How do you deal with doubt ?

Adam asks:
Since you became an atheist, have you ever doubted atheism? Yes, that’s a funny combination of words.
Do you still keep it in your head that there may (with a reasonable probability) actually be a god out there, we just don’t know yet? Or has that thought ever crept in? If so, please share your thoughts, and how you moved past them to be in the state you are now.

Jake answers:
The simple answer is, I’m not sure of anything. I always leave room for the possibility that I may be wrong. Sometimes, I have experiences from which my old theist way of thinking kicks in and I ask myself ” Is that god? ” Then I realize what’s happening and I ask myself, ” Why would that be god? ” and I come back to my senses.

I think everyone needs a healthy dose of skepticism. I try to always look at things as objectively as I can. Obviously I don’t always succeed ( who does? ) though I try anyway. This is why I’m an atheist/agnostic. It’s the agnostic side that keeps me in check, even about my atheism. Since agnosticism deals with knowledge, it reminds me that I don’t ” know ” unless I have evidence, and even then, I could still be wrong. Some things of course I don’t need to doubt. Like Santa Claus, or Jesus. There’s enough contradictions in the stories, along with enough evidence to show how the stories were created to know that Santa and Jesus can’t be real. So it’s not hard to discard them. However, there could be a god out there that I’ve never considered, so I leave room for the possibility, despite the low probability.

The point is, keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out. Keep searching, but remain skeptical.

Let’s throw the question out to the comments, as atheists, what do you do with doubt ?

7 thoughts on “How do you deal with doubt ?”

  1. Thanks for answering Jake,

    I’ve never experienced doubt (i.e. I’ve never considered, or found a reason to consider, a god to be a realistic possibility). I’ll readily admit that I can’t prove that there is no god. I’ll accept a god if it ever becomes apparent that one exists. I guess my position on most things is that I’m a huge skeptic, but I usually default to negative positions until a positive counter-position seems likely.

    If I could go deeper with my question: What specific events/feelings/entities/thoughts would make you think a god was possible AND plausible? This question could really be for anybody.

    Thanks!

  2. I’ve never doubted atheism … my atheism’s become more entrenched as I’ve thought about things from a rational and scientific perspective. There usually is a rational explanation for almost everything – its just a question of searching hard enough.

    In-fact, now the concept of a deity or god seems so childish at times. I sometimes feel extremely saddened by the fact that so many people around the world waste so much time and effort on religion. Religion is like an opiate – dulls the senses, makes you sleepy and sometimes reduces pain but leads to addiction.

    Without the god crutch to fall back on, things were though at the start for me when I “experimented” with atheism. But the clear stream of reason finally found its way through the dreary desert sand of dead mental habits of religion and metaphysical thought (to borrow a bit from a poet called Tagore). Clear rational thought was so refreshing and exhilarating that its bluntness and harshness (at times) were small price for the understanding and calm insight it brought. Evolution and Psychology explain so much about human nature and behavior … and the physical sciences (Physics, chemistry, biology) explain so much about nature and natural systems. They offer the truth (which sometimes isn’t pretty – for e.g. I know of so many people who feel outraged by evolution simply because it says humans evolved from apes), and they ask us to be mature enough to accept the harsh truth. And the truth only seems harsh because it deflates our inflated beliefs about ourselves (from “crafted in god’s image” to “evolved from ape and thus behaves like one sometimes” is a mighty fall 🙂 ). But once you accept it it opens grand vistas for productive thinking and general advancement.
    Religion has nothing to offer except platitudes and vague beliefs based on no evidence but ancient tomes written by people who were probably seeking some sort of truth perhaps … but did not know and could not have known better.

  3. Rohit, thanks for responding. Your first two paragraphs look exactly like something I would have wrote. Haha.

    I can see why evolution would scare and disgust certain theists. If they have been taught all of their life that they are distinct, and superior to animals, I imagine it would be hard to accept that humans are, in fact, just another species of animal. We aren’t blessed, or the chosen ones, we are just a little bit “smarter” (and probably crueler) than the rest of the animal kingdom.

  4. ” The fool says in their heart there is no God. They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good. ” Psalm 14:1 ” There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is death. ” Proverbs 16:25
    ” A fool taks no pleasure in understanding, but only i expressing his opnion. ” Proverbs 18:2 ” Many are the plans in the mind of the man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. ” Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the eath! For I am God and there is no other.” Isaiah 4:22

    1. Did you expect those words to have some magical power over us nonbelievers, Stephen? We know the Bible doesn’t have a high opinion of atheists, this is hardly surprising. Why should we pay attention to it?

  5. If we are resorting to quotes instead of reasoning, here are a few from Thomas Jefferson:
    1) Shake off all fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

    2) We are afraid of the known and afraid of the unknown. That is our daily life and in that there is no hope, and therefore every form of philosophy, every form of theological concept, is merely an escape from the actual reality of what is.

    And two from Benjamin Franklin:
    1) The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason. The Morning Daylight appears plainer when you put out your Candle.

    2) Lighthouses are more helpful then churches
    (I’d append temples, monastries etc. to the end of that sentence)

    1. Actually it´s impossible for an atheist to believe in god. To hardcore religious people god can´t be explained. She is above that. For an atheist everything can be examined, measured and explained. If we would find a god, we would examine it, measure it, explain it and try to construct our own. Religious people would argue that this wasn´t god, since we were be able to do this. God is beyond atheism. She´s beyond common sense.

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