ForumTouchy Subjects ► Atheism
I just came back to this site after being gone for quite some time, so if i missed this topic, then I apologize.

I search quickly through the forum and didn't find it....

I am an atheist, but I am semi closeted because of the social stigma that still seems to exist.

I am curious as to what y'all think of atheism and atheists.

The common prejudice is that we look down on the religious and that we are amoral.

Thoughts?
  
I think the first half of the prejudice may have some basis in fact, the second is generally wrong as far as I can see.

Atheism is more common among the more educated and intelligent. That group has a natural tendency to believe in their own superiority. As ever, correlation is not causation, but I think the correlation is sufficient to explain the prejudice.

Morality, though, is a different matter. There is some tendency for the intelligent and educated to have a different view of morality, but I wouldn't say that makes them amoral.

I also suspect that most atheists have reasoned their way to their (dis)belief, and in the process will have though about the moral implications more than the general population. Personal experience is no basis for a general theory, but the atheists I know have generally been highly moral.

One interesting discussion I have had within the Christian v Atheist debate is the question of what constitutes "good". Many Christians define it as obedience to God's will. That then raises the question of what it means to say that God is good. If God is merely obedient to God's will, that seems to say nothing about morality.

For those who say that there is an abstract good which God desires, then it follows that atheists can desire good without any necessity to involve God. That still allows for debate as to whether God exists, and if so whether obedience is the correct response, but it demolishes the idea that belief is a requirement for morality.


EDIT: There is a good general resource at http://www.atheistscholar.org/Home.aspx
  
As a semi-closeted atheist, I usually get to hear unfiltered opinions of atheists, since no one is worried that they may offend me.

My mother, for example, speaks of atheism as being on the same level as satanism.

I saw a FB video that showed one of the Duck Dynasty guys saying that atheist were likely to rape families or some such nonsense because the atheist's lack of belief in a god meant that they had no reason not to....

I keep my mouth shut on the topic, because I see this kind of attitude on various levels from quite a few of my peers. While they may not be as extreme as the Duck Dynasty guy, they definitely have a negative attitude towards atheists.

As far as the arrogance part, I have seem other atheists who have a rather lesser opinion of people who are religious. I try not to judge people based on their belief, because i know what that is like.
  
You can be a good person and be Atheist, you can be a bad person and be Christian. As long as your beliefs make you happy and fulfilled and don't negatively impact other people, do whatever you want. Go worship the Spaghetti Monster for all I care.
  
Coldfrost said:
You can be a good person and be Atheist, you can be a bad person and be Christian. As long as your beliefs make you happy and fulfilled and don't negatively impact other people, do whatever you want. Go worship the Spaghetti Monster for all I care.

I whole heartedly agree with this statement.
  
Blamblim said:
I am semi closeted because of the social stigma that still seems to exist.
Go into academia. 😛 The current chair of the CS department at my university once said in front of all the grad students "religion is the biggest WMD". Atheism is completely normal and common in higher education.
Blamblim said:
The common prejudice is that we look down on the religious and that we are amoral.
I think moral nihilism (or at least relativism) is more common among atheists, which could be considered closer to amorality, though that doesn't seem to have much impact on personal behavior, in my personal experience.
  
“If nothing we do matters, then the only thing that matters is what we do.”
  
A morality system free from supernatural influence is not amoral.
  
Scoggles said:
A morality system free from supernatural influence is not amoral.

Agreed
  
Blamblim said:
“If nothing we do matters, then the only thing that matters is what we do.”
I get the existentialist intention behind it, but this is literally nonsense.
Scoggles said:
A morality system free from supernatural influence is not amoral.
No, but moral nihilism is.
  
Well, it’s a quote that I base my personal philosophy on, so thanks for calling it nonsense.
  
Let A be "the set of things we do", and let the predicate M(a) mean "a matters". Then translating the quote we have...

(∀a ∈ A: ¬M(a)) → (∀a: M(a) ↔ a ∈ A)
⇒ (∀a ∈ A: ¬M(a)) → (∀a: a ∈ A → M(a))
⇒ (∀a ∈ A: ¬M(a)) → (∀a ∈ A: M(a))
⇒ (∀a ∈ A: ¬M(a)) → ¬(∀a ∈ A: ¬M(a))

Therefore a corollary implication can be derived in which its antecedent implies its own negation. And that can only be true if the antecedent is false. In other words, that quote can only be true if some things we do matter.

I assume the author was trying to say that since nothing matters, people have to create their own meaning through their actions, but if anything, it says sort of the opposite.

Edit: I had a mistake in my proof.
  
Blamblim said:
Well, it’s a quote that I base my personal philosophy on, so thanks for calling it nonsense.

Could you explain your mindset surrounding it a bit more? I've never really understood the quote, though I've heard it before. Do you mean it in the sense that even if the world doesn't "matter" in the grand scheme of things that we need to focus on the small stuff and being kind anyway since it's the only thing that really has an impact in the short time we're here? It's the best I've been able to make of it, but I'm not sure if that's quite how people normally interpret it.
  
Zia said:
Blamblim said:
Well, it’s a quote that I base my personal philosophy on, so thanks for calling it nonsense.

Could you explain your mindset surrounding it a bit more? I've never really understood the quote, though I've heard it before. Do you mean it in the sense that even if the world doesn't "matter" in the grand scheme of things that we need to focus on the small stuff and being kind anyway since it's the only thing that really has an impact in the short time we're here? It's the best I've been able to make of it, but I'm not sure if that's quite how people normally interpret it.


That’s exactly it. If there is no grand plan, no higher power, then the only meaning in our lives is drawn from how we interact in the here and now.
  
Let A be "the set of things we do", and let the predicate M(a) mean "a matters". Then translating the quote we have...

(∀a ∈ A: ¬M(a)) → (∀a: M(a) ↔ a ∈ A)
⇒ (∀a ∈ A: ¬M(a)) → (∀a: a ∈ A → M(a))
⇒ (∀a ∈ A: ¬M(a)) → (∀a ∈ A: M(a))
⇒ ¬(∀a ∈ A: M(a)) → (∀a ∈ A: M(a))

Therefore a corollary implication can be derived in which its antecedent implies its own negation. And that can only be true if the antecedent is false. In other words, that quote can only be true if everything we do matters.

I assume the author was trying to say that since nothing matters, people have to create their own meaning through their actions, but if anything, it says sort of the opposite.


You lost me.
  
(Note that I edited my post because I made a mistake, but the conclusion is only slightly different.)

The bottom line is that the only way for the quote to be true is if the "if" part is not true, so it must be the case that some things we do matter. I think it's a bad quote because I don't think that's the intended message.
  
I'll admit I sort of feel like you're trying to read a little too much into that, Hydrogen? I would take sayings/quotes like that in a more poetic sense than a pure logic sense.

Blamblim, that makes sense to me.
  
I feel like it's supposed to sound pithy and proverbial but just ends up saying nothing (or its own opposite, maybe). This on the other hand...
Blamblim said:
If there is no grand plan, no higher power, then the only meaning in our lives is drawn from how we interact in the here and now.
...is a coherent, meaningful proposition. Sounds like atheistic existentialism.
  
Yes. Clearly you don’t like one of my favorite quotes. I got it.
  
Applying formal logic to aphorisms seems unfair.
  
I mean, most aphorisms are still logically sound. "Whoever wins the war will never stop fighting." "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible." "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." But I'm not even saying that paradox is off the table. Consider Proverbs 26:4-5:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    or he will be wise in his own eyes.

This is an apparent paradox, but there is meaning beneath that paradox. The "nothing matters" quote isn't just poetic - it's semantically ambiguous.

I think there probably exists a modification of the phrase that is still somewhat snappy but that makes sense, like maybe "If nothing we do matters absolutely, then all that matters to us is what we do." Or something...
  
I don't think it's wrong for some aphorisms to be a sort of blank slate wherein one can find their own meaning and apply it as they will. This can be helpful, especially when someone is first starting to think about and determine their own beliefs. A quote like this one requires the reader to be an active participant and consider what *they* think it means and what *they* believe. It's fine to think the quote is pithy, but I also think it's a bit rude to drag it through the mud when someone else has assigned meaning to it and finds it to be important to them. It's okay for a quote to be a bit vague. It's not about adhering to strict logical rules, and, as Gray mentioned, seems a bit unfair.
  
The main prejudice I have against (Western) Atheists is that I think they have a persecution complex. I do have sympathy for Atheists in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc where Atheism carries the death penalty though. You're the only Atheist in a religious family and your perception is that Atheists are persecuted. But religious people in Atheist families perceive the opposite.
  
Yes. Atheist circlejerks exist and are horrible. I fully participated when I first became an atheist, but don't tend to anymore. That said I do support The Satanic Temple, an atheist organization that opposes overt Christianization in the USA, but an atheist crying persecution in New Zealand might as well be claiming blondes face unfair discrimination.
  
I mean, most aphorisms are still logically sound. "Whoever wins the war will never stop fighting." "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible." "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." But I'm not even saying that paradox is off the table. Consider Proverbs 26:4-5:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    or he will be wise in his own eyes.

This is an apparent paradox, but there is meaning beneath that paradox. The "nothing matters" quote isn't just poetic - it's semantically ambiguous.
I don’t think it’s the right place or time for that one. I think that given the glimpse OP gave us into their life, if you wanted to explain aphorisms, you should have read Proverbs 9:7-12 or Ecclesiastes 7:1-3. Or even any or all of Ecclesiastes chapter 1 given that you’re talking to an atheist.

Just please be careful with Proverbs 26:4-5.

By the way, it never hurts to read Ecclesiastes 3 every now and then.