Interview With The Theist

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Anne Rice, author of the "Lestat" vampire novels, and recent returnee to her childhood Catholicism, on how tough it is being an atheist.

[Anne Rice] "It’s a more strenuous path than the religious path, because you’re then going to say that there is no God, there is no reason (for anything), that people on Earth are the only (way) to provide any meaning. That’s a rough road to travel.

"When you lose a child, you’re telling yourself as an atheist, ‘I’m never going to see that child again in any form.’ That’s a hell of a lot harder than a religion, which gives you the consolation that you will see that child again in heaven. It’s hard being an atheist. It’s tough.”

I really enjoy Rice's novels. I think that she has a unique gift for storytelling, and her imagery is lush and fun to read.

She has now become a theist again after 38 years of being an atheist. She lost a child to leukemia in 1972, and her husband Stan Rice died in 2002. Stan was the outspoken atheist of the family, and I think that years of grief, the loss of her daughter and of her loving husband finally caused her to grasp at something that gave her a bit of hope - at the age of 67 - of seeing her beloved family members again someday - after death.

Her novels have always showcased her obvious fascination with the supernatural. She was definitely an atheist in the basic sense of the word though - God-belief was absent within her. However, she never seemed to have given up the magical thinking and supernatural beliefs that were inculcated into her at a very young age by the Catholic church. This is blatantly obvious to anyone who has ever read her novels. So her return to a liberal version of Catholicism - and God-belief in general - at the age of 67 after her severe depression over the loss of her husband to brain cancer, isn't really that surprising to me.

So, what are your thoughts? Is atheism "strenuous" and "...a tough road to travel" for you?

It's not for me. It's really the only choice that I have. Given what I know about the nature of reality, and the complete and utter lack of evidence for any sort of supernatural layer to our universe - as well as the complete derth of evidence supporting the existence of any sort of creator deity at all - what other choice could I have made?

So no. Atheism is not a tough road to travel for me. It's the only road there is. Theists like to pretend that there are other roads, and dress them up with convenient rest areas and pretty parks, and beautiful flowers along the side - but they are traveling down the same road that I am. The difference is that my eyes are wide open, and I can step around the potholes -- while the theists stumble through them, twisting their ankles on the rocks and debris, because their eyes are tightly shut so that they can continue to play pretend.

I'm awake. I like being able to see the road. And guess what? There's a bunch of nasty things there that we need to deal with - but there's also a lot of beauty and goodness to be found if you just open your eyes and look.

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Damon's picture

Consolation of Haldane, anyone?

It's not necessary to believe in God (let alone a specific kind of God, with attendant hocus-pocus dogma) in order to believe that we might see our departed loved ones again. Supposedly, J.B.S. Haldane (biologist and statistician) suggested that in a universe that was infinite in terms of space and/or time, it would be inevitable that all possible events would occur... not just once, but an infinite number of times. Including our own lives, and all possible permutations thereof. Possibly even including versions of ourselves that recall "past lives" or alternate existences...

Just how big is the cosmos, anyway? And if we had the chance to stare eternity in the face, could our tiny little meat-brains bear it?

Tully's picture

Logical Fallacy

Logical fallacy:

I don't like it, ergo it is false.

Well gosh, if I was falling out of a twentieth story window, I would sure like to believe that that whole gravity concept was wrong.

Wait for it, wait for it...there it is...splat.

Unlike the old Bread song, words don't make wishes come true.

Anonymous User's picture

It's way harder to be a Christian

But I think that being an atheist, for some, is an intellectual suicide - a simple throwing up of the hands saying "Belief is too hard."

It's intellectual suicide because I find the stories in the bible nonsense? Talking animals, a man that can live inside of a fish for three days, resurrections, a boat that can hold two each of millions of species of animals for almost a year, dragons and unicorns, giants, angels, a stopping of the earth's rotation, breeding by placing animals near rods while copulating (Genesis 30:37-39), a body of water parting, and many other rediculous thing written in the bible don't take deep thought and study to accept. They take gullibility. It's hard to believe in God, especially the Judeo/Islamic/Christian God, because the biblical stories are so completely rediculous. You have to already believe in them to accept them, in my opinion.

Kentucky Boy's picture

On the road again

I'm with you there-I can't will myself into believing imaginary thnigs are real. Human consciousness is a direct product of the most incredible known structure in the universe-the human brain. It can't just float off on its own when that brain is dead. And something supposedly even more complex, like God, can't exist just because-complex things have to evolve from something simpler which could exist in the first place.

Something I can feel but probably have a hard time articulating is that the fact our existence is limited is what makes life precious and important. If existence was infinite, then nothing we did would be of any particular importance, and each day would simply fade into infinity. Because we and our loved ones have a limited span of days, those days MATTER. My children need me, and as I love and nourish them, I can watch them grow and develop-there will never come a time when they simply are, and will never be anything else.

If one of them died before me, and I could will myself into believing I will see them again, I guess that could provide some comfort. But the reality is that nothing exists except the present. We have to cherish each moment with our loved ones as they happen, because the past is a pale fading memory, and the future may never be.

Cat's picture

I wonder if it's really that simple

I wonder this sometimes because atheism literally means "lack of god belief", it really does not mean "lack of spiritual belief", "lack of belief in an afterlife of any type" and all these other types of magical thinking. This has been bugging me for a while, and I've been trying to think through the question "is there an afterlife?" on my own. The conclusion I reached is that I don't really care. Either way knowing what happens to my "soul" after death, or even knowing whether there is such a thing as a soul, doesn't really do me any good at all while I'm alive. The same goes for magic, hypothetically if it existed it would have a reproducible mechanism, and that what is "magic" to one culture may actually just be advanced technology.

In that sense being an atheist is actually distinctly easier than being a theist, you don't have to suck up to the gods. You can sleep in on Sunday, you aren't banned from eating or drinking anything except purely natural reasons (like allergies), you don't have to worry about whether your church/community will approve of someone's religion (well, OK, in some atheist circles I guess you do). I suppose the only way that being an atheist would potentially be harder is that you don't have your psychological teddy bear with you at all times, holding your hand, making sure you succeed, all that stuff. On the other hand it makes you more self-reliant, and I sometimes wonder how much our "pass the buck" culture is due to the notion that your successes and failures may be caused by supernatural beings.

Crudely Wrott's picture

In Terms of Some Measure of Human Effort

it must surely be easier to accept the loss of kin and entertain no hope of reunion than to maintain not just the hope, the faith but the conviction that a reunion is immanent. The more time goes by the more the total effort. For someone who does not entertain such notions, the effort is trivial.

And yet the heart grieves, the memories haunt, the voices echo. That's part of being human and it is independent of superstition.

My experience with death began early. It was my good fortune to be shown that it was indeed the end. Not that my instructors meant it that way but that is what I came away with from my early lessons.

The final goodbye is never easy, unless it is said to you. We don't like pain or difficulty and we go to heroic lengths to avoid inconvenience. Given these, it is no wonder that some anticipate a future reunion. It keeps the departed alive and close by.

Well, this terminally backslidden Jesus freak's father died in 1982. And he is right here with me now. The Ol' Master managed to insinuate himself into my personality to the degree that as I get older I become more like him. Even, amusingly, by discovering myself adopting certain aspect of my father that I previously found unlikeable.

And so he lives, after a fashion, within me. He also lives within many other people who each have their own unique version of him. No single version is my father, nor is the total of all versions that may exist in the present memories of some number of people.

My father is like an unstable isotope, fading away at the pace of some half life. Each time someone's memories die, he is diminished. But not completely. For a very long time there will be scattered descendants in future generations and maybe an old photo or some mundane public record. And this is also my prospect, which I unselfishly share with all takers.

I don't find this view unpleasant at all. I do not find it pleasant either. I simply find that I am not able to make anything else of it without feeling as though I'm whistling in the dark.

I'm not afraid of the dark anymore.

Bruce's picture

"When you lose a child,

"When you lose a child, you’re telling yourself as an atheist, ‘I’m never going to see that child again in any form.’ That’s a hell of a lot harder than a religion, which gives you the consolation that you will see that child again in heaven. It’s hard being an atheist. It’s tough.”

This is a pretty childish argument: "I want something to be the way I want it to be in order to make me happy so I'll just pretend that that's the way it is". I thought as we become adults we are supposed to learn how to deal with the reality. She's basically saying that she chose religion because it makes her feel good. Fine, if that's what she needs to get through the day, but that doesn't mean that other people need religion in order to make it through their day.

I hate to sound crass, but people die all the time. I've lost friends and relatives over the years. Ya, it sucks for a while and then you get over it and move on with your life. That's part of life. You can keep hiding behind religion all you want to avoid the reality of death, but it's going to eventually catch up with you.

iheartmitochondria's picture

Everyone will die. Death is

Everyone will die. Death is not necessarily evil. Bruce has a really good perspective on this.

Mal Solencis's picture

Interesting points made here

I've done the atheism thing, I've done the religion thing, I find fault with both. Now I merely do the "God's there" thing, and I repeatedly slap the "God's got a plan" people. The question that I keep hearing being posed by atheists is this "How can there be a God with all the bad things that happen in the world."

I'll tell you, faith in God jumped up and bit me in the ass after my first daughter was born, and again after my ex-wife kidnapped her (long story). It goes like this. If you, arbitrarily or otherwise, accept the idea of an "intangible parent figure" (Loki in the movie Dogma, 2000), and you look at it with a parental view, you realize that there is much that you have to simply let happen. The bad, ugly shit, and the good, beautiful things. I love my children (I have two), but I cannot live their lives for them, or make their choices, or force their beliefs. I can guide them when they ask my advice (as Christians claim to do through prayer) and I can lend them a hand when I have the opportunity (but they must be amenable, which as they achieve teenage status is far more rare), but ultimately they are, and must be, responsible for their own choices and actions, and the consequences thereof. How could God do any less, yet leave us with the free will that religion purports that we, as human beings, have?

Now, I know, there are things that other people do that act upon our lives and worlds. We suffer the bad and rejoice in the good. For example, if I hadn't married my ex-wife, I'd have avoided the kidnapping of my eldest daughter. I would also have avoided my daughter's very existence. Much pain came out of my marriage and my divorce (and, irritatingly, continues to do so) but also much good. Not the least of which was the court system going "Bitch, you can't do that".

It is not a question of "How can God exist", it's simply a question of "Which particular perception makes you, as a person, more comfortable?" If you choose to believe, this choice is what makes you more comfortable. If you choose to avoid such belief, that makes you more comfortable. It doesn't mean that one side or another is walking around with blinders on.

I must point out, though, that to say "Because of reality, I refuse to believe in God" could very easily be a statement of belief in the very being that one denies. *Grins* It's a statement that speaks deeply of one that feels that "If my parent actually loved me, he/she would take the hurt away". I tend to refer to it as the "Kiss and a Cookie" logic. It's simply not always possible, no matter how much the parent might wish to do so. Learning is, after all, an often painful experience.

To iheartmitochondria: With regards to all such intangibles, however, I find that saying that you've been lied to to be a fallacious statement. Prove to me that you have been lied to. I, a believer, cannot absolutely prove to you the existence of God. You, a non-believer, cannot absolutely prove to me that you have been lied to. Besides, it's people that make religion what it is.

iheartmitochondria's picture

The lie is that things

The lie is that things happen because god wills it to happen. Things happen as a result of cause and effect. You should not default to god-belief because the "cause" might be a concept that is beyond your current understanding. Also, I am not so quick to label things as "good" or "bad." The same event can bring immense joy to some people and immense pain to others, so how do you put a definitive label on good/bad? Few things in life are black and white. And it is the complexity of it all that makes life so interesting.

Also, choosing to believe something because it makes you comfortable, is akin to burying your head in the sand. Just because you're not comfortable with reality, doesn't mean its any less real.

Mal Solencis's picture

The proof still lacks...

You state that this is a lie, yet you prove yourself not at all. You simply spread venom and call the opinions that disagree with yours as lies. You say that things are what they are because they are cause and effect... Yet, Quantum Physics points to the possibility of causes that follow effects, in addition to effects that follow causes. What you are attempting to sell are some of the Logical Fallacies. "Reality is gruesome, therefore there is no God." Argumentum Ad Ignorantium. You have no proof as to the existence of God, so you argue from the point of ignorance.

You further use unconnected conditions in hopes of bulling over those that see things differently. It is also directly tied to the idea "If God existed, things would be better." Another logical fallacy, known as Argumentum Ex Silentio, or Silence proves the Argument. This is also rarely true. Additionally, the above two points are closely tied, and known as False Alternatives Fallacies. Which all then tend to bleed into the Invincible Ignorance Fallacy, or the "I'm smarter than you so you can't change my mind" (As displayed by your rather supercilious final sentence in the preceding comment.)

Your statement in your comment is not proof of anything. It is still, simply, an opinion.

It is also a choice that you find more comfortable. You decided that you had been lied to, simply because no sufficiently definitive proof could be delivered in a satisfactory amount, manner, and way, that allowed you to choose to believe in the existence of God. This lack of proof is what allowed you to choose to reject God's existence, and to start belittling other people's beliefs, which is the absolute height of arrogance and self service. Argumentum Ad Hominem, another logical fallacy. If you haven't been keeping track, that's five of them, in two tiny little posts.

Oh, I'm sorry, was that too simplistic for you?

I do not like the "God's got a plan" tag-line either, but I cannot prove that this is not the case. I cannot prove that it is the case. I, quite frankly, can't prove shit. Thereby, I choose the thing that makes me the most comfortable, that God exists, looking out for me, even if I am not always able to see that, or don't always appreciate that fact. If, thereby, somebody finds it more comforting to believe that "God's Got A Plan", then leave 'em the hell alone. But no, there's all this attacking and sly comments about "heads buried in the sand" and "eyes closed and pretending."

You, mito, further assault Theists by claiming that they "deflect their morality onto" God. You say "Atheism demands more." I call Bull Shit. Religious Dogma is far more intensive and works one a great deal harder than atheism ever will. I'm a Theist, but I'm a lazy theist, I avoid religion like the plague (lapsed Catholic among other things). At the end of the day, I still have to look at the events of my life and ask two questions. "Am I proud of myself?" and "Is God proud of me?" I have more expectations to live up to, my own, and those that God may or may not have. I'm not saying that Atheists don't have morals, but if you think that those socially based mores and norms have NO theistic basis, you've got to seriously rethink your perceptions. However, a Theist doesn't just look at "this world". No, a Theist also believes that, if I fuck up too bad here, I'm going to be paying for it, both here, AND there wherever there might be. If, however, you don't believe in a Judge/Creator/Governor... y'know, a God... no worries.

*shrugs* However, in your own self-righteous mindset, you will continue to belittle and attack those who 'just obviously aren't as open and smart as you are, because they "hide" behind religion or theism.' Got news for your... Just because you are not comfortable with, are, in fact, quite obviously offended by, my reality does not make my beliefs or opinions any less real or valid. Proven or otherwise.

iheartmitochondria's picture

Just One More Thought

Reality is not subjective.

RickU's picture

Subjectiveness

I completely agree that reality is not subjective. Where the theists tend to fall in to a trap though is that our perception of reality IS ultimately subjective.

Crudely Wrott's picture

Some differences are obvious

Apprehension is subjective, comprehension is objective. (or darn well oughta be.)

It's not hard to observe that several people will describe the same incident in several different ways. It's also not hard to observe that when something is well understood, most all descriptions are similar. This is not just the jargon effect, though new knowledge does seem to spin off new language. It keeps things interesting even while opening new "gaps."

And so it goes, Billy Pilgrim. I'm sure that the struggle between the authority of perception versus that of comprehension will go on. And on. Oh well. At least we're used to it.

iheartmitochondria's picture

You said what I said, just

You said what I said, just more succinctly. :-)

iheartmitochondria's picture

Yep, a lot of words

"You decided that you had been lied to, simply because no sufficiently definitive proof could be delivered in a satisfactory amount, manner, and way, that allowed you to choose to believe in the existence of God."

Here you go - you summed up my entire perspective. I don't really understand what is so offensive to you about me not believing in a god that i see absolutely no evidence for.

Morality, from any perspective, is multi-dimensional and takes a lot of work. But when you start from ground zero and question everything, as the atheist does, you have a lot more work to do. Christianity dictates to a you a core set of believes that get you going. And you're right, I think many of America's mores are based in christianity - its a bias that must be recognized. But if you've spoken with people from other parts of the world that have been socialized in other religions, you would realize that not all morality is based on christianity. It might even surprise you how much of christianity's morality has been influenced by earlier religions.

I find it amusing that what you see as an attack, I see as a defense.

Mal Solencis's picture

What you see as a defense...

There is nothing offensive about your choice to disbelieve in God. Nothing about that is offensive in the slightest. It's the contention that, because you don't believe in God, your eyes are open, and those that do believe are pretending and not paying attention to reality. That attitude is what I am offended by.

Note that difference please, it's an important one.

No, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. As a student of theological history, I know exactly where a number of Christianity's bases come from. The Catholic Mass, for instance, is drawn almost verbatim from the Rituals of Mithras, a fairly wide-spread faith from back in the Romanic period.

Also, I said I was a lapsed Catholic. I said I believed in God. My question is, what subjective item made you decide that I was a Christian? At no point have I affirmed that, even as I have not denied it.

And, the truth is, Mito, that "reality" is entirely subjective. It's based completely and totally within a person's experiences and interpretations. That's the definition of subjective. And you can't argue that with me, based on your own statement that "The same event can bring immense joy to some people and immense pain to others." That is the definition of subjective.

iheartmitochondria's picture

You have got to be kidding

You have got to be kidding me??????? Reality is subjective???? Hahahaha..... If you can buy that, I really don't see what point there is in any further discussion.

There can be many responses to the same stimulus/reality, but there is only one reality. You just have to use the right tools to perceive it correctly. Everyone has a bias that keeps them from seeing reality, but some have more than others, so some get closer to the truth than others. I'm of the persuasion that accepting something as truth based on faith, versus evidence, is fostering a bias that is blinding.

I'm out of patience on this for now. Find someone else to help you do your introspective thinking.

Mal Solencis's picture

Subjectivity...

Ooh, quotes time.

"There can be many responses to the same stimulus/reality, there is only one reality. You just have to use the right tools to perceive it correctly."

And.

"Everyone has a bias that keeps them from seeing reality, but some have more than others, so some get closer to the truth than others. I'm of the persuasion that accepting something as truth based on faith, versus evidence, is fostering a bias that is blinding."

Thank you, Mito, for proving my point completely. Your subjectivity is "fostering a bias that is blinding." You are incredibly biased against accepting that difference of opinion in others, and thereby you must attack the foundations of another person's interpretations of truth and falsehood, of "reality." How is anything that I just quoted not subjective?

We shall, for brevity's sake, ignore the the possible scientific examinations of Quantum Physics and Multiple Universe possibilities in the "one reality" argument.

Aside from the subjectivity issue, how is it that you did not just render your own argument fallacious? You accept, on faith, that God does not exist. You have precisely ZERO proof that God does not exist, just as I have ZERO proof that God, in fact, exists. All that you have are interpretations of what you view as "evidence." You are, instead, fostering a bias that is blinding to what may, for others, be the correct way, and becoming incensed and insulting that they do not accept your superiority, your "correct interpretation". Your faith in your viewpoint is in sore need of examination.

wantobe's picture

You accept, on faith, that

You accept, on faith, that God does not exist. You have precisely ZERO proof that God does not exist, just as I have ZERO proof that God, in fact, exists.

I ask again: in what other aspect of life would you consider these two positions to be equivalent? Under what conditions would you consider the inability to prove something exists to be sufficient to say that it does exist? Do you believe in Yetis because I can't prove they don't exist? Can you honestly say you believe in anything else because it can't be proven to not exist?

The "evidence" for any gods' existence comes down to personal experience (which is incredibly unreliable) and "theories" of how a god is responsible for something that we observe. What's missing, for me at least, is some condition that could only occur through the act of this proposed god. That kind of evidence would be irrefutable, if it existed.

Now I apply this standard to everything in my life: show it to me directly, or show me how it must exist for condition x to be true. I suspect that you also apply that standard to other things, but for some reason you're willing to give "god" a pass. That's your right, of course, but don't try to convince me that your position is the equivalent of mine. The two couldn't be further apart.

Rob Miles
--
There are only 10 types of people in the world;
those who understand binary and those who don't.

And-U Say's picture

Perfect Reply

A perfect reply, to which there will not be a response. I am always amazed at the shallowness of the reasoning of theists.

iheartmitochondria's picture

I guess I stepped on some toes

you must attack the foundations of another person's interpretations of truth and falsehood, of "reality."

I have faith in very few things. I'm a skeptic through and through that needs some sort of evidence to even begin to entertain a truth. And once it has my attention, it damn well better hold up to some scrutiny or I'll toss it out the window. I only speak for myself. If you do not wish to join me in my critical thinking, that's your choice.

I have in no way singled you out, or any other person, to my scrutiny. You are the one that has pursued me, and that has taken offense to my words. :-) And I will not be forced into saying that I could ever entertain the idea of a god, and most definitely not the christian god, for the sake of being polite. It is simply ludicrous.

wantobe's picture

That sure is a lot of words.

Hi, Mal. That sure was a lot of words to say "I want it to be true, so my worldview is just as valid as yours." Believers like you want nonbelievers to extend you a respect for your beliefs that you wouldn't (and certainly shouldn't) extend to other beliefs. You think opposite opinions carry equal weight, at least when it comes to whether or not you believe god exists, but opinions do not in fact carry equal weight. Opinions based on evidence are always better than opinions based on comfort.

You think you have to work harder because you have your own expectations to live up to, as well as god's? In the event of a conflict of expectations, which will you default to? All things being equal, if the thing you think is right conflicts with what you believe your god will think is right, will you still wrestle with the dilemma? If so, then I'll concede that you work as hard, but not harder. The Atheists, at least those that value society, have to live up to our own expectations as well as that of society as a whole. I submit that trying to find a balance when our own values conflict with society's is a lot harder than the balance most theists have to find.

I do agree with you about one thing, though: the lie isn't "things happen because god wills it." It would only be a lie if you know it's not true and continue to tell people that it is. I think, for most theists, the lie is saying you believe in god. I don't believe for one minute that even the least intelligent among you truly believe the nonsense, even to the point that you could be said to be lying to yourselves. I think you're (all of you) knowingly lying to each other because you want to belong, and you don't have the balls to break from the rituals and "comfort" (that you don't truly believe in.) I can't prove this, of course, but it's my opinion and is just as valid as that of anyone else. Right?

Rob Miles
--
There are only 10 types of people in the world;
those who understand binary and those who don't.

Mal Solencis's picture

Absolutely your opinion is valid...

You are absolutely correct that your opinion is valid, although I do find fault with one small part of it.

Opinions are not based on evidence, they are based on observation. Opinions are purely subjective because of this, whereas evidence is objective. Presentation of evidence is based in subjection, and should not be, which is more the point I was attempting, in my rather loquacious way, to make earlier. And hey, I could be wrong, there might not be a God. Or he could be the complete prick that the Islamic Extremists would have everyone believe. Or God could be Thor, a drunken, hammer-wielding dumbass. I have no proof one way or another. I simply have my opinions, and request the same courtesy towards my opinions that I extend to others.

In point of fact, the conflict between one's personal views and one's Dogmatic views (What I think is right versus what Religion tells me is correct) is the foundation of the Crisis of Faith. Such Crises are the basis of so many Religious Schisms (Martin Luther's 95 Thesis, the Calvinist split... One can trace it all the way back to the Isaac and Ishmael division which founds the core differences between Judaism and Islamic practices). It was for this itself that I, a reasoning individual, originally split from my sectarian practice. Remember, I mentioned being a lapsed Catholic. And I have not gone back. I then spent several years searching through the various religions, spent several more practicing an active disbelief in God's existence, and ultimately wound up with God's existence being confirmed very obviously for me. But I was left with the following; I find religion, itself, to be repugnant. I share my views with others, but I do not attend services, I do not convert people and I do not claim the goodness of religion. But religion isn't faith. And I can't actually prove to you that I believe a word of what I'm saying. You have to take it on faith, really.

By the by, the binary comment, that's pretty cool.

richg's picture

Not sure which is harder...

I'm not writing as a generic theist, but as a christian.

Walking through life with ANY worldview has its difficulties and hard spots. No one is exempt from troubles (well DUH!). And I think we all wish to find an easier way, only to find out there isn't one.

But I think that being an atheist, for some, is an intellectual suicide - a simple throwing up of the hands saying "Belief is too hard, what with all the misery that I see. Why, if there is a god, does all this stuff have to happen? Therefore there must not be any god - or any other existence outside this one." It's an honest observation, but, IMO, a lazy conclusion.

Sure, there are religious simpletons, but there are also simple-minded functional atheists. There are those who hide from responsibility behind a religious system, but there are probably more who hide behind any of may other psychological excuses.

I don't know how many have read C.S.Lewis' description of how he tried with every ounce of his being to remain an atheist -

"A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere--'Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,' as Herbert says, 'fine nets and stratagems.' God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous." Surprised by Joy

wantobe's picture

C.S. Lewis?

Okay, he wrote some good books, but why would his inability to remain an atheist have an effect on other atheists? Do the stories of Dan Barker or Farrell Till change your mind about Christianity? I'm not belittling Lewis's journey to get to where he wound up, but I'm just not that impressed that he "tried with every ounce of his being..."

You're describing the "Problem of Evil", and I'm curious why you think it's a lazy conclusion? True, there are a lot of other reasons to not believe in god(s), but the PoE is not so easily dismissed.

Rob Miles
--
There are only 10 types of people in the world;
those who understand binary and those who don't.

richg's picture

It's the thought process

Okay, he wrote some good books, but why would his inability to remain an atheist have an effect on other atheists?

It's his thought process, not simply the conclusion.

You're describing the "Problem of Evil", and I'm curious why you think it's a lazy conclusion?

I didn't say that the POE was lazy, but I have soon too many arguments posted here that are, at their essence, that simple. Just that it is where many stop thinking. There have been NO arguments that require that God not exist, but most DO require a "supernatural" all-knowing that our physical universe is the only one.

Do the stories of Dan Barker or Farrell Till change your mind about Christianity?

I don't know them. But I DO know the story of my friend Ken, who left the church that I now belong to as a convinced Libertarian and hard-core atheist. He and I struggle with many common issues, but we have reached different conclusions.

(BTW - I've always liked your tag line - can I steal it?)

"I believe in preaching to the converted; for I have generally found that the converted do not understand their own religion." -G.K. Chesterton

wantobe's picture

Okay, he wrote some good

Okay, he wrote some good books, but why would his inability to remain an atheist have an effect on other atheists?

It's his thought process, not simply the conclusion.

I was never really that impressed with his thought processes, either. He admits that his "atheism" was in reality his 'being very angry with god for not existing', which is a common theme among "atheists" who later "become" Christians (or return to that faith, as he did.) I'm not trying to introduce the "no true Scotsman" falacy, but it's apparent to me that his "atheism" was just misplaced anger.

The tag-line isn't mine to give; I stole it years ago. But you're more than welcome to it :)

Rob Miles
--
There are only 10 types of people in the world;
those who understand binary and those who don't.

iheartmitochondria's picture

Atheism demands more

Atheism demands more responsibility because you cannot deflect your morality onto a deity. Ya gotta think it up all on your own.

richg's picture

No one is "On their own"

Ya gotta think it up all on your own.

Nah, we get our "morality" from those around us. As well as our ability to develop and use sound reasoning. Even you have had to pick up your sense of right and wrong from family, friends, and society as a whole. Not to mention your ability to sequentially think through a thought process and make your own choices follows patterns that you were taught by others.

That is, unless you brought yourself up from a vacuum on a deserted island.

"I believe in preaching to the converted; for I have generally found that the converted do not understand their own religion." -G.K. Chesterton

iheartmitochondria's picture

"That is, unless you brought

"That is, unless you brought yourself up from a vacuum on a deserted island."

This is closer to the truth than you will ever know.

(Sorry for the delayed response, I just now saw this.)

betmo's picture

you either believe or you don't

i don't. i would truly love to have the sense of excitement and wonder of the cmas season that went along with the idea of santa claus. i mean the holidays have been lacking for me ever since i found out he wasn't real, but there isn't any way to re-believe. how do you truly suspend disbelief and worship a being that isn't there? i suspect that's why we have seen such a rise in the evangelicals wanting to legislate and force religious beliefs in schools and laws and whatnot. easier to pretend to believe when the entire universe is structured to that end than it is to truly rely on faith.

timplausible's picture

Well, yeah

Sure. Atheism isn't a choice. But that doesn't answer the question of whether it's a tough road or not compared to life as a believer. I think there are trade-offs. Death is a tough nut to crack for me, and I have lost a child. But there's some comfort as well in not having to live with the cognitive dissonance of believing in a master plan of a living deity and witnessing and enduring the horrors of life. There's the total lack of wondering "why did this happen to me?" when bad things happen. I used to have a sense that bad things in my life happened to me for a reason when I was young. Don't have to worry about that anymore. But religious people have this sense of never being alone, which I think is easier than toughening yourself up so that you have faith in your ability to endure when you are alone.

In a lot of ways, though, one of the toughest things about being an atheist is that so few others are, and so many of us are brought up with coping skills based on a god-worldview. If atheism was the norm and the majority, it wouldn't be so rough. Imagine all the people, living for today... I mean, um... sorry about that.

iheartmitochondria's picture

I agree with you, Brent.

I agree with you, Brent. Atheism is the only road. It isn't a conscience decision for me, it just is. I've tried religion and it just required too much suspension of disbelief and was too much work for me. You know, a lot of people say that when bad things happen you'll go running to god, but personally, I find the opposite to be true. Every time I face a truly difficult situation, I'm forced to look at the reality around me, and I become more steadfast in my atheism. I find the religious fairy-tales to be too superficial to offer any kind of comfort, and I don't appreciate being lied to.

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