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Are most “unbelievers” just superstitious and otherwise uncommitted?

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The trouble with philosophically demanding religions is that they make ethical demands. Superstition doesn’t. Recently, a major conference was held at the Vatican on ”unbelief”:

The multidisciplinary research programme… mapped the nature and diversity of ‘unbelief’ across six countries including Brazil, China, Denmark, Japan, UK and the USA.

Researchers asked unbelievers across the six countries about attitudes to issues such as supernatural phenomena, whether the “universe is ultimately meaningless” and what values matter most to them.

Their interim findings, published in a report “Understanding Unbelief Atheists and agnostics around the world”, showed that in all six countries, the majority of unbelievers identified as having ‘no religion’. Unbelievers, the report found, exhibited significant diversity both within, and between, different countries. It also found that a lack of belief in God didn’t necessarily entail unbelief in other supernatural phenomena – the majority of unbelievers in all countries surveyed expressed belief in one or more supernatural phenomena.

The report also found that, contrary to popular belief, only around a third of unbelievers in each country regard the universe to be ultimately meaningless.

The report also tackles the implication of unbelief on morality and values, finding that most unbelievers endorse objective moral values, human dignity and attendant rights and the “deep value” of nature, at similar rates to the general populations in their countries. Rose Gamble, “Major ‘unbelief’ conference held at Vatican” at The Tablet

PDF: “Unbelief in God doesn’t necessarily entail unbelief in
other supernatural phenomena. Atheists and (less so)
agnostics exhibit lower levels of supernatural belief than
do the wider populations. However, only minorities of
atheists or agnostics in each of our countries appear to
be thoroughgoing naturalists.”

One way of looking at it: If you believe vaguely that “there is something out there,” you needn’t do anything about it. You needn’t even avoid superstition. You can even be part of a war on science in good faith. (For example, you can convince yourself that right answers in math discriminate against somebody or other and voila! a war on math!)

Hat tip: Philip Cunningham

See also: Sceptic asks, why do people who abandon religion embrace superstition? Belief in God is declining and belief in ghosts and witches is rising

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One Reply to “Are most “unbelievers” just superstitious and otherwise uncommitted?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    From the article:

    “The report also tackles the implication of unbelief on morality and values, finding that most unbelievers endorse objective moral values, human dignity and attendant rights and the “deep value” of nature, at similar rates to the general populations in their countries.
    Likewise, unbelievers and general populations were in agreement concerning the values most important for “finding meaning in the world and your own life” with both ranking “family” and “freedom” highly.”

    But atheists have no basis in which to “endorse objective moral values, human dignity and attendant rights”. Much less do they have any objective basis for finding “finding meaning in the world and your own life”

    Thus since the majority of atheists, as the study in the OP shows, believe in objective morality and live their life as if it is infused with meaning and purpose, in spite of the fact that their stated atheistic worldview actually denies the existences of morality and meaning for life, then it necessarily follows that their atheistic worldview must therefore be a delusional worldview.

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt:,,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....tml?page=3

    Existential Argument against Atheism – November 1, 2013 by Jason Petersen
    1. If a worldview is true then you should be able to live consistently with that worldview.
    2. Atheists are unable to live consistently with their worldview.
    3. If you can’t live consistently with an atheist worldview then the worldview does not reflect reality.
    4. If a worldview does not reflect reality then that worldview is a delusion.
    5. If atheism is a delusion then atheism cannot be true.
    Conclusion: Atheism is false.
    http://answersforhope.com/exis.....t-atheism/

    Supplemental notes:

    What is the Moral Argument for the Existence of God? – video
    https://www.reasonablefaith.org/videos/interviews-panels/what-is-the-moral-argument-for-the-existence-of-god-bobby-conway/

    The Moral Argument
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxiAikEk2vU

    Is There Meaning to Life? – Dr Craig videos (animated video)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKGnXgH_CzE

    The Absurdity of Life without God – William Lane Craig
    Excerpt: Meaning of Life
    First, the area of meaning. We saw that without God, life has no meaning. Yet (atheistic) philosophers continue to live as though life does have meaning. For example, Sartre argued that one may create meaning for his life by freely choosing to follow a certain course of action. Sartre himself chose Marxism.
    Now this is utterly inconsistent. It is inconsistent to say life is objectively absurd and then to say one may create meaning for his life. If life is really absurd, then man is trapped in the lower story. To try to create meaning in life represents a leap to the upper story. But Sartre has no basis for this leap. Without God, there can be no objective meaning in life. Sartre’s program is actually an exercise in self-delusion. Sartre is really saying, “Let’s pretend the universe has meaning.” And this is just fooling ourselves.
    The point is this: if God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent—for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance.
    https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/existence-nature-of-god/the-absurdity-of-life-without-god/

    “There is no self in, around, or as part of anyone’s body. There can’t be. So there really isn’t any enduring self that ever could wake up morning after morning worrying about why it should bother getting out of bed. The self is just another illusion, like the illusion that thought is about stuff or that we carry around plans and purposes that give meaning to what our body does. Every morning’s introspectively fantasized self is a new one, remarkably similar to the one that consciousness ceased fantasizing when we fell sleep sometime the night before. Whatever purpose yesterday’s self thought it contrived to set the alarm last night, today’s newly fictionalized self is not identical to yesterday’s. It’s on its own, having to deal with the whole problem of why to bother getting out of bed all over again.”
    – A.Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, ch.10

    Atheistic Materialism vs Meaning, Value, and Purpose in Our Lives – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqUxBSbFhog

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