. The thing you are believing in however, would nee evidence in order to convince others of it’s validity.
Now the latter statement: “There is a god.” This isn’t a belief, it’s a claim to truth. This is akin to saying rocks are hard, or there’s a computer on my lap. This is something you need to prove and back up with more than “I feel that…” statements. Another piece of baggage that comes along with this is. Now that you have this claim to a god you’re obliged to do as it says. So when holy books from the bronze age tell you to stone homosexuals you can use this to fuel you’re own biases. It emboldens you to make sure laws are passed to further your gods agenda without regard for anyone else. A claim to truth needs to have evidence to back it up. Something that can be tested, verified, reviewed, and falsified. The last one is a hang up for a lot of people. Why does something need to be falsifiable to be considered evidence? There’s a long answer and a short answer and the short answer is to be able to rule out any other options.
It’s been said that beliefs inform decisions and that’s very important. I myself like to say my goal is to believe as man true things as possible and as few false things as possible (Thanks Matt Dillahunty). But to take that statement further, the closer those beliefs come to being certain truth the more damage they can do if they are wrong. I know I haven’t really delved outside my personal realm of experience before but as I’ve been going down this journey I see more and more the harm that religion can impose upon the world. I plan to do more posts like this where I start to look forward instead of staring at the past.
An ad hominem fallacy is when you use a personal attack on someone during a debate instead of attacking the argument. Something to the effect of when you put forth a solid argument, well thought out and presented perfectly. Your opponent retorts with something to the effect of “how can you trust someone who smoked pot in college?” It does nothing to address the actual argument but will make a person listening to the debate think lesser of the one being attacked.
I see this often in debates between theists and atheists from both sides. Usually from the theists because they’ve been backed into a corner and can’t find a logical way out. From the atheist side, usually a neck-beard trying to start a fight (yes I realize the irony of that statement). But in all honesty I think that putting down these sorts of attacks is not a productive way to go about debating. I think its ok to make an attempt to see the point of view from the other side of a debate. I think this makes for a better dialog. Also you can understand it with out accepting it.
Today’s phrase is cognitive dissonance. Dictionary definition: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.
This has a very specific significance to me. After I started questioning everything I was fought to hold on what I was taught to believe and the world that I actually observed. I leaned a lot of personal anecdotal evidence to cling to my religion. Looking back all of those had perfectly natural explainations but I didn’t want to give it up.
For me this came to a head during my wife’s second miscarriage. I tried to stuff it all down. All the conflicting views I held. The biggest being that god loves me and wants the best for me. At the same time hurting me so much. Also “all life is precious” while simultaneously taking this unborn life I already loved away before I had a chance to meet it.
I hurt. I was confused but still played the “good christian” leading the worship service and hating good with every fiber of my being. I didn’t tell anyone about this and figured it was just a problem with my faith that I needed to sort out. I later found out this wasn’t just a me thing that didn’t effect anyone else.
Later on, after I told my wife about my atheism and how I came to this new conclusion, she told me how angry she was with me. Not that I didn’t believe anymore but that I didn’t tell her about my doubts as they came up. She had been feeling the same way too but didn’t think she could lean on me because she thought I thought god was infallible and couldn’t be questioned.
My cognitive dissonance wasn’t just something that was in my own head, it was actively hurting the ones I love.
I’m sorry doesn’t begin to cut it but it’s all I can offer. I denied my own thoughts to hold on to bronze aged fairy tales. I may seem cynical about the who thing but after hearing that from the person I promised to spend the rest of my life with I think I have good reason to be.
OK so I’ve heard a lot of things about atheism in the past. They have no morals, they are just want to sin, they are smug an condescending, they eat babies (wtf?). So as my time as a Christian I was pretty much afraid of anyone who could possibly call themselves an atheist. I’d also heard of the term agnostic. Seemed like the good guy version of an atheist so I was more comfortable with that idea. Almost like a middle ground.
After a bit of digging during my deconversation it seems that there are a lot of misconceptions as to what these terms mean. Atheism is simply the lack of a belief in a god or gods while the opposite of that is theism which is a belief in a god or gods. Notice they are polar opposites, no room for middle ground. So if there’s no middle ground what was an agnostic? Gnosticism / agnosticism deal with knowledge. An agnostic person would make the claim the don’t have knowledge about if a god or gods exists while a gnostic person would. So that kinda breaks things down into a square of Belief and Knowledge. I’ve put together this handy dandy chart of what that kinda looks like.
I would consider myself an Agnostic Atheist. I haven’t seen sufficient evidence to believe there is a god however I don’t claim to know whether or not one exists. But that’s where it ends. There’s no other issues tied into being an atheist. Atheism isn’t about morals, or evolution, or human rights. Those are all separate issues. They often get lumped into the same thing but that’s simply not the case. Atheism is a single belief on a single topic.
Learning these definitions has helped me kind of accept my new position. Taking out the fear of the word and clearing up what means has helped me do that thing I like to do….check that box.