Author Topic: Is atheism the default position?  (Read 22093 times)

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Online jaimehlers

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Is atheism the default position?
« on: July 31, 2011, 09:52:22 AM »
Jetson:  Just curious, but why do you think that atheism is the default position for humans?  I mean, assuming for the sake of argument that all varieties of theism are essentially "made up", for whatever reason, the implication is that theistic beliefs came about because of imagination, and practically every human ever born has an enormous capacity for imagination.  Couple that with charisma, the ability to convince not through reason but through force of personality, and it's easy to see how theistic beliefs could have come about without actual gods and spirits to inspire them.  However, that suggests that theism may be the default position for humans, albeit not any specific kind of theism (which does not necessarily mean anything; the default position for a car is in park, yet cars are not very useful if they aren't in motion).

Consular:  What makes you think that polytheism posits any infinite gods?  Even the all-father figure, whether Odin or Zeus/Jupiter or some other, cannot truly be described as infinite.

Offline jetson

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2011, 10:05:04 AM »
@jaimehlers

Newborns don't "believe" in gods.  If newborn humans have the capacity to believe in anything, that does not make them believe, it simply allows them to perhaps consider.  It takes a different kind of pressure, in my opinion, for new humans to take on a true belief in something.  It starts with parents and family, and the society in which the new human is raised.

Many humans are defenseless against the insertion of religious crap into their heads.  Evidence: Santa Claus.

I just don't believe that the capacity to imagine or believe in something on pure faith can manifest in a newborn in a way that can be measured and determined as true belief in a god.

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2011, 04:16:04 PM »
@jaimehlers

Newborns don't "believe" in gods.  If newborn humans have the capacity to believe in anything, that does not make them believe, it simply allows them to perhaps consider.  It takes a different kind of pressure, in my opinion, for new humans to take on a true belief in something.  It starts with parents and family, and the society in which the new human is raised.

Many humans are defenseless against the insertion of religious crap into their heads.  Evidence: Santa Claus.

I just don't believe that the capacity to imagine or believe in something on pure faith can manifest in a newborn in a way that can be measured and determined as true belief in a god.
Okay, fair enough.  I don't agree with the analogy, though, it reminds me of an argument I heard that the default sex of humans is female because fetuses don't sexually differentiate for a time (several weeks, I think), suggesting that if that differentiation were blocked, all fetuses would develop as female.  The problem is that one has to block sexual differentiation in order to do this, so it's not a very convincing example.

Still, I can see where you're coming from, at least.  However, that would be true regardless of family, community, or society; someone who grew up in an atheist household in an atheist community would be influenced in virtually the same way as someone who grew up in a religious household in a religious community, because they don't have the experience needed to make a considered and reasoned decision.  A newborn is neither atheist nor theist, as those terms both imply a conscious decision; they are instead credulous, because all they can go on is the evidence of their senses.

That's why I don't think one can say that the default position of humans is atheism based on the fact that newborns don't have a religious belief (note that this also means that it isn't theism of any stripe).  The default position of newborns is "more input required"; what kind of input they get shapes how they see the world.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2011, 06:12:50 PM »
Jaimehlers:  If atheism is not the default state for a human to have, then which brand of theism is the default state for a human to have?
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Offline 12 Monkeys

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2011, 06:31:44 PM »
Jaimehlers:  If atheism is not the default state for a human to have, then which brand of theism is the default state for a human to have?
Again it is people putting a religous position to athieism........makes you scratch your head.
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Offline jetson

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2011, 06:45:32 PM »
I'm traveling at the moment, but when I get home, I will split this topic.  I want to have the discussion about atheism being a default, and more to the point, that it would not be called atheism.  Just a lack of god beliefs. 

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2011, 07:13:48 PM »
The point is that neither atheism nor 'theism' (whichever variety you want to point to, thus the quotes) is this default state.  Credulousness is - the willingness to believe something with scant or lacking evidence.  I mean, whether it's imaginary friends or monsters in the closet, children are quite capable of making up completely imaginary things that nobody else can see.  What's the difference between that and imagined supernatural entities?  Mainly the ability to get others to believe in them.

Offline jetson

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2011, 08:44:37 PM »
The difference is quite distinct in my opinion. Parents and family plant the imaginary, as real.  The parents themselves believe it is real, and they plant this into the mind of the child.  Is there any way at all to claim that a child would imagine up a god, especially one with the attributes of the specific gods of history, all on their own?

Offline jetson

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2011, 08:56:07 PM »
Mod note:

These replies were removed from another thread because they were a different topic, and in my opinion, an interesting one.  Feel free to join this discussion.  There are already some good points made, so read through before you reply!

Jetson

Offline 12 Monkeys

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2011, 09:00:08 PM »
The point is that neither atheism nor 'theism' (whichever variety you want to point to, thus the quotes) is this default state.  Credulousness is - the willingness to believe something with scant or lacking evidence.  I mean, whether it's imaginary friends or monsters in the closet, children are quite capable of making up completely imaginary things that nobody else can see.  What's the difference between that and imagined supernatural entities?  Mainly the ability to get others to believe in them.
most of the monster in the closet/under the bed stuff is started with a story. I never heard/thought there were monsters in my closet under my bed even though I probably heard stories of such creatures.......Santa,easter bunny and such were all plants......you believe until you either dont or in my case find ALL the wrapped presents in my parents closet.
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Offline jetson

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2011, 09:12:17 PM »
I think I should concede the point that the default is not truly "atheism", but rather it is simply a lack of belief in a deity, or in anything, really - and it certainly is not a conscious lack of belief.  When it comes to religion and gods, humans may have had a need for that back when we didn't know anything, but in these modern times, what does that type of belief offer us? 

Gods provided answers where none existed, and even if they still provide answers for humans today, those answers are sorely lacking in real substance, in my opinion.  Gods provided guides to living, laws to obey, ways to treat each other.  But it seems abundantly clear to me that those things are happening without gods, and they are even better without gods - i.e., they come with only human baggage.

If atheism is a conscious rejection of god assertions, then it cannot be the default.  If it is simply a lack of belief in a god or gods, then all babies have that at birth.

Offline 12 Monkeys

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2011, 09:17:04 PM »
 The God of the OT told you to FUCK over everybody who wasn't a follower. How they can say these are words to live by is beyond me
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Offline jetson

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2011, 09:29:20 PM »
The God of the OT told you to f**k over everybody who wasn't a follower. How they can say these are words to live by is beyond me

I think this belongs in the other thread that I split from?

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2011, 09:38:13 PM »
The point is that neither atheism nor 'theism' (whichever variety you want to point to, thus the quotes) is this default state.  Credulousness is - the willingness to believe something with scant or lacking evidence.  I mean, whether it's imaginary friends or monsters in the closet, children are quite capable of making up completely imaginary things that nobody else can see.  What's the difference between that and imagined supernatural entities?  Mainly the ability to get others to believe in them.

Credulousness is indeed a default state.  So is being a carbon-based life-form.  This discussion is about whether atheism or theism is the default state.

And there is no option that is not either theism or atheism.  They are "X" and "Not-X", respectively.  As long as X applies to the object in question (as beliefs in deities apply to human minds, for example), there is no condition that falls into neither X nor not-X.  If X is untrue, then not-X is automatically true.  This is a rule of logic.
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Offline 12 Monkeys

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2011, 09:40:56 PM »
The God of the OT told you to f**k over everybody who wasn't a follower. How they can say these are words to live by is beyond me

I think this belongs in the other thread that I split from?
yes ... but you did mention the rules Sorry bout that,I was going off that part of what you said
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Offline Karl

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2011, 10:05:51 PM »
And there is no option that is not either theism or atheism.  They are "X" and "Not-X", respectively.  As long as X applies to the object in question (as beliefs in deities apply to human minds, for example), there is no condition that falls into neither X nor not-X.  If X is untrue, then not-X is automatically true.  This is a rule of logic.
I do not see it that way. Practically spoken your statement applies for daily life but what if there are a third or infinitely more possibilities?

I can say 2*2 is 5 or 2*2 is 3, both are wrong.

As far as the discussion is concerned and taking the 2 conditions as the only existing, then you are right.

Offline Ivellios

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2011, 08:17:48 AM »
Children aren't born "with a God[1]," but develop complete and total faith in one very quickly. This person becomes thier "God." A God that loves them, feeds them, clothes them, cleans them, takes care of them when they're sick or hurt. The child will also believe anything this "God" tells them. This is instinctual. Typically this god or gods is the child's parent(s).

There is also a desire that some people have when they get older for "simpler times." I'll use Santa as an example of where I'm heading with this. There are billions of people on this planet with only one billion "Christians." This results in all the children that know of and believe in Santa Claus is at most is a few hundred million. However some parents feel as if thier Child NEEDS Santa Claus... that's it's impossible for them to function like a "normal human being[2]." For parents like that, I think it is the Parent's desire for a Santa Claus and they are projecting thier desire onto thier children (whom won't miss what they do not know) so they can have an excuse to believe in it themselves.

Irony is, Santa and God devalue the parents, just as Christianity trivialitizes suffering, sacrifice and death.
 1. which makes them not-theist
 2. What IS normal anyways?

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #17 on: August 01, 2011, 02:24:04 PM »
jetson:  Thanks for splitting the topic up.

----

I don't accept that either atheism or 'theism' (whichever variety) is the default position of a human being, as I said earlier.  The reason is that this strikes me as a false dichotomy, a consideration of only two options where more exist.

Note that this also means that I don't accept that any variety of theism is the default.  Azdgari asked earlier which variety of theism would be the correct one, and I think this is a point which can't be ignored.  If 'theism' were the default, newborns would already have a theistic belief in place, one they could elaborate on when they learned how to communicate.  That is never the case to my knowledge, since theistic beliefs are learned from others who already believe.

However, that being said, I also don't accept that atheism is the default.  Atheism is defined as disbelief in the existence of deities, but disbelief by its very nature is active, a rejection of something (as compared to a simple lack of belief, which is passive).  If children were naturally atheistic, I think it would be much harder to get them into a religion in the first place.

The fact that neither theism nor atheism can be the default state contradicts the idea that it has to be one or the other, regardless of what logic states.  Note that logic also supports a false dichotomy - if only two options are presented, A and B, and A is not true, then logic suggests that B must be true.  However, in this case, neither A nor B is true, thus there must be more than two options to choose from.  One of those options is a simple lack of belief, as jetson mentioned, which is completely passive.  I would almost call it ignorance of belief, in fact, and that clarifies the situation, because someone who is ignorant of something has no basis to judge it by.

Hm, if theism is the belief in deities, and atheism is the rejection of deities, what would ignorance of deities be called?[1]
 1. I'm serious here.

Offline One Above All

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2011, 02:26:09 PM »
Ignorance of deities would be agnosticism, considering the origin of the term.[1]
 1. A+Gnosticism
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Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2011, 02:36:06 PM »
I thought about it, but even agnosticism comes across as a deliberate choice rather than a default state.

Slight aside:  According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, 'agnosticism' is the 43rd most popular English word and is in the top 1% of looked-up words.

Offline wright

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #20 on: August 01, 2011, 02:47:37 PM »
I think I should concede the point that the default is not truly "atheism", but rather it is simply a lack of belief in a deity, or in anything, really - and it certainly is not a conscious lack of belief. 
(snip)
If atheism is a conscious rejection of god assertions, then it cannot be the default.  If it is simply a lack of belief in a god or gods, then all babies have that at birth.

I'd call it atheism, or at least agnosticism. Jaimelehrs has a point in that it's not the consciously accepted / articulated atheism of an older child or adult, but it still fits the definition.


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Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #21 on: August 01, 2011, 03:12:02 PM »
In an effort to not be excessively pedantic about terminology, I can accept agnosticism as a default state for humans[1].  The reason I quibble is that even agnosticism suggests someone made a deliberate decision, but that goes past the point where it's worth holding up a discussion for.
 1. At least until someone comes up with a better name.

Offline mram

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #22 on: August 01, 2011, 04:24:39 PM »
Playing devils advocate here.. IF atheism is the default for all humans at birth then so is sucking on mommys tit, but if children are never taught anything then dying must be the default before being taught anything because if children are not taught anything, including how to fend for themselves, feed themselves, cloth themselves, run from wild animals, get out of bad weather and not stick their tongues in light sockets then eminent death in childhood is also the default..Childhood diseases and accidents are default.. You know..If mommy or someone doesn't pick baby up after birth and nurture it then it simply dies of starvation or exposure to the elements making death the default.. Luckily nature and its infinite wisdom designed our brains to not think this way so we're given parents to expose us to different ideas, nurturing and so on and without this nurturing death is the only alternative and therefore the default so atheism is meaningless as is theism.
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Offline wright

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #23 on: August 01, 2011, 04:40:28 PM »
In an effort to not be excessively pedantic about terminology, I can accept agnosticism as a default state for humans[1]The reason I quibble is that even agnosticism suggests someone made a deliberate decision, but that goes past the point where it's worth holding up a discussion for.
 1. At least until someone comes up with a better name.

Bolds mine. +1 to you, jaimehlers, for being both articulate and reasonable.

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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #24 on: August 01, 2011, 05:12:31 PM »
I do not see it that way. Practically spoken your statement applies for daily life but what if there are a third or infinitely more possibilities?

If there are infinite non-X possibilities, then they fall into the broad category of "not-X".

I can say 2*2 is 5 or 2*2 is 3, both are wrong.

All answers are covered by "4 or not-4".

As far as the discussion is concerned and taking the 2 conditions as the only existing, then you are right.

When one of them is only defined as the negation of the other (as atheism is defined with respect to theism), there are no alternatives.
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Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #25 on: August 01, 2011, 05:31:16 PM »
Azdgari:  I don't agree with your statement that there are no alternatives to theism or atheism.  Theism is an active belief in a deity or deities, and atheism is an active disbelief in deities, but neither properly explain non-belief (that is, a lack of belief as opposed to disbelief).

Offline John 3 16

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #26 on: August 01, 2011, 05:38:10 PM »
Azdgari:  I don't agree with your statement that there are no alternatives to theism or atheism.  Theism is an active belief in a deity or deities, and atheism is an active disbelief in deities, but neither properly explain non-belief (that is, a lack of belief as opposed to disbelief).
Exactly,
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He is non-believer.
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Offline mram

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #27 on: August 01, 2011, 05:38:32 PM »
One might argue a new born is none of the above because newborns don't think about gods, but neither do they think of theism nor the possibility in either direction..They also don't think about science or electricity or what color puppy they want or what's for supper tomorrow or what color the door is on the other side.. I would think a newborn is plain with or without until informed otherwise at a later date..
I don't know about the rest of you, but I have no memories of my birth..NONE whatsoever.. I had no clue of god(s) and didn't even have a clue what an atheism was until around 9 or so when I was exposed to those "atheist soviets" and how they wanted to burn all our churches down and turn us all against god!  :o OH MY! Well, it turns out they have had churches there all along, but we weren't told.. In fact we were told they're evil atheists.. As a kid I was exposed to god through the miracle of Santa Clause and Xmas presents and who those old looking people dressed funny was a complete mystery to me. Other than that..complete blank until a bit later in life and it was never really pushed on me inside my parents house.. I had some vague idea from neighborhood kids who went to the Payptest Teimpoll (Baptists) and got to ride the Sunday "fun bus"..
You need to know what atheist means to become one just like you have to become the Democrats stand for to become a Democrat..otherwise you're pissing in the dark peeing on your own shoes.
Imagine gaining favor with "Darwin's"...kind of like praying, huh?

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Online Mr. Blackwell

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #28 on: August 01, 2011, 06:02:52 PM »
Well that may or may not be the default position for everybody.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/12/religious-belief-is-human-nature-huge-new-study-claims/

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