Taking atheism beyond Christianity...

I believe I’ve asked this question before, in some form, but considering some recent threads here, I’d like to ask in a little more detail:

If someone is an atheist, does that necessarily mean that (s)he believes in nothing beyond what science, and one’s own senses, can tell us? That is, does a disbelief in God necessarily imply that you don’t believe in ghosts, that the human soul as an eternal force is nonexistent, that no form of magic exists, that predominantly pagan beliefs like animal totems are claptrap, and so on?

If you do believe in anything that can be deemed supernatural, CAN you be an atheist? Couldn’t theists use that as an “in” to attack your beliefs? Where do you draw the line between religion and the supernatural, if any whatsoever exists? If any part of the supernatural exists, MUST religious belief (whatever it may be) be true, or vice versa? In other words, just what relationship is there between religion and any form of spiritual or noncorporeal belief or practice whatsoever? Certainly, a lot of people think there’s a pretty heavy gap; otherwise Wicca would be considered a religion by more of the populace. But does it exist…?

If you know someone is an atheist, all you know for sure is that they don’t believe in a god. It is not a stance relevant to all supernatural ideas. Certainly many (most?) atheists lack beliefs in any supernatural entities, and while that may be related to their atheism it is not covered by the label “atheist”.

In short, the only thing an atheist can’t believe in (by definition) is any god.

“Naturalist” would be a better term for those who reject the supernatural, or perhaps “materialist”.

I agree with BlackKnight, but I do not think that the term materialist is in favor right now, due to the connotation of only caring about physical things. MOST Atheists consider themselves naturalists, but there are certainly a few with supernatural beliefs of some kind or another.

I can only speak for myself—one of the things about being an atheist!

• you don’t believe in ghosts

• that the human soul as an eternal force is nonexistent

• that no form of magic exists

• that predominantly pagan beliefs like animal totems are claptrap

—check, check, check and check. Anything else?

It wouldn’t surprise me too much to find an atheist who believes in psychic powers. They might think there is ultimately a scientific basis for them, though.

—I can only speak for myself—one of the things about being an atheist!—

No, these are things about YOU, not atheism. These are all additional beliefs that YOU have, not “atheists.”

As I’ve noted before, many Buddhists are atheists (they don’t believe in any gods), but of course have quite mystical beliefs about the unity of all existence and such.

. . . Ummm, that was my point.

Apos: I think Eve meant that since she is an atheist, she can only speak for herself – not that the 4 things on her list are things about atheism.

I can only agree with what others have already said.

Leaper: All the questions in the OP have run through my mind also. I’m glad you asked them and I hope each one is addressed.

Yes, there is. Does that mean that you limit your beliefs in only what can currently be proven by science and what your senses indicate?

Are individuals merely the consequence of a mutation, so to speak?

Isn’t that what a materialist is? What is a naturalist? How is one different from the other?

Well, there’s materialist in the philosophical sense, and materialist in the Beemer-driving Yuppie sense. A materialist in the philosophical sense need not be a materialist in the consumerist sense; the “physical things” a philosophical materialist cares most about may be other people. (And there’s also the Marxian or dialectical flavor of materialist; of course, all philosophical materialists are not necessarily materialists of that particular sort.)

I think the point was that there isn’t really much difference between the terms “naturalist” and “materialist”, it’s just a question of which set of misunderstandings you want to avoid: you trade being thought of as Yuppie scum for people thinking you’re a birdwatcher, or possibly a nudist.

You can always use the term “rationist.”


Damn. I meant “rationalist.”

However, a rationalist is not necessarily a materialist/naturalist.

a :A negative suffix (ie: amoral, asexual)
theist : one who believes in God or religeon( ie: theology)

atheist : no God or religeon

Which, of course, does not preclude a belief in Elves, Leprichans, UFOs or Elvis.

Technically, all atheism is is pointing to the theists and saying, “They’re wrong!” You still have soliptists, and loonies, and that one tribe in Brazil with no religious or tribal beliefs.

"Does that mean that you limit your beliefs in only what can currently be proven by science and what your senses indicate?

Are individuals merely the consequence of a mutation, so to speak?"

—Yup. În my opinion, of course. And I know full well that there are many, many things that science has not even begun to approach yet, let alone “prive.”

Prive?” And how the hell did my “I” get a stylish little cocktail hat on it? Prive THAT, Mr. Scientist!

Actually, pace Isaac Asimov, I prefer to be called a rationalist, which is a positive assertion of adherence to a rational worldview based on logic and evidence, instead of atheist, which is merely a negation of belief in gods. Espousing atheism puts one on the eternal defensive, having to explain why ypu deny God’s existence. Rationalism, on the other hand, is a positive affirmation that the world works in ways that are testable and predictable, and that claims of the existence of the supernatural world must be backed up by hard evidence.

Like Eve, I can only speak for myself. I’m an atheist, and I also don’t believe in ghosts, UFO’s, Life After Death, telepathy, numerology, astrology or card reading, to name a few.

I’m a very naive person though, and I tend to believe people a lot.