Author Topic: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?  (Read 853 times)

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Offline brilligtove

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #15 on: August 10, 2019, 05:51:02 PM »
I tend to think of agnostic as more ambivalent than having no belief - that an agnostic person believes no one can know for sure. I guess I have internalized more of the non-theistic use of the term to indicate a doubtful or noncommittal attitude.

Until my 20s (1990) I would have been that kind of agnostic. Maybe there are supernatural forces at play in the universe maybe not.

In my 20s (1990-2000) I was "spiritual but not religious". I believed that there was more to reality than could be explained by science. In retrospect it was a vague god-of-the-gaps kind of thing. Still agnostic though.

By my 30s (2000-2010) the internet was a real thing in daily life, and I started to field a lot of conspiracy theory, hoax, and fake news bullshit from family and friends. I became increasingly sceptical. Snopes was my friend. By this time I'd call myself an atheist if asked. Otherwise gods and religion were irrelevant to my life. I started listening to SGU when the initial test episode was still up. Dunno how I found it. It certainly accelerated my development as a critical thinker.

By my 40s (2010-now) I would describe myself as non-theist. I believe gods and other supernatural stuff are real social and cultural phenomena. Woo in general reflects cognitive biases and modes of thinking that are intrinsic to being human. God is a really powerful story. So is Lord of the Rings.
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Offline Awatsjr

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2019, 01:56:28 AM »
Atheist means "without god" not "I know for fucking sure there isn't one."  ;) Agnostic means "without knowledge." So you can be both - "I have no knowledge of one and I live as if there isn't one."

That also doesn't mean I don't hurt when I see injustice.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2019, 03:45:43 PM by Awatsjr »

Offline John Albert

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2019, 08:15:21 PM »
"Agnostic atheist" is a category under which many people self-identify.

Offline The Latinist

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2019, 02:20:56 AM »
The terms atheist, theist, and agnostic all deal with beliefs. An atheist believes there's no god. A theist believes there is a god. An agnostic has no belief one way or another. Even though the root of the word means "without knowledge," the modern word means holding no beliefs regarding the existence or non-existence of god.

I am a hard atheist because I believe that there is absolutely no god or gods or anything else other than the material world. I acknowledge that I cannot know this. But I believe it completely.

I strongly disagree that agnosticism is about belief at all. Agnosticism is a philosophical position recognizing the impossibility of knowledge about unfalsifiable claims, specifically the claim that one or more gods does or does not exist. Agnostics may be either atheists or theists; it is entirely possible to believe something without thinking that thing knowable. I think I would be safe in saying that Pamela Gay is an agnostic theist, for instance.

I also think that it is wrong to exclude from the term ‘atheist’ those who have no belief that any god exists but who do not hold a belief that no god exists.  Indeed, you tacitly acknowledge that not all atheists share your belief that no god exists when you describe yourself as a “hard atheist”; there would be no need for such a qualifier if atheism meant only what you claim elsewhere in your post that it does.
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Offline Ah.hell

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2019, 09:59:35 AM »
The first time I thought about the subject was a conversation with an elementary school friend.  God made no sense to me then. 

Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2019, 10:24:59 AM »
I think it is a mistake to say you can't be an atheist on the grounds that nobody can KNOW there's no god.
The burden of proof is on anyone who makes a claim. I simply state that I don't care about their personal god or their zealous belief that there isn't one.
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2019, 10:53:51 AM »
I’ve talked about this before, but I grew up without any religion beyond the vague cultural Christianity that one picks up in the media and from attending weddings and funerals, etc. The first time I remember actually thinking about religion I was about ten years old and understood that people had many incompatible faiths.  I had the passing thought that I was very lucky that I happened to have been born into a family whose religion was that actual true one.  Even at that age I realized immediately that that was a ridiculous idea, so I began the questioning phase. By the time I was about 15, I’d concluded that religions were human beings’ attempt to explain things that they don’t understand and that it would become increasingly irrelevant with time.  I also had settled on a position that at that time I was calling agnosticism: that, as I had no evidence for the existence of any god, it was undesirable to hold a belief in one. Now I call that position atheism.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline seamas

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2019, 11:55:34 AM »
I think for me it was a gradual slide.

I started out in a Catholic household, where going to mass every Sunday was mandatory unless severely sick. Didn't go to catholic school, but had the Catholic education. I was an altar boy for about six years -- I felt "guilty" about telling the priest it was time for me to quit.

Now it is important to mention I have no real ill will to anyone I personally encountered in the church. I have very positive experiences with all the various priests, bishops, brothers and nuns I have encountered. They were all, to my memory, intelligent, caring and thoughtful people. We had one priest who I thought was interesting--though most of the congregations found his sermons went way above their heads--his weekday job was teaching theology to Jesuits. He spoke of doubt, and he spoke of faith and spoke about that struggle. I think it made people uncomfortable.

That said, somewhere in my mid to late teens I first realized my differences with the political aspects of the church. At the time, for most of my life I saw the church as, basically my foundations of liberal thought. But there was a new Pope (John Paul II). certain aspects of liberalism were no longer part of the church. Not it seemed that the church needed to push its prestige and political clout and engage more into the culture wars. If a parish could afford it, new fancier churches were built. If the parish was poor, the school would close and so would the church.

So I drifted, still Catholic in my cultural identity in many ways, but also more interested in comparison of religion. I became very interested in myths, magic, etc, I would not say that I was dabbling in the occult in terms of any practice, but I found the whole thing interesting.
I would say at this point on my life I was at my least skeptical. Ghosts? Sure, why not? Bigfoot? Maybe. Extraterrestrials? Made sense.
I wasn't a believer in any of these, but had no tools for having real doubt about them.

I think more serious doubt about christianity came about in college. The more I learned about religion the more it looked fishy. I still have belief in Jesus though.
That pretty much got the ka-bosh not long after meeting my wife. Her parents were (modern) Orthodox Jews.  She wasn't particularly religious or had any interest, but is very culturally jewish.  I learned a lot about Jewish though and learned even more about the "why" regarding their stance on Jesus. It is pretty sound, in terms of the textural history and theology. They reject him as messiah for a host of significant reasons, but usually have zero interest in relating these reasons to christians (why get your ass pogrommed for no reason, right?)

I think about this time I had become just about entirely atheist, but did not use that term to describe myself--I still clung to "agnostic" as I considered "atheist" too confrontational, as I was using a different working definition. than I use today.

Now I usually, if asked by a stranger, will say I am "not religious" but if pressed will call myself an atheist and an agnostic.
I have no faith, and think the ability to know or to prove/disprove the existence of god is futile.
There's no such thing as denial.

Offline Awatsjr

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2019, 10:03:41 PM »

...

Now I usually, if asked by a stranger, will say I am "not religious" but if pressed will call myself an atheist and an agnostic.
I have no faith, and think the ability to know or to prove/disprove the existence of god is futile.

Agreed. When asked I say "I am not a believer" but if pressed, "agnostic atheist." The conversation usually ends at that point. It is weird to describe myself as something I don't do but the words exist so I use them if necessary. But the true feeling on my side is that I am not a believer. I am certainly not in anyway an active agnostic atheist. It's just words.

But I will make it clear that the believer has zero additional knowledge or advantage over me. We are in the same boat at the same level. Neither of us have any special insight either way. We're all Bozos on this bus.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2019, 11:04:59 AM by Awatsjr »

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #24 on: August 14, 2019, 03:12:33 PM »
I went through a Wicca strange believing a bunch of woo.
I was hit upside the head though with James Randi's Flim Flam.
"Give me the storm and tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Banish me from Eden when you will; but first let me eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge."
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Offline Awatsjr

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #25 on: August 14, 2019, 04:28:12 PM »
Don't feel bad, I believed pyramid power was true until I was asked to explain it. Ended that real quick and I started to toss off the woo stuff rapidly. But this was when I was clearly an agnostic atheist so I don't know how I rationalized all of that.

Oh to be stupid again. Wait ... I still am!
« Last Edit: August 16, 2019, 07:39:12 PM by Awatsjr »

Offline John Albert

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Re: How did you become an atheist/agnostic/non-believer?
« Reply #26 on: August 16, 2019, 03:42:37 PM »
"Agnostic" doesn't necessarily mean that the existence of a God or gods is unknowable; at its most basic, it means one does not claim knowledge of whether a God or gods exist.

But like atheism, the position of agnosticism can be either "strong" or "weak."
  • weak agnosticism is a noncommittal disclosure that the speaker does not claim to know one way or the other

  • strong agnosticism is a positive statement that the existence of gods is inherently unknowable
A corollary to strong agnosticism is igtheism, which claims that no single, coherent concept of God can be agreed upon by all believers; therefore the word "God" itself is practically meaningless, so existence of such a thing is unknowable. 
« Last Edit: August 17, 2019, 03:27:08 PM by John Albert »

 

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