What does an Athiest Believe?

Someone once said to me that saying you’re an atheist is like saying that you don’t play golf. It doesn’t tell you a lot about what you do play, or what you do believe. And atheists generally do believe in something. For one thing, they tend to believe in science. But science is about a process; it’s not an end in itself. It’s just a technique, or a set of techniques, for how to acquire knowledge.

So I mostly believe in the “big bang,” not as an established fact, but as the most likely explanation of the mechanics of how the world was created. That does not tell us anything about the meaning of the World. Why do I believe the scientists? I believe them because:

– They managed to land a man (or several men) on the moon, and they recently landed a rover on an asteroid;

-They created nuclear power and they decoded the genome and created antibiotics;

-They created the Internet and CD player and DVD players and all kinds of amazing gadgets;

-They created the technology that allows doctors to insert a catheter in the groin to treat an embolism in the brain.

In short, science is remarkable. And what scientists know is astonishing. And the big bang theory is the one that is most consistent with what theoretical physicists and others know about how the Universe functions and how it should function. But it leaves many questions unanswered. Scientists are now postulating that there may be multiple universes, or a so-called multiverse; that the big bang may have created a mirror universe to our universe; or that time stretches back infinitely in what is known as a “rainbow gravity” theory.

These things are largely beyond my comprehension. Just as I disbelieve anyone so arrogant as to think that they know what “God” is or especially what “God” intends, so also it’s clear to me that whatever the Universe is, whatever it may be, that thing is beyond the comprehension of my puny brain. I’m not going to get it. What separates me from most believers is not my intelligence or lack thereof; it’s not my intuition or lack thereof; it’s not my imagination or lack thereof; it’s mostly my ability to tolerate uncertainty.

About a1skeptic

A disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
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10 Responses to What does an Athiest Believe?

  1. kilpatrick says:

    An insightful post there. You’ve given a couple of great scientific discoveries that are remarkable. Kindly answer this question. You said, and i quote “it’s mostly my ability to tolerate uncertainty.” How certain are you, that science can answer the question of the purpose of life?

    • a1skeptic says:

      I don’t think science will be able to answer the question of the purpose of life. That will have to be left to philosophy and probably one’s own internal moral code.

    • MsPantherina says:

      There is no purpose of life. Formulating your question this way makes it irrelevant. It is like asking, “What the is taste of color?” Not every question deserves an answer. Purpose is defined as: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. It is highly improbable that life was created by an intelligent god/gods. Therefore, life cannot have been created for any purpose. Life evolved by pure chance. As an evolved being, I can say that my purpose is to make the world a better place than it was when I got here. If we all did that, this planet would be a much more pleasant place to live.

  2. Mayank says:

    This is looking beyond horizon. 🙂
    Hey, this is nice.

  3. lovekezx says:

    This is actually super interesting. I class myself as agnostic…I know, I know…some people think it a cop-out but I genuinely am. I am an anthropology grad and yet I believe in something…spiritual, a higher power. Basically, I am of the belief that this larger power or “God” as some choose to call it, created the universe and the many mysteries therein, while science tries to answer the many questions it poses and unravel the mysteries it hides.

    On the note of your last comment “it’s mostly my ability to tolerate uncertainty” – this may be true when you consider devout religious believers, but I would say that to be an agnostic is to tolerate uncertainty more so than atheists. I may be wrong, and please do tell me if I am, but every “atheist” I have met seems to be absolutely CERTAIN that no “God” exists. Which would tend to go against your last statement. Maybe you are the exception, or maybe the atheists I have met are all bad examples of what it means to be an atheist…just thought I should put that out there, something to ponder perhaps…?


    • a1skeptic says:

      Atheists and agnostics are normally on a kind of continuum where there isn’t necessarily a clear dividing line. Stephen Colbert likes to say that an agnostic is just an “atheist without balls.” But in all seriousness, for me that just means that I don’t currently believe in God; I’m agnostic in the sense that this lack of belief is not impervious to change. Some atheists may be more certain in that way than I am.

    • MsPantherina says:

      By definition, an Atheist is the absence of belief that any deities exist. That’s why all the atheists that you have met say they do not believe in the deities (Zeus, Bale, Xantico, Allah, Kirshna, Rama, Anubis, Jehova, Elohim or one of the other 2,800+ gods worshipped in the world). There is no evidence the deities exist. Gut-feelings and wishful thinking do not become facts just because we want them to. As children, we were certain that Santa was going to bring us that new bike if we hoped hard enough. As adults, we have to leave those childish thoughts behaviors and mindsets behind. It is time to mature as a species. The more humanity learns about the universe through science, the more humans understand the laws of the physical world, the less we will need to reach to the supernatural mysteries to explain things. The life we have is the only one we will get. Make the best of it.

  4. kilpatrick says:

    Kindly check out this blog and let me know your thoughts. Its about the dangers of agnosticism (http://thedefenceministry.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/the-dangers-of-agnosticism/)

    • a1skeptic says:

      Well, I think the “nature” of God is largely unknowable, not because it can’t be known in certain respects, but because, if there were to be a God, his/her/its nature is likely far too complex for our puny brains to understand. Certainly the Universe is far too complex for us to understand.

      Your own article implies quite clearly that it is the intolerance of uncertainty that moves people to believe in something, no matter how far fetched that something may be. There is certainly nothing wrong with trying to understand the nature of God, but I think there is a certain arrogance inherent in thinking that his/her/its nature has, in fact, been understood. I hope that answers your question.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dear Mspanterina,
    If you say there is no purpose in life, you are debunking the law of cause and effect. The purpose of the cause, is the effect. And i quote you “Life evolved by pure chance”, if evolution is the cause as Atheists put it, then life cannot be by chance an effect without an evolutionary purpose.

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