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Why have people (Atheists) Chosen not to believe in God? Does this give freedom to live life without becoming answerable to anyone?

Many people are atheists because of the way they were brought up or educated, or because they have simply adopted the beliefs of the culture in which they grew up. So someone raised in Communist China is likely to have no belief in God because the education system and culture make being an atheist the natural thing to do.

"Other people are atheists because they just feel that atheism is right." It is on this premise that i am asking this question.


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    Jun 21 2012: Hi Lorenzo,

    Interesting question!

    The thing is that few people know what belief is.

    From my perspective, belief is a neural topology.
    It is the result of refining what perception leads to what outcomes.

    Consider the experiment of the moonwalking ape.
    The subjects were asked to count the basketball passes between the players in white shirts.
    They narrowed their perception to the white shirts and the ball.
    They did not see the ape moon-walk through the middle of the game.
    In effect, they only believed in white-shirts, black-shirts and a ball, they did not believe in the ape - and therefore did not even see him.
    This produces 2 bits of knowledge:
    1. Perception/belief can be externally directed/acquired through dynamic context.
    2. Belief relies on results.

    SO, if you lived in a community that imposes penalty or reward you for your belief/non-belief in god, then you would acquire that belief for self-preservation.

    I note that the Atheist community makes no such imposition, but many religious communities do.

    Unfortunately, the belief/non-belief in god produces no self-preservation outcomes outside of a community.
    In this, I am not talking about the benefits of religious reccommendations such as the 10 commandments etc - these have clear benefit, however believing that they came from god has no benefit for anyone except the priests.

    When a community resolves to remove religious persecution from its cusoms, many members of that community drop the god perception - it has no benefit.

    Personally, I have been through the god-belief phase, into the atheist phase and am now inclined to keep some spiritual belief based on personal observation. But that belief does not look much like the gods that people worship. All I see in modern religion still looks like the manipulations of politicians(priests).

    I count myself as lucky that I cannot be stoned to death for this view in my community.
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      Jun 22 2012: Actually this test doesn't work on people with ADD or ADHD. They always see the ape because by the time he floats by the screen they are already bored with the test.
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        Jun 22 2012: Hi Adam,

        Interesting observation ...
        Do you have a source for the stats on this?

        There is always a cause for perceptional filtering. In the ape test, the cause was the instruction to count passes between white-shirt players.

        I have problems with the word "bored". Like "belief", I don't think it has been properly defined (culturally), and can see a few disparate causes for the generalisation. Perhaps there are better definitions in neural/behavioural science?
        It might help the discussion about belief by identifying the parameters of systemic constraints/parameters influencing perceptional focus.
        • Jun 22 2012: I might be wrong Mitch, but I think it's possible that Adam's comment was simply an attempt to be humorous..
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          Jun 25 2012: Hi Mitch, Claudeus is partially correct in that it was a feeble attempt at humor. However there is truth in my statement. The first time I took the test I saw the monkey man. I don't know why exactly or if this was the case for anyone else. I don't have any clinical data but I can tell you what happened to me. When the test began I immediately asked myself why the object of the test was to count the number of times the ball was passed. By the time the ape danced past I was not surprised, but I did not expect it. There was no warning, nor was I tipped off in any way. Yet the ape caught my attention.

          A common misconception about people with ADD and ADHD is that they cannot focus. We focus but we do it much faster than everyone else. It's like having a Hyabusa when everyone else is on a Harley, if you know what I mean. ADD/ADHD does not make you smarter but it does make you faster.

          Thought occur in a chain reaction yes? They pop into your head and build upon themselves. Well imagine speeding this process up immensely. That is what it is like to have ADD/ADHD. A person w/o it can mimic this attribute after copious amounts of coffee or stimulants.

          Therefore you're right. Bored is the wrong word. I would say I was already wondering why I was asked to watch the ball.
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        Jun 26 2012: Hi Adam,

        I suspected as much.

        Seems to me that treating ADD/ADHD as a dissorder is the wrong approach.

        The real issue would be developing techniques for teh ADD/ADHD to harnes that Hyabusa.

        I am most likely diagnosable - my problem was trying to understand why people could not see what was obvious to me. ..
        Sadly, it slows down as you get older.
        • Jun 26 2012: Mitch, ADHD is becoming so prevalent it raises some serious questions about the psychiatric community and their end goal. There are a multitude of theories as to what ADHD is and why it exists. One states that certain humans carry genes that trace back to very nomadic people that needed to constantly be on the move. Another theory is that technology has caused a problem, as instant gratification is a click away. Im not sure how much weight these theories really hold. Is ADD real? Is it normal disillusionment and boredom in children? Is it a disorder that makes you less affective in a society that demands perfection and strict conformity to the status quo, modern, fast lane society. Or is it really a disorder that is maladaptive and destructive to the self? I guess it may be a mix of the two but the way that its being treated is suspect.

          The normal treatment involves prescribing stimulant narcotics. This can't be the only answer to this problem. Exercises in meditation are known to increase focus and attention skills. There are a couple other practices that can be helpful in treating this disorder.

          The link I posted below is incredibly informative and eloquent. I have posted it at least 4 times on TED, but the more who see it the better. There are some awesome stats about ADHD, also how changes in the diagnostic criteria and quick fix psychiatry are contributing to this.

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          Jun 26 2012: Anytime Mitch. I'm off to scour the web for more satisfying crumpets of delicious and sometimes useless knowledge.
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        Jun 26 2012: @Brian:

        I thought that SRI's were the main treatment for ADHD?

        I am beginning to think that a combination of social and environmental pressures has kicked-off a genetic questing for new adaptation - resulting in wider deviation of mental function. I begin to suspect that ADD/ADHD is part of the autism continuum .. see: http://www.wrongplanet.net/article419.html
        There seems to be a growing movement advocating the re-evaluation of these conditions - not as disorders, but as super-orders, for which we are yet to develop effective development strategies.
        The problem with that is it threatens vested interests and institutions: drug companies, traditional psychiatry, schools, law, healthcare, and industry in general as it starts being challenged by new paradigms it cannot understand.

        I agree that there are some techniques that help harnessing a fast brain (e.g. visual concentration exercises) but these result in further isolation .. it's like super-charging the super-charged. I have this analogy of the man who starts a race and begins competing with the leader - he overtakes him and crosses the line and gets the prize, however, the leader he was competing with had already run the circuit 10 times. The prize was given by those who could not comprehend that someone can go 10 times around to your 1 (because they could not do it). This is the plight of teh super-charged. A super-=charged individual can know when others only think they know, or pretend to .. it causes problems, and a lot of potential is wasted.
        • Jun 26 2012: SSRI's are used but less frequently, treatment usually consists of prescribing a stimulant as they seem to work somewhere around 70-80% of the time.

          In regards to the link you have sent me, I must confess, I have thought in similar ways. I have a friend who has aspergers and his insights into other people can be absolutely brilliant. He is incredibly sensitive and has an uncanny ability to do quick calculations and remember sports statistics like none other. He has also been subject to much misunderstanding, as he has a hard time with social cues. Due to this he has a grudge against much of the world and as you could imagine harboring this view has caused him personal strife. I have pondered how much different he could have turned out had there been a more empathetic society to nurture him and understand his differences. Although I still remain friends with him I worry about what the future brings.

          There is an interesting book i was introduced to not long ago called "Touched With Fire" its written by Kay Jamison, psychologist at Johns Hopkins University. The book discusses the relationship between psychotic disorders, creativity, and genius. If it is true that there is genius associated with illnesses of this character I don't see how it wouldn't be true of autism and its spectrum. In fact, as I'm sure you know, it's not uncommon for savants to sit on the autism spectrum.

          As the brain grows in potency so to should the emotions. I would imagine this would make for peeks of pleasure and valleys of pain far more vast, that could be quite the burden.

          As a psychology major I feel frustrated at times with the hold the drug companies have on the committee that creates the DSM. It seems as though many of the higher ups in psychiatry remain happily deceived by drug companies.

          Most psychiatrists are working for the greater good and I have to say I can't wait to get into the field.
        • Jun 26 2012: In response to ADHD being related to Intense World Theory, I'm undecided, it certainly provides a different aspect of looking at ADHD. I will need more information and hopefully in the future personal experience with those diagnosed with ADHD will provide me with the information to formulate an informed theory and treatment.

          Thanks for the link I will be sure to bring it up in my classes.

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        Jun 26 2012: @BRian,

        I have a small advantage in that my child is high-functioning autistic.
        Learning to understand his thinking has ejected me from traditional thinking and assumptions.
        Goodbye comfort - hello reality.

        These days, I get a lot of juice from neural net theory. I am surprised that so many psychiatrists haven't had their lights go on yet. Damasio being a notable exception.

        The entry point is topology - and Minsky is one of the leading lights of that.

        Top down psychology fails becasue it is hampered by language and obsolete semantic structures.
        In short - fashion. So many good minds reduced to fanboys of old conservatives, who in their day, were wall-breakers.

        We need more wall breakers - the hierophants are selling entry at too high a price.
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        Jun 22 2012: Hi worthy Don!

        They are challenging to write .. it reflects the challenge presented by new thoughts.

        For instance, what is it that makes people defined ADD/ADHD get "bored"?

        What does "bored" mean anyway?

        If bored means "anxiety arising from dissengagement"

        Then is it caused by:

        A defect in the ability of sustained focus?
        The brain has already fully understood and is eager for more stimulus?
        The person has learned that sustained focus can lead to being blind-sided?
        The person judges the task to be superfluous to his interests?
        ... etc?

        I'm sure behavioral scientists already know the answers and have classifications for them all.
        But one wonders if ADD/ADHD sometimes gets diagnosed simply on the ambiguous word "bored".

        For myself, it is interesting how perceptual framing and focus are such a dynamic process .. I always classed the word "ignorance" as a passive thing, perhaps it has a dark active side as well.

        Mostly, I enjoy lifting up the bonnets of words to see what's really inside them.
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          Jun 22 2012: I guess there might be a couple components involved in defining ADHD as an illness.

          1) It is outside the norms
          2) it has detrimental results in some way

          Maybe this is just the next stage of evolution and the people without ADHD have the problem.

          If I read your comments carefully I usually get a lot out of them. Have to admit your ideas are often left field and also the way you explain them does not make for easy reading. Amazing thing language. Good to get an intellectual shake now and then. Stops you automatically reverting to a habitual response.
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      Jun 22 2012: Mitch, agree our perceptive focus can narrow or expand depending on the situation.

      We may not be aware of someone leaving the room while engrossed in a movie.

      It maybe semantics but I suggest that it might be more accurate to say the players only perceived the other players and the ball, while engrossed in the task. They did not perceive the ape. That is not the same as saying they did not believe in the ape.

      If you told them there was a moonwalking ape there they would not believe you. At that point you could say they did not believe there was an ape there.

      Big jump from this to self preservation issue. Although I agree in part that social pressures to conform, to avoid social alienation, or more dramatic penalties, and even the to please our parents is part of our make up. I would suggest young children are credulous and don't have the critical thinking capabilities of adults - perhaps we have evolved to believe what our parents tell us unquestioningly for survival purposes.

      I also agree that there can be a cost coming out as an atheist in many communities. Many parallels to coming out as a homosexual thanks to similar religious dogma and ignorance and tribalism and the authoritative value.

      In some cultures the penalty for apostasy is still death. I also count myself lucky to have lost a few friends, nit my life.
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        Jun 22 2012: Hi Obey #1,

        I equate "believe" with "percieve' it is a process that results in a belief (a topologically filtered outcome of stimulus).

        Also believing works on different levels

        The ape test showed results on the primary perception/belief level - the level that deals with senses.

        The belief you are talking about is secondary perception - the level that deals with what you receive through communication. Secondary perception is more subject to contradiction.

        But both behave in the same way.

        2 things are interesting:
        Memory seems to be a compression function that abstracts perception for associative recall.
        This would occur against all levels of perception - yielding a stratification in memory - even beyond short/medium/long term..
        The inhibitary function at work in the ape test demonstrates a subtractive feedback. Does this also apply to the subconscious, or is part of the definition of the conscious? THe inhibition was commanded - I suspect that religions use this same device against the secondary perceptive process.

        Self preservation is lurking under everything. This is the self defined by a midline optimum of body function. As Damasio observes.

        @claudeus gothicus - yes, I suspected as much, but wanted to explore the word "bored". That was my little joke ;)
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          Jun 22 2012: I wonder if our focus on a subject is part of reinforcing a memory.

          I can remember the songs I was listening to on the way home, the taxi in front, the bus that impinged my lane but the other cars are a blur.

          I suggest the focus thing, shutting out the periphery, was very important for hunting, warring, etc. Evolutionary. Is this what you mean by self preservation? I wonder if there is a difference between the sexes in the ape test?

          Do you mean confirmation bias or something similar? Agree we see what we want to see to some extent. We also invent. Pattern recognition. I remember seeing faces in the lino pattern. Again self preservation at work I suspect.

          Memory seems to be a bit unreliable in general. We seem to invent parts of it. Re the subconscious, I wonder if some parts could be accurately accessed via hypnoses or do we also fill in the gaps organically.
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        Jun 22 2012: Hi O#1,

        These are all important questions.

        Focus is not so much important for memory, as it is important for accurate/reliable memory.
        Focus is required to learn.. perhaps this is the bit that picks out the key points needed to efficiently lay down a map. As you say - the key points are the means of compression, in our imagination, we can re-construct/de-compress and that can go wrong if the key points were ambiguous.

        So focus (perceptive inhibition) seems to be part of the compression function.

        A few points:
        1. The action of perception is not exactly the same as a filter - it's more like a classification that groups inputs into lumps. The grouping is "to believe" the lump is the "belief". The inhibitory action of focus inhibits the lumps - not the inputs.

        2. Neural memory is not exactly like computer memory. Rather than having some area that is the "hard-disk" wired to a CPU, the whole thing is asociative. It is true that there are areas that seem to deal with different levels of memory, but the method of access is not so deliberate - there is no "seek" .. it just happens.

        3. There are spacial maps and there are causal maps. There may be more - say person and object.

        4. Consciousness as defined as a focusing principle can use narrative as a means of directing that focus.

        I suppose I better think more on what narative actuially is.

        But one thing stands out - the "lumping" action of perception can lead to big problems if the grouping is fallacious - it can give rise to error in anything that associates to it, and it can blind a person to important information if it is supressed as part of a focus. This would occur quite often in secondary perception (communication being subject to a lot of noise/error).

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