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What it means to be an atheist


Pathfinder Campaign Setting General Discussion

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Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

I just noticed in the latest Pathfinder that Ezren (the iconic wizard) has his deity listed as "atheism". That makes me wonder what it means to be an atheist in a world where the existence of the divine is so obviously real. Since atheism means to "reject theism" (theism: the belief in the existence one or more divinities or deities) it probably has a different meaning in Golarion. Ezren has an intelligence score of 17 and a wisdom score of 15, he is both smart and insightful enough to realize that the deities are real. So what does it mean to be an atheist in Golarion?


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Atrocious wrote:
I just noticed in the latest Pathfinder that Ezren (the iconic wizard) has his deity listed as "atheism". That makes me wonder what it means to be an atheist in a world where the existence of the divine is so obviously real. Since atheism means to "reject theism" (theism: the belief in the existence one or more divinities or deities) it probably has a different meaning in Golarion. Ezren has an intelligence score of 17 and a wisdom score of 15, he is both smart and insightful enough to realize that the deities are real. So what does it mean to be an atheist in Golarion?

Here are a couple of ideas..

1. It's just wizardry with a bunch of smoke and mirrors. They pretend their spells come from gods to further their massive wealthy churches and keep their thumb on the common man!

2. Oh yeah, they get their spells, and these so called gods make themselves known, but they are little more some over pompous extra-planer with delusions of godhood. No way are these petty creatures my creator. Sure take the spells and gifts they offer, but to worship them, Ridiculous. I am all powerful to my dog, but that doesn't make me his god.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

I believe Erik has mentioned that there will be an entire nation-state in Golarion that are dedicated atheists, so I believe this is a bit of a preview for that.

The Athar from Planescape were atheists. The basic shtick as I understand it is that they believe the "gods" are just very powerful (but mortal) entities and therefore reject their claim to divinity. So, it's not that a Golarion atheist denies that the gods exist, he denies that the beings that claim to be gods are any such thing.

Osirion

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Tales Subscriber

I mostly just wanted to post my thanks to Paizo for including an atheist character in Pathfinder.

Addressing the question of the OP - DM Mogney's & Sebatian's points are all valid. Also the point of the "Deity" entry on a character sheet is to indicate which god a character worships primarily. Atheist can simply indicate the decision that he finds no god worth his worship. I'd lean a bit towards that, given what happened to his father w/Church of Abadar.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Atrocious wrote:
I just noticed in the latest Pathfinder that Ezren (the iconic wizard) has his deity listed as "atheism". That makes me wonder what it means to be an atheist in a world where the existence of the divine is so obviously real. Since atheism means to "reject theism" (theism: the belief in the existence one or more divinities or deities) it probably has a different meaning in Golarion. Ezren has an intelligence score of 17 and a wisdom score of 15, he is both smart and insightful enough to realize that the deities are real. So what does it mean to be an atheist in Golarion?

We'll eventually cover this more somewhere... maybe in the hardcover, maybe in the Gods & Magic book... SOMEwhere.

The short version is this.

Faithful: You die, you go to Pharasma's boneyard and stand in line in a timeless realm waiting for her to judge you. If you lived up to the ideals of your faith, you go on to serve your god in the proper realm. If you failed, you get sent somewhere else to be punished (different places for different faiths, of course).

Agnostic: You are judged by Pharasma who decides if you have learned enough to become enlightened. If you DO become enlightened, you get reincarnated into a "better life" as an outsider or maybe something better on the Material Plane. You fail, you get reincarnated as something worse, or you get sent back as the same race/creature but are born into a worse life. You fail TOO badly, and you instead become one of the imprisoned souls in Pharasma's Boneyard.

Athiest: You are judged by Pharasma on if you have achieved and deserve enlightenment, and if you have accomplished everything your soul needed to accomplish. If you succeed, you become an unbound immortal spirit and are allowed to explore the furthest reaches of existence. You fail and are judged to have lived a pointless empty life and become one of the imprisoned souls in Pharasma's Boneyard.

Once a soul's imprisoned in the Boneyard, you may spend a limited time there before you get to be reincarnated if Pharasma thinks you deserve a second chance. But the vast majority of those imprisoned there are just that. Imprisoned until the last person in line waiting to be judged by Pharasma passes judgement... that person would be, of course, Pharasma herself. At which point no one knows what happens next.

AGAIN: This isn't 100% approved for canon yet. But it's the way I see things working, at least.

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

Thank you James, that was very informative. But you did not adress what I was really asking: What it means to be an atheist.

Does it mean he refuses the existence of gods entirely or something else?

Taldor

It seems, with this treatment, the progress of a soul is judged by a god whether that soul refutes godhood or not. This assumes an atheist is merely mistaken, not on a different path of enlightenment.

I'm confused.

I'd think that the soul of an atheist would simply leapfrog Pharasma's Boneyard and slip into the great unknown. No atheist is sure what's out there, but they'd rather risk it than fall under divine providence. It's a leap of faithlessness.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Atrocious wrote:

Thank you James, that was very informative. But you did not adress what I was really asking: What it means to be an atheist.

Does it mean he refuses the existence of gods entirely or something else?

An athiest is someone who turns his back on the gods. In Golarion, where the gods are a quantifiable fact, athiesim and faith work quite different.

Faith in the real world is belief in what can't be proved. Faith in Golarion is basically trust in a higher power and complete devotion to that power.

Athiesm in the real world is the belief that there IS no higher power; and since you can't prove that there is no God any more than you can prove there IS a god... Athiesm is a form of faith as well. In Golarion, Athiests can concede that there ARE gods... but they believe that the gods are just as subject to the whims of fate and chance as mortals, and that they're not as all powerful as they think, and that to blindly serve and worship and trust in something like that is foolish. Ezren, for example, thinks that faith is a dangerous method of abandoning one's responsibility, and that it's more important to be responsible to one's self. He doesn't deny the existence of the gods. He just doesn't think any of them are worth his attention.

An agnostic in Golarion is either the guy who worships LOTS of deities but basically only gives them lip service, or the guy who doesn't worship ANY deities but knows they're out there. He just isn't interested in doing stuff for them.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Selk wrote:

It seems, with this treatment, the progress of a soul is judged by a god whether that soul refutes godhood or not. This assumes an atheist is merely mistaken, not on a different path of enlightenment.

I'm confused.

I'd think that the soul of an atheist would simply leapfrog Pharasma's Boneyard and slip into the great unknown. No atheist is sure what's out there, but they'd rather risk it than fall under divine providence. It's a leap of faithlessness.

That might be the way we end up doing things, but the fact remains that there ARE gods in Golarion. They DO have vast power. Mortals have free will and can choose not to believe or worship the gods, but that doesn't mean that the gods don't exist for him. In Golarion, a god's power isn't tied to faith, in other words. If no one worships a god, he still exists. He just has no influence over the Material Plane, which is something that most gods covet and want.

Taldor

It sounds like all atheists would have to be begrudging Pharasmites. She is the one god whose opinion fundamentally matters. But, if they think the gods are more flawed and subjective than the faithful man does, maybe they think Pharasma can be tricked?

Basically, "She judges my soul, but she is not all knowing." It would make a fascinating study, how to fool the gatekeeper at the end of all things.

Hmm. How smart is Ezren again?


James Jacobs wrote:

...Athiesm in the real world is the belief that there IS no higher power; and since you can't prove that there is no God any more than you can prove there IS a god... Athiesm is a form of faith as well. In Golarion, Athiests can concede that there ARE gods... but they believe that the gods are just as subject to the whims of fate and chance as mortals, and that they're not as all powerful as they think, and that to blindly serve and worship and trust in something like that is foolish. Ezren, for example, thinks that faith is a dangerous method of abandoning one's responsibility, and that it's more important to be responsible to one's self. He doesn't deny the existence of the gods. He just doesn't think any of them are worth his attention...

Atheism is not a belief there is no higher power per se; it is the belief that, given the absence of evidence, any particular religion is so startingly unlikely to be accurate as to be meaningless, and that our collective obsession with faith is socially, economically, and politically disastrous. That one can prove there is no God is an assertion that appears only in strawman arguments. Seriously; how would one go about disproving the existence of an omnipotent being that can by definition flawlessly disguise its own existence? The omnipotent deity posited by most real-world religions is inherently impossible to disprove, which is why the idea of his existence doesn't qualify as a hypothesis. I can't "prove" your God doesn't exist any more than you can "prove" my imaginary flying pig Elmer doesn't exist. A key postulate of atheism is that the burden of proof rests with he who asserts the positive. See "Russell's teapot" if you're curious...

I suppose you could argue that is more agnostic, but in my experience the above characterizes the beliefs of many prominent self-described atheists. And a few completely obscure ones. *cough*

BTW, Ebberon has a good take on atheism in D&D: Sure there are powerful beings and/or forces that grants spells, but are they the omnipotent crafters of the universe?

Sczarni

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

In Golarion, Athiests can concede that there ARE gods... but they believe that the gods are just as subject to the whims of fate and chance as mortals, and that they're not as all powerful as they think, and that to blindly serve and worship and trust in something like that is foolish. Ezren, for example, thinks that faith is a dangerous method of abandoning one's responsibility, and that it's more important to be responsible to one's self. He doesn't deny the existence of the gods. He just doesn't think any of them are worth his attention.

Since at least one God has died, this may not be too far off.


Well, theism is a strange beast in most D&D settings anyway. For instance, most priests aren't polytheist, despite the multiple miracle-granting deities. They can best be described as kathenotheists (believing in one god above all others, despite knowing that there are others who may or may not be more appropriate to what you're doing). And as played it's even weirder - few priests in the ancient world, even ones who worked a temple to a single god, spoke ill of the other deities unless they were specifically at odds (Marduk/Tiamat, for instance, or Horus/Set).

In such a setting, I agree with the sentiment that atheism is simply the statement of, "It's just magic." I've played more than one arcane spellcaster (magic-user in previous editions) who've simply referred to all spellcasters (including clerics) as "wizards" (or occasionally referred to the cleric as a "witch", just to peeve them... druids never seemed to mind too much).

Sczarni

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Pneumonica wrote:

Well, theism is a strange beast in most D&D settings anyway. For instance, most priests aren't polytheist, despite the multiple miracle-granting deities. They can best be described as kathenotheists (believing in one god above all others, despite knowing that there are others who may or may not be more appropriate to what you're doing). And as played it's even weirder - few priests in the ancient world, even ones who worked a temple to a single god, spoke ill of the other deities unless they were specifically at odds (Marduk/Tiamat, for instance, or Horus/Set).

I take religion section of the sheet as which you openly worship. Just because you actively worship the goddess of the sun doesn't mean you refuse to drop a few coins in the Goddess of sickness' basket to ward off a disease (depending on the DM it might grant a circumstance bonus too)

Qadira

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

Faithful: You die, you go to Pharasma's boneyard and stand in line in a timeless realm waiting for her to judge you. If you lived up to the ideals of your faith, you go on to serve your god in the proper realm. If you failed, you get sent somewhere else to be punished (different places for different faiths, of course).

Agnostic: You are judged by Pharasma who decides if you have learned enough to become enlightened. If you DO become enlightened, you get reincarnated into a "better life" as an outsider or maybe something better on the Material Plane. You fail, you get reincarnated as something worse, or you get sent back as the same race/creature but are born into a worse life. You fail TOO badly, and you instead become one of the imprisoned souls in Pharasma's Boneyard.

Athiest: You are judged by Pharasma on if you have achieved and deserve enlightenment, and if you have accomplished everything your soul needed to accomplish. If you succeed, you become an unbound immortal spirit and are allowed to explore the furthest reaches of existence. You fail and are judged to have lived a pointless empty life and become one of the imprisoned souls in Pharasma's Boneyard.

Later James Jacobs wrote:

In Golarion, Athiests can concede that there ARE gods... but they believe that the gods are just as subject to the whims of fate and chance as mortals, and that they're not as all powerful as they think, and that to blindly serve and worship and trust in something like that is foolish. Ezren, for example, thinks that faith is a dangerous method of abandoning one's responsibility, and that it's more important to be responsible to one's self. He doesn't deny the existence of the gods. He just doesn't think any of them are worth his attention.

An agnostic in Golarion is either the guy who worships LOTS of deities but basically only gives them lip service, or the guy who doesn't worship ANY deities but knows they're out there. He just isn't interested in doing stuff for them.

I'm not sure I like this misappropriation of the terms "athiest" and "agnostic". They both have very clear meanings, and those meanings don't match up with how they're being used.

Maybe something better could be used. Like instead of Agnostic use Polytheist, to indicate they don't have a particular favored god and instead worship the entire pantheon (or none at all).

And in a world where the gods are an active and tangible force, I don't see any place for an atheist. Not to mention that the judging of the atheist just sounds like the two outside extremes of the agnostic judging (good = highest state, bad = imprisonment). So someone who doesn't even give the gods so much as lip-service could easily be rolled into the agnostic judgement with the addition of how you lived your life being an additional criteria.

Although this has the downside of imposing our own morality on the judging being done by Pharasma. Can an evil agnostic/atheist progress to a higher state of being? What does a soul "need" to accomplish on the material plane to be ascended?

Personally, I'd like to do away with the whole reincarnation/nirvana aspect of the religion. If you worshiped a single god*, you're judged based on how well you met that gods ideals. If you did well in your gods eyes, you go to his home realm, otherwise you're sent to the (a?) punishment realm. If you turn your back on the gods and refuse to worship any of them, you spend eternity in a "neutral place", not good or bad, just "there". If you worship the whole pantheon then you're judged on how well you lived your life: if you lived a good life you go to the paradise realm, if you lived a bad life you go to the punishment realm, otherwise you go to the "neutral place". This takes care of all the different types of worshipers, while keeping things nice and simple.

* I'd assume that most people give at least lip-service to all the gods, even people who dedicate their lives to one particular god.


I'd suggest that one viable atheist alternative would be that the gods are created by mortals' faith in them. That's why they have all of these ridiculously specific portfolios which would make no sense if the gods preceded the existence of mortals and the planes themselves. Since the gods defined by their interests (such as hearth or agriculture) and those interests make no sense without a mortal plane of believers (a formless void doesn't have a hearth or wheat), then either the gods are created by man in their own image or these gods did not precede the making of the world. Either answer cuts hard against the notion of their divinity.

Moreover, Ezren might well argue that a belief in divinity as such simply supports the status quo, which, in Golarion, is pretty grim. A refusal to believe in divinity is one way to deny such evil Powers That Be the source of their power: the fear that results from one's belief in their divinity, even if you oppose them through your belief in another (good) god.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

And again... remember. We haven't settled on any of this yet. But it's a good snapshot of where we're looking at going. The religion and afterlife and all that of Golarion will be inspired by bits and pieces of all sorts of real-world mythology, but will also have a heavy dose of elements completely made up by us at Paizo.

As for atheists... I don't want them to be able to "beat the system" just by not having faith in a deity. Nor do I want them to automatically be punished for being atheists. I certainly don't think that saying "there are no atheists in Golarion" is a solution... which is why we went for giving Ezren the atheist "faith" in the first place.

In the end... I suspect that we might just not even bother addressing what it means to be an atheist in a world with obvious deities. We might just leave that up to each GM to wrestle with on his own. That's sort of a cheap way out... but I'd rather spend the majority of my creative energy detailing the world and ushering Adventure Paths than becoming a Religious Studies major just so I can address what I suspect will be a corner case solution to religion in the world. (AKA: The more I think about it, the more rare I suspect actual atheists are going to be in Golarion.)

Cheliax

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Honestly, I dont see how atheism is that big of a deal, even in a fantasy setting where the gods do exist. So there are gods; what of it? I'm going to take a page out of Discworld here:
[Paraphrase]
"Most wizards dont feel the need to beleive in gods in the same way that other people dont feel the need to beleive in, say, tables. They exist, and they probably have a place in a well-ordered universe, but wizards dont see the point of going around saying "oh great Table, without which we are as naught!" And, when you consider the caliber of most gods, you might as well eat off your knees, so to speak."

Really, I'd hate to see a bit of confusion and argument here dissuade anybody from having atheists in Golarion.


Jodah wrote:

Honestly, I dont see how atheism is that big of a deal, even in a fantasy setting where the gods do exist. So there are gods; what of it? I'm going to take a page out of Discworld here:

[Paraphrase]
"Most wizards dont feel the need to beleive in gods in the same way that other people dont feel the need to beleive in, say, tables. They exist, and they probably have a place in a well-ordered universe, but wizards dont see the point of going around saying "oh great Table, without which we are as naught!" And, when you consider the caliber of most gods, you might as well eat off your knees, so to speak."

Really, I'd hate to see a bit of confusion and argument here dissuade anybody from having atheists in Golarion.

I certainly wasn't trying to do that...my post was a response to a comment about atheism in the real world. I'm all for atheism in D&D, and as I mentioned before, I think Ebberon has a pretty good take on it. After all, D&D gods far more anthropomorphic than the dominant "modern" deites; I would argue that D&D gods don't really fit the modern definition anyway. So the guy over there says his magic is proof of something or the other...what about that sorcerer down the way? Who is to say who has magic that is more "divine" in origin? I think the issue would be much less clear to residents of Golarion than we think.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Druids muddy the waters as well, unless they are required to worship something other than Nature in general. My take on the subject:

Faithful- Believe in the gods and worship them as appropriate.

Agnostic- Believe that the gods may exist, but not necessarily as presented by the churches. May believe that the gods as presented by the churches are either incarnate aspects of the magical/natural world or a single being that mortals are unable to understand entirely. May believe that the gods as presented by the churches are intercessors/proxies for this single being. May simply not care about the gods but worship as a "better safe than sorry" mindset.

Atheist- Believe that "the gods" are just powerful beings and not deities.


If you want to keep the ambiguity alive, just let the atheists disapear forever. Are they surfing the the farthest reaches of the universe? Are they free from the meddling of the so-called 'gods' in eternal rest? Or did the gods catch their souls and lock them in the special high-security hell?


BossOfEarth wrote:
If you want to keep the ambiguity alive, just let the atheists disapear forever. Are they surfing the the farthest reaches of the universe? Are they free from the meddling of the so-called 'gods' in eternal rest? Or did the gods catch their souls and lock them in the special high-security hell?

Piers Anthony wrote a book called "On a Pale Horse" a while back in which the protagonist takes over the role of Death. Death collects only souls on the knife's edge between heaven and hell, but he is unable to collect the soul of an atheist when it dissolves upon the man's death.


What post-death experiences do atheists report after being brought back by raise dead and resurrection? Are they different from those of believers?

Taldor

I think this is really cool.. deities have often played a major part in my campaigns but it usually just ends up as lip service unless the character is a cleric. I'm glad that Paizo is releasing Gods & Magic but I can't wait until October!

Patience is not one of my strong suits.

Trent
Infinet Media & Design
DigitalDungeonCast.com

Paizo Employee Creative Director

roguerouge wrote:
What post-death experiences do atheists report after being brought back by raise dead and resurrection? Are they different from those of believers?

Unclear. I do like the concept of keeping what REALLY happens in death murky and weird for most folk. VERY FEW people in the world get resurrected... PCs are not a good measuring stick for this type of thing. I suspect that over 99.9999% of the folk who die in Golarion stay dead, and don't come back to give reports.

Those who DO? I suspect that they only remember their experience like a half-remembered fever dream. Under the current way of thinking, an athiest who dies and is resurrected would have to interpret his time spent waiting in the Boneyard however he wished. He might convert to religion; he might just remember a strange sense of waiting in a weird cemetery, he might remember nothing.

ALSO... SIDE TRACK: Once Pharasma judges you, I suspect that you can no longer be resurrected. You've either gone on to your final reward, or you're imprisoned in the Boneyard and at that point if someone wants to bring you back to life, you'll probably need to have one of those "infiltrate the afterlife to seek out the dead" type missions.

How does that work in game mechanics? I don't know yet. In the Pahtfinder RPG we might fiddle with the limits on how long something's been dead before it can't come back to life. At the same time, time itself doesn't run the same way in the Boneyard as it does elsewhere... so maybe we make no change at all. OR: it becomes a fluid choice, and for most NPCs they just can't be resurrected unless an adventure wants it to happen. For PCs... when a dead character finally gets a chance to be resurrected, that player gets to choose if their dead character's been judged... and even if they HAVEN'T, they'll still be able to decide if they WANT to be brought back.


James Jacobs wrote:
Ezren, for example, thinks that faith is a dangerous method of abandoning one's responsibility, and that it's more important to be responsible to one's self. He doesn't deny the existence of the gods. He just doesn't think any of them are worth his attention.

Future products should add "dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged" to Ezren's gear list.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Athiesm in the real world is the belief that there IS no higher power; and since you can't prove that there is no God any more than you can prove there IS a god... Athiesm is a form of faith as well.

To simplify things, athiesm is not the lack of a belief but rather the belief of a lack.

James Jacobs wrote:
In Golarion, Athiests can concede that there ARE gods... but they believe that the gods are just as subject to the whims of fate and chance as mortals, and that they're not as all powerful as they think, and that to blindly serve and worship and trust in something like that is foolish.

In other words, they believe but they do not worship.

roguerouge wrote:
What post-death experiences do atheists report after being brought back by raise dead and resurrection? Are they different from those of believers?

Again, they are not non-believers. They are non-worshipers. As such, their "post-death" experiences wouldn't be any different than anyone elses.


Just wanted to add a big tick for the inclusion of reincarnation in the pathfinder multiverse. It's pretty nice way to deal with the issue of those who don't believe they'll be spending paradise in one particular God's realm. Also it's nice to see you taking the afterlife away from western ideas of heaven and hell and adding a bit more variety on there. All in add one vote for reincarnation.


There's always "apatheism": "I dont care if there are gods or not." ;)

On a more serious note, atheism itself has changed meaning over time. The original root word "atheus" simply means "without god/gods". Considering during ancient rome it was an understood "fact" to most that the gods existed this more meant someone who did not bother with deities, not someone who believed there were none. It could also be expanded to refer to someone who simply did not have a favored or patron deity.

To me, most fantasy worlds are decidedly polytheist exitending to while someone may have a favored deity most people also pay reverence and offerings to other deities. While a soldier may favor a war deity, when making an ocean journey he is likely going to stop by a temple to the sea god or at least offer a small prayer for safe journey. "Right god for the occasion" mentality would be rather prevasive even among priests (except for the most zealous).

-Weylin Stormcrowe

Andoran

It means that The God Delusion is an arcane tome!
Dig the irony here?
Love that book! Required reading, I would add it to the syllabus.

Andoran

The term "agnostic" is usually misused by most people. The root word "gnosis" is a greek word that means "special knowledge". For example, those who call the Nag-Hammadi(sp?) documents the Gnostic Gospels claim that they have special knowledge about biblical events. (I'm not trying to get into a religions debate here, just using an example)

The original agnostics claimed that it was impossible to have any special knowledge about God. Some even went so far as to say that it was impossible to know anything. They claimed to know that the universe was unknowable (which is a contradiction).

My point is that the true meaning of the word agnostic is "one who believes the gods is unknowable." It does not mean "one who believes that the gods might exist."

As an atheist, I believe that God might exist. If someone were to show me proof that God exists, I would change my position.

Now, how this pertains to Pathfinder, I have no idea. And it wouldn't be the first time a word has been re-purposed by D&D ("Arcane" comes to mind).


If you believe, but do not worship, that makes you lapsed, or, if you live in the U.S., a football fan. I don't think believing in gods but being lazy and hazy makes you an atheist.

Cheliax

I had a bit of a brainwave today, on this subject. It doesnt add much, but I think it's a nice turn of phrase, and sums up the fantasy atheist viewpoint rather well.

Consider those past real-world cultures (I'm fairly sure they don't exist anymore) in which the supreme ruler was literally considered to be a god. Now, consider an atheist living in said culture. They don't claim that the supreme ruler doesn't exist; he obviously does, you can bloody well see the bugger on top of that big pyramid, overseeing the mass sacrifices and holy football tournaments. They just don't think he's a god. sure, he has power, and he is, for all intents and purposes, a god as it relates to running your life, but you certainly don't buy into his crap, believe in him, pray to him, or expect to be judged by him when you finally kick it. and if it turns out that you are, and you get tossed to Ahmed the Eater of Souls, you'll flip him the bird as you go. because you're the master of your own fate, and if the universe says otherwise, than the universe is in the wrong. Besides, you're pretty sure that that feather-heart-scales thing was rigged.

now, scale up to fantasy levels, and you have the fantasy atheist's mindset. probably minus the last bit, though. Thats just how I would run an atheist character.


Vissigoth wrote:

The term "agnostic" is usually misused by most people. The root word "gnosis" is a greek word that means "special knowledge". For example, those who call the Nag-Hammadi(sp?) documents the Gnostic Gospels claim that they have special knowledge about biblical events. (I'm not trying to get into a religions debate here, just using an example)

The original agnostics claimed that it was impossible to have any special knowledge about God. Some even went so far as to say that it was impossible to know anything. They claimed to know that the universe was unknowable (which is a contradiction).

My point is that the true meaning of the word agnostic is "one who believes the gods is unknowable." It does not mean "one who believes that the gods might exist."

I disagree. While understanding the historical meanings of words like Agnostic is important because it informs the topic it is nonetheless critical that we use words by their current meaning simply to insure that we are all talking about the same thing.

I could, with a little research, come up with dozens of words in common use today in the English language whose meaning has changed over the course of the last few hundred years. that does not mean that its some how more correct for me to adhere to the meaning of the word as it was understood in 1825. If I insist on doing that I'm not going to be able to successfully communicate with the people around me.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber
Jodah wrote:
Consider those past real-world cultures (I'm fairly sure they don't exist anymore) in which the supreme ruler was literally considered to be a god.

North Korea?

Andoran

Andrew Crossett wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Ezren, for example, thinks that faith is a dangerous method of abandoning one's responsibility, and that it's more important to be responsible to one's self. He doesn't deny the existence of the gods. He just doesn't think any of them are worth his attention.

Future products should add "dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged" to Ezren's gear list.

lol


I'd like to point out that there's a great deal of other religious systems which are also ignored. One is not simply an atheist or a theist. For example, where would the god of pantheists fall in that dichotomy?
DnD has always failed miserably to represent religion, reducing it into some sort of parochial grade school make-believe of the lives of heathens.


LilithsThrall wrote:

I'd like to point out that there's a great deal of other religious systems which are also ignored. One is not simply an atheist or a theist. For example, where would the god of pantheists fall in that dichotomy?

DnD has always failed miserably to represent religion, reducing it into some sort of parochial grade school make-believe of the lives of heathens.

We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

-Richard Dawkins


bugleyman wrote:
LilithsThrall wrote:

I'd like to point out that there's a great deal of other religious systems which are also ignored. One is not simply an atheist or a theist. For example, where would the god of pantheists fall in that dichotomy?

DnD has always failed miserably to represent religion, reducing it into some sort of parochial grade school make-believe of the lives of heathens.

We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

-Richard Dawkins

Good quote - I liked the one about the misconception that a monotheistic religion is better then a polytheistic religion, and that by extension an atheistic system would be the next step.

Also I saw somewhere upstream that someone mentioned that Atheism was a form of faith (in that you have no proof of the nonexistence of god) which is patently false... the burden of proof always falls on the soulders of the party making a positive assertion and all that.

Keep going back to that atheism is a form of faith nonsense in my head - I wish people would understand how offensive, subversive, and dismissive that statement actually is. It's just as bad as "homosexuality is a choice" or "he is so well spoken" when talking about a black man. Just because Atheists are a ill-represented minority doesn't mean we shouldn't be respected like everyone else.

Andoran

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bugleyman wrote:

We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

-Richard Dawkins

Speaking as a rather devout Polytheist, Richard Dawkins is an a$#~*@$. He's very smart, and good in his field, and has some legitimate insights even outside it, but also? Giant dick.

nathan blackmer wrote:
Good quote - I liked the one about the misconception that a monotheistic religion is better then a polytheistic religion, and that by extension an atheistic system would be the next step.

Again, speaking as a rather devout polytheist, I'm going to choose not to be offended...but tread carefully here.

I mean, what makes one deity more likely than a dozen, really? Heck, an omnipotent God is significantly less plausible than a number of finite ones in many ways (though, in fairnes, both are really pretty out there from any rational perspective).

nathan blackmer wrote:

Also I saw somewhere upstream that someone mentioned that Atheism was a form of faith (in that you have no proof of the nonexistence of god) which is patently false... the burden of proof always falls on the soulders of the party making a positive assertion and all that.

Keep going back to that atheism is a form of faith nonsense in my head - I wish people would understand how offensive, subversive, and dismissive that statement actually is. It's just as bad as "homosexuality is a choice" or "he is so well spoken" when talking about a black man. Just because Atheists are a ill-represented minority doesn't mean we shouldn't be respected like everyone else.

Well ,speaking now as a burgeoning scientist and child of atheistic parents, this I agree with. Atheism isn't faith, but it's absence. And usually a strong emphasis on empiricism, too (almost always a good attitude for anyone).

It's a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

This thread has long since been judged by Pharasma.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Speaking as a rather devout Polytheist, Richard Dawkins is an a~&&+$+. He's very smart, and good in his field, and has some legitimate insights even outside it, but also? Giant dick.

I frequently hear that, but have yet to see it. I would characterize him as not suffering fools gladly, though perhaps you've seen something I haven't.


Thread Necromancer wrote:
This thread has long since been judged by Pharasma.

It apparently warranted reincarnation. :P


bugleyman wrote:
Thread Necromancer wrote:
This thread has long since been judged by Pharasma.
It apparently warranted reincarnation. :P

Which it probably didn't believe in.... lol.


Deadman - I didn't mean to offend - the point he was making is actually in support of polytheism. Basically western culture likes to deride polytheistic religions as primitive in comparison to the predominant monotheistic religions, which is hogwash.

I don't think Dawkins is a "giant dick", I do think he's an activist. I whole-heartedly agree that people in general are over-sensitive about religion, and that it enjoys a special place in american culture where you can't even really question it, and that that probably shouldn't be the case.

I really enjoyed his defense against being called a fundamentalist. I can see where people would have problems with him as he handles a culturally sensitive subject rather roughly, but I think it's a good thing that the discussion is happening.


that is becuase Ezren is in reality Aroden.. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Atrocious wrote:
I just noticed in the latest Pathfinder that Ezren (the iconic wizard) has his deity listed as "atheism". That makes me wonder what it means to be an atheist in a world where the existence of the divine is so obviously real. Since atheism means to "reject theism" (theism: the belief in the existence one or more divinities or deities) it probably has a different meaning in Golarion. Ezren has an intelligence score of 17 and a wisdom score of 15, he is both smart and insightful enough to realize that the deities are real.

Solomon was described as the most wise king of all of the line of David. Yet in the end, he fell to sin and wickedness. The parable there is that wisdom and intelligence do not convey immunity to hubris. For what Solomon ultimately lacked... was humility.

Ezren I see pretty much as cut from the same mold. And I can't think of a single class besides perhaps sorcerer in which hubris tends to be more of an occupational hazard.

I like the way it was described in Warcraft. Wielding divine magic is accepting your role as the arm of your diety (or nature as you will) But wielding the arcane is to take energy from beyond and rework it to your desire. It's frequently described as a euphoric act of hubris. In effect, Wizards come to see themselves AS gods, especially as they become more powerful.

Ezren's a wizard. It's not really surprising that a wizard would drift towards hubris. I imagine most wizards who hatch dark plots inside secret sanctums have this in common.

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

Since it wasn't yet written when this thread was originally posted... consider this the obligatory plug for Death's Heretic, a novel all about an atheist in Golarion. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James Sutter wrote:
Since it wasn't yet written when this thread was originally posted... consider this the obligatory plug for Death's Heretic, a novel all about an atheist in Golarion. :)

You beat me to it!

Amazing book that does indeed touch on this very subject (and most deftly, I might add).


James Sutter wrote:
Since it wasn't yet written when this thread was originally posted... consider this the obligatory plug for Death's Heretic, a novel all about an atheist in Golarion. :)

Well I might just have to check it out then!

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