I still have beliefs, do you?

June 14, 2007 at 5:46 am 47 comments

EclipseIt’s a familiar accusation that arises when religious people interact with atheists and agnostics: “You don’t believe in anything. How can life even matter to you? It must be horribly depressing to believe in nothing!”

The sentiment is inaccurate, but it’s not hard to understand. Strictly defined, a-theism is simply non-belief in god(s); a-gnosticism is not knowing whether there’s a god, or admitting that the question can’t be answered. There’s even a new memoir out by an atheist called (you guessed it), Nothing.

When I first shed 30 years of evangelical Christianity, I felt great relief and freedom in the realization that atheism was simply an absence of belief. After all, I’d spent my entire life reciting theological creeds, signing church mission statements and listening to authority figures and holy texts tell me what was – and wasn’t – approved for my belief. I wore myself out trying to reconcile church teachings with my often-contradictory gut instincts and personal observations; and trying to reconcile one group’s absolute teaching with another that also claimed to be “the only right way” to believe.

It was liberating to put all that behind me.

But just because I no longer hold supernatural beliefs of any kind, that doesn’t mean I “believe in nothing.” It’s just that now, I get to evaluate and define my beliefs for myself, something I’ve been working on recently.

I must admit, I’m much more careful now about deciding what I believe – and what I don’t. For the time being, I don’t belong to any humanist organizations that could provide me with a framework of positive beliefs: Swallowing an entire belief system when I was a child, and then struggling to live within that system as I matured, didn’t serve me well. So perhaps I’m gun-shy about joining any group. That may change eventually.

I also strive to hold my beliefs loosely, and I’m open to scrapping some and picking up others over time. Indeed I welcome such changes, as I hope they would provide evidence of my continued growth as a person.

It seems to me that, if we are to encourage more people to let go of their intellectual and emotional clinging to religion and superstition and tradition, we need to present them with some positive alternatives. Pushing them out into a moral void, or telling them to “follow the scientific method,” might work for some, but those options are unattractive, amorphous and frightening to many people.

So … what DO I believe? Here are a few thoughts, but this is by no means a comprehensive list:

I believe in logic and reason, tempered by compassion and humility. I believe that skepticism and the scientific method are the best means we have for evaluating claims of all kinds. I believe in the power of love and mercy, the transformative nature of education and the ability of art to unite us by illuminating our shared humanity. I believe that, without any need for supernatural origins or governance, “life will out.” I believe in progress and the power of the human mind to continue solving problems and deciphering the mysteries of the universe. I believe in optimism and the potential for every human being to choose good over evil.

Far from showing me to be cynical, depressed or angry, these beliefs probably expose me as an utter Pollyanna! I know that I have a much more positive worldview now than I did as a theist, when I was convinced that humanity was corrupt, people were evil and the world was “all going to burn” – and not a moment too soon!

What about you? If you no longer hold religious beliefs, what do you believe and how did you decide what you believe? Have you joined any secular groups that hold principles of belief? If you are still a religious believer, do your personal beliefs sometimes differ from established doctrine?

- Karen

Entry filed under: Karen. Tags: , , , , , .

Modern Christianity: Believe in a loving God in spite of the Bible Inconsistent beliefs within Christianity

47 Comments Add your own

  • 1. agnosticatheist  |  June 14, 2007 at 12:00 am

    Karen,

    I like your beliefs. I’ve started a project also to come up with a list of beliefs. Is it just ex-Christians who desire to have some sort of beliefs?

    aA

  • 2. Sue Ann Edwards  |  June 14, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Even belief in nothing is a belief.

    Personally, my beliefs are Unity based. There is only one Infinity, one Eternity and one Whole. I claim Sovereignty over my own Life. I am my own authority, claiming absolute responsiblity and accountibility for the ideas in my head, the way those ideas are related together and the resultant emotions I experience as a consequence of that thinking. I am of totally sound mind, which means at no time in my thinking process, do I form any contradictions.

    I believe in response ability. I am in charge of how I respond to life. I will reap exactly as I sow. Cause and effect. Choice and consequence.

  • 3. mysteryofiniquity  |  June 14, 2007 at 7:48 am

    Karen,
    Well said, and admirable goals in that paragraph of “beliefs.” Like you I’m willing to change my beliefs if I’m proven wrong (or right). Like you, I’m done with others telling me to sign this or that covenant so that later they can hold it over me should I stray from the text or change my mind. If beliefs aren’t fluid and open to change then they are dogma and dogma is a box wrapped tightly. I am proudly iconoclastic. :-)

  • 4. HeIsSailing  |  June 14, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Karen sez:
    ” I believe in optimism and the potential for every human being to choose good over evil.”

    Karen, I like your “creed” and will add it to Ingersol’s ‘Secularism’ as optomistic and valuable ways to view our lives without God. I will admit though, that without having a moral standard imposed on me, I struggle with concepts like ‘good’ and ‘evil’. I don’t see how there can be a universal standard for either.

    The best I can for right now is call evil those things that do harm or injustice to fellow human beings. Yes, I am making myself the frame of reference regarding morality, but that is the best anyone can do. Without divine authority, it makes the boundaries of what is acceptable much looser – and much more difficult to define.

    Well, more difficult to somebody who has just left a very morally restrictive religion anyway. Give me some time.

    Let me give a few examples. As a Christian, I HAD to believe that homosexuality was a sin. I saw no way biblically to get around that. I have known many gay men and women, and as much as I tried to ‘love the sinner and hate the sin’, the truth was I just did not care about their sex lives. I could never witness to them about the Gospel because I would be forced at some point to tell them their homosexuality was a sin and an abomination before the God who loved them. Call me spineless, but I just could not say that to them.

    Then the political issue of gay marraige came up, and the only reason I could think of for being against it was religious reasons. Secretly, I really just did not care, and yes homosexuality is weird and foreign to me, and I will never be able to relate to it, but the truth is, I just did not care who people wanted to love, to make love with, to spend their lives with, or whatever. But I HAD to care, and I HAD to hate the sin.

    Now? I no longer am forced to hate the sin. Gay marraige? Why not? Commitment itself is far more important then who you are committed to.

    My beliefs have changed in other ways, and I am still feeling this life with God out with my wife. I sometimes wonder about life’s meaning, or lack theirof, if their is no Divine Grand Plan.

  • 5. Karen  |  June 14, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    I like your beliefs. I’ve started a project also to come up with a list of beliefs. Is it just ex-Christians who desire to have some sort of beliefs?

    Most of the humanist and secularist groups have some kind of statement of beliefs that they’ve adopted in their charters. These can give you something to start with. I like the Institute for Humanist Studies, which is based in Albany, N.Y. They have a free podcast I listen to and a very interesting e-newsletter that comes out about once a month. Here’s their definition of humanism:

    http://www.humaniststudies.org/humphil.html

    One of the funny things I found out when I first started exploring this was that I had this strong, negative reaction to the word “humanism”! I realized it was because pastors had villified “secular humanists” from the pulpit for so many years – I think they were on the same level with “carnal Christians” – I was actually scared of thinking of myself as one. :-)

  • 6. Karen  |  June 14, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    I believe in response ability. I am in charge of how I respond to life. I will reap exactly as I sow. Cause and effect. Choice and consequence.

    I agree with you, to the extent that we have the ability to choose our circumstances. Most people in the world have nowhere near the freedom of choice that those of us in developed countries do.

    But certainly we all have the responsibility to react in the best means possible to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

  • 7. Karen  |  June 14, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Like you, I’m done with others telling me to sign this or that covenant so that later they can hold it over me should I stray from the text or change my mind. If beliefs aren’t fluid and open to change then they are dogma and dogma is a box wrapped tightly. I am proudly iconoclastic. :-)

    Yes! It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? And I love being able to say that my beliefs may change and probably should over time as society changes.

    I get Bishop John Spong’s enewsletter and yesterday’s had to do with gender-inclusive language in the church. He related how when he was first publishing in the early ’70s, neither he nor his publisher had any qualms at all about using masculine pronouns throughout his books. It just wasn’t questioned!

    A dozen years later, when he updated the books in the mid-80s, he made 3,500 changes in the text of a 180-page book, mostly to remove sexist language. It had gone from being a non-issue to an important value for him in the space of 12 years. This is why I feel it’s imperative to hold beliefs loosely and re-evaluate them often.

    Of course, that idea is completely heretical to fundamentalists, who warn loudly against evolving beliefs, EVER. This will lead to total moral collapse, etc. etc. The interesting thing is, they will tell you their morals and core values have NEVER changed in 2000 years, but if you scrutinize the facts even superficially, it’s easy to see that’s not true.

  • 8. Karen  |  June 14, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Karen, I like your “creed” and will add it to Ingersol’s ‘Secularism’ as optomistic and valuable ways to view our lives without God.

    The great freethinkers of the 19th century have wonderful input on this question. I’ve only just recently discovered people like Ingersoll, Bertrand Russell and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but I think they have a lot to add in terms of positive non-religious beliefs.

    The best I can for right now is call evil those things that do harm or injustice to fellow human beings. Yes, I am making myself the frame of reference regarding morality, but that is the best anyone can do. Without divine authority, it makes the boundaries of what is acceptable much looser – and much more difficult to define.

    Well, more difficult to somebody who has just left a very morally restrictive religion anyway. Give me some time.

    No worries! It’s a huge leap going from a place where all your beliefs and values were stringently codified for you and pounded into your head ad nauseum to a place where you’re sort of “out there on your own” developing a personal belief system. It’s scary!

    Of course this is one of the major objections religious people have to the idea of agnosticism/atheism. You’ll hear it constantly – the “you can’t be good without god” argument. Or the argument that if we’re all allowed to pick and choose what we want to believe, society will go to hell in a handbasket.

    But there are certain universal ideas of good and evil that seem to have evolved over the millennia of humankind. As the IHS puts it: “Humanist philosophies have arisen separately in many different cultures over many thousands of years.” I don’t think we need an elaborate code of supernatural beliefs to detect and abide by those core cultural values.

  • 9. Karen  |  June 14, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    I wanted to mention a couple of other resources. A friend from my ex-fundy support group wrote an essay on meaning and “spirituality” for non-religious people that I really like and have recommended several times:

    http://www.skepchick.org/spirituality4.html

    PZ Myers, a science blogger and strong atheist, wrote a long essay a couple days ago about meaning and the godless worldview. I don’t always agree with him – he’s often far too caustic toward religious people and ideas – but I always find his writing provocative and his science worthwhile:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/06/we_stand_awed_at_the_heights_o.php

  • 10. societyvs  |  June 14, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    “If you are still a religious believer, do your personal beliefs sometimes differ from established doctrine?” (Karen)

    Definitely. I still believe in ‘following Christ’ but I think to actually follow this faith is something that takes a lot of time and thought and cannot be easily doctrinated. I also see the majority of chuch belief being based on current ideas in society – ex: churches run like businesses or views about what ‘worship’ being music.

    I have my problems with the structure of the church (in general) since I have seen a lot of hypocrisy in people that follow a very narrow dogmatic faith. I just don’t understand why this faith has become a ‘believe correctly’ ideology – when the majority of church belief mimics traditions passed down. So maybe what churches rail against they are also committing – ie: Pharisee ideas within the gospels.

    So I have my disagreeance with the Christian faith in regards to interpretation of the scriptures they consider ‘holy’. This is where the majority of my angst begins with the faith – but as for the values within the faith – I find nothing wrong with the gospel teachings (if conssidered and weighed correctly).

  • 11. Sue Ann Edwards  |  June 14, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    No, circumstances do not matter, accountibility for response ability still stands. What you may be attributing to circumstances, is in reality, a level attained in emotional coping skills.

  • 12. HeIsSailing  |  June 14, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Karen sez:
    “Of course this is one of the major objections religious people have to the idea of agnosticism/atheism. You’ll hear it constantly – the “you can’t be good without god” argument. ”

    Oh sure, I used to witness the Gospel that way. My argument was that people are fallable and cannot rightly define what was right and wrong on their own. The notions of ‘following your heart’ or ‘trusting your feelings’ were very deceptive since our feelings do not have a universal scope of morality like God does. God makes things easier. He has defined our morality for us, and gives us boundaries which makes life much easier!

    Well, that was my argument anyway. I admit that the cliche ‘follow your heart’ still irks me, but in reality I think this is what people do, with religion or without. The Bible is not clear in many circumstances what is right or wrong and their are huge margins of uncertainty for the Christian moralist. I am pretty convinced that, in the end, people, whether Christian or not, really decide in their own hearts what is acceptable morality.

  • 13. Martha Mihaly  |  June 14, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Karen,
    I have found that far too many people associate ‘being a good person’ with ‘being religious’.

    If I think of the two kindest people I know, one is devoutly Christian, the other an athiest. I don’t think anyone should wear their beliefs on their sleave.

    I believe that one should act in a moral fashion -in a manner that one would like their own parents or children treated. One should be kind,fair, and honest and open. Empathy is undervalued as is compassion, in today’s world. So is silence. A sense of humor is always a good thing too.

  • 14. salahudin  |  June 14, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Amen, Karen. :P

  • 15. Karen  |  June 14, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Salam alaikum, salahudin! :-)

  • 16. pastorofdisaster  |  June 14, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    It is obvious that you are informed by positive beliefs. It is refreshing to read someone say, “I know that I have a much more positive worldview now than I did as a theist…” I hope that you keep moving in that life affirming direction.

  • 17. Karen  |  June 14, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    No, circumstances do not matter, accountibility for response ability still stands. What you may be attributing to circumstances, is in reality, a level attained in emotional coping skills.

    Maybe I’m not following you. How can you say “circumstances do not matter” to the African woman who exists at the subsistence level in a culture with a 30-year life expectancy, no possibility to become educated, and a very high probability of dying in childbirth without having a chance to travel more than 50 miles from her birthplace?

    Yes, I agree that the way we respond to circumstances does matter a great deal, but certainly some circumstances vastly limit our ability to respond meaningfully.

  • 18. Karen  |  June 14, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    It is obvious that you are informed by positive beliefs. It is refreshing to read someone say, “I know that I have a much more positive worldview now than I did as a theist…” I hope that you keep moving in that life affirming direction.

    Thanks, pastor! :-)

  • 19. salahudin  |  June 14, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    oh no! you said salaam! but i’m an apostate! help! i’m burning and melting… !!! aahHHhHHHhhHrggghh

  • 20. Karen  |  June 14, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    I believe that one should act in a moral fashion -in a manner that one would like their own parents or children treated. One should be kind,fair, and honest and open. Empathy is undervalued as is compassion, in today’s world. So is silence. A sense of humor is always a good thing too.

    Absolutely!

  • 21. Sue Ann Edwards  |  June 14, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Karen, the perspective you entertain is unconnected and unrelated to what people believe. It is what people believe, that actually magnetizes the circumstances and experiences they encounter in life.

    What has the woman in Africa been taught to think and believe about herself? Because her life is everything she has ever imagined. if she does’t like it, then she needs to iamgine something different.

    The key issues is Self ino our own indiviudal lives and none seen in the lives of others.

    I’ll cite Iraq as an example. Cultures where self discpline and self governing are not valued, require dictators for any kind of workable society. Just take a good look at it.

    Civilization is a created result of when individuals choose to be civil and respectful towards one another. That’s not Iraq. And as their behavoir has transgressed in civility, so have they lost all the accutrements of a civilized society. There will be no Peace in Iraq until such time as there are peaceful beings who live there.

    The next hot sopt will be central and south america, simply because the people there do not choose to be accountible as their own Authority in life. They yield that to ‘The Church’. This decision, to not be responsible and accoutible for the choices we make in life, for our beliefs and the costs and consqeunces of those beliefs, esp[cially psycholigical consequences, is what makes religions so attractive. If we say ‘well so and so said so’, then we don’t have to be accountible for anything.

    Notice that ‘security’ is an emotion. Why do I say notice it? Because psychological issues can only be resolved by using psychological tools. A great deal of money and lives have been wasted, simply because as a nation, we can’t face we have emotional problems. We’re immature and lacking in coping skills.

    I offer this. I don;t ask anyone to believe me. Absolutely not. Look for verification within your own heart and consciousness.

    What I know, is in integration with what reason and science are now discovering about the workings of the quantum field. I was just born cursed, you might say. I’ve been aware of these quantum currents all my life and have been watching them, learning how they interact with physical matter.

  • 22. Sue Ann Edwards  |  June 14, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Sorry for the typos…the key issue is Self Respect and Self Worth.

  • 23. agnosticatheist  |  June 14, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Sue Ann,

    Thanks for your comments. If you’d like your comments to link back to your blog, on your dashboard, click “My Profile” and enter the address to your blog in the “Website” field. Just found your blog today.

    Here’s the link for those who are interested:

    http://sueannedwards.wordpress.com/

    aA

  • 24. superhappyjen  |  June 14, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    I believe in the all mighty power of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Some people have been surprised that I’m an atheist because I’m so gosh darn cheerful all the time.

  • 25. Karen  |  June 15, 2007 at 2:00 am

    oh no! you said salaam! but i’m an apostate! help! i’m burning and melting… !!! aahHHhHHHhhHrggghh
    :-)

  • 26. Karen  |  June 15, 2007 at 2:06 am

    Karen, the perspective you entertain is unconnected and unrelated to what people believe. It is what people believe, that actually magnetizes the circumstances and experiences they encounter in life.

    What has the woman in Africa been taught to think and believe about herself? Because her life is everything she has ever imagined. if she does’t like it, then she needs to iamgine something different.

    Hmmm. This sounds very much like The Secret. Are you a follower of that philosophy or movement?

    I would have assume that anyone in those dire circumstances would imagine something different, whether that imagination would be sparked by fables, tribal tales, gossip, news from the outside world, or what have you. But how can imagining a different life change her circumstances, when they are largely if not completely beyond her control?

    Is there something magical connected to one’s imagination, do you think?

  • 27. mysteryofiniquity  |  June 15, 2007 at 9:09 am

    superhappyjen seems to be a ruse to get people to a bible web site.

  • 28. superhappyjen  |  June 15, 2007 at 10:35 am

    oops I made a typo! If I type my website URL just one character off it goes to a bible site. Grrr!

  • 29. agnosticatheist  |  June 15, 2007 at 10:50 am

    SHJ,

    LOL! I fixed the link in the previous comment.

    aA

  • 30. Justin  |  June 15, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Good post… I came across an interesting piece today that kind of has to do with this, but more so with a comment i read a while ago about “blind faith”…anyway, if you’re interested, take a look!

    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/marcus_borg/2007/06/blind_acceptance_is_idolatry.html

  • 31. Karen  |  June 15, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Very interesting, thanks Justin! I’ve always liked Marcus Borg. Interesting that the first commenter on that thread immediately calls him an atheist. :-)

  • 32. mysteryofiniquity  |  June 16, 2007 at 7:52 am

    superhappyjen,

    Oh, thank goodness! Thanks for changing it! :-)

  • 33. Sue Ann Edwards  |  June 16, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Thank you, I’m totally new at this and learning as I go. I understand what everyone is expressing because I’ve been there, too. if you want to communicate in terms of reason, then I use reason. If you want to communicate in terms of scripture, then I use scripture. The message I share is always the same.

    Anger is covering up hurt. Emotional and mental wounding. The concept of self sacrifice has not only ben misunderstood but, is one of the most UNloving ideas to ever be imagined.

    It’s only easy to sacrifice ourselves when we’ve been programmed to have little love or value for ourselves. See the inner workings of it?

    Sacre means sacred, facere means to make. Make sacred means to UPLIFT. Uplift ourselves from the hells of our own making, that believing in certain ideas created.

  • 34. Sue Ann Edwards  |  June 16, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    And oh…I was really delighted when The Secret came out. I recognize it as a ‘primer’, simply because I’ve been aware of what they are just starting to discover, for a long, long, time.

    I’ve been waiting for a time when what I’ve got of value to share, would be valued by others, too. I’m not about shoving things down people’s throats. I don’t preach.

    I offer, making no demands on others changing at all. If it resonates, then great, use it as I have. If it doesn’t, well then, it doesn’t. Don’t use it for it is not for you.

    Be True to your own heart and recognize feelings that ARE from the Heart, from those that aren’t.

    There’s a different feel to someone who does not relate in a way of competing for dominance. I’m not after taking anyone’s power. I’ve got my own, so I don’t compete for what I don’t need and can’t use. I have answers for those of us who desire to be so empowered.

  • 35. HeIsSailing  |  June 18, 2007 at 8:59 am

    Karen, I listened to Nica Lalli’s interview on Point of Inquiry yesterday. I enjoyed it, but I can’t share her view in her belief in ‘Nothing’. I guess the difference is in perspective. I had been a Christian for most of my life, where she was non-religious and was searching for some kind of identity.

    I also watched a couple of Atheist Dad’s videos (from AA’s ‘Confessions of a Former Christian’ post), and each video ends with the phrase, “Actions are more important than beliefs”. I like that and identify with it better.

    The next time I am asked what I believe, or what I am, I don’t think I will answer with ‘agnostic’ or ‘athiest’ or anything else that may have negative connotations for the Christian. I will answer with “I believe actions are more important than beliefs”. I like it! That is the most succinct, possitive and honest statement of where I am that I can think of right now.

  • 36. eye-of-horus  |  June 18, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    The little secret is — there is no system.

    eye-of-horus

  • 37. Steelman  |  June 18, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    HIS said: “I will answer with ‘I believe actions are more important than beliefs’. I like it!”

    I like it as well. It sounds quite similar to the Unitarian Universalist slogan of “deeds not creeds”, which I also like.

  • 38. Karen  |  June 18, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Karen, I listened to Nica Lalli’s interview on Point of Inquiry yesterday. I enjoyed it, but I can’t share her view in her belief in ‘Nothing’. I guess the difference is in perspective. I had been a Christian for most of my life, where she was non-religious and was searching for some kind of identity.

    Yup. There’s definitely a big difference in perspective between former-believers and never-believers.

    One thing I find amusing is how little the never-believers know about Christianity and how confused they can get trying to understand it. Having been raised with it, it doesn’t seem “weird” to me to discuss theology, but boy those details sound odd to a never-believer! Makes you realize how much growing up with something makes it seem “normal” even if it isn’t! It’s enlightening, actually.

    I like it as well. It sounds quite similar to the Unitarian Universalist slogan of “deeds not creeds”, which I also like.

    Yay! I’m going to use that also. I really like defining oneself in terms of a positive statement rather than a statement that starts out, “I don’t believe in …. (fill in the blank).”

  • 39. cragar  |  June 18, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    Karen, I’m a little late on this post as I have been on vacation (yay!), very good post and good discussion by all in the responses.

    It’s a familiar accusation that arises when religious people interact with atheists and agnostics: “You don’t believe in anything. How can life even matter to you? It must be horribly depressing to believe in nothing!”

    My wife would often ask this when we were first married. It was always hard to answer because it is difficult to explain. Life is for your friends and family. And once you have kids it is especially for them. This life matters a lot to me because I believe it’s the only one I get so I need to do the best I can while I am here.

    A theist lives to go on to the next life. I live to live in this one.

  • 40. polkadotty  |  June 19, 2007 at 8:11 am

    Well said. I have never been religious, and my personal belief is that I am a stronger and more compassionate person because of this (I’ve never had religion to act as a crutch through difficult times; I’ve never had anybody dictate to me who I should or should not approve of). I don’t believe that anybody really needs religion to tell them to treat other people kindly and not to cause intentional hurt; I do believe that too often certain religions tell their followers the opposite. I also believe I’m in danger of starting to ramble!

  • 41. Karen  |  June 19, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Thanks, crager, hope you had a great vacation. I’m in complete agreement with you. Another thing that seems to come up is the idea that one shouldn’t bother trying to help others if there is no ultimate judgment of humanity, or big “rescue” from the sky for those who are helpless and oppressed.

    To me, however, that doesn’t at all negate the power of doing a small thing for good that might just alleviate someone’s suffering for even a few minutes.

    First of all, we never know the repercussions of our actions and even the smallest act of kindness can have enormous consequences for good in so many ways. Second, so what if it doesn’t change the dynamic of the whole world? Isn’t giving that “cup of cold water” to a parched person a worthy act of compassion even if it only relieves his thirst for a few hours? For those that don’t think it is, I suggest they ask the thirsty person! :-)

    Well said. I have never been religious, and my personal belief is that I am a stronger and more compassionate person because of this (I’ve never had religion to act as a crutch through difficult times; I’ve never had anybody dictate to me who I should or should not approve of).

    Thanks polkadotty! I have to say I also think I’ve become much stronger as a person since throwing away the crutch.

    I actually went through the worst emotional crisis of my life around 2000, which actually became the catalyst for my starting to question religion. As I was in the midst of a terrible depression, midlife crisis, losing my mother – I was also losing my religious beliefs.

    It was absolutely terrible – I won’t minimize it – but I have to say I came out the other end a lot stronger and more confident in my ability to use community resources and handle downtimes competently.

    As I found I could no longer get comfort from prayer, reading the bible or going to church, I was forced to draw upon my own inner strength and optimism. I read a lot about the Buddhist ideas of recognizing hurt, allowing it to happen and then living in the moment, rather than wallowing in the past or worrying about the future. That worked for me better than clinging to god ever had before.

  • 42. salahudin  |  June 21, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    hey there. I wanted to add you guys to my msn list, to discuss some ideas i had as a fellow free thinker.

    email me… it must be listed in the comments section along with this post… *smiles*

  • 43. agnosticatheist  |  June 28, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    salahudin,

    Can you explain this request a bit more.

    aA

  • 44. salahudin  |  June 29, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Uhm… well, I wasn’t too comfortable in revealing what I had in mind openly… but then again, it’s not a national secret or anything. lol

    i was thinking our blogs could do consecutive posts on the crusades, with us criticizing our ex-religion’s mistakes etc.

    plus, just wanted to know more free thinkers online. :)

  • 45. agnosticatheist  |  June 30, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Oh ok… I guess I was confused about the “msn list” thing. Drop me an email and I’ll gladly respond – agnosticatheism@gmail.com

    aA

  • 46. lostgirlfound  |  October 22, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    I’m still struggling with the thought that “this is all there is.” While I think that’s where my energy, compassion, thougths need to be, I still wonder if there isn’t anything beyond myself… not to blame, or grovel at, but to think, “My limits are not the end of the world.” I’m a little afraid I would spiral into hedonism and apathyif “I” am all I have.

    I also wonder why, when I hear certain things, my heart is still tugged into the question. What is it that cries in me for the mystic? The spiritual? The unknown?

    Maybe it’s just the entirety of my life, and the condition it’s left me in. Maybe it’s because I know my shortcomings, and know I’m not a nice person on my own … belief in “something more” gives me hope that I may actually change … there’s something to shoot for?

    You guys know I’m still very new to this journey. The one thing I’m really “on” is no labels, though. I loved what HIS said, and I’d like to plagerize his statement: “The next time I am asked what I believe, or what I am, I don’t think I will answer with ‘agnostic’ or ‘athiest’ or anything else that may have negative connotations for the Christian(including “Christian” for me – lgf). I will answer with “I believe actions are more important than beliefs”. I like it! That is the most succinct, possitive and honest statement of where I am that I can think of right now.”

  • 47. The de-Convert  |  October 22, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    lostgirlfound,

    I’m a little afraid I would spiral into hedonism and apathy if “I” am all I have.

    My belief is that if one has a desire to “spiral into hedonism,” they will do so with or without a religious beliefs.

    Christianity teaches that we are wicked and wretched creatures without God. However, it’s not quite true. It’s a control mechanism to keep people addicted to the “drug” that will supposedly help them to be good. However, you can be good without that drug as is proven everyday by millions of people.

    The desire to be compassionate and kind is all you need. If you have that desire in you, with or without God, you can be compassionate and kind.

    Paul

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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