Social Question

RANGIEBABY's avatar

What are some of the reasons a person becomes an Athiest?

Asked by RANGIEBABY (2042 points ) July 30th, 2010

Did they perhaps lose someone very dear to them, after their prayers were not answered to save their loved one?
Did someone tell them that there was no God?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

210 Answers

Chrissi85's avatar

I never believed in God, my dad explained at a young age that there were many types of religions and beliefs, and that I am free to chose whichever makes the most sense to me. I chose none, cos none of them made sense to me.

TexasDude's avatar

A distaste or dissatisfaction with religion.

A lack of desire or need to believe, or philosophical or scientific reasons.

I forget who said it, but someone once said that everyone is born an atheist. It’s pretty much true.

ucme's avatar

I don’t believe it’s a question of becoming, more personal choice.

JLeslie's avatar

I was raised by atheists, and I decided what they believe makes sense to me.

ragingloli's avatar

Never being indoctrinated into a religion, religions’ internal contradictions, lack of evidence for /contradictory evidence against religions’ claims, etc.

MrItty's avatar

People don’t “become” atheists. People simply realize that they are atheists. Believing in something is a choice. Not believing in something is simply a state of being.

It’s not “I’m angry at God, I’m gonna not believe in Him anymore!”
It’s “Huh, when you think about it, this whole “god” thing really doesn’t make any sense.”

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I realised I was an atheist when I was old enough to think about it, and noticed that the Bible didn’t make sense to me. I started to question why ANYONE would believe it when I was around 13 years old. There is no anger or frustration involved.. it just simply doesn’t strike me as believable. And absolutely no one has ever been able to give me the answers that I’d need to make it believable to me.

Austinlad's avatar

If I called myself an atheist is because I QUESTIONED what I had been taught. It wouldn’t necessarily be because I hated religion but rather because religion didn’t answer my big questions.

syz's avatar

A questioning mind.

janbb's avatar

You start with a faulty premise; that it is natural to believe in a god and that something happens to make you an atheist. For some of us it is more intuitive to believe in the absence of a god.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

I’m more agnostic than an atheist. But I couldn’t figure out some things I was being taught in church and youth groups. The last biblical ideal I tried to understand was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was told that Jesus loves anyone and everyone for who they are no matter what. In the same night, I was told that I had to accept Jesus for him to accept me. Wha?

DominicX's avatar

Well, I’ll tell you why I became more agnostic over the years after being raised Christian. It’s not because “bad things happened to me” or any of those cliched reasons. I’ve always believed that God doesn’t “make” bad things happen.

I became more agnostic because some of the beliefs just seemed ridiculous to me. The idea that this book written 2000 years ago is perfect and timeless when so much of it is not perfect or timeless at all just seemed absurd. It seemed more and more like it was just a group of writings by men inspired by themselves and history and nothing more.

Being gay of course helped. I’m not trying to spread the stereotype that gays aren’t Christians, but it definitely contributed to my growing agnosticism. Mainly the idea that the outdated writings of the Bible were written by men who could not see homosexuality for anything more other than sexual lust devoid of love, which it is not at all. The people of the time did not understand homosexuality. The Bible was written for the time it was written in; it’s not timeless. Some of the “big” messages are, but not the silly little sexist and homophobic laws. The idea that we’re supposed to use it all as a guide 2000 years later just doesn’t work for me. The idea that you can be punished infinitely for a finite crime also did not strike me as realistic either. A religion where you only do what’s right because you’re afraid of going to Hell. It all seems wrong to me.

FutureMemory's avatar

What drove me to atheism was my inability to believe in ideas that didn’t make sense.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I was about 12 when I realized that there are many religions with totally different origins, tenets and beliefs. That said, there was one belief that they all shared – their religion is the only true religion and everyone else on the planet was wrong. It seemed ridiculous when I thought about it. Here’s everyone thinking they were the chosen people and all the others were wrong. “He chose us.” No true, reasonable, honest deity would do that. The only solution that made sense was that they all were wrong and there was nothing. For me it that was QED.
I haven’t been hit with a lightning bolt yet.

nikipedia's avatar

I have been an atheist as long as I can remember.

As a little kid, I always thought god was sort of like Santa Claus—everyone knew he wasn’t real, but we were all supposed to pretend to believe in him to make the grownups happy.

Austinlad's avatar

Sorry, I misread the question. What I meant to say is, “If I called myself an agnostic…”
I have no reason to call myself an Athiest.

Blackberry's avatar

Common sense. Thinking.

mammal's avatar

i don’t know, personally i forgive God, but some of us seem incapable….sadly :(

lapilofu's avatar

I stopped considering the possibility of God when I realized that the logic explaining his existence doesn’t hold up to scrutiny any more than the logic explaining the existence of Santa Claus does. Truthfully, I believed in Santa Claus a lot longer than I was supposed to too.

Aster's avatar

@DominicX Very interesting answer.
I cannot understand why people do not believe in things that don’t answer their questions when those same people could not understand most statements made by a physicist. But they believe in physics. I wonder: do they believe in the human brain??
No; it cannot be dissected and explained. So we don’t have one.
And these same intellectuals actually are convinced there could not be life on other planets because “the earth is the center of the universe.” Oh-there is no Afterlife either because it has not been shown to them or proven to exist. Oh, well.

netgrrl's avatar

It was a result of much reading & study, including extensive Bible study.

lapilofu's avatar

@Aster I’ve seen brains dissected. On that evidence among others I feel pretty confident they exist.

I believe in physics and still there are a great many statements made by physicists that I’m skeptical of. We all make decisions about how to decide what we believe and who we trust, but to the extent possible I’m fond of using evidence and logic. Everyone believes in evidence and most of us believe in logic.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aster What I can’t understand is why do other people care if I believe in God? I doubt if there is a God who cares if I believe in God. If he is actually an entity that can see, and control the universe, I think he would care how I participate in his world, not whether I worship or believe in Him. It seems too egocentric to me for a supreme being. Of course, I do not know how you personally define God, so I am not trying to assume anything specific.

Aster's avatar

haha now we watch all the “atheists” jump in and question.
And question some more. Love it. SO predictable. lol

lapilofu's avatar

@Aster I bet you predicted that based on evidence!

nikipedia's avatar

@Aster: I’m having a hard time following what you’re saying. Are you saying that it is “predictable” for atheists to ask questions about god, and that’s happening in this thread?

FutureMemory's avatar

@Aster And these same intellectuals actually are convinced there could not be life on other planets because “the earth is the center of the universe.”

No credible scientist says this. Try again.

Seek's avatar

1. Never being conditioned to believe in a deity in the first place

2. Theists often recognize the lack of logical support for their religion of choice, and re-evaluate their position.

To answer your details more directly, the “unanswered prayers” is one way some theists begin to question the existence of their god. Especially when the doctrine of that religion specifically states that all believers only have to ask for what they wish and believe they will get it for those wishes to be granted them.

syz's avatar

@Aster Science consists of hypothesis, theories, facts. Religion consists of fantasy (or, if you prefer, faith).

Try not to be too smug in your own anti-intellectualism.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aster I would say you were predictable too. You jumped in on a question about atheists, why?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I needed to take a deep breath before diving back into this one.

I have seen brains with my own two eyes, I know they exist. I don’t just take the word of any random scientist or physicist. There are plenty of things in this world that I am not certain about, and I am comfortable with that. The more evidence shows that something exists, the more I am inclined to believe it. Of course, when evidence is sketchy, then I tend to wait things out before making a decision. I am perfectly comfortable with not knowing. Human beings seem to be on this quest to be able to answer all questions in relation to everything, and I just don’t think that’s possible at this point in our existence. I’m okay with that!
Unfortunately I have never seen ANY evidence that god exists, so I’m a bit more inclined to believe that god does NOT exist. If I had some credible proof, I’d most likely be willing to change my mind.

Aster's avatar

@JLeslie I was speaking of the QUANTITY of questions that were forthcoming and seemingly underestimated
I do not expect anyone to buy what I believe. I had an unfair advantage w/my Afterlife connections/experiences, whatever the word would be.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aster Good. You can stay :)

CMaz's avatar

Boredom.

And, I am not an Atheist. I am a realist.

laureth's avatar

You want to know why I’m an atheist? Okay…

When I was a kid, I was raised by a pretty much not-religious mom and religious grandparents on a kind of time-share custody basis. During the week I lived with mom and went to school, and on the weekends I stayed with the grands. They took me to the Methodist church where I was quickly picked out as a leader. (They had me help the teacher in Sunday School, made me an acolyte/altar-girl, that sort of thing.) At first, I believed in God and Jesus the same way little kids believe in Santa and the tooth fairy – because the adults said it was true, I didn’t have reason to question them, and presents showed up under the tree and quarters under the pillow on a regular basis – proof positive!

When I got old enough, I read the Bible. I had a lot of questions. Parts of it didn’t make any sense. My grandparents had me talk to the Methodist minister, who didn’t have any answers either but who said that I was smart. Basically, the whole God thing didn’t add up once I read the manual, and if a twelve year old can defeat the minister with questions, well, that didn’t sit too well with me. In the meantime, we were studying the Greek myths in school, and while those were just as improbable, they were at least more entertaining and “human.” By that, I meant I could see how people made them up to explain things. I figured that people made God up to explain things, too.

Later on, I tried to think about what was real and what was sacred. I realized that the things that sustain life are sacred and holy – the cycles of seasons, the crops that feed us, the water, the air, the spark of fire. While I was thinking about these things, I met a woman who was Wiccan, and she suggested some books. In short order, I realized that Wicca was what I’d been looking for, so I did that for quite a while. I practiced with a circle for about fourteen years. During that time I became less of what we call a “fuzzy bunny” Wiccan (think brainless new ager, not that it ever described me very well but you get the idea) and more of a serious, yet generic, Pagan. Even then, I didn’t believe in the God or Goddess as actual entities, but more of a way to put a human face on the Big Unknown Whatever that was out there. I was more interested in the tree-hugging aspects of Paganism anyway, and trying to take religion back to mankind’s first spiritual glimmers – Clan of the Cave Bear type of stuff. Even now, it fascinates me.

However, as time passed and I did more reading and study, I realized that pretty much all manmade religious systems were just that – manmade. Religion serves many functions in a culture. For some, it keeps a group together in the face of unbelievable odds – like the Jews. For some, it’s about dietary laws that meant something when food couldn’t be as well preserved as now, but they didn’t know what made them sick and figured God must not have wanted them to eat it. For some, it was early astronomy, and Apollo in a chariot was as good as it got as far as explanations of what the Sun is and why it moves. For some, it was an important ancestor who died long ago, but they felt better knowing that great- great-great- grandma was still watching and taking care of them. I believe most early people, once they realized what Death was, were afraid and came up with a ritual way to insure that they didn’t “really” die, just went to a place that was like a dream, or maybe came back in another body – anything but the Big Nothing.

What all of these have in common is that People came up with Religion. Once I had that realization creep up and blindside me, there was no way to go back. Suddenly, some things stood out in clear relief, like the abuse people have traded back and forth based on religion and its various heresies, or how religion could be used as a political tool, or to keep control of a population. You know, the darker side of religion. I could no longer buy into this system, once I realized what a sham it all was. It’s like in that movie, The Matrix, where Keanu Reeves takes the pill and suddenly sees everything for what it is. It would be comforting to believe that a personal God loves me and takes care of me, or that the Goddess choreographs the tides and the fruiting of the trees, but I’d rather have the cold truth than the happy falsehood.

Although I still went through the motions for a goodly while, I’ve considered myself to be a Secular Pagan for several years now. I still like the idea of honoring that which keeps us alive, but I don’t necessarily see it as having a soul or spirit – or even, for that matter, that I have a soul or spirit. I’ll be compost when I die, rotting back into the circle of nutrients. But as far as believing in a Big Whatever, I can’t say as I do. If there is, it’s so far removed from anything like us, and so positively imporsonal and unknowable and foreign to our brain that it’s useless to believe in it. I’ve Pinged, and gotten no Pong.

So, in short, it’s not anything as simple as “unanswered prayers,” or “someone telling me there is no God” – it required much more thinking and life experience than that. Many things in life are not at all simple as people want them to be, and this is one of them. Most of us put a lot of time and thought into it.

PupnTaco's avatar

Reason, education.

Rarebear's avatar

I became an atheist when I realized that reason trumped faith.

lapilofu's avatar

I think it might also be interesting to ask what some of the reasons are that a person becomes religious.

Blackberry's avatar

I have a question and I don’t want to ask a whole other question: I was wondering if there were any statistics on education and religious belief? I would like to know if there are any fundamental religious people with MBAs and PhDs essentially lol.

Seek's avatar

@Blackberry

Considering the sheer number of private colleges (both accredited and non-accredited) with Bible-based curricula passing out Ph.D.s printed on toilet paper, I think any results you get will be unreliable at best.

Blackberry's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Yeah I’m aware of that factor as well, I know some people that go to religious colleges.

lapilofu's avatar

@Blackberry I don’t know of any specific statistics, but Dawkins does mention in one of his talks (you can find it on TED that the) accumulation of data suggests a correlation between intelligence/educational level and atheism—it’s one of his arguments on why it’s bad for the U.S. that we only elect religious representatives.

Oh—another interesting fact I’ve heard (but can’t find the source for at the moment…) the prevalence of religious belief is highest among mathematicians of all “scientific” (in quotes, because truthfully math is hardly science) disciplines. I think it’s tempting when you deal in patterns to believe that some intelligence put those patterns there.

Aster's avatar

@laureth I Loved your reply. Beautiful and inspiring.
You are so right; “people,” maybe even whoever pre-dated the Egyptians, have always looked to the heavens for .. something. Someone. So many never find that Someone, especially not in most of our modern churches.

CMaz's avatar

Self awareness. It screws us up every time.

Aster's avatar

@Blackberry Are you being coy? I think, but am not at all certain, that when the educational level goes UP, the religiosity goes DOWN. As you know, scholars generally don’t flock to Bible school.
Jesus came to confound the wise. sorry; could not resist

Seek's avatar

@Aster

@Blackberry and I are both devoted atheists. ^_^

Aster's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Yes; I know. It’s always nice to be devoted to something. (-;

Seek's avatar

Well, not always. Fundamental Christianity should change its name. There’s not much fun involved.

Blackberry's avatar

@Aster The wise people that lived in the time of Jesus most likely were not as wise as the wise men today. : )

Qingu's avatar

The question assumes that the default state of a person is to believe in God. You need a “reason” to not believe in God.

This obviously isn’t true, as religion is something you’re raised with. Many people grow up without a notion of any god and don’t believe in it.

Furthermore, if you’re a religious person, chances are that you’re an “atheist” with respect to all of the hundreds of gods except for one. Why don’t you believe in Shiva, or Marduk, or Zeus, or Allah? Why don’t you believe Muhammad rode up into the sky on the back of a flying donkey, like his followers said he did? Chances are, it’s for the same reason that I don’t believe in Yahweh the Hebrew sky god, or that Jesus rose from the dead.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu You kind of spelled out my thought process. Since I was not raised with God, it is a non-issue. I had no notion of God really until I was pretty old, I had heard him mentioned now and then, but it had no meaning to me, let alone Jesus and how he fit into the whole Christianity thing. And, good point about the other religious explanations of God.

Aster's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Lurve your comments !!!
If fundamentalists have no fun they LOOK like they’re having it ! But I’m not sure that “fun” is the right word or if that’s what they’re looking for. I think they’re seeking ecstacy. kill me now if I misspelled that

Seek's avatar

@Aster

You spelled it right.

It was fun… at times. The fun came at the high price of constant rebuking, self-flagellation, and mountains of guilt.

Aster's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Or maybe you had a highly developed guilt complex? Sounds dreadful, at any rate.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I became an atheist because I could no longer find a rational foundation for my belief. I thought my belief was logical, but it began to disintegrate as soon as I tried to explain how a god might exist. From that epiphany, I soon realised that the existence of a god was entirely irrelevant, since he/she/it has no apparent effect on the universe and only an evil god would condemn me for following the direction of the intelligence they had supposedly given me. I took this one step further, and realised that no god interested in human affairs would possibly make themselves irrelevant to humanity, so there must be no personal god.

I think the more challenging question is why people remain religious. The rest of my immediate family are still Christians, and I cannot figure out why.

Dog's avatar

***** [Mod Says:] *****
Just a gentle reminder that this question is in the General section and to please try to keep on topic which is “What are some of the reasons a person becomes an Athiest?”

Thanks!

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I’m with you on that. I really, genuinely struggle to understand how anyone can still believe it.

I hear the reasons that people give me, but it truly baffles me. I felt that way at 13 years old… hasn’t changed in 15 years. Seems crazy.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie I think 13 is a special age. Although I didn’t ‘out’ myself as an atheist until I was 18, I had my first major doubt when I was 13 when I realised that an all-knowing God knew the future, which meant that he knew his own future, and therefore was not powerful enough to change his mind. I was 17 when I found out this was a common criticism. I think 13 is special because a lot of people seem to start thinking for themselves at that age, and it can lead to some amazing things.

plethora's avatar

@Blackberry Only because you asked…:)

I have read several of this guy’s books, so my acquaintance goes beyond this short bio.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Julia Sweeney’s video “Letting Go of God” is a good example of how someone raised in the Catholic faith might change their religious opinion.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
plethora's avatar

@lapilofu Why don’t you ask the question….re why people become religious. It would be off-topic to answer here.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
lapilofu's avatar

@plethora I think that’s a great idea! I just might.

YARNLADY's avatar

The decision to be free from religion which never made any sense to me, in spite of being raised in a very religious family.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

That’s like saying that people become lesbians because they were raped – there is nothing extraordinary about ‘becoming an atheist’ – it is perfectly normal to not believe in god (s) or religion – for me, it was realizing that there are many religions out there, they all serve people and not much else…they are insitutions to control and also provide for fears people have – I have no need for either so I’m an atheist.

zophu's avatar

I try to hold onto my personal awareness

that could not be sustained

if I accepted notions for unnatural reasons

such as for the fact alone

that others hold them as beliefs.

Apparently this makes me ”Atheist

—————————————————-

I there reason?

To even have a word.

—————————————————-

How many more will be burned?

For the sake of hyper-notions

Attached to the words you make them.

—————————————————-

When will you come for me?

Is the only question I don’t need answered

I don’t fear you anymore.

—————————————————-

There is no where left to hide

You are all around.

—————————————————-

In the teachers who tell me what to know

And in the doctors who heal me from the knowledge

You are there

—————————————————-

In my past and in my future

In my mother and in my father

My brothers and my sisters

In my lovers and the children we may have

You are in all of them

Breaking us apart

—————————————————-

There is no where left to hide

I don’t fear you anymore

—————————————————

That is why I am “atheist”

evandad's avatar

They accept the reality of their own mortality without the pie in the sky afterlife bullshit.

talljasperman's avatar

not wanting to become a religious person from first hand experience of harassment and struggle

metaphorical's avatar

“Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?”
(Epicurus, 341–270 BCE)

Epicurus uses what would later be called Boolean logic to avoid any paradox such as the Infinity Paradox (i.e. If God created the Universe, who created God?). That said, since time & space are relative, our entire Universe could be a test tube experiment in some super universe. Which, of course, is just speculation and nothing different from religion as we know it.

mammal's avatar

@laureth for an Atheist you sure do have the capacity to write biblical length comments
you should have punctuated that piece with verse and chapter ;)

i guess i find it inconceivable that people succoured on MTV, video games, Internet porn and fast food know more about the universe than people who, fast, practice abstinence, live in huts and caves for years on end, in virtual isolation, enduring all the vicissitudes of the natural world, contemplating nothing but the deeper meaningfulness of life.

Seek's avatar

@mammal

I find it inconceivable that someone who has never succumbed to the primal instincts of mating and lives apart from others could truly understand the meaning of life at all – no matter how much they contemplate.

mammal's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr no you don’t, you find it difficult to comprehend because you are young and foolish and brought up in the kind of environment that is happily arrogant, ignorant and dismissive.

Seek's avatar

Young, foolish, arrogant, ignorant, and dismissive?

Couldn’t go for a round half-dozen on the insults?

syz's avatar

Living in “huts and caves” does not make one inherently wise. It seems to me it would merely make one isolated.

DominicX's avatar

@mammal

We know very little about the universe and the “meaning of life” and that includes your precious ascetics. It’s mostly speculation and we are not truly “knowing” much of anything.

mammal's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr actually i said you’re young and foolish, but as person you are bright and attractive.

mammal's avatar

@DominicX one thing i would say is, one shouldn’t judge people too harshly for their sexuality, their lack of sexuality or their attempt to master their sexuality. nobody said it was easy.

Seek's avatar

@mammal

I would think with your screenname, you would be the first to admit that we humans are animals. We are specifically pack animals. Inherently suited to gregarious clusters and polygamous mating practices.

The meaning of life is simple: To propagate the species using the choicest genes to ensure the survival of our offspring. Everything else is just gravy.

mammal's avatar

@syz no perhaps not, but it can be the appropriate battleground with which to battle those inner demons.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Response moderated (Off-Topic)
lapilofu's avatar

@mammal I’m not sure whether or not you are speaking in favor of religion. None of the things you list are inherently religious. There are a great many non-religious people who practice each of them—and I don’t believe for a second that most religious people practice any of them.

I can certainly get behind living in a cave for a while and contemplating the meaning of the universe—I’m a believer in spirituality and the idea that humans can achieve higher levels of understanding than the minutia of day-to-day living—but when it comes right down to it, I’m not sure how deliberately experiencing less makes someone more qualified to speak about life than someone who has experienced more.

(By way of analogy: I can spend as much time as I want contemplating how to cook, but it won’t make me better than a McDonalds fry cook if I never put a spatula to a frying pan.)

augustlan's avatar

I read the bible, cover to cover, in 6th grade. I became agnostic on the spot. Since then, I’ve gone back and forth a few times, but I always come back to evidence and reason.

gondwanalon's avatar

What really shook up my belief in God was one day a year ago when 2 Mormon Missionaries showed up at my front door. They gave me a copy of The Book of Mormon and invited me to their church (I went twice). I soon became interested in the many problems with the Book of Mormon and presented 16 of them to the missionaries and 2 Mormon friends. No explanations were offered. Suddenly I could see that these poor souls and millions more around the world are blinded by their faith in something that NEVER happened. This caused me to question my own faith in God and the bible. I now have faith in nothing. Logic and reasoning is the way to function in life.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@mammal “i guess i find it inconceivable that people succoured on MTV, video games, Internet porn and fast food know more about the universe than people who, fast, practice abstinence, live in huts and caves for years on end, in virtual isolation, enduring all the vicissitudes of the natural world, contemplating nothing but the deeper meaningfulness of life.”

That is a gross generalisation. Not everyone in the modern world is part of that stereotype. None of those apply to me, but I take time out to contemplate the deeper things in life in the comfort of my own home.

@gondwanalon I will never speak ill of the Mormons again.

janbb's avatar

I’ve just got to say that it’s spelled “atheist”, OP.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Aster But you’ve fallen for others? See what I don’t get is how people of one denomination or religion can think that people of others have been ‘misled’.

Aster's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I think it’s understandable for people of one denomination to disagree with parts of the beliefs of other denominations. It’s like Democrats not agreeing with some aspects of what Republicans believe. Are you knowledgeable about the Latter Day Saint belief system and rituals? I think you’d like or at least “get” some of it but not all of it. But there are so many similarities with all of them, don’t you agree?

plethora's avatar

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) is a cult and not to be confused with Christianity…..just sayin’

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

What makes one a cult and not the other?

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cult

MrItty's avatar

@plethora Oh I love that answer. “MY Christianity is the real one. Everyone else that claims to be Christian is lying”. That basically sums up the Christian point of view, doesn’t it?

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

Because you eventually see the truth.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Aster You can disagree with aspects of it, of course but you can’t think they’ve been misled any more than you.

Aster's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I can’t? Yes; I can think that. What you meant is I SHOULDN’T think they’ve been misled more than I. By “more than” I mean they have a Lot of teachings that are really far-out. Things that are unique to Mormonism.

lapilofu's avatar

@Aster @Simone_De_Beauvoir Reminds me of this Sam Harris quote: “For instance, the Mormons think Jesus is going to return to earth and administer his Thousand years of Peace, at least part of the time, from the state of Missouri. Why does this make Mormonism less likely to be true than Christianity? Because whatever probability you assign to Jesus’ coming back, you have to assign a lesser probability to his coming back and keeping a summer home in Jackson County, Missouri.”

Seek's avatar

@Aster The same goes for Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Hare Krishnas, Shinto, worshippers of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, and Pastafarians.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@lapilofu Look, it’s all got an equal un likelihood, to me.

ragingloli's avatar

What is the difference between 0.01 and 0.001? Not a lot.

lapilofu's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir @ragingloli You should read the speech: he makes some pretty good points about why it would be useful to distinguish between different religions. Some, honestly, are more dangerous than others—and by distinguishing between religions we will find that we are on the same side as some other religions in some arguments.

(Sidenote: the difference between .01 and .001 is pretty significant in statistics. That’s tenfold. 1 out a hundred people is someone you know. 1 out of a thousand isn’t.)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@lapilofu I’ve read it awhile ago and agree with some of it but I do think that it’s people, not religions, that make insane decisions and lead to dangerous situations – it is people’s need for power or to overpower or to be correct that can make any religion into a terrible religion for others. Long ago, I read somewhere that it’s not about whether one is an atheist or a devout person – it’s about whether they’re stupid or not, whether they can understand patterns or complexities…meaning that any unintelligent person despite their beliefs can lead to terrible things…you can have a ridiculous atheist just like you can have a ridiculous religious person…and I don’t have to stand with any religions because the burden of unity doesn’t have to be me, an atheist. I’m not out there killing anyone for believing in god (s).

lapilofu's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir That is certainly fair.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@plethora Aren’t all religions really cults? When you get down to it? I’m sure the major religions were looked at as such in their beginnings.

plethora's avatar

@MrItty @TheOnlyNeffie Not at all. There are a few basic tenets of the Christian faith and Mormons adhere to none of them. Yet they claim to be Christian. I feel sure a Buddhist could easily expose me if I were claiming to be Buddhist.

Nonetheless, I plan to vote for Mitt Romney if he runs.

plethora's avatar

@Russell_D_SpacePoet From the point of view of an atheist, I could see why one would call all religions cults because all religions violate the most basic tenet of Atheism….that there is no God. From that perspective I cannot argue with you. From my perspective, I would not call any one of the great religions a cult.

Christians identify cults because the cults quite often like to call themselves Christian and yet hold to few of the beliefs of Christianity. Just imagine me calling myself an atheist, while proclaiming that there is a God who created the universe and with whom I can personally identify. I can imagine the hue and cry here on Fluther.

MrItty's avatar

@plethora I’m curious which “basic tenets” you’re referring to. They believe in God the father, God the son, and God the holy spirit. They believe in the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, salvation through Christ alone. Both testaments of the Bible are among their holy books. Which “basic tenets” of Christianity do they not believe in?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I’m sorry to be the one to point this out to you, but Christianity (as well as all of the other “great religions”) fits perfectly into the very definition of what a cult is. You’re insinuating that because you think you have to be misrepresenting something to be considered a cult, and I’m not sure that’s true. If you claimed to be an atheist and still believed in god, I wouldn’t say you were a cult member. I’d think it was just idiotic.

plethora's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie Christianity (as well as all of the other “great religions”) fits perfectly into the very definition of what a cult is

Define “cult” for me, if you don’t mind.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I did. Above.
“cult –noun
1. a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies. ”

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cult

plethora's avatar

@MrItty You need read no further than Wikipedia . To be specific, however, let me note (I am not debating here) they consider the Book of Mormon to be inspired by God. They do not believe in the Trinity (basic), the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth or in salvation through Christ alone. If one does not know Christianity very well, however, one can be easily misled by a Mormon missionary.

plethora's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie There are several definitions of cult. Try this one:

“a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents

Here

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

So, you are saying that Christianity is not a cult because you choose to ignore the definitions of cult that would include Christianity?
And that the religions that consider themselves Christian, but do not meet your standards, fit into the definition of cult that you like better?
I asked what makes one a cult and not the other, and the truth is that by definition they are both cults.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie The difference between a cult and a religion is the number of people that follow it. Cults are generally called such (colloquially) because they are regarded as harmful by almost everyone outside the cult. Christianity does not really qualify, because it is the largest religion, and many non-Christians can still see significant value in it.

laureth's avatar

When Christianity began, though, as a splinter, underground Jewish sect, quite unorthodox, it could easily have been considered a cult. Clearly the definition of “cult” seems to be affected by the folks doing the defining.

plethora's avatar

@MrItty @TheOnlyNeffie @FireMadeFlesh @laureth
This thread is off-topic. I’ve enjoyed your comments about your path into atheism. Very informative for me and certainly a topic on which you are THE authority. The current subject is one on which you would be the least authority around. You don’t embrace any religion whatsoever and deny there is a God. No problem with your doing that. It’s your right and privilege. But your right and privilege ends right there.

I have no further comments off-topic.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Aster's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr And I think that all of those have some level of truth. I think I’m mainstream in that , if I wanted to join a church, I would not wait until I found one that taught 100% of what I believed.
I could probably get close. But I I do not believe we Must baptize dead people, going down the line as far as we can go in our family tree, so I’d not join the Mormons. It’s just too much of a reach to accept it. On the other hand, dumping Christianity because someone wrote down that a snake talked to naked people is also not how I operate. It would almost be like never going back to a particular grocery store I would otherwise like because they sold weird things like maggots. I’d simply ignore the maggots. Of course, that’s a silly example. But I think it shows the level of tolerance people have, many of them, who wish to socialize with like-minded people.

MrItty's avatar

@plethora Wikipedia is exactly where I went for the information posted.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints#Comparisons_with_mainstream_Christianity

“In addition to a belief in the Bible,[66] the divinity of Jesus, and his atonement and resurrection, other LDS teachings are shared with other branches of Christianity. For example, LDS theology includes belief in the doctrine of salvation through Jesus alone,[5] his virgin birth, restorationism (via a Restoration of Christ’s church given through Joseph Smith, Jr.), millennialism, continuationism, penal substitution,[67] and a form of Apostolic succession. The practices of baptism by immersion and the Eucharist (referred to as the Sacrament) are also held in common. <....> LDS Church theology includes the belief in a “Godhead” composed of God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost as three separate persons who share unity of purpose or will; however, they are viewed as three distinct beings making one Godhead”

I am not claiming to be an expert. I was asking you a question. I was asking you how/why you say that their version of Christianity isn’t real. You haven’t given me an answer, at least not one that isn’t directly contradicted by your own source.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Let’s get back to the topic: What are some of the reasons a person becomes an Athiest (sic)?

I’d love to see the recent off-topic debates taken to another thread, though.

Scooby's avatar

Priests are full of shit!! :-/

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
Linda_Owl's avatar

Basically it is a triumph of logic & reality over myth. I grew up attending church & for years I tried very hard to find something in religion that I could cling to (it seems to be an innate need of humans to want to be taken care of by an all-powerful force that has their best interests at heart). However, as time passed, the more that I studied religion & the bible, the more inconsistancies & unreality that I found. How is one supposed to trust & have faith in a supreme being that is supposed to be all-knowing & all-powerful & that loves us completely – and still allows people to starve to death as happens in so many 3rd world countries? And prayer…..... this supreme being is supposed to hear all of our prayers & answer them in his own time (not our time – but only when he wants to). Think about the little children who have been kidnapped, tortured, raped, & murdered – don’t you think that their parents were praying & entreating “god” to save their child? Don’t you think that the child was trying to believe that “god” was going to help them? Do you have any idea just how seldom any of these children have been saved from death? Was this because “god” did not care about what happened to them, that they had no value in the scheme of things? There is no “god”, there is no heaven to which we can aspire to reach, there is no hell that we must fear…..... there is only organized religions who seek to control both the people & the money that these people have…...... logic says to study the various religion myths from over the centuries, they are all as equally unrealistic as are the current manifestations. Religion has been used to control & oppress & murder people for centuries. Enough is enough already – it is time we recognized the fact that we are on our own & try to find ways in which to live with each other on this planet we call earth & quit trying to kill each other.

plethora's avatar

@MrItty To answer your question re Mormons, note that I am not defending or explaining Christianity. I am simply pointing out the differences between Christian theology and Mormon theology resulting in Mormonism being labeled a cult. If there are any other questions, please start a new thread, as suggested by the Mod, as this is totally off-topic.

Remember that I noted that if one knows little about Christianity, it is very easy to be misled by Mormon assertions. One reason for that is that Mormons take the terms used in Christianity and redefine them. I am only going to reference a couple, but I have read entirely through the link you referenced and I could note a difference on almost every paragraph in it.

Go to your link and scroll up to “Sources of Authority”. You will see there are four, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Even if they gave them equal weight, that alone would be enough to label them a cult. Christianity accepts only the Bible as the source of doctrine. Mormons actually assign the greatest authority to the Book of Mormon.

Scroll down to “Distinctive Doctrines and Practices”. Nothing in the first two paragraphs is true of Christianity and is in direct contradiction to the Biblical position.

Scroll down to “Comparisons With Mainstream Christianity” re the Virgin Birth Specifically herein (6th paragraph) “When Mormons teach about the Virgin Birth of Jesus, they do not mean the same thing we do as Christians and they know this. According to Mormonism, God the Father, who has a body of flesh and bones (since he was a man), came to earth and had a physical sex with Mary, his own daughter and begot Jesus’ physical body. (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22; McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 471)

Hope this is sufficient. I could go on and on and on. But I find it pretty boring too.

JLeslie's avatar

To me a cult is a group that does not allow their members to interact with the outside world, takes people away from their families and friendships if they are not the same religion, or not part of the specific cult in question. I know any wonderful Mormons, some went to public school with me, I have worked with Mormons, genuinely lovely people. I think they believe some crazy things, but it does not matter to me at all, I think most religions have some illogical, unlikely beliefs. And, I think Christianity can be cultish, but I think many times it isn’t; really depends on which Christian group, and the individual. I think it is rare American Catholics rise to the level of being cultlike. I think some not all of the born again group like Baptists and Methodists, and some very extreme Christian groups (speaking in tongues, snakes) they are cultish. Their minds seem so narrow, and their devotion so strong, that they will not entertain any other ideas, science, or thought on many topics. The more fanatis, isolated, and fundamental any religious group gets, the more I think they begin to rise to the level of cult. They seem to blinly follow their leaders, even if it will hurt themselves.

@plethora I find it interesting that you mention voting for Mitt Romney. I guess that means his religion does matter to you, and you would prefer he was not Mormon? What religion he is does not matter to me, but I admit that I don’t mind at all that he is a religious minority. I think he is more likely to get what it is like to be a religious minority and want one’s rights protested. Although, he seems to be a very different person running for national office, than when he was governor of Mass. He seems to have lined himself up more with the religious right now.

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie There are several definitions of cult #3 is the one that applies in this discussion.

JLeslie's avatar

@plethora Are you saying Mormons are more unorthodox than mainstream Christians? What exactly is your point? I don’t care what Mormons believe as long as their children once old enough have opportunity to experience what others believe and they do not interfere with my right or anyone else’s to practice their religion. I was stating how I see it, not necessarily how the dictinary does. Not that the true definition doesn’t count. Are you thinking of the extreme Mormons who mary off daughters at 14 and live basically secluded? I am not talking about them, they are cultlike, like all other fanatic sects of religions.

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie My point was simply to answer the question @MrItty asked me: what are the differences between Christianity and Mormonism? I was not arguing their merits.
The issue of the orthodoxy of their theology arises because Mormons will insist they are Christians. But when you take even a surface look at their beliefs, it is clear that they are not.

JLeslie's avatar

@plethora But, they believe Christ is their saviour, don’t they? Look, I call Jews for Jesus Christians, isn’t that the main gig? That you believe Jesus was the son of God and to follow his word. Jehovah I classify as Christians also, even thoouh they kind of split off in a way from mainstream Christianity. I guess maybe Christians like you don’t want to be grouped in with those other people? Like Hassidic Jews have very little to do with how I live my life, but I still feel the title that we are all Jewish is a valid one. Although some orthodox groups do not accept me as Jewish. Maybe that is it, just thinking out loud, the more religious someone is the more caught up they are in specific requirements of the relgion you follow to be able to own the title. But, for us on the outside all of those seem to fall under the umbrella of Christianity. I know Christians who don’t consider Catholics to be Christain I find that ridiculous. However, I do separate Catholics from Chrstians when making generalizations about the groups in terms of behavior, how they see the world, and politics.

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie Your posts are leaning heavily towards how one feels about this group of that, whether one wants to be associated with them, etc. I am dealing only with known, documented differences in Mormon theology and Christian theology. That’s it. Based on those differences, Mormons are not Christians, even though they often claim to be.

Now that you mention them, Jehovahs (I assume you mean Jehovah’s Witnesses) are also not Christians, even though they claim to be, based on known documented differences between Christian theology and JW theology. They are also a cult, in the sense we are using it here.

Jews are clearly not Christians, not do they claim to be.

Jews for Jesus are Christian. The are still Jews by birth, but have adopted the beliefs of Christians, just as anyone can do.

There are many Christians in the Roman Catholic church, although catholic doctrine is questionable.

ragingloli's avatar

Chris·tian
n.
One who professes belief in Jesus as Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.

And that is all you really need to be in order to be considered a Christian. Mormons fit. Jehovahs witnesses fit. Catholics fit.
All the other differences in dogma are just irrelevant details over which their followers can bash each others’ heads in.

plethora's avatar

@ragingloli Got any documentation for that or is it just opinion? Or have you become a Christian?

ragingloli's avatar

@plethora
It is the dictionary definition. You know, because you like dictionary definitions. You did like them when you defined the word “cult”.

plethora's avatar

@ragingloli Yep, and there were several definitions of cult. But the dictionary definition was just the starting point. But I’m just curious, you being an Atheist (and no offense intended), do you have a horse in this race?

JLeslie's avatar

I see it like the dictionary definition that @ragingloli posted. If someone claims to accept Jesus as their Lord and savior, poof they are Christians.

Jews for Jesus is very odd to me, but that is a different topic, and I respect everyone’s right to call themselves whatever they want.

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie Does this mean I can start picking my own definitions of Atheist without regard to the way you define yourself? I can make a pretty good case for Atheism being a religious choice.

ragingloli's avatar

@plethora
That is what you already do for the term ‘christian’ and ‘cult’ and you did not ask my permission for that, did you?

JLeslie's avatar

@plethora I agree atheism is a religious choice in a way. I have a belief system, many atheists disgaree with this idea.

I am only saying that I accept a Mormon saying they are a Christian. You are judging whether someone is a Christian or not, by a stricter criteria, I guess from what you see as more objective standards, I am more relazed about it and go by how the person identifies themselves. I don’t know/remember what demonination you are? Do the Baptists accept the Methodists as Christians, even though they might interpret things slightly differently in the bible?

Do you see all Jews as Jews? Even though some are atheist, and some are observant, some are Conservative?

What about Muslims? Buddhists? Do you worry about the detail of how faithful and religious they are? Or, do you accept them as Buddhists if they state they follow Buddha?

zophu's avatar

Atheism only seems religious in the religious context. Same way Christianity wouldn’t seem religious if there was only one form of it and everyone believed in it. The difference between atheism and religion is that atheism occurs in areas isolated from each other. You see, atheism doesn’t require conformity to instate—actually, it’s not really something that can be instated at all. Because devils are so evil they don’t need crusades to influence people.

plethora's avatar

@ragingloli @zophu Ease up. I was pulling @JLeslie ‘s leg. It was a rhetorical question.

zophu's avatar

@plethora Yeah, it just made me think about it so I shared what I thought.

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie You raise a very good point. Being faithful is not at issue here. If a person says they are Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Mormon, I accept that. The Buddhist and the Muslim and the Jew do not, however, try to pretend they are Christian. The Mormons do. It is a key aspect of their massive world evangelization. And since I am a Christian and know they are not telling the truth, I address it (here, I do, anyway).

Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterian, and other Christian denominations agree on the basics of the faith, for the most part. Mormons, however, not only blatantly deny all of the basics, they try to cover it up by using the same words that Christians use, but then redefining them. They can weave a very deceptive web even for a Christian who knows what he is talking about. For those who are not as conversant with the Christian faith, Mormons can easily sweep them into their idolatrous system of works and “worship”. In fact, they have no one to worship.

NOTE: Anyone else reading this, please do not use this explanation as a blast off point to find fault or pick nits. I am answering @JLeslie ‘s question. And I am not bashing Mormons either. There are many good people who are Mormons. I am addressing their system of belief.

zophu's avatar

@plethora Oh, I’d never question someone’s explanation of something if they didn’t mean for it to be questioned. Why the hell would I do that? What makes a person a something that does that?

plethora's avatar

@zophu Got me…:)

gondwanalon's avatar

@plethora You mentioned the Mormons a few times and how they differ from other religions but you didn’t mention the Book of Mormon (BOM). There is nothing subtle about the BOM which is filled with fantastic stories of good and bad peoples fighting each other for centuries in the Americas. According to the BOM, the 10 lost tribes of the Hebrews traveled to the Americas in a huge barge. Later, great battles were fought with warriors decked out in gleaming armor swinging swords of fine steal. Many fantastic and very detailed stories are described in the BOM including people using gold and silver coins, the grand gold tablets and appearances of angels and Jesus. Sadly the BOM is very poorly written and extremely boring to read and never happened but still has great potential for block-buster Hollywood movie extravaganza. The BOM would really make a great movie. I can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the BOM is total fantasy but that presentation I’ll save for some later time and place. I still love my Mormon friends. Mormons are very good people. They can believe that the Oliver Twist story by Charles Dickens really happened if they want and may God bless them.

plethora's avatar

@gondwanalon Agreed!! I didn’t even wander into the fantastical tales of Joseph Smith. Alice in Wonderland is fact based history compared to old J Smith’s meanderings.

Seek's avatar

Doesn’t sound any more strange than talking snakes, the sun being frozen in the sky for three days, talking donkeys, and people riding flaming chariots into outer space.

plethora's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Or complex civilizations arising unbidden from mud where no life previously existed. I guess we all have our limits.

Seek's avatar

… are you talking about your story or my story, now?

plethora's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr :) Your story, I think..:)

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@plethora Complex civilisations never arose from mud, unless you are skipping about 3.49 billion years of Earth’s history.

Seek's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Or reading Genesis. I mean, who was Cain being protected from, when God marked his forehead?

Probably the Sumerians, who were a thriving civilisation at the time BibleGod created the world.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr GA for the link, I love it! I thought Cain was being protected from the Nephilim, who were the offspring of the fornication between angels and women. Apparently the Nephilim were taught to be artisans, warriors, builders and academics, while Adam was stuck being the gardener.

Seek's avatar

But where did the people that were screwed by the angels come from?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Good question. Probably from Sumeria, as per your link.

lapilofu's avatar

I hope we can all take a moment to appreciate today’s xkcd.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m a theist, but because of my investigative nature with a keen interest to understand these reasons, I would like to add four observations I made why a person could become an atheist or has always been an atheist. Many do not apply to the users who have posted comments above. And they are just my observations, not facts. Here they are:

1) The misconception that vociferous fundamentalist religion defines religion (probably caused by out-group homogeneity bias)

2) The vital need for independence, moral freedom and self-reliance

3) A passion for science combined with the fallacy to believe that scientific findings imply atheism

4) A lack of willingness to understand the role of myths and symbols in religions

Fortunately only few atheists feel the need to ridicule believers, but I keep wondering about the reasons for this behavior. Are they trapped in cynicism and pessimism? Did they get hurt by religious zealots?

Ridicule is inappropriate. While a childish form of faith could be seen as some sort of fantasy, mature and healthy religion certainly isn’t.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@mattbrowne It’s quite acceptable to be prejudiced against atheists in the USA today. I think the majority of us that have been honest about our beliefs have been hurt by someone religious. I have been called vile, a disappointment, stupid, ignorant and most often EVIL. I’ve been told that there is no hope for me and that I deserve to “go to hell.”

I can see why some atheists feel a bit defensive. Why they might lash out. I don’t agree with it, but I can see how one might get to that point.

lapilofu's avatar

@mattbrowne You might also consider that many atheists believe that theism actually has a detrimental effect on society and combat it for that reason. For instance the passage of Proposition 8 in Californial (banning gay marriage) was due largely to funding from LDS—and religious voters—and therefore was directly based on a false understanding of the world. To ignore these connections is to be complicit in allowing injustice to continue.

I don’t agree that atheists should ridicule every theist mercilessly—truthfully, some are harmless—but we do have a responsibility to fight prejudice where we find it. Religion is responsible for a lot—perhaps the majority—of prejudicial dogma (not to mention war, segmentation, terrorism, the retardation of scientific research, &c.) in this world—so ridiculing religion is a tactic to fight prejudice, & al.

Perhaps your “mature healthy” religion is unprejudiced. Then in all likelihood I won’t bother you about it, even if I think it’s silly. Unfortunately most religions are not so fine as yours.

Blackberry's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie It’s not that big of a deal, but once I left a book at work I was reading (The God Delusion). One of my other co workers saw it and I was told she said, “So is (my name) a devil worshipper or something?”.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Blackberry I forgot that one. Being accused of devil worship is probably the one I hear even more often than “evil.”

It’s really true, some theists, Christians in particular (certainly not all), really feel like they have the right to judge atheists in a bad light. Loudly. It’s not that uncommon for someone to call me evil because I don’t believe in god, but if I were to walk up to someone and call them an idiot for going to church… can you imagine?

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackberry Did you leave it at your mother’s workplace, or at her house?

Blackberry's avatar

@JLeslie I left it at my workplace, and another co worker picked it up and looked at it (my name was written inside the book).

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackberry I see. I personally would not bring that type of book to work, as much as I would not really like to see others carrying around their bibles, putting crosses on the walls, or reading religious materials in general. I am all for protecting people’s rights to do it, I just think better not to antagonize people, or give them reason to comment.

Seek's avatar

@JLeslie

I suppose I can understand that, but why should I have to double-think what reading materials I’m going to enjoy during my lunch hour?

Sometimes I read horror novels, sometimes I read books on how to clean anything with Baking Soda, and sometimes I read books on why people believe in god. My reading material is my own business and my own choice. I’m not going to censor my recreation for the benefit of nosy theists.

Blackberry's avatar

@JLeslie Oh yes I understand that, but I had been working nights so I knew one one would be there, my mistake was leaving it there so the morning shift would see it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I agree your reading material is your own business, but at the same time I think we need to be considerate of the people around us at work, who we share space with, and see every day. Just how I see it.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@mattbrowne “Fortunately only few atheists feel the need to ridicule believers, but I keep wondering about the reasons for this behaviour.”
I think there is a small number of people who are atheists as a symbolic rebellion against religion, and haven’t actually thought through the reasons to be religious or not. I know a few people who, while they won’t necessarily call themselves atheists, have no religion and feel antagonistic towards religion because they feel they have been ill treated by a church.
People who are prepared to approach atheism/theism debates rationally usually have rational reasons for their beliefs, but there are always a few (on both sides) who will use emotional grounds and attack the alternate viewpoint without first understanding them.

mattbrowne's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie – Yes, I can also see why some atheists feel defensive and why they might lash out. The way atheists are treated by religious zealots is wrong and totally unacceptable. The question is what can be do to change the situation. Many atheists make the mistake to tell people there are basically two options: be smart and reasonable and become an atheist or remain dumb and unreasonable and be a religious nutcase. The notion that there’s actually a reasonable third option eludes the minds of many atheists. So what about the people who believe in God and want to be part of a religion? Is being a zealot their only option?

Martin Luther King was not a religous zealot and he had a dream in 1963, a dream that changed America. Obama is not a religious zealot either and he said the following during his inauguration:

“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united.”

He also wrote the following in his book ‘The Audacity of Hope’: (quote from Wikisummaries)

“The GOP has become increasingly associated with evangelical Christianity, Democrats have somewhat automatically assumed the opposite position, and increasing numbers of progressives seem willing to attack all reference to religion in governmental contexts. Obama recounts his own journey from atheism to faith, contending that the structure of religion has fortified and deepened his moral convictions. Because of the high degree of religiosity reported in polls of Americans, he contends that regaining a sense of ease with religion is the only way that the Democrats will be able to connect with a majority of the public. At the same time, Obama asserts the continued importance of the separation of church and state, although he contends that some of the recent instances of persecution of this principle, such as the debate over the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, are somewhat ridiculous. He concludes that faith could serve as a common ground for future collaboration and cooperation between the two parties, and that tolerance and respect for religious diversity is of paramount importance.”

So what about healthy and reasonable forms of religions? Atheists never talk about them. When they mention the word religion is has to do with hate mongering and fanaticism. Of the 2 billion Christians worldwide I’d say that 1.8 billion are good people. These people are not mentioned when atheists lash out because they have been hurt by one of the 200 million nutcases.

mattbrowne's avatar

@lapilofu – Fundamentalist religion has detrimental effects on society, yes. Religion in general doesn’t.

Seek's avatar

@mattbrowne

I watched the inauguration myself, and I (along with thousands of other atheists, I later learned on several message boards I frequent) gave the man a standing ovation in our own living rooms, just for the very mention of nonbelievers as citizens of our country.

At the same time, there were many, MANY Christians that spoke against the man for that same reason.

Yes, I admit I’ve been personally hurt by religion – to the point of psychological abuse. I know many others have as well. Even the more moderate of the Christians in our nation support the abusers by voting in support of human rights violations such as homosexual marriage bans, abortion restrictions, etc., and also support the infiltration of religion into public schools. I think that goes for private schools as well – should a school that leaves out the last 7 billion years of Earth’s history in lieu of a Bronze-age myth be allowed to hand out diplomas? I don’t think so.

We as non-believers are forced to stand idly by as the Fundamental minority happily glean support from the moderate majority, and take as an unheard-of victory that someone mention us as a group without so much as an overtone of spite.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – Yes, Obama’s speech was great. Many people in Europe watched it too. When you say, many Christians I can imagine that perhaps one million of them spoke against Obama for that same reason. But what about the dozens of millions who didn’t? Or the dozens of millions of liberal Christians who are staunch supporters of secular countries? Usually it’s the vociferous fundamentalists who speak out. Or fly airplanes into skyscrapers. They get our attention. What about the thousands of Catholic schools worldwide that teach about the big bang and evolution? The man who first suggested the big bang was a Catholic priest. The man who first proposed fundamental laws of genetics was a Catholic monk.

Learning about myths in 2010 makes sense too and we can learn a lot about human psychology and history, but we have to understand them properly. And they can’t be part of the biology curriculum. In Germany, population 82 million, here’s the number of public and private schools that teach creationist bullshit: zero.

Once again, here’ my favorite quote about myths: “Myths are about the human struggle to deal with the great passages of time and life—birth, death, marriage, the transitions from childhood to adulthood to old age. They meet a need in the psychological or spiritual nature of humans that has absolutely nothing to do with science. To try to turn a myth into a science, or a science into a myth, is an insult to myths, an insult to religion, and an insult to science.”—Michael Shermer

Shermer is an atheist, by the way.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne More than you might think Christians in America seem to want to call America a Christian Country, I think with Obamas speech those particular Christians just heard that other people are in their country, and gaining power, not sure if they dwelled on the atheist part? That was my perception. It is almost a religious war down here in the bible belt, Muslim against Christian, Atheist against Christian, and intertwined with politics now. I think the term liberal is code, in the mind of the right wing far right religious person, for people who want to take your Christianity away. Not sure, that is just how it seems to me.

@Seek_Kolinahr I personally LOVED that Obama included atheists, and mentioned many different religions in his speeach, I felt included again in my country.

zophu's avatar

Although the various church cultures are still unacceptable as far as I am concerned, I acknowledge that they are healthier for an individual than the alternative—which is no culture for many people, or just a culture that exists within a workplace or secluded club.

My rebellion against religion is not completely symbolic. I feel it literally poisons my people. If I were stronger, I would take a more aggressive stance. Any polite disagreements between me and religion are only “polite” because my spirit is broken. I’m not going to try and convince myself otherwise. I’ll kill myself in rebellion or drown in persecution before I accept people giving in to systematic absurdity.

We’re supposed to each be uniquely absurd, and that’s not my attempt at a joke. It may be that everyone needs a little bit of absurdity in them. It’s just when you have entire groups of people agreeing on the same ridiculous points. . . There’s a sort of human strength that is not possible to achieve when you’re tied to these shared-absurdities. The absurdities become too solid, they become highly influential of a person’s behavior where otherwise, someone’s unique absurdities would cause just a quirkiness at most that might actually be helpful to them and their community.

I’ve met religious people who sympathize with much of what I feel and would never hold me in contempt for feeling the way I do. But I know that for each of them there are many others that would. Not just fundamentalists, and not just religious people in general, but religion deniers—those that hold it to be somehow an isolated cultural phenomenon in their world that has no real effect on things that matter. I sympathize with these people. I speak ideas that are incompatible with beliefs they use for much, sometimes most of their lives. And I don’t speak softly or with much care. I understand why they feel the way they do. And that is why I can not tolerate them.

We are not supposed to behave in a “functional” manner when trapped within a dysfunctional situation. If a boat is about to capsize should the passengers remain strait, sitting in the middle, or should they lean in the opposing direction? I don’t trust anyone who behaves as if they are balanced within this world. You can’t fight nature; but you can fight for it. You have to look at what is outside of the culture in order to adapt. People don’t survive when they allow themselves to get stuck in a cultural feedback loop, where the boat passengers just pat each other on the back, “good job remaining strait, wouldn’t want to have people start leaning to the side, would we? Haha! I think the Anderson’s kid is a little off-center, don’t you?” What religion allows new ideas to flow freely amongst its people? Can you even call that religion? Not that it’s only religious cultures that resist outside awareness—they’re just the most extreme. Well, politics is at least at a close second. I don’t see much of a difference, except one encourages more controversy. I guess that makes me a cynic, too. typical foolishness

Seek's avatar

@mattbrowne

I love myths. I read myths all the time. My bedstand currently has a copy of “Celtic Myths and Legends”, Edith Hamilton’s “Mythologies”, and “Dracula – a biography of Vlad the Impaler” (the latter has several chapters about the history and development of the vampire mythos)

I think myths, legends, and folklore are fascinating. It’s interesting to read about how people think as a society, and how those very thoughts ultimately brought about their demise. It’s called learning from our past so it cannot repeat itself.

As an example, the ancient Egyptian civilisation lasted for nearly ten thousand years, because it never changed. They discouraged anything other than the status quo. This discouragement went so far as to assassinate their emperor – the Mouth of the Gods – because he suggested that perhaps there was only one god, and not a pantheon.

Sure, the empire lasted a damned long time – but by the time it fell, it was exactly the same as it was when they began. There was no development, and in fact, throughout that time they actually lost the knowledge that allowed them to build the Pyramids in the valley of the Kings. The latest pyramids are crumbling ruins.

Stagnation is bad for society.

I make the argument that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, has passed its prime. Society is trying its damnedest to move past the religions of the past millennia and they just do not want to let go. Now, will we leave behind the Bible and its ruthless dictator of a deity and move on to pure non-belief? Probably not. But I would be more than happy to accept the absence of groups of people (my country’s political leaders in particular, as well as those lining their pockets) pushing their personal outdated scruples on those that do not share their beliefs.

lapilofu's avatar

@mattbrowne Myths are great!—as long as you don’t believe they’re true. That’s why they’re myths.

I’m quite fond of Greek mythology myself, but I’ve never been found praying to Zeus.

Seek's avatar

Gah. too late to edit.

“Egyptian civilisation lasted for nearly ten thousand years,” should be ”...three thousand years”

zophu's avatar

I once told an old carpenter I aspired to be a writer. He asked me if I wanted to be a journalist, I said I wanted to write fiction. He asked how fiction has ever helped anybody. I said that fiction effects people greatly and can help people find new perspective. He implied that only nerds and such are greatly effected by fiction. I asked him what inspired him to become a carpenter.

Stories are necessary. They are the vehicle for humanity’s metaphors, connecting people in ways that they couldn’t be otherwise—across cultures and across generations. But, there are good reasons I don’t pray to Frodo the Ring Bearer at night, or read about Harry Potter’s exploits in history books. And there are good reasons others shouldn’t either. A myth is a fictional story that has been perverted into fact. We must respect fact, and we must respect stories. (The carpenter thing was a story, by the way.)

People have been trying to marry religion and science as ways of life for a long time. Maybe it can be done, but I don’t think the end product could be called religion. I think we just call that philosophy. I don’t see how religion can be acceptable for a culture to have. Even the “nicer” ones still promote collective insulation from certain rationality. It takes more than being a “morally right” person to be, a competent parent for example. You have to be responsible for your world view, and not everyone can do that if they have to conform to specific absurdities—although I’m sure there are many competent religious parents. My point is that there are challenges that people regularly face that can’t be handled well by a person if it causes them to get hung up on their various absolute beliefs, whether consciously or not. It’s inefficient at best, dysfunctional at worst.

@mattbrowne Do you think Creationists would appreciate it more if their belief was taught as a myth in school rather than not at all? I’m all for it, teach the currently popular myths with the past myths.

I never liked any of the ancient myths much, but I like a lot of the fiction that has been partially inspired by them.

Qingu's avatar

@mattbrowne, this is where we repeatedly part ways. I think religion in general is fundamentalist. It certainly has been fundamentalist for the majority of its history.

Only in certain parts of Western democracies has religion evolved to the sort of secularized pseudo-Deism/Unitarianism that you believe in. Most religious people in the world actually believe in the god as described in their religious scriptures.

zophu's avatar

@Qingu Most of the Christian people I’ve met, in the South even, couldn’t be described as fundamentalists. They usually follow the fundamentalists’ church groups, but they themselves aren’t necessarily fundamentalist. Maybe that’s a part of what @mattbrowne was talking about?

mattbrowne's avatar

The question is how do we determine whether myths are true or not. When I tell you that 1 + 1 = 1 you might say that we all know that 1 + 1 = 2. Well, sometimes we need to challenge our assumptions. What if I was talking about boolean logic?

So did a real snake talk to Eve? What are your assumptions? How can a snake talk? Did Eve live in a real place (a town called paradise, population 2) and she was a person eating real apples? Did Noah load his boat with real animals? Are all the gods and semi-gods in Greek mythology real entities? Or do they represent something else?

C.G. Jung talks about archetypes which “refer to a generic version of a personality. In this sense ‘mother figure’ may be considered an archetype and may be identified in various characters with otherwise distinct (non-generic) personalities. Archetypes are likewise supposed to have been present in folklore and literature for thousands of years, including prehistoric artwork. The use of archetypes to illuminate personality and literature was advanced by Carl Jung early in the 20th century, who suggested the existence of universal contentless forms that channel experiences and emotions, resulting in recognizable and typical patterns of behavior with certain probable outcomes. Archetypes are cited as important to both ancient mythology and modern narratives, as argued by Joseph Campbell in works such as The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” (see Wikipedia for details).

Karen Armstrong, who is an expert of mythology has the following to say:

“Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. Unless we find some significance in our lives, we mortal men and women fall very easily into despair. The mythos of a society provided people with a context that made sense of their day-to-day lives; it directed their attention to the eternal and the universal. It was also rooted in what we would call the unconscious mind. The various mythological stories, which were not intended to be taken literally, were an ancient form of psychology. When people told stories about heroes who descended into the underworld, struggled through labyrinths, or fought with monsters, they were bringing to light the obscure regions of the subconscious realm, which is not accessible to purely rational investigation, but which has a profound effect upon our experience and behavior. Because of the dearth of myth in our modern society, we have had to evolve the science of psychoanalysis to help us to deal with our inner world.”

It’s funny that modern people enjoy and love movies like Star Wars (which are full of symbolism and mythological figures), but openly profess that the content of Greek or Hebrew or Mesopotamian myths is nonsense no one should believe in. Just because religious nutcases interpret holy texts literally, atheists should be careful not to fall into the same trap stating that myths are great as long as you don’t believe they’re true. 1 + 1 equals 2 after all, doesn’t it?

lapilofu's avatar

@mattbrowne “It’s funny that modern people enjoy and love movies like Star Wars (which are full of symbolism and mythological figures), but openly profess that the content of Greek or Hebrew or Mesopotamian myths is nonsense no one should believe in.”

I don’t see what’s funny about that. Do you think that’s a contradiction? Enjoying and loving a work of fiction is not the same as believing it.

I take no issue with the Bible as literature. I’ve read the old testament a few times myself. That’s not really a religion any more than Shakespeare is a religion. Or, if you prefer a positive formulation, the Bible is as much of a religion as Shakespeare is. I don’t care which. I’m not saying burn the bible, destroy the untruths. I just wish the people who actually do take the Bible or the Koran or any other work of fiction literally didn’t wield the power to oppress others and take lives.

I think it’s silly that you profess belief in God (though your arguments lead me to believe your God is not the God of other religions, not a God with power or consciousness, but something much more pantheistic—that is, atheism in a tuxedo) but it’s clear to me that you’re not going to oppress anyone based on this belief. To deny that other people do oppress in the name of religion—and often do so quite effectively—is to have your head in the sand.

I don’t believe in Jungian archetypes because they’re based on Platonic idealism, hence discredited and Karen Armstrong’s God is just about as supernatural as yours.

mattbrowne's avatar

@lapilofu – When I said funny I meant it’s a curious fact. And I wasn’t talking about the fiction part in Star Wars. I was talking about personality types, symbolism, mythological figures and the deeper aspects of human psychology.

As an undogmatic Christian I think that dogmas arise in a social context and when the context changes, dogmas should change too or even be given up. I believe in religions that evolve. Rituals are means to strengthen social groups and communities. Christianity must not claim exclusive rights in defining truth and it is best seen as one world view among many.

Rationalism, critical thinking and spiritual progressiveness are all core values of enlightened Christians. Rationality needs to be tied to moral decency, though. Skepticism is the agent of reason against organized irrationalism. Liberal Christianity in a more general sense uses methods of biblical hermeneutics and higher criticism, which are more individualistic methods of understanding God through the use of scripture by applying the same modern hermeneutics used to understand any ancient writings. Myths are an important part of the Bible, but not the only one. Reducing the Bible to a set of myths is narrow minded and it doesn’t make sense.

It’s silly to assume that the atheist view of our universe is the only reasonable one. It’s silly to believe that science can explain everything and answer every question. It’s silly to confuse philosophical assessments with scientific findings. Science cannot show us the ultimate big picture.

Scientific method is an extremely powerful tool explaining phenomena in our world. But scientific method cannot tell us why there are phenomena for us to observe in the first place and why the natural laws are the way they are. Scientific method cannot tell us anything about the purpose of the universe or the meanings of our lives.

Yes, people misuse religion to oppress people in the name of religion. People also misuse science to develop bio-weapons or nuclear bombs which are dropped on cities full of living human beings. People misuse healthy forms of commerce and trade to serve their own selfish needs. The list goes on.

Our world is not perfect, but we can make it a better place to live in.

lapilofu's avatar

“Myths are an important part of the Bible, but not the only one. Reducing the Bible to a set of myths is narrow minded and it doesn’t make sense.” I’m not sure I understand what that means. All I mean by myths is that they’re stories and they’re fictional. I certainly believe it’s possibly to extract meaning out of any work of fiction. Is that all you mean?

With the exception of your brief mention of “understanding God” I take no issue with religion as you describe it. Religion sounds very much like an English or Philosophy major. I don’t understand why God need have anything to do with it.

And that’s a good point about the misuse of science. I don’t know how I missed that. I’ll have to consider.

mattbrowne's avatar

Myths and fiction are different. Parables and fiction are different. Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth is a piece of fiction. He invented characters and events to illustrate the time when real historical events were taking place. He tells a story.

I was referring to this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_criticism

and this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_hermeneutics

Everyone on Fluther knows that I take no issue with atheism either. Many of my best friends here on Fluther are atheists. People have to find answers to all the important questions of their lives and all of these answers might be different. I believe in free thought and the freedom of religion which includes the right not to believe in God. We live in countries that allow us this freedom. I’m exercising my rights too. I chose an evolving liberal Christianity as my religion. That’s all. I respect all other choices as long as people do not get hurt. Very often fundamentalist Christianity does hurt people big time. That’s wrong and unacceptable and I will fight against it with all the power of my words.

zophu's avatar

@mattbrowne There’s no single atheistic view, that’s the point. The biggest problem with a religion isn’t that its teachings are wrong, it’s that it spreads its teachings to large groups of people at a time. There are reasons the many diverse scientific world-views involve terms like theory and hypothesis.

You’re defending religion by promoting the very quality of humanity it abuses—diversity. Tolerant people don’t tolerate intolerance. If a religion holds truths absolutely, it is naturally intolerant to ways-of-thinking that are incompatible with the holding of those absolute truths. And where there’s an absolute, there is controversy.

Whether or not you are accepting of others and their views, religion is naturally unaccepting of anything that would negate its truth. Otherwise, it would be philosophy, where controversy is seen as a opportunity for mutual learning—not an inevitably one-sided enlightenment/condemnation, or for nicer religions, enlightenment/not-enlightenment-but-maybe-cake-later.

I don’t buy it. If someone believes they’ve got the way of the world spelled out for themselves and their order, anyone who doesn’t see it like they do is less enlightened, thus less worthy. Any “religion” that truly accepts that there are other ways of viewing the world, isn’t a religion—or it at least deserves a different name.

mattbrowne's avatar

@zophu – No one has to buy anything here. I was merely explaining how I see the world and what answers work for me at this point in my life. Yes, tolerant people don’t tolerate intolerance. Spiritual people are people who consciously seek meaning in their lives and engage in reflection of their inner self. Religion is not a requirement for this endeavor.

Most of my thinking is actually a lot closer to atheists than most of the more conservative religious people I know. I disagree with your view that religion is naturally unaccepting of anything that would negate its truth. As I said, religions do evolve. Maybe you’ve heard of Michael Lerner’s Network of Spiritual Progressives. Many atheists are part of his network. Why? Let me quote from his website:

‘We in the NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) use the word “spiritual” to include all those whose deepest values lead them to challenge the ethos of selfishness and materialism that has led people into a frantic search for money and power and away from a life that places love, kindness, generosity, peace, non-violence, social justice, awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation, thanksgiving, humility and joy at the center of our lives.

So we include in our meaning of “spiritual” all dimensions of life that cannot fit into a scientistic or narrowly empiricist frame. We reject the notion that all that is real or all that can be known is that which can be subject to empirical justification or can be measured. On the contrary, we know that love, kindness, generosity, awe and wonder, art, ethics, and music are just some of the obvious parts of life that cannot be understood or adequately captured by scientism and which we value. We call those aspects spiritual. So it’s easy to understand that someone can be spiritual and yet not be particularly interested in most existing conceptions of God or religion. Of course, there are many others, including some of the founders and leaders of the NSP (but not by any means all of them) who do find their spiritual nourishment in their relationship to God or their religious tradition, and they too are part of our community.

But there is a huge problem when social change movements stay away from anything that calls itself spiritual. We believe that many of the secular movements that exist in the world today actually have deep spiritual underpinnings, but often they are themselves unaware of those foundations, unable or unwilling to articulate them and sometimes even holding a knee-jerk antagonism to explicit spiritual or religious language. This antagonism limits their effectiveness, though it derives from legitimate anger at the way that the language of spirituality and religion has been sometimes used to justify war, oppression, sexism, racism, homophobia, ecological indifference, or insensitivity to the suffering of the poor and the homeless of the world.

Solidarity means that we affirm our responsibility towards each other within our families, within our nation, and within our spiritual/religious community — and also beyond the narrow boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and geography. We affirm the obligation to actively resist injustice and refuse to take part in it even when we can’t prove that our resistance will produce change. In solidarity with the oppressed, we wish to see the democratization of economic and political institutions and a redistribution of wealth so that all people can share equally and sustainably in the benefits of the planet. We hope to have the courage—in the tradition of the Jewish prophets and interpreters of Torah, in the spirit of Jesus and the early Christian communities of resistance to Rome, in the spirit of Muhammed, in the spirit of the activists of the labor & civil rights and feminist and gay rights movements—to speak truth to power. Tikkun is a Jewish magazine, but the Tikkun Community is an interfaith organization (and welcoming to agnostics and orthodox atheists as well).”

http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php/spiritual__butnot

I can also recommend the so-called “Spiritual Covenant with America”.

http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php/covenant

Atheists who think that religion which truly accepts that there are other ways of viewing the world, isn’t a religion, are victims of the religious right and all their hate mongering and brainwashing via the media. Who gives these nutcases the right to define what true religion is? I don’t.

lapilofu's avatar

@mattbrowne In response to your earlier comment about the atheistic view not being the only view, I think Christopher Hitchens put it best when he said this:

“We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors. But we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason.”

I don’t believe for a moment that science is the only lens through which to understand the world, but I’m suspicious of any lens which is mutually exclusive with good science—including belief in a supernatural God.

As far as spirituality, I agree with your point that we should not move away from it. But spirituality and religion are entirely different things—the Dalai Lama, who I consider one of the wisest living men, holds this distinction:

“Religion I take to be concerned with belief in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another [..] Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others.”

It seems to me that you are conflating (perhaps deliberately) the two. I agree that the so-called New Atheists have a problem with spirituality in that they’re reluctant to address it and when they do address it, they tend to reject it—because it has been so closely tied to religion through history. But as @zophu pointed out there is no single atheistic point of view.

In modern times we have philosophy and psychology as distinct from religion and I believe spirituality thrives best in those fields. A strong spirituality does not imply belief in God, nor vice-versa. Sam Harris (an atheist in that he doesn’t believe in God, not an atheist in that he eschews the name) makes a good case for atheists to consider spiritual practices. Not all of us reject spirituality. Sam Harris doesn’t. I don’t. And, I think, fewer of us each day.

mattbrowne's avatar

@lapilofu – Fair enough. Like for religions, there are different forms of atheism, and yes, there is no single atheistic point of view. Dawkins’s “God Delusion” probably had the effect of spreading its teachings to large groups of people at a time, but this movement doesn’t represent all atheists.

zophu's avatar

@mattbrowne Science can answer everything, theoretically.

Science isn’t just a collection of facts, it’s the collection of methods for becoming more aware of the natural world. That is spirituality to me—awareness of the natural world. The imperfections of science are in its incompleteness, for even its pure flaws are just problems that need to be solved. Science doesn’t officially hold anything in contempt, it just makes use of the seemingly most reliable methods of understanding. That doesn’t mean everyone must either follow these common methods or give up on science all together for their spiritual views.

The so called “good science” is just more picky science that is very useful for doing things that have been done before and sight variations of things that have been done before. But that’s not all of science. Almost any complex idea can be adapted to fit into a scientific perspective with a little creativity. There’s no true incorrect when it comes to things like this, because there’s no real certainty when it comes to science. The data is read as best it can be, and theories are formed around that. If the data suddenly reads differently, the theories will suddenly be formed differently. By its very nature, science accepts diverse points-of-view—just not so quickly into “good science.”

Spirituality, in general, can be incorporated. In fact, I find spirituality to be naturally incorporated into science. I don’t piece together theories and try to make myself a dogma. But I do feel inspired while reading interesting facts about the animal world, or learning something new about human psychology. I don’t know what else to call that besides spirituality, and I feel religion disrespects this spirituality by depending upon false certainty that science ultimately looks beyond.

Science is more mysterious than mysticism, because it acknowledges the constant unknown, but doesn’t kneel down and glorify it. It moves further into it in exploration.

Qingu's avatar

Saying something is a “myth” doesn’t mean that special pleading is no longer a fallacy.

The fact that Adam and Eve are “myths” does not mean there’s any more truth in them then in Obi Wan Kenobi.

Also, while its true that myths can convey symbolic meaning and moral messages, those can also be bad or untrue. For example, the mythic “message” of the Adam and Eve story is, arguably, that it is wrong to desire knowledge at the expense of blind obedience. That is a terrible message.

RANGIEBABY's avatar

@zophu There’s no single atheistic view That doesn’t make sense to me. The way I see it is only one view. An atheist does not believe in God. What other view is there?

zophu's avatar

@RANGIEBABY I believe a gigantic tribe of purple buffalo rule the universe, ultimately determining what happens to all of us and everything. They are not a god, and they are not gods, and it would be very disrespectful to call them such. I am offended that you would lump me in (praise the holy buffalo lumps!) lump me in with the heathen atheists that do not follow the wise-beyond-wise purple buffalo.

lapilofu's avatar

@RANGIEBABY I think what @zophu was trying to counteract people attaching a whole lot of other things to the word “atheist”—which they do frequently. (For instance I know people who think the word atheist implies a lack of wonder for the world, or that an atheist eschews all spirituality, &c.) All atheists believe there is no God or that God is extremely improbable, but that is as much is consistent among them—they also believe a whole slough of other things, none of them consistent from person to person.

RANGIEBABY's avatar

@lapilofu I was not referring to other beliefs or non beliefs of an atheist as a person. The word atheist does not describe an individual to me anymore than Christian does. It only tells me one small aspect of that person. Sorry if @zophu you were offended, but your interpretation of my statement, offended yourself. There was no lumping intended.

What are some of the reasons a person becomes an Athiest? is not different than asking why some people become a politician, etc. One single part of a person does not make up the whole person.

lapilofu's avatar

@RANGIEBABY Sure. And I would feel equally happy saying that there is no single political view. I guess the point is that we all believe there’s no God, but we all have different takes on what that means.

But this is really semantic at this point.

zophu's avatar

@RANGIEBABY I’m sorry if I made you think I was offended. may your days be lumpy and cushioned with violet fluff

mattbrowne's avatar

@zophu – You wrote

“Science can answer everything.”

Let’s call this statement X, so X = “Science can answer everything.”

Please note that X is a meta-scientific statement. X is a statement about science. It is not a scientific statement as such. What does this mean?

If X is true, we get a contradiction, because X is part of everything, but not part of science.

If X is false, the statement contradicts itself, so we get an oxymoron. Ergo, we found at least one statement science cannot answer, i.e. cannot determine whether it is true or false.

QED

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – I never claimed that all symbolic messages or advice in myths must necessarily be good ones. I merely pointed out that myths are not about a woman actually eating an apple or talking to a snake. The same goes for the portrayal of a vengeful deity. I always stress that atheists and believers apply critical thinking and use multiple sources of wisdom.

Some atheists think they don’t need critical thinking, because by definition atheists are superior in their thinking. To me telling people that myths are nonsense and religion is evil because we all know snakes can’t talk and that Jesus hates homosexuals doesn’t show a lot of critical thinking.

mattbrowne's avatar

@RANGIEBABY – There are nuances in the forms of atheism for example. Check this out

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weak_atheism

Qingu's avatar

@mattbrowne, but the people who wrote the myth actually believed it at face value.

It boggles my mind that in all of our conversations, you haven’t internalized this. The ancient Hebrews believed in a literal Adam and Eve. The ancient Hebrews, like everyone else in the region at the time, thought the sky was really a solid dome, and that a sky god made humans from clay, and literally destroyed the earth in a deluge when these humans annoyed him.

The only reason modern religious people don’t take these myths at face value is because they have been proven false.

And I don’t know if the real Jesus hated homosexuals; it certainly wouldn’t surprise me since I would assume your run of the mill Jewish mystery cult leader wouldn’t differ much from the popular consensus in that regard. But if you believe—as Christians do—that Jesus is Yahweh, the Jewish god, then it follows that he feels the same way about homosexuals that Yahweh does (i.e. that they are sinful abominations).

What critical thinking am I missing here? Are we even talking about the same “Jesus”? Because you seem to have this conception of Jesus that is based on the movie “Jesus Christ Superstar” more than anything in the historical or religious record.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – It boggles my mind too that you can’t grasp the notion that the psyche of ancient people worked in a different way and literally believing in a myth for them was not the same as for modern people like creationists literally believing in a myth. You mentioned several times that Karen Armstrong’s concepts don’t make sense to you. I can live with this. Her concepts make a lot of sense to me. I won’t go into this again because we keep going in circles. Jesus Christ Superstar? Excuse me? I’m under the impression you think that methods like higher criticism or biblical hermeneutics are not worth looking into. Fine. So let’s stick with quoting deuteronomy for the umteenth time. It’s worth plenty of lurve for sure. Religion matters to me and I’ve explained in the Fluther blog interview why this is so. People can agree with it or not.

We’re getting sidetracked here. The topic are the reasons for becoming an atheist. We can continue our debate in some other thread. And I got a terrible headache today. I’m ready for a vacation.

Qingu's avatar

I am very interested in “hermeneutics,” although frankly I despise that term. Just say “interpretation.”

I think I have a more intellectually honest interpretation of these ancient myths than Karen Armstrong does, and I’ve defended this assertion numerous times.

zophu's avatar

@mattbrowne I implied that science could answer everything, theoretically (or hypothetically)—not with proper proof necessarily. The purpose of science isn’t ultimately to define existence; it’s here to help us deal with existence, generally, by sharing the seemingly most effective assumptions about it. Even the laws are just guidelines, there because they are especially reliable, not because they are essentially authoritative, (although it makes sense that people often see them that way, because things can pretty much always be reduced to them.) Even raw traditional religion can be scientifically accepted in a way. It’s just when one applies the general assumptions of science with the assumptions of most religions one gets dysfunctional controversies about how to go about things most effectively.

The problem with religion isn’t that it’s proven wrong by science, it’s that it ignores it. Maybe you’re doing the only thing that can be done when being both religious and scientific—split them down the middle, giving attention to both. But I don’t see a reason to do that. Many great scientific ideas began with very unscientific ways of thinking; why not take what is good about religion and make it compatible with science without having to create a barrier between the two? I think it can be done with enough work. Otherwise, it seems like cultural kowtowing.

It isn’t over-reasoning that’s the problem—it’s just that we’ve reasoned so many things lately, we’ve been overwhelmed and made confused. We have to organize our confusing reasoning, not turn away from it. Religion seems like a dodge of this responsibility to me. But maybe it’s a necessary salve for certain cultures—if practiced well.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – The term interpretation is fine with me. Try

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_interpretation

and you will get

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_hermeneutics

It’s just a convention when using particular terms.

@zophu – Let me quote from the Fluther blog to clarify what I meant:

“Seth Lloyd, who is a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, compares our universe to a giant computer running a program called the natural laws. Theists believe in divine authorship of this program, while atheists believe the program has the capability to write itself. Both views are acceptable to me.

Danah Zohar, who is a management thought leader, physicist, and philosopher, points out that our search for meaning is the primary motivation in our lives. Some call this search a spiritual endeavor. And it is when this deep need for meaning goes unmet that our lives come to feel shallow or empty. Our modern age seems to be defined by the breakdown of family and community and traditional religion, and the loss or absence of heroes. We live at a time when there seem to be no clear goalposts, no clear rules, no clear values, no clear way to grow up, and no clear vision of responsibility. Zohar argues that this spiritual void has come about as a product of our high human IQ. We have reasoned ourselves away from nature and our fellow creatures, and we have reasoned ourselves beyond religion. In our great technological way forward, we have left traditional culture with its embedded values behind.

I agree with her assessment. Deprived of a deep, meaningful center, many people seek meaning in distorted or peripheral activities like materialism, greed, violence, an obsession with health and beauty, drug abuse or New Age occultism. Eventually this can lead to cynicism and despair or mere conformity. So I keep looking for different answers and I think modern forms of religions have a lot to offer. There’s more to it than many people realize. I also think that a good metaphysical and ethical framework for our lives does not necessarily depend on (organized) religion. We should tap into all sources of wisdom available. To me God represents the ultimate framework of meaning and value, what Danah Zohar calls the ultimate context-giver and the ultimate ‘big picture’. We should all try to figure out our big picture and I know many people will find different answers. That’s perfectly fine. I was trying to outline what works for me.”

zophu's avatar

I read most of your interview before I posted. I still think any religion people could practice and still be healthy—culturally, not just individually and in small groups—wouldn’t be a true religion. I believe any religion that does question itself constantly, would either melt into science as it pulls its head further out the ass of politics, or become more “fundamentalistic” in resistance to the new science. But I guess that’s the transition that we’re in, working to make science adequate enough to give reliable structure to all of humanity’s general needs and explorations, including spirituality.

Science helps build social systems where people don’t have good virtue because they are told to have good virtue, but because they are made aware of a world that needs good virtue to sustain itself—enabling individuals to invent their own sets of right and wrong, often unconsciously and often on the fly. It’s about giving people the ability to constantly reinvent themselves, not designing them ourselves following some blueprint of good virtue we came up with before they were born. A “good religion” would teach this to their children and offer their rules only as suggested guidelines, but that still seems to me to just be philosophy.

Purpose isn’t found in the heavens, it’s found in work that’s believed in. And not all of us can convince ourselves that there is righteous work to be done based on laws from some god; we have to invent our own meaning in more creative ways. Not that ways shouldn’t be shared and even adopted, just not so incestuously. If a religion follows a way of thinking similar to this, it’s not going to survive for very long that way. It is like a gas, it will either disperse or condense.

But I’m being redundant. I see your point. We have to do what we have to do to have deeper meaning than just what’s offered to us just by science. I think it must be done through revolution; demanding social significance for everyone’s daily works so that most people can have their meaning. I think any functional spirituality within this dysfunctional society is over-synthetic and incomplete. But maybe that’s just because I have been incredibly cynical since I was four-years-old, starting mini-revolts against preschool teachers on the playground apparently. Was a Christian school now that I think about it. Maybe that’s the real reason I’m atheistic.

mattbrowne's avatar

I believe that any modern religion needs the capability to question itself. And the answers will help us keep the good and eliminate the bad. But it is a reality that some forms of religion (perhaps practiced in your Christian school) keep the bad and eliminate the good. I can certainly understand the reasons why you are an atheist.

RANGIEBABY's avatar

@mattbrowne Thank you for the link. I didn’t k ow that. But then I suppose that is one of the reasons I asked this question. I want to understand why people think what the think, it give me a wider comprehension of things outside my little world.

mattbrowne's avatar

@RANGIEBABY – You’re welcome :-)

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther