Psychology 20 Questionnaire

Question from :
I’m currently taking Psychology 20 in school and would like to ask you a few questions about atheism for a project on spirituality if you have the time. The questions are:

1. How does your faith or understanding of the world shape your worldview?
2. How do you justify your actions (good and bad) for your belief system?
3.What gives you meaning and purpose?
4.What are ways you express yourself and why?
5. How do you view the idea of the soul and/or the afterlife?

Hoping for a quick response and thank you for taking the time to answer.

Answer by SmartLX:
Not my quickest response ever, but not bad. Here we go.

1. My view of the world is that it’s shaped and influenced by natural forces, which are powerful but undirected and certainly not worth pleading with. I’m acutely aware that many do not feel this way, so I see what appears to be a great deal of effort wasted because it’s spent trying to please gods that I don’t think are there.

2. I care for myself, and as a social animal I care for the people around me. My awareness of the world beyond my immediate surroundings extends that expression of care to all the people of the world, generally speaking. I justify my actions in terms of the benefit and harm they do to myself and other people, not necessarily in that order, with a view to maximising benefit and minimising harm. The exact meanings of those two quantities I often re-evaluate based on the situation, so that I’m not thinking in a way that doesn’t apply to the circumstances at hand.

3. I choose what my purposes are. From personal achievements to the welfare of selected others (that is, not all purposes are selfish), I devote myself to realising those things I want to bring to fruition. This gives my life meaning to me, and to many others, though not to everyone. This is enough, because whether my life matters to all strangers is not something I worry about.

4. I speak, I write, I sing, I draw, I work, I dance, I play, I struggle, I love. I do these things because I can.

5. The soul does not appear to exist, because identity and consciousness are products of the brain and are damaged or destroyed when the brain is. After the death of the brain there is nothing left of a person to experience any kind of afterlife.

Atheism is a…what?

Question from Kristen:
What is Atheism?

Answer by SmartLX:
Years ago, site founder Jake did a great job answering the question, “What is an atheist?” He defined the word very simply, and dispelled some myths about atheism which even now are depressingly prevalent. In an effort to be complementary instead of redundant, I will instead discuss what atheism actually is, in other words, how it can be categorised.

Is atheism a religion? No. The basic definitions of the word “religion” have in common the existence of a set of beliefs, usually in something unknown and supernatural, and atheism as defined by most atheists is a lack of belief in any such thing. (Since I’ve just referenced, I should address the definitions of “atheism” there: the first one, an actual belief that there is no god, is known as strong atheism, and is not a very common position. The second definition is better.)

Some theists nevertheless accuse atheists of being religious, for example about evolution or an as-yet-undetermined natural cause for the universe. Evolution is easy to accept with confidence, rather than belief, because it supplies plentiful evidence. A natural universe-starter cannot inspire positive belief unless you take a guess at what it actually was, and stick to that guess to the exclusion of all other possibilities. Few people do this for anything but a god.

Is atheism a worldview? Hardly, because it only takes a position on one thing. If there are no gods in the world, that doesn’t tell us much at all about the world, especially given that theology regularly defends gods by explaining why the world usually looks as if there are none.

Is atheism a philosophy? No, for much the same reason it isn’t a worldview. The absence of gods is not very informative with respect to logic, morals and so on. Atheists look to other sources for these, not to some god-shaped hole in the world.

If it’s none of these, then what is atheism, finally? It’s a position one can take, at least. I had a go at nailing down the specific position here. More directly, though, it’s a rejection of a position, namely the theist position that there is good reason to believe in a Creator or other deity. Atheists think there’s no good reason.

So if that’s all atheism is, why is it so important to proclaim and to encourage? Because the alternative position locks people into rigid religions, worldviews and philosophies with little or no evidential support behind them, which may or may not even apply to modern people’s lives. Once one is free of theism, one may draw upon the sum recorded total of human wisdom (the only kind we know there is) to formulate one’s own approach to life, and accept the world more as it really is. I am confident that we’d all be happier this way. True persuasion, not coercion, is the only way to get people there.