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Skepticism And Atheism As Default


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I see a lot of responses like: "I am a skeptic so I am an atheist until you show me evidence for God." Essentially this is assuming that atheism should be universally acknowledged to be the default belief absent any contrary evidence.

 

IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

 

I liked how Ravenstar described skepticism. I believe she said that skepticism is a commitment to research all possibilities without bias before deciding what to believe (sorry if I got that wrong).

 

Of course, skepticism cannot be permanent. Eventually the skeptic will face a fork in the road. At that point, the research must stop and the skeptic must assign probabilities to the different possibilities (for example: 50% atheism, 30% Christianity, 10% Islam, 10% Taoism) and then choose the best action (for example: read the Bible or play with your cat). Then after the decision has been made, the skeptic can resume unbiased research until the next fork in the road.

 

That is how I see these issues. I'm curious what others think.

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Unbiased research starts with an absence of belief. Atheism is that absence. That's how logic and reason work.

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IH does not have a baseball.  (However, I do not know this)

 

I don't know if IH has a baseball or not.

 

IH comes up to me and says "I have a baseball."

 

I will reply, I am skeptical, prove it to me.  I assume nothing until I have seen evidence that you do in fact have a baseball.

 

All this time, I don't know if IH is lying or telling the truth.  But I am not assuming he is lying.  I am merely saying "I assume nothing until evidence suggests otherwise."

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I see a lot of responses like: "I am a skeptic so I am an atheist until you show me evidence for God." Essentially this is assuming that atheism should be universally acknowledged to be the default belief absent any contrary evidence.

 

IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

 

I liked how Ravenstar described skepticism. I believe she said that skepticism is a commitment to research all possibilities without bias before deciding what to believe (sorry if I got that wrong).

 

Of course, skepticism cannot be permanent. Eventually the skeptic will face a fork in the road. At that point, the research must stop and the skeptic must assign probabilities to the different possibilities (for example: 50% atheism, 30% Christianity, 10% Islam, 10% Taoism) and then choose the best action (for example: read the Bible or play with your cat). Then after the decision has been made, the skeptic can resume unbiased research until the next fork in the road.

 

That is how I see these issues. I'm curious what others think.

 

 

Yes, the default position for new ideas is to assume the new idea is false.

 

And this does lead to soft atheism because there are no gods or goddesses in photographs, phone calls, videos, handshakes or whatever.  No gods show up.  If there was a divine being that showed up like it was a science fiction movie then we would all acknowledge that new evidence.

 

Without that assuming it is wrong it the proper default.

 

 

Of course, skepticism cannot be permanent. Eventually the skeptic will face a fork in the road. At that point, the research must stop and the skeptic must assign probabilities to the different possibilities (for example: 50% atheism, 30% Christianity, 10% Islam, 10% Taoism) and then choose the best action (for example: read the Bible or play with your cat). Then after the decision has been made, the skeptic can resume unbiased research until the next fork in the road.

 

Skepticism is not stubbornly refusing to believe.  It is perfectly acceptable to believe ideas that have been rigorously tested and shown to have merit.  Skepticism is the resistance an idea must pass through to earn respect.  So you can believe things and still be skeptical.

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Atheism/lack of belief is the default yes, as far as skepticism, no. In fact, evolutionarily speaking, if we were skeptical early on in life, it would be a disadvantage. Hence why children are gullible, and take in religion so easy. That being said, skepticism is superior, and that is a claim, and it can be proven. In fact, nothing else can be proven to say otherwise.

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IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

I disagree with this.  To begin with, I don't "not believe" in god; I reject the claim that god exists.  This has nothing to do with belief, in my opinion; it has to do with facts and evidence.  If something is knowable, then belief doesn't come into play.  I don't "believe" in evolution, or atheism, or anything else, for that matter.  I do, however, accept things once they have been demonstrated, proven, or established.  The claim of god's existence hasn't been demonstrated, proven, or established and this is why I reject the claim.

 

Rejecting a claim, however, is not the equivalent of believing the claim is false.  It simply means that the claim has not been proven.  Equating this to falsehood is like saying "not guilty and innocent are the same thing".  A defendant can be guilty as hell, but if the case against said defendant is not sufficiently established, then that person will walk free.  Similarly, a claim can be true, but if there is not sufficient proof of said claim, then it can not be accepted.  I am completely open to the claim that a god or gods exist (I do not say this claim is false); however, before I can accept this claim, it needs to be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt.

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IH does not have a baseball.  (However, I do not know this)

 

I don't know if IH has a baseball or not.

 

IH comes up to me and says "I have a baseball."

 

I will reply, I am skeptical, prove it to me.  I assume nothing until I have seen evidence that you do in fact have a baseball.

 

All this time, I don't know if IH is lying or telling the truth.  But I am not assuming he is lying.  I am merely saying "I assume nothing until evidence suggests otherwise."

Thanks, Roz. The baseball cartoon you described above was what got me thinking.

 

Why is "IH has no baseball" the default belief? Why isn't "IH has a baseball" the default belief?

 

What if you know that IH almost always carries his "lucky baseball" everywhere he goes? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to guess that "IH has a baseball" until he shows you that he doesn't?

 

You might say, "I don't know if IH has a baseball", but at some point you might need to make a guess. Maybe you are worried that he will throw his baseball through your window when you turn your back on him. You might decide the probability is 50/50 and then weigh the costs of replacing your window with the costs of tackling IH and checking his pockets for a baseball.

 

Of course ex-Christians who have converted to atheism have researched and tested Christianity. I'm not saying they haven't given Christianity a fair chance. What annoys me is this attitude that Christians must give evidence in debates and that atheists don't need to give evidence because they don't actually believe anything. Believing something is false is the same as believe the falsehood is true. I know some atheists are almost religious about their claim that atheism is the absence of belief, but absence of belief is only possible until a decision must be made. When you face a decision you must guess some probabilities, weigh expected costs and benefits, and then take an action.

 

Unfortunately I'm not very good at explaining my ideas, and these issues aren't interesting to most people. I know many atheists have an almost religious devotion to their claims that atheism is inherently skeptical, not a belief, etc. I just wanted to give my ideas and see if anybody agrees with me.

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Because it is not logical to assume something is true. It is basic logic to withhold belief, positive or negative, until a claim has been proven.

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IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

I disagree with this.  To begin with, I don't "not believe" in god; I reject the claim that god exists.  This has nothing to do with belief, in my opinion; it has to do with facts and evidence.  If something is knowable, then belief doesn't come into play.  I don't "believe" in evolution, or atheism, or anything else, for that matter.  I do, however, accept things once they have been demonstrated, proven, or established.  The claim of god's existence hasn't been demonstrated, proven, or established and this is why I reject the claim.

 

I think the disagreement stems from different definitions of "belief". That is why I would like to develop a model for decision making that clearly defines the meaning and function of "belief", "faith", "skepticism". Right now these concepts mean different things to different people, and nobody understands what anybody else is saying. It's like the Tower of Babel.

 

Rejecting a claim, however, is not the equivalent of believing the claim is false.  It simply means that the claim has not been proven.  Equating this to falsehood is like saying "not guilty and innocent are the same thing".  A defendant can be guilty as hell, but if the case against said defendant is not sufficiently established, then that person will walk free.  Similarly, a claim can be true, but if there is not sufficient proof of said claim, then it can not be accepted.  I am completely open to the claim that a god or gods exist (I do not say this claim is false); however, before I can accept this claim, it needs to be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt.

I like the court case analogy. Maybe using that as a model will clarify.

 

Let's say you are King Solomon and there is no jury.

 

There are two women claiming to be a baby's mother. There are two possibilities. Those possibilities are "beliefs".

 

You might have some suspicions, but you decide to set aside your biases and listen to all the arguments to the best of your ability. That process of a fair trial is "skepticism".

 

Eventually you must decide what to do. Which woman should have the baby? At that point you have probably assigned some subjective probabilities to each side of the case. Those probabilities are "faith". (And in a negative sense the probabilities are the same as the "bias" that must be ignored during the fair trial of "skepticism".)

 

Finally you must take an "action". You're not 100% certain of any "belief", but you are expected to reach a judgement.

 

Sorry, that probably is hard to follow. To me this model matches the way humans actually make decisions and clarifies some of these confusing words like "belief" and "skepticism".

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IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

I disagree with this.  To begin with, I don't "not believe" in god; I reject the claim that god exists.  This has nothing to do with belief, in my opinion; it has to do with facts and evidence.  If something is knowable, then belief doesn't come into play.  I don't "believe" in evolution, or atheism, or anything else, for that matter.  I do, however, accept things once they have been demonstrated, proven, or established.  The claim of god's existence hasn't been demonstrated, proven, or established and this is why I reject the claim.

 

I think the disagreement stems from different definitions of "belief". That is why I would like to develop a model for decision making that clearly defines the meaning and function of "belief", "faith", "skepticism". Right now these concepts mean different things to different people, and nobody understands what anybody else is saying. It's like the Tower of Babel.

 

Rejecting a claim, however, is not the equivalent of believing the claim is false.  It simply means that the claim has not been proven.  Equating this to falsehood is like saying "not guilty and innocent are the same thing".  A defendant can be guilty as hell, but if the case against said defendant is not sufficiently established, then that person will walk free.  Similarly, a claim can be true, but if there is not sufficient proof of said claim, then it can not be accepted.  I am completely open to the claim that a god or gods exist (I do not say this claim is false); however, before I can accept this claim, it needs to be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt.

I like the court case analogy. Maybe using that as a model will clarify.

 

Let's say you are King Solomon and there is no jury.

 

There are two women claiming to be a baby's mother. There are two possibilities. Those possibilities are "beliefs".

 

You might have some suspicions, but you decide to set aside your biases and listen to all the arguments to the best of your ability. That process of a fair trial is "skepticism".

 

Eventually you must decide what to do. Which woman should have the baby? At that point you have probably assigned some subjective probabilities to each side of the case. Those probabilities are "faith". (And in a negative sense the probabilities are the same as the "bias" that must be ignored during the fair trial of "skepticism".)

 

Finally you must take an "action". You're not 100% certain of any "belief", but you are expected to reach a judgement.

 

Sorry, that probably is hard to follow. To me this model matches the way humans actually make decisions and clarifies some of these confusing words like "belief" and "skepticism".

 

There are accepted definitions of these things. Faith is belief without evidence. Belief is an assumption that something is true; often based on faith.

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Because it is not logical to assume something is true. It is basic logic to withhold belief, positive or negative, until a claim has been proven.

Assuming a proposition is false is equivalent to assuming the negation of that proposition is true. Atheism is the negation of theism.

 

I know this stuff gets argued all the time on atheist forums and some atheists vociferously claim that they don't believe anything. Those debates are probably mostly fueled by differing definitions of concepts like "belief".

 

I don't want to debate if atheism is a belief, because that never seems to go anywhere. What I'm trying to do is present this model I've been imagining for decision making to see if it makes sense to anybody else.

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Because it is not logical to assume something is true. It is basic logic to withhold belief, positive or negative, until a claim has been proven.

Assuming a proposition is false is equivalent to assuming the negation of that proposition is true. Atheism is the negation of theism.

 

I know this stuff gets argued all the time on atheist forums and some atheists vociferously claim that they don't believe anything. Those debates are probably mostly fueled by differing definitions of concepts like "belief".

 

I don't want to debate if atheism is a belief, because that never seems to go anywhere. What I'm trying to do is present this model I've been imagining for decision making to see if it makes sense to anybody else.

 

No, atheism is lack of belief. Anti-theism is the negation of theism. Atheism is a neutral position.

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There are accepted definitions of these things. Faith is belief without evidence. Belief is an assumption that something is true; often based on faith.

I think those are bad definitions. For example, faith can be based on evidence. Christians often have faith in Christianity for some reasons. They don't like to share their reasons for having faith, but I know they have reasons. They might have silly reasons, but they have a reasons.

 

Even a child who has been indoctrinated has a reason - that child has learned through past experience that his/her parents are almost always right about everything.

 

So it's these accepted definitions that I think we should revise in favor of abstractions that more closely match the reality of decision making.

 

I hoped discussing how decision making actually works might make people reconsider their assumptions about atheism and defaults.

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Look it up. Those ARE the definitions. You don't get to make your own. Words have meaning.

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IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

I disagree with this.  To begin with, I don't "not believe" in god; I reject the claim that god exists.  This has nothing to do with belief, in my opinion; it has to do with facts and evidence.  If something is knowable, then belief doesn't come into play.  I don't "believe" in evolution, or atheism, or anything else, for that matter.  I do, however, accept things once they have been demonstrated, proven, or established.  The claim of god's existence hasn't been demonstrated, proven, or established and this is why I reject the claim.

 

I think the disagreement stems from different definitions of "belief". That is why I would like to develop a model for decision making that clearly defines the meaning and function of "belief", "faith", "skepticism". Right now these concepts mean different things to different people, and nobody understands what anybody else is saying. It's like the Tower of Babel.

 

Rejecting a claim, however, is not the equivalent of believing the claim is false.  It simply means that the claim has not been proven.  Equating this to falsehood is like saying "not guilty and innocent are the same thing".  A defendant can be guilty as hell, but if the case against said defendant is not sufficiently established, then that person will walk free.  Similarly, a claim can be true, but if there is not sufficient proof of said claim, then it can not be accepted.  I am completely open to the claim that a god or gods exist (I do not say this claim is false); however, before I can accept this claim, it needs to be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt.

I like the court case analogy. Maybe using that as a model will clarify.

 

Let's say you are King Solomon and there is no jury.

 

There are two women claiming to be a baby's mother. There are two possibilities. Those possibilities are "beliefs".

 

You might have some suspicions, but you decide to set aside your biases and listen to all the arguments to the best of your ability. That process of a fair trial is "skepticism".

 

Eventually you must decide what to do. Which woman should have the baby? At that point you have probably assigned some subjective probabilities to each side of the case. Those probabilities are "faith". (And in a negative sense the probabilities are the same as the "bias" that must be ignored during the fair trial of "skepticism".)

 

Finally you must take an "action". You're not 100% certain of any "belief", but you are expected to reach a judgement.

 

Sorry, that probably is hard to follow. To me this model matches the way humans actually make decisions and clarifies some of these confusing words like "belief" and "skepticism".

 

But, King Solomon did not make his decision based upon what he believed.  Rather, he tested the situation by ordering that the baby be cut in half and each woman given half of it.  Then, based upon the reactions of both women, Solomon knew who the baby's true mother was. 

 

This ability to test is what separates science from religion.  It is also useful in logic.  If an idea or a claim can be tested, then we will have evidence which will either support the claim or not.  If the claim is supported by the evidence, then we are one step closer to being able to accept the claim.

 

Unfortunately, some claims cannot be tested; and the claim of god's existence is one such.  However, the onus for providing evidence to support the claim of god's existence falls upon the person making the claim, not the person rejecting the claim.  Again referring to the court system:  The burden of proving a defendant guilty falls on the prosecutor who is making the claim that the defendant committed the crime.  The defense enters a plea of "not guilty", which means they don't have to prove the defendant didn't commit the crime (or is innocent).  They simply have to establish reasonable doubt.

 

The same applies to a person making the claim that god exists.  Irrespective of what I believe or don't, I have made no claim about god's existence or lack thereof.  Therefore the burden of proof doesn't fall on me.  I don't have to disprove god's existence until I make the claim that god doesn't exist.

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Anyway, I guess I will give up, because it doesn't seem like anybody understands what I am talking about. Probably this isn't as interesting to others as it is to me. That's fine. smile.png

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We understand it, but we're telling you it's illogical.

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...

The same applies to a person making the claim that god exists.  Irrespective of what I believe or don't, I have made no claim about god's existence or lack thereof.  Therefore the burden of proof doesn't fall on me.  I don't have to disprove god's existence until I make the claim that god doesn't exist.

That's a key issue. We are constantly forced through the choices we face to assign a probability to God's existence. Nobody can realistically claim to have no opinion about God's existence unless that person has never even considered or heard of God.

 

That's why I think the atheist claim that atheism is not a belief is a bit ridiculous.

 

Anyway, I know I won't change anybody's opinions, so that's fine. I don't want to debate for the sake of debate.

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We understand it, but we're telling you it's illogical.

o.k.

 

Anyway, thanks to everybody for their replies. I know I am a poor writer, so I appreciate anybody who is willing to muddle through and reply. smile.png

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I see a lot of responses like: "I am a skeptic so I am an atheist until you show me evidence for God." Essentially this is assuming that atheism should be universally acknowledged to be the default belief absent any contrary evidence.

 

IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

 

Do you believe in things you have no good reason to?  If not, then what is wrong with withholding belief as a default position?  A closed mind is one that believes despite evidence to the contrary or without evidence at all.

 

Your mistake here is to call atheism a belief.  It is not. 

 

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The same applies to a person making the claim that god exists.  Irrespective of what I believe or don't, I have made no claim about god's existence or lack thereof.  Therefore the burden of proof doesn't fall on me.  I don't have to disprove god's existence until I make the claim that god doesn't exist.

That's a key issue. We are constantly forced through the choices we face to assign a probability to God's existence. Nobody can realistically claim to have no opinion about God's existence unless that person has never even considered or heard of God.

 

That's why I think the atheist claim that atheism is not a belief is a bit ridiculous.

 

Anyway, I know I won't change anybody's opinions, so that's fine. I don't want to debate for the sake of debate.

 

directionless, are you saying that you think the word "atheist" implies a view that states, "It's probable (to some degree greater than zero) that God does not exist."

 

Do you think it is impossible for a person to hold a purely neutral position? Do you think it's impossible for someone to have a view that assigns a zero percent probability to a position? Or if you do think that's possible, which term or label would you recognize for that position? "Agnostic" perhaps?

 

That's right. When we make a decision our brains play-out scenarios, assign probabilities to those scenarios, and then choose accordingly. As soon as a person is informed about Christianity it becomes a possible scenario. Maybe the probability that person assigns to Christianity is so low that the person doesn't even consider Christianity when making decisions.

 

Atheism is just another possible scenario. No matter how you define atheism it is just a possible model for reality - just like Christianity.

 

I don't think anybody 100% believes anything, but I also don't think it is possible to have no opinion on a belief when faced with decisions that depend on that belief.

 

But I know I probably won't persuade anybody.

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I see a lot of responses like: "I am a skeptic so I am an atheist until you show me evidence for God." Essentially this is assuming that atheism should be universally acknowledged to be the default belief absent any contrary evidence.

 

IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

 

Do you believe in things you have no good reason to?  If not, then what is wrong with withholding belief as a default position?  A closed mind is one that believes despite evidence to the contrary or without evidence at all.

 

Your mistake here is to call atheism a belief.  It is not.

 

I think atheism is a belief. The prior response to Human explains why I think that.

 

I don't expect to win anybody over to my point of view though. smile.png

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I see a lot of responses like: "I am a skeptic so I am an atheist until you show me evidence for God." Essentially this is assuming that atheism should be universally acknowledged to be the default belief absent any contrary evidence.

 

IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

 

Do you believe in things you have no good reason to?  If not, then what is wrong with withholding belief as a default position?  A closed mind is one that believes despite evidence to the contrary or without evidence at all.

 

Your mistake here is to call atheism a belief.  It is not.

 

I think atheism is a belief. The prior response to Human explains why I think that.

 

I don't expect to win anybody over to my point of view though. smile.png

 

Atheism is by definition a LACK of belief. That's what the word means. The prefix "a" means lack or absence of "theism" a belief in gods.

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I see a lot of responses like: "I am a skeptic so I am an atheist until you show me evidence for God." Essentially this is assuming that atheism should be universally acknowledged to be the default belief absent any contrary evidence.

 

IMO that is the wrong way to understand skepticism, because not believing something is the equivalent of believing something is false.

 

Do you believe in things you have no good reason to?  If not, then what is wrong with withholding belief as a default position?  A closed mind is one that believes despite evidence to the contrary or without evidence at all.

 

Your mistake here is to call atheism a belief.  It is not.

 

I think atheism is a belief. The prior response to Human explains why I think that.

 

I don't expect to win anybody over to my point of view though. smile.png

 

 

If you think it's a belief, you are confused about atheism. 

 

I don't believe in Santa or fairies.  Are these also beliefs?  Why not? 

 

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If atheism is also a belief, then off is also one of my TV's channels.

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