TED Conversations

Christian Howardson

This conversation is closed.

Religion and Atheism

Here's my take on an "Atheism 2.0" - all quotes are for emphasis:

Imagine a continuum; on the left side is a 100% conviction that a god(s)/afterlife do not exist, and on the right is a 100% conviction that a god(s)/afterlife is real. In the middle of this continuum, 0%, is a conviction that a lack OR presence of a god(s)/afterlife are on equal terms.

-100%--------------------------0%---------------------------100%

Believe in a god(s)/afterlife? If so, where do you think he (it?) resides on the above mentioned continuum? Why? As a point of reference, where do you think the existance of the toothfairy falls on this continuum?

Now, while my own personal opinion might be that the existence of a god(s) and/or afterlife (especially the one depicted in any of the three desert dogmas) are of extremely low odds (say, 99% for does not exist) and are not worth adopting as real, the important thing is that I am not absolutist in my point of view, because it is unprovable, even if only technically unprovable (ya can't bring back evidence of nothingness, can you?).

In my opinion, the "thoughtform" of the future is one were people do not claim an absolutist stance on impossible to prove concepts such as these. Arguing whether a god does or does not exist is pointless. Fighting over which god is or isn't a true god only leads to war. It's possible that the most humble and honest position is one of uncertainty. Imagine if everyone would just concede that they really just didn't know...might be a lot more peaceful world.

Also, the terms "atheist" and "believer" should probably be removed from our vocabulary. Not only have these terms been evacuated of any substantive meaning, but they've become words regularly used to express contempt or ridicule, which makes people defensive, and basically blocks any hope for open communication regarding the greatest mysteries of the universe.

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jan 25 2012: As an atheist, I have never argued that 'no god or gods actually exist.' Why not? Because I do not believe that 'no god or gods actually exist.'

    Atheism/theism are descriptors based upon a single question: Do you believe that some god or gods actually exist? If you do believe that some god or gods actually exist, you are a theist. If it is not the case that you believe some god or gods actually exist, you are not a theist... that is... you are an atheist. Either x or ~x must be true--the law of the excluded middle. Either you believe some god or gods actually exist, or you do not. Either you are a theist, or you are an atheist.

    Knowledge/certainty is another question entirely. One can claim to know that some god actually exists, making them a gnostic theist. One can claim to know that no god actually exists, making them a gnostic atheist. One may not claim to know, but still believe, that some god actually exists, making them an agnostic theist. One may not claim to know, and still not believe that some god actually exists, making them an agnostic atheist.

    I am an agnostic atheist. I do not claim to know that no god actually exists. If I encountered good reason or evidence to support the claim that some god or gods actually exist, I could become an agnostic theist. I haven't placed a bet on the god or no god horses. I simply prefer to follow reason and evidence. I'd be thrilled to find some good reason or evidence, but I haven't. As such, I do not believe that some god or gods exist.

    Does it matter? Not much, no. Still, I think reason and evidence do matter, and when someone seeks to justify a claim with bad reason or evidence, I'm not going to be convinced. I might even point out how the justification falls short. I believe truth does matter, and reason and evidence are the only two sources I am aware of that provide it reliably.
    • Jan 25 2012: Well articulated. I'd have to agree with you - according to your descriptions, I would also consider myself an agnostic atheist.

      It would be interesting to find another effective, yet less confrontational, way around this age old religious argument in a bid to infuse the future of our civilization with a greater desire for finding truth with reason and evidence rather than superstition. Unfortunately for the most part, it seems like religion (among other things) is a huge road block sitting in front of this goal.
    • thumb
      Jan 25 2012: Dawkins argues here for the use of "non theist":

      http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_dawkins_on_militant_atheism.html (last quarter of the lecture)

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.