Author Topic: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?  (Read 4257 times)

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Offline Whateverman

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Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« on: April 07, 2012, 09:06:52 PM »
I phrased this as intentionally vague, as I'm looking for personal opinions.

For the sake of argument, let's assume a hypothetical child encounters ideas of God from other folks, and after some indeterminate period of aging, decides to reject those ideas.  Would there be a scenario in which this child rejected those God ideas for bad (aka. illogical, irrational, incomplete, faulty, etc) reasons?

If "yes", please describe the scenario or reasoning
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Offline The Gawd

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2012, 09:21:20 PM »
no. being atheist is the natural human state. No reason needed.

Offline Willie

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2012, 09:24:34 PM »
Of course. Reaching a reasonable conclusion does not prove that one reached it by sound reasoning. As for it being a "default state", that's not an example of sound reasoning. It's just an example of not having thought much about it.


Offline Ice Monkey

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2012, 09:26:14 PM »
I think posing the god question to a child is wrong in the first place.  His declaration of atheism wouldn't be any more valid than when we refer to another child as a "Christian" child or a "Muslim" child.  Beyond that, and in hopes of still answering your vague question with a vague answer, I think anyone can hold a position for the wrong reasons, even if that position is the correct one.
Religion. It's given people hope in a world torn apart by religion." -- Charlie Chaplin

Offline Ice Monkey

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2012, 09:31:38 PM »
no. being atheist is the natural human state. No reason needed.

I'm not sure I would agree with that entirely.  From what I've read, we are, to varying degrees, hard-wired to seek a god answer when a natural one isn't forthcoming.  Not everyone, and not everyone to the same degree, but certainly to the point where many would argue that this is the default position.
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Offline inveni0

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2012, 09:35:23 PM »
No.  You can not be an atheist for the wrong reasons.  Just as you can not NOT believe in Santa for the wrong reasons.  Let's illustrate:

When I was 5, I wanted a motorcycle.  I wrote it on my wish list: motrcicle.  On Christmas Eve, a giant box appeared under the tree.  I knew it was my motorcycle (Tyco or otherwise).  My older sister and parents attempted to convince me that the gift was from Santa.  I didn't believe them.  I didn't believe in Santa.  If you were to ask me WHY I didn't believe, I wouldn't have been able to answer.  I may have only said, "Because."  Could you then say, "Well, that's not good enough,"?

No.  You couldn't tell me that I was wrong for not believing in fantasy, regardless of my reasons.

Now, let's turn the tables.  Can you believe in Santa for the wrong reasons?  YES!  You might believe in Santa because you want to attempt to get a toy that your parents have already deemed "too dangerous".  Or for a number of other reasons.

It's even worse if we ask why someone believes in God.  There are a zillion wrong reasons, but they are all wrong because they lead back to a single, inescapable result: putting ones faith, trust, and loyalty into the hands of an imaginary being.

It's wrong for EVERY reason, just as not believing is wrong for NONE.
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Offline The Gawd

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2012, 09:37:28 PM »
I'm not sure I would agree with that entirely.  From what I've read, we are, to varying degrees, hard-wired to seek a god answer when a natural one isn't forthcoming.  Not everyone, and not everyone to the same degree, but certainly to the point where many would argue that this is the default position.
The question is essentially: Is there a bad reason to be what you are.
If its the default setting, then no reasoning is needed. It just is.
You need reasoning when you venture off of the natural setting.

Offline kin hell

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2012, 09:39:02 PM »
...what reasons would be wrong if the result is a non belief in god?




Unless you are talking about flawed logics or irrationality...

eg. My parents don't love me therefore there is no god.  Is this the sort of reasons you meant? I only ask as I really am not sure.


 I imagine any number of abused altar boys have questioned the reality of god given the supposed hallowed source prime examples of gods instruments on earth (their abusers) were so flawed.
And yet, doubts of god because god's tools were really just tools, would actually be a rational response and a correct reason in terms of supporting evidence.
"...but on a lighter note, demons were driven from a pig today in Gloucester."  Bill Bailey

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Offline Ice Monkey

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2012, 10:05:08 PM »
...what reasons would be wrong if the result is a non belief in god?




Unless you are talking about flawed logics or irrationality...

eg. My parents don't love me therefore there is no god.  Is this the sort of reasons you meant? I only ask as I really am not sure.


 I imagine any number of abused altar boys have questioned the reality of god given the supposed hallowed source prime examples of gods instruments on earth (their abusers) were so flawed.
And yet, doubts of god because god's tools were really just tools, would actually be a rational response and a correct reason in terms of supporting evidence.

Those would be very good reasons to doubt God's existence.  I'm not really clear on the question either.  I took it to mean, like you suggested, something like "I didn't score a goal tonight, even though I went to church thismorning" sort of reason.
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Offline Ice Monkey

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2012, 10:07:49 PM »
How about "I found an error in the OT, so I'm going to reject the whole book".  I wouldn't call that a good reason.

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Online jaimehlers

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2012, 10:59:05 PM »
The question is essentially: Is there a bad reason to be what you are.
If its the default setting, then no reasoning is needed. It just is.
You need reasoning when you venture off of the natural setting.
That presumes that atheism is the "natural setting" of humans.  There are two problems, first that atheism needs critical thinking skills, which do not come naturally to us.  We have to be taught and trained in their use.  Otherwise, the natural response to something unknown is to come up with (or be told) an explanation that seems to fit the facts, then stick to it no matter what.  Critical thinking is required to get past this tendency.  And second, not having beliefs or knowledge of something is not the same thing as believing or knowing that something exists or does not exist.

Offline Ice Monkey

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2012, 11:09:17 PM »
That presumes that atheism is the "natural setting" of humans.  There are two problems, first that atheism needs critical thinking skills, which do not come naturally to us.  We have to be taught and trained in their use.  Otherwise, the natural response to something unknown is to come up with (or be told) an explanation that seems to fit the facts, then stick to it no matter what.  Critical thinking is required to get past this tendency.  And second, not having beliefs or knowledge of something is not the same thing as believing or knowing that something exists or does not exist.

I'd only add that pattern-seeking is something we're hard-wired to do.  It's how we interpret them, and our ability to recognize such things as positive hits for the wrong reasons, that determine our ability to fully utilize critical thinking skills.
Religion. It's given people hope in a world torn apart by religion." -- Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2012, 11:13:46 PM »
I'd only add that pattern-seeking is something we're hard-wired to do.  It's how we interpret them, and our ability to recognize such things as positive hits for the wrong reasons, that determine our ability to fully utilize critical thinking skills.
Fair enough.  As you say, you need critical thinking to be able to figure out that a given explanation isn't a good one.

Offline Ice Monkey

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2012, 11:17:31 PM »

Fair enough.  As you say, you need critical thinking to be able to figure out that a given explanation isn't a good one.

Brings to mind the frustrating conversations I've had that began with me saying "Hey, you can't chart that the resident's behavior was "due to the fact that there is a full moon."
Religion. It's given people hope in a world torn apart by religion." -- Charlie Chaplin

Offline The Gawd

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2012, 05:45:10 AM »
The question is essentially: Is there a bad reason to be what you are.
If its the default setting, then no reasoning is needed. It just is.
You need reasoning when you venture off of the natural setting.
That presumes that atheism is the "natural setting" of humans.  There are two problems, first that atheism needs critical thinking skills, which do not come naturally to us.  We have to be taught and trained in their use.  Otherwise, the natural response to something unknown is to come up with (or be told) an explanation that seems to fit the facts, then stick to it no matter what.  Critical thinking is required to get past this tendency.  And second, not having beliefs or knowledge of something is not the same thing as believing or knowing that something exists or does not exist.
But see what  you did here? You needed a reason to venture off of the natural setting, finding an answer for something unknown. The ONLY reason they came up with "god" was a lack of capability to answer them any other way. If humanity started in 2012 with all the advancements/knowledge we have right now then this god talk doesnt get dreamt up, even with unasnwered questions.

It takes critical thinking once people confront you with this religious BS and it dominates society, but not to originally be atheist.

Offline joebbowers

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2012, 06:08:21 AM »
Atheism is not the default state. We are naturally predisposed to hyper-active agent detection, and create gods, fairies, leprechauns, aliens, demons, or other supernatural entities to explain phenomena that we don't understand. Even animals do this. It's a side effect of our survival instincts. You're likely to live longer if you hear what sounds like footsteps and assume it's footsteps than when you don't.

Of course it's possible to be atheist for the wrong reasons. For example if you are an atheist just because you want to rebel against your parents. This is why many atheist parents have religious children and vice versa. Simple rejection and opposition of authority, not a result of reasoned conclusion based on evidence.

If you didn't believe in Santa because you, personally had never witnessed him, you would be correct in your conclusion but flawed in your methodology. If you didn't believe in Obama for the same reason, that flaw would be pretty obvious.
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Online jaimehlers

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2012, 06:40:35 AM »
But see what  you did here? You needed a reason to venture off of the natural setting, finding an answer for something unknown. The ONLY reason they came up with "god" was a lack of capability to answer them any other way. If humanity started in 2012 with all the advancements/knowledge we have right now then this god talk doesnt get dreamt up, even with unasnwered questions.

It takes critical thinking once people confront you with this religious BS and it dominates society, but not to originally be atheist.
This is why I say that atheism is not the natural setting, because the state humans start in (both as a race and as individuals) is essentially ignorance.  It's like Joe just said, humans have always invented explanations for things based on very limited knowledge, and it's only relatively recently that we finally developed the built-up knowledge base for those explanations to be reasonably correct.  Of course, if we'd had that knowledge base waiting for us on a platter, we wouldn't have to invent explanations for stuff, but that comes with its own problems.  For example, how did that knowledge base get there for us to have?

Offline Johnny Spunkypants

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #17 on: April 08, 2012, 06:58:17 AM »
I don't think there's such a thing as a wrong reason to hold an opinion. Everything happens for a reason, because of something, because of a cause, it's not right or wrong, it just is.

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #18 on: April 08, 2012, 07:04:24 AM »

That presumes that atheism is the "natural setting" of humans.  There are two problems, first that atheism needs critical thinking skills, which do not come naturally to us.  We have to be taught and trained in their use.  Otherwise, the natural response to something unknown is to come up with (or be told) an explanation that seems to fit the facts, then stick to it no matter what.  Critical thinking is required to get past this tendency.
Wrong! Atheism is simply the lack of belief in a deity, put another way "without god". Technically anything that has no belief in a deity is atheist, no matter how stupid that may sound. as Gawd said "You need reasoning when you venture off of the natural setting" that is when you acquire critical thinking skills. You don't need them at the default setting. Sorry!
Quote from: jaimehlers
And second, not having beliefs or knowledge of something is not the same thing as believing or knowing that something exists or does not exist.
Irrelevant, being without god is the default position, that is all that is needed to be atheist.[1]
 1. The term atheism originated from the Greek ????? (atheos), meaning "without god"
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Offline The Gawd

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #19 on: April 08, 2012, 07:05:23 AM »
I'm pretty sure we are born not believing in any deity. The evidence shows that outside factors urge us towards a specific deity, usually based on where we live and what our caretakers are. If atheism was not the default setting then it wouldnt matter where we were born or who our parents were as to determine what religion we'd be. We are also born ignorant, but that does not lead to belief. What leads to belief is being told to believe by our caretakers or society.

We are hardwired to listen to those who raise us, not belief in god (I think Dawkins discusses this in God Delusion). Thats why we in America lionize people like Christopher Columbus despite his crimes against humanity. We are not hardwired to think CC is a great guy, we were taught that he was and accepted it. We are naturally nuetral on Columbus until told otherwise.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2012, 07:07:37 AM by The Gawd »

Offline Seppuku

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #20 on: April 08, 2012, 07:15:02 AM »
Quote from: Johnny
I don't think there's such a thing as a wrong reason to hold an opinion. Everything happens for a reason, because of something, because of a cause, it's not right or wrong, it just is.

What about indoctrination? What about fear? What about coercion? They're reasons why some people are theists. These aren't people coming to their own conclusions, they're conclusions forced upon them. I would argue that any situation like that is a wrong reason to believe (or not believe) something. The common fear tactic driven to people from a young age is that they're going to suffer an eternity of pain and torture if they don't worship God. Watch Jesus Camp, you can watch how fear and indoctrination works from within a Christian Church.



Applied to atheism, I don't think I've heard of any situations similar to it, but it's always a possibility that there are parents out there who force atheism on their kids in a similar fashion. If the case, I would argue it's a wrong reason to be an atheist. By all means teach them what you believe and educate kids. No, "be 'x' or GTFO".

I suppose if being an atheist was just a means to an end - you become one because your other half is one, it should be your decision, not to be something you do to be accepted by those you care about. I think if you're going to believe or disbelieve anything it should be up to you - people may throw their arguments, use reason and pass evidence your way, but at the end of the day, you should be the one to ultimately decide without any kind of fear, emotional blackmail or any kind of peer pressure.

I can't say I've spoken or seen anybody I would say are atheist for the wrong reasons.
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Offline Johnny Spunkypants

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #21 on: April 08, 2012, 07:32:27 AM »
You're right, Sep, but I'm talking about when someone genuinely has an opinion.

Peace.
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Offline Seppuku

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #22 on: April 08, 2012, 07:59:07 AM »
Gotcha. ;) Then yes, I agree.
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Offline 19yroldatheist

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #23 on: April 08, 2012, 08:20:00 AM »
No.  You can not be an atheist for the wrong reasons.  Just as you can not NOT believe in Santa for the wrong reasons.  Let's illustrate:

When I was 5, I wanted a motorcycle.  I wrote it on my wish list: motrcicle.  On Christmas Eve, a giant box appeared under the tree.  I knew it was my motorcycle (Tyco or otherwise).  My older sister and parents attempted to convince me that the gift was from Santa.  I didn't believe them.  I didn't believe in Santa.  If you were to ask me WHY I didn't believe, I wouldn't have been able to answer.  I may have only said, "Because."  Could you then say, "Well, that's not good enough,"?

You know you're going to grow up to be a strong skeptic when you don't believe in Santa at age 5 haha!

In regards to the OP, yes it's possible to be right for the wrong reasons. I could give you any bad reason to be an atheist, like: the reason I am an atheist is because pigs can't fly. I doubt any atheist has such a reason, but that would be an example of a nonsensical or "bad" reason.

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2012, 08:39:05 AM »
Wrong! Atheism is simply the lack of belief in a deity, put another way "without god". Technically anything that has no belief in a deity is atheist, no matter how stupid that may sound. as Gawd said "You need reasoning when you venture off of the natural setting" that is when you acquire critical thinking skills. You don't need them at the default setting. Sorry!
This is pure semantics (and more to the point, excessively literal), as you tacitly admitted by saying "no matter how stupid that may sound".  The fact that you have to excuse it sounding stupid and that your argument is based on taking the term "atheism" pedantically literally is a pretty good indication that your reasoning might be flawed, just as The Gawd's statement, that if we had always had the knowledge and methodology we have today we wouldn't have come up with "God", is a pretty good indication of how his reasoning might be flawed.  People are not consciously atheistic to begin with, they are simply ignorant, as evidenced by the tendency of children to accept whatever they're told is true by people who presumably know better than them.  That is why I say that atheism requires critical thinking skills, because without those skills, one has no rational basis for rejecting bad information.

In other words, regardless of your definition of someone who is totally ignorant (like a newborn) being atheistic because they lack a belief in a god or gods being technically correct, it is useless as a practical definition of atheism because such an ignorant person lacks the ability to discern wrong information from right information.  In other words, the ability to think critically is required to keep from being fooled by wrong information.  I think atheists can do better than to count all newborns among their numbers, as Muslims do.  Different reasoning, of course, but the same bad conclusion, that you start out as X and then get drawn off into believing something else instead and need to be brought back to X.

Quote from: bertatberts
Irrelevant, being without god is the default position, that is all that is needed to be atheist.[1]
 1. The term atheism originated from the Greek ????? (atheos), meaning "without god"
Again, semantics.  You are basing your argument on the literal dictionary definition of atheism, but doing so fails in its purpose, as I illustrated above.  Using that to dismiss my statement, that not having beliefs or knowledge of something is not the same thing as believing or knowing that something exists or doesn't exist, is a non sequitur, as it has no bearing on what I actually said.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2012, 08:41:13 AM by jaimehlers »

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #25 on: April 08, 2012, 08:41:08 AM »
This question presupposes that (a) there is no god, and (b) even if gods did exist, they are very hard to spot.

In a universe where there was a god, and he/it/she kept on bellowing it from the clouds, then you could only not believe in god for the incorrect reasons. Thus, the question can only be considered on a gradient of god's real existence, or visibility.

In the case of the Christian god: he negates himself by biblical contradictions and errors. You only have to spot absurdity in the doctrine, and you are an atheist for the correct reasons, because the doctrine states that it is not absurd. If the Christian doctrine was relatively sensical, then spotting doctrinal errors would be a falsehood, due to ignorance. As it exists today, adherents require a constant feed of brainwashing to maintain faith, and explain doctrinal absurdities. So, the question is: should we succumb to brainwashing? Because that's the only reason to believe in a Christian god.

Humans, in general, don't waste any opportunity to be unfathomably stupid - Dr Cynical.

Offline joebbowers

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2012, 08:58:32 AM »
I'm pretty sure we are born not believing in any deity.

Bold mine. This is absolutely true, if be deity you mean god(s). If you mean a more vague definition that would include other powerful supernatural beings, I disagree. See why below.

Quote
The evidence shows that outside factors urge us towards a specific deity, usually based on where we live and what our caretakers are.

Bold mine. That's it right there. We are born with a natural inclination to attribute unexplained phenomena to an intelligence. For future reference and I will be referring to this unnamed unknown intelligent being behind the scenes as Om.[1]Even babies and animals create their own Om. The belief in an Om pulling strings behind the scene is there from birth. Your parents and society foster and direct that belief towards the specific Om that they were raised to attribute those unexplained phenomena to. For some it's Jesus or God or Allah or Jehovah, or other gods, for others it's leprechauns, pixies, fairies, or other supernatural creatures, and for still others it's Lady Luck or fate (with or without a capital F).

It's called hyper-active agent detection, and it's the foundation for all magical thinking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_detection
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology_of_religion

Quote
We are naturally nuetral on Columbus until told otherwise.

False analogy. We have no knowledge of Columbus until we learn about him, but we begin to believe in our own personal Om from birth, manifesting and growing more powerful, feeding on our curiosity about things we don't understand, until our parents give our Om name and form or we destroy our Om by seeking understanding.
 1. I just made that up, but it sounds like a good name for a powerful supernatural being.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2012, 09:08:47 AM by joebbowers »
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Offline 19yroldatheist

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2012, 09:08:08 AM »
I'm pretty sure we are born not believing in any deity.

Bold mine. This is absolutely true, if be deity you mean god(s). If you mean a more vague definition that would include other powerful supernatural beings, I disagree. See why below.

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The evidence shows that outside factors urge us towards a specific deity, usually based on where we live and what our caretakers are.

Bold mine. That's it right there. We are born with a natural inclination to attribute unexplained phenomena to an intelligence. For future reference and I will be referring to this unnamed unknown intelligent being behind the scenes as Om.[1]Even babies and animals create their own Om. The belief in an Om pulling strings behind the scene is there from birth. Your parents and society foster and direct that belief towards the specific Om that they were raised to attribute those unexplained phenomena to. For some it's Jesus or God or Allah or Jehovah, or other gods, for others it's leprechauns, pixies, fairies, or other supernatural creatures, and for still others it's Lady Luck or fate (with or without a capital F).

It's called hyper-active agent detection, and it's the foundation for all magical thinking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_detection
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology_of_religion

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We are naturally nuetral on Columbus until told otherwise.

False analogy. We have no knowledge of Columbus until we learn about him, but we begin to believe in our own personal Om from birth, manifesting and growing more powerful, feeding on our curiosity about things we don't understand.
 1. I just made that up, but it sounds like a good name for a powerful supernatural being.

My dog and cat are both atheists. Babies are atheists. It is only until reaching a certain age you have the requisite neural capacity to start pondering religion and "god/s". I'd say this age is anywhere between 3 and 6.

Offline joebbowers

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Re: Can one be an atheist for the "wrong" reasons?
« Reply #28 on: April 08, 2012, 09:13:30 AM »
Your pets know nothing of manmade religions, nor does a newborn child. But they have Oms. Read those links I posted about agency detection.
"Do you see a problem with insisting that the normal ways in which you determine fact from fiction is something you have to turn off in order to maintain the belief in God?" - JeffPT