back to article Atheists warn followers of unholy data leak, hint dark deeds may have tried to make it go away

The Atheist Alliance International, an organisation that works to demystify atheism and advocate for secular governance, has warned members their personal information appears to have been leaked. In an email to members sighted by The Register, the organisation says former staffers recently started a rival atheist organisation …

  1. msknight
    Joke

    So what do atheists believe in...

    ... not obeying the law, apparently. Whether written on stone tablets or in statute books.

    1. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: So what do atheists believe in...

      Same could be said about religious people, I am not listing examples or we would be here all day.

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Same could be said about religious people

        If you're so sure in your faith (atheism isn't agnosticism) why are you so touchy?

        More in common with the God botherers than you think, perhaps.....

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: Same could be said about religious people

          I guess it was probably the insinuation that atheists are more likely to commit crimes, which is a bit of an aspersion in itself.

          It also shows a certain lack of self-awareness when you consider all the murders, deaths and crusades committed in the name of religion.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

              Re: Same could be said about religious people

              > Atheist communism in last century murdered more people than all the so called religious wars in history.

              OK, so if a dictator espouses a belief in God, do we count those as religious murders?

              It's worth also noting that it's a *hell* of a lot easier to justify killing someone if you (and your followers) believe that person is going to a "better" place, or even going somewhere they'll be punished for their sins, than it is if you accept that death is the end.

              To put it another way, if you execute a murderer, either

              - He's being sent to hell to suffer eternal damnation

              - He's being killed and effectively relieved of the suffering of incarceration

              > Atheists may commit more crimes as not worried about Gods cctv when no one is looking.

              And there it is, exactly the trope the OP was referring to.

              Are you telling me that the only reason you don't (say) rape your neighbour is because god is watching?

              Want to know why I (as an atheist) don't? Because it's fucking wrong. I don't need the fear/threat of repercussions to stop me from doing wrong.

              You may feel that your religion has informed your morals, and it probably has, but that's a very different thing to morals *requiring* religion. Morals, ultimately, are a social construct, not a religious one.

              > No issue with atheists or agnosticism just think Frankie Boyle was right on room 101 (you tube it) with his withering destruction of celebrity atheists.

              IMO, Evangelicals of any type are an issue. Everyone should be free to believe (or not) in peace and privacy.

              Where it becomes an issue is where either side starts trying to restrict the rights of others based on their belief.

              Christians trying to deprive others of agency over their own bodies being an easy example. But similarly, Dawkins turning up at your church and calling you all morons is equally wrong.

              But, some of what you've said runs contrary to that. The claim that athiests are more likely to commit crime is nothing more than an attempt at othering, used to try and make it less acceptable to not believe in the construct of religion. If you're othering a group using FUD then you're not respecting their right to believe (or not) in peace and privacy.

              > Frankly an atheist society is as pointless as a we do not believe in Pink elephants society. Bit like alcohjol free lager as they try to replicate al the nice things about religion. The atheists would do far better joining the Church of England a rather God lite religion.

              I have absolutely no idea what you're imagining as an atheist society in your head.

              But, you do seem to be making the mistake of letting a faith (or lack thereof) define identity.

              An "Atheist society" needn't function any differently to today's society - there might be less telling girls that their bodies are dirty and they should be ashamed, or that they should bear the children of their rapist (to pull two extreme examples) but really not much else changes.

              Actually, a *good* christian society would probably be indistinguishable - with everyone minding their own business and not concerning themselves with what others are doing. Something, I'd note, that quite a few CofE followers are actually quite good at.

              1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                Re: Same could be said about religious people

                Yes.

                And what pisses me off is the phrase "Morality without God", expressed as if it's some kind of unusual act.

                The more unusual act is actually "Morality with God" - whilst there are many moral religious people, doing "right" for fear of Gods punishment is not morality, it's servitude.

                I was once talking to a hardcore religious person who believed that if you don't believe in a god, the only thing stopping you murdering someone was the worry of being caught by the police.

                If that's his attitude, I'm glad he's religious, though it's probably the brainwashing he's grown up with that has restricted his ability to instinctively know right from wrong.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Same could be said about religious people

                  Yes. Moral precepts are adaptive (in the evolutionary sense) because bands of hunter-gatherers did better if they helped each other rather than attacked each other. Whether this is innate (genetic) or cultural (memetic) doesn't really affect that. But, unfortunately, in-group/out-group attitudes are also adaptive because they favour more offspring for your group over more offspring for the other group. Religious feelings can be applied either way: our god says love thy neighbour as thyself, but David, go get Goliath, he's no neighbour of ours and he doesn't worship our god. That's the defect in religion: it's based on baseless beliefs. Atheism doesn't have that defect.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Same could be said about religious people

                "OK, so if a dictator espouses a belief in God, do we count those as religious murders?"

                IIRC Stalin trained as a Russian Orthodox priest. The elite of the Third Reich had practices that effectively worshipped the Wagnerian pagan gods. In both cases the majority of the population at any level were of the established Christian religious faiths in those countries.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Same could be said about religious people

                "Atheist communism in last century murdered more people than all the so called religious wars in history."

                Sorry, don't have the figures at hand on this, please post your sources (or STFU)

                "Christians trying to deprive others of agency over their own bodies being an easy example. But similarly, Dawkins turning up at your church and calling you all morons is equally wrong."

                But you can tell Dawkins to go jump in the lake, Christians often appeal to the government to make their pronouncements have the force of law.

            2. cornetman Silver badge

              Re: Same could be said about religious people

              > Communists with facial hair in last century murdered more people than all the so called religious wars in history.

              There, fixed it for you.

              A number of points:

              1. The number of people murdered in the last century is a function of technology rather that whatever religious affiliations the leaders had

              2. What makes you think that their lack of belief in a God had anything to do with it? After all if you are a Christian, there is plenty in the bible to justify the wholesale slaughter of peoples. Genocide was practically invented in the Old Testament.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Same could be said about religious people

                "Genocide was practically invented in the Old Testament."

                Exemplified by the biblical genocidal filtering using the test word "shibboleth". Which is still the distinction of an unquestionable test of loyalty to your tribe expressed in a set of words.

        2. pop_corn

          Re: Same could be said about religious people

          Atheism is not a faith, it's the absence of faith.

          Do you believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden? No? What do you call that faith?

          "Saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby. I've never been skiing. It's my biggest hobby. I literally do it all the time." - Ricky Gervais

          1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

            Re: Same could be said about religious people

            "Atheism is not a faith"

            Exactly. It is a working hypothesis. In principle, it could be disproved by events.

            1. David Nash Silver badge

              Re: Same could be said about religious people

              Actually Atheism isn't a hypothesis. It's the default state until the hypothesis ("one or more gods exist") is shown to be likely to be true. As in not believing in various other things, until one gets a good reason to do so. I don't need a hypothesis that there are no fairies at the bottom of my garden either, unless the default state is that they exist.

              1. John 73

                Re: Same could be said about religious people

                Atheism is not a state of waiting for information (that's agnosticism) but a declaration that a decision is possible, and that the conclusion is that there are no deities. (Or, strictly, that there are no theistic beings - deism being something a little more than theism!)

                And, of course, it's ridiculous to suggest that all (or even most) atheists have actually made a thorough investigation of the topic from a philosophical or theological point of view. Most people make up their minds on the basis of a raft of other influences - friends, culture etc. - and then examine and justify their experience on that basis.

                1. Getmo

                  Re: Same could be said about religious people

                  That's called an "infallible hypothesis", it can't be proven wrong, i.e. "you can't prove God *doesn't* exist." You're using well-known textbook definitions of bad science. A valid hypothesis must be provable one way or the other.

                  You can't just say atheism is making broad conclusions about God, because you yourself believe the default state of the universe is 'there is a God'. When there's a lack of evidence, the onus is on you to prove it real.

                  And just how you shouldn't lump all atheists together saying they've made rigid conclusions, you shouldn't lump all Christians/etc. together saying they've made rigid conclusions. Most of all of my Christian friends have found a way to reconcile evolution with their faith. The ones who never did, well, it turns out we didn't actually have that much in common. The definitions of atheism/Christianity/etc. may be rigid, but that doesn't mean people are in practice.

                  And if you really did believe in God, I'm surprised you people aren't more interested in quantum mechanics and the rising popularity of virtual reality theory, which actually does imply the existence of a "God". Really it's just a slight modification of the already popular parallel universes/Multiverse/string theory theories, the scientists say the math works out. It may turn out we're both right, and a grand unified theory may include the existence of God. But that's what makes it funny to me that those people ain't more interested in that research, because it means the scientists will figure out the true math behind how 'God' works before the faithful do.

                  1. John 73

                    Re: Same could be said about religious people

                    Err, no. "Atheism" is the belief that there are no gods. The belief that there may or may not be gods but that we lack the evidence to make a conclusion is agnosticism. Deduce what you will about my own beliefs (you'll probably be wrong), but that's just what the words mean! (Try and tell Richard Dawkins, for example, that he can't be sure that there's no god!)

                    But you're right towards the end that the more interesting questions may not be "Is there a God?" but "What do we mean by 'God'?" and "Can we know anything about entities we might term 'gods'?"

                    1. Getmo

                      Re: Same could be said about religious people

                      I guess my definition of 'atheist' is still a bit more loose than yours (again, I've admitted the definition is strict, but the practice is not).

                      I've always considered myself atheist. But I like virtual reality theory. So for example, what if it turns out to be true, that "god" is a gigantic computer, and we're all just playing a MMO RPG? Maybe multiple times? Maybe "heaven" is an endless arcade game store of multiple different realities?

                      Would that mean atheism is wrong? I mean, I wouldn't define that as "God", I'd define that as reality. Even if proven, I'd still consider myself atheist. But the religious definitions do line up as well. I.e. if VR turns out to be the grand unified theory, wouldn't that mean everybody was right?

                  2. EBG

                    Nope

                    "A valid hypothesis must be provable one way or the other"

                    I suggest you read Popper. A scientific hypothesis is never provable, but must always be dis-provable. Capable of "refutation" was the phrase.

          2. Danny Boyd

            Re: Same could be said about religious people

            Atheism is not absence of faith.

            Agnosticism is.

            Atheism is faith in non-existence of god(s). Atheists are very religious people who fervently believe there is no god. Believe, because non-existence of god cannot be proven just like god's existence cannot.

            In this regard atheists don't differ from other religious people ("true believers"). And, I must add, all have equal right to exist and advertise their beliefs.

            1. Jim Birch

              Re: Same could be said about religious people

              Not really. I'm an atheist, meaning I see no credible evidence for the existence of any gods. I also believe that most religions are incompatible with physics and I'm on the physics team. So, I'm an atheist. I'm also a scientist and change my beliefs on the basis of new evidence. If good evidence for some god is found I won't become an agnostic. What you might not be getting is that truth is a bit different in science to other discourses, especially religious discourse. It's not some abstract absolute, it's more like the best available model that fits the evidence. The confidence varies case-by-case with the evidence backing. Right now the evidence for a universe that is incompatible with the claims of any major religion is quite solid, basically as good as it gets. That's scientific atheism. The fact that I can imagine some evidence that would make me change my mind is irrelevant. I can imagine all sorts of counterfactuals. I'm not agnostic on whether beer is mad from squid, I'm pretty clear on that too.

              1. John 73

                Re: Same could be said about religious people

                Please, please, don't assume that other people here don't understand that "truth is a bit different in science to other discourses." Indeed, given the venue, I think it's safe to assume that the great majority of people here are trained and/or practising in some scientific or at least technical field.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: So what do atheists believe in...

      "... not obeying the law, apparently."

      All this demonstrates is that some people are dicks. The belief, or absence of a belief, in a supernatural sky fairy does not change that.

    3. Zebo-the-Fat

      Re: So what do atheists believe in...

      Strange that over 90% of the population of the worlds prisons are god believers

      1. Adair Silver badge

        Re: So what do atheists believe in...

        Are you suggesting:

        1. They are in prison through the practice of their faith,

        2. They have come to a religious faith through being in prison,

        3. That their 'faith' is simply a cultural accretion they are saddled with by accident of birth and is merely a statistical artifact thatvis functionally irrelevant to their being in prison,

        4. Something else?

        Please elucidate.

        1. Zebo-the-Fat

          Re: So what do atheists believe in...

          It was a reply to the statement ""... not obeying the law, apparently.""

          If atheists didn't believe in obeying the law then the majority of prison inmates would be atheist, that is not the case.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: So what do atheists believe in...

            Some people are imprisoned because of their religious faith. See Amnesty International for a list of examples, and addresses to send your letter of complaint to.

            For example, Christians imprisoned in Iran for practising Christianity;

            https://www.amnesty.org.uk/resources/urgent-action-christians-sentenced-practising-their-faith-iran

  2. smudge
    Paris Hilton

    an organisation that works to demystify atheism

    You don't believe in any gods.

    There - demystified for you for free :)

    Paris - clearly still mystified.

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: an organisation that works to demystify atheism

      Like Paris, Americans in general are still mystified.

      Religion in America is assumed by most to be a given and many atheists are as closeted as gays were not so long ago.

      1. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

        Soap

        Ah, so true. I have an American friend who told me, in shocked tones, she'd never met an atheist (ie me) before. It reminds me of the scene in the wonderful series Soap where Jodie Dallas's mother in law says 'I've never met a homo before.'

  3. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    Americans and Religion

    What is it with Americans where even the lack of religion seemingly needs to have a figurehead organisation? Ultimately leading to that organisation forking, and then there being >1 engaged in bitter warfare with each other.

    It really is taking the worst elements of Yank Christianity - evangelism - and sticking an atheist brand on it. You've only got to look at some of the US Evangelicals to reach the conclusion that had they been around when he was crucified, they'd probably have been trying their luck selling the fucking nails. Why would anyone want to reproduce that?

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Why would anyone want to reproduce that?

      Money.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Unoriginal Handle

      Re: Americans and Religion

      Heretic atheists. Who'd have thought!

    3. onemark03

      What is it with Americans where even the lack of religion appears to need a figurehead organisation?

      It's not just Americans. Look at Atheist Ireland, the Atheist Alliance International and (more locally) the Atheist Community of Austin (Texas, USA), to name a few. It gives those atheists who think they're the only atheists in town something to grab onto (especially in the US) in areas where religious belief (especially of the fundamentalist variety) is a major, i.e. rabid and rampant, part of local culture. "Lifelines" like these are more important than many people imagine. Remember that there are some states in the US where coming out as an atheist can cost you your job and/or apartment or get you thrown out of home by your God-fearing parents.

      Then there are the non-Christian fundamentalists but they're a story for another day.

    4. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Americans and Religion

      Although to be fair, there seems to be so much god stuff pushed out, in a country that supposedly separates Church and State, that it's not necessarily a bad thing to band together with like-minded individuals.

    5. Danny Boyd

      Re: Americans and Religion

      Maybe they wanted to believe there is no god(s) differently? A schism, you know. As in "those hypocrites falsely believe there is no god, but we, true atheists, will show you the way to understand why our faith in no god is the only true faith!"

  4. Billy Whiz
    Happy

    Sounds familiar

    .....started a rival atheist organisation.....

    So is this Reformation 2.0?

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Not a hack, an inside job

    Which basically means that not even atheists can be arsed to keep themselves under the same banner.

    Is there anything Humans will not fuck up ?

  6. steven_t
    Joke

    The Atheist Alliance International?

    Splitters!

    1. TimMaher Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: The Atheist Alliance International?

      Follow the gourd!

  7. JacobZ
    Coat

    International Alliance of Atheists

    "Are you the International Alliance of Atheists?"

    "F*ck off! We're the Atheist International Alliance!"

    "Wait, I thought we were the International Atheism Alliance?"

    "No, they split years ago. By the way, whatever happened to the International Atheism Alliance?"

    "He's over there."

    (All) "Splitter!"

  8. MJI Silver badge

    Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

    Atheists can be easy to wind up.

    Ask them to prove it.

    They say they can't, then they say prove there are dieties.

    You can't

    No proof either way, what fun to have.

    Do we hedge your bets?

    1. David Nash Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

      The burden of proof isn't on those who say they don't believe in your extraordinary claim. It's on you to prove that something exists.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

        I haven't claimed either way, both sides are open to some form of winding up.

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

          As a mathematician, seeing a true position poorly argued is one of my most painful experiences. I'm one of those guys who was never interested in debate society, but I have taught classes on logical fallacies.

          I have read more than my fill of arguments on the issue. Yes, I'm a theist. Some friends of mine insisted that I watch a recording of one of these "debates". It was one of the most awful experiences I've had. It was Dawkins verses some theologian. The theologian's arguments were air castles--impressive structures lacking proper foundations. For a bit, I hoped that Dawkins would at least force the theologian to use real arguments. Dawkins had two points, namely "which god?", and "if god is in charge and good, He would not allow X." I was begging for the theologian to directly dispose of either of these issues. Each resolutely refused to address the issues raised by the other.

          Really, really painful to watch. On a scale of 1-20, I scored it theologian: -10, Dawkins -12.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

            I hesitantly dip my toe into the raging waters of religious vs atheist debate here. I apologise for any and all offence caused by this post, and hope the Register readership will be gentle with me. Thank you.

            One of my problems in watching debates between atheists, agnostics and religious people is that they use the same words, but often mean different things. In the anthology "Belief, readings on the reason for faith" edited by Francis S Collins (ISBN 978-0-06-178734-8) Madeleine L'Engle's essay "The Meaning of Truth" contains the following (page 90):

            "Nevertheless there is still the common misconception, the illusion, that fact and truth are the same thing. No! We do not need faith for facts; we do need faith for truth."

            Religious 'truth' is often considered by the religious to be the revealed message of their religion and religious teachers, prophets etc., whereas scientific 'truth' is usually 'scientific fact', which according to Martin Gardner in "The Ambidextrous Universe" is the things scientists are 99.999% sure of as we've not yet found a counterexample.

            Until they actually start speaking the same language, meaning the same things with the same words and phrases and are very careful to distinguish between them, they are likely to continue to argue at cross purposes.

            I hope this is helpful.

            1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

              I wish I could agree with your implied premise. It was abundantly clear to me that neither of the "debaters" were even interested in doing anything but proselytizing to the combined audience. They are not "arguing at cross purposes"--that would imply that either was attempting to actually engage the other. They clearly were not. The entire forum was a scam. That's how you earn points out of range.

          2. Danny Boyd

            Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

            As a mathematician, you probably will agree that "there is no proof X exists" doesn't immediately lead to "so it's proven that X doesn't exist".

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

              Seems to recall something about Peano axioms, true statements and diagonals… some German dude thought of it.

            2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

              Of course. As a theist, people usually assume I'm going for the contrapositive of that--which is equally invalid.

          3. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

            Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

            By the way...'versus'.

    2. mattje

      Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

      Atheism is just a reaction to the still global norm of belief in a supernatural being(s).

      Atheists do not need to prove anything, as they're not the ones making up extraordinary claims of a sky fairy.

      Imagine living your life in accordance to a being who you can't prove exists.

      Imagine putting your faith in that being who allows Cancer and Covid to happen.

      Imagine just following your parents' tribal beliefs without any critical thought.

      Now imagine that there are some of us who don't really give a fuck about whether your god exists or not(science suggests not btw), but whether we would want to associate with such a vengeful psychopathic prick in the first place.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

        Someone who did not read what I said.

        1) Athiests are certain in no sky fairy/diety/god/FSM

        2) Religious people are certain there is

        3) Lots of us do not know and demand proof

        4) Wind up BOTH sides with same argument

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

          ...and someone didn't read his replies.

          It STILL doesn't work like that.

          Would you be "wound up" if I asked you to prove there wasn't a TV set buried on Pluto? No? Well then.

          1. Adair Silver badge

            Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

            So, are you by that logic trying to argue that it is impossible for there to be 'God'?

            The fact is that 'Athiests' actively believe there is no 'God', but it is just a belief. They are no more able to substantiate their claim than anyone who says 'God is'.

            Both sides end up being pretty much like each other when they stand on their respective hilltops screaming at each other.

            Meanwhile, down in the valley, people have to get on with deciding what really matters, living accordingly, and living with the consequences of their own an other people's choices. And, who knows, maybe this is just part of something much greater. It would be disappointing to find it's all just a monumental waste of time and effort. Like entropy man.

            1. cornetman Silver badge

              Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

              > The fact is that 'Athiests' actively believe there is no 'God', but it is just a belief.

              No, that is the anti-theist position, and such people do exist, although it is probably, in my view, as indefensible as the theist position. Athiest means merely lack of belief which is not a claim per se, merely a lack of claim.

              Some theists think that the distinction is mere sophistry but it is an important distinction, in order to avoid those tiresome comments like, "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist". Seriously, most people outside of religious faith don't really spend much time thinking about the question at all, just as we don't spend much time pondering whether or not there is any truth to flat-earther claims, or whether people are probed anally probed by aliens. We moved on to more interesting questions.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

              > "So, are you by that logic trying to argue that it is impossible for there to be 'God'?"

              No

              > "The fact is that 'Athiests' actively believe there is no 'God', but it is just a belief. They are no more able to substantiate their claim than anyone who says 'God is'."

              You believe there is no TV buried on Pluto, but it is just a belief. You are no more able to substantiate your claim than anyone who says there is.

              > "Both sides end up being pretty much like each other when they stand on their respective hilltops screaming at each other."

              I admit there is a somewhat millitant movement in America, but this is Britain. I don't believe in God. I don't believe in unicorns, or fairies at the bottom of the garden. In fact, I could name millions of things I don't believe in.

              They don't have a name, and I don't scream about lack of faries.

              > "Meanwhile, down in the valley, people have to get on with deciding what really matters, living accordingly, and living with the consequences of their own an other people's choices. "

              ... which is exactly what we're doing, and then someone uses god as an excuse for bigotry, or wars, or restrictive laws, and they are now affecting my life by not "deciding what really matters".

              > "And, who knows, maybe this is just part of something much greater. It would be disappointing to find it's all just a monumental waste of time and effort. Like entropy man."

              It would indeed, but facts don't care about feelings. Santa is great. Do you still believe in him?

              1. Palpy

                Re: Oh, what a lot of fun.

                The TV set buried on Pluto is a good one. I always used a Barcalounger containing a Neanderthal skeleton, hidden in a crater on the far side of the moon. Yours is better.

                OK, well, all of us know real things that exist only inside our heads: aesthetic values like beauty, for instance; emotions like anger. Fine.

                Some of us know there is a difference between what exists in our heads and what exists in the world we share with everyone else: if you hit your neighbor with a rock it does real-world damage; if you hit him with an aesthetic sensibility it doesn't. (Maybe his feelings are hurt, but those are inside his head.)

                Some of us appear to claim that religious faith -- a thing inside their head -- actually exists in the consensual world as a real thing, with real-world attributes like gods and miracles and heaven and hell.

                Others of us would like to see some kind of real-world evidence of that. We might say, "If people measure the rate of radioactive decay in identical samples of U-235, it comes out the same in Tibet, the Vatican, and Tokyo. But if we ask religious believers in those places about their gods and religion, the answers come our very differently. That appears to be evidence that religious belief exists in peoples' minds, but has no referent -- no basis -- in consensual reality."

                Fine. Think what you like. But the great difficulty for atheists is that many, many religious believers throughout history have insisted not only that their beliefs describe external reality, but that everybody should credit and obey the religious precepts which the believers hold. For example, in my country, Christian Reconstructionism has been attempting, with some successes, to turn the US into a theocracy (or perhaps a theonomic government, depending on how exact you want to be).

                Think what you like. Don't expect me to act according to your thinks, though.

                ---------

                Incidentally, the idea that atheists are just as blinded by belief as religious believers is, I believe, something of a strawman. Atheists I know hold an empirical view of the world, and so the discovery of new evidence should always have the potential to change their beliefs. The agnostic says, "I dunno if there's a god or not", my kind of atheist says "I don't believe there is a real-world god because I've never seen one whit of evidence for one" -- the implication being that if suddenly there is real-world evidence, that non-belief could change.

                ----------

                An excursion: How did this whole belief in gods/afterlife/immortal souls get started, anyhow? I have, of course, a theory. Which has nothing to do with Anne Elk's theory on the brontosaurus. I deny that entirely. /Python

                Dreaming whilst asleep is a human (probably mammalian) necessity for proper brain maintenance. In a society which has no understanding of this, dreams are mysterious: they seem real, and when in that place you can see and talk to dead people. Ergo, thinks the primitive, there is a real place where people -- or souls, or spirits -- live on even after they are dead. Dead in the waking, daylight world, that is. I think the misunderstanding of the dream state is the foundation of concepts like afterlife, heaven, and hell, and hence salvation, divine judgment, the mystical mechanism of Jesus' sacrifice for mankind's redemption, and so forth. All from a human misconception about dreaming.

                I am fairly stupid and quite obtuse, so I also believe that many much more intelligent people than I have explored this idea. Any references from you well-read and sophisticated commentards?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Oh, what a lot of fun.

                  Actually, I prefer your analogy! My plutonian TV set is a bit mental!

                  Agree 100% with everything else you say.. The cause of beliefs in the afterlife etc. being dreams is a good take on things I'd never considered.

                  Cheers

                2. MJI Silver badge

                  Re: Oh, what a lot of fun.

                  I find the hard religeous* people the most annoying but conversly the best to wind up with facts.

                  Any talk of creationism gets jumped on, 7 days bollocks, the same.

                  Point them to the writings of Isaac Asimov over this as well.

                  The biggest one to really make them panic is....

                  Was this universe created in a lab in another universe and because of that was our creator a scientists running an experiment, are they worshiping a bloke in a white lab coat?

                  Flat earthers should be very embarrassed if they cannot name the turtle!

                  * Notably NOT CofE, they are 90% pretty grounded.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                "I admit there is a somewhat millitant movement in America, but this is Britain."

                Where the titular head of state is also the head of the Church of England.

                Where senior Anglican clerics are guaranteed a number of voting seats in the making of national civil laws.

                Where Parliament and other government assemblies start with a prayer.

                Where state-funded schools have a legal requirement to have an assembly as an act of religious worship.

                Where businesses are constrained in opening hours on a Sunday because of Christian religious lobbying.

                Where religions are allowed exceptions to human equality laws on grounds of their dogma.

                Where state-funded schools with a religious backer are allowed to negate the mandated teaching of sex education.

                Where the Catholic Church is lobbying to allow them to run state-funded schools with 100% of their pupils selected by that religion.

                These are only some of the more obvious ways that religions are allowed a pernicious influence on the UK out of proportion to their congregation size.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                  The BBC radio key current affairs morning programme "Today" has a slot for a random speaker to pontificate - usually on their perceived morality of a issue. The only qualification is that the speaker should be a representative from any religion - atheists are excluded.

                2. bpfh Silver badge

                  Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                  As much as state schools have to follow religious guidelines dicated by the Representative and Reincarnation of God on Earth, Queen Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, she does not come down from her throne and beat you with her orb and sceptre if you refuse to believe, you still have a freedom of religion - or to not have one, although when I was in primary school, getting rid of the assembly several times a week to sing hymns would have been nice...

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                    "[...] she does not come down from her throne and beat you with her orb and sceptre if you refuse to believe"[...]

                    As long as there are state-funded schools run by religious organisations then the pupils are open to mental alienation - even abuse - for not conforming to a prescribed religion or for rejecting its dogma. How about gay teenagers being told that the official line is that they should hate their sin?

                    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                      Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                      Absolutely. Have you seen how many Americans are disowned by their family for being gay, and are ostracized in the wider community?

                      Also, the large number of religious zealots who are allowed to home school.

                      You must also be pissed of at American religious state schools https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-religion-idUSKBN2412FX, not to mention all the tax free status the American churches enjoy...

                      But.. keep pointing out issues in the UK if you want, but don't expect to score points - if you're point of accurate, most of us here will agree...

                3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                  Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                  ""I admit there is a somewhat millitant movement in America, but this is Britain."

                  Where the titular head of state is also the head of the Church of England.

                  Where senior Anglican clerics are guaranteed a number of voting seats in the making of national civil laws.

                  The anon coward made no comment on the state of religion in the UK, just pointed out that atheism as a "movement" is more prevalent in the USA. So, your butthurt reply was both irrelevant and unjustified. It's not a competition!

                  The USA is the most Christian country in the world. If you think the UK is more Christian, you've obviously not been to both countries, of even possess a small amount of knowledge on the subject.

                  US money has Christian comments on it.

                  Admitting you're an atheist for a political position will count heavily against you in America https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:fvqpVCbdFnMJ:https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/atheist-politicians-may-run-the-uk-but-they-remain-closeted-in-the-us/2014/08/22/bf147a3a-2a12-11e4-8b10-7db129976abb_story.html

                  As for religious school assembly's, we did have them weekly in junior school, but didn't have one in comprehensive school in the 80's.

                  Still, most of what you posted to criticise the UK, I agree with. It has nothing to do with the thread you replied to though.

              3. Adair Silver badge

                Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                'fridge on Pluto' comparable to 'God' = fundamental category error.

                The putative 'fridge' is an empirically measurable object that is an intrinsic part of the physical 'Universe'. 'God', by definition (certainly in the Judeo-Christian understanding of the term) is external to that reality - you might just as well ask someone to pick up a thought with their fingers.

                God's' 'existence' shouldn't depend on anybody being able to prove anything, or whether some one believes something. God either is or is not - you and I are free to decide whatever we like, and to live accordingly.

                What is more interesting is WHY we choose to believe/not believe, and then, even more, what we do through having made that choice.

                'Religion' is just another human construct that can be used for good or ill, depending on motive . 'Religion' neither proves nor disproves God, and no doubt God (assuming God is) gets along just fine with or without our frameworks for organising ourselves and attempting to organise God!

                If 'God' happened to tear open the sky and shout 'Hey you!' no doubt plenty of people would shout back 'Fuck off, you bastard!' and go about their business - so what kind of 'proof' would make any difference? Even if someone were to rise from the dead people will still refuse to believe. So, belief in God, or lack of it really isn't the issue, is it?

                Nah, what we do and why we do it matters more, whether it's choosing to do something new, or responding to shit that happens.

                If God is, I suspect 'God' is far more about meaning and purpose and responsibility and the absolute nature of love than anything else - if you like, the foundation for 'reality', maybe even more importantly the foundation for 'life'.

                But, of course and quite rightly, we're all free to make up our minds and to take the responsibility for the consequences.

                1. Palpy

                  Re: Category error? Hmmmm.

                  Consider that in the Judeo-Christian understanding God has acted directly upon the world, and continues to act directly upon the world. Acting directly on the world requires God to be as real as a fridge. If not so, if God (in the Judeo-Christian understanding) were as insubstantial as a thought, then He could not act in the real world any more than you can set a bush to burning just by thinking about it.

                  *shrug*

                  1. Adair Silver badge

                    Re: Category error? Hmmmm.

                    Well, I think you've partly got it right, at least in the Christian part.

                    For Christians 'the fridge' aspect of knowing 'God' is Jesus - 'God' as a human being. But the 'God' who Christians label 'Father' is quite beyond us - the 'Creator', not part of 'the Creation', so from that perspective quite unknowable so far as 'the fridge on the backside of Pluto' analogy is concerned.

                    As for realtime presence, in Christian understanding that is covered by the concept of 'the Spirit' - God's presence in the world, but like 'thought' this isn't a presence that is susceptible to empirical tools.

                    As Jesus quite rightly said, 'Even if someone were to rise from the dead [people] still would not believe'. In Christian spirituality belief/faith more often than not comes after practice, not before. In other words, it's not so much what we believe that matters initially, it's what we do and why we do it, and then what we do about it afterwards, and why, when the consequences roll in.

                    This chasing after some concept of 'proof' of God is in fact a squirrel and a misunderstanding of 'the question', that distracts from the real questions, like: 'What am I doing with my life, and why?' and 'What's the point?' and 'Who cares?'

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                  "But, of course and quite rightly, we're all free to make up our minds and to take the responsibility for the consequences."

                  Unfortunately religion is usually a tribal identity imposed on children from a young age. To later consciously reject it is a rebellion against the family and the tribe. Depending on the culture that may be literally life-threatening - or lead to social ostracism and disadvantages. It also means redefining your own identity.

                  Most people prefer to pay at least lip service to avoid those consequences. The human mind prefers to convince itself that therein is the "truth" - thus avoiding worrying mental debates with themselves.

                  A cousin is married to a CofE vicar. She was horrified to discover I am an atheist. She said that she could not even consider any of her many children becoming atheists.

                  What is interesting is when people leave a "mild" religion to join a religious cult that then reduces them to subservience in all things.

                  1. Adair Silver badge

                    Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                    'Unfortunately <insert chosen framework for understanding reality> is usually a tribal identity imposed on children'.

                    It's not 'religion' that is 'the problem', any more than 'Atheism', 'Materialism', or whatever is the problem. They are all just labels on particular frameworks of belief/understanding.

                    'The problem' is us - human beings - the choices we make and the reasons we make them, and we do that more or less regardless of the flag we fly under. Although some flags are demonstrably 'better' than others when it comes to delivering a quota of moral and material good, notwithstanding the choices of some to use those frameworks for their own ends.

              4. MJI Silver badge

                Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                Keep Santa out of it

                NORAD track him.

                And we do not see him as he is travelling so fast.

                And yes I did pretend when kids were small to do a credit card payment to him for presents!

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Just like the Peoples Fronts and Judea

                  Sorry. You're right. Using Santa as my example shows I know nothing!

                  Cheers to the jolly fat fellow, and apologies for doubting you.. Is just that you don't visit me these days... Adults can be good too!

  9. Chris the bean counter

    Was it

    An act of God ?

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: Was it

      "An act of God?" - Yes, it was, but which one?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My view too

    "My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety towards the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image to be servants of their human interests." - George Santayana

    1. sev.monster

      Re: My view too

      The dude also believed in eugenics and racial superiority.[1][2] While I will make no comment on the validity or moral implications of those claims, you might want to avoid openly associating yourself with his beliefs, else people also implicitly associate you with his other beliefs.

      Also, he called himself an "atheistic Catholic" and frequently enough hung out at church. Do you also hold that view...?

      1. cornetman Silver badge

        Re: My view too

        Galileo practised astrology. Perhaps we should distance ourselves from his other "theories" to avoid looking stupid?

        Spinoza had a lot of interesting things to say, and in particular the concept of eugenics (which was not controversial at the time) is not "evil" per se, just that the idea has some potential problems when people get involved, such as German forced experiments during the war. People shouldn't feel that they have to distance themselves from others because of the ideas that they have.

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: My view too

          Are you willing to work with someone who voted for Trump twice? Because a lot of folks around here don't seem to feel that way...

          1. cornetman Silver badge

            Re: My view too

            > Are you willing to work with someone who voted for Trump twice? Because a lot of folks around here don't seem to feel that way...

            Why not? Are you seriously that childish that you wouldn't work with someone because they held a different political perspective? Outside of the US, that position is honestly rather baffling.

            It's also about half of the population of the US. Would you refuse to work with over half of your neighbours?

            1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              Re: My view too

              Umm...you've got me backward. Seriously. At work, I don't care who you voted for. I DO care if you are wasting time at work.

        2. sev.monster

          Re: My view too

          I completely agree. More of a warning for our current political climate in western/English-speaking countries than anything else; should have made that more clear. I hold no opinion on the dude or his beliefs either way, personally.

          Though the second paragraph was taking a stab at the original claim as I understood it... I just can't help but feel that an absence of theism and theism can work together. Doesn't make much sense to me.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My view too

        “When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, 'Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?” - Quentin Crisp

  11. iron Silver badge

    The Atheists War has begun!

    https://youtu.be/t0fCL82XwwU

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Things don't get really bad until the otters show up.

    2. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Allied Atheist Alliance (AAA) to Navalny

      My first thought was that South Park episode. Then I read that Alexei Navalny quoted Rick and Morty while being sentenced to hard labour.

      The Kremlin critic reflected on his faith in God, while also drawing inspiration from eclectic sources such as Harry Potter and the cartoon Rick and Morty.

      “To live is to risk it all,” he said, quoting Rick Sanchez from the Adult Swim animated series. “Otherwise you’re just an inert chunk of randomly assembled molecules drifting wherever the universe blows you.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/20/alexei-navalny-loses-appeal-against-russian-prison-camp-sentence

  12. User McUser
    Pint

    Well I've always said...

    There's nothing an agnostic can't do if he really doesn't know whether he believes in anything or not.

  13. Big_Boomer

    Atheism is the other side of the religious coin. Atheists say there is no God, the religious say that there is and at least one.

    Agnosticism is stating that we don't have enough data to deny or confirm the existence of God. Basically, SHOW ME THE PROOF or shut the **** up! :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They are not mutually exclusive.

      For the majority of atheists, if god suddenly appeared, and all the proof was there, we wouldn't put our fingers in our ears and shout "fake news".

      Religious people can be agnostic too: https://www.learnreligions.com/atheist-vs-agnostic-whats-the-difference-248040

  14. Aj273431@gmail.com

    If there's no Gd...

    Who cares?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Those who use religion as a form of unquestionable social control to their worldly advantage. Whether they actually believe in their quoted god is another matter - just their followers need to profess to the mandatory dogma and shibboleths.

      1. Adair Silver badge

        'Those who use <insert chosen group denominator> as a form of unquestionable social control ...'

        Our problem is us, regardlesd of tge label we choose to use as a scapegoat. It's all of us - humanity - in all our fear, anger, despair and selfishness.

        If 'God' is, and is worthy of the label, I think we can trust that God is not our problem, and that there are probably also grounds for hope and love.

  15. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

    What type of atheist?

    There are at least two types of atheist. The first does not believe in any god or gods. The second believes that there are no gods. So when people say that atheism is not a belief system like religion, but the absence of a religious belief, then they are talking about the first kind of atheism. On the other hand, it is also correct to say that there are atheists of the second kind, who fervently believe that there is no god, which can be construed as a species of religious belief.

    I think it quite possible to be actively opposed to religion, without actually supporting an opposing belief that there is no god. For example, an atheist (of the first kind) can say that all religions are untrue and harmful, without needing the hypothesis that god does not exist.

    My position is that, if god does exist, then evidence from the everyday world supports the hypothesis that he is a cruel bastard, and not to be trusted, so it is prudent to keep your head down and stay out of his way.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What type of atheist?

      Your use of the word "believe" is incorrect.

      I *know* there are no unicorns here on planet Earth. That's not a "belief". There may be unicorns elsewhere in the universe, but that needs proof. Currently, to me, that's an unknown. I neither "believe" nor "disbelieve" in unicorns.

    2. herman Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: What type of atheist?

      I don't believe in Peter Pan, Frankenstein or Superman. Ditto for all other supposed Super Beings, which includes and is not limited to your God(s). Atheism is not a belief. Atheism is simply the acceptance of reality.

      1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

        Re: What type of atheist?

        The gamer that runs the quantum computer of reality might beg to differ.

  16. vistisen

    “We asked them to delete the file and certify it has been deleted and not shared with any third party but we have been unable to reach an agreement ... on how this should be done.”

    Better just pray it does not get into the wrong hands.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Better just pray it does not get into the wrong hands."

      In my span of biblical years it has occasionally been necessary to invoke my CofE baptism as a baby. Usually in the face of officialdom's denial of atheism - it was the only option in a very small set of permissible answers.

      There have been several occasions when my knowledge of the KJV bible has misled people into thinking I was fodder to add to their congregation. If pushed I used to say "Sorry - I am an atheist". Nowadays I drop the "sorry". For anyone who attributes my "good works" to a religion - I might point to the Samaritan.

      1. vistisen

        Samaritans are an ethnoreligious group

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The "Samaritan" usage was singular as in the parable. That person was acting in a humanistic way - which went against both tribes religious leaders' directives.

          The point of belonging to a tribe is that you help others in your tribe. Whether you help those outside your tribe is either forbidden - or usually aimed at gaining tribe brownie points or converts.

          Wikipedia:

          "Both Jewish and Samaritan religious leaders taught that it was wrong to have any contact with the opposite group, [...]"

  17. pop_corn

    A question for ATHEISTS: what evidence would make you believe in god?

    Most atheists (me included) say they're evidence driven and will change their mind on a subject if the available evidence changes, which got me wondering: what evidence would I need to see to believe in a/the god?

    This is a problem complicated by Arthur C Clarke who said: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    E.g. if you saw someone defy gravity and walk on water, or turn water to wine with a wave of his hand, would you fall to your knees and worship him as the creator of the universe?

    What about if someone snapped their fingers and realigned all the stars at night to spell out: "The Jews are right"?

    1. Big_Boomer

      belief - /bɪˈliːf/ - noun - an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.

      If there is proof, there is no belief, only acceptance. Would I accept that someone was God if they rearranged the stars with a clap of their hands? No, I'd be more likely to believe (there it is again!) that they had hacked the Matrix or even built it and would be impressed. God implies worship and I simply don't do worship.

      1. pop_corn

        > "belief - /bɪˈliːf/ - noun - an acceptance"

        > "If there is proof, there is no belief, only acceptance"

        You literally quote a definition that says belief means acceptance, and then immediately claim that belief and acceptance are not the same thing! :D

        So rearranging the stars would make you think that such a being "built" the matrix, i.e. was the creator.

        Defining what "god" means is a whole topic in of itself, something I've yet to fully resolve myself.

        My use of the word "worship" was deliberately inflammatory.

    2. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      You see, this question just isn't well-formed. Or if it is literally what you want to know, it isn't interesting.

      Theists seem to be most concerned about "belief in God". But, as an atheist, that is the least interesting issue. I believe in things with evidence and with explaining power, and apply Occam's razor and believe in the result. Beyond that fundamental decision, I don't choose what to believe in.

      Sure... it is an obvious conclusion from the state of scientific knowledge today that no entity that meets the description of "God" in any religion exists or has ever existed in our universe. But if one turned up, and could do all those things you suggest (rearranging the stars would be a really interesting trick), my only thought would be "what changes do we need to make to our scientific understanding of the universe given that these powers, which are excluded by our current models, have been demonstrated"?

      It wouldn't cross my mind to worship such an entity! Why would I do that? Of course, an entity with those powers could demand that I worship them "or else", or make it very advantageous to me to pretend I worshipped them, or even change the wiring of my body so that I worshipped them, but that wouldn't really be worship would it? It certainly would not, in any sense at all, make me religious.

      1. pop_corn

        For a question that you claim is poor, or uninteresting, you certainly seemed to enjoy devoting 3 paragraphs to its answer. ;)

        I happen to agree, given my quote, there is no such thing as magic (by which I mean some spooky unexplainable power) only a lack of scientific understanding.

        I also agree with you about worship, the use of that term was deliberately inflammatory.

        1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

          Actually I devoted one sentence to answering the question about belief.

  18. Jim Whitaker

    Poor headline

    Atheists don't have "followers", they have beliefs which others may share.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Poor headline

      Atheists have actions that others may share. Humans are wired to be part of a cooperative hierarchical group - just like many other animals. It works well in evolutionary terms.

      How each group functions - and how large it can get - is a cultural evolution aided by a relatively long life span, problem solving intelligence, language, and preserved history.

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