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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On Atheism: The Meaning

I was raised a Hindu, in fact I am still a Hindu on official documents, but over the last few years I have increasingly been identifying with Atheism. For a long time, I had difficulty articulating my thoughts and the belief system; now that problem has been solved by Amit Varma in this post. He writes,
The conviction that there is no God is irrational because one cannot prove a negative. (How do you prove that something does not exist?) However, it is entirely rational to not believe in something whose existence has not been demonstrated. I don’t believe in dragons or fairies because no one has yet proved to me that they exist. Ditto God. I am not asserting that God does not exist, but simply saying that I don’t believe in the existence of God because I see no evidence of Him (or Her, or It). This is not a dogmatic position: if you can prove to me tomorrow that God or dragons exist, I will start to believe in them. Until then, I remain in disbelief.

Do read the whole thing.

8 comments:

Munmun said...

It's surprising and interesting I share the same line of thought. Similar views in this post:
http://seewhospeaks.blogspot.com/2008/04/thoughts-on-god-created-man.html

crazybunka said...

Joy,
I don't get Amit when he says that "not believing that there is god" is fundamentally different from "believing that there is no god".

Both of them are not assertions, they are "beliefs" ie we think they are probable, given the limited information that we possess.

when you don't believe you have are "the man", you believe you are not "the man". When you dont believe you can win, you believe you cant win. Whats the difference? Any thoughts??

I think his argument stems from the
view that non-believer is asserting .Given that a revelation is a joke or hallucination at best, a non-believer is only assigning a probability which is different from the probability given by the believer.

I don't think there is any point in assigning any probabilities. I know clearly that I don't have enough information.I don't believe in either direction.I think its pointless to waste time on this topic. So what if there is God, so what if there is no God?

As if we have free will..
-Shankar

Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
It is known as the differance between strong and weak atheism. For a metaphor...

Weak aTrixists don't believe the Trix rabbit exists.
http://www.myextralife.com/wow/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/harris_trix-rabbit_fv.jpg

Strong aTrixists are those who set out to show it is impossible for the Trix rabbit to exist.

Weak atheism is a lack of belief, and strong atheism is knowledge AND a lack of belief.

felicity said...

On the same lines, we cant prove the existance of God, but can we prove the non-existance of God?
How can we prove the absence/presence of anything that is just felt and never seen.
(I am not a god fearing person but it is nice to believe in some higher being who is supposedly in control of our lives).

"The very beginning of Genesis tells us that God created man in order to give him dominion over fish and fowl and all creatures. Of course, Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped for himself over the cow and the horse. Yes, the right to kill a deer or a cow is the only thing all of mankind can agree upon, even during the bloodiest of wars. "- Milan Kundera.

Munmun said...

Wow you have strong theists to tackle! But yeah, belief remains - that there is no evidence on either side of the table, so better take the shortest way out - deny existence...

Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
Here-
http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/moving-goal-posts.html

Puranjoy said...

@munmun,
No I don't have strong atheists to tackle :). Apart from anon(whom I don't know. D'uh!), the others are close friends, and I know them to be not so. I like the idea of the easy way out though.

@riya,
No, we cannot prove the non-existence of God. That's exactly the point the paragraph I quoted solved, and showed to be a logical fallacy and not a problem at all. I like Kundera's quote, and it happens to reflect something I have long suspected :). I agree the temptation to believe in some higher power is tremendous--during my weaker moments, I still long for a return to childhood when all my worries were taken care of by my parents.

@anon,
Thanks for the pointer. Given that the concept of 'God' is different than rabbits, I think it will be very difficult to conclusively prove that God cannot exist, ergo I remain a weak atheist, I guess. [The 'weak'-I want to point out to others-refers to the weakness of the assertion, not the logic thereof.]

@Shankar,
I saved the response for last because I wanted you to look at what I wrote to Riya(Felicity) and Anon. That should help you understand Amit's point, and mine.
Anon's point about strong and weak atheist addresses your question.
Personally, I think 'weak atheistm' is the more rational and logical position; but I am not going to argue against a fellow atheist :)
But yeah, no point in wasting time, hehe

crazybunka said...

Check out the wicked site that google ad words threw up for your post.

If not for this topic on the blog, this gem would've remained hidden from our view.

Made me laugh ,made you richer ..Glory to God.
-Shankar