Is playing music the closest way to connect to our past?

Answer by Jim Ashby:

I find that nothing connects me to my past like music from my past. When I hear a familiar old song, it invokes mental images of where I was when I first enjoyed the song. I hear "China Grove", by the Doobie Brothers, and I'm back in Air Force boot camp in San Antonio, Texas. I hear Led Zeppelin and I'm back in high school, smoking pot in the parking lot.

I really can't think of anything else that so vividly invokes the past as easily and reliably. Something about music must imprint in our minds, particularly when we're young.

Is playing music the closest way to connect to our past?


Since atheists have no religious beliefs, do they ever use the phrase ‘I believe’ in their conversations? If so, when and why would they …

Answer by Jim Ashby:

Here's the definition of 'believe':

verb (used without object), believed, believing.

  1. to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so: Only if one believes in something can one act purposefully.

verb (used with object), believed, believing.

  1. to have confidence or faith in the truth of (a positive assertion, story,etc.); give credence to.
  2. to have confidence in the assertions of (a person).
  3. to have a conviction that (a person or thing) is, has been, or will be engaged in a given action or involved in a given situation: The fugitive is believed to be headed for the Mexican border.
  4. to suppose or assume; understand (usually followed by a noun clause): I believe that he has left town.

Verb phrases, believe in.

  1. to be persuaded of the truth or existence of: to believe in Zoroastrianism; to believe in ghosts.
  2. to have faith in the reliability, honesty, benevolence, etc., of: I can help only if you believe in me.

As we can see here, words often have many meanings. Conflating one meaning with another is a very common mistake or logical fallacy. What you have done in your OP question is slightly different. You're conflating the phrase, 'I believe', with the term, 'religious belief'. The specific meaning of 'religious belief' is entirely different from the various meanings of the word 'believe'.

The word, 'believe', unlike the term, 'religious belief', does not imply faith or the suspension of disbelief or belief in impossible things or belief in scripture, God, authority, doctrines or dogmas. In other words, 'believe', is a word anybody can freely use — including atheists.

Believing is subjective. Knowing is objective. It's amazing how many people routinely conflate the subjective with the objective: a surefire recipe for confusion. Note that the root of the word, 'believers', is 'believe'. Believers stake their lives on subjective notions without a shred of evidence. They have nothing to point to for objective support. What they've staked their lives on is entirely in their heads. Which is why they so often conjure up false equivalencies. They're desperately trying to manufacture objective support where there is none.

On Quora, we see a wide array of attempts to impute equivalency where there is none. Believers: you guys really need to use their imaginations and come up with a less transparent ploy.

Since atheists have no religious beliefs, do they ever use the phrase 'I believe' in their conversations? If so, when and why would they …

My comment on an answer to Why don’t Americans pay equal attention to Christian terrorists at home as they do to Islamic terrorists abroad?

My comment on an answer to Why don't Americans pay equal attention to Christian terrorists at home as they do to Islamic terrorists abroad? :

My comment on an answer to Why don’t Americans pay equal attention to Christian terrorists at home as they do to Islamic terrorists abroad?

Does scientific proof of evolution automatically invalidate Quran’s divinity?

Answer by Jim Ashby:

Thanks for the A2A, Prasanth!

Unlike the Bible, the Quran is (allegedly) the literal truth. It doesn't employ parables or symbolism or allegory, etc. We can claim that parts of the Bible should not be taken literally. The same is not true of the Quran. Every word is, by it's own proclamation, literally true.

If the Quran is the literal word of Allah — perfect, inerrant and complete — then evolution proves the Quran and the word of Allah are not perfect, inerrant and complete. The claim of inerrancy is false.

This could mean that Allah made a mistake . . . or that the Quran has interpolations . . . or that the Quran was not written by Allah . . . or that Allah does not exist and that Muhammad manufactured the Quran from his imagination.

There were no proto-humans named Adam and Eve because homo sapien sapiens evolved from predecessor species. The Abrahamic creation myths are all false . . . which means any claim to scriptural inerrancy are also false.

Does scientific proof of evolution automatically invalidate Quran's divinity?

How can I become more confident in my beliefs?

Answer by Jim Ashby:

If you feel that way, why not frequent any of the many Christian-only discussion forums and groups instead? The way I see it, you have to know that, if religious topics are open to everyone, there will be discussions critical of religious beliefs.

There are, sometimes, personal attacks here. But they're fairly rare. I saw one yesterday and I probably see one or two a week out of the many hundreds of atheist comments I read. Normally, the wording of the OP question and question details determine the wording of the answers it receives. Sincere questions always seem to generate sincere answers. Insincere questions get the kind of answers they deserve. Go figure.

Personally, I write as if you're standing in front of me and that we're both on equal footing (we can both express ourselves honestly). My attitude is best summed up by Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

“Avoiding offense means that we don't accept each other as equals.”

If you and I were discussing the historicity of Jesus, I'm sure we'd both agree that Jesus really did exist . . . though we would probably disagree about the veracity of the miracles he (allegedly) performed.

Where we're really going to stress-test our equal footing is when we discuss articles of faith. I say this because believers tend to get upset at my honest opinions about faith. I don't criticize them personally but they seem to take it personally anyway. I normally interpret this as thin skin on the part of the believer, prompted by (ironically) having to admit belief is a matter of faith: belief without objective support (evidence or proof).

If your pastor or priest tells you that belief in God boils down to faith, you wouldn't give it a second thought. But if an atheist tells you the same thing, it's a completely different matter entirely. Odd . . . don't you think? Within the insular community of the church, faith is a virtue. But in an open forum, faith is what it is: unsupported by anything in the world around you. If there's nothing external you can point at to justify faith, its virtue is internal: all in your head.

I find it very telling when believers claim their faith is off-limits and that criticism of it is ridicule or rude or belittling. They're not seeking equal treatment, they're seeking special treatment. Such special pleading begs the question: 'If faith is belief without evidence, why try to justify it?

Faith is the bottom line. Is it not enough for you?

How can I become more confident in my beliefs?

Do most atheists feel betrayed by God?

Answer by Jim Ashby:

Before I realized there probably is no God, I felt betrayed when prayers weren't answered and when injustices befell me.

More significant to me is the betrayal I felt upon realizing that organized religions are shams. I felt betrayed by the Christians among my family, friends, church, community, policy makers, media outlets and country. It seemed that everybody was in cahoots to lead me down the primrose path to woo thinking.

But then I realized the only difference between them and me was that I had seen through the preposterous charade. I had jettisoned my religious indoctrination and learned to think for myself. I learned that curiosity is better than faith, knowledge is better than authority and evidence is better than dogma.

I learned that religion exploits fear and guilt by turning the human condition into shameful sin. Biblical sin pits us against ourselves by claiming our very nature is sinful. We are all born miserable wretches and Christianty (or Islam or whatever) is the only way to redeem ourselves.

As an atheist, I now know that sin is the bread and butter of clergy: the support of whom is the main purpose of Christianity and it also makes us more malleable to those who wield power. It's all about control.

I now know that people are basically good but sometimes make mistakes. We're only human. But it's through mistakes that we learn and mature and cultivate empathy. Mistakes are not sins, they're opportunities to improve ourselves.

I examine history, read the news and observe the world around me and I see how religious turmoil manifests from pervasive, endemic, denial of reality. I see how denial always comes back to bite us on the butt.

By and large, religious folk are willfully obtuse. They don't want to understand the difference between the subjective and the objective because they've staked their lives on the subjective: beliefs without an iota of objective support (a.k.a. 'faith'). The subjective is internal: all in your head. The objective is external: the world around you. In the world around you, no human woman ever gets pregnant without a 'donor' of DNA. In the world around you, nobody rises back to life after three days of death. In the world around you, there are no miracles, no spirits, no God. All these things are strictly subjective, in your head.

And they didn't get in your head all by themselves. You were taught to believe these things. You were indoctrinated by those who were indoctrinated before you. It's a world-wide delusion propagated by fear, guilt and wishful thinking. It's brainwashing that's empowered by society itself. When one person believes in impossible things, it's called a delusion. When many people believe in the same impossible things, it's called a religion.

Take a look at Scandinavian countries where most folk are atheists. Low crime rates and high standards of living. When mankind was largely ignorant, society benefited from religious conformity. Most modern societies are no longer largely ignorant. It's time to put superstitious religions behind us.

Do most atheists feel betrayed by God?

What caused you to have that improbable shot at being born and developing consciousness in this universe?

Answer by Jim Ashby:

Physicists have a reductionist approach to the universe that sees causation (outside the quantum realm) as linear: effects have causes and are predictable and inexorable.

In systems biology, biologists have a more integrated approach that sees causation as reciprocal and more complex. According to the book, Systems Biology – Cambridge University Press:

Unlike the physicochemical sciences, biology is subject to dual causality or dual causation. Biology is governed not only by the natural laws but also by genetic programs. Thus, while biological functions obey the natural laws, their functions are not predictable by the natural laws alone. Biological systems function and evolve under the confines of the natural laws according to basic biological principles, such as the generation of diversity and natural selection. The natural laws can be described based on physicochemical principles and used to define the constraints under which organisms must operate. How organisms operate within these constraints is a function of their evolutionary history and survival.

The application of dual (or multiple or reciprocal) causation to neurological functions (memory, analysis, forethought/planning, etc.) opens up potentials for causality that are impossible with the linear causation of 'physicochemical' processes (the causation of inanimate matter). Essentially, these potentials represent the difference between reaction and interaction with causality. Instead of the binary cause and effect unfolding in lockstep with the unidirectional arrow of time, reciprocal causation between neurological functions can result in causes leading to multiple effects or indefinitely delayed effects, or recursive effects that completely transform the possibilities of causality in intelligent human beings.

As the excerpt, above, from Systems Biology explains, we are all the while constrained by the linear causality of physics and operate within a scope of potential determined by evolution and the survival instinct. That scope of potential can be thought of as identity. We are identity-driven intelligent human beings. Our individual abilities and skills and limitations define our scope of potential.

I call this identity-driven intelligence, 'self-determinism'. In simplistic terms, it's a limited form of free will in which we determine our own paths into the future and adjust those paths, as needed, along the way. To do this concept justice, you should read Free Will (of sorts) Without Dualism for a full explanation.

What caused you to have that improbable shot at being born and developing consciousness in this universe?