This I believe or not

Over at The Friendly Atheist, a probing question is pondered. What do atheists believe in?. This is a question I’ve also heard from time to time, so I thought I’d see if I could do anything with it. The Friendly Atheist states:

It’s really just a bad question. Just because we don’t believe in a God doesn’t mean we don’t believe in anything. And just because someone says they do believe in God doesn’t mean we know anything else about them.

I’ve said here before that, of an by itself, atheism is not necessarily for anything. It is simply lacking a belief in a supernatural being that is possibly desirous of our worship, Often, for many of us, the path to atheism is a journey which sharpens ones toolkit towards answering questions and facing the complexities of life and the universe as it is. But really, for those atheists who have considered what their atheism is, a short and correct answer is that we believe in a likely vanishing probability for the existence of any god or gods, for some suitable definition of a god which probably includes such things as supernatural transcendence, or some such.

Beyond that is beyond the scope of bare bones atheism, but many of us do go beyond anyway. Obviously I can not speak for everyone, but I believe in the power of a human mind to collaborate with other human minds to examine the evidence to ascertain how the universe works. I believe collaboration is necessary because, as Richard Feynman noted, the easiest person to fool is yourself (What looks to be an interesting but speculative book that touches on this topic is Why We Lie by David Livingstone Smith. Something on my to buy list.). I believe in the freedom to question assumptions to see if they survive the fire of critical grilling. I believe that working together as a society, there are many problems we can solve, and there is much we will continue to learn and accomplish (We have the evidence to back this up). I believe that part of the toolkit that enables us to have such a society is human compassion and doing unto others as we would have done to us. Further, I believe that no religious structure or belief system in the supernatural is necessary for us to perceive this. It is part of who we are.

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4 Responses to “This I believe or not”

  1. makarios Says:

    Atheists believe in the triune god of science, pride and intelligence.

  2. liquidthinker Says:

    Hi Makarios,

    Well, I can’t speak for all atheists, but, yes, I do believe all 3 of the items you mention exist. The scientific method has shown itself to be a fairly reliable method to obtain knowledge necessary for not only survival, but for our own intellectual satisfaction. There are other wonderful ways to attempt to describe our own experiences, such as art, poetry, and so on. Some of these may even be a source of some scientific inspiration, but in the end, how we understand reality to work must be rigorously tested.

    Intelligence? We are, by most definitions of the word, an intelligent species. We have shown ourselves to be capable of solving myriads of complex problems and to be able to model at many levels the subtle interactions that we’ve uncovered in nature. That’s not to say haven’t made a lot of mistakes and done a lot of stupid things on the way. Each of us is guilty of compartmentalizing incompatible views at one time or another and will probably always continue to do so. We (including atheists) have all done things that, in retrospect, were not so bright. But we try to learn from our mistakes (hopefully) and move on.

    Pride? I certainly do think humanity has done much to be proud of. Even the religious music of Bach or Mozart I find to be sublime. We’ve come a long way in fighting various disease. We continue to explore other worlds. There are also many things both in our past and that we continue to do that are shameful. Genocide, environmental destruction, and so on. At another level, when pondering the vastness of our cosmos, the true scope of things confounds the imagination. Galaxy clusters and groupings, supernova explosions resulting in neutron stars, the quixotic nature of quantum mechanics. Such considerations are a profoundly humbling experience.

  3. Drew Says:

    Yep. Atheism is simply a negatively defined category, not an ethos, not a creed, not anything else. It’s about as descriptive and informative as “non-mailmen.”

  4. DAVID COLES shares his personal journey to waking up on Earth Says:

    A belief is a belief whatever it is attached to… All self limiting creations in our mind. Problems to solve? No there aren’t…this is where beliefs come in to play as they create the illusion that something is a problem when life’s information is contradictory to them. So we create problems rather than there being problems. I explain this is detail in my blog and book. Check it out!

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