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Why do Atheists argue with the faithful? (a response to CertifiedHandy's question)

Updated on June 19, 2013
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Why bring this matter to the table?

I am writing this hub for an unusual reason. A hubber who I have noticed raise his impassioned and faithful voice on a number of occasions asked a question which I found intriguing. I wrote an answer which I felt was both rational and appropriate... yet when I went back to see what response was given - I found he had deleted my answer out of hand without responding to it. At first I was a little hurt at such lack of consideration... then I thought back over my words and phraseology only to realize just how pompous and self-righteous had been the manner in which I had given my opinion. I had attempted to express a middle-ground opinion... but I had used a language of anger and frustration to say it. This, I believe, is half the problem with this type of discussion. The subject matter is a touch-paper for emotional responses.

In this hub, I shall attempt to make good on my original intention and make the middle-ground case again. This time, I will give the subject matter the time and respect it deserves.

From Catholicism...
From Catholicism... | Source
To rational Atheism...
To rational Atheism... | Source
To a more open minded approach...
To a more open minded approach...

And so to the meat of the matter...

I was brought up a staunch Roman Catholic and was very much a believer for many years. Then I began to read philosophy. I also developed at the same time a growing interest in science. This lead me to lose my faith utterly. For a long time, and right through my years studying philosophy at university I was one of those creatures whom CertifiedHandy so reviles... a passionately atheist and anti-religious fellow with a chip on his shoulder about being lied to by the church.

I have since moderated my opinion and do in fact believe in the existence of a supreme creative Being whose essence is our entire existence.

The reason I hope that my opinion might be of some value in coming to understand why people argue in the way they do against the idea of there being a God is simply because I have been (in the past) one of those Atheists who argue from such a position.

Essentially what I ask for from both sides of this debate is only what Jesus himself taught - and that is tolerance and understanding. It is not necessary to fill oneself with righteous anger. If you truly believe in the teachings of Christ then forgive and move on. Do not rise to the venom behind your opposer's words (if such exists). The same goes for the Atheists. Do not let the evangelists rile you so! Remember that they evangelize essentially because they truly believe that if you do not convert you are going to hell, and they want to 'save your soul'. You can understand their raging and passionate displays when you see yourself through their eyes. The fact that you may see that narrow view of you and your beliefs as a gross distortion is immaterial to the fact that most of them genuinely think they're trying to help you. Their intentions are not bad - they merely believe different things about the world than you.

I heard a Psychology lecture on itunes-U about emotion-regulation recently in which the Professor (Dr. James Gross) said something that really struck a chord with me. He pointed out that a lot of the time, people allow themselves to be ruled by their emotions because of a common misconception. This is the misconception that there is nothing between an event and our reaction to it. In other words, we perceive something and then react to it. What Dr. Gross points out, is that there is always something between the thing we perceive and our reaction to it... and that thing is a belief. What that belief (or group of beliefs) is, determines how we react to the stimulus. This is an incredibly empowering thing to realize because beliefs can be changed by choice! This means that we have a lot more choice in how we react to things emotionally than initially assumed by most people.

It is also a demonstrable scientific fact that emotionally charged people, especially angry ones, are measurably less capable of using their reasoning abilities in a coherent or effective way. Yup, that's right, you literally become less capable of rational thought and (equally frustrating) less capable of expressing yourself fully, when you are angry. This is why it's a good idea to cool down before responding to anything that has been said to you that really hit a nerve. It is one of the reasons many people have so many fights that end unsatisfactorily in their relationships.

These same traits are obvious also in discussions of faith - and in fact that example is analogous on several levels, but I digress...


...Speaking from experience I can say honestly that for those Atheists who once had real faith - there is pain and trauma and an immense feeling of betrayal that comes with losing one's faith. That naturally makes one antagonistic towards those who (In the eyes of that sort of Atheist) stand for not only the lies they believe they have been told, but also as a reminder of what they have lost. This was the case with myself but it is not the case with all Atheists. Indeed a large percentage (and growing) were raised in secular households with no indoctrination of any creed or dogma.

I have read on some hubs and answers to questions the opinion of many Christians who seem to believe that all Atheists are simply people who have lost their faith and are bitter and argumentative about it. To be honest - many secularists I know (very moral people all) rarely consider even bringing up the topic. It just isn't relevant to them or their lives. They aren't bitter about anything. If they get riled with a Christian it is because they are being preached at or judged for their beliefs. The number of times I have heard a none-believer express incredulity over the hypocrisy of people who profess to follow Christ's teachings and yet go about judging people and behaving in a most UN-Christian way is quite depressing.

The thing I try to remember in these moments, is that it is not Christianity that is at fault... but rather those professing to be Christian and yet not behaving according to their own beliefs.

Let me not give the impression in defending Christianity that I am Christian truly though... I am a believer in God only. I believe in aspiring to be 'Christ-like' but also 'Bhudda-like' and on and on. Fill in the name of the enlightened holy-man as you please. There are more similarities between the teachings of all of these great teachers than there are differences. They all preach love, peace, equality, respect, unity and enlightenment in their own way. All paths lead to the same place. All roads are but one road seen from different angles along the way.

A clear explanation of common mistakes made when people argue a point

CertifiedHandy's addendum...

In an addendum to his original question, CertifiedHandy asked whether it was rational to argue against something which one doesn't believe in. Unfortunately, the fact that this question was even asked demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of what the word 'rational' means. For the elucidation of those who are unclear, 'rational' means: Based on or in accordance with reason or logic (web definition). Let us answer this using formal logic then...

Premise A: An argument is an attempt to persuade someone to adopt a belief about something using reason or logic.

Premise B: The Atheist position that there is no God is a belief.

Premise C: The Theist position that there is a God is also a belief.

Conclusion: Since both Atheistic and Theistic positions are beliefs and to argue either position requires reasoning, (remember we have already ascertained that 'rational' means 'based on reason or logic') then it follows that an argument in favor of either position can be considered rational.

This will stick in the craw of any Atheist who doesn't like to consider their beliefs 'knowledge'... but the rules of logic are strict, and they apply equally. It is not rational to claim that you 'know' there is not such a thing as God any more than it is rational to claim that you 'know' that there is one.

Besides this rather strict approach to the question at hand... what about the sheer common sense of it. To somone raised in a secular way with no upbringing of faith it would seem utterly irrational to believe in something they have had no personal experience of nor any cultural reason to accept that it is true. 'So what if you have an old book that says stuff in it about God and whatknot?' You may here them cry, 'I believe only empirical evidence that is testable and measurable!'

To conclude...

I could go full on into a debate here as to the pros and cons for and against the existence of God... but that is not the point of this hub. The question was: Why do Atheists argue with the faithful? I came to these conclusions:

  1. Those who 'lost their faith' have strong negative emotional reactions to their past beliefs and so react emotionally when confronted with those beliefs.
  2. Those with a secular upbringing feel put upon by those proselytizers of what seems to them an irrational and erroneous way of viewing the world.

The addendum question was: Is it rational to argue against something you don't believe? My conclusion was simply that the answer is actually contained in the question. It is always rational to argue for or against a belief. It is only accurate to say a belief is irrational - it is not so accurate to say arguing for or against a belief is irrational. Argument by dint of its nature is necessarily a rational process.

I may at some point approach the subject of what I believe rather than talk about the beliefs of others... but I will leave that for next time I think. Peace :)

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    • FriendofTruth profile image

      FriendofTruth 4 years ago from Michigan

      You're article and information has been useful to me in trying to understand why atheists argue with the faithful. I appreciate how you explained that Christians usually have good intentions when trying to explain salvation to atheists - how they are trying to save people from eternal hell. And I can understand how people that are raised without theistic beliefs would completely misunderstand Christians and reject what they believe. However, what I don't understand, is when atheists rail on God and try to blame Him for everything bad under the sun - even though they don't believe in Him. (Which seems totally contradictory.) Do you find that this behavior usually comes from the atheists who once were believers and turned from their beliefs rather than those who have never believed?

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      Deepes Mind 4 years ago

      This is a well written and objective hub.. Thumbs up

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      @FriendofTruth - Thanks for the comment! Yes I think it is safe to say that if you are talking to an Atheist and they rail against God and lay blame on him for things despite saying he doesn't exist it is most likely that they once believed... I recall doing something along these lines in the early days of my Atheism. It is difficult to get out of the linguistic habit of referring to a creator as an external source of either good or ill when it has been built into our thinking and speech patterns for so long. I used to say 'If I die and wake up at heaven's gate I will turn around and walk away because I have no interest in a God who is responsible for so much suffering.'

      @ Deepes Mind - Thanks for the comment. I know the emotion still coloured my words unintentionally still. It is so hard not to let this subject do that to us... but I have done better than before:)

    • FriendofTruth profile image

      FriendofTruth 4 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for your insight, it has definitely been helpful!

    • Borsia profile image

      Borsia 4 years ago from Currently, Philippines

      Atheist blame a god, or gods, for things that are bad?

      To me, as a lifelong atheist, that sounds rather absurd. How could a non-existent deity be to blame for anything bad, or good for that matter.

      I suspect that this view is being taken because atheists ask why theists who believe that everything good comes from a god refuse to give that deity any blame for everything bad.

      IE: when this creator was making all of the creatures on the land, in the water and the sky, and his chosen favorite man, why did he create parasites that plague all of these animals without any concern for their piousness. Certainly he knew that the lives of so many including the deepest believers and most faithful would become a living hell ending in excruciating death.

      As an atheist I don't blame any gods for this. They are, after all, products of evolution.

      The same holds true for diseases as well and in the broadest sense of evolution, on a planetary scale, natural disasters.

      There is a very big difference in what the author is calling beliefs.

      A lack of belief is very different than a presence of a belief.

      A true atheist simply sees no reason to believe gods exist, it is that simple.

      We aren't conflicted or upset about this and while there can be a bit of anger at those trying so hard to tell us, more like yell us, that gods exist. There is annoyance when they try to use meaningless threats of eternal damnation. If you are really an atheist you don't believe there is anything after death, that we will return to the elements from which we came.

      But we aren't angry or even mildly roused that there aren't any gods.

      Most atheists that I know never sit around contemplating their non-belief. We don't gather in groups to practice not believing, though there is occasionally some mention about forming a non-church, because for the most part we don't have all that much in common to lead us to gather.

      For me personally the only time I give any thought to the subject is when I am online answering questions like this one. Or when I see religion being injected into government, education or laws.

      I am somewhat amused when people try to tell me about all of the things that Jesus taught when we really have little actual knowledge give that the first writings about it came 40 years after his death, from people who never could have known him or heard him. Even the evidence that he ever existed at all is next to none and most of his “life / death” story doesn't make much sense.

      I will point out that Buddha has never been considered to be a god of any kind by Buddhist.

      He was a real person with a philosophy that appeals to them and a great knowledge of humanity.

      He was a great teacher. In fact unlike the western perception, taken mostly from Hollywood, Buddhist monks aren't referred to as Master or some other superior heading they are simply called Teacher.

      I will through in that I am an atheist from a secular background.

      I was never taught anything about religion other than that it is something that everyone should figure out for themselves when they come to that bridge in life.

      I was called out on the subject numerous times in school in a time when prayers in school were commonplace, and that did anger me.

    • CertifiedHandy profile image

      Chaplain Bernell Wesley 4 years ago from Jonesboro,Georgia

      to all those who choose to belief that God does not exist that its ok to believe that as much so as it is for me to believe that He exists. This is usually where the name calling starts. They simply don't want people to believe in God.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you for commenting CertifiedHandy - and thank you for firing me up enough to spill out this hub :)

      I agree that people who don't believe in God also don't want to believe in God. There is simply no need for it given their world view. Having been an Atheist, I can say that as far as I could see during that time, the concept of God would not have added to my understanding of the world but would have detracted from it. It is often the perception of secularists that to believe in God is to deny certain scientific truths... and this leads to backward thinking and a slowing of human progress. Logically speaking you can see why this perception has come about.

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 4 years ago from Tennesee

      Dan, this is one of the most intelligent and clear-headed Hubs I've ever read. You make some fantastic points.

      I also loved CertifiedHandy's observation.

      As for me, I feel there is a huge difference between a personal faith and institutionalized religion. For all the understanding I have for atheists who dislike the wrongs that have been committed throughout the ages by institutionalized religion, the sad truth is too many atheists have taken up the same intolerant practices as those they condemn. These kind of atheists have become zealots, driven by an insatiable desire to control the actions and beliefs of everyone else, and their pompous wrath shows..much like those the supporters of the Inquisition.

      Voted up, fantastic commentary on the subject.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you bethperry! You are quite right of course. There really is a huge difference between personal faith and institutionalized religion. Though I do believe in God I do not consider myself a Christian really. I certainly don't subscribe to the necessity of wearing nicer clothes than usual and attending a special building where a someone with no more direct experience of the divine than anyone else reads things at me from a book that I already own and read.

      As for intolerant practices... I think we can simply say that that behavior is part of the human condition as it stands. No faith is to blame for atrocities... the people who perpetrate the atrocities are to blame. If those people don't use a faith-based excuse, they use an economic one, or a racial one etc etc.

      Any justification for an evil act is bullshit. Any reason extrapolated is irrelevant. The only truth is in the deed. Do as Kant did - universalize the action. Is it right to do that thing in all circumstances? No? Then there is no justification. Of course... then we could get into a debate about Kantian ethics vs Utilitarianism and we'd be here all night long so I think I'll just stop right there :)

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      @ Borsia - sorry for taking so long with my response. I just wrote a rather long speil which then accidentally got deleted and I'm going to have to go and cool down a bit before I try again :/

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      You know what they say, 'Man invented God in his own image'. There was an 'institutional need' back in the days of yore to invent gods, because fellow men wouldn't take orders from a 'mere mortal'. Fast forward to a Pythonesque situation like that in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Arthur comes to a castle owned by a collective and one of the peasants (Michael Palin) delivers a dialectic discussion about owner-ship and responsibility etc., taken from Marx probably.

      Who was right, 'Arthur' (Graham Chapman), blindly following his Christian goal or peasant arguing his corner, Oxford Debating Society-style?

      We are in the 21st Century, with rocket science, physics and the 'skeleton' of the universe dissected and laid out before us on a slab. Is there really a need to blindly follow an idea laid down all those millenia ago to control the minds of people too bolshy to obey the laws of man but willing to believe in a superior being?

      The institutionalised beliefs have been shown lacking, so spiritually bereft souls wander off to discover Buddha etc, and others have broken away to establish evangelical societies. Back then the Quakers and Methodists braved the fury of the established churches to follow their own goals, these days there is no argument.

      'Get on with it' is the message now from a secular society when a new branch of the faithful wants to set up 'shop'. Mosques are the 'in-thing' these days on the high Street. In others words 'no big deal'.

      You won't find the Roman Catholic church arguing any more either because they've got enough skeletons in the cupboard to be getting on with.

      So you've got these folk branching out unofficially on their own account, following their own agenda of evangelism. Where does all this lead? What does it tell you? You won't be visited by a bolt of lightning any more. 'God is love' is the latest mantra, the old Jehovah having been discarded largely. Society was 'closed shop' before, so you could crunch the bones of outsiders or miscreants such as heretics. Not so any more, eh?

      A more 'salesworthy' god-figure is needed, smiling, gently cuffing the unruly... Ah, can't do that any more, either. God wouldn't look good in the dock in a case of 'Actual Bodily Harm' at the local magistrates bench, would he now? (This is getting Pythonesque, isn't it, more on the lines of 'The Life of Brian' - always look on the bright side of life, tada-tada...) Remember the end of 'Holy Grail', with Arthur being carted off in handcuffs by the local constabulary?

      Me? What do I believe? Ah, now that would be telling, wouldn't it - it's like being asked my age!

    • savvydating profile image

      savvydating 4 years ago

      You've written a very objective piece, which I very much enjoyed reading. Your hub lacked anger, which is generally apparent in other hubs regarding athiesm that I have read. I appreciated that.

      I wish you well in your continued spiritual journey.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for the comment savvydating! The realisation that my emotions do not necessarily have relevance to objective truth, and that I can in fact excerpt a degree of control over them in times when a clear head is needed, is one of the most life-changing conclusions I have yet reached. Since then my capacity to retain a sense of the 'bigger picture' has grown immensely. I feel able to think clearly in a way that is helping me to continue making better choices about the direction in which I am taking my life. I know I have a ways to go... But it gladdens me to read that my efforts are noticeable. Peace :)

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      @ Borsia - You reference that most famous argument for Atheism in your comment (thank you for stopping by and giving your opinion by the way) 'The Problem of Evil'. This is actually the main argument that caused me to lose my faith and turn Atheist all those years back. It is a good argument - however it falls down in that it doesn't really cast doubt on the existence of God in some form - it only casts doubt on the existence of a God who is like the one portrayed by the Christian ideology as all-loving, merciful and personally interested in each of us.

      I would love to know what you believe - this topic has alot of ground left to cover. My recent research has lead me to some interesting places - and I am increasingly excited about the possibilities... however, as I said above this is the subject for another hub.

    • Borsia profile image

      Borsia 4 years ago from Currently, Philippines

      Dan I grew up in a secular home and formed my atheism on my own at an early age. My parents never said anything bad about religion or expressed their doubt in the existence of a god, they even encouraged us to try going to church.

      I grew up in a time when religion was pushed in schools and felt the hostility of Christians first hand so I have a pretty low regard for anyone who pushes their beliefs on others.

      I've never seen atheist try to push non-belief but I suppose it could happen.

      I see atheist respond to rather than initiate arguments about faith and gods.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      I agree that the prediliction of the zealous faithful to push their religious dogmas on others can be trying. I occasionally console myself with the point that they do this proselitizing from a place of care - they wish to 'save' the people they are trying to convert. On the other hand... this is not always the case. I thoroughly deplore those who push their faith on others purely because they cannot tolerate world views that are different to their own.

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 4 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Great thinking! Thanks.

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 4 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      Dan,

      I saw the same question by CH and stepped softly around it. Your 'attempt to make good on your original intention and make the middle-ground case again,' giving 'the subject matter the time and respect it deserves' is commendable.

      As you bring out well, it is not just what we write or say but the motive and energy we put behind it - 'I had used a language of anger and frustration to say it.'

      Did I tell you the story of when a Christan asked Kati and me our religion? His car had broken down and we were giving him a ride across Maui. It had been a long day, we were tired and I was driving and decided to let Kati answer (cowardly me.) She answered beautifully in broken English, perfect Katian, "We follow an inner religion. Only, it is not really a religion and we don't really follow it."

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for the comment Emmanate Presence! I love Kati's explanation of your religion! What a fabulous thing to say. I am currently trying to find both the words and the courage to put my current belief system into a hub. It is proving tricky :) - It doesn't help that it is constantly changing and growing. Perhaps I need to leave it a couple of years until I really know what the hell I'm talking about. My ideas are too nebulous for a whole theory of reality that is coherent in all its parts... perhaps if I tackle it just a bit at a time it will help me to decide what I really believe. I think in the least, the process will help me winkle out any assumptions or incoherent beliefs in my current system...

    • days leaper profile image

      days leaper 4 years ago from england

      Thank You... Had I seen this Hub, I would have had no need to create the question. I certainly won't delete your answer. And will read this hub more thoroughly when I have more time.

      Incidentally. Did Western Philosophy ever come up with any reasonable answer to the question:-

      "If a tree falls in an area of woodland where no-one is about, does it make a sound?"

      And the question, I find quite silly, and it put me off studying philosophy altoogether -with the above. Especially as the answer recieved an A grade!

      The tutor puts a chair out for the class to see, and asks Q. Prove to me this chair exists!

      Most struggled the guy who got the A. Grade answer. More likely for answering a silly question with a silly answer! wrote on the exam paper. A. What Chair!

      It does show here that If you don't believe something, you can't be made to by any-one else, not truly made to. Not if you don't want to etc.

      ...Oh, my answer re. the tree. The sound is the same whether it is heard or not!

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Hi ther day leaper - thanks for the comment! In answer to your question about the tree falling incident I would say that while there hasn't been a conclusive answer... most philosophers reject the proposition that there isn't a sound when the tree falls. This question comes from a school of thought called 'ideology' (as in idea-ology) which states that the outside world only exists when we are percieving it. If this were true then with no-one percieving it there would be no sound, no tree and no forest.

      In answer to a question about ideology from one of his philosophy students, Bishop Berkely promptly kicked a rock and said: "I refute it, thus!"

      As to proving the chair exists... well I fall in the camp of the empiricists when it comes to theory of knowledge. This basically means that all we can really know about the world is that which we understand through observation of it. I trust my sense because they are the only frame of reference I have and to concern myself with anything else is a waste of time. If I see it there and I touch it and it feels solid... having concluded that my senses are to be trusted for the most part (except when it comes to illusions and hallucinations) then I must conclude that the chair really is there.

    • CertifiedHandy profile image

      Chaplain Bernell Wesley 4 years ago from Jonesboro,Georgia

      I wasn't going to approach this but since you have attracted so many responses I thought it appropriate: You wrote an interesting rebuttal or answer of sorts but you based your whole premise or position on two misunderstood points. One that I "revile" Atheists, totally not true and two, the condescending statement that I don't understand "rational". My whole point was that beliefs are rational, even insane beliefs. I don't have a problem with people who don't believe in God as their belief will not in any way negate my beliefs nor the existence of God. I wrote the Hub to say that the right to believe in God or not to believe in God is both rational and equal. The irrationality comes in when one feels a need to argue that God doesn't exist if they don't believe in God; I hope this helps you ... His In Service

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Hi there CertifiedHandy - perhaps revile was too stong a word... but the tone of your writing suggests in the very least that you find them extremely irritating.

      As to the rationality issue, I merely pointed out that your usage of the word didn't make sense in the context in which you were using it. I stand by that. Semantics are important, even if they are annoying on occassion. Clarity about the usage of terms needs to be maintained in order that we can be sure our readership is taking on board the concepts we are trying to impart in the manner which we intended. I personally welcome such critique of my own writing - I do not claim in any way to get it right all the time myself. If someone points out an error I am happy to make changes should their objection prove meaningful.

      As to the suggestion that arguing against God's existence is irrational if you don't believe in His existence... that is frankly absurd. Let me give you an equivilent example:

      I don't believe in the existence of Unicorns. Say I got into conversation with somebody who tried to persuade me that unicorns were in fact real using only an old book as his source of authority. Is it irrational for me to argue from my own experience of the world that Unicorns don't exist after all? I don't think so.

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 4 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      "I think in the least, the process will help me winkle out any assumptions or incoherent beliefs in my current system..."

      That sounds very familiar! There was an event in my life in the early 90s. I was a born again Christian, and one Sunday read 'This Present Darkness,' a novel about the battle between good and evil. There was a segment about a young minister going to the home of a woman and casting demons out of her. She convulsed, her teeth clenched, her eyes rolled back, and foam came from her mouth.

      THAT NIGHT, after I fell asleep, I was awakened by the convulsions of my wife. Her eyes were rolled back in her head. Her teeth were clenched, she foamed at the mouth. I tried to cast demons out of her. I shouted, 'The blood of Jesus against you Satan!' When nothing changed, I called 911. We learned she had a brain tumor and it was an epileptic seizure.

      That was a 'wake-up call' to review my beliefs. I found they did not hold up under scrutiny. I had let too much come through unfiltered. In 2000 I made a big change to be true to myself. It set me on a course of incredible adventure and more aliveness than I had ever experienced before. The turning point was when I sat down and wrote out 'what I believe and why.'

      Writing as in a journal was therapeutic in that period of my life. It helped me make connections and see some sense in the string of events that formed my story. It also brought me to some hard choices. I have no regrets.

      I wish you the best on your journey!

    • CertifiedHandy profile image

      Chaplain Bernell Wesley 4 years ago from Jonesboro,Georgia

      It is indeed irrational if after the argument nothing changes yet the argument persists. You believe in Unicorns, I have a personal relationship with God. I dare not deprive you of your unicorns why me my God? I don't have to "prove" that He exists and in like fashion no "Atheist" in the world can disprove my "belief". Everything that exists is for and because of Him, even science and its foundation of empirical evidence and macro-evolution. In order for the notion of evolution to take place something has to exist. You might disagree and I have no problem with that but to frame or reframe your argument against God in order to disuade my beliefs is, one again, irrational...

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you so much for the comment Emanate Presence, I wish you well on your journey also!

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      You "Dare not deprive me of my Unicorns" CertifiedHandy?!!! That is utterly ridiculous. Any man with a rational mind who someone is trying to persuade to believe something there is no proof for is entirely rational to come up with a counter-argument to support his own position! Of course you would dare to deprive me of my unicorns! Society wouldn't function if people didn't question and challenge assumptions and beliefs. No progress can be made without asking such questions! As I have mentioned in my hub, I do believe in God. I cannot however support the idea that it is irrational to challenge my beliefs. My beliefs would hold no value whatsoever if I believed them blindly. They have value because they have stood up under intense scrutiny. I will never say my beliefs are the "Truth" because that is unknowable. All I can say is that my system of beliefs is the best and most coherent approximation of the Truth that I can cobble together from my own experience of the world. You do not have to believe in the same things as me CertifiedHandy, I expect you to make your own best judgement based upon your own experience.

      If you exchanged the word irrational in your original question for "foolhardy" I would, however, have to agree with you. Atheists trying to persuade people who really believe in God that there isn't one, is a task so monumentally difficult, it's pretty damn pointless trying.

    • CertifiedHandy profile image

      Chaplain Bernell Wesley 4 years ago from Jonesboro,Georgia

      "its pretty damn pointless trying" is exactly why such an argument is irrational. Making my "own best judgement based upon" my "own experience" is exactly why I believe in God. I don't expect an Atheist to believe in God if he/she has not experienced Him... His In Service

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      Deepes Mind 4 years ago

      The issue is not whether an atheist has or has not "experienced God". The main question is whether or not there is a more logical explanation for the experience.

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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      I suspect that we shall never see eye to eye on this particular matter CertifiedHandy. I do see your point - I just don't agree (for reasons already mentioned). It has been a diverting debate, however, and I thank you for that.

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      days leaper 4 years ago from england

      eh, ??? Deepess Mind. I think I've missed something? But if you have an experience that may be of a God, and your wondering whether it was or wasn't. Then isn't that the same as making an issue of whether the person has or hasn't experienced God???

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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      A fair point Deepes Mind. What is the difference between wondering if you've had a spiritual experience and making an argument for or against someone else's position on their experience? Is that what you are asking?

      The basic difference that leaps out as far as I can see, is that in one case somebody is wrestling with a personal interpretation of a personal experience... in the other somebody is trying to persuade that person that their interpretation of their own personal experience is incorrect. This is difficult territory. Nobody has knowledge of somebody elses experience directly so how could they have authority enough to reasonably expect the other to change their mind. On the other hand, if the person who had the experience believes a misconception or is ignorent of something which might change their interpretion perhaps it is necessary for the other fellow to argue with them to correct their misconception.

      This may be unresolvable since how can we know which of the two parties has the misconception, and which has the truth....

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      Deepes Mind 4 years ago

      It wasn't a question. Certified mentioned that he didn't believe an atheist would believe in God if he/she never experienced God. My point was that whatever the experience is that could be God the atheist will find another explanation for the occurrence.

      As long as there is a specific chance of something happening then they will accept that reason rather than say God did it

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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Ah! Thanks for clarifying that :)

      You are of course correct. The theist has an experience and as a result of his belief system interprets it in a spiritual way. The atheist interprets the very same experience when he/she has it through the lense of his/her own beliefs about the world.

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      days leaper 4 years ago from england

      A good discussion, leads, I think, to another question. How do you go about deciding who is right? Or does it even matter? The person who has, for his/her own reasoning has found their proof for themself. And can be happy that there maker is trying to comfort them. Whilst at the same time the Atheist seems delighted that they can reason it away as nothing and once again pat themselves on the back for having superior reasoning skills. (much conjecture with the latter as I'm not an atheist, so can only guess such motives). God bless, or Good Luck be with you -whatever of these sayings makes you all feel better!

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      Deepes Mind 4 years ago

      Excellent question.. The best answer to that one is that you don't decide who is right or wrong. You have to live as according to what works best for you and your life. The sooner people (Both believers and non believers) realize this fact the better we all would be.. Then again if we all come to that understanding, there will be a lot fewer discussions like this on Hubpages

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      Chaplain Bernell Wesley 4 years ago from Jonesboro,Georgia

      @Deepes, you totally misunderstood my point. The point is it is nearly impossible if not totally impossible for an Atheist to believe in God because they can't experience Him because they reject that He exists - And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

      But it is all good. My point in raising the question in the first place was to say I don't dislike or vilify Atheists. They have a right to not believe but I also have a right to believe, and I choose to ... His In Service

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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      I have one bone of contention with something in your most recent comment CertifiedHandy... That it is impossible for for an Atheist to experience God. With a deeper understanding of some aspects of God's nature comes the realisation that it is impossible to have any experience without experiencing God since everything that exists, is God, and we have experiences with things that exist every moment of the day. What the atheist will never have without a complete turn-around in their world view, is a knowing experience of God. They do not interpret the world in this way. To be honest, the more I read into modern science and mathematics, the more I believe that the differences in the core beliefs between scientists and religious folk are mainly semantic in nature. Different labels, same stuff.

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      Borsia 4 years ago from Currently, Philippines

      Of course the first thing anyone must do to discus the possibility of a god/s is to define what they consider a god to be.

      Atheist don't believe that a Christian type omnipresent super being (IE: Bible god) exists and there certainly isn't any evidence of such.

      We aren't bothered by this or that we don't have all the answers to life's mysteries.

    • days leaper profile image

      days leaper 4 years ago from england

      Perhaps God is a Scientist, perhaps one of his experiments is who/m will believe despite the lack of tangible evidence?

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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Lol!! Now that is a good thought experiment! What if God is a scientist? Marvellous! My father always used to tell me that God is a mathematician.

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      Chaplain Bernell Wesley 4 years ago from Jonesboro,Georgia

      @Dan, I agree. This is one reason former Atheists make powerful believers, they understand the relationship of science and religion, whereas most believers never question their beliefs. Most religious people are worst than Atheists; they believe but they can't express why. Same stuff but clothed in different language... HIS

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      Deepes Mind 4 years ago

      I agree, Certified. I used to be one of those believers that believed without a clear reason why. This is the product of indoctrination. To believe without asking questions.

    • days leaper profile image

      days leaper 4 years ago from england

      Similarly, I didn't know what to believe. One day I met some-one callingg himself a "Psychic Master". He gave me this...

      Sit or kneel down, recite the Lords prayer. Then Ask "Please God, if you do exist. Then give me proof and I will believe." Amen.

      Give iit about a week to ten days, he said.

      I got my proof! Only this part I won't share as it is a very personal, subjective thing. Suffice to say I got my proof having not asked for anything specific, and so I've kept my word!

    • exphoebe profile image

      exphoebe 4 years ago

      Your article sounds a little bias. Have you actually talked to an atheist and asked this question? I am an atheist. The only reason I would argue with a christian, muslim, or other deist would be if they'd be pushing their belief on me or others and would attempt to make their beliefs a law that everybody has to abide by. There is more evidence that there are no gods than proofs that there are. Faith/belief is based on emotions nothing else. If there is such a thing as a God/gods I would imagine him/her racist and as a women hater. It's fine for people to belief in gods etc. as long as they do not force that belief on others including their own children.

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      days leaper 4 years ago from england

      exphoebe: I work with an Atheist, a self confessed out and out Atheist! (capital A.) We have some quite interesting, if albeit somewhat secular discussions! I don't think God is a woman hater at all. Try to remember that Faith is a feeling of knowing without needing any/much actual proof. I have mine, some may say it was an illusion. But even if it was a so called Illusion can they proof that an illusion isn't actually something real? -A real experience. No-one else was around, every-one was asleep. It didn't wake any-one or cause any-one or anything any harm. And by rights should be left at that. I fell asleep again, and when I woke in the morning having asked it to leave, it had gone. No repeat showing since, to speak of. I did ask for the proof though, and would say if you're not ready to, don't.

      There is a Les Dawson joke about a man who tried Atheism, but he gave it up as he was getting no holidays!

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      @ exphoebe - The fact that you asked the question "Have you actually talked to an atheist and asked this question?" indicates to me that you have not actually read this article. As I stated more than once, I was an Atheist myself for years and have many friends who still are. Your conclusion that you, as an atheist, would only argue about this subject area if someone of faith was pushing their beliefs on you, was one of of the two answers that I reached in my conclusion. Please, if you are going to leave a comment, do not leap to conclusions about the content without actually reading it. Thank you.

    • exphoebe profile image

      exphoebe 4 years ago

      I should have asked: "Have you actually asked this question to an atheist?" Sorry!

      Your conclusions stated: "Those who 'lost their faith' have strong negative emotional reactions to their past beliefs and so react emotionally when confronted with those beliefs.

      Those with a secular upbringing feel put upon by those proselytizers of what seems to them an irrational and erroneous way of viewing the world." Nothing that explains the "emotional reaction".

      Once again Atheist's in general do not seek to confront theists because like you mentioned the general attitude towards "believers" is that they are not using their intellect rather their emotions/feelings. And Atheist do not want to abide by laws and ordinances that were based on such. Pushing believes on non-believers is really the issue.

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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Clearly I have not been clear in the full meaning I intednded to impart in the second conclusion. By saying: "Those with a secular upbringing feel put upon by those proselytizers of what seems to them an irrational and erroneous way of viewing the world." ... I was including those atheists who are happily living there lives when evangelists come and try and persuade them that Jesus is Lord, condoms are bad etc.

      I never made any suggestion that Atheists in general seek out confrontation on this subject - in fact as I stated in the body of this piece, most secularists I know simply don't find it relevent and thus never talk about it unless somebody else brings it up.

      It is foolish however to say that there are no atheists out there who do seek to create these debates (Dawkins, Hitchins et al). Where I think their methods (particularly Dawkins) can be somewhat bullish and sometimes counterproductive, it is important to have some people out there asking difficult questions. The God delusion was a well researched book and raised some very interesting points especially with regards to evolutionary psychology. I also agree that the indoctrination of children to culturaly specific religious dogmas should not be allowed.

    • exphoebe profile image

      exphoebe 4 years ago

      Yes, militant atheists exist and speak their mind publicly, if there was no one speaking out in behalf of atheists, theists would run the show and would make laws according to their belief alone.

      But as said before generally atheists keep to themselves and only speak out when their beliefs are threatened. The header of your article sort of suggests that atheists seek it out arguments. I guess it is a matter of interpretation.

      To often theists are the attackers and there would not be any wars if beliefs were strictly kept within the walls of peoples homes.

      I agree with what Ingersoll once said: "This earth will be paradise when men can, upon all these questions differ, and yet grasp each other's hands as friends. It is amazing to me that a difference of opinion upon subjects that we know nothing with certainty about, should make us hate, persecute, and despise each other."

    • exphoebe profile image

      exphoebe 4 years ago

      days leaper: many statements in the bible are misogynistic.

      Here some examples:

      1 Timothy 2:12

      "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[a] she must be quiet."

      Genesis 19:5-8:

      "They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them."

      Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."

      Isaiah 19:16:

      "In that day the Egyptians will be like women. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the LORD Almighty raises against them. "

      1 Corinthians 14:34:

      "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says."

      Genesis 3:16:

      To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

      1 Corinthians 11:5:

      "And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved."

      Wikipedia:

      Misogyny (pron.: /mɪˈsɒdʒɪni/) is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women. Misogyny has been characterised as a prominent feature of the mythologies of the ancient world as well as various religions. In addition, many influential Western philosophers have been described as misogynistic.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      @ exphoebe - though on the face of it many a war and conflict has religion at its root I find this idea doesn't hold up in most cases. I wrote a hub on the subject which I invite you to apply your most engaging style of critique to :) shameless plug I know, but it is a good debate and I welcome challengers to the views I express. How can we improve our knowledge if we do not test

      our ideas in the furnace of others' criticism after all?

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Not having seen an answer on my earlier comment, I'll raise a new oddity. You've now got a new Bishop of Rome (aka 'pope') who's an Argentinian Jesuit leader, Jorge, cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires, a theological thorn in the largely secular Argentinian government (led by a woman who seems to have more than a passing influence of German [Kirchner] regugee from justice). Apparently he's been getting on their 'wicks' telling them off about their human rights abuses. This is a bit of a shift on clerical and secular roles. Is he going to further his political profile from Rome, or will he 'go global' and widen his interests? This is an interesting case of pastoral care being taken to a new level. It would be the first time British political interests became aligned with Rome's (!)

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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Apologies for not answering your earlier comment alancaster149! In answer to it... well... um. Is there a need to believe in a superior being? Well... no. It is not necessary in any way to believe in such a thing in order to to survive, or even to live a fulfilling existence. However, I'm not sure that 'need' has ever been the point. Certainly various institutions have always told us that we must believe this or that so that something or other does or doesn't happen in this life or the next... but the institutions have piss all to do with personal faith and I wouldn't trust them if I was paid to.

      As to God's criminal record... well I have a personal definition of what God is, and the stories attributed to Him rarely match up with anything that actually makes any sense. If God is Yaweh and he is as described in the old testement- i.e. vindictive and brutal then I'll spit on St. Peter's feet and let myself into Hell thank-you-very-much. If on the other hand God is more in line with the concept of Him I currently hold to then all that cultural bumf is pretty immaterial. If he doesn't exist... well I'll have to die to find out anyway and it probably won't matter much at that point eh?

      As to your recent comment... I'm tired and hankering for sleep. On the morrow...

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      All the ills associated with the Church were visited on us by the so-called 'instruments of God', sort of self-appointed guardians of our moral compass. There is a generally held 'need' to believe in something 'above' ourselves that is mostly institutionalised and inherited from way back, fed and favourably argued of course by the 'instruments' to safeguard their own livelihood.

      Here in Britain we inherited a lot of 'baggage' from our heathen past that we never altogether discarded from the time of Boudicca and/or later. All this about holly and ivy at Yuletide/Christmas goes back to the Druids, Easter comes from the interim heathens who left northern Europe, the eggs go back to the dawn of time and as long as we could carry on the feasting the Cerdics, Haestens and Wulfstans or Pendas of these islands didn't mind who they bowed their heads to, Woden, Wotan, Odin... or God. As long as there was something mysterious going on in the background, who cared if it was priests of Odin hanging dogs and horses or men OR monks chanting.

      Anyone for Thor? Seen how many places there are in eastern England linked with him, Thoresby, Thorganby, Thoraldby... Today's Thursday. Thunor, Thor, call him what you like, a semi-comic film was made called Thor. We haven't altogether lost our old gods. Thank God.

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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      I agree certainly that it was ever the priesthood who forced their narrow politicized agendas upon the open ears of their parishes that ruined Christianity. In the end, spirituality is necessarily a personal journey and all religions come back to the same basic principles. There are undoubtedly one-off individuals who appear on an irregular basis who have somehow attained greater understanding of such matters... the acolytes of dogmatic institutions are not amongst their number (no matter how well intentioned they are).

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      I think that instead of arguing, atheist should learn to ignore.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      Dan

      I think that it is due to their own ability to accept people that have strong beliefs that pertain to religion they are people whom would rather think logically whereas this world is not even close to being logical there are quite a few phenomenon that happen on a daily basis that can't be explained logically so why aren't they able to understand I beliefs. A friend of mine is an atheist. I never argued with her over her beliefs I never pushed my belief onto her and yet she always felt the need to bring up her faith whenever a situation arose constantly giving me her logically approach to religion. Tis like a never ending war.

      Voted up and definitely sharing!

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      @ jainismus - Thanks so much for dropping by! I would counter your suggestion though with the fact that though it may seem an easy route, failing to respond with questions and doubt could end up encouraging the more zealous evangelists to press harder since their first volley attracted no opposition.

      @torrilynn - Thanks for the comment! As to the world not being logical... On Critical Thinking Web they define logic as: the study of the principles of correct reasoning. So to say the world is logical is to suggest that if we apply reasoning correctly to information about the world, then we can make accurate predictions about what the various things in it are, and what they will do. For example, on noticing that there is a curvature of the horizon it is logical to draw the conclusion that the earth is a sphere-like object in shape based upon what we know of geometry. I would argue that the world (for the most part... I leave out the behavior of subatomic particles for a start) is constituted in a logical way. If it was not, we would not be able to apply logic to its systems and gain worthwhile information from them.

      Have you ever asked your friend why she talks on this subject so much? The biographical context is always of prime importance. For instance, did she have a strict religious upbringing that she has rebelled against? Has she been raised in a secular home but had religion thrust on her by school? From the few words you gave to descibe her attitude it sounds like she has an axe to grind. That doesn't occur spontaneously. Also... I would suggest if you don't find the discussions diverting, then don't rise to it. After all, your faith is a personal relationship with what your conception of the divine is. You don't need to be constantly defending it (unless you are trying to persuade someone else to believe in it).

    • cfin profile image

      cfin 4 years ago from The World we live in

      The question raises another questions, why do the faithful argue with something others believe in, ie. other religions and science. Surely, the arguer is also "faithful" to their beliefs. It just depends on your perspective.

      As a mild Catholic, it bugs me when people make nonsense statements about science, contraception or tell me what I can and cannot do (just my opinion and one I am entitled to without facing ridiculous replies. and I would never tell anyone else to have a similar belief). I believe that when people learn to stop pushing their beliefs, others will stop contradicting them. People need to live and let live.

    • exphoebe profile image

      exphoebe 4 years ago

      @jainismus I think that instead of arguing, deists should learn to ignore.

    • TwerkZerker profile image

      TwerkZerker 3 years ago

      Beautiful! This made my evening. I (as a Christian) used to be hyper-argumentative and sometimes even a bit militant, but then it dawned on me that hostile-argumentative atheists and Christians do have one major thing in common: neither are very mature in their faith. That was my cue to grow up and stop wasting reason on the unreasonable.

      Some of the most stimulating faith discussions I've had have been with atheists--but that was only because we were both mature enough to NOT go about "proving the other wrong" (which is actually impossible for both parties, given the inherent limitations of science) and arguing and just share our beliefs and be respectful of disagreements.

      Jesus never went about, whipping people upside the heads with Bibles and arguing with them. He stated truths. If people disagreed, they left. If they wanted to know more, they stayed. If they believed, they followed. It's really just that simple. We don't have the power to force people to believe anything. Only God can change hearts.

      Thanks for sharing this!

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      Dan Barfield 3 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thankyou for the comment TwerkZerker! I might go so far as to say that the very act of talking about God is problematic for the truly spiritual. It is not that you cannot win an argument with an atheist... it is that to try and win is to lose sight of the whole point of spiritual endeavour. When a Christian defends his idea of God to an Atheist, he is guilty of idolism in its truest sense. I mean by this, that in defending an idea of God, he has reduced God to fit that idea. He is then defending not God, but a collection of internally coherent concepts built of words. God is not a concept. This makes it inherently impossible to hold a discussion about God. It's a somewhat tricky situation. :)

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      Highland Terrier 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      What is unforgiveable about the faithful is the fact that they do belief and still are of the opinion that this creature is worthy of respect.

      If you believed that there is a superior and most powerful Deity out there and you had to spend your life currying favour so you could enter his kingdom, how is he worthy of your regard?

      If likewise you consider that he created this world, wasn't he pretty bad at it. Would you have created a world so full of harm? Earthquakes, Floods, Mudslides, Volcanoes, ect, ect. Who would do that and why?

      And why is one part of the planet wealthy and the other poor and why does he allow it? Would you allow it if you were that powerful?

      And if we are made in his image than surely he is like us, which is self evident in that he has made a complete and utter mess of his creations.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 3 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you for your comment Highland Terrier - though it seems a little harsh. Since many people's beliefs stem from indoctrination as a child I would be hard pushed to blame them for holding them. I forgive them totally. I blame the institutions and schools for their complicities in indoctrination and their failure to teach children the analytical thinking skills that could have enabled them to form their own views independently.

      With your reference to earthquakes floods etc - this again refers to something already spoken about in the comments which is the favoured (and fairly strong) atheist argument called 'the problem of evil'.

      Put simply: How can you believe in a God who perpetrates such wrongs? And if you do - why do you worship him? He's clearly a dick!

      To answer this... I'm going to cheat and refer you to an article I wrote that covers this topic and a couple of related points so I don't have to write it all out again. Lazy I know - but hey this is one for deeper thought than just the comments section!

      https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/The-devil...

    • cfin profile image

      cfin 3 years ago from The World we live in

      Some people can't live without arguing. SOME of the faithful arguing with atheists is because they feel the need to force people to believe what they believe in. SOME atheists arguing with the faithful is because they feel the need to force people to believe what they believe in.

      And the 2 CULPRITS are? 1. Control freaks being control freaks and 2. massive generalizations that pit people against each other (i.e the faithful v the atheists and statements like "Why do Atheists argue with the faithful?"). Not all, or even a significant number of either "group" argue with each other. It might be better said "Why do fanatics argue with each other?". It takes two to argue, so lets not fool ourselves ;)

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      Dan Barfield 3 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you for the comment cfin. A fair point - though the title "Why do Atheists argue with the faithful?" was meant to be provocative. Successfully so I think :)

      Your mention of 'control freaks' is an interesting point. The need to be right, along with the need to control and dominate are often signs of an underlying insecurity with personal identity. I mean by this that a natural cognitive fallacy which we all are guilty of some of the time, is to create a concept of our 'selves' that is actually not ourselves at all but rather an idea of who we are based upon the things we believe. This identification with belief systems is obvious when you look at the language people use - and in truth, the structure of language is a lot to blame for causing this misconception. Instead of a Christian saying 'I hold Christian beliefs' they say ' I am a Christian'. This way of saying it impies that holding Christian beliefs is an integral part of what you are. No belief is integral to what anyone is. This is clear by the simple fact that beliefs can be changed, adopted, cast off. If they were truly a part of your essential identity then if you no longer believe a thing you once did does that mean you have lost a part of your true self? Of course not. You are not your beliefs. You are the awareness that HAS the beliefs.

      In the end then - and thank you for making me think about it in this light - some of the argumentative zealots of both extremes theist and atheist are merely defending a fallacious identification with their belief systems... Anyhoo - it's just a thought ;)

    • cfin profile image

      cfin 3 years ago from The World we live in

      @ Dan Barfield. Your response says a lot about you and the fact that you took my undetermined comment that to the paranoid would be offensive, and you took it as it was i.e A compliment to a writer. Your title reached out to "those" readers and it did so successfully. I salute you for that. Provocation is half the art of writing. And best not to call the arguers/ the vast majority of your readers, fanatics.

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      Dan Barfield 3 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you cfin! I have discovered that choosing to take offense at honest appraisal is the same as choosing not to progress. Discussion and debate is a tool for clawing our way closer to an approximation of truth NOT a way of finding out who is right. This is why debating and logical reasoning should be taught more explicitly in schools. My philosophy tutor used to do a great thing with us that taught me a lot in this respect. He would ask us for our opinion on an ethical quandary... then order us to argue the opposite position as if it were the argument we favoured. Devil's advocate as it were. Talk about a fast way to broaden your perspective. My old black and white world became a multitude of more interesting interconnecting patterns of shades of grey... and with time multicolour :)

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      What I wrote some time back about the 'need' for a belief stems from observation - some self-observation - in that many humans still feel insecure on this little golf-ball of a planet we inhabit. With all that inky-blue void beyond the stratosphere, many feel insignificant and want to know 'where they are' in the scheme of things.

      (The only way we can bring our galaxy, the Milky Way to within more manageable proportions is in rendering them 'handy-sized' by naming our favourite chocolate products after them. Anybody fancy a bite at my Milky Way or Mars Bar?)

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      Dan Barfield 3 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Haha!! Yes!! Hello once again alancaster149! Welcome back! Perspective is a funny thing eh? I don't think we are insignificant personally - but again this is relative. Things only have significance in relation to other things or for particular individuals. An individual human is insignificant in size compared to the universe.... but the idea of comparing the size is rather pointless. The universe is a continuous undivided thing which we are part of. We are not in it - in a very real sense we are it. Like Alan Watts suggests - we are to the universe as wave is to the ocean. The wave is not something other than the ocean - rather it is something the ocean is doing. In the same way we are not a tiny spec trapped in an infinitely huge place - rather an individual human just happens to be something that the universe is doing in that particular part of itself - and not for any other reason that that is the nature of the universe just as being wavy is the nature of an ocean. :)

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