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"Faith is not a good reason to believe in any one thing. It's a bad reason to believe in everything. Faith is not synonymous with any one idea; it is synonymous with any strongly held idea, true or not. But one thing faith is not synonymous with is a logically justified idea."

Why Go Atheist?

Justified Beliefs VS True Beliefs

Just because you have a belief that is true, does not mean it's justified. And just because you have a belief that is justified does not mean that it is true, but it's a good start. When I debate over theology, I am not really debating over whether or not a God/Gods exist. I'm debating over whether or not the belief that a God exists is justified. The only way to have a justified belief is to have good logical reasons for a belief to be true. You can believe something that is true for bad reasons. In that case, you're belief is unjustified while still being true. For instance...

For the sake of argument, hypothetically, let's say that the God of the Bible actually exists. In this case, are Christians believing in something that is true? Yes. But if their reasons for believing in it are based on poor logic, faulty reasoning, faith and logical fallacies; then their belief is still unjustified. If in the future science is somehow able to prove that the Christian God of the Bible actually exists, then Christians would be able to show their beliefs are true, but they will only be able to do so thanks to luck. They're lucky, because they did not utilize proper logic. Their beliefs were never justified. The time to believe in a God/Gods is when there is good reason to believe they exist. Not before.

Atheism does not say "There is NO God or Gods!"... Atheism says that there is no good reason to believe that a God or Gods exist, and therefore, to have justified beliefs we must take a position of "non-belief." If there was good reason to believe in a God or Gods, then atheists would only need to be shown the reason, and we would convert to a theistic position. We are not mad at God, we are not taking a stance just to do what we please. We simply find the evidence for Gods to be insufficient. We cannot make ourselves believe something. It is impossible to practice both faith and logic at the same time, and faith does not justify a position.

What Does Atheism Mean to a Christian?

When I was a Christian, upon learning that there are actually people who do not have a religion, I was shocked! I thought everyone had a religion or at least had claimed a religious category. It didn’t make sense to me that someone could actually not believe in God. I knew science was making new discoveries everyday that, at times, contradicted the Bible. But I thought overall, science was just making new discoveries that furthered our understanding of the amazing universe God had created. I didn’t think that there would be people who deny God, and that science was actually backing up their claim!

This is often the first misconception made by theists. I made it myself as a fundamental Christian. To many, the idea of belonging to a religion is a lot like the idea of belonging to a nation. You have to belong to one! There is no position at which you cannot claim one! I did not see the obvious logical errors in this thinking. I made the same further mistakes that many theists do…

I thought about it long and hard and assumed that if these people do not claim a God, then something must have happened to make them “mad at God.” There seemed to be way too much evidence for God’s existence for them to truly not believe he exists. I was extremely sad for them, especially since they didn’t understand that whatever happened to them wasn’t God’s doing. I just didn’t get it.

I spoke to an atheist online about her atheism and what it meant. She kept trying to explain to me the burden of proof and how it related to God beliefs. I didn’t understand. She’s the obvious rebel. She’s the extremist! She should be proving to me that there is no God! I just didn’t get it.

I eventually came to the realization that atheists weren’t mad at God, they simply never heard the true word of the Lord. I began to witness to them online. I would quote scripture and explain to them what God means for their life. They would shoot me down time and time again. I just didn’t get it.

And that’s the problem with the way many theists understand. As an atheist, I can now see the error in my logic…

Atheists do not think there is any reason to believe in a God or Gods. Atheists do NOT say there is no God or Gods because no one can prove a negative. Specific God claims that rely upon very specific tenets for belief can be tested and disproven. Since atheists can only address the reasons for their disbelief in relation to God claims that have been presented to them, they cannot disprove God overall. People will continue to invent new religions over time and each one will have a new spin on an old idea. Atheists simply lay in wait for a new definition of God and address it according to the rules of logic. If a God belief were to come to light that passed the standards of evidence, then atheists would become theists. The very fact that there are so many atheists, and that atheism is growing, shows that such a logical God belief does not currently exist.

Losing Your Religion

When I was religious, it was believed by me that anyone who loses their religion is losing something special. Not just because, as a fundamental Christian, I believed they were going to Hell. But I was able to hypothesize, that even if God didn't exist, religion played an important and meaningful role in people's lives. I thought that religion makes people want to be good, it makes them civil. It makes people feel like they're special and that they're going somewhere when they die. The thought of conquering death was comforting. But, unfortunately for my Christian self, I was on the fast track to losing my religion. I had already decided that it was extremely important to me that what I believe is true, so if I found that there wasn't a God then I'd be okay. Truth is truth whether you like it or not. But I was scared to lose my faith because of all that it has done for me, all that it continued to do for me. Little did I know, I was knee deep in a great misconception...

If there is a God and religion plays an important role in the lives of the religious, then we would expect people to become "less happy" once losing their faith. And even if religion is false, the concept is comforting, and then losing the concept should make one "Depressed" or at least they should feel a void in their lives. Something should be missing. A hole left unfilled in their hearts... You don't know it till you lose your religion, but your religion fills no hole. An imaginary God can only fill imaginary holes. Your God did not fill the "sex hole" in your life because you had a spouse for that. You God did not fill the "mother/father hole" in your life because you had kids to do that. Your God fills a very specific void in your life... The "religion hole!"

As soon as you give up your religion the "religion hole" disappears. You soon realize it never even existed. And imaginary hole for an imaginary peg. You are no less happy upon losing your religion as you are the day you believed you were "saved." If anything, I was even more happy with my life upon losing religion because I knew I had made a conscious effort to make my beliefs about reality conform with actual reality. I felt accomplished. It was then clear to me that either there is not a God at all, or there is a God and he doesn't care if we believe or not. The concept of a God who actively interacts with the lives of people is fundamentally false.

Knowledge and Belief via Skepticism

This is different for each person. Each individual has a unique take on what is sufficient for belief and what is knowledge. The problem I see is that some people are too lax with their belief. For me, and this ideal I stole from a mentor of mine, I want to believe as many true things as possible and as few false things as possible. The only way to accomplish this task is by utilizing a system that is accurate at telling fact from fiction. In my life I have found skepticism to be the perfect tool for this case. I dare anyone to show me a better tool.

Faith (not necessarily religious faith) can in rare moments be proven true, but overall it is not a system of telling fact from fiction. It is a system of accepting ideas as fact without considering the possibility that they might be fiction. For some, ignorance is bliss. This is inadequate in my opinion.

Ultimately, knowledge and belief are two separate things. Knowledge is supported by facts and experience. Where as belief does not necessarily require either to exist. Knowledge can lead to belief but belief cannot lead to knowledge. This is why I challenge those with unreasonable or illogical beliefs to investigate their ideas and see what it is they truly believe and why. Only through honest investigation and unbiased thinking can one truly tell if their beliefs are reasonable. Unfortunately, too many of us have a hard time remaining unbiased when our world views are on the chopping block.

I was once a fundamental Christian, a supporter of PETA, a supporter of recycling, a believer in Chiropractic medicine, Ghosts, Alien abductions and the paranormal. Yes, I understand that some of these ideals conflict, but I was young and indoctrinated at the time and I didn't understand the "argument from authority" was invalid.

Now, I have taken a position of skepticism in all that I do. I have re-evaluated my ideas and my morality. I have found that through honest investigation I can come to far more truthful and beneficial conclusions than ever before. Even when the truth I find is not necessarily comforting, it is the truth. I am extremely suspicious of those who claim to know the absolute truth while doing none of the work.

"Beware of those who would consider authority to be the truth and not truth the authority" 

 Belief and Faith: Why?

I do not wish to restrict belief. I think it is a right to decide on your own what you believe and why. No one can take that right from you. The issue, however, is not what you believe, but what you will do with it. I do not wish to regulate religious belief, just religious conduct. I do not care if you believe the world was created 6,000 years ago, I only care that you keep it out of science class. I do not care that you think that Allah is the one true God and that Muhammad is his prophet, I only care that you keep it in the Masque and not fly planes into my office building. I do not care that you think Joseph Smith was given the true word of God by the angel Moroni, I only care that you do not marry multiple under age girls and force them into a life of servitude. I do not want the world to stop believing in a God, although I think that would be beneficial to humanity. I respect everyone's right to believe, just not what they believe.

Take religion out of the equation because religion has been given a free ride for too long. Let's replace "religion" with fantasy. Something we all should accept as fantasy. Let's say I believe in Gremlins. The kind that live in the clouds and sabotage aircraft. Do I have the right to believe this? Yes. Do you respect my right to choose what I believe? Yes. Do you respect my specific belief? No. You find it foolish and ignorant. Through scientific investigation and experience we can accurately determine what causes plane crashes. Though we cannot disprove the existence of Gremlins we can say there is absolutely no evidence to support the belief in them. My belief is unsupported and ridiculous. But it does change how devoted I am to it. Perhaps I believe this because it makes me feel good, and if so then that is fine. Perhaps I believe this because I have had a personal experience that proved it to me, and if so then I might be insane. But if I am not, and I did experience Gremlins, then this experience only supports my belief in Gremlins, and cannot reflect onto anyone else's understanding of the issue. My opinion on the existence of Gremlins is both ignorant and unsupported, but it is not dangerous. It only affects my life and the way I deal with reality. But it also affects the way you deal with me. You have no obligation, morally, ethically, socially or legally to respect my opinions on Gremlins.

If you choose not to oppose my opinion openly then that is your choice. And it would be understandable since my belief is not dangerous... However, imagine my belief changed the way I deal with reality in such a manner as to make me press for government legislation regarding Gremlins in US airspace. Imagine I press for the public school science classes to teach children that the existence of Gremlins is a logical theory to explain plane crashes throughout history. Imagine I console family members of plane crash victims with the knowledge that Gremlins caused the death of their loved one. Imagine I fly a plane into your office building because I'm trying to knock a Gremlin off the wing. Now, would you stand up and oppose my belief publicly? Would you tell me how unsupported my belief was and how destructive it can be? Would you ask other Gremlin believers to police my actions to ensure I don't do anything to harm society? Would you oppose legislation to support Pro-Gremlin laws from entering into the Constitution?

You have no problem opposing my belief about Gremlins because it is ridiculous and it is not concerning religion, only nonsense. Why should a nonsensical religious belief be treated any different than a nonsensical fantasy belief? Why should religion be given extra respect simply because its believers are devout? People make their religion out of the full fabric of their lives, which is why any dissent or opposition offends them deeply. They want to believe their opinions on religion require a certain level of respect by default. They do not. Just as with the Gremlin analogy, I have no moral, ethical, social or legal obligation to respect a belief that I find ignorant, unsupported, ridiculous or destructive. Perhaps my points would be better received if I debate with compassion, and if so then I will debate with compassion. However, in the case of extremists, I see no reason to be compassionate. When I find that my compassionate reason and logic are not being heard then the only remaining opposition to destructive beliefs is aggression. But one would be smart to pay attention to the points being presented, not how they are presented.

(You might find the Gremlin analogy laughable. You might say that it's ridiculous because no one believes in Gremlins. First, that is one reason the analogy works. It removes the default respect religion too often receives. Second, there are in fact, pious believers in the existence of Gremlins, Fairies, Ghouls and Goblins. I have conversed with them many times. And I approach their beliefs the same as I do religious ones.)

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on the Foxhole Atheist Blog do not necessarily represent those of Atheism or all Atheists, seeing as how Atheism has no tenets, dogma or doctrines. So Suck it!