Atheism dissertation

Commentary on and links to religion or atheism in the media
Seb
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Atheism dissertation

Post by Seb » Mon Feb 18, 2008 2:17 pm

Hey folks,
I come here in search of a little help. I'm a final year journalism student, and as such, I have to write my final dissertation.
I've chosen to do a project on what I've termed "popular atheism" especially in an Irish context.
I want to look at atheism, not just as an expression of disbelief but as a form of social cohesion. I want to understand the reasons people have chosen for becoming non-theists, and why they simply haven't followed the ways of their parents like many before them would have done.
I think this might be a good place to get opinions on my search.
If any of you would be willing to speak to me, even via email, I'd be greatly appreciative!

Cheers.
lostexpectation
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Post by lostexpectation » Mon Feb 18, 2008 4:23 pm

are you an atheist or agnostic yourself?
Seb
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Post by Seb » Mon Feb 18, 2008 4:30 pm

Well, truth be told, I'm not sure yet.

It's something that's been playing on my mind for a while now, so much of the reason for my undertaking this project is to clarify that. Obviously, that's not the sole reason, but it's definitely part of it.

I've been called catholic my whole life; so call it an actual belief, or a safety blanket if you like, but i'm not sure i'm ready to completely let go of it just yet.

I'll let you know! ;)
inedifix
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Re: Atheism dissertation

Post by inedifix » Mon Feb 18, 2008 4:30 pm

Seb wrote:I've chosen to do a project on what I've termed "popular atheism" especially in an Irish context.
You might want to rethink the title. Atheism is not a fad or a lifestyle choice, no more so than twigging that Santa is a myth when you're a kid.

Dawkins et al may have allowed atheists space to be more vocal than they were, and may even have raised the consciousness of closet atheists/agnostics to admit the truth to themselves, but there's no evidence that Atheism is a fashion statement.
Seb wrote:I want to look at atheism, not just as an expression of disbelief but as a form of social cohesion.
Atheism is not an 'expression of disbelief'. It is the absence of artificially stimulated belief in supernatural entities/forces. And I'm not aware of any social cohesion among atheists either.
Seb wrote:I want to understand the reasons people have chosen for becoming non-theists...
I can only speak for myself, but, 1). I'm not a 'non-theist' in much the same way that I'm not a non-woman, or a non-asian. I am a person in the default human state - one un-burdened by magical thinking. 2). I did not chose atheism any more than I chose to see the frost on my lawn this morning.
Seb wrote:... and why they simply haven't followed the ways of their parents like many before them would have done.
Neither of my parents believed in god/gods, they offered little or no opinion on the subject one way or another. I went to church through school and had RE/Bible classes etc, on which my parents never ventured to comment. So I would see my atheism as being the product of a). having experienced little or no indoctrination, combined b). being encouraged to think for myself. That's why I say that atheism is the default state.

Elsewhere on this forum you'll find many who have been indoctrinated as children, but through strength of character/life experience/individuality, etc, have seen the particular set of artificial codes presented to them as children for the indoctrination it was and returned to the default state. But that's not a choice either.

J
Seb
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Post by Seb » Mon Feb 18, 2008 10:23 pm

Well, I think that's part of my quest here. What I'm hoping to do is to dispel misconceptions, or if nothing else identify them.

I realise that atheism isn't a fad by any means, but it just seems to be a topic which is very current and is the subject of much debate at the moment.

In what has always been recognised as a predominantly catholic country the rise in outspoken atheism is interesting.

Attitudes towards atheism are interesting, both from religious and atheist points of view. Many people I have spoken to do see atheism as a choice, and thus as a means of identity. I found this interesting because surely absence of belief in something whether it be god or anything else, shouldn't be a defining factor for someones life.

What I find most bizarre of all, is when people argue for 'militant atheism'. I find these arguments just as violent and misguided as the proponents of fundamentalist Christianity.

What do other folks think?

Thanks for your point of view J. Much appreciated. :)
Colin
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Re: Atheism dissertation

Post by Colin » Mon Feb 18, 2008 10:36 pm

Seb wrote:I've chosen to do a project on what I've termed "popular atheism" especially in an Irish context.
You might want to explain what you mean. It might be taken to say that some people are only atheism as it is the new chique thing to be.
Seb wrote:I want to look at atheism, not just as an expression of disbelief but as a form of social cohesion.
I'm not affilliated to any atheist organisation nor humanist organisation. In fact I don't even know of any other then the Humanist Associatin of Ireland.
Seb wrote:I want to understand the reasons people have chosen for becoming non-theists, and why they simply haven't followed the ways of their parents like many before them would have done.
Well it isn't going to make for great reading, but I had a feeling that the beliefs of my parents weren't adding up. I found myself more and more unable to accept the idea of god. Sadly a feeling of disbelief that was backed up by information about other religions, cults, beliefs and a greater understanding of the world based on scientific principles.

If you think that this is what you want, PM me.
mkaobrih
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Post by mkaobrih » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:20 am

My journey into Atheism starts when I was very young - 6 or 7, I had an enormous problem with the bad stuff in the in the bible (I had a religious family)- if there was an all powerful being supervising everything – then how come we weren’t living in some utopian paradise with no natural disasters or illness.

When I hit my teens I started identifying myself as an agnostic. A view that I think is properly best in the scheme of things. As all it states is “I don’t know” and “I might be wrong”. If only all religions just held the view that they might be wrong, I think that the world would be much more tolerant.

In my twenty’s after reading some Douglas Adams quotes - I felt comfortable identifying myself as an atheist to myself only – as in I’m atheistic about the lock ness monster so why not god as well. I mean the lock ness monster might be true but I’d want a bit of evidence in order to follow that view. Same with god – where is the evidence? – If he interacts in this realm and has any influence then there should be some hard evidence. If there is no evidence then he is unable to control thing here and so doesn’t deserve worship or more likely doesn’t exist.

After I read Dawkins - “The Selfish Gene” I had a perfectly good and reasonable reason of why god was just a cultural thing passed down through generations – a tradition and had no need to be true – it doesn’t mater one way or another.

I would say that my family think I’m anti catholic when in fact I’m not zoning in on a catholic god at all - just god in general. I’m just glad that I don’t live in a time where not following the status quo gets you killed.

I would also like to add that the authors I read did not convert me to atheism they just verbalised in a coherent way what I already felt was true.
inedifix
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Post by inedifix » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:41 am

Seb wrote:I realise that atheism isn't a fad by any means, but it just seems to be a topic which is very current and is the subject of much debate at the moment.
I think that just happens to be a symptom of the era we're living through. Firstly, the number of broadly non-religious people in the world is growing. (see: Adherents.com)In fact, numbering approximately 1.1 billion, the irreligious marginally outnumber Roman Catholics at 1.05 billion. So there's quite a lot of us out there. The other key factor is probably Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion. It's not a staggering work by any means - but its straightforwardness and immense popularity has served as a real consciousness raiser. It has given many quiet atheists/agnostics the courage to emerge a little from their closets. To stand up and be counted. That's why it looks to you like we're coming out of the woodwork. Actually, we've all been here a long time.
Seb wrote:In what has always been recognised as a predominantly catholic country the rise in outspoken atheism is interesting.
It is interesting. I think it should also be set in the context of a nation that has experinced a rapid increase in wealth, and a broad dissilusion in the behaviour and leadership of the church. These are factors which have also allowed people to raise their consciousnesses. Plus there's the fact that we live right next door to (and consume large amounts of news/culture/TV etc) from Britain, which is much more atheistic than here.
Seb wrote:Many people I have spoken to do see atheism as a choice, and thus as a means of identity.

Which people? Theists, I presume. I cannot fathom how an atheist could describe their world view as a choice, unless they are merely trying to avoid conflict with their friends.

Think about it for a second. On the one hand you have a system that offers you eternal life in a really wonderful place, basking in the glory and benevolent love of your maker,with all your family and loved ones alongside you. On the other hand is the offer of nothing. Zip. Nada. Death = death.

Choice. What choice? If there was a choice I'd choose A every time! And I mean every time. I would also 'choose' Santa Claus. But I can't. I can't choose Santa, I can't choose God & Heaven, and equally, I can't 'choose' atheism.

I get up in the morning, I don't see god. Not any of them. I carry on not seeing god/gods on a constant basis until I die. And then I'm dead. That's atheism. No god. No choice.
Seb wrote:I found this interesting because surely absence of belief in something whether it be god or anything else, shouldn't be a defining factor for someones life.
I don't think it is. Religion/belief is a defining factor for believers, for even if the whole world's population belonged to one religion and one religion alone, they'd still define themselves as god's subjects. On the contrary, if everyone in the world was an atheist, the topics of god, faith, belief, non-belief, disbelief etc, would simply never come up.

An atheist finds him/herself defined by the press of theism all around, perhaps in a way similar to how a vacuum is defined by the matter surrounding it, not by the absence itself. I personally consider it absurd that people believe in mystical supernatural creatures forces and events without a shred of supporting evidence, but I am surrounded by them every waking moment.
Seb wrote:What I find most bizarre of all, is when people argue for 'militant atheism'. I find these arguments just as violent and misguided as the proponents of fundamentalist Christianity.
What I find bizarre is that you should have come across such people. I never have. Militant atheism? I mean really Seb, have you ever spoken to a militant, violent atheist? Please don't confuse conviction with militancy. Just because an atheist holds a strong opinion and can back it up with facts, doesn't mean they want to convert you or kill you. Even those who are vehemently anti-religious.

Atheists are sometimes strident and arrogant, yes. When you live on a what you perceive to be a ship of fools it's often hard not to seem so, but militaristic? I think you're projecting the behavior of 'true believers' onto those with better arguments.

J
Seb
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Post by Seb » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:17 pm

I hereby abandon the term popular atheism, as it doesn't really properly portray what I meant. What I had hoped to put across wasn't that atheism was a statement. Simply that there seems to be an influx in people speaking about it and people feeling comfortable saying that they are atheists.

Pardon me if I'm wrong, but it seems to be a more urban phenomenon and while figures like Mass attendance etc are falling, there still seems to be a lingering 'giving-in' to the local religious precedent. There seems to be little questioning of religion outside urban barriers. This of course is related to demographics etc, but I still wonder about how long it will take for a more widespread atheism to develop in the country. I know obviously there are rural atheists, but I'm just speaking in reference to the majority.

As for Atheist groups and affiliations, the HAI seems to be the only one in Ireland, but there are even support groups in the US. I know it's a fact that many american atheists have to deal with a little more hostility than irish atheists would have to deal with, but I'd still wonder about whether these will spread across the water once the catholic church starts to truly lose it's power. I know it already has, but there's no denying it still has a firm grip on the country. Though obviously the US is no country to take a headline from. Maybe the decline of the church here is the reason that there is no need for such groups here? Perhaps it's simply a fact of having to live in a country where being "christian" is being patriotic that spawns this.

"Militant Atheism" is actually a term I borrowed from Richard Dawkins. Granted it was a term he used in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner, yet there was a certain truth in it. I found his argument while interesting, funny and truthful, quite abrasive. At one point, he equates religious belief to low IQ. Surely this would perhaps be more accurately equated to lack of education? How can people question something without be given the tools to do so?

I agree with you about The God Delusion. It seems to have given atheists a space to be vocal about it.

Obviously decline in religious belief in this country has been influenced by so many factors. I think tracking this rise in outspoken atheism alongside the increase in education and wealth is necessary.

I think atheism may be a choice for those who have grown up with religion. Perhaps for those who have never been taught to believe in a god of any form it is simply a state of being. But I do think it would be a choice for those who have to sift through a religious upbringing to get to their own truth. For some it may be a natural conclusion, but for some it's a fight to get there. Surely, that fight alone is a choice.

-C
mkaobrih
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Post by mkaobrih » Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:48 am

Seb wrote: I think atheism may be a choice for those who have grown up with religion.
-C
It’s not a choice – the only choice is to continue to pretend to believe in order to fit in or to come out as an atheist.
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