When they say they're atheists, when they say they're Christians

Is it just me on this? Although I generally avoid any discussions of religion, faith, belief, and the rest - I generally stop at self-labelling as "Anglican", and then only if I have to - but it seems unavoidable that people want to say something about their opinion, usually "I don't believe in God" if atheist, and questioning if Christian "Are you [saved], [a Christian] etc. Then something of a formulaic perspective that articulates the understanding derived from grandma, televangelism or pre-adolescent Sunday school. Frustrates me, a lot, which is why I refrain from such conversations. I feel we are very ill-informed as societies and people such that it is very difficult to have meaningful discussion. Is it just me?
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  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    How do you know the perspective of these people derives from sources such as grandparents, TV evangelists, or Sunday School?
  • I'm being judgy Stetson, derived from experience. I made up "grandma, televangelists and Sunday school". Is that bad?
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    You're not alone, No prophet. Religious illiteracy is rife. It is irritating. Some who don't believe almost walk backwards as if they've neared a conversion trap. Some believers are ready to judge our Christianity using a measure they dig up from who-knows-where.

    I used to avoid talking about faith. Now I'm simply open about it. People get used to you in time. But for deep discussions come to the Ship, a church group, etc
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    My reply to an atheist self identifying as such, "Okay".
    My reply to, "Are you saved?" "Yes. Two thousand years ago."
  • RdrEmCofERdrEmCofE Shipmate
    edited May 2018
    Atheists: Get them to describe the God they don't believe in and say to them: "I quite agree, I could never believe in such as God as you have just described, either". "No!" "That is not anything like the God that I believe in".

    And leave it at that unless they question you about your own view of what God may be like.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    That's why I emulate Morgan Freeman's God in His Slot. I just sweep the floor while everyone talks bollocks and make encouraging noises whenever possible.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    Atheists: Get them to describe the God they don't believe in and say to them: "I quite agree, I could never believe in such as God as you have just described, either". "No!" "That is not anything like the God that I believe in".

    And leave it at that unless they question you about your own view of what God may be like.

    Every atheist I have have known has replied "any and all of them."
  • kmannkmann Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    Atheists: Get them to describe the God they don't believe in and say to them: "I quite agree, I could never believe in such as God as you have just described, either". "No!" "That is not anything like the God that I believe in".

    And leave it at that unless they question you about your own view of what God may be like.

    Every atheist I have have known has replied "any and all of them."
    But that isn't an answer to the question. The question was not 'identify' but 'describe.'
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited May 2018
    kmann wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    Atheists: Get them to describe the God they don't believe in and say to them: "I quite agree, I could never believe in such as God as you have just described, either". "No!" "That is not anything like the God that I believe in".

    And leave it at that unless they question you about your own view of what God may be like.

    Every atheist I have have known has replied "any and all of them."
    But that isn't an answer to the question. The question was not 'identify' but 'describe.'

    That's because atheists don't really care much about the attributes of gods they don't believe in. You might as well ask me exactly what kind of fairies I don't believe are at the bottom of my garden? Have you ever tried this on real atheists? I did, when I was a wide-eyed evangelical. They thought it was a ridiculous question for the reasons above.
  • Yes, Karl nails it.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    The misunderstanding I most often run into is that when I say I am not a Christian people assume I'm an atheist. I'm not an atheist.
  • I think Karl is right. It seems very weird to ask someone about which gods they don't believe in. Why not describe the god you do believe in? Why play clever games?
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    I think Karl is right. It seems very weird to ask someone about which gods they don't believe in. Why not describe the god you do believe in? Why play clever games?

    I think there's an assumption that most atheists disbelieve because they think that God is some sort of bad guy who inflicts suffering on mankind, or at least, heartlessly sits back and watched it happen without doing anything. And then you can reply with "But, isn't it OUR fault for not doing what we can to help the people who are suffering?"

    Whereas in fact, the objections to God could have nothing to do with any supposed evil attributes on his part, but rather logical objections such as "I don't see how a non-physical being could create a physical world". Even the Problem Of Evil(see the above paragraph) can be presented in a fairly neutral, impersonal tone: "If there is a being who is all all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good, why would he create anything less than absolute perfection?"
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Or simply "what is the evidence that this entity you call God exists?"
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    It seems like a strange way of structuring a thought anyway.

    Sometimes one might have an idea or an inkling of something one doesn't believe in. So if one was to say "I don't believe in the Pizzagate conspiracy" that might well suggest that one has a defined shape of that thing in mind.

    But then there are other things that might have considerably less shape. Someone who says "I don't believe in aliens" might not have thought very hard about the available ideas of what aliens look like. I don't see that a lack of acquaintance with sci-fi invalidates the disbelief.

    I'm sure we all have a range of things we don't believe in. And that disbelief takes various forms.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    MrC - I think aliens are an excellent comparison:

    "I don't believe stories of alien encounters. The evidence is poor and the size and distances involved in space make it very unlikely"
    "Which aliens do you not believe have visited?"
    "Any of them"
    "Perhaps you're thinking about Reptilians. I don't believe in them either. Let me tell you about Nordics They're totally different!"

    Would be very silly.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    kmann wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    Atheists: Get them to describe the God they don't believe in and say to them: "I quite agree, I could never believe in such as God as you have just described, either". "No!" "That is not anything like the God that I believe in".

    And leave it at that unless they question you about your own view of what God may be like.

    Every atheist I have have known has replied "any and all of them."
    But that isn't an answer to the question. The question was not 'identify' but 'describe.'
    Any sensible, rational atheist - well, like me! - would not be taken in by that question and will say I (completely) lack belief in any god.
    *pause to read that several times...!*
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    To be fair, I think there are a reasonable number of people who reject Christianity because they detest the violent mysogenist deity that they've been taught is the only available option in the past.

    But that's not all atheists and some of those people are not even atheists.

    A category error.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    I'm sure we all have a range of things we don't believe in. And that disbelief takes various forms.
    An infinity of things- since the human brain can imagine absolutely anything, known, unknown, imagined, etc.

  • Reminds me of all the jokes about not doing something. For example, if you are into not stamp collecting, which particular stamps do you not collect?

    And the old one about Sartre going in a cafe and ordering coffee without cream, and the waiter comes back and says, 'M. Sartre, desole, but we've run out of cream, would coffee without milk be OK?
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    Or simply "what is the evidence that this entity you call God exists?"

    What is the evidence that love exists?
  • What is the evidence that whataboutery exists?
  • edited May 2018
    Consider qualitative study in contrast with scientific experiment.

    I'm reminded of the tendency to view humans as data processors because the current technological models are derived from computer science. Models may be useful, hence cognitive behaviour therapy, predictive data analytics, and sports psychology: these are models with utility but they aren't fact. There is requirement for faith to justify itself on the basis of science inquiry, notwithstanding that religion continually strays into areas it should not.

    --The short answer is that there isn't any science evidence for God. With the slightly more complete statement that there never can be or it isn't religion. There's science evidence for love?
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited May 2018
    Consider qualitative study in contrast with scientific experiment.

    I'm reminded of the tendency to view humans as data processors because the current technological models are derived from computer science. Models may be useful, hence cognitive behaviour therapy, predictive data analytics, and sports psychology: these are models with utility but they aren't fact. There is requirement for faith to justify itself on the basis of science inquiry, notwithstanding that religion continually strays into areas it should not.

    --he short answer is that there isn't any science evidence for God. With the slightly more complete statement that there never can be or it isn't religion. There's science evidence for love?

    Love can be, and is, studied scientifically:

    http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/love-and-brain

    This comparison, between God and Love, although often used, is a poor one. Forget the word "scientific", what actual objective evidence is there for the existence of God? We don't need to measure him, or to analyse him, or place him on the periodic table. Just what the rational reasons for believing he is there are.

    'sake; I'm not an atheist but their arguments are making more sense than those of believers, as so often is the case. This regularly rehearsed non-defence doesn't convince anyone.
  • SusanDoris wrote: »
    kmann wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    Atheists: Get them to describe the God they don't believe in and say to them: "I quite agree, I could never believe in such as God as you have just described, either". "No!" "That is not anything like the God that I believe in".

    And leave it at that unless they question you about your own view of what God may be like.

    Every atheist I have have known has replied "any and all of them."
    But that isn't an answer to the question. The question was not 'identify' but 'describe.'
    Any sensible, rational atheist - well, like me! - would not be taken in by that question and will say I (completely) lack belief in any god.
    *pause to read that several times...!*

    If for no other reason that it's an obvious set-up, and no one likes that. Better to have a real conversation where you're interested in what the other person has to say in it's own right, rather than as a foil for your brilliant thesis.
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    A lot of people don't seem to want to discuss anything, or think about anything deep. For those that do, I usually end up directing them to the Ship, which is just the place. For one thing, you can discuss with people all over the world, rather difficult to do in real life if you only live in a small village.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Reminds me of all the jokes about not doing something. For example, if you are into not stamp collecting, which particular stamps do you not collect?

    And the old one about Sartre going in a cafe and ordering coffee without cream, and the waiter comes back and says, 'M. Sartre, desole, but we've run out of cream, would coffee without milk be OK?

    Catholic and Protestant Atheists

    A brief summary of an essay by Bertrand Russell. I couldn't find the original on-line, but if you're interesting in the ideas in the summary, I'd recomment Russell's original, which is a bit more in-depth.

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    When I got my masters in counseling, my adviser was an admitted skeptic; yet, he was the most sought after adviser among those of us who were religious. He just had a very good grasp of theology and he challenged us to defend what we believe in. He never tried to convert us to his way of thinking, but he wanted us to be honest about our way of thinking.

    Over the past few weeks I have been going through some Eddie Izzard youtube videos. While it seems he is mocking the church, he does have some very good points about the inconsistencies he sees in religion. And he does have quite a good grasp of church history.

    Sometimes I think we need to listen to our non believing friends to hear what they have to say about our religion.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    When I got my masters in counseling, my adviser was an admitted skeptic; yet, he was the most sought after adviser among those of us who were religious. He just had a very good grasp of theology and he challenged us to defend what we believe in. He never tried to convert us to his way of thinking, but he wanted us to be honest about our way of thinking.

    Over the past few weeks I have been going through some Eddie Izzard youtube videos. While it seems he is mocking the church, he does have some very good points about the inconsistencies he sees in religion. And he does have quite a good grasp of church history.

    Sometimes I think we need to listen to our non believing friends to hear what they have to say about our religion.
    And vice versa for us totally non-believers - and, as Chorister says above, this is the place!

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    The scientific evidence for God is creation. Existenz transcendentally beyond dasein and all that jive.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    What is the evidence that whataboutery exists?

    Touché
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    The scientific evidence for God is creation.
    I marvel at the universe, but I see absolutely no reason to believe there is a Creator. And even if there were a Creator, I see absolutely no reason to believe that Creator must be at all concerned with humanity.

    I used to be Christian but now I’m an atheist.
  • PastChristianPastChristian Shipmate Posts: 14
    Martin54 wrote: »
    The scientific evidence for God is creation.
    I marvel at the universe, but I see absolutely no reason to believe there is a Creator. And even if there were a Creator, I see absolutely no reason to believe that Creator must be at all concerned with humanity.

    I agree absolutely with this. I grew up Christian because I was brought up in a Christian family and a Christian monoculture (showing my age here) and it was normative to be Christian. Christianity was the set of beliefs to adhere to and which I studied and thought about a lot.

    When I started thinking difficult thoughts which made me question Christian doctrine and teachings, the end result was not just that I now do not believe in the Christian God, but that I do not believe in any supernatural being that anyone might want to give a name that has any similarity to a “god”. That would include any of the current world religions, the gods of ancient Greece or Rome, ancient Egypt or Scandinavia, what the builders of Stonehenge thought or anything supernatural.

    I don't care what you call or how you describe your “god”, I don't accept your name or description as relevant to me or to anything which I might make of the world. It also means that “making worship relevant to the present day” or “contemporary” or holding “Back to Church Sunday” is not going to have any effect on my views or opinions.

  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Ok, that's fair.

    But I think that Christian atheists* are different to other atheists. Because for many of the former group, Christianity still represents the thing they don't believe in. Other people don't have that shadow.

    *People who were once Christians now atheists.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Mr Cheesy, I think that's a good point.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    The scientific evidence for God is creation.
    I marvel at the universe, but I see absolutely no reason to believe there is a Creator. And even if there were a Creator, I see absolutely no reason to believe that Creator must be at all concerned with humanity.

    I used to be Christian but now I’m an atheist.

    Well, talking of the 'creation' is question begging, as it seems to assume that the universe was created, hence a creator. Also it's not really scientific evidence for a creator, put it this way, I haven't noticed that line of argument in cosmology. Sean Carroll, confronted with the kalam argument, and the first premise, 'everything that begins to exist, has a cause', made the laconic comment, 'or maybe not'. Well, I've just paraphrased what you said!
  • Sorry for second post, but PastChristian's points about the supernatural ring a bell with me. I'm OK with various gods, after all, the idea that the sun is dragged across the sky by a chariot with fiery horses, is rather awe-inspiring, but the supernatural brings me out in a rash. What is it? Where is it? How would I discern it?
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    With the CofE being the way of things in the 1940s, there are a few snapshops of life that I suppose, right from the start of my life, weakened my adherence to belief. A conversation with my father on how God could be on both sides of the War at once. My father's answer - God moves in mysterious ways. He was clear in his belief in God but was puzzled by that question.
    A brief conversation with another child, when we were both about 8 I
    Suppose. She had said something about being a Christian and I said, well, I am one. She said, ‘No, you’re not.’ Me: ‘Why?’ She: Well, you don’t belong to the Church.’ Me, ‘Yes I do, I go to Sunday School.’ End of conversation!!!
    Years later, I realised that she meant my family did not pay a regular amount of money to the Parish Church.
    I mention these because I don’t think my atheism was directly linked to Christianity.
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Ok, that's fair.

    But I think that Christian atheists* are different to other atheists. Because for many of the former group, Christianity still represents the thing they don't believe in. Other people don't have that shadow.

    *People who were once Christians now atheists.
    Those are interestting points to consider. Never having believed that any of the bliblical mysteries or miracles were true, the only thing there was for me to gradually cease to believe in was God.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited August 2018
    Martin54 wrote: »
    The scientific evidence for God is creation.
    I marvel at the universe, but I see absolutely no reason to believe there is a Creator. And even if there were a Creator, I see absolutely no reason to believe that Creator must be at all concerned with humanity.

    I used to be Christian but now I’m an atheist.

    Catching up! They couldn't not be. A purposeful Creator of eternal infinite stuff that includes us has something in mind. For you. They can't not.

    And eternal infinite stuff is a reason to believe there is a Creator.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited August 2018
    Martin54 wrote: »
    The scientific evidence for God is creation.
    I marvel at the universe, but I see absolutely no reason to believe there is a Creator. And even if there were a Creator, I see absolutely no reason to believe that Creator must be at all concerned with humanity.

    I used to be Christian but now I’m an atheist.

    Well, talking of the 'creation' is question begging, as it seems to assume that the universe was created, hence a creator. Also it's not really scientific evidence for a creator, put it this way, I haven't noticed that line of argument in cosmology. Sean Carroll, confronted with the kalam argument, and the first premise, 'everything that begins to exist, has a cause', made the laconic comment, 'or maybe not'. Well, I've just paraphrased what you said!
    The universe was created, but whether on purpose is moot. If it was created with purpose then its existence is evidence of a purposeful creator. Cosmology rightly isn't interested in purpose. We have observed no exception to the Kalam's first premiss. The problem for everybody is infinity from eternity. When did that begin to exist?
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited August 2018
    If people ask ‘are you a Christian?’ I ask them to describe a Christian. Then (usually) the answer is ‘no’. If they then ask why I go to Church I say ‘Because I try to follow Jesus’.

    If they then say ‘Then surely that makes you a Christian?’ I reply - ‘Not the kind you just described, I don’t identify with them in any way.’

    Which is why I’m always reluctant to say I’m a Christian. The term is meaningless.

  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    edited August 2018
    'Christian' certainly has a bad press these days, and particularly amongst the young. It used to mean 'decent citizen' when the two were pretty much the same. Many younger people use the term to describe those weirdy culty people at university who disapproved of their relationships and any sort of fun. I therefore find it easier to describe myself as a churchgoer and that I enjoy choral music - and let them fill in the unspoken gaps from there. Of course, they could always ask me for more details if they really want to know - but they rarely do. Except sometimes to say 'I'm spiritual, but not religious', which is quite a popular saying among those who are not ardent atheists.
  • Boogie wrote: »
    If people ask ‘are you a Christian?’ I ask them to describe a Christian. Then (usually) the answer is ‘no’. If they then ask why I go to Church I say ‘Because I try to follow Jesus’.

    If they then say ‘Then surely that makes you a Christian?’ I reply - ‘Not the kind you just described, I don’t identify with them in any way.’

    Which is why I’m always reluctant to say I’m a Christian. The term is meaningless.
    I do not think it is meaningless. What you describe are people trying to define the term narrowly, hardly a new phenomenon.

  • The point I was making originally was that what people may think is Christianity is often not what Christianity is. There's a fair number of Christians who don't claim what people claim is Christian.
  • I would say to an atheist, "Do you believe that there is anything fundamentally other than human perception?"

    Because in my view, the belief in God, fundamentally is that there is an Other, which is present outside of our human biases and perceptions.

  • Most atheists surely would say that there is something apart from perception, that is, the universe. Whether or not this would be seen as other, dunno. But the universe gives rise to perception, not vicky verky.
  • I would say to an atheist, "Do you believe that there is anything fundamentally other than human perception?"

    Because in my view, the belief in God, fundamentally is that there is an Other, which is present outside of our human biases and perceptions.

    I'd say the first paragraph is absolutely a good thing to say, and I shall use!
    The second paragraph may depend on the first, which goes to personified other, whereas it may remain at non.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Most atheists surely would say that there is something apart from perception, that is, the universe. Whether or not this would be seen as other, dunno. But the universe gives rise to perception, not vicky verky.

    Indeed. The only way in which human perception is meaningful is if something else exists to perceive. If you lived your entire life in total darkness, how would you know whether or not you're blind?
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    edited August 2018
    I would say to an atheist, "Do you believe that there is anything fundamentally other than human perception?"

    Because in my view, the belief in God, fundamentally is that there is an Other, which is present outside of our human biases and perceptions.
    Where most atheists and agnostics would argue that God only exists within bias and perception.
    God is unknowable ≠ the universe is probably unknowable.

  • In retrospect, I thought maybe Anglican Brat was asking if there is non-human perception. Well, there's aardvarks.
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