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 IAmAnAtheist » Believing the Unprovable

Believing the Unprovable

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian waiting to go on a cemetery tour

Gloria: Thanks for coming with me on this. These things are always more fun with someone else.

Heidi: Any time! I’d have done this years ago if I knew about it. I am kind of surprised that you’re into it, though.

Gloria: Why surprised? You know I’m into Halloween stuff big time.

Heidi: But this tour is about real people and real ghost sightings.

Gloria: It’s still spooky.

Heidi: You’re an atheist, though. How can you pretend you don’t believe in supernatural things when you believe in ghosts?

Gloria: I like ghost stories but I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in zombies or vampires, either, but I love plenty of zombie and vampire movies and stuff. I’m a total skeptic. If you can’t prove something exists — or at least has a good chance of existing — I’m not going to believe it exists.

Heidi: Oh, come on. You believe in plenty of things that don’t exist.

Gloria: Let me guess, you’re talking about love.

Heidi: That is an obvious example. You can’t prove that love exists, but you still believe in it.

Gloria: Wrong. Love can be proven to exist. A psychiatrist can diagnose it, or a scientist can examine brain function and see the signs that someone is in love.

Heidi: You’re just talking about biology. I mean love itself, the wonderful, immaterial thing that can be felt in the soul or shared between people and that emanates from God.

Gloria: I don’t believe in love as a thing in and of itself. Love doesn’t exist without people to feel it. It’s just an emotional state.

Heidi: How can you feel something that doesn’t exist?

Gloria: It does exist within the mind. The feeling is something the brain generates, not something we sense.

Heidi: What a weird thing to say. You’ve been in love — how can you say that it didn’t feel like something apart from you?

Gloria: Even if it did, that doesn’t mean anything. Feeling something only means that the feeling exists; it isn’t evidence for anything external. I don’t think that anger, boredom, and hunger are things apart from me, so why should I treat love any differently?

Heidi: If atheists don’t believe in love, then why do you care what happens to other people? Why would an atheist mother care what happens to her children?

Gloria: I didn’t say I don’t believe in love; I just don’t think it’s supernatural.

Heidi: Then you’re just denying your feelings the same way you deny God.

Gloria: You could have phrased that better.

Heidi: Sorry, but you know what I mean.

Gloria: Look — I know it’s hard for you to wrap your head around, but I just don’t think of these things the same way you do. For example, do you believe in transcendental meditation or the oneness of Buddha?

Heidi: Of course not.

Gloria: Some people do, and they even feel very deeply about those things. Do you think their feelings are proof that meditation leads to greater spirituality or that there is a way to become one with the universe?

Heidi: No. Those are ridiculous ideas.

Gloria: Right, and people having strong feelings about them proves only that they are things that some people can feel strongly about. Feelings, no matter how deeply, doesn’t prove that love or Buddha or God or anything exists. I’m sure that when we take this cemetery tour, they’re going to talk about places where people feel a strange presence or a sudden chill and imply that means there are spirits present, but it’s all the same thing. Emotions don’t prove anything.

Heidi: I think that’s just your atheist bias talking. Evil forces can fool us into false religious beliefs like Buddhism, but those forces are real even if the feelings they are creating are false. If we can’t trust our feelings about love or spirits, how can we ever learn anything about them?

Gloria: I’d say that it’s pointless to try and learn about anything that doesn’t exist. All we can do is learn about how people react and feel.

Heidi: You are going to be a big wet blanket on this tour, aren’t you?

Gloria: Heck no! I can totally get into a ghost tour.

Heidi: Even though you don’t think it’s real?

Gloria: My imagination’s totally real, and I plan on using plenty of it!


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on November 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Conversations

One Response

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  1. Written by Sam
    on June 6, 2014 at 9:58 am
    Reply · Permalink

    It’s too bad you don’t find reasonable and intelligent Theists to converse with…no offense to this Heidi, but she’s only a moderately-thought out theist, and misses some major points here.

    I, for one, accept other people’s religious experiences as real, even if I was not raised with those particular beliefs, because ultimately we are all describing and feeling the same exact thing, albeit through different lenses. Any honest theist should be expressing this.

    By the way, love CANNOT be proven to exist. A psychologist or scientist using FMRI can say a certain brain area lights up, or this person displays “symptoms” of the the concept we define as love, but that is not proof. It’s proof of the secondary effects of this thing we call love. Ultimately, you will never never know that your partner loves you. You have to have faith, in a sense. Atheists take a lot more on “faith” than they would care to admit.

    By minimizing love, emotion, fear, anger, art, music, inspiration, mindfulness and even God to a bunch of mental impulses, and absolutely nothing more, Atheists choose to see many individual trees, but never the forest, to see the neurons but never the being, the transcendent sum which is more than the parts. I see this primarily as a response to anger, trauma, parental conditioning, nihilistic tendencies and other such phenomena. Unfortunately in times like these when it’s so chic to be an Atheist, no one is doing serious research into the roots of atheism and atheistic thought. But I digress much…

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