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Andrew Buchmann

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When, how, and why did you become an atheist?

When- the time and place in your life
How- the process of realization
Why- what were the reasons for the change

If you were an atheist your whole life, maybe share your experiences of growing-up in a dogmatic theistic world.

Topics: atheism
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  • Jun 3 2011: When: The same day I stopped believing in Santa Clause ( 7 or 8 maybe?)
    How: My parents never pushed any religion on me. Therefore the story of a man who could walk on water, talking snakes, etc were just as ridiculous to me as a man who can deliver presents to every house on earth in one night being pulled by flying reindeer.
    Why: At first my beliefs were something I kept to myself not because I was unsure but because I didnt want others to think of me as immoral. However I now see religion as not only improbable, but HIGHLY immoral and irresponsible. I believe that religion has played an important role in human evolution as a tool , but it is now an extremely outdated tool that is hindering our society to advance.

    The most important thing I have ever learned is the ability to think critically. My college professor Stated it perfectly: "the reason that fisherman believe that fish do not feel pain when a hook has pierced their lip is because it is more comforting.Someone told them that fish do not feel pain and they accept it as truth. Their brain shuts off and allows them to escape the responsibility of causing another creature pain and the guilt of benefiting from it."

    I have nothing against fisherman I just thought it was a brilliant example. But this type of child-like thinking ("someone told me - so I accept it as truth") is everywhere and I believe it is at the core of every problem in our society today. When you are brave enough to think critically, you will ultimately realize that things like Religion are dividing us and making it "ok" to kill each other in the name of our "gods".

    The reason that humans dominated the planet in such a short time is due to our ingenuity. Our ability to create tools allows us to adapt in order to flourish. In order to create better tools and technologies, science is needed. When using the scientific method to find answers, a critical thinking mind is required. Faith is the enemy to this process ex: "the dark ages"
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    Jun 2 2011: I find many atheists are more concerned about religion then the religious people.
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      Jun 2 2011: When bronze age ideologies affect my well being, I have a right to be very concerned.
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      Jun 3 2011: You're right. They are the most threatened by it. Or at least the ones who most recognize the threat.
  • Jun 1 2011: child, I board never need to believe. No presence, no feeling, no vision leaving think that there would be a god. I board never be believer and I know only that not made.Then, when I board be in age to include/understand more things and in particular the religion, I board finally included/understood that the religion was straightforwardly, really a connery, rubbish invented with multiple causes.My reasons are:
    - science: some say that it is possible and even desirable that science and religion meet, they are false, immensely false. Science refutes all the religions completely: sociology, anthropology, psychology, biology, physics, etc
    - history: passed present moment, one sees that there was a large number of religions, including one certain number are only beliefs without any interest, except refuting the religion: example, the Cargo cult, looks on wikipedia.
    - logic: why would one be truer than the others? bad question? there would exist divinities and the religions are just interpretations… ok in this case to accept gods without theology is enough. Only put aside the belief, there does not exist any scientific proof. Lastly, if there is only the belief (looks at the damage of the disease of Kuru on wikipedia), there thus does not exist any difference between the insane ones, the mentally ill, myself when I make an error and the believers.Many the believers have a family, a country believing. their belief changes according to this country or this family. I would have lived in New Guinea, I would have become believing of Cargo cult …But the human one seeks the fault in what he does not want to believe, some will never remain with all victim of a conditioning lived in childhood (majority of human). The human ones are not as free and intelligent as they think it.
  • Jun 6 2011: Andrew:
    I grew up on a fairly religious family, in Brazil (so my family is Catholic). I was never that convinced about religion, specially when it came to bible stories. It can be said that me turning into an atheist was a process that took about 2 years. It began when I started questioning about all the unfainess in the world, and the church had no answer (nor did my father, who almost became a priest when he was young). The last months of me beliving in some sort of god were in a very emotional context. I was getting prepared for the exams select students to college (similar to the SAT in US), and my grandmother was diagnosed with a terminal tumor. I had so much knowledge (I read a lot) and still, I was beliving in some sort of masterplan that makes people suffer. Every day. That didn't make sense, it was just a matter of time before I turned into an atheist, but my grandmother's cancer was just a catalist. I'm 18 now.
  • Jun 5 2011: Hi Andrew,
    The change/drift towards godlessness inevitably would occur when an individual is :
    • Critical, rational, and logical person, with analytical mind
    • Ready to discard common dogmas and orthodoxies when these are invalidated by new scientific input.
    • Being familiar with scientific achievements particularly in the fields of biology, geology,
    anthropology and cosmology
    • Adopting an evolutionary worldview.
    • Familiar with the psychology and sociology of religion and history of Deity
    • Adopting naturalism and discarding metaphysics
    • Free, when tackling existential questions, from egocentrism and human hubris with all their delusional implications

    Regards
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    Jun 3 2011: I observed that people become atheists because of two main reasons:

    1. The disconnect between the actual behavior of people and the ideal perfect behavior professed by their religion (as Nicholas have noted)

    2. The disconnect between science and faith.

    I suggest we read this guy's journey (http://bit.ly/ScienceToFaith) who clearly demonstrated the proper place of science and faith and that being an atheist is just part of our life's journey. Maybe we can accelerate the process of our critical thinking and direct it more to bring real happiness to ourselves and other people.
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      Jun 3 2011: Joe, you are a sage of ignosticism.

      Andrew,

      You should change the title of this conversation to "When, how, and why did you become a non-theist" (Note: not "not-theist" or "negative-theist" but "non") [Side-note: I suggest this because I do not want to start a new conversation "Atheism is not the end game of religion" or "Atheist are silly" therefore I want to add to the already great words spoken here, rather than divide thoughts.]

      As Joe declared, atheism is just part of our journey in life. Our being the people who do find value in the atheist culture/philosophy/idealism and those religions who already do practice atheism.

      I mean Theravada Buddhist do not believe in a supreme being nor do Confucians, Pagans... I will allow this article to help denote this idea further.

      http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismquestions/p/AtheistReligion.htm

      "Religious humanism creates a religious context without gods."
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    Jun 3 2011: well, I was a fundamental christian through my twenties and early thirties. The christians were a nice group of people and I'm grateful for the social confidence I gained after being a fairly insecure teenager. I'm also grateful for the musical introduction because I got to jam every Sunday and that was good training for the rock'n'roll that came later (after I stoppedfeeling guilly for enjoying it!).
    After a while, a few things just stopped adding up - or, they added up to the wrong answer. I think the universe as I came to understand it got too big for the bible. The whole shebang is all about one little species of hominid on a remote planet? 14 billion yrs of space and time revolves around the birth and death of JC? Please. And the whole refuting of evolution thing just started to sound so STUPID. So I slipped gracefully into agnosticism and then seemed to keep going. I'm not really sure if I'm an atheist or not (see my question to Andrew below becuase it needs a definition).
    I have to add I've never been so happy with life and my place in this mortal coil.
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      Jun 3 2011: I truly believe it is the community aspect more than anything else for people. I've gone to a few baptists youth events and I don't think I've ever been hugged so much before. There were smiles all around, laughter, and live music of course. Honestly, it was a lot of fun. That is until it became Jesus time... it became creepy.
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    Jun 3 2011: Im not from a religious family, so it was never that religion was forced upon me like it has been to so many unfortunate others, so for me, it was no particular time, it was just a slow logical realisation.

    I remember a few of my earliest questions:

    Why is there no talk of dinosaurs in the bible?
    surely, no ark would be big enough for all those animals from all those continents?
    Heaven: everyone would be old?!
    Who's god side is god on during a war?

    they got me thinking outside the box. then I got hooked to animal documentaries, many of which talked about the miracles of evolution. piece by piece i learned about the advances in science and it's endless, relentless search for answers and the opposing, impossible blind faith. a celebrating atheist i became.
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    Jun 3 2011: when you start to think logically... when you try to find the connection between science and religion...between religion and life... you'll find a question, does/will religion help you to "stay alive" ?
    whether you are an atheist or not... it depends on your own answer... your own point of view...
    the same thing happened to a person who has become an atheist...his answer tends to show "NO, IT DOESN'T and NO, IT WON'T"...

    i have my own, my special religion anyway... ^^
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    Jun 6 2011: I have trouble deciding whether atheism or pantheism makes more sense. Seems like it's all or nothing.
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      Jun 6 2011: The problem with pantheism is that is is just another play on semantics. For example, I just made up phostheism- the belief that god is light. We can never reach the speed of light, it shows us everything from the macro to the micro, it gives us life, etc... But now we have to ask the question, "what is the difference between our understanding of light with and without the concept of god?" The answer is the concept of god, or in other words, our ontology does not require the god. Pantheism does this but on a much larger scale. Take the collective universe and slap the label "god" on it. I can appreciate the beauty of our wondrous universe without the extra stuff.
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        Jun 6 2011: Andrew: I agree that the utility of the concept may be limited. But maybe it does serve some purpose.

        And after all, most monotheistic religions talk about god being omni-present, omnipotent, etc. So it conforms with the trend of religious evolution.

        The utility may be in a focus on the interconnectedness of everything. You know about the Gaia hypothesis , don't you?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis

        Such a viewpoint may be useful in bringing new perspectives in thinking about relationships. Pantheism could be the same on a larger scale.

        And, after all, this is the "god of Spinoza" that Einstein referred to.
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          Jun 6 2011: I do not know if I would go as far as the Gaia Hypothesis, but it is indeed important to be aware of our interconnectedness to everything. The large amount of plantae biomass on planet Earth during the carboniferous gave rise to the giant arthropods, due to the increased atmospheric oxygen. Today, we've been burning that same biomass and have contributed to the dangerous process of global warming. So yes, we are very much so a part of a very complex system. I just don't see the need for "god" in there.

          It's like asking the question, "would we still have a sense of morality without religion?" I, as you probably would guess, say of course we would. The same can be true with respect to our views of the universe and our place in the cosmos. We don't need extra Greek vocabulary in order to appreciate the complex nature of the universe.
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          Jun 6 2011: "We don't need extra Greek vocabulary in order to appreciate the complex nature of the universe."

          But, we do in order to further connect us as human beings. Considering the largest population of humanity is a religious follower.
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        Jun 6 2011: Andrew: Daniel Dennett would agree with you. And I would have a lot of trouble coming up with an argument against Dennett's logic. So I'll let it go for now.
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          Jun 6 2011: Dennet and I agree on many things... as well as Churland, Perry, and DeLancey
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        Jun 7 2011: Andrew: Post some references on Churland, Perry, and DeLancey. Thanks.
    • Jun 7 2011: Tim,
      I agree with Andrew. When the word « God » has been used to refer to an imaginary supernatural entity and it has metaphysical connotation why then pantheism use it in conjugation with the natural cosmos if it (pantheism) does not believe in creator god? (Edit)
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        Jun 7 2011: Mind,

        http://www.deepspirits.com/spirituality/pantheism/

        Thought you would be interested.
        • Jun 7 2011: Nicholas,
          My previous note targets and criticises this very definition of Pantheism. When the word "God" is so deeply rooted in the conscious of humans to denote supernatural entity it would be unadvisable and unwarranted to reuse it to refer to something else. (Edit)
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        Jun 7 2011: I disagree on "word "God" is so deeply rooted in the consciousnress of humans to denote supernatural entity"... depending on the culture, religion, and person "God" can mean be taken very differently. Although in Western culture it is more popular to refer to God as the supernatural entity commonly believed by theist therefore that is the most traditional usage of God, the word "God" can mean a few things and not just a creator or all powerful controlling being.

        So, although it isn't a negative thing to reuse God for something else, it is not a good practice, I agree. In the respects we should make the practice of separating God from deity. A deity could mean God (as I just described) but it also means the supernatural force that is unknown to humans.

        God varies depending on religious belief, that is all, I find value in keeping God ambiguous, it keeps religious beliefs in philosophical standards and not faith-value.

        I'm on the fence, I agree and I don't with you.
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          Jun 8 2011: Mind: I acknowledge the logic in your argument.

          But I still wonder if the pantheist approach has merit. To pull a kind of switcheroo like they did to the pagans with the christmas tree and easter eggs.

          Look. They start out teaching kids about old Papa Noel. Then they switch to the bearded guy on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Then they say "no, no, that is just a figurative representation of something non-describable". And finally we arrive at pantheism.

          And the universal forces can be seen as a creator in a metaphorical sense.
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    Jun 3 2011: The age of 13.
    Until then I had given it zero thought.
    I read "A brief history of time" by Stephen Hawking.
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      Jun 3 2011: This is what I was hoping for, was some answer related to science.
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        Jun 3 2011: I'm only 16 now, I can't wait for my mind to mature. It seems as if every year I get so much smarter.
        Just posting this after reading you're story.
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          Jun 3 2011: Most of it already has. Just the prefrontal cortex usually "matures" around your early 20's.
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    Jun 2 2011: I'll share my story:

    I was born into a very loving Catholic family. For most of my life I attended church every Sunday, usually without too much hassle. No little kid really wanted to be waking up to go to church on Sunday. Every church I attended had great priests. There was one priest who influenced me a great deal. I was an alter boy for Father John for years at this one church. The community was great, they loved me, and I loved them. They all knew I had aspirations to be the Pope (it was a joke that I was going to skip everything else and just go right to being the Pope).

    What I now see as my "turning point," happened on Christmas Eve mass some years ago. I was still young, but I believe this was the Christmas right after 9/11. It was still a few minutes before mass and Father John and I were sitting in he office area waiting for the others to arrive so we could begin mass. He sat across from me, with his arms crossed and head down, not looking his usual happy self. He then began crying, not waterworks sobbing, like when watching a sad movie. He looked at me and said (I'm paraphrasing as I don't remember everything verbatim), "Andy, I just don't know anymore... there are so many bad things in this world, how can God not do anything to stop them. I sometimes wonder if there even is a God." He apologized if he had upset me, wiped his face, and we continued to prepare for mass.

    A few years later, Father John was relocated to a new Parish, so my family stopped attending that church, We continued to go to church, I even went everyday before school in Middle school. Over time, I slowly began to realize I never really believed in any of the Catholic dogma, I just loved the community. It was also at this time I started becoming interested in science and received my first personal PC. I began reading, and eventually learned enough to say that a belief in god was not justified by facts, but instead by this strange concept called faith. Reply to hear the rest.........
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      Jun 2 2011: Great story Andrew. Let's hear the rest.
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        Jun 3 2011: Thanks Tim!

        By the 9th grade I was what you would call an atheist, or non-believer. But this was such a minute part of my life, why should it matter? I was more concerned with girls and school than I was with religion and god. I continued to attend Christmas and Easter masses (we slowly became a twice-a-year Catholic family) going only to make my mother happy and not threaten to disown. It wasn't until my senior year heading into college that I started to become a "fundamental atheist." I changed my Facebook religion from catholic to atheist, and started becoming angry with religion. My first semester in college I took a course in Logic. I was never a very good math student, but I did exceptionally well in Logic. I'm pretty sure that around this time is when my prefrontal cortex was reaching maturity. If only I had an opportunity to have an fMRI "before and after!" From that point on I felt like everyone around me (religious people that is) was trapped in a fog and that I had finally broken through. I'm now VP of my college's Secular Student Alliance, VP of Philosophy club, and what the ignorant would call a "fundamental atheist." BUT unlike practitioners of religion, if I am presented with the data that is conflicting with my world view, I will accept the change and not death grip by beliefs in dogmatic fashion. As an atheist, my world view is more open than anyone's.

        I recently informed my family of my feeling and as you can imagine it didn't go over so well. At first my mother cried anytime it was brought up, but now I am able to talk to her about my blog and such without a single tear. People have such a poor understanding of what an atheist really is, but that is a problem with language. Words have no intrinsic meaning and thus they are subject to whatever the speaker says they mean.
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          Jun 3 2011: Was it worth it?
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          Jun 3 2011: people think atheists chase christians around with daggers and flamed torches.. however the reality is we have looked for answers and found them. the beauty of being alive at all, against all odds. we dont need religion to be good either. im sure an atheists would help an elderly lady across the street just as quick as a devote christian.

          we just have our eyes open is all.
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        Jun 3 2011: Yeah, we're cool. Life is no different really... the woman Facebook stalks me just as much as she did before and embarrasses me in public whenever possible. All the thing the modern mother is supposed to do. -__-
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    Jun 2 2011: When I was a wee little lad, i don't know about 9 -10? I said Christianity is a load of lies and misdirections, the church was not even preaching what it was founded on, I was never once taught about the ethics involving strangers, the poor, or being rich. The day I was learning that there are "choices" to looking at the how the world was made (creationism or evolutionism) I really realized this was a bunch of crap and shut out all future lessons on religion in my Catholic educations. 8 years in hell in the form of biased, iron age old, and ignorant education. If these people were allowed to do this to children, how messed up is the rest of the world? Was my first step into seeking my own education beyond philosophy.

    I thought I was atheist for a while but I still kept open the idea that there may be something bigger and then discovered the term agnostic and stuck with that for many years, because truly you never know. When I learned more about religions especially the idea of God became fascinating and as I learn more today the idea of God is a human experience, delusion, excuse, and/or driving force.

    Today I am an ignostic. I need to understand what God is prior to the discussion of God.

    I am an ignostic and care deeply about the implications of what religion has done for the world on a spiritual, historical, theological, sociological, mythological and anthropological levels/fields of consideration. It is important to understand these fields when considering religion, it is those who blindly 1. follow religion, 2. talk about religion and/or 3. generalize religion without a good foundation in these areas whom are naive to think they can make an absolution about religion and religious topics.

    Atheism is too simple and too easy for me. What I find annoying about atheism is it is also limiting reality, not as severely as fundamental religious people but still limiting to a degree. I'm looking forward to the replies from some angry atheist, lol
    • Jun 2 2011: I appreciate your honesty Nicholas. I do believe the majority of atheists are atheists not because that is their natural tendency to be one from birth, but because of a negative religious experience. I can't imagine an infant born into a world of order and purpose, and concluding that no one created it, when they themselves poses the power to create and order.

      For myself, I grew up in a very sincere and loving Christian home. In my early college years I began to question some of the assumptions I had grown up with. I think for myself, I was in a different situation than most. My parents were always sure to instill why something is wrong, along with the fact that it was wrong. There was never a disconnect from knowledge and action. If Gods love was taught, it was also showed and demonstrated. I think this is one the key factor that causes so much hate towards religion.

      After much struggling I realized that the problems I had was not with Christ himself, or with God, but with some Christian's fear. They feared technology, change, and questioning. They feared they would lose control if people were allowed to openly question. Ironically Christ was the hardest with the so-called "religious" leaders in his day. They practiced all the rituals, but did not understand what was behind them. They focused on the exterior, while letting their interior rot away.

      Sorry if my comment was a little off topic, but I feel I can relate to much of the thought process one goes through when they doubt their faith.
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        Jun 2 2011: So what would you consider your faith system be a construction of today?

        Examples: Humanism, naturalism, transhumanism, shamanism, relativism, nihilism, apatheism, existentialism

        I give my spirituality a naturalistic and transhumanistic qualities.

        I would consider most atheist to be apatheist.
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        Jun 3 2011: I know plenty of atheists who have been atheists their whole lives without the need for a creator. We as humans have this strange notion that something is special and nothing is ordinary. If you think about it, the universe is made up of mostly "empty space" so this intuition makes sense. But what if our intuition is wrong? What if something IS normal and nothing IS special? Our current understanding of the universe is that it was created from nothing. how can this be possible? Because "something" is the rule and "nothing" is the exception.
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      Jun 2 2011: Nick,
      When I use the term atheist, I use the actual definition of the word. Theist means one who believes in god(s), atheist means one who does not believe in god(s). We argued before about what "god" means, but this is irrelevant. Throw out any definition of god (arm-chair, force, unicorn, whatever), AND then prove its existence to me. If you or anyone is able to provide a logical, sound, and justifiable argument, I will no longer be an atheist. Turns out, no such argument exists, and thus I am an atheist.

      Ignosticism asks "what do you mean by god?" That is a question I do not care for because it does little for me. All it does is provide a grounds for argument. Again, until I am presented with a logical, sound, and justifiable argument, I will not believe in any kind of god. This does not mean that the god in question does not exist, just like the Higgs boson particle, but I will not "belives it until I sees it."
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        Jun 2 2011: "We argued before about what "god" means, but this is irrelevant"

        Irrelevant to you, not in general.
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          Jun 3 2011: It is irrelevant. Again I ask you to define what you mean by god. You define it. You then are unable to provide an argument for the existence of said god. Therefore, once again, the god in question is irrelevant. Prove me wrong with a logical, sound, and justifiable argument for whatever god it is you believe in and I will no longer be an atheist.
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        Jun 3 2011: I do not want to "convert" you that is not my goal in life nor do I care if you are an atheist or a necrophiliac, however I will reuse an example. Also I never created an argument with you for God but rather what you were referring to as God.

        Example: God is the force of knowledge. To have knowledge you must consider yourself to be ignorant and unknowing of all the world, so you can start to be aware and understand all of the universe. God comes in the form of trying to come to terms with the reality of the universe, because God is knowledge, you will seek God. You are following God and that path is leading you to understanding the universe. So your faith-system is that knowledge/God is the guiding force in your life. You cannot disprove that God. It is intrapersonal. Because they are tying a force (God) with something common and everyday that does need supernatural explanations? Well they aren't, they are tying it with reality and keeping the force in perspective of reality. This faith-system can only do wonders and brilliance. Of course you do not HAVE TO attach human consciousness to something abstract but this does not make it any less valuable.

        I take this example from Einstein of course.
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          Jun 3 2011: Your profile says you are a student of philosophy, so surely you must be aware of Occam's Razor. You are adding something to an ontology (what we know) that is already explained by our current ontology, without god. Therefore there is no need to add "god." You've also made an identity claim that god=force of knowledge (whatever that means). You then must prove that god is in fact the thing you are claiming it to be. You hold the burden of proof here my friend. To say you cannot disprove something is commit a logical fallacy.

          The example you provided is not the god of Einstein. His god, just like Stephen hawking, is used to describe the mysteries of the universe. It isn't a force, knowledge, or anything, it is just a word that invokes great wonder. Christians claiming Einstein to be a theist do the exact thing you just did.
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        Jun 3 2011: Never assume anything in life.

        I begin my argument with what you just stated not realizing you agreed with me. Now Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking's "God" is the journey in which to describe the mysteries of the universe. Their want of knowledge led them in science to discover the answers of the cosmos. Their driving FORCE, their God, their deity, their divine and sacred understanding of the world, allowed them to discover great things using science as their tool. Their spirituality led them to making some of the greatest discoveries known to man, discoveries that only tell us we know so little

        What do you want to call this feeling of enlightenment when achieving their God through life in heaven on earth? The driving force of curiosity, the result of great curiosity, the joy the felt/feel when they discover a new answer, what exactly do you want to use to explain their God?

        Regardless, my argument is atheism is silly, of course their is no creator, those are stories from the stone age, advanced from the drawings of the sun and moon as Gods. Not the point of my positions as an ignostic.

        Because ignostic is just the way I look at religion, it is not my style, way, belief-system, or anything supernatural to living in the world. It is just my religious views, which everyone has, which is a human condition.

        My religious beliefs would be considered my two strongest belief systems combined. Naturalism and transhumanism (granted not really a belief system, but brilliant philosophies none the less). My belief systems (religion) would better the world if I cared enough to spread it, Atheism would still control people by looking at the most "popular atheist". A club, mini-cult, religion, whatever. The point is while you call what you believe a title you give yourself another title. I am a person, I know I follow patterns, I know I am delusional, ignorant, and not perfect. Reflecting on these make your world infinite and artistic, not by certainties
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          Jun 3 2011: No, the "god" of Einstein is equivalent to the word "cosmos." Neither Hawking or Einstein believe in deities or the concept of spirituality as you are implying. Just as physicists today do not like calling the Higgs bosom particle "the god particle," Einstein would probably retract his statement if he heard people calling his beliefs a religion. The man was an atheist.

          "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
          -From a letter Einstein wrote in English, dated 24 March 1954.

          And don't confuse the last sentence there with your idea of god/religion as well. Einstein was talking about comparing his convictions with regards to science and to the convictions of a christian with regard to their bible.
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        Jun 3 2011: a question, Andrew - is an atheist someone who does not believe in God(s), or a person who believes there is/are no God(s)? it's an important distinction. The former has not been given any reason to believe in a God. The latter actively (religously?) believes there is no God. I thought the definition meant the latter, but you're leaning to the former. I'm open to be corrected!
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          Jun 3 2011: This is the misconception with the word atheist. I think the majority of my posts on ted have explained this but fear not, knowledge must be shared.

          First let's look at the root word: Theist. A theist is "one who believes in god(s)." In English we use the affix "a" to often denote "not" or "anti." Thus "theist" becomes "atheist."

          Let's now rewrite the two terms into first order logic. "P" will represent "theist" and "~P" will represent "not theist or atheist" (the ~ means "not"). We could also represent "atheist" as "Q" but this would do us no good, for we would lose the connection between theist and atheist, meaning one is the opposite of the other. Therefore one must be true and the other must be false. The burden of proof falls on the person making the claim. Theist make the claim for the existence of the thing "god" or "P." Once we have "P" then we can make "~P."

          You might be thinking, "well doesn't the atheist believe there is no god?" This could be true, but it isn't necessarily true. An atheist does not claim there is no god(s), it is the theist who is claiming there is a god(s). Imagine for a moment that we live in the year 1776 and I say to you "Did you hear about the new iphone?" You would surely ask what an iphone was, for as we know iphones did not exist back then. After explaining the wonders of this device you might ask me to prove it. Would it make sense for me to ask you to prove me wrong? Of course not, because it is I who is making the claim and not you. I hold the burden of proof as the believer making a claim, and not you the unbeliever denying said claim.
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        Jun 3 2011: The problem with fundamental faith usually overrides logic.

        Now you want me to consider an atheist to being the opposite of an theist. Okie dokie. Now I never said Einstein was believing in a deity (a personal god) like you are taking it, however what pursued him to achieve great discoveries was his religion and his driving force of wanting knowledge. His religion made "God" the cosmos and science the tool for discovering God.

        **Now Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking's "God" is the journey in which to describe the mysteries of the universe.**

        **No, the "god" of Einstein is equivalent to the word "cosmos.**

        The cosmos is the space (universe) in which there is an order, but the order is unknown making it appear chaotic, the journey to understand the order needs to be done through science (eliminating the unlikely to make the likely more likely). I should have said their religion was in pursuit of their God, first.

        Now you want me to take atheism as broad as I can, okay, but you have to take EVERY word I use as broad as possible as well, you fundamentalist atheist you. Religion is not just Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Satanism, Buddhism, etc etc. Religion is a set of traditionalized practices for one or many to perform in order to achieve their enlightenment, either in death or in life.

        Christian are supposed to do this by: helping the poor, despising the rich, being neighborly, and following the word of God (golden rule + additives).

        Buddhist do this by: understanding self + world, meditation, philosophy, and physical/mental strength.

        All religions share the want of enlightenment, the want to know something "bigger". Religion like Christians are ignorant to want until death to find it, but those religions who create heaven on earth, are the more useful religions, and ideas of "God".
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          Jun 3 2011: Again with the rudeness, it is unnecessary. I'm sorry you are not familiar enough with logic to understand or use it. It is impossible to have a thoughtful conversation with someone who does not have these tools.

          Over zealous? Let's try clear and precise, as one should be with any point you are making. I'm sorry if my training in philosophy is "over zealous" for you, but you are entitled to your poor and misguided opinion.

          This has digressed completely from the conversation, the topic only concerned the stories of individuals who became atheists. If you wish to discuss other matters, please start another conversation elsewhere. By definition you have become a troll in this thread.
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        Jun 3 2011: I find it more rude for you to think I am not considering your logic in the broadest terms, but for you to continue to think that your logic is almighty [logic, is a skill/practice/mastery that is used mainly to build upon factual conclusions] is over zealous. You aren't wrong, to be atheist, you are just wrong to claim it is superior, it is just belief system, not the "end game of religion" unless you do want to consider it a religious belief, then we can continue that argument.

        Also, reread your comments to me, I just stated "your opinion" and you continued to debate (troll). I added to this conversation in which I interpreted as being used in the broadest sense of the word atheist AND being used in the culturist way.

        I did not start this, you did with your over assumptions of the reality of religion and "God".

        You are a fundamental atheist. You are using defenses other fundamental religious people use as of now. Logic, critical thinking, skepticism are just skills. When used from the position of having fundamental belief(s), you still limit considerations, thus your logic is limited.

        Your skill of logic is being used from an "atheist" point of view, what ever that means, and being no better than the fundamentalist Christians who feel superior to others or "sorry" they do not understand reality as well as they do. Your plateau of consideration is just higher.

        I defend this point with another statement of yours "scientific fact there is no god" of course through scientific methods of considerations reflective upon mild facts (laws, scientific consensuses, and basic physics) can prove there is no creator.

        I do not know how the programs for cognitive science work, but I hope they eventually get you studying linguistics, artificial intelligence, and anthropology.

        Total reality is still out of reach for humanity, but it can still be understood when it is looked with science.

        Maybe I should start a blog.
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          Jun 3 2011: Again, you are using terminology so wrong my head might explode. This is not the place for this conversation, please take it elsewhere.

          From TED Terms of Use:

          Anyone who wants to participate in mature, constructive conversation with the TED community is welcome to start a conversation or join one as a commenter. Please keep in mind that, as your host, TED asks that you maintain the same standards of civility and respect required at TED conferences. Behavior which would be unacceptable at a TED conference is also unacceptable on TED.com.

          TED is seeking to foster a grown-up conversation about ideas that matter. When conversing with other members, engage in a reasoned exchange of ideas -- avoiding flaming, name-calling, obscenities and insults. Humor, of course, is welcome.

          Respect the privacy and wishes of other members. Do not pester them, game them or spam them in any way.
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        Jun 3 2011: I agree my terminology is rough to use get use to, but, that is because etymology is an interest of mine also.

        Atheist = the belief there is no deities. deities - a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers, often religiously referred to as a god. (wikipedia) Interesting, because preternatural means the nature in which we do not understand yet, or again the supernatural, although the supernatural is apart of reality, the skills used the understand it depend on the individual or group using them. Science = tool.

        This is the defense of me using my terminology wrong, no I am using these words broadly, I should have assumed in your atheist culture you could redefine words like other religions/cultures do. End of the discussion about atheism here. I just love semantics, sorry if you were bothered.

        Otherwise I do not see a rule I broke from what you post, except one.

        1. You started the immaturity, I responded with it, seems fair.
        2. Grown up would be similar to maturity, no? Never "name call"ed you, unless you take "fundamental atheist" the wrong way. Insults, maybe.
        3. I will respect wishes now therefore, I have defended all my points, I responded to your game, but there is no spam here.
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        Jun 3 2011: "Words have no intrinsic meaning and thus they are subject to whatever the speaker says they mean."
        - Andrew Buchman

        Atheism = belief system in which there is no supernatural immortal being.

        How you direct that belief system is what matters, but with open-ended philosophies, imagination can take you further than logic.

        "Logic gets you from point A to B. Imagination takes you everywhere else"

        - Einstein
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          Jun 3 2011: Excellent job at taking my words out of context.