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What Do You Believe In?

by Michael Shermer, Nov 09 2010

As a skeptic and atheist I am often asked, “What do you believe in?” The ending preposition implies something more than what factual claims are to be believed, such as evolution, quantum physics, or the big bang. What is suggested by the question is what values does one believe in or hold to, especially without belief in God and religion. Here is my answer.

I believe in the Principle of Freedom: All people are free to think, believe, and act as they choose, so long as they do not infringe on the equal freedom of others.

I believe in civil liberties, civil rights, and the freedoms guaranteed in the United States Constitution, including and especially freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to assemble peacefully, freedom to petition grievances, freedom to worship (or not), freedom of the press, freedom of reproductive choice, freedom to bear arms, etc.

I believe in the sanctity of private property, the rule of law, and equal treatment under the law.

I believe in free will, free choice, moral culpability, and personal responsibility.

I believe in truth seeking and truth telling.

I believe in trust and trustworthiness.

I believe in fairness and reciprocity.

I believe in love, marriage, and fidelity.

I believe in family, friendship, and community.

I believe in honor, loyalty, and commitment to family, friends, and community members.

I believe in forgiveness when it is genuinely asked for or offered.

I believe in kindness, generosity, and charity, especially voluntary aid to others in need.

I believe in science as the best method ever devised for understanding how the world works.

I believe in reason and logic and rationality as cognitive tools for answering questions, solving problems, and devising solutions to life’s many problems and quandaries.

I believe in technological growth, cultural advancement, and moral progress.

I believe in the almost illimitable capacity of human creativity and inventiveness for our species to flourish into the far future on this planet and others.

Ad astra per aspera!

So, if you are ever asked by a believer what you believe in, offer your own list along these lines of values that you honor, and then ask, “Why, what do you believe in? Do you not honor these values?”

The impetus for essay, which I penned on a plane to Los Angeles on October 15, 2010, was that I was asked this very question the night before during the Q&A after a talk I delivered before a sizable audience at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, sponsored by CASH (Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists), supported by several other Minnesota atheist and humanist groups, and attended as well by many believers. The woman who made the inquiry explained that as an atheist she is often asked this question in a tone implying that atheists cannot or do not believe in anything.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but such is the delimiting effect of religious belief and the myth that without God anything goes. Quite the contrary. Without God, values matter more here and now than they ever could in any projected afterlife proscenium where the moral play is finally enacted.

P.S. The final line above translates as: To the stars with difficulty. The phrase originated with the Roman poet Seneca the Younger and was made famous on a plaque honoring the Apollo 1 astronauts who perished in a fire on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

139 Responses to “What Do You Believe In?”

  1. David says:

    I kept waiting for the part where you say, “…and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.”

  2. Nick says:

    I used to be a skeptic. Now, I’m not so sure.

  3. John says:

    That’s a great sentiment to express on Carl Sagan’s birthday!

  4. Alessa says:

    I told a friend a story about a man who displayed the most honorable level of forgiveness I’d ever seen in my life, and her reply was, “He must be a man of faith. Only those who are deeply faithful show that kind of forgiveness.”

    “So you don’t think I’m capable of forgiveness?” I asked.

    “Maybe not that level of forgiveness.”

    She’s a theist, but doesn’t subscribe to any religion. It broke my heart to hear her say such a thing, but it really opened my eyes to see how a lot of the world sees atheists. Even if we are capable of believing in the same things as theists, we will never be AS caring and loving as those of faith.

    • tmac57 says:

      You should have replied “Well,I forgive you for doubting the depth of my character”.

    • Marty says:

      “we will never be AS caring and loving as those of faith.” I’d say that was the opinion of the person who spoke to you. I’d also agree that her opinion is likely shared by many other theists. When I see this sort of thing expressed, I find it get away from the central message that often expressed, but ignored in all the various religions ( and non religions ) . In fact the very words are in the statement quoted above. There is great benefit for all by giving and receiving care and love. That message comes from various writing, be they from organized religious books or not. The issue is not where it originated from or who wrote it, but what the message actually says, what that means and how we can use it to improve our lives through wisdom and learning. …. An interesting blog that I chose to read as I’m considering writing on this subject myself.

  5. Bob Mcbride says:

    Perhaps I’m being obtuse, but I dislike the word belief and tend not to use it. Belief is holding knowledge despite of evidence. If possible I want my ethics and likes to be based upon evidence. As a matter of fact a friend changed my mind on my opinion of broccoli by making me a tasy batch of the stuff. I am still hesitant about ordering the stuff because so many people mangle it into a mushy tasteless goo, but am willing to give a try.

    • tmac57 says:

      Bob,I think that your definition of ‘belief’ is too narrow.From Merriam Webster:
      Definition of BELIEF
      1: a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
      2: something believed; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group
      3: conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence
      Number 3 should fit your purposes,I would think.

      • alun richardson says:

        Merriam Webster is about the only dictionary that says that and their definition makes it a useless and confusing word. The definitive Oxford English dictionary and all other ones I have looked at state a belief means there is no evidence. It is a word misused by many.

      • ZachsMind says:

        I’m a bit dismayed by seeing Michael Shermer, who until now I’d put above Dawkins & Hitchens in terms of level-headed practical skepticism, just throwing the word “belief” about all higgledy piggledy.

        It’s not that one’s personal definition of “belief” is too narrow. It’s that the standard mainstream definition is too broad. When a Believer uses the word “belief” it means something different to them than a nonbeliever. This causes miscommunication if not complete breakdown in discussion due to the splitting of hairs that must ensue over semantics as the debate deteriorates into mislabeled rhetoric.

        To a Believer, what they believe is truth and differing beliefs of others are still beliefs but can also be defined as lies from a subjective point of view. Therefore belief can mean both true and false simultaneously. How is this at all useful to anyone?

        Since discovering my inability to conform to theism or even deism any longer, I’ve been actively striving to remove “beliefs” from my day to day behavior and it’s a lot harder to do than it sounds. I’ve caught myself acting on beliefs without even having been consciously aware of them. It’s annoying.

        At the risk of sounding like a variant on political correctness, I suggest this exercise. In order to more succinctly convey thought to others, I try to replace any instance, where before I’d use the word “belief” without thinking, with pointed near-synonyms like “think” “feel” or “know.” It’s an exercise that helps me better understand my own subjective view on reality as compared to what’s objectively there. YMMV as always, of course, but so far this is working for me.

      • DougZ says:

        @ZachsMind… I like your idea of replacing the word “belief” with other words in everyday speech, and will give it a try!

      • Dylan Wilson says:

        While it is perhaps important to rid oneself of beliefs that are unnecessary (as they can be derived from other beliefs) one should not, and cannot rationally, believe nothing. We need some place to lay a foundation of axioms. We probably need far fewer than those listed here to derive all the moral things we like, but this is at least an attempt to make clear what basic things we are assuming, because we all must assume something to make any claims or conclusions (unless we like being circular). So this is probably a good exercise- make it known to yourself and others what your axioms of life are, so to speak. Then you can stare at them in the face, and it’s easier to make sure you’re being consistent (you probably aren’t), and to see when you’ve made an error in reasoning (you probably will.)

      • MY2BITS says:

        I believe you are all wrong.

      • Bob King says:

        @Dylan ….Dylan, you must go to Youtube and visit Pat Condell’s videos – specifically, “God Or Nothing”.

        While you’re on his site, view some of his other short pieces – outstanding.

        Bob maj sky king at g mail dot com

        P.S. Anyone who reads these responses needs to visit Condell’s site.

    • Mario says:

      I’m with you on that, I just simply don’t like to use the word belief, so I do my best for substituting “belief” for “think”, so I just start by saying: well I think that…. or my personal view on that is….

      Yeah probably my view is narrow regarding that but, hey I’m not offending no one by just choosing a different way of expressing my self right, am I?

  6. Robo Sapien says:

    My default response is:

    “I believe in not wasting my time discussing such things with someone who will only pretend to listen, then decide that I’m just misguided and feel some kind of pity for me.”

  7. kittywhumpus says:

    This is an excellent exercise for anyone to do periodically, and though I also wince a bit when the term “belief” is used, mainly due to questions like “Do you believe in evolution,” it’s probably the best way to get the point across.

    I enjoyed your talk at the University of Minnesota, by the way. Thanks for coming!

  8. MadScientist says:

    I guess Michael knows little latin (and presumably less greek).

    Per ardua ad astra. Or if you wish to mix the words around: Ad astra per ardua.

    • MadScientist says:

      Oops – apologies – “per aspera” is indeed commonly used. Dang, infrequent use of a language certainly dulls the art.

      • MadScientist says:

        And then again “per aspera” sounds suspiciously like a transliteration job rather than a proper translation. Oh well, it’s graven in the stones of history.

      • tmac57 says:

        How do you say “Look before you leap” in Latin?

      • Gretchen says:

        “Ad astra per aspera” is the state motto of Kansas, where I’m from, and has been translated as “To the stars through difficulties.” I know no Latin at all so can offer no opinion on whether it’s correct, but it is a traditional understanding of the phrase.

    • Colin Smith says:

      “Per Ardua Ad Astra” is the slogan or whatever of the Royal Air Force, and has been so throughout my life, and perhaps reaches back to it’s birth in WW1. But thanks for the translation. I always wondered what it meant.

    • Mang says:

      The quote “Per Ardua ad Astra” is the motto of the RCAF (Royal Canadian Airforce, now CAF) and is present on the official crest/insignia.

  9. Dea says:

    Great post! I think I might steal right something similar for myself.

  10. Ken says:

    Alessa, I hear you. Yesterday I heard (on PBS of all places) in the context of the recent election, a comment to the effect that many voters, particularly the religious, are looking for more civility in government. As if to imply that being non religious equates to uncivility. It offended me, because in my view it’s many from that block who are among the most uncompromising and uncivil, leading to the morass we find our government mired in.

  11. Ray Greek says:

    I appreciate Michael Shermer’s post and it gives me a chance to promote the book “What We Believe but Cannot Prove: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty” edited by John Brockman. “Believe” can be variously defined and the book and Shermer’s post perhaps emphasize different aspects of the word but both are excellent.

  12. Max says:

    Shermer believes in free will, as in contra-causal free will?

    It’s funny, he believes in the sanctity of private property, but doesn’t mention the sanctity of life, because that has the connotation of being anti-abortion.

    • Free will has many definitions, which is why when people ask me if I believe in “Free Will” I now ask them to clarify. I think to most people “Free will” is held in opposition to predestination. It is only when they read or listen to Tom Clark that they get an explanation of what contra-causal free will means, and realize that by that particular definition we don’t have free will.

    • jwthomas says:

      He does affirm “freedom of reproductive choice”, which I think covers the question. But I don’t like the word “sanctity”, which the Oxford
      Dictionaries define as: “the state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly.” Need I say why?
      Nothing, not even private property, is so “holy” as to be beyond question.

  13. While I really enjoyed this article, I usually resent the implications of the question.

    I believe in nearly all of the same things listed in the article, but those beliefs are mostly unrelated to my belief or non belief in any deity.

    Is the question asked as a question of faith or fundamental understanding (What is your framework for understanding the nature, purpose, and origin of the universe and our position in it?) or is the question asking about your values? (What kind of morals and values can you have without belief in God?)

    The response is a beautiful discourse of personal philosophy, which may or may not be what the questioner is seeking.

    If the questioner is asking the question because they are trying to understand your principles, values, and morals because they lack a common belief framework with you (and they consider their faith and moral framework inseparable), that is an elegant response.

    If the questioner is asking for your understanding of the universe, it is perhaps a little less useful an answer, although you could easily argue that your response subtly (and perhaps sublimely) answers that question in its own way also.

    Consider the following similar questions:
    If you don’t believe in God, what do you believe in?
    If you don’t paint portraits, what do you paint?
    If you don’t collect stamps, what do you collect?

    My current answer to the question “What do you believe in?”:

    I believe we live in a shared objective reality in a materialistic, macro-deterministic universe.

  14. Edgaras says:

    It’s interesting, actually, to hear other people’s beliefs. I mean here rationalists/skeptics, in particular.

    “I believe in the sanctity of private property, the rule of law, and equal treatment under the law.”

    This could be showed inconsistent according to the very same laws. For example, when person says he believes in free speech and then demands banning libel with laws, that’s quite illogical, isn’t it? There are many examples, but I just wanted to show, how skeptics themselves, when dig deeper in their beliefs, can find enormous contradictions.

    Good is bad, war is peace, private property is theft and many others…

  15. Max says:

    Folks at the Republican National Convention explain what “small town values” mean to them.–king-news-team-ever—small-town-values

  16. Oldskool says:

    Freedom to bear arms..

    You Americans are a weird mob. You need a license and registration to drive a car, fly a plane, practice surgery, and yet you hold this “belief” that because your constitution provides for an armed Militia, anyone should be allowed to high powered automatic weapons. Then, you complain that there are gun related crimes…

    Or were you talking about muscle shirts, because they are even worse….

    • Bob Mcbride says:

      Not all of us Americans think that. Sadly though the highest court in the land has decided for now that the right to have guns is a personal freedom.

    • Max says:

      If the point of the right to bear arms is to preserve the security of a free State, then registering guns with the authorities kind of defeats the point.

    • Joe says:

      ‘Need a license’, Yes, but this is not what makes these abilities possible. The license just states that you have these abilities. People still practice all of those abilities without the license and in many cases get away with it. The right to keep and bear arms gives us the ability to defend ourselves against those who would still have them would a license be required. The ‘Right’ is not to do harm, it is to defend against harm.
      By the way, the Constitution doesn’t ‘Provide’ the right, it states the right which naturally exist
      And also, not ‘everyone’ has the right. Once a person decides to deny someone else their rights (commit a crime of damage or injury), they forfeit their own rights.

    • Kenneth Polit says:

      I’ve been driving without a licence for years. Of course if I get caught again it’s mandatory jail time.

  17. Bob says:

    In my experience, the difficulty arises not in answering “what” values one believes in but “why” one believes in them. A theist may answer that question by responding that these things are “good” as defined by God, etc, and are eternal. I.e., these things are absolute, value-centric truths with an ultimate authority. By contrast, a materialist might respond that our value-centric beliefs are formed by eons of evolution and adaptations that support the creation of well-ordered societies. Is that what makes them “good” and worthy of belief?

    While worrying about the “why” sounds like an epistemological nit, it becomes relevant when there are disagreements over which values are “true”, relevant, or take precedence under exceptional circumstances. While most the of values listed in the post are widely shared, I suspect that you’d have a good set of debates over a few of them. The challenge is to be able to articulate the principles we fall back on to resolve our differences.

    The skeptical tendency (well, at least my tendency) to qualify statements and reject absolutes gives theists a tool (however illogical) to dismiss values they disagree with because the implication is that the values are mutable, in which case they are arbitrary.

  18. I believe in belief but is doesn’t believe in me.

  19. Max says:

    “I believe in trust and trustworthiness.”

    Skeptics should be trustworthy, but they shouldn’t be gullible.

  20. MKR says:

    “BASICALLY . . . I . . . BELIEVE . . . IN PEACE . . . AND . . . BASHING TWO BRICKS TOGETHER!!” –Archbishop Gumby (at 3:10 in video)

  21. tmac57 says:

    “I believe in family, friendship, and community.”
    “I believe in honor, loyalty, and commitment to family, friends, and community members.”
    The way in which an individual defines ‘community’ in these two statements,could make a profound difference in the overall global and sociological implications.

  22. noen says:

    I’m agnostic so I neither believe in theism nor atheism. I don’t have any answers to ultimate questions and I don’t think anyone else does either. Also, I am a liberal so I neither believe in conservatism, including libertarians, nor in the far Left, including anarchists.

    I believe that there is one world consisting entirely of particles moving in lines of force. I believe in an objective reality that exists independent of our interests. I believe that consciousness is the result of the activity of the brain and yet is not reducible to it.

    I believe that faith is the greatest gift that humanity has and that religion does tell deep truths within a false narrative. I believe that people are, on average, good. I believe that greed is bad.

  23. BillG says:

    The late, great skeptic Martin Gardner claimed to be a theist and took the “leap of faith” only on emotional grounds but conceded that atheists have the better arguments.

    Religion is divisive and often poisonous to humanity – faith, if defined as hope, is not. Not unlike some of Shermer’s views, hope in an afterlife is and only purely emotional.

    • Colin Smith says:

      Nicely put neon. I would banish the word “belief’ because it implies faith (which can be irrational). Another word worth banishing is “evil”, a biblical term that is overworked today, from such silliness a David Frum’s ‘Axis of Evil”to calling Hitler or Ted Bundy evil. It does nothing to advance understanding of why they behave as they do. ‘Evil’ is basically an “I don’t know” diagnosis. I would like us to get into the habit of expressing ourselves emotionally in the way we think intellectually. The empirical process allows us to make only statements with varying degrees of probability, not absolute certainty. The latter is the realm of faith or belief, or atheists. Much of what you write after-wards is in a religious tone, i.e. all the “I believe” stuff, which sounds like an Irish pop song I once knew. Science is of course the new religion, having ousted religion in it’s favourite fields, but what science can’t do is tell us why.(Shaw said that doctors are the new priests…think about it when you next go to your doctor. The ritual, the clothing, the distancing mechanisms, etc. It is a good analogy.) So no more “I believes”. “I think I know”, or “I think”, with qualification, is far better. To echo Russell, I am fanatical against fanaticism, so lets delete the language of fanaticism and import the language of empiricism.

      • noen says:

        I think you’re replying to the wrong comment. Oh well.

        “I would banish the word “belief’ because it implies faith”

        The word belief simply means “mental content held as true”.

        “Another word worth banishing is “evil””

        If what Hitler and Ted Bundy did was objectively wrong then it makes sense to call their actions evil. If you reject moral realism then you are left in bed with Nietzsche and must accept some kind of moral nihilism.

        “The empirical process allows us to make only statements with varying degrees of probability, not absolute certainty.”

        I am absolutely certain that “2+2=4″ is true in all possible worlds. Epistemic relativism can be refuted.

        “Much of what you write after-wards is in a religious tone”

        There are some things which cannot be proven to be so. I cannot prove that there is an external world but can and do believe that it is a necessary presumption to the very possibility of the intelligibility of rational thought.

        “Science is of course the new religion”

        Some people treat it as if it were. They are guilty of scientism but that doesn’t mean that it is fact comparable to or on the same epistemic ground as religion is.

      • Another point of view says:

        2 + 2 in base 3 is 11.

      • Ian Large says:

        Yeah, but 11 in base 3 is 4 in base 10. A rose by any other name…

    • Colin Smith says:

      No disrespects to Martin Gardner, but if he said that then I can’t call him “great”. He must have been a tormented man for his ‘emotional logic’ and his intellect to take him in diverging directions. It is so difficult for human beings to think clearly. Since our education does not yet equip us to think sceptically, and therefore ‘feel’ tolerantly, we lurch off into ‘absolute-speak’ effortlessly. For me taking any “leap of faith” would be to deem the current limits of rational thought permanent, and to yearn for certainty in our lives that rational thought cannot provide. We know why Kierkegaard called it that. It is a leap into the unknown, a wild gamble that something will come up to make me feel whole. Intellect and reason are thrown out of the window, and we give ourselves up to the beast in us. A nice and good man, maybe, but not a great man in my books.

      • BillG says:

        Would you claim that those who are in love with their wife and children are tormented from “emotional logic”, though still compentent in science, skepticism and critical thinking?

        Hoping in an afterlife is no less illrational than love.
        (P.S. Gardner trashed religious wingnuts and thought certainty in an afterlife absurd.)

      • IAmNotI says:

        “Hoping in an afterlife is no less ‘illrational’ than love” is possibly the most ignorant statement I have ever read. If you truly believe that love is irrational then you have never felt it.

  24. Ted Fontenot says:

    I’m turned off when supposed skeptics and atheists utilize the language and terms of the religio-mythology mindset. To speak and write in terms like “sanctity” of something, whether it’s “private property” or anything else, is giving the game away. It’s a basic concession. Whatever you say, you’ve begun by setting that up in a non-serious way. Denying something then reverting to verbally couching things in ways that the adherents of that which you deny does is fundamentally absurd and self-defeating.

  25. Ric says:

    Ad astra per aspera is also the state motto of Kansas. Always thought it was one cool thing about Kansas.

  26. Doug says:

    You do realize that “freedom of reproductive choice” is NOT guaranteed by the Constitution. That fact that you believe that it SHOULD be does not mean that it is. For some reason, people (on the Left AND the Right) assume that the Constitution says what they want it to say–for instance, Conservatives think that the Constitution says that “America is a Christian country,” or “The Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments.” This is wishful thinking, no matter who does it.

    • Another point of view says:

      I agree, the constitution, except for the amendments, only says what rights we as citizens cede to the government, therefore things like the right to abortion is not given by the constitution. It may be prohibited as the removal of the right to life i.e. murder of a human being, but if not it is not prohibited. Both sides of the argument are at times irrational. If society determines that a woman must proceed to term and have the child then society must take responsibility for the raising of the child. I’m not sure that there is a willingness to take on such a commitment.

    • Joe says:

      Actually, Amendment IX: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”
      In a free country this would mean that as long as physical force is not used and no harm is done to property or body (of another person) we should be able to do as we please. Most of the laws enacted since the constitution was first adopted have turned innocent people into criminals, in the (false) hope that criminals would obey laws.

  27. Lester Ballard says:

    The “sanctity” of private property? You believe private property is “holy”?

  28. almost there says:

    Dude, most mix up nihilists with athiests. A quote from The Big Lebowski movie (1998):(Nihilist) “We believe in nothing, Lebowski. Nothing…”

  29. John Draeger says:

    Dr. Shermer,

    This post may be the best thing you’ve ever written (at least from what I’ve read of your work). A very productive plane trip! I will be giving your words to some believer friends of mine.

    Most people have the same values even if they disagree on how to go about attaining and preserving them.

    I believe that faith is no reason to believe. Trust only objective evidence.

    Max (9), Shermer does not believe in contra-causal free will. He believes in compatibilism just like many of our skeptic brethren (brethren used for rhetorical effect – no comments about religion please).

    For those who wish to pick on the word sanctity, consider this definition:
    “Regarded with great respect and reverence by a particular religion, group, or individual.”

  30. Tom says:

    Is there anything in the Constitution that you don’t believe in? I’m guessing the Income Tax (16th Amendment). The pseudo-reverence for that document always makes me uncomfortable.

    • Joe says:

      There have been a lot of mistakes made since the original document was written. For example; the original document was a restriction of what the government could do. Since then it has mainly been amended (and interpreted) as a restriction of what the people can do, and the people allow it. That is what is unsettling to me.

  31. Sharon Madison says:

    This is a good list, but I think there’s something missing, which weakens it as a response to questions about values. IMO, there needs to be a connection between believing in these things, and actually living by them. Without such a connection, any litany of beliefs, from an atheist or a theist, amounts to little more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    Therefore, Number One on my list of things I believe is:

    I believe that I should apply my skepticism to myself, first and foremost.

    If we lack introspection and circumspection we are doomed to fail in living up to our words.

    • tmac57 says:

      Do you have any ideals that you don’t always measure up to? I don’t see anything wrong with stating a set of values/beliefs that are more or less a goal to aspire to,even if you fall somewhat short of the mark at times.The key is to try not to be a hypocrite by claiming to do one thing and doing another.

      • Sharon Madison says:

        Yes, agreed, but I’ve encountered many people who claim to live by a set of values, even when the evidence of their own behavior shows that they do not — they don’t see their own hypocrisy.

        That’s why self-skepticism is on my list. It doesn’t have to be on yours, though.

      • tmac57 says:

        I thought that my comment implied that we should be skeptical of ourselves,because we can fall short of our stated values.People who are stridently judgemental make me reflexively wary (not directed at you).

      • Sharon Madison says:

        I thought that MY original post implied just that. I said it was a good list but was missing something. That ‘something’ was what is needed to insure that all of the things we believe in are reflected in our actions.

        Dr. Shermer’s list is a response to being questioned about what he believes in. Asked by a person who believes in God, the question is generally more about how we behave well when we don’t have a God to moderate our behavior and send us to hell if we’re bad. That’s why I feel it is important to state, in some way, in our list of beliefs that we feel it is important to be introspect and circumspect to best insure we are living up to our words.

        Too many people have their list which doesn’t include this self-awareness. Then they think that having such a list makes them a wonderful person. Because they must be a wonderful person as a result of such an impressive list, they are completely unaware that they are failing to live up to their own standards.

        Two prominent cases in point are Ted Haggard and Paul Kurtz.

        Both men state their “beliefs” unequivocally. Both men behave hypocritically. Ted blames the devil for his transgressions. Paul refuses to see that he has transgressed, but then Paul Kurtz, “the Father of Secular Humanism”, has never expressed the importance of introspection and circumspection when he tells the rest of us how to behave. Sexual fulfillment and aesthetic appreciation, on the other hand, are a couple of things Paul considers important as proof of the “reflective moral intelligence”.

        You and I are in agreement on the need for self-awareness to moderate our behavior and realize when we have failed. Where we seem to disagree is in the necessity for actually making the statement about a need for self-awareness when telling others what we “believe”. I think that stating this is necessary to fully answer the “What do you believe” question. The need for honest self-critique which seems obvious to you and I, just isn’t that obvious. Self- justification is more often what people engage in, not honest skepticism about their own behavior.

        All of this being said, I rarely tell anyone what I “believe”. I don’t find these kinds of lists all that useful. People don’t often say that they are for lies and telling lies, distrust and distrustworthiness, unfairness, hate and infidelity, dishonor, disloyalty, unforgivenness, and other nastiness. Despite people’s unwillingness to express approval for nasty behavior, it doesn’t prevent people from engaging in nasty behavior. So, when asked, I say, “I am a skeptic and do my best to hold opinions based on evidence. I am not always successful at this, and am painfully aware of this fact because I am most skeptical about myself.”

  32. Donna Gore says:

    I always ask them to EXPLAIN THE QUESTION. They’ll say, “Don’t you believe in anything greater than yourself?” And I say, “Sure, there are in fact LOTS of things that ARE greater than myself – the earth, the universe, the human race, the planet, love, courage, etc. It’s not a matter of BELIEF.” What they REALLY mean is “Don’t you believe in anything supernatural?” – I’m trying to get them to SAY that. If that’s what they’re asking, then my answer is simply, “No.”

  33. Jim Maloy says:

    As a Christian, I’m well aware that “atheist” seldom if ever means “amoral” in actual practice. The reason that many Christians imply that it does, is because atheism lacks the ability to justify or validate any kind of morality.

    No amount of reasoning or science or logic is ever going to get you to the conclusion that “stealing is wrong” or that “generosity is good.” The fact that most atheists hold to strong moral values regardless, is just evidence that they aren’t following through on their professed beliefs to their logical conclusion. (For which I thank God heartily.)

    • Oldskool says:

      You want to back that up?

      If I steal,murder, etc then It logically follows taht I would condone that behaviour in others- which would be hazardous to my health and wellbeing, not exactly a logical way to live.

      Read some game theory before you start sprouting theistic nonsense that some book gave you your values.

      How is that slavery working out for you- or have you changed your value structure?

      • Jim Maloy says:

        Lots of heat, but not much light. Let’s stick to the one real counterpoint, that if you stole/killed/etc. then those actions could come back on you. True enough. But it doesn’t really lead you to a moral conclusion, does it? “Avoid harm to myself” seems to be the only moral rule in play with your response. And logically, that rule could be satisfied if you succeed in hiding the deed from others, which you could do easily with a little planning and cleverness.

        You’re the one making the positive assertion that logic and reasoning are enough to justify moral principles. You back it up.

      • Joe says:

        Belief in one’s self and honor mean a lot to an atheist (can I add Capitalist to that?). That coupled with the expectation of what we expect of others is what tells us what our morals should be. Life is what is most important to us, ours most of all, and because of this and our belief that we have no right to another’s life makes it so we do not need an omnipotent being to tell us right from wrong.

    • John Greg says:

      Jim Maloy, what you’ve posted is complete nonsense. Gobbledegook.

    • IAmNotI says:

      “[A]theism lacks the ability to justify or validate any kind of morality”–OK, maybe this is the most ignorant statement I have ever read. Define ‘any kind of morality’.

  34. David says:

    I agree that the use of the word “believe” is surprising in the context of an skeptical. The word has been already tainted by the “believers” in god/gods or supra-natural entities. I consider I rather use a description of what is what I mean instead of supporting the “believe” meme. Example: I think and feel that love is wonderful.
    Instead of: “I believe in kindness, generosity, and charity, especially voluntary aid to others in need” I could say: “I love kindness, generosity and charity… “. Love does not have theologian implications. Maybe there are better ways of replacing the word. But if you use the word “believe” the meme-neural structures associated with it trigger all the other elements that connect to the existence of entities that we “just” believe, either exist in the natural world or not.

  35. Jerry Schwarz says:

    I usualy say that I believe there is a reality and that we can learn about it through our senses.

    Of course, the question is ambiguous, but I think they’re asking for some fundamental belief that isn’t held on empirical grounds because that is the way their belief in a god is held. For me “reality” is it.

  36. Simon Mundy says:

    To get around the semantics of “belief”, I prefer to restate the question as “Do you mean “”On what bases do I (attempt to) guide my actions?”””.

    The sad and profound truth is that we can never be sure that our guiding principles are sound in the flux of our current situation. “Belief” of any sort is an attempt to avoid that existential uncertainty.

    For me, Shermer’s list of guideposts looks pretty good. Given time, though, I’m sure we could come up with counter-examples in which unthoughtful application of each would cause inhumane outcomes.

    • monique131972 says:

      you got a lot of this right on. it is good things that we all need to try to do but at time we all fell. ” The sad and profound truth is that we can never be sure that our guiding principles are sound in the flux of our current situation.” i love this you hit the nail right on the head i hope you don’t mind if i share this with my friends. i will even tell them you said it. i love God and even now i find at time he can be hard to find in this world.

  37. Christie says:

    I have found this quote to be the best description about my beliefs.

    This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. – His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

    • Oldskool says:

      Funny, ‘coz Tibet has a lot of Temples…

      He says nice things, but I am not sure thathe is any better than the German in the funny hat.

  38. David says:

    How Shall I Respond?

    How shall I respond if you ask me,
    What are you?
    Do you believe in God?
    If not, What do you believe in?
    Don’t you believe in anything?
    Shall I make a list and carry it around
    Lest you judge me for not having any beliefs?
    “Judge not, that ye be not judged”
    I wonder who said that?
    Oh yeah, It was the same guy who judged
    Those who didn’t like his preaching and said:
    “ Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers,
    How can ye escape the damnation of hell.”
    How civilized. How tolerant.
    What a gentleman.

    I shall respond civilized.
    I shall respond with tolerance.
    I shall rise above the fear, which controls you,
    The fear, which holds you prisoner and,
    I shall proudly say:
    I am a Humanist, a Free Thinker
    A Naturalist, a Sceptic
    A Secularist, a Scientist at heart,
    An Agnostic, a Nontheist
    A Rationalist, an Empiricist, and a Positivist.
    And Last I am an Atheist.

    “For I am a destroyer of Gods
    In a world of Demons,
    A giver of hope to those who know not,
    For I am Human,
    And Humane is what I long to be”.

    I believe in life before death.
    I believe this is the only life we will ever have.
    I believe we can do in life what we could never do in death.
    I believe in love, compassion, justice, equality,
    Forgiveness, and freedom for all.
    Did I mention I believe in social, economic, and racial equality?
    I believe in your right to believe, and say what you wish.
    I believe in not saying that which will cause
    Physical and mental suffering to others.
    I believe that no human is collateral when seeking justice.
    I believe that those in power should be
    Held accountable for the deliberate deaths of the innocent.
    No life is expendable, No life at all.
    I believe war is a crime if it can be avoided.
    I believe the innocent should be defended
    From their oppressors through shared international law.
    Did I say I believe in justice?
    I believe I don’t know the answers, but neither do you.

    Most of all I believe in hope,
    That someday humankind can live in peace.
    And accept their place within nature
    And put aside their selfish needs
    For those who suffer,
    For those that are disabled
    For those with no voice,
    For those less fortunate
    And for all the creatures that can co-exist with us.

    I’ve contemplated the big picture since I was a child,
    And know in my heart
    There is no God,
    Which by definition makes me an Atheist,
    But as you can see,
    I’m a whole lot more!

    David Yanez

  39. Kel says:

    It would actually be nice to be asked what I believe in, my experience as an atheist arguing with theists has them telling me what I believe and my time is either spent trying to debunk the misconceptions or arguing the negative position on unjustifiable claims.

    As for what I believe, I don’t think its too dissimilar from what Michael wrote in his post. They are a very agreeable set of principles that I hope post people if pressed would hold as self-evident.

  40. IslandSkeptic says:

    I believe that many others believe in what I innately recognise as questionable, trickery or false.
    I believe that such people as Shermer have their heads screwed on as straight as one could ever hope for in a human being.

  41. jeshua says:

    Great essay and for the most part, thoughtful comments. The “holier than thou” attitude of religious folk always bugs me as well.

    BTW, there is nothing wrong with muscle shirts on guys who have the muscles to wear them, just as there is nothing wrong with tube tops on women who have the bodies to wear them.

  42. The Saint says:

    I think Rush had the better answer to the question on their last album Michael:
    I don’t have faith in faith
    I don’t believe in belief
    You can call me faithless
    I still cling to hope
    And I believe in love
    And that’s faith enough for me

  43. Mike says:

    I think I am a little skeptical of the skeptical/atheist position. I strongly believe that a person who does not believe in theism can hold many beliefs about things such as morality, ethics, human liberties etc. I even think some non-theists may put some who label themselves “God followers” to shame when it comes to adhering to certain moral activities, but I am skeptical as to how an atheist can make the claim that he/she believe in the Principle of Freedom: All people are free to think, believe, and act as they choose, so long as they do not infringe on the equal freedom of others. I am not skeptical that someone who does not believe in God can believe such a statement to be true for Shermer clearly does, but my skepticism comes into play when I ask if it is logically rational to hold to such a belief. Can moral absolutes exist through the process of natural selection and random mutation or does the libertarian philosophy not presuppose a universal law (All people are free to think, believe, and act as they choose, so long as they do not infringe on the equal freedom of others)?
    I’m not trying to pick a fight I am just skeptical that such universalities can be objectively true based solely on natural laws and causes.

    • Max says:

      You could compare societies that value the Principle of Freedom to societies that don’t, and see which ones fare better, but the definition of “better” is subjective. The idea is similar to studying which foods are healthier after agreeing on a definition of “health”.

    • Oldskool says:

      Do ants belive in God- if not how do they live in a harmonious whole?

      How about bees, birds, any animal that gather in number greater than 2?

      Surely they are applying some sort of “do unto others” approach, in schooling behaviour etc. The need and ability to look after each other is genetic, it creates the greateest chance of survival of the species. God is unnecessary to explain morality.

      • Jim Maloy says:

        This only pushes back the moral question without settling it. What logic or reasoning leads one to conclude that species survival is a good thing? Especialy given the historical fact is that the majority of species that ever existed, are extinct and gone… and without at least some of those extinctions, humans might never have come to be in the first place.

    • Kel says:

      “I am not skeptical that someone who does not believe in God can believe such a statement to be true for Shermer clearly does, but my skepticism comes into play when I ask if it is logically rational to hold to such a belief.”
      Consequences of values exist irrespective of whether there are such things as gods or not. Take lying for example. Being honest is important because a) in benefits you directly, and b) has an overall societal benefit. Cooperation is essential to our survival and prosperity so dishonesty is something that’s incompatible with having a successful society.

      In fact, I’d be worried about what a deity could offer when it comes to values. What makes a deity’s values worth aspiring to? (see: Euthyphro dilemma)

      • mike says:

        I think that if the only option were the Euthyphro dilemma then it may be right to say that the “values” of a certain god would be arbitrary or would be wholly outside of that god itself, but could there not be a third option? In the Christian tradition God is revealed as a holy being from which goodness is derived. That goodness is not outside of God nor is it something that He arbitrarily chooses to call good, but rather goodness comes from His very nature. Good could not have been anything other for the Christian God could not be any other. So given this third option the Euthyphro dilemma falls short of giving an adequate answer.

  44. DeLong says:

    As an atheist I have NO beliefs! I categorize everything into “accept”, “reject” or “study and wait for more data.” For example, I accept evolution and the Big Bang theory. I reject any form of deity, astrology, homepathy, acupuncutre, chiropratic, ghosts, the afterlife and similar myths. I resoulutly subscribe to eating pasta and drinking beer every Friday night in hopes of learning more about the Flying Spaghetti Monster! Yeah, sure.

    • choppie says:

      So, you apparently do not accept that what others accept is ok, as long as they don’t push it on you. I am a Christian. I am appalled by the number of atheist that believe that I believe in flying spaghetti monsters. I am feel misunderstood when I hear it said that I try to be a good person out of fear of punishment. This is so not true! I want to be a good person because I want to feel good about myself, and have others trust and know that I will be there if they need me. I know that you, DeLong do not represent most atheists, but I also believe that you are one that gives them a bad name, so to speak.

      One thing that I feel sorry for, is your belief that death is the end. I find that sad, and cannot imagine it, in my case in particular. For several years, and for the rest of my life, I live in chronic pain… I get by so much easier believing that death will only be the beginning, and would probably commit suicide otherwise, so I guess family and dear friends are happy for my belief. It makes me stronger, and for that I do not appreciate being made fun of, or thought of as less intelligent. I like the original list, where he stated that he believed in my right to believe, and truly hope that he does represent most atheists.

    • mike says:

      This is almost not worth commenting on and I hope that post was some sort of joke. To claim that one has NO beliefs and then say you “accept” evolution and the big bang seems to simply be semantics. It was funny though if it is a joke. lol

  45. MY2BITS says:

    I am new to this blog. In fact I don’t normally do blogs, but this one certainly seems to contain more in the way of worthwhile reading than others I have come across in the past. Unfortunately, this is probably because there are a lot of people posting here who seem to be of “like mind,” like mine in any case. Just like religious people, we all like to be among our own, right?

    The expression of thought is of higher quality as well — bravo!

    Of course we all deem our thinking to be rational and although many a good argument is made here and/or insight offerred, we remain with the nagging question of why so few “skeptics” and why so great many religious? Why, if our thinking is so good and our feelings so right are we such an extreme minority?

    Even more important a question in my opinion and the one I am always most interested to have addressed is how can the problem of religion ever be irradicated?

    I believe faith is to religion as spark is to flame. I believe humility is a virtue. I also believe in eating pasta and drinking beer, though I prefer wine.

    • choppie says:

      See, there is a big problem. If I said, “how can the problem of atheists be eradicated?”, how would you feel. How are we a problem to you? I believe that everyone has the right to believe or not, and would never even consider eradication.

      Oh, and I like pizza too, but I like amarillo or bailey’s with mine. Just like sweet drinks.

  46. mick says:

    the reason there are so many religious and so few skeptics is that…

    if you leave a religion the god sends you to hell to burn for ever, but if you stop being a skeptic not a lot happens to you, except much of the fun of life will be lost.

  47. When the question “What do you believe in?” is asked, the questioner is directing attention to something which is transcendent. Anyone can recite a list of meritorious values to believe in or a list of materialistic items (like someone says “he believes in pizza and beer” or a list of notable characters they admire. But all these lists are nothing but glorifying human values and human creations. And they do shift from time to time. So, what happen when they all disappear because anything of this world will someday die? There is eternal purpose and destiny to human life. One must seek answers, which can only come from the Creator and have not changed. However, modern day human beings are satisfied to seek the easy answer which they can see and touch and attribute to other human beings. It is far harder to accept answers from a transcendent God, who reveals Himself in Jesus Christ and in his word, the Bible.

  48. Gohavesometea says:

    I believe that if an omnipotent being wished to communicate with me it would do so directly and in an unambiguous manner that I would instantly understand without any need of faith. To date this has not happened.

    Thank you all for a stimulating, educational and informative blog and debate :-)

    • mike says:

      This is a very thought provoking question and I have actually thought about this question many times. One thing I wonder is what exactly would an unambiguous manner look like? To me an unambiguous manner would be a face to face meeting with God. The Christian tradition states that God in His full being (not the incarnate Son)cannot be seen by man due to human sin and God’s holy nature. The Christian tradition also claims however, that God has revealed Himself in an unambiguous way through the incarnate second person of the Christian trinity. So if there is a God than Christianity has an answer to the question. Also, I guess if there was a God who created all things than He would choose to reveal Himself in any manner He wants.

  49. Max says:

    Starting a sentence with “I believe that…” forces you to be more specific than with “I believe in…”
    For example, what does “I believe in marriage” even mean? I believe that everyone should marry? I believe that marriage leads to happiness? I believe that the institution of marriage is good for society?

    • Bob King says:

      Max …..”Love is blind.” “Marriage is an institution.” Ergo: Marriage is an institution for the blind.

  50. Pax Starksen says:

    Perhaps we should be discussing HOW we form our “beliefs”.

    Some time ago, I formulated the proposition that even we Atheists (non-believers, Humanists, Agnostics, whatever…) don’t strictly use only “logic” to arrive at our beliefs. We, (just like everybody else),

  51. Barc777 says:

    This immediately reminded me of Robert Heinlein’s essay which he wrote when he was asked to be on a radio segment called “This I Believe”. It was written in 1952, and starts:

    “I am not going to talk about religious beliefs, but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them.”

    “I believe in my neighbors.”

    “I know their faults and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults. Take Father Michael down our road a piece –I’m not of his creed, but I know the goodness and charity and lovingkindness that shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike; if I’m in trouble, I’ll go to him. My next-door neighbor is a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat. No fee — no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc.”

    Read the complete (copyrighted) essay at
    where they have permission from his widow to use it.

  52. nilky says:

    Ad astra per aspera! is Kansas’ motto. Atheist representation here is about 1%, unfortunately. Our elected governor believes in 6,000 – year creationism, so expect some really stupid things to add to “What the fuck is the matter with Kansas?”

  53. Pax Starksen says:

    (Sorry for prematurely sending the previous post…, I wasn’t finished.) Here’s my final post:

    Perhaps we should be discussing HOW we formulate our beliefs…

    Some time ago I determined (decided, concluded, came to believe…) that we Atheists (non-believers, Humanists, Agnostics, whatever…), like everbody else, don’t just rely on “logic” to base our beliefs upon; …we also must use the acceptance of “Higher Authorities” (e.g.: parents, approved colleagues, other scientific “experts”, priests, ancient scriptures and philosophies, etc.), …and we also must use something I call “spirituality” (for want of a better word…): It’s where we apply beauty, symmetry, “what seems right”, simplicity (i.e.: Occam’s Razor), ethics, etc.


    • Jim Maloy says:

      Agreed heartily, Pax. Observation, logic, and reasoning are necessary tools in their area — science — but they are a failure when it comes to establishing or justifying morality. Just not the right tools for that job. It takes something else.

      • mike says:

        I am all for logic and reasoning and I agree for the most part that morality cannot be derived simply from reasoning. This begs the question however, how do we come to know morality, and is it universal?

    • Joe says:

      We may have learned our morals from these other sources. But it is reason and logic (or lack thereof) which decides what we follow. For example a serial killer or other social misfit can sire a moral person if that person decides for him/herself what is right. Just like a moral person can sire a social misfit.

  54. monique131972 says:

    I’m a Christian and have some things to ask you. did you know that we believe the same way, we just look to a higher power? God and Jesus are there for us to talk to when we’re alone or in needed. tell me who do you talk to? who made the air you breath, and put the world in motion?
    did you get burned by a church? think on these things. then tell me where are you going when you die, i really want to know.

    • Joe says:

      Why did ‘someone’ need to ‘make’ “the air we breathe”? Why would have taken ‘someone’ “to put the world in motion”?
      When I am in need I consult my logic and reason for a solution. If I cannot come to my own solution I consult my family, friends, or some professional. If you get answers when you pray that is your logic and reason and conscience giving you the answer. You sell yourself short if you won’t take credit for your own accomplishments.
      I wasn’t “burned by a church”. I simply realized the fantasies taught by the church are illogical.

    • Joe says:

      Oh and by the way, when I die I will cease to be, in my current form. The elements that make up by being will break down to be used in different ways.

  55. eileen in san jose, ca says:

    I tend not to discuss religion, or the absence of it, until the other person has known me for a while and knows that I’m an OK person. Unfortunately, many in the religious community have been brainwashed into thinking that atheists, pagans, etc., are evil and the ONLY right way to think is that provided by their religious leaders. I dislike being thought of as “evil” immediately without getting to know me. Several years ago, after working with a woman for many months and enjoying her company, the conversation drifted to religion. I admitted my atheism. She was shocked. She said:”Eileen…I thought that with all of your volunteer activity (Girl Scouts) and caregiving (I’m a pediatric RN) that you must be a Christian!” I was shocked myself at her response. It implies that without belief in the deity of Jesus a person cannot be charitable, be a caregiver, teach others about being caregivers, volunteer for the betterment of the community, or just otherwise be a moral person. Tolerance of others and their beliefs just makes so much sense to me that intolerance makes no sense at all, and one of my beliefs is that intolerance of others is the basis of most of our social problems, both now and historically.

  56. Donald Barger says:

    Wow! Except for one thing that is pretty much what I believe.

  57. Tom Tranby says:

    So the absolute complexities of the universe just “happened”? How difficult to believe that. Someday all will believe God, and will spend eternity rejoicing or regretting their beliefs.

    • Joe says:

      Or maybe all who believe in “god” will see that makes even less sense than nature. How did the (even greater) “complexities” of god occur?

      • mike says:

        On the surface this seems like a good question but according to the Christian tradition God is not a complex being; He is a simple being.

  58. Al says:

    Personally, I really liked your comment. Unfortunately, many people have this kind of attitude when it comes to someone who does not believe in G-D. Some people cannot differentiate between a religious-based faith and the faith of a human being. They connect people with religion and assume that people cease to have value (and therefore, cease to value anything) because they do not “value” a G-D. This is a sad reality that we live in – where people gain or lose their own value based on what others think, say or believe. You are not only allowed to have your own belief system (even if it may be based in science and logic), you are a valuable person for using your resources to believe in anything at all. However, my only challenge to you is to find a way for science to clearly and physically prove how all things began – what the origin of all things is. Logically speaking, there must be a beginning to any given material.

  59. Shenonymous says:

    Philosophically, belief is a mental state or process that is unique to thinking and feeling beings in which propositions are assumed to be true and psychologically that it is the simplest form of mental representation within consciousness. Unqualified belief is often mistaken for knowledge. There is a distinction between the two even though belief is also said to be the primary foundation of knowledge where knowledge is considered an awareness acquired through experience of an evidential piece of information, event or situation. Knowledge is qualified belief. And as long as the variance is indicated there is no stigma using the word belief to describe a mental view.

    In spite of the age-old debate in defining knowledge, it is considered to be demonstrable justified true belief that comes about from perceptions and impressions and how all aspects or features are linked as in a chain is understood. A further criterion is that the evidence used logically necessitates the belief. In the words of Aristotle in his Posterior Analytics, “We suppose ourselves to possess unqualified scientific knowledge of a thing, as opposed to knowing it in the accidental way in which the sophist knows, when we think that we know the cause on which the fact depends, as the cause of that fact and of no other, and, further, that the fact could not be other than it is.” Plato adds three further measures for a belief to be knowledge: it is “”absolute, eternal, and immutable.”

    Because the word knowledge is a mass noun, it is a thing of abstract status and it is only when an existent example is given that the eligibility of a belief to be knowledge is determinable. This can also serve to give the quality of justification to a belief, the truth of which must also be demonstrated. This latter is the hardest to do since the criterion of eternity is attached and since we do not last through eternity, there is no way ultimately to verify there is trueness to the belief. For the meantime, though, through our lifespan, if it is not shown to be untrue, we are justified in accepting it as knowledge.

    Justification means evidence is accumulated to support such a belief. Since all of science results in beliefs that are provisional on the premise that nothing is absolute, if better information is discovered, scientific beliefs may be modified and it is this feature that gives credibility to scientific beliefs.

    What do I believe in? Shermer put it best. I’ve never really inventoried my beliefs all in one place but the ones he listed are identical to the ones in which I believe. I can’t think of any other ones. So thank you Michael Shermer. I’ll print them out and paste them on my fridge.

    • bill don says:

      Personally, I believe that the God of creation created everything including you. Before you roll your eyes and stop reading hear me out. Is it that hard to believe that not only is there a God but that He cares for you? You might need evidence of this outside of the Bible right? Allow me to help you out. Have you ever considered why of all the planets in just our galaxy (our little piece of the universe) humans live and thrive? The mathematical odds of a large rock having the correct mixture of gravity and atmosphere to support life is amazing. The fact that the Earth sits on an exact 23 degree angle on its axis is phenomenal. If it were at 22 degrees we would all burn up and if it were at 24 degrees we would all freeze. One degree off and life as we know it does not exist. These facts aren’t recorded in the Bible but rather through science and observation. To ignore them is to ignore God. To accept them is to accept that God exists. If then God exists then the Bible is true as it tells us God exists. If the Bible is true then one must come to terms with their own moral dilemma. It is never too late to investigate this for yourself. You may have done that already but I encourage you to look at it again and really consider the mathematical odds of God not existing.

      • Max says:

        “The Earth’s axial tilt varies between 22.1° and 24.5°, with a 42,000 year period.”

        But isn’t it amazing how our legs are just long enough to reach the ground? If they were an inch longer, we’d be stuck in the ground unable to move.

      • tmac57 says:

        But look at it this way.If intelligent life evolved naturally here, and only on Earth,as improbable as that might have been,who else but us intelligent beings would have the capacity to even wonder about it.We are the winners of the universal lottery.

      • Intelligent life on earth. Hmmmm….

  60. Thehaymarketbomber says:

    As they say in Ireland: “Everyone must have something to believe in and I believe I’ll have another drink!”

  61. Leila says:

    I deeply honor these values and take them to heart. Your beliefs, as an atheist, can also apply to those who are religious, because they define life and how to be moral. Congrats on the good speech. You have now convinced me to believe in your beliefs.

  62. Garrett says:

    We all have to believe in something even if your like me and dont completely agree with everything.

  63. Akhil says:

    I bilive in what I do not some thing happen before are some thing done by some one

  64. J. D. says:

    Why do you limit your freedom only to the point that it doesn’t infringe on the freedom of others? Who defines when infringment occurs? You say you beleive in fairness, love, fidelity..Who defines those qualities and do they have actual measureable standards. How where these standards arrived. Without defined standards these are only words.

  65. dahszil says:

    One can not ever prove divine intervention. What I KNOW for sure is that people help other people, people don’t help others, people harm others, other people do not, and you either harm yourself or help yourself. But it sure is very hard in a society based on the hypocrisy of believers who are also robber barons and warmongers.

  66. Wotan says:

    I neither believe nor disbelieve in anything unless it can be proven to be true or demonstrated to be false. So I’m a skeptic. An atheist cannot be a skeptic. An atheist believes that the probability that God exists is zero. Because the existence of a God cannot be proven or dismissed the probability that God exist if 50%, viz., maximum uncertainty. You can be an atheist or a skeptic but you can’t be both.