The Dim-Post

November 6, 2010

One advantage of atheism

Filed under: personal — danylmc @ 1:39 pm

So God appeared to me in a dream last night and told me to go to Mali. No joke – this really happened, although I am now a little fuzzy on the details. I do remember that the dream was astonishingly vivid and I woke from it with a sense of flailing urgency. ‘I HAVE to get to Mali!’ It took me a while to get back to sleep.

This morning it occurred to me that if I were religious I’d have to take this dream pretty seriously. It was that powerful and God has a strong track record of transmitting instructions through dreams and visions and punishing his worshippers if they don’t jump when he tells them. So I’d have to consider going to Mali, which would be inconvenient on a whole lot of levels. I might wait for a second sign, but since I’m now sensitive to any references to Mali (none yet) I’d probably view a random mention of Mali – in the news, say, that I’d normally ignore – as a second sign. As an atheist I don’t have to sweat any of this, although I will keep my eye out for Mali and relay any more dream visions on the subject.

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63 Comments »

  1. The UK has just announced a travel alert for Mali.

    Comment by marsoe — November 6, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

  2. Is god really a unicorn?

    Comment by chris — November 6, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

  3. You sure it wasn’t Marley? I understand god is supposed to be fond of cryptic puzzles.

    Comment by Will de Cleene — November 6, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  4. Who is Mali? Is she cute?

    Comment by The Double Standard — November 6, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

  5. You have been choosen danyl. Now you must come…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malian_Party_for_Work

    Comment by k.jones — November 6, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

  6. Strangely, Timbuktu has been one place I would love to visit, from my childhood on. You haven’t been poaching my dreams, have you?

    Comment by leopold — November 6, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

  7. Don’t you want eternal life?

    Comment by Tanya — November 6, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

  8. It’s all symbolism… God to you probly means something like stupidity or authority, and Mali is a far-out place, so your dream is telling you that there is a stupid person in authority telling you to do something that you think is ridiculous.

    Did I hit the nail on the head?

    Comment by gazzaj — November 6, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

  9. try it out! what’s the worst that could happen? you visit timbuktu, listen to some awesome reggae/african fusion music, eat goat.

    take that idiot NS 22 oecd. maybe he’ll work out what a really shitty economy is like.

    Comment by Che Tibby — November 6, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  10. I just came across a poster I acquired in Ouagodougou, which is where someone proposed going on a day trip to Mali. I was not wearing an onion on my hip as that was not the fashion at the time.

    Comment by Richard — November 6, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

  11. I’ve always wanted to go to Mali… if you buy me a ticket I’ll go scope it out for ya and see what God is up to.

    Comment by gazzaj — November 6, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  12. Sorry, I meant to say “go check your mail”. There’s a pamphlet in there about Destiny Church I really want you to read.

    Comment by God — November 6, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

  13. I had a dream about a 18 year old swedish girl with very loose morals and hips. What does that mean?

    Comment by leon — November 6, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

  14. “I had a dream about a 18 year old swedish girl with very loose morals and hips. What does that mean?”

    God is a female.

    Be an idea to keep an eye on Danyl, but. These sorts of visions usually happen to atheists who go on to become great religious crusaders. You’ll know when he prefaces a statement with “I used to think..”

    JC

    Comment by JC — November 6, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

  15. Sorry, screwed up – meant to say “You’ve got Mail” Bloody Outlook! Pox on thier houses…..

    Comment by God — November 6, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  16. I gather you’re not going to Mali even after a clear sign?
    Yet I bet you swallow this tripe about there being universal laws waiting for science to discover them.
    Consistency, that’s all I’m saying.

    Comment by Roger Parkinson — November 6, 2010 @ 10:02 pm

  17. I’ve been to Mali. I got diarreah for five days then left.
    However good the communal village bowl of stewed antelope and cuscus looks… well you’ve been warned.

    Comment by GN — November 6, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

  18. Seriously now, give it a go, take a short trip to Mali, serve me a little while, what’s the worst that could happen?

    If nothing of significance happens in Mali then your atheism is proven right (and this is comment is just by some weirdo), but if something does then you don’t have to wait until the Great White Throne Judgement to find out (and the Son of God commented on your blog!).

    Comment by Jesus — November 6, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  19. This video doesn’t mention Mali at all.

    Comment by Flynn — November 6, 2010 @ 11:19 pm

  20. Maybe it’s your subconscious reminding you that you need to replace your roof guttering…

    http://www.marley.co.nz

    Comment by Adze — November 6, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

  21. Winner !!! Brilliant.

    Comment by Andy C — November 6, 2010 @ 11:59 pm

  22. Damn. Will De Cleene beat me to the “Marley” thing.

    Marley, of course, was Scrooge’s dead partner in ‘A Christmas Carol’. His ghost was the first to appear. He came back to tell Scrooge not to pursue money so much.

    Maybe this is a sign to do the opposite.

    I’d be worried if I were you. God doesn’t do all that many personal appearances these days – in fact, he famously failed to turn up while his Son was on the Cross. It’s not like Old Testament times, when he used to appear on mountaintops, and in burning bushes, on a fairly frequent if somewhat unpredictable basis.

    You have been Chosen. (what for, I don’t know. And being one of the Chosen isn’t necessarily a good thing – just ask the Jews.)

    Comment by Rob Hosking — November 7, 2010 @ 9:54 am

  23. Danyl, I would enjoy reading a long and thoughtful post on how you became and atheist and why you are one, if you have a spare half an hour on your hands. Cheers.

    Comment by radar — November 7, 2010 @ 10:33 am

  24. Everyone is born an atheist radar.

    There is as good a debate as it gets (in that at least it’s got good writers) going on here, http://www.ordinary-gentlemen.com/ (you’ll have to scroll down for the various links), for them that like that sort of thing. For them that don’t, that blog gives good blog anyhoo, on subjects: divers.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — November 7, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  25. “Everyone is born an atheist radar.”

    No they aren’t – they are born with no comprehension of god.

    Comment by radar — November 7, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

  26. God doesn’t do all that many personal appearances these days

    His one-time lover appears in the press with relative frequency. But it’s usually cheap tabloid stuff.

    Comment by Phil — November 7, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  27. they are born with no comprehension of god.

    And they are therefore atheists. If they have “no comprehension of god”, then they do not possess a positive belief that god exists (which is called theism), and are therefore atheists.

    Comment by derp de derp — November 7, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  28. Danyl, I would enjoy reading a long and thoughtful post on how you became and atheist and why you are one, if you have a spare half an hour on your hands. Cheers.

    Who needs a long post? Show us some evidence that God exists, and we’ll think about believing. Otherwise, atheism. Pretty simple.

    Comment by gazzaj — November 7, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  29. Atheist
    a·the·ist
    noun
    a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    I’d argue that, in order to decide one way or the other the existence of a supreme being, one must first comprehend or conceptualise the possibility that a supreme being might exist. That requires a series of thought-process developments that a baby brain is not yet capable of.

    Comment by Phil — November 7, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

  30. Pascal’s bookie:Everyone is born an atheist radar

    I’m not sure about that. In many cases people are religious because they’re stupid or haven’t been told the full story (e.g. that copyists often modified documents, including the bible) however I’ve had a growing suspicion for some time that some people are born religious. Hyperreligiosity is already known to be comorbid with schizophrenia. Of course the idea that religion doesn’t always reflect stupidity or ignorance but sometimes has an underlying genetic pathology won’t be popular with some people.

    Comment by chiz — November 7, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

  31. Phil: to disbelieve is to not believe. One either believes, or one does not. It is a binary choice, there are no other options. If one does not believe, one is an atheist.

    Comment by derp de derp — November 7, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

  32. chiz: newborns have no theory of mind. They cannot conceive of an intelligence other than their own existing.

    Comment by derp de derp — November 7, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

  33. I base my seemingly controversial claim on the fact that children often receive religious instruction. I assume the religious do this for a reason. Also, my four year old, on encountering the god concept, felt the need to ask me what that was all about. Much incredulity followed. He was not blasé about this idea, it struck him as being quite particularly, novel. And fantastic. In many senses of those words.

    If you do not a have a concept of something, then as Phil says, you will not have made a decision about it. But just because you haven’t made any sort of conscious rejection of the proposition that doesn’t mean you accept it. If you don’t have a concept of something, you can’t possibly believe it. If you don’t believe in the theism proposition, you are an atheist. It’s a big tent.

    Some will quibble that to be an atheist you have to positively say ‘god does not exist’. To that I say ‘pants’. I struggle to see any worthwhile difference with regard to one’s position to p between ‘not believing p’ and ‘believing ~p’

    It’s fair enough to say that you are agnostic, in the sense that you just don’t care about the truth value of the proposition, or can’t make sense of it, or don’t see the point of it (which is pretty much where I stand) but all that means is that I don’t believe god exists.

    I guess I see atheism as being in relation to theism is amoral is to moral. (Itheism may be a subset, but who really cares?)

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — November 7, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

  34. “If one does not believe, one is an atheist.”

    Can’t they be agnostic?

    Comment by radar — November 7, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

  35. “Can’t they be agnostic?”

    Yep. I’m one. In the sense that I don’t know what theists are talking about, I don’t think the question makes a lot of sense, and only see value in it as a social control/community building excercise. That’s ok, but if god is just a useful concept to help foster community cohesion, then, he’s not real in the sense of ‘existing’. (hence ~p where p equals ‘god actually exists as something apart from a human constructed idea to help us collectively get through the night’)

    Taking it back to the words. Agnostic means something like ‘not knowing’.

    It seems to me that this also describes the type of christian that takes a faith based approach, those who believe not only in spite of the lack of evidence but partially because of that lack of evidence. That’s poorly phrased, but I hope you know what I mean.

    Knowledge is belief of something that is true, and believed with sufficient justification. Knowledge requires no faith. When you know something, you not only believe it, but believe it with adequate justification. So if your belief is faith based, it’s quite explicitly not ‘knowledge’.

    If I’m making any sense at all here, then I am saying that agnosticism is unrelated to whether or not you ‘believe’. One can be an agnostic theist ( who believes based on faith), or an agnostic atheist ( who sees no reason to believe).

    Agnosticism relates to whether or not one claims to ‘know’ the truth value, theism and atheism are whether or not you ‘believe’ the truth value.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — November 7, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

  36. When believers question the notion that atheism is the “default position”, it usually because many atheists make claims that “there is no god”, which is a belief (arguably an unsupported claim) – which is different to never having been exposed to the concept to begin with.

    Comment by Adze — November 7, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

  37. I don’t think atheism is the default position, because basically every society is religious, with the exception of modern scientifically advanced ones. So I think finding religious explanations for troubling problems is the default, because the real explanations (where did we come from?) are so difficult to answer.

    How I became an atheist is pretty simple: I was born into a non-religious family and I got a decent education and I don’t have a very mystical personality. But if my memory was wiped but my personality left intact, my first thunderstorm would probably convince me that powerful beings lived in the sky and were angry.

    Comment by danylmc — November 7, 2010 @ 5:54 pm

  38. “…because basically every society is religious, with the exception of modern scientifically advanced ones”

    But why are they exceptions? If the answer to that is ” because they have better answers” or “because they have learned enough that they often think the god question is kind of silly in some way” then well, again, ‘pants’.

    These particular pants are saying that what’s ‘default’ is not theism, but questions and a desire to satisfactorily answer them. All those societies that are religious, do the actively seek o instill that in their young, or do the non-religious ones actively knock the god belief out of them?

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — November 7, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  39. There are “modern scientifically advanced” societies?

    Name three such societies.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — November 7, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

  40. I base my seemingly controversial claim on the fact that children often receive religious instruction. I assume the religious do this for a reason.

    I would suggest it’s for the same reasons some people raise their children to be ardent unionists.

    Comment by Phil — November 7, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

  41. Name three such societies.

    Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
    Republic of Cuba
    Republic of the Union of Myanmar

    Comment by OECD rank 22 kiwi — November 8, 2010 @ 1:04 am

  42. Danyl, some time soon a guy will show up on your doorstep, saying God came to him in a dream and told him there was treasure buried under your floor.

    “Foolish man, believing such visions!” you will say. “Why, the other day God came to me in a dream and told me to go to Mali, but I am enlightened man and rather to go to all the bother you did I dismissed it as susperstition.”

    And the man from Mali will look confused, then then inspired. He will tell you he is going home now. And you will not see him again.

    Comment by lyndon — November 8, 2010 @ 10:08 am

  43. Name three such societies.

    Name three atheists from pre-englightenment societies.

    Comment by danylmc — November 8, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  44. I struggle to see any worthwhile difference with regard to one’s position to p between ‘not believing p’ and ‘believing ~p’

    Interesting that someone who would phrase it that way would still express the sentiment. If the baby has not position re: God that’s all there is to it. Otherwise one could simultaneously argue they were theists because that didn’t hold the atheist position.

    FWIW I’m inclined to think “atheism” is a active assertion of the negative, but (and we do seem to have moved on) let’s not make the argument about that.

    Comment by lyndon — November 8, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  45. You are the chosen one – your mission is to go to Mali and spread rational thbought and atheism!

    Comment by Michael Stevens — November 8, 2010 @ 10:26 am

  46. “Name three atheists from pre-englightenment societies.”

    Protagoras, Diogenes of Sinope, Epicurus.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 8, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  47. “Name three atheists from pre-englightenment societies.”
    Protagoras, Diogenes of Sinope, Epicurus.

    You forgot St. Paul.

    Comment by Phil — November 8, 2010 @ 11:04 am

  48. “You forgot St. Paul.”

    No – I remember him every night when I pray to the Great Microscope in the Sky.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 8, 2010 @ 11:13 am

  49. Google atheists and you’ll find a large number of pre-enlightenment ones.
    Anyway, following the Buddha’s `Arrow Sutra’, isn’t the question of whether or not there is a god irrelevant to the real problems of existence?

    Comment by Leopold — November 8, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  50. lyndon, fair enough. I just find that when the topic is stretched beyond any one particular god, the conversation goes:

    Q: Do you believe God exists?

    A: No.

    Q: So you believe God doesn’t exist?

    At this point I stop understanding the question; this is undoubtedly my fault.

    I just think theism and atheism are about thoughts/beliefs, rather than statements about how the world actually is.

    When someone knocks on my door with some funny little pamphlet or other, they never ask if God exists. It’s always if I believe in god. It’s not a question about the world, it seems to me. As has been noted though, I’m an idiot, and easily confused.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — November 8, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  51. Oh, Pascal’s bookie … how narrow your mind. This little bit of wisdom should clarify matters for you:

    “Worship in the future will be marked, rather, by the self-conscious awareness that all of us are or can be God bearers and life givers and that our deepest religious task is to give ourselves away. It will involve a call to that state of being where giving one’s life away is both natural and desirable. Worship beyond the exile will not be oriented toward an external God but toward the world of our human community. That, however, will not result in a shallow humanism but in a recognition that the place where God is ultimately found is in the depths of our own humanity. So there will be no attempt in our future worship to escape life, but every attempt to expand life.”

    See now?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 8, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  52. Andrew @51 – Who are you quoting?

    Comment by John Thomson — November 8, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

  53. John Sprong … with the point being that you can be theistic despite the evidence, or not believe in any God, or engage in wittering babble. Lots of options.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 8, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  54. derp de derp:newborns have no theory of mind. They cannot conceive of an intelligence other than their own existing.

    I’m not sure that theory of mind comes in to it.. There are two ways, in my view, that people may sometimes be genetically inclines towards religion – an indirect way and a direct way.

    The indirect way occurs when people have some underlying neurological defect that favours religious explanations over nonreligious explanations among people who don’t think very carefully. We know that people with schizophrenia sometimes expereince auditory hallucinations but its less well known that many people with no other mental health problems also experience auditory hallucinations. Indeed I’ve seen claims that this condition – unnamed but known about since at least the 90s – may affect as many as one in 25 people. People with this condition come up with a variety of explanations for it – that they are hearing God, that have a spirit guide, that they are talking to dead people, etc. This condition, despite its apparently high prevalence, is so little known that people with it don’t know, or even suspect, that they might have something neurlogical and that there might be a scientific non-supernatural explanation for their voices.

    The direct way occurs when peopl’s brains are directly hardwired for religion. We know that relgious feelings can be induced in many people either by drugs or by transcranial magnetic simulation. My guess is that some people’s brains are hardwired to produce such feelings naturally without external factors, much as some unfortunate people’s brains are hardwired for depression or compulsive behaviour without external triggers. These people walk around ‘knowing’ that there is a supernatural aspect to existence because they experience it daily and don’t realise that its just that their brains are miswired.

    Comment by chiz — November 8, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

  55. Ah – but chiz … who wired their brains this way, and why? What other sort of brain would you expect to see God give us when he made us 7,100 years ago?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 8, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  56. Why did God create mosquitos?

    Comment by Pat — November 8, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  57. Market demand for a Malaria courier.

    Comment by cj_nza — November 8, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

  58. Cynic: Ah – but chiz … who wired their brains this way, and why? What other sort of brain would you expect to see God give us when he made us 7,100 years ago?

    But why then do many people have brains not wired that way? The mutations involved in hardwired religiosity appear to be CNVs with a high de novo rate suggesting that they are not the default condition.

    Comment by chiz — November 8, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

  59. chiz,

    SOMEONE has to go to hell, in order for the special people with the right brains to feel good about it …

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 8, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

  60. “atheists from pre-englightenment societies”

    bit late the party, but can i add, “guatama buddha”.

    Comment by Che Tibby — November 8, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

  61. @ chiz

    “Indeed I’ve seen claims that this condition – unnamed but known about since at least the 90s – may affect as many as one in 25 people.”

    I believe it’s called, Too Much Consumption of Amphetamine Syndrome.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 9, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

  62. I could interpret that dream for you Danyl… but only if you were a member of my church. Would you like to come and see us? You wouldn’t have to join immediately if you don’t feel comfortable…. but that dream of yours is a very powerful sign….

    Comment by Dave Mann — November 10, 2010 @ 8:15 am

  63. God doesn’t do all that many personal appearances these days – in fact, he famously failed to turn up while his Son was on the Cross.

    God used to turn up at Keith Hay’s back door in Mt Roskill almost every night of the week in the mid-1980s. He told Keith to take up righteous anger against the HOMOSEX UALS and so Keith did.

    Keith told us all that this was so, so it must be true.

    Comment by poneke — November 10, 2010 @ 6:32 pm


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