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Old 02-08-2013, 02:37 PM
 
Location: Somewhere out there.
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If you have a faith, it is statistically overwhelmingly likely that it is the same faith as your parents and grandparents had. No doubt soaring cathedrals, stirring music, moving stories and parables, help a bit. But by far the most important variable determining your religion is the accident of birth. The convictions that you so passionately believe would have been a completely different and largely contradictory set of convictions, if only you had happened to be born in a different place. Epidemiology, not evidence.
Richard Dawkins.
If you are an atheist you may already be familiar with Richard Dawkins quote above.

Moving to America (from Britain) has led me to think a lot about how my upbringing and life has shaped who I am, in ways I hadn't thought too much about before. I was already an atheist before moving here but the change in culture has led me to think about how religion and other aspects of life here and back home shape peoples outlook. Just to use the gun control debate as an example (I really do not want to get into a conversation about the whys and wherefores of this issue -there are a million other threads for that) - I wonder if I had been born in America, or another country what my views might have been. But more than that I wonder about Americans who tend to be very vocal and staunch in their views, how much of what they are saying is actually free will and if they have ever thought about how much of what they believe is actually a result of their environment. I once heard Richard Dawkins admit that if he had been born pre-Darwin, he would be a Christian.

Atheists seem to me to be the most rational and intelligent of people - of course I am very biased in this regard (not saying Christians aren't). But it was relatively easy for me to be an atheist back home - I'm not sure it is so easy here. I think it takes a certain strength of mind to come to your own conclusions and break free from religion, so I have more admiration for atheists here, being part of a more religious society. Certainly the atheist forum is one of the few places on here where it is actually possible to have a rational debate (most of the time).

I wondered if anybody else had thought about your 'convictions' in other subjects and in other aspects of your lives? As I said, before moving here I hadn't though much about this. Does considering this topic affect your views on anything? If people beliefs are primarily to do with 'accident of birth', does this make you more tolerant of other viewpoints? Maybe, as an atheist, you are already tolerant. I know I try to be. If you are a religious person, does Dawkins comment make you think about your beliefs and those of others?

This is not really just one question as such, more just a general topic for discussion - I'd be interested to hear people's comments. I'm not even sure it's specifically an atheist topic as such, so happy to have it moved elsewhere.


Here's a map of world religions just to illustrate Dawkins comment above:
From here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions_by_country

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Old 02-08-2013, 03:07 PM
 
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I'd say it is a perfectly valid topic for this section.
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Old 02-08-2013, 04:59 PM
 
Location: Oklahoma
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Many of us on this board were at one time committed Christians. I am tolerant of them because I know how they think. Considering that just about every other religion is the same stuff as Christianity but wrapped up in a different package I try to be tolerant of them as well.

For many, the warm feeling of being loved by the creator, and feeling like you are "good", and you are respected in society is enough to comfort them. Throw in the eternal bliss where you get to see your grandma and grandpa and all your dead friends. Why the heck not. 72 virgins? Heck yes!!

For me, after weighing the evidence and examining the beliefs and holy books it became clear that Christianity wasn't reality or truth. Realizing this it became impossible to find a comfort zone in Christianity anymore.

Ironically, I still hold to some of the negativity at times that was burned into my being concerning atheism and agnosticism while growing up.. However, I realize where it comes from and it is quite freeing to realize that I am no longer in bondage to a mythical belief system.

The beauty of it is that I am perfectly willing to help a Christian find their inner atheist but it is not necessary. As atheists we don't have any "great commission" to fulfill.
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Old 02-08-2013, 05:07 PM
 
Location: Yuma, Az
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruithne View Post
If you are an atheist you may already be familiar with Richard Dawkins quote above.
I actually try to stay away from pondering too deeply about the concept of free will. It's kind of scary and maybe even a bit dehumanizing. A person is kind of like a cork tossed into the ocean; where the cork goes and where it ultimately ends up has almost nothing to do with the cork itself. It is subject to outside forces, including the size and the shape of the cork itself, which paradoxically, is also out of the control of the cork.

I am an atheist, but it has almost nothing to do with the concept of free will an my thoughts on it. Although the critical thinking used to analyze the concept of free will is not dissimilar to the critical thinking used to analyze the concept of a god.
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Old 02-08-2013, 05:47 PM
 
Location: East Coast U.S.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruithne View Post
If you are an atheist you may already be familiar with Richard Dawkins quote above.

Moving to America (from Britain) has led me to think a lot about how my upbringing and life has shaped who I am, in ways I hadn't thought too much about before. I was already an atheist before moving here but the change in culture has led me to think about how religion and other aspects of life here and back home shape peoples outlook. Just to use the gun control debate as an example (I really do not want to get into a conversation about the whys and wherefores of this issue -there are a million other threads for that) - I wonder if I had been born in America, or another country what my views might have been. But more than that I wonder about Americans who tend to be very vocal and staunch in their views, how much of what they are saying is actually free will and if they have ever thought about how much of what they believe is actually a result of their environment. I once heard Richard Dawkins admit that if he had been born pre-Darwin, he would be a Christian.

Atheists seem to me to be the most rational and intelligent of people - of course I am very biased in this regard (not saying Christians aren't). But it was relatively easy for me to be an atheist back home - I'm not sure it is so easy here. I think it takes a certain strength of mind to come to your own conclusions and break free from religion, so I have more admiration for atheists here, being part of a more religious society. Certainly the atheist forum is one of the few places on here where it is actually possible to have a rational debate (most of the time).

I wondered if anybody else had thought about your 'convictions' in other subjects and in other aspects of your lives? As I said, before moving here I hadn't though much about this. Does considering this topic affect your views on anything? If people beliefs are primarily to do with 'accident of birth', does this make you more tolerant of other viewpoints? Maybe, as an atheist, you are already tolerant. I know I try to be. If you are a religious person, does Dawkins comment make you think about your beliefs and those of others?

This is not really just one question as such, more just a general topic for discussion - I'd be interested to hear people's comments. I'm not even sure it's specifically an atheist topic as such, so happy to have it moved elsewhere.


Here's a map of world religions just to illustrate Dawkins comment above:
From here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions_by_country
I would take issue with two of Dicky Boy's presumptions:

First, when he uses the term "accident" he appears to infer the notion of randomness. This would be a philosophical rather than scientific statement...as is often the case, he's counting on his credentials as a scientist to provide cover for his philosophical slight-of-hand. Is there ANY empirical data that would support the notion that there is really any such thing as a random event?

Secondly, he appears to infer that faith is limited to "religions." He has openly admitted that the only reasonable approach towards the God question is agnosticism i.e., it's impossible to prove or demonstrate with certainty that no God exists. It seems to me that any choice to believe God doesn't exists is just that - a choice to BELIEVE (have faith) that no God exists.

If you're willing to clarify these apparently misplaced assumptions, I would be happy to address the larger context of the OP.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:02 AM
 
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I grew up atheist without really knowing that was what I was and I also had the idea that atheism was a refusal to admit even the possibility of a god. Well, I realized that atheist was what I was and I came to understand the logical position behind. More recently I have come to understand that atheism is the application to Gos -claims of a general rational, logical and evidence -based worldview which is really the only valid one there is, as all the rest is just based on guesswork, faith, speculation and wishful thinking.

To clarify Tigetmax's remarks below; 'randomness' merely means without any forward -planning intention; without an intelligent design behind it. It does not mean that there is no reason or cause behind what happens any more than a volcano explodes for no reason. It explodes for very good and known reasons, but not because some intelligent being wanted it to happen.

This 'accident' of birth is random in that nobody decided that you or I would be born in a particular religious milieu. It happened for known reasons of course, but was random or an accident since nobody arranged it -apart from parents, of course, but they are working in the dark as to how it will come out. There is really no need for you, Cruithne (pronunciation?) to worry about the semantic dickering about what 'randomness' in scientific of indeed philosophical term,actually means.

Similarly,there is a big difference (which theists persistently misunderstand -or pretend they do). Not believing that a god exists is not the same as believing that g god does not exist. The first is a logical response to lack of a good case either way; the second is a definite belief - decision based on sound evidence. That is what we don't have about a possible creative being and so we cannot believe (claim) that it does not exist. But it suits believers to say that it is the same thing because it makes the atheist position look irrational.

It is true, however that it is valid and indeed reasonable to say that,on the basis of consideration of the claims for the specific God of the Bible the unbeliever goes further and is convinced that such a creature does not exist, even though some sort of universal mind still could. This gods 'god' and 'God' or 'sortagod' and 'Biblegod' as I call them to indicate the difference, are not the same claim, there is not the same evidence to be considered and therefore the belief -response is not the same.

Don't let yourself be bamboozled into thinking that they are.

Last edited by TRANSPONDER; 02-09-2013 at 08:23 AM..
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:36 AM
 
Location: Somewhere out there.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tigetmax24 View Post
I would take issue with two of Dicky Boy's presumptions:

First, when he uses the term "accident" he appears to infer the notion of randomness. This would be a philosophical rather than scientific statement...as is often the case, he's counting on his credentials as a scientist to provide cover for his philosophical slight-of-hand. Is there ANY empirical data that would support the notion that there is really any such thing as a random event?

Secondly, he appears to infer that faith is limited to "religions." He has openly admitted that the only reasonable approach towards the God question is agnosticism i.e., it's impossible to prove or demonstrate with certainty that no God exists. It seems to me that any choice to believe God doesn't exists is just that - a choice to BELIEVE (have faith) that no God exists.

If you're willing to clarify these apparently misplaced assumptions, I would be happy to address the larger context of the OP.
You may take issue with Dawkins 'presumptions' but I don't. If you have issues with his quote then you would have to take that up with him - its his quote not mine - I can't answer for Dawkins. I can only interpret his words in my own way. Nevertheless I will try to address both issues in the best way I can.

First of all you are misinterpreting his choice of the word 'accident' by picking out just that word and choosing to interpret this yourself as randomness in some sort of mathematical sense. Instead you should have read the phrase as a whole which was 'accident of birth' which is an expression meaning:

accident of birth (plural accidents of birth)
  1. (idiomatic) A fact, situation, or personal characteristic, which may be desirable or undesirable, resulting from the circumstances into which a person was born, and which is therefore entirely beyond his or her control.
Clearly Dawkins was using this as an expression so there is no reason to start looking for 'empirical data of random events'. Dawkins is a biologist not a mathematician, so I doubt your 'empirical data of random events' even entered his head in this instance.

What we do have plenty of is population data to show where peoples religious beliefs lie. People have taken this data and put it in a nice map for us all to see (see above). We can argue the existence or none existence of god until the cows come home. But (and this is his point) we do have plenty of undeniable and irrefutable evidence about world religions.

Secondly I do not share Dawkins agnostic stance as I outlined in another thread:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruithne View Post
..... its all Richard Dawkins fault with his 7 point 'belief' scale....
The stance that 'it's impossible to prove or demonstrate with certainty that no God exists' to me is just a nonsense argument, simple as that. As to 'faith' - yes I have 'faith' that no god exists if you want to put it is those terms.

I think I have covered all bases here. All of your questions seem to be at a complete tangent to my discussion points and are questions which have been discussed in numerous other threads.

Just to clarify the topic I wanted to discuss:
It is very clear for all to see, without needing pages of numerical data (just look at the map) that the chances are, your religion and beliefs are probably a result of who your parents were and where you were born. If your parents were Indian and you had been born in India, its very likely you'd be Hindu and so on and so forth.
Although there are many, many other factors at play, your environment, the circumstances of where you were born and how you were raised play a very large part in the belief system you have today. I am asking that with this is mind, does this make you question your convictions or see them in any way in a different light?

Last edited by Cruithne; 02-09-2013 at 10:03 AM..
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:55 AM
 
Location: Somewhere out there.
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Originally Posted by KatieGal View Post
I actually try to stay away from pondering too deeply about the concept of free will. It's kind of scary and maybe even a bit dehumanizing. A person is kind of like a cork tossed into the ocean; where the cork goes and where it ultimately ends up has almost nothing to do with the cork itself. It is subject to outside forces, including the size and the shape of the cork itself, which paradoxically, is also out of the control of the cork.

I am an atheist, but it has almost nothing to do with the concept of free will an my thoughts on it. Although the critical thinking used to analyze the concept of free will is not dissimilar to the critical thinking used to analyze the concept of a god.
KatieGal I like your cork metaphor, which you could basically reduce down to 'go with the flow'. As atheists, I guess you could say we haven't gone with the flow. Does this mean we have more free will than those with religion? Or are we still a result of circumstance?
Ordinarily I wouldn't be pondering this stuff either, but being immersed in an environment which is slightly out of my comfort zone has made me wonder about it.
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:09 AM
 
Location: Yuma, Az
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Originally Posted by Cruithne View Post
KatieGal I like your cork metaphor, which you could basically reduce down to 'go with the flow'. As atheists, I guess you could say we haven't gone with the flow. Does this mean we have more free will than those with religion? Or are we still a result of circumstance?
Ordinarily I wouldn't be pondering this stuff either, but being immersed in an environment which is slightly out of my comfort zone has made me wonder about it.
I think the concept of "free will" is pretty much an all-or-nothing thing for those who question its existence, and even for those who do not.

A person's genetic make-up is out of his control. His first experience (birth) is out of his control. The infant's next act, the resulting experience, and the following behavior are merely consequences of his first experience and his genetic make-up. And that basic theme keeps on going on and on like falling dominoes for the remainder of his life.

It's a difficult concept for a person to get his mind around, and it is really kind of a scary concept, but I think it probably has to be considered a valid concept.
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Old 02-09-2013, 12:25 PM
 
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Originally Posted by KatieGal View Post
I actually try to stay away from pondering too deeply about the concept of free will. It's kind of scary and maybe even a bit dehumanizing. A person is kind of like a cork tossed into the ocean; where the cork goes and where it ultimately ends up has almost nothing to do with the cork itself. It is subject to outside forces, including the size and the shape of the cork itself, which paradoxically, is also out of the control of the cork.

I am an atheist, but it has almost nothing to do with the concept of free will an my thoughts on it. Although the critical thinking used to analyze the concept of free will is not dissimilar to the critical thinking used to analyze the concept of a god.

i too am an athiest but i dont believe in free will in an absolute sense , peoples lives are shaped and directed by many external factors, if free will existed in an absolute sense , no one would ever die in a car crash which was caused entirely by someone else
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