All posts tagged: Atheism

Can You Be Good Without God?

“If God did not exist, then we would have to invent him,” said the French philosopher Voltaire. His point: that without a divine being to check right and wrong, any number of atrocities are possible and could go unpunished. A recent study (of more than 3,000 people in 13 countries) published in the journal Nature Human Behavior echoes Voltaire’s maxim. Looking at intuitive thinking—presumptions drawn by individuals through unconscious biases—researchers led by Will M. Gervais, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, discovered that most individuals intuitively conclude that a serial killer is more likely to be an atheist (approximately 60 percent) than religious (approximately 30 percent). While this assessment may resonate with many religious individuals, it undoubtedly is far from the conscious conclusions of most atheists, who find social prejudice difficult to overcome. The idea that atheism is a gateway to moral anarchy, for example, is not new. Other studies on public views of atheism indicate that 40 percent of Americans disapprove of nonreligion and 27 percent see atheists as not …

Atheists must communicate better

Atheism is so often considered in the negative: as a lack of faith, or a disbelief in god; as an essential deprivation. Atheism is seen as being destitute of meaning, value, purpose; unfertile ground for growing the feelings of belonging needed to overcome the alienation that dogs modern life. In more extreme critiques, atheism is considered to be another name for nihilism; a fundamental negation of existence, a noxious blight on creation itself. Yet atheists – rather than flippantly dismissing the insights of theologians – should take them seriously indeed. Humans, by dint of being human, are confronted with baffling questions about meaning, belonging, direction, our connection to other humans and the fate of our species as a whole. The human impulse is to seek answers, and to date, atheism has been unsatisfactory in its response. The shackles of humanism Atheist values are typically defined as humanistic. If we look to the values of the British Humanist Association, we see that it promotes naturalism, rational debate, and the pre-eminence of evidence, cooperation, progress and individual …

The conflict between religion and science 2

Many scientists used to think that heat was the product of a material called phlogiston. It flowed into objects to make them hot and out to make them cold. But when they tested for this material, they could find nothing — objects weighed the same both hot and cold. Defenders of the theory insisted that phlogiston must be made of a material that, unlike all others, had no mass. Finding that heat is actually a result of the movement of molecules, phlogiston defenders suggested that making molecules move is just how phlogiston makes objects hotter. But they were only making ad hoc excuses to save their theory; there was no need to introduce phlogiston — it didn’t explain anything. Heat could be accounted for solely by the movement of molecules and atoms; no extra substance was needed. All the work that phlogiston was supposed to have done was now accounted for by other means. Of course, one can never disprove the existence of phlogiston — one can always make excuses. But, as we know, that …

‘No religion’ The fastest growing religion in Australia

DESPITE a scare campaign about Australia becoming a “Muslim country”, those ticking “no religion” in the Census has now overtaken the number of Catholics. It’s the first time in Australia’s history the number of people who claim “no religion” has overtaken Catholics. The latest Census drop showed those ticking “no religion” rose from 22.6 per cent to 29.6 per cent — nearly double the 16 per cent in 2001. Meanwhile, those identifying as Catholic dropped from 25.3 per cent to 22.6 per cent. The number of Christians in total still made up 51 per cent of the population, but this is much less than the 88 per cent in 1966 and 74 per cent in 1991. Islam (2.6 per cent) and Buddhism (2.4 per cent) were the next most common religions reported. Islam grew from 2.2 per cent in 2011, overtaking Buddhism, which dropped from 2.5 per cent, to become the most popular non-Christian religion. The religion question was controversial this year, with Australians warned not to mark “no religion” on the Census survey by …

Skepticsociety Magazine Blog

Why is it that some people do not believe in God?

Some popular religious writers have claimed that atheists reject God because they were presented with the wrong kind of God. Atheists reject a god that is too small, it is claimed, and most have not considered the more sophisticated God that is really worth believing in. If only atheists considered the proper sort of deity, these authors insist, they would have long abandoned their atheism. This is the position of several authors who have written popular books on the subject over the last two decades: Karen Armstrong, John Haught, and David Bentley Hart, to name a few. I think these authors are incorrect. There are good reasons for rejecting belief even in their gods. Here I will focus on Armstrong’s version, but several of my remarks will be applicable to a number of other theologies. What sort of gods do these writers have in mind? If the wrong sort of God is “too small,” the right sort of God is much bigger: a radically transcendent being about which human languages can only speak indirectly. Armstrong …

atheist Theory of Mind

Theory of Mind

Introduction Planet earth appears to be filled with unseen forces that control the behavior of its inhabitants. No, this isn’t the beginning to a cheesy B-movie science fiction film script. This is reality and even the staunchest of skeptics act as if they believe in these invisible forces. That is, we live in a material world ruled by minds with no physical locality and it is here that we think beliefs, desires, intentions, and other mentalstates are both responsible for, and explain our behavior. There is nothing particularly magical or surprising about this fact, at least not until we consider particular theories in the cognitive science of religion (CSR) that, for example, suggest atheists may be “socially disabled”, have a “malfunction” in their ability to reason about these mental states, or perhaps that there is no such thing as atheism at the level of cognition. Thus, and I ask jokingly, does the atheist have a theory of mind? But, more on this in a moment. Attributing mental states is something we do to others and …