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Can you really 'try on' atheism for a year?
Ryan Bell's "year without God" experiment has drawn a wealth of comments, from scornful to supportive.
January 14th, 2014
01:20 PM ET

Can you really 'try on' atheism for a year?

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) - Ryan Bell, a one-time Christian pastor, says he didn't expect his yearlong experiment with atheism to get much attention.

"This wasn't intended to be an international journey that was done in public," he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin last Wednesday.

But what began as Bell's personal project has now been covered by NPR, the BBC, Religion News Service, and, of course, here at CNN.

READ MORE: Pastor tries atheism, loses jobs, gains $19,000

It's not just the mainstream media that are along for the ride, either. Dozens of blogs and columnists have weighed in on Bell's "Year Without God," with responses ranging from support to skepticism to scorn.

Sikivu Hutchinson, a writer who has criticized the lack of racial diversity in the the atheist community, called Bell's foray into atheism "secular tourism."

"Bell joins a jam-packed, largely white, mostly Christian cottage industry of religious leaders who are capitalizing off of untapped reserves of atheist dollars, adulation and publicity by jumping onto the 'maverick ex-pastor' bandwagon," Hutchinson wrote in a recent blog post.

PZ Myers, an American scientist and prolific blogger on atheism, echoed Hutchinson's comments, and called Bell's experiment "simply ridiculous."

"It’s not a set of superficial practices, it’s a mindset," Myers said of atheism. "What’s he going to do at the end of the year, erase his brain?"

Since the responses have been so varied - and so interesting - we wanted to know what other thinkers and scholars have to say about Bell's experiment with atheism.

In short, we asked a whole bunch of smart folks if it's really possible to "try" atheism for a year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we got a wide variety of answers (The old adage about "three rabbis, four opinions" seems to apply to atheists as well.)

Some of these submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

Catherine Dunphy, executive director of The Clergy Project 

It would be accurate to say that some of our members tried similar experiments, though in a much less public fashion and for a shorter period of time before leaving their faith.

For myself, it was in stages. First, I decided to just stop praying and see what would happen.  Then I stopped going to church, and finally I decided that the idea of God just didn't make sense.

It was like learning to swim with "water wings." Eventually I realized I could float all by myself.

Testing the atheism waters, is in many ways an intellectual process but it is also intrinsically linked to emotion. God is often seen as a surrogate parent, a protector, a supporter. Untangling oneself from this type of over arching narrative is never easy.

Bell should be applauded for his attempt to ask the hard questions. Whether he'll be a theist or atheist on the other side of this journey, I don't know. But it is a good thing that he is wondering.

Penny Edgell, sociology professor, University of Minnesota 

What Bell is doing makes a sense if you remember that it is through daily practice that we become the people we are.  Meditation, daily prayers and devotions ... these are how people become Christian, Muslim, a believer of any kind.

And it's not just religion; there are all kinds of practical, self-help guides to being a better mom, a better husband, a more passionate lover, etc., all of which focus on doing the things that a better mom, husband, or lover would do until you a) feel more momly, husbandly, loverly feelings and b) it becomes a habit to act in the appropriate role-enhancing way.

So there is no reason to be skeptical about Bell's experiment.  Quite the opposite - it may work, and more profoundly than he anticipates.  A year is a long time, and if he really spends that year doing the things an atheist would do, he may not only act like an atheist, but feel like one, and in that union of action and feeling, find that he has become one.

Paul Fidalgo, spokesman, Center for Inquiry 

I think there is at least potential for profound personal and political implications to the discoveries Bell may make in his experiment.

Many people in times of crisis put a great deal of hope in the idea that God will come through, or execute a plan that makes sense of it all. But what happens when the mental and emotional energy that goes into prayer and wishing were put toward something more concrete?

Bell’s experiment won’t settle the religion-versus-nonreligion debate by any stretch of the imagination.

But he might help us to understand what powers we sacrifice when we spend less of ourselves on entreaties to an unknowable being, and direct those energies toward dealing with the real world, as it is, right now.

Dale McGowan, author of "Parenting Beyond Belief" and "Atheism for Dummies"

Trying atheism is not only possible, it’s a very common step out of religious belief. The comedian and author Julia Sweeney called it “putting on the No-God glasses” to see what the world looks like when you stop assuming a god is running things.

A lot depends on how serious and honest someone is in the experiment. There’s a tendency to scramble back to old explanations at the first snap of a twig or the first feeling of wonder.

But those whose will to know is stronger than the will to believe usually find their way out. And when they do, the most common emotion they describe isn’t the anguish and despair they were told to expect — it’s freedom and relief.

Dave Muscato, spokesman, American Atheists 

I think what Ryan Bell is doing is a great thing. It's important to try to see other points of view so that you can have a better understanding of why other people don't believe the same things that you do. I don't think it's quite possible to try on the absence of belief the way he's intending to, though.

If Bell has made the choice to drop faith in superstition in favor of what the evidence shows, then he can understand the atheist experience. If he is holding on, he's not doing what an atheist does. He's simply not practicing his religion. I would say that a better name for this would be a lapsed Christian, not an atheist.

An atheist is an active role, not a passive one. We don't simply stop reading the Bible and stop praying and stop going to church. We love the process of learning and exploring answers.

Instead of resorting to "God did it," atheists are comfortable saying "I don't know, but I'm going to find out." That's where the fun starts; it means we're on the right path to finding the real answers to our questions.

David Myers, professor of psychology, Hope College 

In my book, "A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists," I quote the Christian author C. S. Lewis:

"Believe in God and you will have to face hours when it seems obvious that this material world is the only reality; disbelieve in Him and you must face hours when this material world seems to shout at you that it is not all. No conviction, religious or irreligious, will, of itself, end once and for all [these doubts] in the soul. Only the practice of Faith resulting in the habit of Faith will gradually do that.”

Indeed, psychological science confirms that attitudes and beliefs tend to follow behavior.  Act as if you believe—or don’t—and in time your beliefs may shift toward your actions.

Mitchell Stephens, author, "Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World"

I admit to being uncomfortable with the notion of “trying” atheism.

Can you try to have a conviction? And atheism, unlike religion, is not something that is simply accepted on faith. It presumes to be the result of reasoning and investigation. Limiting the experiment to a year also seems a bit artificial: that reasoning and investigation should never end.

Perhaps by “trying,” however, Bell means allowing yourself to be open to arguments that challenge your convictions. That certainly is noble. And the reading list of atheists and some of the West’s great questioners Bell has assigned himself is impressive. I would hope that nonbelievers would be as eager to confront the ideas of Kierkegaard or Dostoevsky.

Doubt, too, is noble. Surely, there is enough of it recorded in the gospels. Bell deserves credit for exploring rather than suppressing his doubts. He seems a thoughtful and courageous man. It is easy to imagine this being a rich and rewarding year – or lifetime.

It is a shame that some of Bell’s co-religionists are not better able to tolerate this exercise in openness and doubt. Perhaps that is one of the limitations of resting convictions upon faith rather than reasoning and investigation.

Merold Westphal, philosophy professor, Fordham University 

I think it is possible to "try" either atheistic unbelief or theistic belief to see if it "fits" in the sense of doing the practices that go with the position - praying or not praying, going to church or not going to church, reading the Bible or not reading the Bible, etc.

But I very much doubt that it is possible to suspend belief in the sense Bell suggested.

We do get caught up in the world of a movie and feel, for example, real anxiety. But then someone coughs or talks and we remember that what we are watching and hearing is fiction and the real world is the one where I'm sitting in a theater. We haven't ceased to believe, and the sense in which we have temporarily suspended belief (for an hour or two, not for a year) depends on powerful external  aids.  I'm not sure ceasing the practices of faith can have the same result, especially over so long a time.

Lauren Anderson Youngblood, spokesperson, Secular Coalition for America  

I'm not exactly sure how you would "try" it, because atheism is not a religion with rituals and obligations (attending church, fasting, not eating pork, etc).

Either you believe or don't believe. If you're on the fence, I would say you're an agnostic, not "trying" atheism.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Faith • Lost faith • Nones • Spirituality

soundoff (3,260 Responses)
  1. JJ

    It's amazing how many people do not know or understand what atheism is. Then there are those (mainly dishonest Christians) who intentionally re-define the term for their own purposes.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
    • No atheism please

      Atheism is a religion. Plain and simple.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
      • Trix

        And here is the prime example.

        Explain why.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
        • No atheism please

          Why need to explain? You will deny the facts that prove it😝

          January 14, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
        • yawn

          Troll has no explanation. troll is obvious troll.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
        • Trix

          You haven't forwarded any facts yet...so explain it.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
        • JJ

          *crickets*....Oh well...that's to be expected.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
      • JJ

        I believe this is an example of the "dishonest Christian" aka liar for Jesus.

        January 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
        • Gas eventually told cells how to act and create life...gas really

          Jesus loves , you ..seek Him , just once with no one around.. (pray) He always answers.He fills me with joy..lifes never going to be perfect , But Gods love is ..

          January 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
        • Randy

          And Vishnu loves you. Why are you being so ungrateful to Vishnu?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:56 pm |
        • JJ

          I hope you overcome your delusion one day.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
      • GAW

        I guess you like to have the last word don't you? Saying Plain and Simple will not do.

        January 14, 2014 at 4:35 pm |
    • Trix

      I cannot verify the veracity that those Christians are fundamentally dishonest, but there seems to be a plethora of them on here that pretend to be ignorant of the definition, even after they have been told repeatedly.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
  2. No atheism please

    Your atheism cannot leave your home. You cannot spread it by any means even through the internet. You must keep it to yourself. Now how many atheists would freak out if that was a reality? Atheists don't like a taste of their own medicine.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
    • doobzz

      Whatever, multi-name changing troll.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
      • No atheism please

        Answer the question troll or are you too weak in your atheism to answer it?

        January 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
        • doobzz

          " Now how many atheists would freak out if that was a reality? "

          I don't know. Probably fewer than the religious who can't abide anyone thinking differently from them.

          There, I answered your question. Happy?

          January 14, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
        • Science Works

          doobzz you MADE the top of L4H list LOL !!!

          January 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
        • doobzz

          @ Science Works

          "doobzz you MADE the top of L4H list LOL !!!"

          I did? Oh, my!

          *sniff*

          I'd like to thank the CNN Belief Blog, my former bible tutor, and the nun who ripped me a new one on the second day of school for asking a question about god. This is the greatest moment of my life!

          *tears and crying into my wadded up tissue*

          LOL, and L4H started a new thread to tell me "I know you are but what am I?" What a nutcase!

          January 14, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
        • Science Works

          LOL the list L4H won't respond too.

          god has never responded that i know of.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
        • doobzz

          "LOL the list L4H won't respond too."

          I hope L4H publishes its list again so we can all see if we won gold, silver or bronze.

          The winners are the ones don't get a response, IMO.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
        • Science Works

          doobzz

          I hope L4H publishes its list again so we can all see if we won gold, silver or bronze.

          The winners are the ones don't get a response, IMO. = *Agree*

          January 14, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
    • ME II

      Huh?
      No one is saying that you can't believe in and/or practice a religion, just don't expect anyone else to agree with you about it or respect it for that matter.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • Trix

      You must read a manual on how to troll effectively, babe. You really suck at this. Playing The Monty Python Contradiction Game isn't cutting it.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • blatant atheist

      eh? what, all atheists are telling you that you cannot spread religion or allow it to leave your home? Where did you pull that misinformation from?

      Here is what I believe, as an Atheist:
      1) Don't allow one religion to be used for all students when doing secular activities, like saluting the flag.
      2) Allow every religion to be practiced during a period of time on which someone is allowed to pontificate/meditate/pray/reflect. Reflection is great for Atheism, btw.
      3) Feel free to share your views. Don't force them on others. Agree to disagree. Enjoy the debates. 🙂

      January 14, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
    • trey

      Why do you think anyone is attacking your religion or belief? The fact that I don't believe in religion or god in no way impacts what you believe. Many atheists like myself don't need to be classified as this or that. I just don't want to engage in believing in something that I find illogical.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
    • My.Name.Is.Jeff.

      And if I didn't troll, I would have nothing else to do.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
    • Ryan

      I would happily accept it, if all religions had to do the same.

      Because absent religious indoctrination, my point of view would spread based on logic and evidence.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
    • pazke

      What do you think we've been doing for hundreds of years? Only recently have we begun to push back against the pressure to hide what we believe.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
    • Ponyboy Garfunkel

      Well, let’s see. Naught times naught is naught, carry your naught, minus naught, I’m going to say fewer than eleventy-seven. In fact, I have just begun to freak out. Count me among those freaking.

      January 14, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
    • um

      perfectly fine if u agree to stop spreading your faerie tales... but u will not...

      January 14, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
  3. Sea Otter (Leader Allied Atheist Alliance)

    Johnnie Cochran: Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it: That does not make sense! Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor with a bunch of two-foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense! Look at me. I'm a lawyer defending a major record company, and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberatin' and conjugatin' the Emancipation Proclamation, [approaches and softens] does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
    • Han

      Lol!

      I'm late to the party, but I just found out about Wookiepedia a few days ago!

      January 14, 2014 at 6:18 pm |
  4. AverageJoe76

    And obviously, IF God is supposed to be real, it doesn't want a majority of people to know about it. Only a God would know what it would take to convince a non-believer of it's exsistence, but it doesn't make a move. Making it more of a p.rick than already stated in the Bible.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
  5. LizM

    I'm not sure what's more obnoxious – evangelical atheists or evangelical Christians. I'd rather hang out with Buddhists, they keep quiet and calm.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
    • doobzz

      If you're talking about RL, I doubt you'd even know if you were hanging out with atheists. I don't have any need to discuss it. God believers are the ones who meet you and immediately start asking about your church, etc. It's like a screening interview, they need to decide if you're worth their time or not.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
      • Tom

        One thing I noticed, as an athiest, is that I have yet to meet two Christian's that have the same beliefs in their god! The Bible has been around since what, the 5th century? Yet nobody can seem to figure out what it says. If it were a regular library book, it would just get tossed aside in favor of finding something else! Which brings me to my next point, I don't think most "Christians" have actually read the dang book! But they have no problem quoting verses on a bumper sticker!

        January 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
        • doobzz

          I think for most, they know what they hear in church and that's pretty much it.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Christians, I would think. They want you to share in the love, go to heaven etc. Atheists, the evangelical sort, just want you to know there are no such things as God's love, God, or heaven. The truth won't make you feel good. Sorry.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
    • Stern

      They both are exactly the same. That is why they always hangout in the same kind of message boards.
      Most reasonable and rational people avoid both groups like the plague.

      January 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
  6. ES

    You don't have to do anything special to be an atheist. It is religious people who have to do all these extra things – pray, go to church. Just stop doing them and voila, you are living like an atheist. It is easy.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
    • AE

      Jesus commands us to overcome evil by doing good.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
      • ES

        I am doing good on my own. Jesus must be happy. And guess what, I have more free time to be doing good since I don't waste half of my Sunday going to churh.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
        • AE

          What is so wrong with learning, singing and socializing with other people on a Sunday morning? It is certainly not a waste time. Often we gather to do good for others. Kinds of things I couldn't do all on my own.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
      • Madtown

        Who's "us"? All humans, or just those who have chosen a spiritual/religious path similar to yours?

        January 14, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
      • fsmgroupie

        If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. luke14:26 better start hating

        January 14, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
        • AE

          What was he saying before that? Putting that whole chapter in context is important.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          Psalm 137:9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
        • AE

          Yea, a psalmist wrote that. The poetry those people wrote expressed doubt in and anger toward God, too. I think that Psalm was written by a prisoner. Isn't that what Psalm 137:3 is about?

          January 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          no

          January 14, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
        • Gas eventually told cells how to act and create life...gas really

          Simply saying that if you put others before God you are not truely His disciple..If your wife seeks to take away from living your life the way God wants Then you love her more than God. If someone kills your son and you murder the person who killed him , you love your son more than God...this is what he is saying.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:34 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          will you kill your own child to please your god if he commands you to do so? yes or no?

          January 14, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
        • AE

          Jesus has never asked me to do anything like that.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          he asked Abraham - yes or no - just answer the question - my answer is no, what is yours

          January 14, 2014 at 5:04 pm |
        • AE

          Did Abraham kill his son?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          oh ye of little faith – yes or no

          January 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
        • Gas eventually told cells how to act and create life...gas really

          He would never ask that of anyone again...in fact He sent His OWN Son to die for ALL including people who hated Him including those who dont believe in Him..Jesus was Gods only Begotten Son...and sacrificed himself for us all so that no one would have to do anything else...My answer is in abrahams time , Gods voice over me as a human I would question why but I would hope I would obey God. The story is a message of trusting in God . Because really when you decide to have a son or daughter...you have given them life but also enevitably death as well...but God is showing that death on earth means nothig that the life after death is what truely matters.To trust Him in this

          January 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm |
        • Randy

          Right. Would you worship someone who accepts child sacrifice in exchange for favors?

          January 14, 2014 at 6:14 pm |
        • AE

          Abraham didn't kill is son. So I wouldn't either.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
        • Randy

          Jephthah.

          January 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          you love your child more than your god ?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. luke14:26 better start hating

          January 14, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
        • AE

          God has never asked me to harm my children.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
        • AE

          What was he saying before that? Putting that whole chapter in context is still important.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          but you will disobey your god if he tells you to kill them – right?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
        • AE

          That wouldn't be my God.

          "Thou shall not murder."

          January 14, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          thou shalt have no other gods before me ( including your children)

          January 14, 2014 at 5:54 pm |
        • AE

          That doesn't mean I should kill my kids. I haven't seen anything that suggests I shouldn't be a caring and responsible parent to my children.

          January 14, 2014 at 6:01 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          sorry AE I gotta go walk the dog. nice chatting .later

          January 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
    • Ruby

      And it's free.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
    • JJ

      One can be a theist (simply believing in a deity) and not pray or go to church or following any dogma of a cult/religion.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
      • ES

        Yes, definitely. But it is not good enough for Christians.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
  7. Morgan

    You can't "try" atheism. It's not a belief system; it's a simple worldview. Either you're in the natural state of having never been indoctrinated into a religious belief, or you've found yourself back outside religious belief, but there is no "trying." It's not like spending a year being a hairstylist, or going without products from China. To suggest that one can "try" atheism is, at best, intellectual dishonesty.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
    • ES

      Except Christianity is not a worldview, a.k.a philosophy, it is an organized religion , which requires a certain lifestyle.
      This is why he is saying"live like an atheist", you can believe whateve your want, just stop participating in the organized religious activites and you are living like an atheist, that is it.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
      • AE

        No. According to Jesus he is not calling people into a religion. You got to go all the way in (100%), or don't bother, according to Jesus.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
        • ES

          Hmm, really. So, Jesus wants all or nothing? In most cases that means nothing.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
    • Tom

      Agree. This article, and his experiment, was a total wasted effort. You can't 'try" a belief like you try a different type of ethnic food. You either believe it or not.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  8. chelsea

    A good analogy is to do the same trick with a marriage. Let's say you're married, tell your spouse you want to try another person for a year. You will live as if you were not married at all. Let's see how well that works for you.

    This is like a Miley Cyrus strategy. Do something outrageous for the sake of publicity.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
    • doobzz

      That's a really bad analogy. My partner exists.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
      • chelsea

        so tell your partner you want to try living with some other person for a year. Forget your current partner for a year.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
        • doobzz

          Your analogy is bad. My partner actually exists, your deity doesn't. It's not the same thing at all.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
    • Vic

      On a separate note, just for the sake of justice, I believe Miley Cyrus is more pushed into her very commercial act than what she really bargains for, based on personal observations on the news, hence Nurture rather than Nature, pretty much.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
    • ES

      Bad analogy. You are not in a commited relationship with the God.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  9. glauber

    You can't 'try' it any more than you 'try' a religion. If you don't believe something, you're just acting like what you perceive adherents of a given belief act like. The guy's belief in g-d isn't gone. He's just pretending that it is. Maybe he won't pray or go to church or say grace or whatever, but his belief isn't gone, and won't be without a real period of reflection and intellectual rethinking of why he believes what he does and whether it's actually true or not.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
  10. Live4Him

    @ME II : At a minimum, I think, agnostic is without "knowing" not without any knowledge whatsoever.

    with this statement, you appear to be trying to blur the facts. How does one 'know' something if not evidence presented to him/her? Pretending that a person has plenty of knowledge but just hasn't committed to a given position is just chicanery.

    @ME II : Further, the usage of 'atheist' today often includes not knowing.

    So they claim, but actions speak louder than words.

    <><

    January 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
    • doobzz

      Forgot how to use the reply function again? Or just your usual attention whoring?

      January 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
      • Trix

        I'd go for the latter.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
        • doobzz

          Yeah, I don't get why people keep responding to it when it does this. It's not like I'm the first to point it out.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
    • Live4Him's true identi-ty exposed in YouTube video

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC6OWJexfrU

      January 14, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
    • ME II

      @Live4Him,
      "How does one 'know' something if not evidence presented to him/her?"

      I think you're making a logical error here. One cannot 'know' without evidence, I don't think, but one can certainly have evidence without knowing for certain. The entire idea of science is based on this very concept; induction is based on the idea that while one can gather huge amounts of evidence and draw statistical inferences from the data, but one cannot know absolutely.

      "Pretending that a person has plenty of knowledge but just hasn't committed to a given position is just chicanery."

      I'm not sure how "plenty" came into the discussion, all I'm saying is that having some knowledge does not equate to "knowing".

      January 14, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
      • Doris

        "having some knowledge does not equate to "knowing"."

        Yes – I think so. I think that an agnostic accumulates knowledge on a topic (focus not on the topic/claim but on the arguments for/against individually), and then arrives at an net result – being comfortably able to claim the topic/claim generally as knowledge (focus on the topic/claim).

        January 14, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
      • Live4Him

        @ME II : one can certainly have evidence without knowing for certain.

        I would agree. However, I would posit that the more knowledge one has, the more likely a decision will be made.

        @ME II : The entire idea of science is based on this very concept;

        This statement reveals to me that you have no idea what science is. Science is a methodology that should lead to objective conclusions. Conclusions are decisions that lead to behavior changes.

        @ME II : draw statistical inferences from the data, but one cannot know absolutely.

        By this definition, EVERYONE is an agnositic and thus the term has no meaning. No one knows for certain any issue. For example: The twin towers were attacked and destroyed on 9/11. Yet, in an alternate timeline, the attack was thwarted and they still stand today. However, we still act as if we absolutely know they were destroyed on 9/11. So, drop the 'absolutely' and look to the person's actions. Do they walk into one of the Tower's lobby? Nope. Then that person has internalized a decision that the towers no longer exist. Does the person act like a final judgment is possible? Nope. Then that person has made a decision that the Biblical God does not exist. Everything beyond this is just more chicanery.

        <><

        January 14, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Certainly we can only know things that are true.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:53 pm |
      • ME II

        @Live4Him,
        "This statement reveals to me that you have no idea what science is."

        Science is inductive reasoning, generalization from the specific, i.e. not proof.
        Logic and math are deductive reasoning, specifics from the general, i.e. proof.

        "Science is a methodology that should lead to objective conclusions."

        I'd say "can lead", but sure, I agree. Although, i

        "Conclusions are decisions that lead to behavior changes."

        Not necessarily. Some conclusions merely confirm existing understandings and some, or most, lead to more questions.

        "By this definition, EVERYONE is an agnositic and thus the term has no meaning."

        I disagree. Everyone is an agnostic, ultimately, but it does have meaning in that people need to realize that they don't really "know" things.

        Best bumper sticker I ever saw:
        "Militant Agnostic: I don't know and YOU DON'T EITHER!"

        "Does the person act like a final judgment is possible? Nope. Then that person has made a decision that the Biblical God does not exist. Everything beyond this is just more chicanery."

        Honestly, I don't follow what you are getting at here. I can not judge another's beliefs solely on their actions. In fact, I doubt that I can ever know another person true beliefs, regardless of how they act. What's that got to do with agnosticism anyway?

        January 14, 2014 at 5:36 pm |
    • Trix

      "So they claim, but actions speak louder than words."

      Do you know any atheists, beyond the ones you read on this forum?

      January 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
  11. sybaris

    The difference between me and your god is if I saw a baby being ra.ped I would try to stop it.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
  12. AverageJoe76

    Religion's problems lie in the details. [Get it? 'Lie' in the details.......?]

    Anywho..... the details get us all killed/ oppressed/ mislead. Thirty-thousand+ denominations of Christianity. Why? Humans don't agree on details. Details no mortal can be relied on to know, because the 'details' can never be proven /supported by humans or the physical world by that matter.

    "Jesus rose from the dead" – no one can prove this happened.
    "God made us" – no one can prove this happened.

    And most important....... "God is real" – no one can prove this.

    YET.... count the bodies. We kill for the dumbest thing. Invisible, oderless, silent beings that seem to very shy about apperaing in the Modern Era. They don't like science (they go through leaps and bounds to be avoided by any instrument).

    Conclusion: All popular Gods should be seen as Zeus and Odin. Santa and the Easter Bunny.

    'God' is the epidomy of mankind's imagination. A brain trying to understand.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
    • No Evidence

      A brain that confuses mythology and imagination with reality.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
    • Citanafvic

      OBJECTION! Religion emerged as a response to uncertainty about the period following the cessation of life. After all, if existence is temporary, do we exist only as neurological responses and biochemistry? Religion, or theism in general, is the idea that the soul continues beyond standard existence. Unfortunately for atheism and theism in general, it's impossible to prove that the soul expires at time of death or if it persists into an afterlife or even reincarnation. Science has yet to disprove the existence of an afterlife, and therefore, if the possibility exists that an afterlife is real, you still have to accept the possibility that a deity is real. As stated earlier, the devil is in the details in terms of history, but the fact remains that at the core of both the belief in atheism and the belief in theism, neither can be truly debunked or confirmed.

      January 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
      • AverageJoe76

        No one's proven that a soul is real. So to wonder if it stops after death is skipping a step. Proving souls would be a step in the right direction for a theist.

        January 14, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
        • Citanafvic

          At the same time, no has proven they aren't real. Can you prove decisively that a soul will not persist beyond the point of death or at very least show research that has proven it beyond any doubt?

          Atheism is a theory, as is theism. An atheist takes it on faith that God isn't real, and a theist takes it on faith that God is real. You cannot rightfully eliminate a theory until definite empirical evidence emerges that disproves it. The great flaw of atheism is that it takes just as much fervent belief to deny the existence of a God as it takes to believe in one.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
        • Randy

          Tell us about how sasquatches react to thunder. The problem with that question is the problem with your argument. If you claim X exists, prove it. Not having it disproved is not evidence that it exists, nor does it legitimize acceptance of the claim. Pixies, goblins, and ogres exist. Nobody has disproved them, either. You really have failed at the fundamentals of argument and logic.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:19 pm |
        • Citanafvic

          It's a matter of how you approach an argument. Theism vs. Atheism is not an argument that can be won by either side, therefore it is not a debate, but rather a matter of personal philosophy. You cannot disprove the existence, nor can you prove the lack of existence of a God. You can disprove details of a faith, i.e. the Camping prediction of 2012, but you cannot disprove the notion of faith itself. If you are an atheism you take it purely on faith that there is no God. If you are a theist, you take it purely on faith that there is a God. That is the sole thesis of my statements here. Neither side can say, "Our ism is the absolute truth."

          January 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
        • Randy

          Atheism is when you don't believe in gods. Some (gnostic) atheists go a step further and claim to know no gods exist. Most atheists are agnostic. Theism is when you believe in at least one god. Some (gnostic) theists claim to know at least one god exists. Most theists are agnostic. Language is far more nuanced and subtle than how it is often understood, especially by people who are taught that every question must have a simple answer immediately available.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
        • Johnny

          It takes no faith to not believe in gods. I just look at the claims made by people who do believe them and say to myself that is really, really silly and then I move on with my life.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
    • Gas eventually told cells how to act and create life...gas really

      Thats right...Gas judst appeared ..or was just....there and after a big bang the gas formed cells that told itself how to mutate into inteliggent creatures eventually evovling into humans...gas did this.....cells dont tell themselves how to act something guides them. I know God exist because of the faith and love he burns inside of me every time I pray to him, death is part of life...that is something we cant avoid. But the whole point is life on this earth is fragile and short, the life after this is eternal, Gods wants to see how ww will go through our lives , when doubt is there but so is His word. You cnat prove to me right now that gas exploded and inteligent beings eventually came of it ....but I do feel Gods love evryday, and actually when you think about it logically , how could there NOT be a GOD? its pretty stupid if you ask me , to belive that gas came from nowhere made itself and then made cells and told them what to form and how to form...

      January 14, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
      • Randy

        Look up "argument from ignorance" on google, and then apologize for making such a foolish argument.

        January 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
        • Gas eventually told cells how to act and create life...gas really

          so your foolishly saying that Gas did indeed create itself, and in turn time is all it took for inteligent cells to form life .....from Gas ...gas taught it this LOL...whos foolish

          January 14, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
        • Randy

          Even if we knew absolutely nothing about the universe, "God did it with magic" doesn't win by default. Was Zeus a correct explanation for lightning before it was properly understood?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
  13. Jmo

    Good for Ryan Bell. If more people tried atheism, and took a hard look at their own religion from the outside, we would have far fewer Christians in this country.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
  14. Gregrre

    Why not go for the gold? Live the gay 'lifestyle' for a year since that to is a 'choice'...

    January 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
    • doobzz

      LOL

      January 14, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
    • OTOH

      Heh, it's been done:

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/02/christians-year-of-living-gay-leads-to-dramatic-change-sparks-controversy/comment-page-6/

      January 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @Gregrre – the dumbass is strong in you...

      January 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
    • Topher

      Reminds me of some stories from my younger years!

      January 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
      • Trix

        Why? Did you pretend to be gay for a year?

        January 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  15. Rednex For Jeezus

    "Sikivu Hutchinson, a writer who has criticized the lack of racial diversity in the the atheist community..."

    Does this strike anyone else as funny? As if someone is going to say, "sorry, we don't allow people of your ethnic persuasion not believe in a god or gods."

    January 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
    • Richard

      "Does this strike anyone else as funny?"

      Yes.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
    • doobzz

      How would you even know? I don't go around asking people if they believe in gods. It's the god believers who think that's some sort of conversation starter.

      Then if they don't like your answer, they tell you that you're garbage and how much they enjoy fantasizing about your eternal torture.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
    • ME II

      I think the key is atheist "community", not atheism itself.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
  16. Vic

    I believe this is a Nature verses Nurture situation.

    Ryan Bell's, or anybody's for that matter, experiment might end up with false pretenses due to the fact that it is publicized and would receive a lot of support that would not usually be the case for most people, let alone the political influence on such matter. In other words, Ryan Bell's experiment will definitely receive the honeymoon treatment form the atheist community, just like a publicized potential convert to Christianity would receive from the Christian community, hence Nurture rather than Nature.

    The "Conviction of the Heart" is a very "personal and natural" experience!

    January 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
    • Vic

      "..Nature versus Nurture.."

      "..honeymoon treatment from the.."

      January 14, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
  17. JJ

    One can't just try atheism. Perhaps he is trying out what it's like to claim to be an atheist and what persecution gets inflicted upon him.

    January 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jmo

      Of course he can try atheism. See what happens when you stop praying, going to church, and wondering what the world would be like if the answers to the ultimate questions were, "I guess maybe it's not real." Is not the transformation most atheists undergo a process whereby we slowly awaken?

      January 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
  18. Atheism is a religion

    Atheism is a religion but atheists don't want to admit it. Each atheist creates their own religion. Some may have the same beliefs(such as dishonest atheists who swear there is no God). "If atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby". What a lame excuse. I'm not talking about not believing in God. For most atheists, it's beyond that. Well, I should say internet atheists. They are a dangerous and angry bunch.

    January 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
    • Science Works

      From the article you might want to read more – NOTICE ID is mentioned ?

      Current Research

      Prof. Edgell is working with a colleague, Prof. Hull, on a research project funded by the National Science Foundation, analyzing how religious, scientific, and legal frameworks intersect to shape citizens’ understandings of controversial social issues (e.g. like genetic engineering, Intelligent Design, or GLBT adoption). She is also working with colleagues on a second wave of the American Mosaic Project, also funded by the National Science Foundation, to analyze how Americans make sense of racial, religious, and other forms of diversity in American life.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
      • Topher

        What does ID have to do with anything. You and I are likely on the same side on that issue.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
        • Science Works

          It is not science but they tried to get it in text books in Texas ?

          January 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
    • rdeleys

      You would like to believe that we are an angry bunch but that's only you resent us because we make you confront your own doubts about your religion.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
    • Cass

      I take it your religion is Trolleism.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
    • I'm 47, unemployed, and live with my parents

      You said it.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
    • Russ

      Religion is a communal belief that uses language, symbolism, and ritual for a cosmic epistemology. Atheism is the non-belief in a deity or deities. Therefore, atheism does not qualify as a religion.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
      • LizM

        A more widely used definition is a system of beliefs that separates the world into sacred and profane and uses ritual to bind the community. One doesn't need to believe or not believe in a God to be religious. Atheism, however, isn't a religion due to the lack of organized ritual.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
        • Russ

          I like that definition as well. Ritual seems to be the common theme that's missing. Cheers.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
    • igaftr

      "Atheism is a religion but atheists don't want to admit it"

      Why do people keep trying to force this lie, as if repeating it makes it true.

      Is not believing in santa a religion?
      is not believing in the tooth fairy a religion?

      Of course not, this is the same thing.
      Not believing in gods is NOT a religion. Whatever the individual DOES believe may qualify, but NOT belief is in no way shape or form a religion,
      Theism is also NOT religion...belief in god is a belief...not a religion unto itself.

      Is lying for your god supposed to make points with him?

      January 14, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
    • jorge

      This Atheism is a religion person seem to want to argue with itself in its own post. Is not right in head.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
    • Seth Wampole

      I love how others treat Atheists as if they are constantly shunning the obvious proof that there is a God, and denying themselves the salvation out of pure free will, or the simple wish to make others mad. That's truly not the case. Speaking as an Atheist myself, I have come to the conclusion of a lack of God on my own terms, with no biased teachings (on the contrary, my grandmother taught me the Bible at an early age, yet I still find my way to Atheism by myself). I strongly back my thoughts with evidence that I have found, as well as numerous discussions with others both religious and non. Don't get me wrong, I wish there was a God; everlasting life with my loved ones sounds magical and fantastic, but in my eyes with everything I know, it is just that: Magic and Fantasy.

      If someone can prove to me there is a God, I will happily worship him/her/it/whatever. I am not denying the existence, I am questioning it based on logic. If I am punished for using the brain that was supposedly bestowed on me by your Creator, is that truly such a crime?

      Lastly, as I like to say, Christianity, Judaism, and other such groups are a Religion because they base their beliefs around faith (which is perfectly fine). Atheism is a philosophy because it is based around known fact (as I said, if it becomes 100% unquestionable fact that God is real, then a lot of Atheists would convert).

      January 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
      • jorge

        very very good. i agree.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
      • AverageJoe76

        I would constantly look up at the sky and speak as if God was there, watching over me. People told me that God would speak to them. I didn't hear anything except for my own voice in my head. Nothing seemed to be coming from a seperate source. I would covert to a theist OR be committed to an asylum if I heard God. BUT... I'd definitely committ if I were convinced.

        I was absolutely ready to be a soilder for God if it were true. "IF IT WERE TRUE."

        I'm a passionate person, and I wanted to believe with every fiber of my being. I wanted that peace really bad. To help calm my ever-questioning brain. But alas, I couldn't find anything. And the flock seemed to dissappoint me too much also.

        Then I actually read the Bible. And that paved my road to atheism.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
        • Citanafvic

          I've followed that journey myself. Belief is a powerful force in someone's life, and atheists, while you cannot rightfully qualify atheism as a religion, believe in something just as much as a theist. I've responded to your other comments in this vein, and I will not repeat myself, but the fact is that when I realized that following atheism is only different in that you actively deny a God's existence, you open yourself to the same flaws in religion. How can you actively deny a God, when you have no proof that he doesn't exist? Just because a god does not intervene does not mean that there is none. Deism is the proper term for the belief that there is a god, but he expects us to do what we can to make the world better for ourselves. I'd highly recommend you look into it, as it may be what you're really looking for. I'm not demanding you convert, but based on your statements, I'd suggest starting with the deism Wikipedia page and making your own choices from there.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
        • Yeager

          "How can you actively deny a God, when you have no proof that he doesn't exist?"

          Ah so you believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That's good to know.

          Also what is the point of being a Deist. It seems to just be a placeholder for things we don't know. You could just as easily say Mother Nature did it.

          January 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm |
    • patrick

      I refuse to worship anything at all and there is no such thing as right or wrong, only opinions about things being right or wrong. I thought the correct term for me would be atheist but now you're telling me I'm religious anyway. Do you not have a term to describe me or do you refuse to accept that these things about me are true?

      January 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
      • Liar for atheism right here!

        Amen.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
        • Trix

          You're still trying way to hard to troll. Take a bit longer to re-think your strategy.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      You might be confusing anger with fustration.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
    • WilltheFree

      Atheism is not a religion. You are silly.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
    • No Gods Please

      You're simply wrong. Atheism does not try to do the same thing as religion does. Atheism does not try to provide an answer to life's questions (meaning of life, afterlife, etc.). It is not a bunch of principals that are held as a world view, it does not a belief system, have anything to do with morality, etc.

      Atheism is this, and only this: A lack of belief that there are gods. Plain and simple. Morals come from experiences in the person's life and social circles, just like a religious person's does.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
      • Yes to God. No to atheism

        I hear insane theories by most atheists that come to this blog and their explanation about how life began. They take on theory and make it their own. Happens all the time because atheists got nothing and know in their hearts they are in the same boat as everyone else is but their ego prevents them from admitting it.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
        • G to the T

          Because it was well stated and you seemed to ignore it completely:

          "Atheism is this, and only this: A lack of belief that there are gods."

          January 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
        • No Gods Please

          Most atheists? No, I highly doubt it. But even if it were some atheists, what's wrong with wondering about how life began? There had to be something that started it, but as of yet no one knows what that something is. Atheists would rather think it was some kind of natural event rather than believe that some magic guy in the sky just poofed it into existence. The one good thing is that atheists are not just sheep who follow the teachings of a 2000 year old book written by men who didn't have the scientific logic to explain anything other than to say "god did it".

          January 14, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
        • Yes to God. No to atheism

          To atheists it's "non-belief did that but I can't prove God didn't do it and that's my opinion which I think is superior because I have logic!!!" Atheists shout "I'm more logical than you!!!" like a child. Get over yourself.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
        • No Evidence

          Just another opportunity for the religious nut-jobs to change word definitions to suit their delusions.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:53 pm |
    • ES

      If it is a religion, then it is the best one – you don't have to do anything to follow it, you don't have to go to church, pray, listen to some randome people telling you that you are a bad person and there is nothing you can do about it because all humans were born in sin or whatever.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
    • Religion is a delusion

      Apple = boat. Makes as much sense as what you posted.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
      • Gas eventually told cells how to act and create life...gas really

        an apple floats like a boat smart ass

        January 14, 2014 at 4:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby,
      Atheism is a religion like health is a disease,
      Atheism is a religion like not smoking is a habit,
      Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color,
      Atheism is a religion like off is a television channel,

      Atheism has no sacred text, no orthodoxy, no rites or rituals, no houses of worship … it is neither a religion nor a faith. It is the absence of faith in God. Sure there are militant atheists, some of whom act as zealously as believers, but it is not a belief system. Atheism does not require a positive belief in the non-existence of God.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm |
  19. Live4Him

    @Alfred : But the degree of faith involved in the two assertions is vastly different.

    You're being subjective in this statement. Utilizing etymology, we can determine that an agnostic is a person 'without knowledge' on the subject. So, an example of a perfect agnostic is a newborn. The child lacks any knowledge upon which decisions are made. Thus, 'God' and 'no god' are equal in likelihood. The more knowledge one gains on the topic, the less they could claim to be an agnostic.

    @Alfred : The amount of faith required to make any assertion varies inversely with the evidence supporting that assertion

    This is a misleading statement. While the statment itself is accurate, it assumes that a person has perfect knowledge on the subject. What if a court only heard one side of a case before rendering a judgment? Unfortunatly, this is what usually occurs for all religions. A child is brought into this world without any view on God. They are frequently bombarded from multiple sources without any chance to be objective on the so-called evidence. Thus, they trust what was given to them as factual – and rarely question it again in the future.

    So, if you spend your entire childhood hearing about how nature formed this earth, you internalize the underlying idea of atheism. You rarely asked about the facts (or lack thereof) that support that position. The same is true of Christianity. Sadly, even as adults, people rarely question internalized values. So, the faith that the evidence is based upon is rarely correlated to total evidence available.

    <><

    January 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
    • ME II

      At a minimum, I think, agnostic is without "knowing" not without any knowledge whatsoever.
      Further, the usage of 'atheist' today often includes not knowing.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
      • G to the T

        "Know" can be tricky word in this context. I try to think of it as a level of confidence. There is almost nothing that I have a 100% confidence in. Those things I could say I "know". But everything else is just a level of confidence based on the data provided so far.

        January 15, 2014 at 11:34 am |
    • Saraswati

      "Utilizing etymology, we can determine that..."

      Using etymology we can determine that a person with anemia has no blood. The vampires must be running wild.

      Unfortunately, languages evolve and you cannot use etymology to determine word meanings but only to get a hint of what they might be.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
      • Trix

        Good Lord, but L4H likes to argue about the stupidest shit...

        January 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
        • fyi

          L4H is a legend in her own mind...

          January 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
    • Alfred

      "While the statment itself is accurate, it assumes that a person has perfect knowledge on the subject"

      No, it doesn't. It's about amount of evidence, not about perfect knowledge.

      "They are frequently bombarded from multiple sources without any chance to be objective on the so-called evidence. "

      Why does having multiple sources of evidence create an inability to be objective? I think it's just the opposite. Consider how little objectivity one can have with only one source, and I think you'll see my point.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
      • Live4Him

        @Alfred : No, it doesn't. It's about amount of evidence, not about perfect knowledge

        How could a person evaluate knowledge that is not available to him/her?

        @Alfred : Why does having multiple sources of evidence create an inability to be objective?

        You missed my point entirely, so let me try to present it another way. A child lacks cognitive skills. This ability doesn't develop until the pre-teen years, but they are still bombarded from multiple sources on differnt topics – including religion. By the time a child reaches these pre-teen years, they've already internalized many ideas which are never questioned once these cognitive skills develop. Additionally, these cognitive skills take time to hone – they don't magically appear in one's teen years.

        <><

        January 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
        • Alfred

          You're right, I did miss your point, and now I'm missing both of your new points. I just don't understand what you're getting at with the first one, and the second appears to be an incomplete thought.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Alfred : now I'm missing both of your new points.

          1) A person can only evaluate the information available to him/her when a given decision is made. This decision is not contingent upon all available knowledege, so the statment "The amount of faith required to make any assertion varies inversely with the evidence supporting that assertion" is misleading because it implies that all knowledge is available to a person at the moment the decision is cast.

          2) People usually start developing cognitive skills in their pre-teen years. These skills may not be fully developed until the person is 30 years old, although they are often reasonably developed by their 21st birthday (i.e. drinking age).

          3) Any decision made during these formative years will be internalized without realizing it. One's religious views is usually made during these years.

          Therefore, most religious views are formed based upon biased information and lacking objectivity. Then, these views are internalized and rarely reconsidered. This is one reason that you see people resort to mockery / belittling statements to avoid revealing their lack of knowledge-based religious views.

          <><

          January 14, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
        • No Evidence

          The key word here is "factual" information. Information about mythology is still information but still information about mythology. Factual information requires evidence and of course, there is none for any gods.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
    • Doris

      "The more knowledge one gains on the topic, the less they could claim to be an agnostic."

      Maybe, but maybe not. In the end, the person may claim to be more agnostic based on incoming knowledge about a topic or claim.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
      • Richard

        In other words, they may become more and more aware of just how little they know?

        January 14, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
        • Doris

          Well that or they may find more information that undermines what they previously accepted as knowledge.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
    • Wesc2

      Actually a newborn baby is an atheist. They have no knowledge of the idea of "god"...and if they lived their life with no contact with the outside world, they'd never even think about that. You don't have to willfully NOT believe in god to be an atheist. You can have no knowledge of the idea of "god" and guess what? You don't believe in god.

      Agnostics, on the other hand, also don't believe in god, but they allow for the possibity that god(s) could exist. Many religious people often turn into agnostics for a while before they transition into full atheism, which is throwing the whole idea of god out the window as if it never existed, like a newborn.

      January 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
  20. Shadowflash1522

    I'm having a hard time picturing how someone would "try" atheism, like you try on a shirt or try pizza-flavored ice cream or even try being a "churchgoer". These all have a component of *doing* to them, therefore they are things you can try to do or enjoy.

    What was he planning to do, grow a scruffy beard and sit in the dark clutching a latte in one hand and pounding out vitriol on Internet forums with the other?

    (Sorry, that's the most stereotypical image of "the dreaded atheist" that I could come up with)

    January 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      It's easy to go through the motions of being a churchgoer.

      Yes, 'trying on' atheism is a bit absurd. Rejecting his usual churchgoing behavior in search of an alternative explanation is not.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.