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  1. #1
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Default Optimism and Pessimism in Atheism

    In the main most Atheists I've met havent been very happy or well adjusted people. Some of them have been mirror images of their evangelical opposites.

    For me some sort of deep down similarity in character structure explains this and also why some individuals can and do "switch camps" as they do, often with reinvigorated adamency or vigor.

    However I wonder if there is any kind of correlation between optimism and pessimism and atheism, what do you think? A lot of atheism to me seems born of despair, with a pervasive bitterness, searching for further proof, particularly by convincing others, of their worst fears and suspiscions. Often clinging to singular, myopic and over simplified moral precepts in the process.

    On the other hand I could be only witnessing one kind of atheism, the perspectives of the materialists or cult of reason or even Epicurious are more hopeful and hold out a desire for freedom from fear of vengeful spirits, capricous ancestors or dieties.

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    Senior Member KDude's Avatar
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    On the internet, I've met some diehard atheists who came off as evangelistic, not to mention cynical in other types of conversation. Offline though, I only know one very serious atheist, but he's probably the nicest, upbeat guy I know. I mean, he sings John Denver songs and shit.

    So no, I don't think there's any correlation.

  3. #3
    Minister of Propagandhi ajblaise's Avatar
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    I think there are two main ways people arrive at atheism:

    1. People who just got a raw deal in life. These people literally had the faith beat out of them. These are the "pessimistic atheists". And for good reason, because in their eyes, if there was a God, the God must really hate them.

    2. People who arrived at atheism through a slow series of existential and intellectual musings, that had nothing to do with the harshness of life. Most of these people aren't angry at all, they just can't fool themselves into believing. So with these people, optimism is more compatible with their atheism.

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    Senior Member sofmarhof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Epicurious
    I believe you may have meant Epicurus.

    Anyway. I'm an atheist because my parents are, and I never had the religious education that would make be believe in any god. So, I have not arrived at atheism through travail or through intellectual reflection, I simply was never given any reason to believe any religion.

    Both of my parents were raised as Christians. My dad is a classic NT nerd, but he's never talked about when he became an atheist. My mom, however, specifically mentioned that she decided, after her favorite aunt died, that there could be no god because he wouldn't do anything so cruel as kill a good person at an early age.

    Likewise, a culturally-Jewish friend of mine says she is an atheist because of the Holocaust.

    Now, that's a good reason not to believe in the Christian, omnipotent, benevolent God. But if you think about it, it makes just as much (or maybe more) sense to believe in an evil god than in a good one. (If I liked in the Middle Ages I'd probably be a Gnostic.)

    Anyway, my mom and this friend are much more militant in their atheism than me, while my dad seems to fall somewhere in the middle (but closer to them than to me). Personally I don't like the emotionally-driven atheism so much, as I feel like it's not real atheism if it's not purely logical, but you can call that Thinker-chauvinism.

    Purely logical atheism, however, overlaps about 0.1% with agnosticism, since there will never be definitive proof that there is no god. I think of it as a highly unlikely possibility that I don't care much about.

    Being a second-generation atheist is great as you can enjoy scholarly Bible study, religious art & mythology without being bitter about it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member compulsiverambler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ajblaise View Post
    I think there are two main ways people arrive at atheism:

    1. People who just got a raw deal in life. These people literally had the faith beat out of them. These are the "pessimistic atheists". And for good reason, because in their eyes, if there was a God, the God must really hate them.

    2. People who arrived at atheism through a slow series of existential and intellectual musings, that had nothing to do with the harshness of life. Most of these people aren't angry at all, they just can't fool themselves into believing. So with these people, optimism is more compatible with their atheism.
    In the USA those may well be the main types. Here in the UK and I understand in much of the rest of Europe, it seems most atheists are people who weren't raised to believe that God is real, have thought about it quite briefly and come to their conclusion with little need to ever think about it again, as the culture doesn't pressure people to believe in God or to think about it much.

    Therefore, atheists here are not unhappy people. Among the young they're the majority, and therefore not uniform in nature or easy to stereotype. All kinds of personalities here are atheists and the stereotyping we have is actually of 'kinds' of theists, instead. In other words, as you in the US ponder what might make people atheists in the 21st century, we ponder what might make people theists.

    If atheists are unhappy in the USA, it may have something to do with certain personalities being more likely to be atheists within such a context, but it must also be to do with how much pressure there often is to conform to the theism that surrounds them. We have the opposite phenomenon: believers who take their practices quite seriously are the butt of many a joke and especially in schools, talking about such beliefs makes you a target for bullies who will see it as weird.
    Last edited by compulsiverambler; 02-10-2010 at 05:48 AM.

  6. #6
    Occasional Member Evan's Avatar
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    Optimism and pessimism don't really have much to do with my atheism...

    I tend to have lots of faith in the future of myself and humanity.

  7. #7
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    I think a lot of things about me seem depresesed, but I doubt it has anything to do with religion.

    I generally call myself an agnostic because I don't care enough to be assertive about it, enough to be an atheist. I find religious debates boring at best, and annoying at worst, and I don't care who's side anyone is on. Religious opinion is not a significant part of my psychology, my philosophy, my life in much of any way.
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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    Senior Member Bri's Avatar
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    I'd say I'm a doubter, not specifically an agnostic or atheist. Anyway...
    I've found that having no god or religion can be rather lonely if you dwell on it too much. I realized after stepping away from religion just how much responsibility I have for my own life and actions. Weirdly, I think I'm a better person now that I don't have faith - more open minded and accepting, more understanding of people's choices. But, I may just be deluding myself so I don't feel guilty about being godless. (I was raised in a religious home, so this whole thing is an interesting journey for me. I have difficulty decoding my motivations at times.)

  9. #9
    Badoom~ Skyward's Avatar
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    In the USA those may well be the main types. Here in the UK and I understand in much of the rest of Europe, it seems most atheists are people who weren't raised to believe that God is real, have thought about it quite briefly and come to their conclusion with little need to ever think about it again, as the culture doesn't pressure people to believe in God or to think about it much.

    Therefore, atheists here are not unhappy people. Among the young they're the majority, and therefore not uniform in nature or easy to stereotype. All kinds of personalities here are atheists and the stereotyping we have is actually of 'kinds' of theists, instead. In other words, as you in the US ponder what might make people atheists in the 21st century, we ponder what might make people theists.

    If atheists are unhappy in the USA, it may have something to do with certain personalities being more likely to be atheists within such a context, but it must also be to do with how much pressure there often is to conform to the theism that surrounds them. We have the opposite phenomenon: believers who take their practices quite seriously are the butt of many a joke and especially in schools, talking about such beliefs makes you a target for bullies who will see it as weird.
    I agree on this post, there are lots of examples of 'God hates me' atheism in stories and culture. The book Byzantine by Stephen R. Lawhead has the main character, a monk, who begins to doubt God's existence because of all the trials he went through. Many people who live in shitty neighborhoods or in a shitty situation don't believe in God because: 'If God really loved the world why is there so much suffering?'

    In my experience that the US is actually one of the most conservative Christian of the first world countries, and as a Chrsitian, I think it is why the US is blessed with its power.

    Atheists are really the minority, ESPECIALLY in small-town USA (my town had 7 Lutheran churches and at least 5 other denominations of Christian or weird spin offs of it).

    The Ancient Romans and Greeks regarded death with contempt. They saw death as reason to seize the day, carpe diem.

    Their outlook was pessimistic and I must admit I find the pessimistic outlook congenial.

    Optimism seems to me to be a desperate attempt to avoid pessimism. And embracing pessimism leaves one free to seize the day, carpe diem. And pessimism seems to have a certain insouciance.

    And to be insouciant in the face of death leaves one free to seize the day.

    And insouciance leaves no room for depression, the modern disease, but allows the day to burst in with full splendour.
    I think you might be confusing pessimism with realism. Pessimists are good at just seeing the bad sides of things, realists want to see both sides of the coin equally, and optimists like to focus on the good side of the coin. For me, my mood affects my energy, so depression does the OPPOSITE of help me seize the day. If I'm in a good mood I can seize the day because I don't care about the bad (Any more than necessary) and I have lots of energy to use for doing things I enjoy.
    'Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and its better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.' - Marilyn Monroe

    This is who I am, escapist, paradise-seeker.
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    Anthropology Major out of Hamline University. St. Paul, Minnesota.

  10. #10
    Is Willard in Footloose!! CJ99's Avatar
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    In the UK theres way more than two types of Atheist. Most people my age are atheist.

    Theres not really a pessimism or optimism in Atheism as a whole. Not from my knowledge. There is a fustration I suppose at religion when its sticks its nose in politics and trys to preach to young people. But that justifiable.
    "I'd never die for my beliefs, I might be wrong"

    "Is it not enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe there are fairys at the bottom of it too"

    "Intelligence is being able to hold too opposing views in the mind at the one time without going crazy" - Now all I need to figure out is if I'm intelligent or crazy!

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