Challenging Religious Myths 2: Atheism is just another Religion

December 16, 2007 at 8:11 pm 28 comments

Myth 2: Atheism is just another religion.

Atheist Out CampaignThis myth is being resurrected again by people ranging from academics trying to counter some of the influence of the recent spate of books challenging faith, to extremists wanting atheists banned from American schools by using the ruling that religion and state must be kept separate.

It was the good Catholic G.K.Chesterton who sought to tease atheists by saying ‘there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it’. Atheists would reject his categories and go on to argue that there are at least three kinds of people; the two that Chesterton mentioned and a third category who know an unhelpful and untrue dogma when they see it and are quite capable of rejecting it.

Atheism, of course, is not another religion. Although non-theistic religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism exist, most religions, are based on a belief in gods or a god, and atheists reject such a notion. Let me quote A.C.Grayling who makes the point so elegantly:

By definition a religion is something centred on belief in the existence of supernatural agencies or entities in the universe; and not merely their existence, but their interest in human beings on the planet; and not merely their interest, but their particularly detailed interest in what humans wear, what they eat, when they eat it, what they read or see, what they treat as clean or unclean, who they have sex with and how and when; and so for a multitude of other things, like making women invisible beneath enveloping clothing, or strapping little boxes to their foreheads, or iterating formulae by rote five time a day, and so endlessly forth; with threats of punishment for getting any of it wrong. But naturalism (atheism) does not premise such belief. (P.29 in Grayling, A.C., (2007) Against All Gods. London: Oberon Books.)

Not only are there no supernatural beings in atheism, there are a whole load of other things that aren’t there either. All religions, including non-theist ones have clearly defined sets of beliefs, rituals, and practices. However, in atheism there are: no common beliefs, no laws or regulations, no churches or rituals, no unified concept of spirituality, no scriptures, no priesthood, no founders, no holidays, no identifying clothing (or underwear), no concept of the afterlife, and no creation myth. Individual atheists are free to work things out for themselves; the only common denominators are a rejection of the supernatural as a force for organising their lives, and a lack of bodies trying to instill uniformity of belief or practice.

Ah, say the theists, you must believe in something. You have replaced god with humankind. You just worship another god.

First, there is no worship, but just an acceptance that as we rely on human beings and the knowledge that they can bring to a matter to sort out the wheel mechanism for safely landing a jumbo jet and the brake mechanism in our cars, we can also listen to what they have to say about a whole range of other matters to, without feeling the need to invoke the supernatural. There is an understanding that human beings are fallible, a willingness to engage in logical argument about premises, a willingness to examine evidence, and a willingness to change in the light of new evidence. This isn’t religious. It is just saying that for most of our lives we use reason and science and common sense to get on with things, and we see no reason to abandon that (without evidence) on other matters.

Secondly, if atheists believe in the abilities of humankind (as opposed to a supernatural being), they believe in the sense of accepting something to be true. I believe that gravity causes things to fall. I believe that if it rains I will get wet. These are not religious beliefs – they are just accepting something as true, knowing that there is really substantial evidence for their truth. A lot of religious beliefs, however, are based on no evidence, or contrary evidence, and faith without proof is seen as a religious virtue.

Thirdly, the ‘you must believe in some god if you don’t believe in mine’ argument is just specious. If I say I don’t believe that unicorns exist, that isn’t a matter of religious faith. I’m not setting up a non-unicorn religion and saying that because I don’t believe in unicorns I have created the non-unicorn god. The fact that someone may not believe in the supernatural doesn’t mean that they therefore must have religious beliefs in a non-supernatural faith. It just means that they do not have evidence which reasonably convinces them that the supernatural exists.

Another twist to the argument has been for some theists to argue that by challenging the religious status quo, atheists are becoming ‘fundamentalist’ in their atheism. Such a charge is an attempt to try to hit below the belt, and it is often brought out every time atheists question the privileged position that some faiths have – for example, government money going to support religious schooling, various tax concessions, and bishops in the House of Lords.

I remember years ago hearing about a sociological study into mixed-sex conversations. It has been known for sometime that, broadly speaking, in mixed-sex conversations, men tend to dominate – for example they choose the conversation topic more often, they talk more, and they interrupt more. The researchers trained some women to behave differently and to try to introduce more topics, to interrupt more often, and to talk for longer. When they measured the interactions they found that the women achieved a tiny fraction of more presence, but to the men, it felt like the women had taken over the conversations. It is a bit like that with atheism and religion. For thousands of years the theists have set the agenda and spoken the loudest, but now the atheists are finding their voice and refusing to be so deferential and silent. If that means that atheists occasionally get called ‘fundamentalist’, so be it. They have a lot of catching up to do.

If the theists have good evidence and good arguments, let them join the debate. An atheist has nothing to fear from honest debate and evidence. Unfortunately many theists are resorting to authoritarian and historical protectionism. Some of them try to attack, not with debate and evidence, but with laws against blasphemy, with fatwas, with thug violence, with banning this and that, with loud screaming. Sadly, it has often been thus.

And if they want to attack by throwing in a faulty red-herring and saying that atheism is just another religion, I, for one, want to seriously challenge that.

- A Thinking Man

See also: Challenging Religious Myths 1: No Morality without Religion

Entry filed under: AThinkingMan. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

God is not Omnipotent Jesus and Politics

28 Comments Add your own

  • 1. John Pageless  |  December 16, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    No, in my opinion, atheism is not just another religion. It is, however, a paradigm – and much like religious have given assumptions concerning the nature of reality.

    Another point I would like to argue is concerning atheist fundamentalism. YES – most theist people would much rather atheist to act the role of a Victorian woman rather than being so “uppity.” I do not argue that aspect of your point. At the same time, there are a minority of atheist who would go so far as to say that all religions and spiritual practices need to be suppressed. That *is* the same as fundamentalism. It is an extremist view expressed by a minority that seeks to silence all opposition… it just doesn’t happen to have as much influence as fundamentalist Christians.

    Saying that Atheism is just another religion is incorrect. I agree with you there. But in my opinion, to think that Atheism doesn’t deal with the same issues and is therefore somehow above the fray isn’t being entirely honest either. Until Atheists, as a community, go beyond their need to justify their lack of religion, and religions over come their fear of reason applied to faith, I doubt that Atheism will be able to completely shake itself free of being placed in the same category as religion.

    You will most likely disagree with the arguments I present here. That’s okay. We all think a little differently.

    Namaste.

  • 2. Jersey  |  December 17, 2007 at 12:31 am

    I believe that gravity causes things to fall. I believe that if it rains I will get wet.

    I don’t believe in much, I only have ideas. As Chris Rock in Dogma states:

    He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it…I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. People die for it, people kill for it.

    The only god here is writer/directer Kevin Smith. :P

  • 3. Jersey  |  December 17, 2007 at 12:34 am

    P.S. I personally do not believe in religion, I usually only do my discussions online that counter theism and religion…but in the real world, I don’t care what my family and friends think, believe, or have ideas of, as long as there is no contempt for others. Too bad there sometimes is, and I get put down occasionally for defending the non-Christian stance. In the end, it shows how caring and tolerant I am, and how much more love they still need to learn and give. :)

  • 4. Rebecca  |  December 17, 2007 at 1:30 am

    John Pageless- I don’t think I can agree that Atheism is a paradigm, that would entail that it constrains or restricts Atheists thoughts in some way. If you’re a critically thinking Atheist than there if there is evidence you can accept it, you shouldn’t be able to overlook things either. But you’re right we all think differently.

    Onto the post, The biggest argument I’ve heard for Atheism being a kind of religion is that post-religion Atheists try to convert others to their Atheistic beliefs, as before they were (may have been) converting people to their Theistic beliefs. And I’ve heard that argument from two groups of people; Atheists who have always been Atheists, and Theists. Personally I can’t see how trying to convert people to your way of thinking makes it a religion.

    Sometimes I wonder if this argument, which I assume is put up by religious people and institutions, is made by people who just cannot imagine anyone living without a religion of some description. When religion is such a major part of your life and is the motivation for behaviours how can someone else have no religion.

    There’s not a hell of a lot that’s uniform through the Atheistic view. No real end of the world ideas or real rules or punishments which are clearly defined.

    Anyway, Atheism is disbelief not belief.

  • 5. salient  |  December 17, 2007 at 2:18 am

    JP “At the same time, there are a minority of atheist who would go so far as to say that all religions and spiritual practices need to be suppressed. That *is* the same as fundamentalism.”

    No. Fundamentalism is a term that is applied to conservative religionism — movements within religions that attempt to cope with any move toward liberal thinking by entrenching deeper into religious dogma.

    I agree that only a minority of atheists would like to see an end to all religions and spiritual practices.

    However, many atheists are no longer willing to be politely deferential to the irrationality necessary to believe in the supernatural. Many of us would also like to see an end to the official protectionism toward religion that treats religion differently with respect to the law. (Giving a light sentence to the drunken Aussie creationist who murdered the Scottish evolutionist, for example.)

    The first of these is a personal unwillingness to pretend to respect irrational mythologizing, and the second is a desire for more equitable treatment under the law. Neither of these are remotely similar to the bigotry practiced under the protection of fundamentalist self-righteousness.

    Atheists tend to be a rational, realistic group, and as such, we are quite aware that religiosity is the result of indoctrination and human emotional need — coupled with all too common human lack of interest in empirical rationality. While we might like to see an end to mythological follies, I think that most atheists are quite aware that this is beyond human capacities.

    A minority of atheists were raised by atheists, but most atheists were raised within religion and have rejected the illogic of religious mythologies.

    I feel absolutely no need to justify my lack of religious beliefs, and I see no evidence that other atheists have such a need. You may be mistaking atheists’ venting of frustration and iriritation at irrationality for self-justification.

    To assume that atheists need to justify themselves probably reveals much more about your psychology than ours. This is probably understandable in view of the recent increase in attacks on the illogic of mythologies and apologetics. Obviously atheists react to being attacked too, but we tend to react to the illogic inherent in may anti-atheist arguments. We have the advantage of knowing that our lack of belief is supported by the lack of evidence and by logic, which ameliorates any need for self-justification.

  • 6. John Pageless  |  December 17, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Hello Rebecca,

    I would say that Atheism is a paradigm, in that there is a pattern and set of assumptions (scientifically proven assumptions) through which Atheists view reality. If any of the non-theists could claim to be something other than a paradigm, that title would go to the Agnostics.

    This may seem like splitting hairs, but I point it out because I want to show *why* religious people may jump to the conclusion that Atheism = Religion… Again, this is all just my observation.

    Hello Salient,

    Sorry. You are right about fundamentalism. What I was trying to infer is that any motion in which one group is forcing itself on another is a type of extremism, and should be avoided. “Like fundamentalism” is what I should have said. Again, I am trying to show why some religious folk may want to lump Atheism together with religion as another religion.

    In regards to the injustices and bias in favor of theists, I can’t agree more. I would also add that one thing that religious and spiritual people need is to have their faith regularly challenged by reason… This fear of having one’s faith challenged is the root all of the problems we see within religion today. This is one of the reasons why you’ll find me on a number of Atheist blogs – not to convert, but to converse.

    My observation that Atheists feel the need to justify their lack of belief may not apply to all Atheists. On the other hand, to think that an emotional reaction to having your paradigm questioned doesn’t exist (regardless of how illogical the questioning may be) isn’t being entirely honest. Does my suggestions say something about me personally. Of course they do! My words and actions are as vulnerable to psycho-analysis as the next person’s. This, however, does not undermine the point I’m trying to make.

    Even if we assume that Atheists are not reacting out of a need to justify their beliefs, the fact that Atheists are being drawn into this discourse regarding religion shows that Atheism is not yet beyond or separate from the general realm of religion. This is another reason why it is understandable why religious people may be inclined to label Atheism as being just another religion.

    I would like to add that it isn’t my intention to be intentionally contradictory, and I am sorry if I come off that way. I’m just trying to provide a different point of view.

    Namaste.

  • 7. Stephen P  |  December 17, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    John Pageless:

    At the same time, there are a minority of atheist who would go so far as to say that all religions and spiritual practices need to be suppressed.

    Where are these atheists to be found then? They may possibly exist, but I can not recall ever having encountered one, either in person or on the Internet.

    Yes there are atheists who say it would be better if religion were to disappear, by people deconverting, but that is a very different thing from saying it should be suppressed.

  • 8. Stephen P  |  December 17, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Good post on an important point. As has been said before, atheism is a religion in much the same way that ‘off’ is a television channel.

    My response to Chesterton would have been: there are two kinds of people – those who think that people can be divided into two kinds and those who don’t.

    One small quibble: atheism can have rituals and identifying clothes. Indeed there are sweaters available printed with the red A that adorns the top of this post. The point is that such rituals and clothing are entirely optional.

  • 9. Progression of Faith  |  December 17, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I can appreciate many of the issues being discussed here on this site. They sound familiar to my own journey. Deconstruction of the faith that many christians experienced as children in fundamentalist and charasmatic churches is a difficult process. The over-emotionalism and distrust of any critical thinking in typical evangelical churches is really twisted.

    The first reaction to an enlightenment experience (becoming aware of the manipulation in religion) is often to lash out with anger at faith groups. I know, because I’ve been there and done that. One of the best solutions for me was to dig deeper into theological study of world religions including my own (christianity). What I found was that there is a good reason to have faith, if it can be done without dogmatic belief in supernatural deities or superstitious beliefs.

    Faith is NOT the same as belief in superstitions. I don’t have any beliefs in any sort of supernatural beings or superstitions. All faith experiences are natural. However I do have faith in Jesus’ vision for a better world. I would never “un-convert”. I don’t see conversion as adoption of unbelievable superstitions so I don’t need to unconvert. For me, faith is acceptence of the hopes and dreams of Jesus. It is transformation from selfishness to a compassionate nature.

  • 10. Steve Sutton  |  December 17, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    Many theists seem to not understand that atheism is simply the absence of a belief in any gods, whether the god is Thor, Zeus, Allah, Yahweh, Jehova, or any of the thousands of other gods people have thought up over time. There’s really nothing else to it. Where people who don’t believe in gods go from there is entirely their own business.

  • 11. athinkingman  |  December 17, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Stephen P: You wrote Good post on an important point. As has been said before, atheism is a religion in much the same way that ‘off’ is a television channel. I really like the analogy, thanks.

    Progression of Faith: It seems to me that you may be wanting a non-theistic religion – the trappings, without the god.

  • 12. locomotivebreath1901  |  December 17, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    “In the beginning, there was nothing. And God said, “Let there be Light.” And there was still nothing. But, you could see it.” — Dave Weinstein

    I believe it takes a lot of faith to be an atheist. The atheist can state, he believes there is no god, or thinks there is no god, but, either way, his subjective conclusion is based upon the faith that he is correct. Unless, of course, the atheist has unlimited knowledge of the entire universe past, present & future – which would put the atheist in the running for the title of god……

    Merry Christmas one & all!

  • 13. bipolar2  |  December 17, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    ** “. . . Take no thought for tomorrow . . . .” — Jesus had no ethic **

    Xianity has had about 2,000 years to confront its critics, external — pagan religions, philosophy, other theisms — and internal — pick your favorite heretical belief from “gnosticism” to “mormonism.” Many a classic battleground in xian apologetics has a pet name: the problem of evil / inherited sin / Jesus’ interim ethic.

    Unless you, xian/western theist/Jesus=philosopher/deist/agnostic/atheist/anti-theist, know what the “interim ethic” is, stop blathering on about Jesus and so-called xian ethics.

    When I googled the phrase “interim ethic” there were 2,150 results! Looks like religious types are still making a buck off this endless polemic.

    Begun by Albert Schweitzer the gamesmanship has being going on for over a century — but you still have to know about it. That is, if you must continue to imagine that something important turns on what an alleged Jesus had to say about right action.

    Jesus thought the world would end soon. So did his immediate followers . . . that’s why Paul has to calm the freaked out first generation of dupes (“believers”) some of whom died before Christ’s vengeance could fall upon their hated enemies. Jesus, notably in the Sermon on the Mount, foresaw the kingdom of god as childlike. The pristine world to come would need no Law, religious or secular.

    That Jesus was dead wrong should surprise no one. The only apocalypse to come will be created by madmen like George Bush who clearly have a death wish and the power to impose it on mankind.

    bipolar2
    c. 2007

  • 14. bipolar2  |  December 17, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    ** Indescribably divine **

    Dealing with those mystically inclined, the ‘I-feel-god-in-my-heart’ crowd, and in general all irrationalist believers requires a different approach from dealing with rationalists.

    I know that my god/goddess/demon exists — but he/she/it can not be described, or is beyond human understanding.

    The philosopher Wittgenstein, in one of his seemingly cryptic utterances said, “A nothing would be as good as a something about which nothing could be said.”

    Spelled out: you claim that something exists, but no property (like, being blue) could ever be ascribed to it. This is the famous Western “via negativa” – negative path to god – “neti, neti, neti” not-this, not-this of Hindu mystics. God is not blue, is not evil, is not good . . . .

    Logically, however, a claim that something exists does not ascribe a property to it — or, as you ought to have learned in logic class — existence is not a predicate. (Non-existence is not a predicate either.)

    “Some god exists” seems to be saying something, but it is meaningless. You might as well be saying “bar-bar” or saying nothing at all. The Viennese novelist, Robert Musil wrote “The Man without Qualities.” The man who can’t be there. A nobody. Nothing.

    Nobody can talk about nothing. Who’s doing the talking here? (Nobody?) And what’s being talked about? (Nothing?) And what did Nobody say about Nothing? Zen Buddhism figured all this out long ago — hence, koans if you’re lucky or a hard slap in the face when you’re persistently obtuse. Why?

    If a god “is a something about which nothing can be said,” then this putative something is equivalent to “a nothing.” So-called mystics in India, China, Japan, and even Europe apprehended that a “God” without qualities was nothing. And, they were right.

    bipolar2
    c. 2007

  • 15. Progression of Faith  |  December 17, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    “That Jesus was dead wrong should surprise no one”

    Why do atheists seem to think that Jesus needed to be right about everything in order to have a valuable vision for a possible future. Jesus may not of existed but it wouldn’t change his value. Just like with God, its physical existence has nothing to do with its value as a concept and motivation.

    Jesus is a character in a story. Of course Jesus was wrong because he was a product of his storytellers and they were looking for the end (justification) of the world. I follow that character’s ideas regardless of it he was a historical person. He may have been historical, but he certainly was not what the stories portray. The same is true of how I approach God. The story tellers who crafted this character were ancient. They likely thought the sun revolved around the world or possibly that the world was flat. I don’t read them to learn about those things. I read them to be inspired about how we collectively might effect change in the world by using non-violent protest against the values of empire.

  • 16. orDover  |  December 17, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    locomotivebreath1901 writes: “I believe it takes a lot of faith to be an atheist. “

    I could not disagree more. The problem with this argument stems from the misuse of the word “faith.” Most of the things that we believe in we do not have absolute 100% proof for. For example, I believe that if I jump off of a ten story building I will be severely injured. I do not have absolute proof of this, maybe something unforeseeable will happen to save me, maybe my body is more resilient than I think, maybe someone will turn off gravity and I will just float around in the sky. But the cumulation of my experience here on earth has given me overwhelming evidence that I will indeed be injured.

    If you want to claim that faith is required for every belief that there is not absolute proof for, then you cheapen the word to the point of making it almost meaningless. I would have to have faith about everything except a few absolute facts, like that 2+2=4. This also means that there are degrees of faith. It doesn’t take a lot of faith for me to believe that I’ll be hurt when I jump off of a building (because my belief is grounded in evidence), but it takes a lot more faith to believe that Christ will miraculously scoop me out of the air and set me gently back down on the sidewalk (I’ve never seen him do that).

    So the important thing here is to prove that an atheist’s belief requires an equal amount of faith as the beliefs of a Christian, but you won’t be able to do that because atheists believe based on EVIDENCE, evidence found in nature, evidence provided by science, and evidence based on reason. If I can see that the universe is capable of operating without a God, then it only takes a small degree of faith to believe that there is not one.

    A true faith position requires belief despite of the fact that there is a lack of evidence to support it, or even belief that is in complete opposition to evidence. For instance, there is zero evidence in life continuing after death, but there is evidence which points to the fact that humans (and animals) are mortal, and that they cease to exist after death.

    “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

  • 17. salient  |  December 17, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    jp ‘I would also add that one thing that religious and spiritual people need is to have their faith regularly challenged by reason…”

    Why? Is this some form of self-affirmation that your faith (which by definition is held despite lack of evidence) is strong enough to survive logic and evidence? Is this the spiritual equivalent of arm wrestling?

    I’m not being facetious, I merely want to understand.

    “This fear of having one’s faith challenged is the root all of the problems we see within religion today.”

    I agree. It is this paranoia of imminent annihilation that drives religionists deeper into fundamentalism. It’s also the reason that theists first attempted to co-opt science and, when that failed, to invent pseudoscience and attack science.

    You seem to be trying to demote any understanding that is based on evidence and logic to the level of “paradigm”. The term is employed more in the social sciences than in the hard sciences, and this reflects the fact that it describes the way of thinking about a topic that is subject to experimental constraints.

    A paradigm shift involves not merely shifting the specifics of a hypothesis to accommodate new evidence, but requires shifting the entire epistemic mode of thinking about a subject in the face of discovering evidence that the thought mode is illogical. Atheists do not face a paradigm shift.

    Yours is a misuse of paradigm. The individual scientist who has invested years in testing their own theory may have trouble with paradigm shift, but scientist, in general, expect to accommodate many accommodations of hypotheses and *rare* paradigm shifts — it’s the process of refining explanation that drives scientists onward.

    An example of paradigm shift in science include the move from Newtonian physics to Relativistic physics. Newton’s formulae remain accurate, and his physics coincides with our experiences at Earth-speed, but Einstein saw that Newtonian mechanics broke down as physics moves toward the speed of light and that ‘gravitational force’ is more accurately described as a warp of space-time. Newtonian mechanics was not abandoned, physical understanding merely expanded.

    It is the nature of science to move on to unexplored areas once a theory has stood the test of time. It is the nature of theology to attempt to stand stock still and to refuse even to recognize the evidence that calls for a paradigm shift. Theologists invented Paradigm Protection and hold the patent. I think that most theists cannot see this, and that a few will not see this.

    You imply that atheism is a paradigm. It isn’t. Deism and theism are paradigms (more like fantasies) because they are ways of thinking about the evidence that are not supported by logical interpretation of the evidence.

    Atheism is merely the rational position that 2000 years have not uncovered evidence or generated consistent logical arguments. Atheism merely acknowedges that there is no rational justification for belief — personal emotional reasons, yes, but rational justification, no.

    The atheistic belief set is merely an a-supernatural conviction about existence based on rational interpretation of the evidence and *that* is not remotely like a religion. Even the most irritated,frustrated, angry, and contemptuous of mythillogic amongst athiests are merely expressing a reaction and do not approximate fundamentalism. That is, atheism is *not even like* fundamentalism.

  • 18. karen  |  December 17, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    The story tellers who crafted this character were ancient. They likely thought the sun revolved around the world or possibly that the world was flat. I don’t read them to learn about those things. I read them to be inspired about how we collectively might effect change in the world by using non-violent protest against the values of empire.

    I agree with you, but I’d expand the literature to include more than just the bible. There are many other sacred texts, as well as secular writings, that have good ideas about how to change the world.

    The words of Jesus are a mixed bag, for me. Yes, he said some great things, but he also said some disturbing things and he said lots of things that had already been said earlier. As long as I’m not expected to worship him as a deity, I have no problems using Jesus’s teachings to help form my positive world view.

  • 19. Progression of Faith  |  December 17, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    Karen,

    I agree with expanding that to include any text which makes those same claims. It doesn’t matter who declares the text ‘sacred’ or what symbols it uses to represent and communicate that meanting. What is important is the change not what belief inspires the change. I think Atheism is valuable for religion because it keeps it in check, but I also think there is more room for agreement if both sides will stop being fundamentalist in their approach.

    Don’t forget that we have no writings of Jesus, so anything we say “jesus said” we have to run through the filter of context. We have to free it from the bias of the authors who created the stories and the peole who are interpreting it.

    I agree that there is little he said that was much different than his teachers. The truth is that most world religions say those same things. They are wonderful things to say. That is what the writer of the Gospel of John was trying to say; “in the beginning was the logos (logic/wisdom)” and “the logos became flesh and dwelt amoung us”. Those words are not meant to deify Jesus. They are meant to symbolical say that this wisdom has always been around. It has been known by many religions. It came to life in the lives of people who heard it and actually did it (became flesh).

    Religion is only goofy when people take these ancient symbolic stories literally and try to claim its symbols and stories are the only valuable manifestations of that wisdom.

  • 20. John Pageless  |  December 18, 2007 at 1:19 am

    Hello again Salient,

    You said: Is this some form of self-affirmation that your faith (which by definition is held despite lack of evidence) is strong enough to survive logic and evidence? Is this the spiritual equivalent of arm wrestling?
    I’m not being facetious, I merely want to understand.

    I think there is a fundamental difference between our understanding of the word “faith.” To you, faith is a belief that is held despite evidence. To me, faith isn’t something that happens in my head, but rather is a feeling of trust in something greater then myself. The problem is that most Western religions teach that in order to have the type of faith that I have, people would need to hold to faith as you define it… But they are, indeed, two different things – one is in the head, and one is in the heart. Because most people (including myself) were raised with the definition in which trust necessitates belief, it becomes difficult to keep the two separate… Hence the need to have your faith challenged by reason. Think of it as a tempering process. :-)

    It seems, however, that my conversation with you is becoming increasingly long winded and off topic. Out of respect for the Webmaster, this will be my last comment on this particular blog entry. I’d like to continue our conversation over e-mail, if it is agreeable to you. You can find an e-mail form on my Blog under my “About” Page. If not, I’ll no doubt see you again later on.

    Namaste.

  • 21. JustCan't  |  December 18, 2007 at 2:20 am

    Good Post Thinking Man, I enjoyed it, and the comments below. This is helpful because I was hit with this one just yesterday. It helps to collect one’s thoughts, reading this, especially when a fundamentalist christian says to an atheist, “You are the most religious person I know.”

    I couldn’t react yesterday, because I couldn’t begin to explain just how much was wrong with that statement…..this sums it up quite nicely though, thank you. I’ll be ready for that one next time.

    PFaith: It is true that sometimes ex-christians will “lash out” at other faith groups, but that’s not explaining enough. At worst, it may suggest ex-faith atheists are naturally inclined to seek revenge of some sort. In all but the worst case scenarios, I don’t think that is true.

    Myself, I wasn’t angry at faith groups but I was certainly angry at politicians who used their faith to pull some amazing stunts. I was angry that an unreasonable zealot was trying to break my home in two while simultaneously trying to aggressively convert me. I was angry at being called irrelevant by those seeking power (G. H. W. Bush, M. Romney) when the only reason and truth seemed to be on my side. I’m angry about tax breaks to groups who coordinate attacks on foundations of democracy or science. And I’m angry about repeated and sleazy coordinated attacks on our school system’s ability to teach our children. A lot of the time, I’m just angry. I could, as many here could, write all night about what angers me. But I’m not walking around angry, looking for a fight. In fact, I wish they’d just do their own thing and not have to mess with mine so much of the time. Many will take a swing after receiving 50 shoves, though – and why not? If you don’t want to get bit – stop kicking the dog.

    But I don’t say a word unless my view is overtly attacked, or I am being rudely confronted and challenged by a christian for the purpose of conversion. In the future, I’m sure I’ll be vocal if my child’s education or ability to think is being threatened by faithful interference. I believe I will.

    I have faith in it, but that doesn’t make me religious either. :-)

    JC

  • 22. meatish  |  December 18, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Atheism is not a religion. However, their agendas are in the REALM of religion. So, anything that furthers the cause of collective atheism in the realm of the origin of man and morality, has an opposing religious viewpoint/agenda/etc…

    Therefore you can say that Atheism is not a religion,

    but

    you CANNOT say that Atheism is not religiously significant.

  • 23. meatish  |  December 18, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Salient-

    #

    17. salient | December 17, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    The atheistic belief set is merely an a-supernatural conviction about existence based on rational interpretation of the evidence..”

    The relevance here is that Atheists are using the “absolute truth” clout of science in order to assert evidence supporting their views as to the origin of mankind, matter, conscious thought, etc. I am speaking as a student of science (physics and engineering):
    Almost any evidence can be used to support any different theory, such as evolutionary evidence counter productively being used for intelligent design for example.
    There is no real evidence that can DISPROVE God, as he does not exist in the tangible universe, meaning evidence in support of Atheism cannot be known. Just evidence as to the state of matter, and the known effects of corresponding forces in the universe.

  • 24. Asymptosis  |  December 20, 2007 at 3:58 am

    Hi meatish,

    You’ve left your position a little ambiguous, but I’m reading you as an opponent of atheism, and will respond as such. If I’ve misread you, I beg your pardon, and hope my comments add to the discussion never-the-less.

    The relevance here is that Atheists are using the “absolute truth” clout of science in order to assert evidence supporting their views as to the origin of mankind, matter, conscious thought, etc.

    Could you please motivate this with an actual example?

    I am speaking as a student of science (physics and engineering):

    As a science graduate myself, I can affirm that you are not the only person on this site with a modicum of technical education. To use this fact to win points in a debate would be a little pretentious. Arguments should stand or fall on their own merits.

    Furthermore, in my experience, science students who lack training in philosophical discourse are often vocal but inadequate philosophers. Consider how you have brought the “absolute truth” clout of your scientific training to bear against atheism. This seems a bit hypocritical.

    There is no real evidence that can DISPROVE God, as he does not exist in the tangible universe, meaning evidence in support of Atheism cannot be known. Just evidence as to the state of matter, and the known effects of corresponding forces in the universe.

    I don’t think it is possible to speak about this issue in terms of evidence for or against atheism. You do atheists a miscredit if you think they would ever argue that God could be “disproved.” Or, perhaps you would set the bar thus high: God should be completely disproved before anyone may raise any doubts soever as to His Existence?

    Now, as a student of science, you will no doubt be aware of such statistical notions as null hypotheses vs alternative hypotheses. In the God vs No-God debate, “No God” counts as the null hypothesis. Standard practice accepts the null hypothesis until there is sufficient evidence to reject it. In a way, atheists are simply people wary of making Type I errors.

    I anticipate three major arguments by theists against this portrayal of atheists. 1: the significance level for hypothesis-testing has been set too low. 2: indeed, atheists make or at least risk Type II errors by stating, “God does not exist.” 3: the whole question is meaningless and no one is in a position to accept or reject either hypothesis.

    Of these objections to the atheist position, I think only the first is really interesting. Firstly, atheists do insure against the proposed Type II error since they often do not emphatically reject the alternative hypothesis. Secondly, those who consider the question meaningless will not really have anything substantial to add to the discussion one way or the other. (Been there, done that.)

    On 1., I think the significance level is just fine, myself. I mean, I wouldn’t want homeopathy marketed by pharmaceutical companies as a cure for cancer either.

  • 25. Jairo Mejia  |  July 22, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Unbelievers are right in most of their thinking

    You might be one of those who are abandoning Christianity; one for whom religious beliefs are not just irrelevant, but baseless. You might be right, at least to some extent. Some traditional beliefs are not true, and the “God” of main line traditions simply does not exist. Most people don’t dare to confront their religious beliefs, and opt for the status quo, afraid of abandoning the “certainty” of their convictions. Most have become marginalized from the institutional Church, and try to find an environment in which they may fill a vacuum in their lives.

    An illuminating book gives hope to you! The author accepted the challenge of finding the One who is recognized, even by Gnostics and atheists—the Existence. “Christianity Reformed From its Roots – A Life Centered in God” is perhaps a generation ahead of the current mentality, but you might find that there is something for you, too!

    Bishop John Shelby Spong says of this book that it “rightly points out that those who seek to defend Christianity’s past are also killing Christianity’s future.” I am attaching two reviews of the book by eminent philosophers and thinkers that might give you an idea if this book is an insightful reading for you. You might look also at excerpts of the book at this link of Amazon.com.

    Jairo Mejia, M. Psych., Santa Clara University
    Author – Retired Episcopal Priest
    Carmel Valley, California

    http://www.mbay.net/~jmejia/Grudzen.htm
    http://www.mbay.net/~jmejia/Churcher.htm

  • 26. Joe  |  July 22, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Jairo–

    Are you a Deist?

  • 27. Joe  |  July 22, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Jairo—

    Dumb question—i just looked up the defintion of a Deist on the Internet. Forget the question.

  • 28. Anirudh Kumar Satsangi  |  November 24, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator, this paper I presented at the 1st Int. Conf. on Revival of Traditional Yoga, held at The Lonavla Yoga Institute (India), Lonavla, Pune in 2006. The Abstract of this paper is given below:

    The Universe includes everything that exists. In the Universe there are billions and billions of stars. These stars are distributed in the space in huge clusters. They are held together by gravitation and are known as galaxies. Sun is also a star. Various members of the solar system are bound to it by gravitation force. Gravitation force is the ultimate cause of birth and death of galaxy, star and planets etc. Gravitation can be considered as the cause of various forms of animate and inanimate existence. Human form is superior to all other forms. Withdrawal of gravitational wave from some plane of action is called the death of that form. It can be assumed that gravitation force is ultimate creator. Source of it is ‘God’. Gravitational Field is the supreme soul (consciousness) and its innumerable points of action may be called as individual soul (consciousness). It acts through body and mind. Body is physical entity. Mind can be defined as the function of autonomic nervous system. Electromagnetic waves are its agents through which it works. This can be realized through the practice of meditation and yoga under qualified meditation instruction. This can remove misunderstanding between science and religion and amongst various religions. This is the gist of all religious teachings – past, present and future.

    AND

    ‘In Scientific Terminology Source of Gravitational Wave is God’ I have presented this paper at the 2nd World Congress on Vedic Sciences held at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi on February 9-11, 2007. The Abstract of this paper is given below:

    For Centuries, antagonism remained between science and religion. Science and spirituality require to be fused. An integrated philisophy is to be developed. It is written in the scriptures that entire creation is being maintained only through love or force of attraction. In Persian it is known as quvat-i-jaziba. It is on account of this force that the entire creation, which come into existence through the combination of small particles and atoms, is being maintained and sustained. The creation or universe includes everything that exists. In the universe there are billions and billions of stars. They are held together by gravitation and are known as galaxies. Sun is also a star. Various members of the solar system are bound to it by gravitation force. Gravitation force is the ultimate cause of birth and death of a galaxy, star and planet etc. and various forms of animate and inanimate existence. Gravitation force is the ultimate creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe. These are the three attributes of God. Providence has located within the human body a spiritual faculty. When this faculty is developed like physical and mental faculties we find that Truth-the goal of science and God-the goal of religion are one and the same thing.

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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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