Atheism the default position?

You mention that the default position is atheistic, but that isn’t true. As a consequence of having social awareness humans are born with a default belief in supernatural powers (I read this in either a scientific american article or a times article). Most people begin by believing in religion and when they learn to question their beliefs they cast off their religion and become atheistic, but usually not the other way around.

I understand what you mean, but I still say that everyone begins as an atheist. Even if humans are born predisposed to believe in the supernatural, you are born with no knowledge of specific supernatural “facts”. A baby does not grow up to believe in God because it innately believes in God, but because it learned about God as part of learning culture, or concluded that God exists based on inadequate information. (And for those of you who say that one with adequate information can conclude that God exists, would you at least agree that a child is not intellectually rigorous enough to reach such a conclusion in a compelling way?)

But the human mind aside, atheism is the default position for science (just as disbelief in almost anything is the default position for science), and that is by far the more important point.

Posted on September 9, 2008 at 12:32 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: About atheism

11 Responses

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  1. Written by Samuel Skinner
    on September 10, 2008 at 4:38 pm
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    He misunderstands the studies. They found the default belief was dualism- the idea that the body and the mind are seperate and that things have minds of their own. This logically leads to animism… which is a religious belief, but NOT a theistic one.

    It is interesting to note people have some other… bizarre beliefs inherent to them. Like fear of outsiders and attraction to outsiders. Yes, they are slightly contradictory.

  2. Written by Marduk
    on September 17, 2008 at 7:33 pm
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    Religion was invented to fill in the holes and explain the things that didn’t make sense without doing any actual research (which, of course, made sense as they didn’t have resources to conduct much testing).

    For example, the Mesopotamians built their civilization in an area with extremely unfavorable geographical conditions. They were subject to invasion. Their land flooded erratically and frequently, and they attributed it to fickle, generally unkind gods. Naturally their view of the gods was a negative one.

    At the exact same time, over in Egypt, their flooding Nile brought them much prosperity. They learned irrigation and even developed a calendar based on these floods. They attributed their success to benevolent gods.

    Notice that neither of these polytheistic civilizations shared gods and none of the gods (except that one Mesopotamian god, Yahweh) was the Christian God. So how can humans be born predisposed to believe in your “one true” god if He is only one of hundreds, possibly thousands, of differing gods that have been made up throughout history?

    All this talk of science, I thought I’d give a history lesson.

  3. Written by Mike Crowley
    on September 28, 2008 at 3:33 pm
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    Hear, hear! I have often joked that all Christians should be strangled at birth. Of course, no one is a Christian at birth, are they?

  4. Written by m
    on October 1, 2008 at 12:32 pm
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    All concepts are to some degree social.

  5. Written by Sabir
    on October 1, 2008 at 4:01 pm
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    Hey, it was funny to read that article, because I have been expressing exactly the same idea to my friends. In addition, I can say that if erasing humanity’s member about religion, will anybody think about god and other religios things again? The new generation of people will be probably more intelegent.
    And one more thing, it was mentioned about default position. I always say that we are not atheists, I mean why we should be called atheists, it is them (belivers), who must be called somehow, we are at the default position, we are just right people.

  6. Written by Caitlin
    on October 1, 2008 at 6:45 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Ha ha, Dawkins went so far as to say Christian parents should not be allowed to raise their own children (or something of that sort; I cannot recall his exact words:)).

    Marduk made some great points. Religion was just to fill in the holes in the past, but now we have technology and science which are filling in the gaps quite nicely for me. I’m glad I stumbled upon this site!

  7. Written by Florian
    on October 7, 2008 at 2:44 am
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    @ Caitlin: That’s not true. Dawkins said that fundamentalists abuse their children. Not physically, of course, but they wash their brains from a very early age and that should be considered abuse. But he wasn’t refering to Christians per se but to fundamentalists in general. (I am referring to The God Delusion here. I think so were you…)

    Samuel Skinner pointed it out already: the default position seems to be dualism (at least that’s what research suggests). Therefore, religion seems to be more than just “filling in the gaps”. It may very well be that we are predisposed to believe something. (I got this link to a German article that suggests the same: http://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/article2275668/Ist-Gott-nur-eine-Funktion-unseres-Gehirns.html) However, things have changed over time and religion has not changed. It’s kind of like democracy, a self-protecting system – you can’t really change one of its core components without making it a different system. That’s why it struggles so hard to stay the same.

    Today, however, we see the world very differently and lots of the stuff that’s in (e.g.) the Bible contradicts logic. A religious education and up-bringing may have many benefits but it most likely leads to very strong in- and out-group thinking and it actively teaches children (and otherwise intelligent adults!) to trust in something that is not logically understandable. Even more, it encourages this behaviour as religion claims that it can not be logically understood but is something beyond logic and science. That is what’s dangerous and not up-to-date.

    If you, however, derive your morals from logic, it necessarily includes all human beings regardless of their religious background. Logic applies the same characteristics to all people and therefore is a potentially better candidate for a 21st century mindset than any traditional religion. At least, that’s my opinion. :)

    I StumbledUpon this ‘site as well and I am glad I did. Keep it up, IAmAnAtheist!

  8. Written by Ian Andreas Miller
    on October 8, 2008 at 10:12 pm
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    “Even if humans are born predisposed to believe in the supernatural, you are born with no knowledge of specific supernatural “facts”.”

    But I don’t even think that’s true. It might be more likely that we humans are in general born predisposed to believe the stories we tell each other, and children are predisposed to believe what their parents tell them.

  9. Written by Florian
    on October 15, 2008 at 2:21 am
    Reply · Permalink

    That doesn’t make their parent’s stories supernatural facts, does it?
    But you are right, of course, we are predisposed to explore our envirournment and constantly try to make sense of it. Children can’t do that on their own and their parents help. But maturing also means questioning what you were taught so far…
    (It’s nice for a child to wait for Santa but at some point logic will make it realise that he cannot be real. It will then correct its behavior and thoughts about presents and Christmas Eve.)

  10. Written by Aydan
    on January 24, 2010 at 7:07 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    …the people who have posted here do not seem to understand what the word pre-disposed means…the default position is ofcourse atheism, if someone does not believe in a God they are an atheist and babies fit the bill just fine.

    saying dualism is the default because people are predisposed to dualism is like saying babies that are predisposed to mental illness are born with mental illness.

  11. Written by Eric
    on September 18, 2010 at 8:01 pm
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    Completely bogus. If humans were naturally born with supernatural beliefs, then we would have found occurrences older than those left behind by Australian Aboriginals (the first known example of a “religious” tribe, for lack of a better word).

    Supernatural also must be defined here: is this study explicitly mentioning gods? Or rather ghosts? Souls? Because as far as I see, we are not born with the specific idea that there is a god.

    The default position is that there is no answer to the question “Is there a god?”. Religious people have made a claim, and we choose to reject it based on faulty evidence. It doesn’t get more complicated with that.

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