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MISSED SCIENCE SALON # 13?

Watch the recording of Dr. Walter Scheidel in conversation with Michael Shermer

For those who could not make it to Pasadena, California for Science Salon #13 with Stanford University historian Dr. Walter Scheidel, we have made a video recording of the event available to you. Watch it online for free.

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In this week’s eSkeptic, based on a sample of hundreds of respondents to a survey distributed through social media, California State University, Fullerton psychologists Brittany Page and Douglas J. Navarick explain the differences they found in how atheists view God.

The Three Shades of Atheism
How Atheists Differ in Their Views on God

by Brittany Page & Douglas J. Navarick

When we think of prominent atheists, we may conjure up an image of one of the “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheism—Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett—authors famous for their steadfast rejection of any form of deity and their willingness to confront the world’s religions. Ironically, however, when we see them in debates and interviews, the confidence with which they make their case and discount the opposition may at times seem indistinguishable from the offputting dogmatism of the hyper-religious. How typical of atheists are the Four Horsemen?

Skeptic 22.2 (cover)

This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 22.2 (2017)
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Our research, based on a sample of hundreds of respondents to a survey distributed through social media, indicates that they probably represent a common form of atheism but not the majority view. Most atheists express some degree of tentativeness in their beliefs and would be prepared to consider contrary evidence and arguments. In other words, they are skeptical in their orientation rather than dogmatic. However, the prevalence of dogmatic atheism may come as a surprise to some observers, including Richard Dawkins,1 who stated that he “would be surprised to meet many people” who would say “I know there is no God.” Many respondents in our survey said this.

Distinguishing Between Categories of Atheistic Belief

To categorize the various forms of atheism, it is necessary to distinguish among several closely related concepts.

Formal v. informal meanings of atheism. The term atheism literally means an absence of belief in a deity, as in a theismwithout theism. This formal usage broadly encompasses both nonbelief and the explicit rejection of a deity. Nonbelief without any inclination to reject a deity is similar to, but distinguishable from, agnosticism, a term introduced by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1876 at a meeting of Britain’s Metaphysical Society, many of whose members were clergymen, and elaborated upon at a symposium published in 1884 by The Agnostic Annual. Huxley defined agnosticism as the absence of belief one way or the other and the absence of a claim to having any scientific knowledge on the issue:

Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe. […]

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Minions, Mobs & Myrmidons
MONSTERTALK EPISODE 129

From ancient Greece to modern movies, monsters and villains often get their assistance from mindless mobs of maleficent minions. Are they simply plot devices, or do minions tell us something about the real-world role of the follower when loyal obedience is valued more than heroic ethics? In this episode of Monstertalk, David Perlumtter and Cait Mongrain join us to discuss Minions, Mobs and Myrmidons.

David Perlmutter

David Perlmutter

Caitlin Mongrain

Caitlin Mongrain

Get the MonsterTalk Podcast App and enjoy the science show about monsters on your handheld devices! Available for iOS, Android, and Windows. Subscribe to MonsterTalk for free on iTunes.

5 Comments »

5 Comments

  1. Violet Weinberg says:

    This study on atheism versus a deity and evidence versus faith – just strikes me as super simplistic. It would seem to me that the term “God” is a conceptual imagination term that differs subjectively for everyone. A child imagines God as the all protective and loving father and an adult may have a quite different concept based on the mystery and complexity of life…….or a feeling of awe when confronted with the majesty of the world. Myriad cultures have their own ideas So which of these varied concepts is the Atheist against? Which concept are we discussing here? Some say God has no anthropomorphic characteristics and is indefinable. OtherS define God with great detail. I feel profound wonder when viewing nature and all it’s life forms. Because I do not know how life came about has nothing to do with whether the creation of life was caused by forces unknown, the right physical conditions or got blown here by cosmic forces. I could call any of these ideas “God” or any other label but if I do not consider any of these marvels happened because of a being sitting in a cloud with arms, legs and testicles – none of which he can use, so it appears…….but should that make me an atheist or a theist? I think it’s pretty much a waste of breath and time! This all sounds as though everyone who believes in “God” has the same concept and everyone who doesn’t is against believing in that one same concept.

    • Bob Pease says:

      I think this deserves an answer.

      The Hebrew supreme spirit ” Elohim” (not plural )
      is widely “Believed in “western Civilization ” and was spread throughout the Western Civilization
      in the 4th Century and later split into Christian and Moslem branches

      Until recently ithe idea was not widely accepted.

      RJ Pease

    • Bill Crane says:

      Even more interesting is that God (Old Testament images) showing an old man. So how did he get old? has he gotten even older? what is the typical life span of a Supreme Being? And why (for God’s sake) is he wearing a pink dress in Michelangelo’s depiction in the Sistine Chapel?

    • Bill Crane says:

      Further, the first part of the Shahada (“la ilaha” – there is no god) is inviting to atheists. After the’re in the mosque, they slam the door behind them and deliver the “but” (illa Allah). Sneaky.

    • Leo says:

      The ‘adult’ is the result of a cocktail of cognitive biases (important e.g., affirmation bias, bandwagon effect, etc.) and the inherent human urge to explain everything and not leave questions open (e.g., before Kepler, … it took a god like Apollo, Ra or even JHVH to make the sun rise every day). Nevertheless, the lack of (scientific) explanations does not imply the existence of esoteric interventions.

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