America's Closeted Atheists

Comments

1
I have never been in the closet about my atheism, and call on others to publicly announce theirs!
2
It's not your beliefs I am intolerant towards - it's your smugness and sense of superiority over people you dismiss as "stupid" and "irrational."
3
@2 I never dismissed them as "irrational." I dismissed them as NON-RATIONAL.
4
My guess is that the number of atheists & agnostics (closeted or fabulously out) is fairly constant, and it's the "nothing in particular" category that's growing. There's probably a relatively constant "amount" of "belief" out there.
5
The Garden of Eden was obviously in the Kennebec River Valley, duh.
6
I would posit that there is a difference, an important one, between "Atheists" who actively profess and promote their stance and "atheists", probably quite a lot of people, for whom the existence or non-existence of a higher power is neither here nor there. The answer to whether there is a god is not "Yes/No" but "Yes/No/I don't care I've got more important things to worry about."
7
As long as we remain prosperous as a nation, we'll become and increasingly secular society.

I think for many, myself included, the term "atheist" is a bit of an overly aggressive way to define yourself, especially in an area that you haven't given serious consideration since you were probably 10 years old.

"Atheist" conjures images of an in-you-face-let-me-tell-you-there's-no-god fanatic. I'm about as likely to spend energy convincing someone their god isn't real as I am arguing over whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight. Er... actually, probably a lot less likely.
8
Yes! More of this. Thanks, Goldy. I'm coming out: atheist
9
It's one thing to stand up for your identity, but it's harder to get excited about standing up for your non-identity. It's why most of the "none-of-the-above" crowd have a hard time getting too worked up about it, except the ones who get a kick out of telling other people that their beliefs are stupid.
10
@Dougsf

The problem is that Atheist has become a loaded word. People instead say their Agnostic, which is about the dumbest thing in the world to say.
11
I'm an out of the closet atheist. On the rare occasion that I actually led my students in reciting the pledge of allegiance I omitted "under god". Not once in 10 years did a kid ask me why I did that.

I guess that the point is that most people really don't care.
12
I use to work with this guy who had always been totally up front with his lived-out-in-the-country family about being gay and they had been supportive, but he knew he could never tell them he was an atheist or they would never speak to him again. Truly. When he went to see them with his partner they had to pretend to be Christian and go to church functions, etc.
13
Some of use just don't like the term. It's imprecise and it identifies us only in contrast as 'not-something' rather than what we might identify ourselves as. I don't have a problem choosing Atheist when there's nothing better available. Usually the only good choice available in a list of Religious Affiliation is NONE, but again that only says that I'm not religious. I've never had the opportunity to tick the box that says, or even has a space for me to write in "First Latitudinarian Church of Celebrity Saints".

14
I think there are more people that are Apatheists than Atheists. Especially after the New Atheists went and pissed in everyone's cornflakes.
15
"Either politicians refuse to acknowledge their atheism, or voters refuse to elect them."

I'd bet the latter. Professing atheism isn't the way to get ahead in politics. The House is probably the highest office any self-described atheist can aspire to.

@ 10, "agnostic" is a perfectly fine word. It means someone who understands that we can't know about the existence - or NONexistence - of any deity. Since you can't prove a negative, it's much more rational than claiming "there's no god." (That's different than saying "there's no evidence that there's a god," which is certainly a true statement.)
16
I don't believe any man made religions. But the more I see of the multiverse, the more endless are the possibilities. And I realise I "know" nothing.
17
Yes, what Dougsf said. I won't come out as an atheist because I'm not ... I'm an apathist. I truly do not care whether or not there is a god. Nothing I do, have done, or plan to do in the future would change were the existence of god be proven or disproved. (And Superman would totally win ... I can't believe we are still having this conversation.)
18
@13 I don't like the term "atheist" either, but's that the term the theists most commonly use to describe us, so I think we should just proudly claim it like the queers claimed "queer."
19
20 miles outside any major US city and you might as well be in Pakistan. The locals will burn you at the freaking stake if you so much as whisper the words atheist, vegetarian, or metric system.
20
I have no problem with this: I am an atheist.
21
Eh, "agnostic" is better, but it still feels like you're saying you're an Independent, when you really don't vote at all.

@9 that explains what I'm trying to convey very well.

22
I'm an atheist and I'd be totally happy to just forget all about it if only religious people would stop sticking their beliefs in my face all the time.
23
That post had a religion-y judgmental vibe to it. Freedom of religion ya'll, whatever that may be in your own experience. Define it or not.
24
Atheism is not a religion. It is not a club. It is not a movement. Atheism is my right to believe in scientific facts, rather than dogma. It is nothing more. There is no reason person should use his/her lack of religious belief as a booster to his/her feelings of smug superiority. Atheism = I don't believe in _____. I don't give a _____ what you believe.
25
Atheists are putting themselves at risk of doing the same game that is so abhorrent in Christians - taking one particular form of being atheist and then extending it to claim everyone else, as though everyone must automatically be doing and thinking the same thing.

It's not inherently cowardice for someone who claims not to believe in a God or a particular view of God or the supernatural to not embrace the term atheist, especially when many public atheists are so adamant about exactly what one must believe to be an atheist.

Frankly, the people who are getting the most press speaking for atheists these days often trot out the most abysmal excuses for logic, the most childish political views, and the most hateful bigotry toward believers - I can easily see a lot of people taking one look at that and saying, "Whatever the heck I am, I don't want to be associated with them."

It's why I don't call myself Christian - my religious views are not at all represented by the assholes who speak for Christianity these days, and I don't want anyone to assume I am. If I had to claim an identity, it would probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of theistically flavored agnosticism - unconvinced but entirely open to the possibility, rather than hostile to the concept.

To coin a word nobody will particularly embrace, I see most of the current nattering class of media atheists as far more anti-theists than atheists. For the most part, the take excessive glee in attacking straw man versions of religion rather than either the lived experience of believers or the nuanced theological traditions underlying them.

And usually, make the most obnoxiously untrue and staggeringly unscientific statements about what "must be"or is "obviously" or "certainly" true.

Sure, a LOT of Christians these days are assholes. But increasingly. so are atheists. A plague on both their houses. Leave me out of it.
26
I am an atheist as well.

Although, the proper term when discussing with religious people is probably "non-believer," as the non-existence of a Supreme Being is so obvious that religion isn't a major factor in my life.
27
Of course we atheists are smug. People who are right usually are.
28
I've always been an out-of-the-closet atheist, too, although to clarify I usually mention secular Humanism.
29
I've known a number of self-professed atheists suddenly find religion when experiencing a major life event, especially when they become parents, and when someone they love dies unexpectedly. I tend not to entirely believe someone who claims atheism when they haven't had one of these experiences, because I've seen a few too many of these folks get active in their church once they have.
30
Atheism is not a religion. It is not a club. It is not a movement. Atheism is my right to believe in scientific facts, rather than dogma. It is nothing more. There is no reason person should use his/her lack of religious belief as a booster to his/her feelings of smug superiority. Atheism = I don't believe in _____. I don't give a _____ what you believe.
31
People hide their atheism because there is an incredibly strong mistrust of atheists. In fact, a study found that people trust atheists as much as rapists and they believe that atheists will commit illegal acts if they think they can get away with it. People also believe that they should be able to discriminate against atheists in the hiring process for high trust jobs.

I've heard the arguments against atheism many times. The most common is that atheists have no moral code because it is impossible to have a moral code without God. Another argument is that atheists can't be trusted since they aren't afraid of punishment in the afterlife. When I explained that morality systems like Utilitarianism and Kantian Ethics can exist without a God, these people were genuinely surprised. The bigotry of anti-atheist assholes is overt, but it is not well thought out.
32
I'm an atheist and have been for ~20 years. But I'm not proud of being an atheist. I just recognize how important critical thinking is and apply it to religion just as I would to other spheres of thought.
33
I'm an atheist. I don't think of it as a dirty label, either. It says what it is.

Not only do I not believe in God or in gods, but I believe there isn't a God or gods and that the Universe doesn't need one to explain itself. It's really not about not believing in anything, it's about observing scientifically that explanations likely lie elsewhere and don't need a supernatural creator. Believing in proof rather than faith, if you will. Of course, I could be wrong, but the burden of proof is on the believers, and they have none.

Also, the subject really wouldn't come up if they stopped insisting on shoving their beliefs down our throats.
34
Are there really four times as many Americans who believe that Noah packed millions of animals onto a boat than deny the existence of the supernatural? Hard to believe.

Get out of Seattle for a while. You'll find it a lot easier.

(I spent the first 21 years of my life in Atlanta--which is the "enlightened" part of the South--and that statistic surprises me not one bit.)
35
Isn't the guy who represents Portland an atheist as well? I heard he was
36
I don't see what's wrong with being agnostic. It's just another label.
@10 calls atheism a loaded term but agnostic is just stupid. Well, that's just fucking stupid.

I doesn't mean I give equal credibility to there being a god or not. I certainly don't believe in any traditional deity. But neither do I go around stating that I know with absolute certainty that there is no binding force behind the universe and reality. I admit I can't know everything and I don't feel like I need to.

There are probably as many flavors of Atheism as there are of Christianity. Maybe agnosticism is just practical or negative atheism. Maybe it's apathetic. Maybe agnosticism fits into one of those flavors or maybe it stands outside of it.

You see, I don't know. I don't really care. Until you try to shove your arrogant certainty down my throat.
37
Atheism is just another faith--a faith whose sole creed is "there is no god". I for one am agnostic.

And Goldy, thanks for this post. The "closeted atheists" are exactly whom I was referring to in my comment on Charles's post, about dishonest self-reporting in these surveys.
38
@21 Has a good analogy. When it comes up, I say I'm non-religious. But left to my own devices it's something I rarely even think about.
39
@37: No, atheism rejects supernatural explanations. Belief in something is not what creates a faith--it is the belief in a supernatural explanation that defines a faith. Therefore, atheism is no more a type of faith than mathematics (which requires you to believe axioms that are by definition, unprovable).
40
For the record, not every Christian believes the Bible literally, word-for-word. I know I don't. There are people out there who bear the name "Christian" and question the divinity of Christ and/or the literal reality of the resurrection.

One of my office mates is an an atheist, and I'm in seminary. I don't judge her for being an atheist, and she has come to not judge me for being a Christian - precisely because I don't judge her or try to convert her. We ultimately have more in common - we are both liberal Democrats, we are part of a handful of people in this city who couldn't care less about LSU football, we love science fiction, etc. - that the belief or lack thereof that separates us.

I would rather vote for an atheist with whom I share political beliefs (including the right for women to have affordable access to the full range of reproductive health services including abortion, the importance of labor unions, marriage equality, etc.) than a Christian with whom I supposedly share religious beliefs.
41
@29: My grandparents swore off church forever after my grandmother almost died giving birth to my mother. It goes both ways.

I'm an agnostic insofar as I don't believe in something without a reason to believe it. I'm an atheist insofar as Occam's Razor tells me to prune extraneous details from my beliefs.
42
@ 39, any atheist who says with absolute certainty that "there is no god" is expressing a faith. You can't prove a negative; therefore that conclusion can only be reached without relying on proof. Or what one would call "faith."

This speaks more about how some people are unable to deal with uncertainty, and how they leap to conclusions because it feels better to say "this is" or "this is not," rather than "insufficient data."
43
Yeah I don't really care if there is a god or not. I was not brought up in any religious institution. It does not change the fact that I try to be the best human being I can be.

I do think that anyone who says, for certain, that they know there is or is not a supreme being is lying, both to herself and to others. The answer to that the question is moot. If there is a god of the type described by this planet's moralistic religions, then being a good human being should be judged positively. If there is no god or afterlife, I won't be there to worry about it.

It all comes down to one important point: It is not what you SAY about your religious belief (or lack of it), but what do you DO because of it.
44
@ Matt from Denver 29,

I sort of go the opposite way. I don't believe many people truly believes their faith unless they've actually been tested on it. Too many people casually say they're of one faith or another, yet they've never really considered what it means... they're probably just going through the motions their parents set up for them (which is exactly the way most religions want it).
45
@42: Yes, and by your logic anyone who believes that you can draw a straight line between any two points is expressing a faith because "that conclusion can only be reached without relying on proof".

Sorry, but words have meanings. Faith requires superstition.

Btw, I know your argument, but David Hume and Descartes did it better. Your next step is going to be to argue either a) there is no reason whatsoever that we should trust any knowledge gained from inductive reasoning, or b) there is no way we can prove that all of our senses aren't being controlled by a hidden demon (though I have to warn you that you might not like how Descartes continues his argument). Great. Have fun with these arguments if you want. Argue until the cows come home about how we can or cannot ever have knowledge about anything a priori or a posteriori. But don't change the meaning of faith to start this fight. Faith is about whether a supernatural entity exists that explains things, not about the fundamental nature of knowledge.
46
Non-theist.
47
@39 Thank you!!!

People, atheism is not a faith! I'm an atheist and it's not because I have faith. Indeed, it's because I don't have any. Got a fantastical idea? Tell me why observation and data support it and show me how your reproducible experiments have furthered, not rejected, your hypotheses, and how you have presented your findings to your peers and built up from it.

I do think that it's rough going being an atheist, particularly outside of liberal cities but even within them. I think the issue is that there's negative connotations about atheism in culture. As has been stated in these comments, the only atheists people know are the insufferable loudmouths (as much as a side of me loves them). There are a lot more atheists out there who are good, normal, sweet people of all political persuasions. We just don't go out there proselitizing for disbelief because, honestly, we don't care what others believe. We just want to live our lives, preferrably without being treated as something a little above a child molester.

However, we're invisible. Many of you see us every day and you don't know we're right there, in front of you, talking to you. I don't go around pronouncing to others that I'm an atheist but, at the same time, I don't bother to hide it. The hell with it. If more of us come out of the closet, just like homosexuals started coming out to a hostile world, maybe we'll be able to show society that we're normal nice people, not the angry, smarmy, arrogant, overly educated caricature that exists in the culture. People can't understand that you can be an atheist and also have a happy, well-adjusted life filled with kindness and ethical decisions. It's up to us to puncture the stereotype and show all of you that it's possible.
48
I was recently taking care of a very lovely patient who was dying and asked me to pray for her. I told her "I will" but, as an atheist, I don't pray and I'm not going to fake-pray. Instead I told a co-worker, who volunteered to pray with her, and everybody felt ok.
49
@ 45, nice try. Those are arguments for religion. I'm not arguing for religion, just against people who believe they've proved a negative. (If I keep repeating that phrase, it's because some people are quite adept at blocking it from their reasoning.)

The straight line thing? Proven. If you wish to try to undermine my observation by compariosn, you might try to make sure it's of the apples to apples variety.

I'll say it again - when you believe you've proven a negative, you're expressing faith, not reason. If that bothers you, you might want to re-examine what faith means. (If I have faith in my wife that she won't cheat on me, is that superstition?)
50
edit @ 49: "comparison" not "compariosn."
51
@49: The existence of a straight line between two points isn't proven. That is why it is called an axiom. And your argument about not being able to prove a negative only applies to deductively reasoned items. It doesn't work when you use inductive reasoning. This is because the meaning of "proof" in inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning is different, as is the meaning of knowledge.

I can tell from your reply that you aren't fully versed in epistemology. That is fine, but don't try to argue it in detail until you know its important definitions. Repeating that "you can't prove a negative" while referring to inductively gathered knowledge is pretty silly.

And as far as the use of the term "have faith in", it has two meanings. One version is where you have a gut feeling "I have faith the Seahawks will do well this season". The other version is more formal and deals with supernatural explanations as I have discussed.
52
I prefer atheist to agnostic because agnostic because atheist seems simpler. But really, I feel like you can be both.

1) I don't believe in any god or gods, therefore I am an atheist. Note that this is my personal belief, rather than some kind of thoroughly proved mathematical formula of some sort.

2) I can't prove anything about the existence of god or gods, therefore I am an agnostic.

I'm all of the above.
53
I'm a bright. If you have a naturalistic worldview, you're a bright too, by definition!

http://www.the-brights.net/vision/essays…
54
There's an utter lack of evidence that the sun invisibly came out of Matt From Denver's asshole this morning. Yes, there's a slight possibility that it did because I can't prove that it didn't, it being an invisible event and all.

But given all of the evidence that we have gathered about how the universe works, we can say with confidence that "The sun did not invisibly exit Matt from Denver's asshole this morning."

This is exactly the same thing that leads atheists to proclaim with confidence that there is no god: There is zero evidence for it.

Evidence for the general cowardice of agnostics on the other hand is plentiful...
55
The reason that some atheists believe there is a god might be because they never heard of Diesism. Thomas Jefferson was a Dieist. Basically Dieists believe there is a 'something' that started it all but also believe that this 'something' doesn't not need nor want to be worshipped. I believe there is a 'God' - and I'm certain he is not an old man in a robe that demands sacrifices or had an earthly son. God could be an intelligence or not - but it is certainly beyond human understanding.
56
Reason does not equate to a version of faith.
57
Atheism, for me, is less about proclaiming that there are no gods and more about demanding that we not use the religions of this world, past and present, to make rules and laws.

Go do whatever you want on Sunday, but keep your gods out of my Constitution.
58
Always been an atheist. Wear my 'God Is a Lie' shirt when I'm feeling agressive. Sorry, but that 'Bright' movement is just too haughty.
59
@42
"You can't prove a negative; therefore that conclusion can only be reached without relying on proof."

But Santa and the Tooth Fairy disprove that.
Although this is more about religion than god.
But religion is the point here since that was the poll.

You may not be able to show evidence that "God" does not exist.
But you show how the CONCEPT of "God" was created and how it has changed over the years in each culture.
And you can show how the concept of god was different in cultures without contact with each other.

Back to the Tooth Fairy.
You cannot show evidence that the Tooth Fairy does NOT exist.
But you can show a time when the CONCEPT of the Tooth Fairy did not exist in a particular culture.
Can the Tooth Fairy be the Tooth Fairy if she does not leave money under your pillow?
Can god be god if god is not omnipotent?
Can the Tooth Fairy be the Tooth Fairy if she does not take the teeth?
Can god be god if god is not omniscient?

What, specifically, are the characteristics that the Tooth Fairy MUST possess in order to be the Tooth Fairy?
What, specifically, are the characteristics that god MUST possess in order to be god?

The final point being that arguing over the existence or non-existence of imaginary beings is useless because it is impossible to identify the characteristics that they would define them.
60
@ 51, the question of where life comes from remains unanswered, and when you consider that nothing that is alive became so without coming from something else that was alive , it tends to keep the idea that life came from something that itself was alive. Now, life could simply be chemistry, a result of the incredible pressures and energies of star formation - a notion I find much more plausible than god, BTW - but science hasn't answered that question.

I'll stand corrected on the meaning of "axiom," but it sure seems to me that straight lines being the shortest distance between two points been tested on billions or trillions of times since it was first posited, and always come out true. Unlike the case for god, that's evidence.

@ 54, "This is exactly the same thing that leads atheists to proclaim with confidence that there is no god: There is zero evidence for it." While there is zero evidence for god, one should keep in mind that there was once zero evidence that illnesses were caused by germs, or that there was anything smaller than an atom. (I know, I know, that shakes your faith to the point of ad hominems, which itself show your own inability to rely on logic...)

@ 59, I'm not all that interested in the poll myself. But I would take your final paragraph and say in response, "Hence agnosticism."
61
@60
"But I would take your final paragraph and say in response, 'Hence agnosticism.'"

I don't think you understood my point then.
Can you be Tooth Fairy agnostic?
Well you can but it is rather silly.

You're taking a cultural construct (the Tooth Fairy) and claiming that such a person COULD exist (for varying degrees of "could" and "exist") in some form that may be completely different (and this is the important part) from the original description of such in the stories of that culture.

That's not "agnosticism".
That's "imagination". And the inability to linguistically distinguish between the fictional character and the stories people ascribe to the fictional character.
62
@60: Science probably can't answer the question of why the universe exists. It is sort of like trying to figure out the rules of the "real world" when you live in the Matrix or trying to describe time when it is theoretically possible that a god created the world 5 years ago (or any arbitrary time) with all of its energies, momentum, and positions. Heck, this god could have hidden dinosaur bones and gave evidence for the Big Bang just for the sole purpose of fucking with us. For this first reason I consider myself philosophically an agnostic, but when asked I'll say I'm an atheist because it is a hell of a lot easier to explain. But science isn't alone in its limitations. Even in mathematics it has been deductively proved that some things in mathematics can be true and can never be proved true (Godel's Incompleteness Theorems).

As far as the straight line issue, the problem isn't that it has been tested in this world. The straight line axiom only strictly applies in the deductive mathematical world. It is the essence of the real world line. The real world line always has some slight imperfection, perhaps even by a single atom's width. When we test in the real world we test to a tolerance and then use statistics to reject the null hypothesis. That is, we say that the probability of the straight line being the shortest distance is highly probably true. The essence of the line has no imperfections and is true without measurement because it is axiomatic. But you can never be completely certain for the real world line, no matter how many times your refine your measurement. You can only be perhaps 99.999999999982% sure of it. The same applies for evidence of a god, which is a second valid reason for being philosophically agnostic.

Nonetheless, we exist in the real world and when you narrow your frame of reference away from metaphysics and accept statistical interpretations from science, I think it is reasonable to call yourself an atheist and reject the supernatural. If you are like me, you will explain that you are philosophically an agnostic for those who can understand the details of the argument when you are pressed on the finer epistemological details.
63
@58 You're right! I would ~never want to belong to club that would have someone like ~me as a member!
64
Atheism = lack of belief in a god, not belief there is no god.

There's a meaningful difference here that most people seem to miss.
65
@62 I would tend to agree with what you are saying-ish.

The problem I have with atheists is that they are trying to use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail.

To explain, science and the scientific method do a lot of things very well. Why we get sick, why it rains, stuff like that. Things that involve things that can be measured.

Before science a lot of things that science now deals with were dealt with by religion. The problem is that many(but not all) atheists are getting ahead of themselves and think that science can deal with everything that was dealt with by religion.

Unfortunately that just isn't the case at this time. We don't have a way right now to prove one way or another if there is some type of deity that is involved with the world. And proving that something isn't necessary isn't really all that convincing as all sorts of things aren't necessary and yet they exist. Of course, in the future we may figure out a way to prove it one way or another. Or not. Who knows?
66
Well, I guess I'll toss my two cents into this. I describe myself as an agnostic Quaker. There's quite a few of us. I've never felt anything during prayer. The light doesnt shine. I've meet many people I highly respect who say they have had moments of life where they've felt it. I don't think either of us are wrong.
I think the feeling of something beyond the physical world is quite subjective. The only time this becomes a problem is when we force our subjectivity on others. The scientific process is based on understanding the world through objective means, that's a noble task and important to letting us coexist. It allows us to hold our subjective truths of the metaphysical world, while giving us a framework to explore the wonders of life together.
I like my faith, I doubt I'll ever find or see the light. But through various interfaith meeting I can honestly say I've had great theological discussions with people of various faiths. Faith may be irrational but so is being a Mariners fan. I consider myself sane enough to compartmentalize the subjective with the objective and enjoy all the stories humanity brings to the table.
That said, this country was never ment to be theocracy and in it's best form it is a secular state with a healthy respect for people to discover their own sense of meaning.
67
A lot of you are making a very big mistake.

Atheists are NOT trying to 'prove' god doesn't exist.

Atheists are merely saying, "I don't believe in any gods because there's not enough convincing evidence."

Why do people fixate on "proof" and "disproof?" Proof has nothing to do with it. I'm simply not convinced, that's all.
68
@67 it's people being insecure. Existence is a terrifying prospect. It's comforting to know you're right via the echoes of others. That's the best I can figure.
69
@67

Actually most atheists I have met personally or heard of are trying to 'prove' god doesn't exist. Or at least convince everyone else he/she/it doesn't. That seems to be the big innovation of New Atheism. It is evangelical.

Which, now that I think about it, is the problem. It isn't really atheism. It's the evangelical part.
70
@67
"A lot of you are making a very big mistake."

I think that the issue is that different people have different concepts about what the various terms mean in relation to the concepts they have about god and religion.

So what your usage of "atheist" is would not be the same as someone else's because you have a different concept of god and religion.

"Proof has nothing to do with it."

Because "proof" can be subjective and experiential.
So what is "proof" to someone who has a different view on god and religion than you do may not be "proof" to you.

Which is why these discussions are, ultimately, useless.
Person A sees himself as "agnostic".
Person B sees person A as "atheist".
Person C sees person A as having a "secular humanistic" religion.
Person D sees person A as blah blah blah.
And so on.
71
Based on this thread, I'd say the reason Athiests aren't coming out to fight for their human rights is that they are too busy attacking theists and agnostics for their irrational points of view.

72
Apparently, my previous comment about polls and census results being a bit skewed due to inaccurate self-identification should have been made here. But I always read SLOG from the bottom to the top, and now it's too late for me to wade in or even go through all the comments. Ah well.
73
@42: any atheist who says with absolute certainty that "there is no god" is expressing a faith

That depends on your definition of "god". If by "god" you mean a being that transcends the natural world, then laws of nature would by definition contradict the existence of such a god. Simultaneously believing in physics and a being who's existence violates the laws of physics is the expression of faith. Or stupidity, take your pick.
74
My husband plays it safe by calling himself an agnostic, but I count him as an atheist. To me, if you don't actively believe in God (or gods, same diff), you're an atheist -- atheism is just a lack of belief in God/gods, which is nothing to feel guilty about or ashamed of. It seems clear to me that anyone who would respond to the question "Do you believe in God?" with "I don't know" is an atheist. If you truly believed in something, you wouldn't have to wonder about it. Belief is just an emotion. You either feel it, or you don't.
75
@67
You're the one who is mistaken, because there are most definitely atheists running around claiming absolute certainty that God doesn't exist, and that such certainty is factual and scientifically based. More than a few of them are quite pushy about it.

That may not be the kind of atheist you are. If not, good for you. But like the progressive Christians running around saying that no Christian is working against civil rights or trying to invalidate science, you're badly mistaken about the reality.
76
Goldy and others, I just wanted to recommend a book to everyone here -- Chris Hedges's 'I Don't Believe in Atheists' -- an enjoyable and highly literate attack on the smug atheism of Hichens and Dawkins.

I don't believe in god. But I don't believe that science replaces the idea of god. Faith and science ask and answer questions that may appear similar on the surface but are actually different in nature.

Faith and its sister practice art pose questions that science attempts to answer later, but also ask many that can never be approached through scientific methods.

The fight between faith and science is a false dichotomy. Reason will never conquer belief in a culture or even in an individual, just as belief is necessary to direct the instrument of reason.
77
This graph may be instructive: File:Theological_positions.png">http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:T…
78
"Either way, one thing is clear: The only religious group for which we still tolerate intolerance is the group that professes no religion at all."

Yeah, no. I'm Pagan. My fellow co-religionists still have to worry about losing jobs, losing custody of their children, and finding themselves the victims of violent crime, purely on the basis of their faith. And no one gives a shit. Especially not atheists- go to an atheist online forum and ask them what they think of Wiccans.
79
@75

I believe with absolute certainty that Santa Claus does not exist. I do not run around trying to prove scientifically that he does not exist. But then again, I don't believe that I have to.
80
So I guess we all agree that any and all groups have some dick members.
81
@76:

Science does not attempt to replace the "idea" of god. If god is just an "idea," the point is moot.

Faith asks no questions

Faith is not the "sister" of art. This means nothing.

Science is not waiting to answer questions posed by art, and faith asks no questions. Name one thing art or faith asks that can not be approached in a scientific manner.

I would say that reason has "conquered" many individuals, but saying that reason "conquers" anything makes no actual sense, and what do you even mean by it "conquering" societies? By what measure are you using?

How is faith needed to "direct" the instrument of reason?

I do not know what the "inky" part of your moniker means, but the "hot air" part is dead on.

82
Fine. I'm coming out. I don't believe in god. There are no gods. I am an atheist.

There.
83
@ 76:

"How should we live?"

"What does it mean to be human?"

"What is my purpose in life?"

"What do I find beautiful?"

"Why do I feel the way I do?"

"What are my values?"

"What should be our shared values?"

"Why do I love you?"

All sorts of questions you'll find you can't really approach adequately with current science.

I'm not going to comment on the rest of your comment. If you have decided that faith doesn't involve asking questions, then I think you are deliberately misunderstanding the concept of faith.
84
I don't believe in flying elephants that pee liquid gold slurry - because there is no evidence for such a thing existing.

Based on my understanding of reality, it seems far more plausible that there would be or could be a flying elephant that pees a liquid gold slurry than that there could be a god. Therefore, I believe in god even less than flying elephants that pee gold slurry, ie I don't believe in god.

As with all other fantasy ideas, it would be ridiculous if I made myself have to prove something didn't exist in order to say I don't believe in them. So, I am an atheist. The Harry Potter books have a lot of details about Hogworts, but...

Agnostic makes it sound like there are some proofs but the jury is still out. At least with Santa Claus there are specific proofs, even though we generally can show explanations that do not require a Santa Claus.
85
My beliefs are so self-evident that way more people must share them than revealed by the polls. Common, peeps, come out of the closet!
86
I mean what can you say? According to a 1997 Gallup poll, 44% of the US public believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.
87
Another never-closeted atheist here. Figured it out about age 8. I don't get in anyone's face about it, but I will defend myself if attacked. Oh, and I have asked my MIL not to lead my daughter in prayer in my house. In her house she can do as she likes, but in my house we don't pray. If that makes me obnoxious, so be it.

It's my job as a parent and a critical thinker to make sure my child learns critical thinking, not magical thinking. I have to give her the tools of reason. What she does with them is up to her.
88
@37- Atheism means "without a theism". Agnostics are almost all atheists. I prefer to be called Agnostic as well, because that conveys how I reach my decisions, but I won't deny being an atheist.
89
@78

atheists on the internet =/= atheists in general

personally, I feel the same way about wiccans as I do any other religious person -- amused, but wary

and of course, if wiccans are in fact losing their jobs (or what-have-you) for being wiccans, that is unacceptable
90
@83: All of those statements could be argued to have roots in the natural world. Who are you to say that love is not just a chemical reaction? You may not believe it, but that is because you choose to think differently.

If you think you need faith in god to know who you are, or why you act, you live a very unexamined life.

Faith is believing you already know, asking questions about that faith is the scientific method. Good on you for applying the scientific method to your faith, but you have the terms backwards.
91
@90:

I don't believe in god. I said that pretty straightforwardly in my first post. I'm an atheist who doesn't believe there is proof for atheism, so that makes me an agnostic atheist, I guess. Of course, I have faith that you don't have to have proof to believe there is no god in order to believe there is no god.

I am no one to say that love is not just a chemical reaction. (I actually tend to believe in emergence, that the mind is the brain is the mind, but that's not something that we have exact science for, and there's lots and lots of argument over the idea, but if you pinned me down at a cocktail party, I'd probably argue that love is a chemical reaction.)

But for practical purposes, questions of values, priorities, emotions, all require some faith -- which, by the way, may also be a chemical reaction.

Faith isn't just adherence to dogma. Faith is the ability to believe things for which you don't have proof. And there are plenty of things besides god to believe in without proof. Like that a specific action will have a specific outcome; like that you have lived a good and decent life. I'd argue here that the very idea of a personal narrative is necessarily a fiction, but that's another conversation for another time.

My point is that science does not answer, and may not yet even be able to ask, many questions that we constantly ask of ourselves and others. Most times you say the word "should" or "deserve" you are exercising faith. And we use those words all the time in order to decide how to live.

Science (reason) and faith are not at odds -- they are of different substance and category. Some people have inherited or adopted and adhere to rigorous faith traditions. Some people make up their own faith systems. But no one has replaced faith with pure reason. It's just not possible.

Of course I may be wrong. I encourage you to tell me how you can empirically make a values decision.
92
Oh. Fuck that bullshit that the "New Atheism" is "evangelical." What horse shit. Thats another way of saying you're afraid too many people might be actually waking up to reality.

IOW: Stay marginalized and fringe, atheists!

You want the entire subject to retire back to quiet academic discussions around the fireplace in gentleman's clubs where civilized atheists don smoking jackets and smoke pipes and stay out of the public sphere. What's fucked is it's usually pseudo intellectuals that say shit like that - complain about the "new" atheism.

Theists want atheists to go to the back of the bus again. It scares the shit out of them that average Joe's are buying books about atheism. And those books are POPULAR.

So they call it "evangelical." Give it the language of religion. Because that's all they can understand.

It's called truth, not evangelism. And when people choose to believe in lies their wholes lives, truth terrifies them.
93
Loaded word, or not, I proudly declare myself an atheist. I first did so at age eight. That didn't go over so well in public school in Texas...

But it didn't last. Once my peers found out I was as queer as the day is long, they kinda forgot about the atheism. :) At least the fundies have priorities!
94
What I understand is that Diests do believe in God but they consider that all religous documents cannot logically explain or interpret the scientific findings during the last three centuries. How any one cam possibly accepts or denies scientifically the existence of a creator. It is more logically to say; I do not know.