Statement of Faith

February 26, 2010 at 1:04 am 42 comments

It’s been two years since I finally admitted to myself that I was not struggling with doubt any more; I no longer believed in God. The creed below is what I can say with some confidence that I believe in today. I got a little silly with the language, and I did so on purpose, to help me remember to hold my new beliefs lightly. Feel free to argue, challenge or question me, or the entire concept of an unbeliever having “beliefs”. As for me, atheism only defines what we don’t believe in, leaving us a wide variety of beliefs we can still hold onto. I invite you to post your own beliefs in the comments.

Proposition 1: I believe that there is an objective reality; that what is, is; that a = a.

  • Clarification of the above Proposition: I believe that what is, is neither as good, as bad, or even as easily defined or comprehended as it first seems.
  • Corollary of the above Clarification: I believe that labels, like all nouns and symbols, are useful tools- if you remember they are not what actually is.
  • Addendum upon previous three statements: I believe that observation, experimentation, reason, and logic are the best tools we’ve yet found to learn what actually is.

Proposition 2: I believe that actions have consequences.

  • Corollary on Proposition 2: I believe that what we think, say, do, and choose matters.
  • Conclusion drawn from above Corollary and previous Clarification: What we think, say, do and choose matters, but rarely in the manner we expect or intend.
  • Corollary on above Conclusion and previous Addendum: We don’t really know what we’re doing, but that’s no reason not to do our best. Please refer to Corollary two statements previous.

Proposition 3: I believe that value is extrinsic.

  • Addendum on Proposition 3: I believe that we attribute value through ritual and sanctification (blessing, or intentionally making sacred/holy).
  • Corollary on Propostions 1 through 3: I believe that we create what meaning and purpose there is, and can, through changing our choices, change what meaning and purpose we create.
  • Addendum on above Corollary: I believe that empathy, introspection and reason are the best tools we’ve found yet for choosing what meaning and purpose to create, and that the ethic of reciprocity (popularly summarized as the Golden Rule) is the best starting point from which to employ our empathy, introspection and reason, with special attention paid to the resources we have to draw on and the needs which we can fill (including, but not limited to, our own).

Overly simplistic, yet still valid Conclusion drawn from everything said thus far in this creed (much to my pleasant surprise): I believe in love.

- Quester with thanks to all the support, fellowship and inspiration I’ve received on this site over the past two years!

Entry filed under: Quester. Tags: , , , , , .

Turtleism in the Age of Reason Your Golden Square Triangle

42 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Phil Stilwell  |  February 26, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Very good points.

  • 2. Mystery Porcupine  |  February 26, 2010 at 1:44 am

    Sweet! I love this and hope that one day I can post something like it for all the world to read…with my real name on it. If I ever do, I may end up copying your post as it is and giving you credit. :-) Excellent post!

  • 3. Quester  |  February 26, 2010 at 2:02 am

    Oddly, it hadn’t occurred to me that people might actually agree with me. Thanks, both!

    Mystery- As for posting this somewhere for everyone to read, with my real name on it, I’m not quite there yet. I’ve shared something very like the above, with my real name on it, among a group of trusted friends and family members. And I’m posting it here for the world to read, on a site I’ve valued through my deconversion journey (if one that seems to be dying lately due to inactivity) under a pseudonym I’ve used to deal with issues I wouldn’t have felt free to deal with if my real name was attached.

    Maybe one day, I’ll be all the way “out of the closet”, but for now I’m that much closer.

    I’d love to read it when you come up with something similar, but don’t be surprised if it takes a while. I started writing this last July, and have been revisiting and revising over the past seven months before coming up with something both satisfactory and honest.

  • 4. DSimon  |  February 26, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I disagree about reciprocity being the best starting point for a ethical system of reason. It’s a good idea, no doubt about it, but it isn’t good at the case where the two parties have inequal resources. I prefer utilitarianism with a function of harm reduction; that way, people help each other out even if they don’t expect to get anything in return.

  • 5. DSimon  |  February 26, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Er, that isn’t so clear reading back over it, so let me explain in more detail: the problem I have with “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is that it doesn’t create any motivation to do unto others something that they can’t do unto you; i.e., why give food to the poor, if they can’t give food to you?

    On the other hand, the way the Golden Rule is sometimes used involves mentally switching places with the other person and deciding what you would like them, as you, to do. That version I like much better.

  • 6. BigHouse  |  February 26, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Excellent post, Quester! Thanks for helping to fill the recent void if activity with some great content.

    2 questions for you:

    1.) Why did you title the post a Statement of “Faith”?

    2.) Could you elaborate on how you arrived at your final conclusion of believing in love?

    Many thanks again!

  • 7. Amy  |  February 26, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I really like this.

    DSimon,

    Why not look at the Golden Rule as a general guideline of activity, as in, I would like people to be respectful of me, so I will be respectful toward others, or, I would like others to help me in times of need, so I will do the same. Not specific to a particular person or circumstance. Then you aren’t tripped up by the example you gave. You give to the poor because if you were in need, you would appreciate help, rather than you give to this poor person because you want this poor person to give to you.

  • 8. Anonymous  |  February 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Proposition 2: I believe that actions have consequences.

    Quester—-

    Interestingly, this is one of the reasons I believe there IS a God. When someone like a Hitler kills millions of people, then ends it all with a gunshot to the head, I do not believe it could end there. He has willfully murdered millions, then HE makes the decision when it should all end for him. Not logical.

    Logic tells met that just as there are physical laws, there must also be spiritual and moral laws. Our actions will result in an ultimate reaction. Hitler, and everyone else will “reap what they have sown” here so to speak. I really believe that. I realize this is a personal opioion, but you did say above:

    “Feel free to argue, challenge or question me, or the entire concept of an unbeliever having “beliefs”.

    Thanks for sharing the article though—very interesting points.

  • 9. Joe  |  February 26, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Anonymous is me. I keep forgetting to put my name in the field.

  • 10. Amy  |  February 26, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    DSimon,

    Oh, forgive me. Re-reading your post you mention the other way of looking at the Golden Rule. Duh. Someone isn’t paying very close attention today, is she?

  • 11. Quester  |  February 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    DSimon,

    On the other hand, the way the Golden Rule is sometimes used involves mentally switching places with the other person and deciding what you would like them, as you, to do. That version I like much better.

    Indeed! Check out all the ways the ethic of reciprocity has been phrased over at the Religious Tolerance site. (It helps if you scroll down) Among the summaries are:

    “Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.” Mencius VII.A.4

    “Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature.” Immanuel Kant

    The Golden Rule is one such summary.

  • 12. Quester  |  February 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    BigHouse,

    Thanks for helping to fill the recent void if activity with some great content.

    That was at least partially my motivation.

    1.) Why did you title the post a Statement of “Faith”?

    Because I offer no evidence for any of it, and am uncertain whether I could find evidence to support it, but believe it anyway.

    2.) Could you elaborate on how you arrived at your final conclusion of believing in love?

    Certainly! (I was hoping someone would ask that)

    I believe that love is a quality partially shaped by what is (existing bilogical, psychological and cultural factors)- though these factors are neither as easily ennumerated, nor nearly as consciously responded to as one might assume- and partially the result of a choice to apply value to someone or something by setting it apart in some way from that which is around it (sanctification) and treating it with ritual expressions of value (empathy and reason are useful here to choose shared ritual expressions of value recognizable to both the lover and the loved). I believe that choosing to apply this value to this quality changes life as it is experienced; that these changes are neither as good nor as bad nor as clearly comprehensible or easily defined as they may seem at first sight, and; that the consequences of these changes are real and spread out from their source in ways that we do not yet understand and can not yet predict. In this way, love, as a sometimes useful label for this quality and added value, changes the world and provides purpose and meaning for life in ways that we can choose to see as positive or negative (with our ability to choose circumscribed by the above mentioned biological, cutural and psychological factors).

    Clear as mud?

  • 13. Quester  |  February 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Joe,

    I believe that when millions of people are killed, the consequence is that millions of people are dead. What is, is. Other consequences may come from that as people apply value to the killing or the dead, and act in response to the value they apply (conditioned by existing biological, psychological and cultural matters and preferably starting from an ethic of reciprocity). But, beyond that? Well, you are free to believe as you choose, but I see no reason to assume a beyond that.

  • 14. Quester  |  February 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Amy,

    Why not look at the Golden Rule as a general guideline of activity, as in, I would like people to be respectful of me, so I will be respectful toward others, or, I would like others to help me in times of need, so I will do the same.

    Well summarized!

  • 15. Anonymous  |  February 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    I watched a movie about “Temple Grandin” just the other night. She is an autistic person who interestingly enough has designed far more humane means for leading cattle to slaughter. Sounds strange, but if you watch the movie you get a far better idea of how the autistic mind works. She is an extremely intelligent person despite her autism.

    What I found interesting though is that even as an autistic child when someone died she would say “Where do they go?” She recognized that the “person” was not just the physical part of who they are. She saw the person as having exited the human body they were living in. This intrigued me–because her mother did not teach her religion—in fact her mother had a dramatically hard time communicating with her until she began to understand emotions later in life. If you get a chance watch the movie—-very interesting.

  • 16. Joe  |  February 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    My name dropped off again. My post above (#15)

  • 17. SnugglyBuffalo  |  February 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Joe, it sounds less like an intrinsic knowledge of a soul that outlives the body and more like an inability to comprehend death.

  • 18. Joe  |  February 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Snuggly (#17)—

    Possibly, but if you watch the movie Temple says she “sees” things much differently than other people. She was able to put herself in the place of the cattle for example, and design a whole new ramp system—because she could “feel” their fears, and knew intuitively what would comfort them and calm them on their trek through the cattle shoots.

    Later in the moive when she is grown up and designing the shoots she says she put her hand on one of the cattle right before it was stunned and became just a piece of beef. She states she realizes by seeing death just how precious life is, and she felt “close to God”.

    Again, if you get a chance to see the movie do so— it is just very interesting to watch. It won’t convince anyone to believe in God, but it has some interesting moments for sure. :)

  • 19. Eves Apple  |  February 26, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Joe–I have had the privilege of meeting Dr. Grandin and speaking with her; I have also read most of her books. I haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds like the writers are putting words in her mouth; it doesn’t sound like something she would say. If I recall correctly, she is actually agnostic.

    While I don’t have any statistics to back me up, my gut feeling is that most of us higher-functioning individuals within the autistic/Aspergers community are more likely to be either agnostics, atheists or otherwise have difficulties reconciling religion and life than those who are “normal” or as we say, “neurotypical”. There is a website called WrongPlanet that is run by and for people with autism; if you want to know how we really think about religion and life (as opposed to what Hollywood writers think we think), I would check it out.

    Anyway, this is veering off the subject, which is Quester’s post. I have to say, I like it. It’s honest.

  • 20. Joe  |  February 26, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Eve—

    Thinking in Pictures
    by Temple Grandin

    Chapter 11:
    Stairway to Heaven: Religion and Belief

    AS A TOTALLY LOGICAL and scientific person, I continually add data to my library of knowledge and constantly update both my scientific knowledge and my beliefs about God. Since my thought processes use a series of specific examples to form a general principle, it makes logical sense to me that general principles should always be modified when new information becomes available. It is beyond my comprehension to accept anything on faith alone, because of the fact that my thinking is governed by logic instead of emotion. On June 14, 1968, while I was a sophomore in college, I wrote in my diary:

    I develop my views from the existing pool of knowledge and I will adapt my views when I learn more. The only permanent view that I have is that there is a God. My views are based on the basic fundamental laws of nature and physics that I am now aware of. As man learns more about his environment I will change my theory to accommodate the new knowledge. Religion should be dynamic and always advancing, not in a state of stagnation.

    She is willing to change her view, but for now does believe there is a God. I will cease from this subject though, for as you pointed out this is about Quester’s article, not Temple Grandin. But I felt I needed to post this after your post #19 stated she is agnostic. All the best!

  • 21. Joe  |  February 26, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Eve—

    To be fair though, I did not read the complete article all the way through—it is possible she changed her “permanent view” late in life. OK—that’s all now. :)

  • 22. Quester  |  February 27, 2010 at 3:31 am

    Joe,

    It does look like an interesting movie. I saw the central actress interviewed on the Colbert Report. That the idea of persistance of life preceded rather than followed the idea of religion- for an individual or for the human race- does not surprise me any.

  • 23. 4riozs  |  February 27, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Nice post. It shows that those of us who are not religious have strong moral beliefs and convictions. I was always told that a life w/o “God” was full of immorality and caos. When I left the church I found a bit more sanity- not to say everyone outside the church is so moral- but it exists.

  • 24. DSimon  |  February 28, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    [Hitler] has willfully murdered millions, then HE makes the decision when it should all end for him. Not logical. [paragraph break] Logic tells met that just as there are physical laws, there must also be spiritual and moral laws.

    I have to take exception to this. You aren’t applying logic at all, your statement is purely and directly about what you find emotionally satisfying!

    It gets my goat when people apply scientific or mathematical terminology in a way that’s totally incorrect, as though calling something “logical” were a kind of rhetorical wrapping paper.

  • 25. DSimon  |  February 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Quester, it occurs to me that one possible way to treat your propositions is not as an article of faith but rather as a set of provisional assumptions.

    For example, your first proposition basically states that the universe is self-consistent, and that it is possible to figure at least some of it out (though not necessarily easy to do so).

    The clincher is that this has to be assumed to be true, because otherwise we may as well not do anything.

    Suppose that the universe weren’t self-consistent or even partially possible to understand; i.e. suppose every other day the rules of physics change and our memories and records are spontaneously altered to match. If that were the case, what could we possibly do about it? We’d be completely screwed over, unable to accomplish anything.

    Therefore, if we ever want to even try to get anything done, we have to assume that the universe isn’t entirely capricious, even though logically we cannot prove that it isn’t.

    A similar argument can be made about your second proposition.

    It doesn’t really work on your third proposition, though. On the other hand, the contradiction of the third proposition (that value is some kind of intrinsic but unmeasurable property of things) is unfalsifiable. So, if we assume that the first and second propositions are true and thus that science works about as well as it seems to, then the third proposition is also justified.

  • 26. Quester  |  March 1, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Interesting, DSimon, but if we follow your argument and call my creed above “provisional assumptions” instead of “statements of faith”, what have we gained in clarity? What, would you argue, is the difference?

  • 27. BigHouse  |  March 1, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Quester, I would argue against the use of the word faith for a couple of reasons:

    1.) The word has many definitions that are specific to religious beilef and observation, which I do not believe is the intent of your statement. And these definitons in my experience are the ones most commonly used and/or referred to in parlance.

    2.) The Bible’s definition of and importance placed on faith is one of the main reasons that I have deconverted.

    “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

    First off, hope and wishful thinking have nothing to do with establishing truth. Secondly, ascribing “certainty” to something we cannot “see”, is exactly the doctrine that leads to dogma and the squelching critical thinking and logic. It implies that we are not to continually evaluate the data we have in front of us and strengthen, ammend, or reject our beliefs based on what we learn.

    This all being said, I don’t think using the term is “wrong” in your context, so much as misleading to your intents and viewpoint.

    Curious your thoughts on the matter and once again, thanks for the excellent post and sparked discussion.

  • 28. Anonymous  |  March 1, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    DSimom (#24)

    It might have been better if I said “intuitive logic”—To a purely scientific mind it may not be logic at all, but to the one who allows there is a “spiritual” side to man it is very logical indeed.

  • 29. BigHouse  |  March 1, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    My friend believes in unicorns and to him it’s logical that they poop rainbows!

  • 30. Joe  |  March 1, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    No—not talking about unicorns. :) What I’m saying is that many people (not just religious people) speak of the “human spirit”–even in the Olympics when someone comes back from insurmountable odds to win an event they speak of the “human spirit”.

    When someone says “what comes around goes around” they are speaking of an acknowledgement within themselves that what you do to others will eventually find it’s way back to you. It may take many years, but it will come back to you.

    So when I speak of there being moral and spirtual laws that are just as strong as physical laws, and call it “logic” that is what I am referring to—-the “knowledge” that many people intuitively possess that tells them that it just isn’t worth it to be dishonest (and they are not religious people necessarily), not because of some future judgment, but because they seem to know that for every action there is a reaction of some kind.

    If you don’t hold to that that’s fine. I just happen to think that it is actually very logical no matter how one defines that.

  • 31. Quester  |  March 1, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Joe,

    It may be logical, depending on the premises you are working from and how rigorously you develop your conclusions for your premises. Of course, so are the unicorns, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and pretty much everything else. Logic is simply a way of organizing thoughts. Unless the thoughts are sound, logic is only a way of being wrong with confidence. The trick is discovering ways to ensure the thoughts are sound.

    And you are right about karma being a widespread belief, even amongst Christian denominations who officially consider it either blasphemous, idolatrous, or simply heretical.

  • 32. Quester  |  March 1, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Big House,

    The Bible’s definition of and importance placed on faith is one of the main reasons that I have deconverted.

    I find that a very interesting assertion. Have you written more about this anywhere yet?

    Secondly, ascribing “certainty” to something we cannot “see”… implies that we are not to continually evaluate the data we have in front of us and strengthen, ammend, or reject our beliefs based on what we learn.

    Hmm.. I suppose that my having already rejected one faith structure based on what I have learned, that connotation did not come naturally to me.

    For me, these are faith statements, because I believe in them despite a lack of evidence. As DSimon says, the first two propositions are necessary to say or do anything, but that’s just arguing from consequence. It does not mean the statements are true. It doesn’t mean they are false, either, but these are statements that, looking at my life and how I act, I deduce that I believe in, whether or not they are justified.

    But if I learn these statements are either untrue, or unlikely to be true, I am willing to change my mind some more. That’s one reason I’ve posted these: to see if anyone would point out counter-evidence.

    Curious your thoughts on the matter and once again, thanks for the excellent post and sparked discussion.

    Thank-you for discussing! What did you think of my elaboration of “I believe in love”?

  • 33. BigHouse  |  March 2, 2010 at 10:56 am

    The Bible’s definition of and importance placed on faith is one of the main reasons that I have deconverted.

    I find that a very interesting assertion. Have you written more about this anywhere yet?

    I haven’t, but perhaps I should!! In a nutshell, I think faith has been improperly propped up as virtuous. For a book supposedly breathed from God to say “just take the word of these writers as gospel and “lean not on your own understanding”, portrays to me con-artisty, not an honest attempt at communication and direction. I wouldn’t let a contractor into my house to do work without vetting him first, why would I put my eternal fate in the hands of less rigorous thought?

    Thank-you for discussing!

    It’s my pleasure.

    What did you think of my elaboration of “I believe in love”?

    Honestly, I had a hard time digesting the clear mud :-) Lemme re-read and ponder and give you some feedback later.

  • 34. Quester  |  March 2, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I wouldn’t let a contractor into my house to do work without vetting him first, why would I put my eternal fate in the hands of less rigorous thought?

    Ah. Perhaps that’s an upside to my terming this post “Statement of Faith” on a deconversion site. I’m warning people that these ideas need to be rigorously considered before being adopted or discarded, *grin*

  • 35. BigHouse  |  March 2, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Sneaky, Quester, sneaky!! :-)

  • 36. Big Dan  |  March 26, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Hello, this isn’t particularly related to your post, but I just wanted to throw you a link to an interesting article: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/Non-Believing-Clergy.pdf

  • 37. Quester  |  March 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks, Big Dan. It’s always nice when a randomly added link is at least somewhat relevant. *grin*

  • 38. Joe  |  April 15, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Quester—

    I had asked a question back on the Easter blog hoping we were past the stuff happening there, but it was deleted by the thread’s author. That’s fair. So let me transfer it here on your own article.

    I had said:
    But they seem unwilling to do that—not sure why—but they are.

    You replied:
    Because there’s no incentive to put extensive effort into disproving falsehoods, where one might assume that reading the central portion of a “holy” text, and considering it carefully, would not be considered onerous for a person who considers the text to be holy and the message to be of vital importance?

    The very first part of your comment is what intrigues me. You mention that there is “no incentive to put extensive effort into disproving falsehoods”.

    My question is where that premise would come from. If billions believe it wouldn’t one WANT to investigate it point by point? If an atheist from the Freedom from Religion Foundation is the author of a “resurrecion challenge”(1997) wouldn’t one conclude that the test itself may be slanted to “disprove” something the person ALREADY does not believe?

    You had mentioned that taking the challenge was a main facet in your deconversion, and I wanted to know what “form” that investigation took? Did you check the “problems” you were having with various commentaries and sources to see if maybe the test itself was skewed by personal opinion?

    I am very curious. If you have time it would be great to hear your thoughts on this. If not, that’s cool. I would also ask the author of the other thread to please leave things be. I will not comment on his thread and he need not comment on posts I make also. We can leave it at that—this is just a blog–they can get heated at times—but no need to turn it into a witch hunt. Let bygones be bygones.

    Let me know Quester—-it is post #80 on the other thread—I really meant to ask you that question then before the thread went way off subject.

  • 39. Joe  |  April 15, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    By the way Quester, too bad some of that stuff over there on the Easter board got deleted—some of it was pretty funny. I think you might have enjoyed some of it though it was admittedly childish. I even got to use a photo of Shari Lewis and LambChop. You don’t see them too often any more. What’s too bad is that some of the posts I made that had nothing to do with the silly argument there were removed also, so i’ve lost a little bit of the context we had in our conversation—but I think I remember most of it.

  • 40. Joe  |  April 15, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Oh—it looks liike the beginning conversation was left intact, so I am wrong about that. I’ll go back and re-read that. Take care.

  • 41. Kathi Heiser  |  May 15, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I just stumbled onto your blog today . . . myself a blogging newbie, I have gone out in search of like-minded folks.

    I left my religion around 3 years ago, but didn’t immediately leave a belief in God. I’m not 100% when that happened – I just know that it did and for awhile it was a living Hell. The thought of NOT having an eternal life was perhaps more difficult than leaving my religion and losing my very dearest friends as a result. I don’t hate religion and I wish the best for those who believe. If the belief in everlasting life gives them what they need . . . all the power to them.

    I see you have been blogging for a while, but are not yet to do so with your real name. That is another stepping stone for people like us. Again, I’m not sure when I became comfortable saying it publically . . . I just realized that now I am.

    Best wishes and I look forward to reading more.

  • 42. Quester  |  May 16, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Thanks for your words, Kathi! I left religion because I no longer believed in God. Both happened about two years ago for me. I went through an intense grieving period, and still occasionally mourn my loss of the life I thought I had. I don’t hate believers, or belief, though I do hate some of the destructive powers of religion and faith. Please stick around and read some of the articles we have posted. I hope you might find some to be helpful.

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Attention Christian Readers

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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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