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Welcome to Round Seven of the Atheist Digest series. (Note: see below for schedule changes.)

In this series we're going to explore philosophy, science, theology, psychology, epistemology, and a whole slew of other silly elitist things. We're going to challenge each other to think, we're going to inadvertently insult some people, and hopefully we'll end the day battered, bruised, confused, but just a little more thoughtful and tolerant than before.

Previous (and rather awesome) installments of this series:

XNeeOhCon's Series Intro
Semantics (Chicagoa)
Belief (Something the Dog Said)
Science, and Scientific Method (rfall)
Evolution (rfall)
Common Myths & Misconceptions about Atheists (SuperbowlXX)

I am not an atheist. I absolutely, 100% believe in God. As a former agnostic atheist (see Chicagoa's Semantics diary), this was a very difficult leap for me to make. I'm sure you can imagine, but there were lots of tears involved in the process.

I don't belong to any religious practice. I'm not a Christian (of any stripe), a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Mormon (which is kinda Christian, anyway) a Rosicrucian, a Jew for Jesus, a Scientologist, or any other organized religion you can throw my way. I certainly don't begrudge anyone who does practice religion, however, or (in contrast) considers him/herself an atheist  - whatever trips your trigger. I do love to learn about and explore religions but, if anything, I think my holistic, Boulder-inspired spiritual views fall right in line with Buddhism.

Bud·dhism (bōō'dĭz'əm, bŏŏd'ĭz'-)    
n.  
The teaching of Buddha that life is permeated with suffering caused by desire, that suffering ceases when desire ceases, and that enlightenment obtained through right conduct, wisdom, and meditation releases one from desire, suffering, and rebirth.

I am of the mindset that Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion, though. There is no set of beliefs you need to have to be (or become) a Buddhist, but rather, a series of choices. Buddhism incorporates the idea of Higher Self (realization) and Lower Self (denial). There is no altar, no rules, no choir, no immortal book, no worshipping Buddha, nothing. The above link calls Buddhism "very pragmatic" which, I suppose, is the point.

How I came to believe in God is a long and personal story. I've diaried about it many times, so feel free to check my history. But the bottom line is this: about 5 years ago, I began to understand that I'm not really The Shit that I regularly think I am. My entire world fell apart, and I was left standing with the knowledge that Something (could be anything, really - could be a fucking interspace doorknob, for all I know) made us. All of us, all of this. The trees, the birds, the flowers, the dirt, the oceans, rainbows, snow, the Earth, the Universe, supernovas, you name it. I don't think that homosapiens just, like, appeared here without purpose.

I feel that there is Higher Purpose. I feel that there is Higher Power. But I freely and willingly admit that I have no idea what that Something is. Could be a woman, could be a man, could be a gigantic orgy with 50 people, could be a big green blob. I just call this presence "God", because everybody knows wtf I'm talking about when I say it. My feeling of God is not solely head, but entirely heart: I don't think it, I feel it.

A beautiful Colorado, blue sky morning. A baby's smile. My daughter's laugh. Wonderful life moments, that would somehow feel less to me without God in the equation.

Why do people choose organized religion and/or spirituality? Why do people have faith in something/someone(s) that they can't see? For a number of reasons that I can fathom, just off the top of my head. Understanding. Family history. Familiarity. Comfort. Community. Prestige. Respectibility. Death of a loved one. Illness. Other big life changes. "It was just what was expected of me."

The components of belief are complicated and, sometimes, twisted. But, in the end, I think all believers wish to define that which is undefinable. The one thing I seem to have in common with many other believers is that I wish to understand. I do not, however, wish to obey; in my mind, that is the primary difference between the religious and the spiritual. I think that a certain amount of gratitude and thankfulness to my Creator is all fine and good, but I guess I'm not really cut out for the reverence part.

I've heard this quote many times in the past, and I think it has at least a partial kernel of truth (not always, but sometimes):

Religion is for people who are afraid to go to Hell. Spirituality is for people who've already been there and don't want to go back.

I am down with science. I am down with proof and evidence and computer back-ups. But science simply cannot answer all of life's mysteries - it's just not possible. Life is much bigger and more complex than absolute answers that have perfect endings, just like 30-minute Brady Bunch reruns. Crop circles? Ghosts? Little green men? Black holes (a.k.a. "Shiz's love life")? ESP? Honest-to-goodness psychics? Glenn Beck?

All of these things are enigmas. All of these things are mysteries. Even if you wanted to, you could spend your entire life trying to cohesively puzzle the pieces together and coming away with nada, or very little.

Sometimes, there just aren't any answers.

People generally use faith as a salve. Life is messy and scary and completely undomesticated. I mean, fuck, the world has Republicans in it! Republicans, fer chrissakes! What the hell, ya know? How do you explain Sarah Palin? What, you got some scientific evidence to present to me to figure that shit out? I highly doubt it.

I am very naive, in many ways. I very much want to see the best in people and I often do, to my own detriment. I'm not only an eternal optimist, but a total romantic to boot. Faith and belief are tangents that I not only keep close, but regularly employ: I talk to God all the time. We chill, we listen to techno, we dance, we sing, we write, we eat great food, we hug my daughter. This makes me happy, fulfilled, and satisfied. I feel "complete" with God in my life, for lack of a better phrase. My God doesn't judge you, doesn't harm you, doesn't want to cause you pain. My God laughs at many of the rules that organized religion has even made up. For the believers who are reading this, I recommend the Joshua book series for a full understanding. In this series, Joshua (Jesus) comes back in present day and essentially messes up organized religion's theories about what it should be, and who he can/should be.  

The benefits of faith are surely numerous: positivity, compassion, happiness, perspective, intimacy, personal success, etc. And while I certainly don't doubt that atheists have achieved many of these things on their own, I submit that there should be some kind of Atheist Group (AG?) "religion", whose main service is to provide outreach to members going through tough times, and to help them through said times. Although, this does kind of take away from the Atheist Philosophy (AP?) which, seemingly, is thus:

Why don't y'all just let us handle this our own selves? We like our science and we can believe whatever we choose. Not all of us need community, ya know.

And that's entirely true, I know. Not everyone does. But I do. I need understanding and guidance. I need help. I need belief. I need faith.

I need Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

maslow Pictures, Images and Photos

For most of my adult life, I have spent much of my time on Rung One of that ladder. I want to make it higher. I want to be a better person, as well as a person who needs less than I normally do. Abraham Maslow was a brilliant man.

My way to get there? Faith and spirituality. Others have different ways, but faith and spirituality are mine. I tend to take the Margaret Cho approach to religion (even though I'm not a Christian), which she perfectly summed up in a blog post she wrote last year entitled "I'm a Christian, you Fuckers". Apparently, she has the same exact problem with Sarah Palin (and her supporters) that I do. Heh:

Don’t fucking question my Christianity you fucking idiot assholes. If you continue to have a problem, then talk to God about it, not me, you fucking racist homophobic misogynist fake Christian shitheads. God thinks it is funny that I swear so much. He said I could use his name in vain or whatever. He just wants me to use it. He loves me. So fuck you. And I guess he loves you too. Even though you are fake Christian assholes. If you were truly Christians, you would let gays get married, and send them fucking presents from Bed Bath and Beyond!

If you truly believed in Jesus, you would try to be like him and love us, fags and dykes and feminists all. God bless you, even you. You fucking fuckers.

Word, Ms. Cho. Word.

-----

Thanks to all who have participated in this diary series thus far! You guys rock! (For the most part, both diarists and commenters have been respectful and forthcoming.) A note regarding future diaries:

Sunday August 23rd - Topic 8 - Growing up Atheist - (WarrenS)

WarrenS talks about growing up in a family of atheists (all right, grandparents on one side were churchgoers, but that's it).  How did his parents (both scientists) teach morality and ethics?  How did growing up atheist affect his relationships with religions and religious organizations?  How did it affect his relationships with religious people?   Now that he has a child of his own, how will he approach these questions?  Expect lots of stories and thought-provoking digressions in this one.

Date TBD (Maybe August 27?) – Topic 9 – Creation, Cosmology,  Deism, and the Space-Time Continuum. - (Chicagoa)

Chicagoa:  This will be "a diary on cosmology - physics, logic, and theory - to explain to the haughty deists why we don't accept their First Cause or Kalam Cosmological arguments for the existence of a non-interventionist designer deity."  This will possibly include a discussion of the philosophy of infinite/finite time and space, and explore the common misperceptions of Einstein’s and Hawking’s views of "God."  

Date TBD - Conclusion: ‘Why We Care So Much’ - (XNeeOhCon, with input from all)

This one is pretty simple, but needs more attention.  We need to make everyone see why we are so ‘obsessed’ with religion and what it really means to be Atheist in the United States.  Within this section we will restate why we felt like participating in this series, and what we hoped to accomplish.  We’ll try to tie up as many loose ends as possible and we will get some brief concluding statements from any of those who participated that would like to submit them.

Originally posted to I don't think you're ready for this jelly. on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:06 AM PDT.

Poll

If you're a person of faith, how do you feel about atheists?

2%1 votes
2%1 votes
2%1 votes
34%16 votes
25%12 votes
4%2 votes
29%14 votes

| 47 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for respectful discourse, or I will (35+ / 0-)

    sic Margaret Cho on you.

    Seriously, please be as kind and respectful as possible in the comments.

    no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

    by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:06:12 AM PDT

  •  I can't believe no one is commenting. (11+ / 0-)

    I pissed off no one? Seriously?

    Red letter day for me then! Yay. :)

    no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

    by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:18:17 AM PDT

  •  First? (2+ / 0-)

    YOU PISSED ME OFF!!
    </snark>

    Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

    by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:20:11 AM PDT

  •  You didn't piss off this atheist. (7+ / 0-)

    But I'm curious about the people who responded to your poll with

    I can deal, but only when they're respectful of me and my beliefs

    I wonder what they believe being respectful entails?

    •  True enough. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Indexer, dakinishir

      I'd like to see some comments from those that clicked that option as well.

      no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

      by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:25:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Avoid "Invisible Sky Fairy"? (4+ / 0-)

      I've been on both sides of this debate, and I can tell when an atheist is trying to debate, and when they're just trying to push buttons.

      Neither Christianity, nor Buddhism, nor atheism, nor agnosticism, nor any other creed, makes you immune to acting like a jerk.

      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

      by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:55:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with this. (4+ / 0-)

        That "invisible sky fairy" thing makes me angry as well.

        no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

        by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:58:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But that's exactly it, isn't it? (4+ / 0-)

          I submit that when an atheist uses a term like 'Invisible Sky Fairies' they're (mostly ) not saying it to be disparaging but to make a point. You say 'god'. I say 'unicorns'. Why does the believer take offense?; because to them they're different. To the atheist they are exactly the same thing, and the fact that the believer for some reason sees them as different is the very crux of the issue.

          Fwiw though, I find your excellent diary to be a statement that fits my definition of 'spirituality' more than anything. Even the most militant atheist could find little to disagree with in a 100% internal, subjective belief system that has relevance to you but not to to others.

          •  It can be said in a way that's not quite (2+ / 0-)

            so dismissive. "Invisible sky fairy" is a loaded phrase that equate someone's deeply held and felt beliefs with an episode of "My Little Pony".

            •  True, "Invisible sky fairy" is dismissive (0+ / 1-)
              Recommended by:
              Hidden by:
              Chicagoa

              Then you should not be surprised when people react strongly to that. But the atheist community IS surprised and upset when people get angry at your arrogant dismissive attitudes.

              You claim that you are right and that the truth of what you say gives you permission to trample on others.

              It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

              by MnplsLiberal on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:07:48 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I have never said anything of the kind. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Colorado is the Shiznit

                Please don't lie about me or my words again.

                •  Why do you take things personally? (0+ / 0-)

                  You is third person plural here. Not first person.

                  It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

                  by MnplsLiberal on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:31:42 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Bullshit. (0+ / 0-)

                    Not only are you a liar but you're a coward. Walking back from your words time and time again, professing that your words aren't really meant for their targets, and changing the sense, tone and meaning of others' responses to you.

                    You're a coward.

                    •  Not at all (0+ / 0-)

                      In the sentence "You claim that you are right and..." the word "you" is understood by anyone to be third person plural. This should be clear since I say "the atheist community..." in the paragraph above it. This is standard english grammar.

                      Why do you always want to talk about everything except the question at hand?

                      It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

                      by MnplsLiberal on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:43:44 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

              •  "The atheist community IS..." (2+ / 0-)

                Because all Jews look alike, act alike, and think alike to bigots.

                Sorry, I meant Negroes.

                Sorry, I meant Muslims.

                Sorry, I meant women.

                Sorry, I meant atheists.

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:48:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  You forgot: (0+ / 0-)

                  All gun owners are NRA shills and anti-gun control absolutists.

                  I'd like your point of view on this RAOR. I think you'll probably disagree since we don't see eye to eye on the RKBA issue, but I'd like your opinion.

                  Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                  by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:25:38 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  My response is simple (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    dakinishir

                    as someone who carried a gun in uniform and was trained to use it against "enemy" humans, I can tell you first-hand, arming yourself in response to armed threats is not the answer.

                    All your are doing is adding straw to a dry well with a magnifying glass mounted on it pointed at the sun.

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:29:56 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Ok. n/t (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      RandomActsOfReason

                      Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                      by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:34:11 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Sorry if that's a curt answer to a long, (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        dakinishir, bol

                        thoughtful diary, but to be honest, I just couldn't get past the "let's respond to armed right-wingers at town meetings by arming liberals at town meetings".

                        The more guns you bring to a place where people have strong passions, the more likely you are to see them used. That's just common sense, as well as empirical experience.

                        When you discard reality in favor of an uncompromising dogma, that is, in fact, fundamentalist thinking.

                        Where are all the gun owners who don't favor arming everyone to the teeth? Where are gun owners standing up to the NRA? Where are the gun owners calling for disarming rather than an escalating arms race between conservatives and liberals?

                        Is that the way to peace? In that case, why don't we encourage every nation to get nuclear weapons - hell, we have enough of our own to give a devastating arsenal to every nation on Earth.

                        Does more weaponry bring more security? Really? Then why don't we just hand out weapons - with adequate training - to every living American?

                        Perhaps that's your vision of an idyllic society. It's not mine. I've seen what hostile, impassioned  populations do with guns - particularly when both sides are armed to the teeth.

                        So, where are these pacifist gun owners. Where are those calling for deescalating the violent rhetoric? Where are those supporting a prohibition on bringing guns to presidential appearances?

                        Show me them, and I'll reconsider my experience-based opinion that the NRA wins because, overwhelmingly, most gun owners either back its extremist agenda, or don't give a fuck either way.

                        More guns have not made us a more peaceful, safer, more secure society. We are the most violent, fearfilled free society on Earth. And you want to ratchet up the sabre-rattling?

                        That's just insane. Or, fundamentalist.

                        I really mean no personal offense, but that is how I see it. It is utterly irrational and counter-factual to propose that more armed angry citizens at a town hall will produce better democracy.

                        One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                        by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:46:32 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

            •  sure, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Colorado is the Shiznit

              There could often be more respect shown all round, but I counter that depending on the severity of the theist, it's likely impossible not to be offensive when questioning someone's deeply held beliefs. My very existence is offensive to some fundamentalists and that sure offends me.

              •  Respect is due to people, not to thoughts or word (0+ / 0-)

                Why is one unsubstantiated belief that contradicts natural laws worthy of more "respect" than another?

                Should be defer to Scientologists' stories about Xenu?

                How about Harry Potter?

                A concept is never worthy of inherent respect. Respect is something free people grant voluntarily to other people.

                Ideas are not people. Ideas do not have feelings. Ideas do not automatically deserve merit. Ideas are judged based on how they correspond with reality - or, more accurately, based on how useful they are when measured against reality.

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:54:03 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  agreed 100% (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  RandomActsOfReason

                  I was referring to people when I mentioned respect. Ideas that I disagree with- not so much.

                •  your last sentence is only true (0+ / 0-)

                  if rationality is your highest god.

                  When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                  by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 09:53:35 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Actually, that is not the case (0+ / 0-)

                    if an idea is useless, then, pardon the obvious, but what use is it?

                    It may be pretty and nice to admire in an abstract way, but we are concerned here with the impact ideas have on the world.

                    If I have an idea that throwing rocks at people's heads is harmless, that idea is not automatically meritorious just because it is an "idea" that someone uttered. It can, and should, be measured against against reality in order to determine how useful an idea it is.

                    I fail to see what that has to do in any way with making "rationality your highest god" - whatever that means.

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 11:50:24 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  What empirical reason is there to differentiate? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mcronan, KVoimakas

              You are making an argument from popularity, which is a logical fallacy.

              The only reason you think we need to be deferential to invisible sky fairies, and not my little ponies (or Xenu), is because more people believe in invisible sky fairies.

              Rationally, there is absolutely no basis for believing in invisible sky fairies, and insisting on that belief is not inherently worthy of any greater deference than all other dogmatic beliefs for which there is absolutely no evidence (and the existence of which would, furthermore, violate known laws of the universe we live in).

              One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

              by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:51:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Fair enough. (4+ / 0-)

        I never liked that one either. But it seems that all too often any expression of atheist non-belief is considered disrespectful.

        If I say: "In my opinion religious belief is so much fantasy", is that disrespectful?

        •  I don't personally think so (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Indexer

          because, in truth, we believe in something that can't be seen/touched/heard.

          no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

          by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:13:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  How about the more simply and emphatically: (3+ / 0-)

            stated:

            "Belief in God is fantasy."

            •  Nope. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Indexer, dakinishir

              That one's offensive to me.

              no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

              by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:20:21 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Can you explain why? (5+ / 0-)

                And please know that I'm not challenging; I'm interested in finding the limits of respectful discourse.

                For instance, many get very upset when an atheist says "There is no God; it's fantasy." But atheists are expected to accept that when a theist says "There is a God; it's the highest truth" it's no insult to athiests.

                What's the real difference between the two statements?

                •  That's a great point. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Indexer, dakinishir

                  I do understand that you're asking, and I hope we know each other well enough to be respectful here. And I think we do. :)

                  In any case, I think it boils down to what you essentially alluded to: it makes believers sound either insane or whimsical. I generally don't mind being considered whimsical, but not when it comes to my core beliefs and values. Then, I want to be taken seriously.

                  I guess I also don't think that God would require (or even ask) me to preach to you, and I wouldn't presume to tell you how to feel.

                  Does that make sense?

                  no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

                  by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:31:42 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  No, it makes dollars. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Colorado is the Shiznit

                    Wrong cents. Damnit.

                    I think it's a double standard or a blind spot. We're asked to prove that god doesn't exist when the burden of proof should be on proving that something DOES.

                    I need to back up the claim that I make. Maybe it's just the skeptic in me, but I try to back things up with statistics to prove one way or the other.

                    Maybe it's the pessimist in me. Always err on the side of pessimism because if you're wrong, you're golden and if you're right, at least you're right.

                    Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                    by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:34:24 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Maybe some believers do that to (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      KVoimakas, dakinishir

                      you guys, but I'm not one of 'em. I don't even understand 'em. I think that's condescending and insulting.

                      See dirkster's comment right below this one - I could not agree with him anymore if I tried.

                      no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

                      by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:47:29 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  who asks you to prove god doesn't exist? (2+ / 0-)

                      that's a nonsense demand. you can't prove non-existence.

                      I have no need for you to defend your atheism. I'm glad it works for you.

                      It'd be nice if atheists didn't ask me to prove my relationship with God was real, and useful. To me.

                      Unless I start trying to harm people because of my relationship with God, I'd like the common courtesy of mutual respect.

                      When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                      by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:30:55 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  So would I. (2+ / 0-)

                        And you'd be surprised how many people ask me to prove that god doesn't exist.

                        Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                        by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:37:01 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  sorry to hear that (2+ / 0-)

                          perhaps we've demonstrated that rudeness comes in all flavors? and is not dependant on one's stance re: theism.

                          When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                          by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:39:57 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  Silly them (2+ / 0-)

                          Since you can't prove a negative.

                          On the other hand, since you can't prove what you believe, yelling at me for not proving what I believe would also be silly.

                          And vice-versa.

                          In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

                          by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:50:02 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  This is the part I don't get. (2+ / 0-)

                            I don't BELIEVE in anything when it comes to religion. I say I don't know (and I don't.) Now, if I put forth a position, I would reasonably expect someone to ask me to put forth some evidence to back up that position.

                            At least, that's how I think it would work.

                            Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                            by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:53:06 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  one cannot provide evidence of the ineffable (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            One can simply encourage you to find out for yourself. There are many experiments (note: non-scientific usage of word!) you can undertake to do so. If you want to.

                            When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                            by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:55:49 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Quibble (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            As I understand the words, the absence of any position is agnosticism, and atheism implies an affirmative statement.

                            Agnostic = "The question is open".
                            Weak Atheism = "The question has been answered, at least in my opinion".
                            Strong Atheism = "The question has been answered, and is not opinion".

                            Strong atheists need to be able to back up what they say with extremely convincing arguments, since they assert that they have proven a negative.

                            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

                            by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:56:46 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I disagree with those definitions. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            Atheism is a lack of a belief in god. I lack a belief, therefore I am an atheist. An agnostic is someone who says they can't know if there is or isn't a god. But using the definition of atheist that I mentioned above, an agnostic would NEED to be a theist or atheist.

                            Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                            by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:59:12 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  But do you consider (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            your lack of belief to be proven - other people should share it? That's the distinction between "weak" and "strong".

                            If you are saying "I don't believe because no one has convinced me to believe", that's a weak atheist, as I understand things.

                            If you are saying "I don't believe and I don't think you should, either" that's a strong atheist. I say that then you need to back it up.

                            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

                            by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:06:35 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I don't get 'why' people believe (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            and I do think that the world would be better off without it BUT I know I can't prove god doesn't exist so....that leaves me where exactly?

                            Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                            by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:07:53 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Weak atheist (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            You don't think you can provide an air-tight proof. Which allows you to leave believers a little space.

                            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

                            by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:09:20 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  As long as they don't impact me, I have no (4+ / 0-)

                            problem with theists. It's the fact that I run into people who belittle me, push their beliefs on me and try to convert me that turns me off to theists in general.

                            Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                            by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:10:42 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Ah, yes (3+ / 0-)

                            Well, theists come in weak and strong forms, too.

                            Weak = "I believe what I believe, what you believe is your business".
                            Strong = "I believe what I believe, and part of that is evangelism".

                            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

                            by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:12:27 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That's not entirely parallel, of course. (3+ / 0-)

                            "Weak" and "strong," as applied to "atheism," have no necessary connection to one's attitude about people who see things differently.

                            There's nothing contradictory about being a "weak" atheist who sees theism as outrageous nonsense and insists on vocally attacking it at the drop of a hat.

                            And there's nothing contradictory about being a "strong" atheist who wouldn't dream of breathing an unkind word about belief in God or convincing a theist that (s)he's mistaken.

                            In ordinary atheist parlance, "weak" and "strong" are purely philosophical positions, not approaches toward discourse with theists--or indeed anyone.


                            (All this may not be news to you. If not, hopefully it's educational to lurkers.)

                          •  Hm-- (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            in light of your 1:06:35 PM EDT comment above, it appears that what I just posted may be news to you after all. I'll have to go up there and respond.

                          •  In reality, how many come in which forms? (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            KVoimakas, dakinishir

                            In the US, more than half the population is evangelical - and of the rest, 15% are nonreligious. That doesn't leave a lot of "I believe what I believe, what you believe is your business" theists.

                            It is one thing to discuss philosophy in the abstract. I enjoy that as much as anyone. But, as soon as you start to make statements about the real world that don't match up with empirical observation, I have a problem with that.

                            The reality is that theists who are truly ready to live and let live are the marked exception in America - and, a shrinking minority, according to all studies over the past twenty years.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:14:51 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  As part of the liberal Jewish community (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            this is not at all my experience.

                            The evangelism you speak of, I only encounter as reports on the TV and in here. Never in my personal life. So perhaps you can see why I needed my consciousness raised.

                            Most of the Jewish folks I hang with are atheist, agnostic or seriously questioning. People who have a relationship with God are suspect, intelligence-wise.

                            And yes, nearly everyone I know in the 3-D world is live and let live about personal theology. Really.

                            When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                            by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 04:56:14 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Jews represent just 1.2% of US adults (0+ / 0-)

                            Some subset of that are Orthodox and/or politically and theologically conservative (excluding the "Conservative" movement, which is something else again).

                            So, somewhere less than 1% of the US population are liberal Jews. Those who consider themselves ethnically Jewish but religiously atheistic or agnostic are clearly not part of the theist majority I referred to.

                            Even if every single one of the remaining portion of one percent were utterly accepting of atheists and agnostics (including non-Jewish atheists and agnostics), that wouldn't change the overall, overwhelmingly dominant theistic culture in the US.

                            You actually just proved my point, which is,

                            The reality is that theists who are truly ready to live and let live are the marked exception in America - and, a shrinking minority, according to all studies over the past twenty years.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 12:09:12 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  perfectly understandable (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            as long as you don't then pre-judge every theist because of those experiences.

                            we don't all behave so rudely.

                            When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                            by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:15:13 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I don't (or at least, I try not to.) (3+ / 0-)

                            My brother is very much a theist and one of my best friends. The problem stems from the fact that in person, I run into very few theists who DON'T treat me dismissively. It's not a fun thing. Yes, I live in a red county. It actually voted for McCain.

                            Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                            by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:21:59 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  ::sigh:: (2+ / 0-)

                            sucks that you live in a place full of folks like that. I'm sorry you experience so much intolerance.

                            I'm often relcutant to speak up, theistically, here on DailyKos because it seems my intelligence immediately becomes suspect. This is true in other places where the intelligentsia gather. It's why coming out of the God closet was difficult.

                            I hope this series of diaries will help reduce the intolerance between the atheists and theists that exists here, and makes it safer for all of us to comment without fearing ad hominems.

                            When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                            by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:25:08 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I think it's important for us to remember (3+ / 0-)

                            that there are always going to be one or two jerks who spoil the discussion from both sides, and not to let our anger with them spill over onto the vast majority of us who are arguing in good faith and with honesty.

                            I'm having some trouble with that one right now.

                          •  that's true (3+ / 0-)

                            but it sometimes seems more endemic than one or two jerks. feels like an overwhelming consensus at times.

                            could just be my sensitivity. Will watch carefully.

                            Thanks. and good luck.

                            When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                            by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:15:30 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Hopefully, that gives you a greater understanding (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            KVoimakas, dakinishir

                            of what it is like to be an atheist everywhere else in America except on this virtual online community.

                            We are the most hated group in America by a large margin. A majority of the American public would not vote for an atheist even if they were both the most qualified candidate and the one whose policies were closest to the voter. Everywhere we come out, we pay a price, socially, in terms of relationships, and often economically as well (and, in many places, particularly in the South, we are even in physical danger).

                            I'm not sure what can happen to you here - particularly since, even on Daily Kos, a majority of the community are believers. Just as the majority of Democrats are, and a majority on the Left are. But, what is the worst that can happen here? Someone unknown behind a pseudonym won't be nice to you behind your pseudonym?

                            I agree that can be unpleasant. Think about what it's like to grow up an atheist in America. Think about what it's like to have your young children hauled before their public school elementary class and forced to explain to their classmate why their families "don't believe in anything". Think about what it's like to hear a network news anchor repeat the lie that "there are no atheists in foxholes". Think about what that feels like to an atheist veteran son of an atheist veteran.

                            Personally, it would be nice if this series of diaries helped to reduce the intolerance towards theists out in the real world, where they dominate us twenty to one in the US, and make it safer for atheists to be who they are without fearing much worse than ad hominems.

                            But, I'm not holding by breath - not as long as no theists join us to fight anti-atheist prejudice in America.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:21:56 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That's terrible (0+ / 0-)

                            what you and other atheists are suffering. Again, I cannot speak for other theists, but I would absolutely vote for an atheist (I suspect Obama has his doubts, frankly), and I like to think I'm tolerant.

                            No issue at all with atheists. I don't believe it's possible to know with certainty anything about God, in the mystical sense. One can come to certain personal truths, but whether they are capital 'T' truths is impossible to know.

                            Could be the atheists are 100% correct and my personal belief system is 100% wrong. I have no trouble with that theory. I keep doing what works for me, and am happy to have you keep doing what works for you. And it harm none, no one else's business, really.

                            Again, I'm sorry you and yours have suffered so. May many more theists join the fight against anti-atheist prejudice in America.

                            When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                            by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 04:44:43 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I missed the chance to rec this (0+ / 0-)

                            since I was away over the weekend, but I wanted to give a "thumbs up" to your comment.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 11:53:06 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Eh.... (2+ / 0-)

                            But do you consider your lack of belief to be proven - other people should share it? That's the distinction between "weak" and "strong".

                            No, that's incorrect.

                            In ordinary atheist parlance (try checking out these sites), an "atheist" is any person who does not hold a belief in gods. Both "strong" and "weak" atheists fit within that description.

                            However, "strong" atheists take one (but only one) step further: they accept the affirmative belief that gods do not exist. They both don't accept belief in gods (which makes them atheists) and believe that gods don't exist (which makes them "strong"). That's all that "strong" atheists qua "strong" atheists believe or assert.

                            You've inferred a couple of additional and extraneous points from "strong" atheism. First, it's not the case that "strong" atheists necessarily "consider [their] lack of belief to be proven." Actually I don't think that phrase means at all what you intended it to mean; any atheist, it seems to me, can regard it as proven that they lack god-belief!

                            I think you mean to assert that "strong" atheists regard it as proven that gods don't exist. Presumably that is true for some "strong" atheists, but it's not an inevitable inference from "strong" atheism. It's not at all impossible to believe things that one regards as less than "proven," so a "strong" atheist need not accept the "proven" status of gods' nonexistence any more than anyone has to accept that anything she affirmatively believes is "proven."


                            Second, an atheist's attitude toward whether "other people should share" her atheism is entirely independent of "weak" vs. "strong."

                            A "weak" atheist--someone who lacks a belief in gods but is unwilling to state that he affirmatively believes gods don't exist--is perfectly capable of believing/stating/arguing that all theists should dump theism and share his "weak" atheism. One need not accept an affirmative belief to think that everyone else should adopt one's own (absence-of-belief) position.

                            By the same token, a "strong" atheist is perfectly capable of being totally apathetic about whether anyone else does or should agree with her. Hell, a "strong" atheist is capable of believing/stating/arguing that everyone (else) in the world ought to be a theist! That's a weird and perhaps morally suspect position, but it's not internally contradictory.


                            If you are saying "I don't believe and I don't think you should, either" that's a strong atheist.

                            No, that could be "weak" or "strong." That statement says nothing about whether the atheist holds a mere lack of theistic belief or an affirmative no-god belief.


                            The distinction is simpler than you make it out to be. An atheist who believes that there are no gods is "strong." All other atheists are "weak." No other criterion matters in drawing the distinction between the two.

                      •  Around here, (5+ / 0-)

                        it's usually in the context of "Atheism is justt as much a belief system and theism since you acn't prove God doesn't exist."

                        And that's when the whole "sky fairy" and "pink unicorn" nonsense usually starts out of simple frustration.

                        the majority of atheists usually don't try to ask you to prove your relationship with God is real and useful to you. You saying so is quite enough. And while I take you at your word that you don't harm people because of your experience of God, society as a whole most definitely does.

                        •  i see. knotty issue. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Colorado is the Shiznit

                          well, i don't think i've ever said that bit at the top there. i'm not sure i care whether these are belief systems or something else. the proof is in the pudding. plenty of righteous (in the positive sense) atheists, plenty of righteous theists.

                          as for your last statement, thank you for taking me at my word. most respectful and appreciated. agreed that much, much harm has been done in the name of religion, but I hold that is not the fault of religion per se, but the humans who wield it as a weapon.

                          religion (and money) is a tool that can be used for good or ill. no denying it has been used for devastating ill. i think responsibility for that lies in the human faults of greed, pride, and ignorance.

                          I wonder if experience of God actually drives harm. it is hard for me to fathom. but i have no doubt that fear and greed lead to harm, and that many pin the blame for those things on God, true or not.

                          When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                          by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:53:16 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I would argue that experience of God (3+ / 0-)

                            does not in fact drive harm, but it does lend a certainty and righteousness (in the bad sense) to those who would do harm perhaps regardless.

                          •  I doubt the "experience of god" leads to harm (3+ / 0-)

                            and I very much appreciate that many people experience god in ways that make them much better and happier people.  Most of the kindest people I know happen to be in the god camp of some sort or another.

                            I take mild exception to the way you phrase your last paragraph, though. "fear and greed lead to harm, and that many pin the blame for those things on God, true or not."  

                            I think it's important to not lose sight of the fact that many pin the blame for hateful and harmful actions on belief in god or, at least, adherence to a religion only because the perpetrators of these acts insist that they are acting in the name of god.  it's not the blamers pinning it on believers, the believers take up that mantle themselves.

                          •  sorry, i was unclear. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Colorado is the Shiznit

                            my last paragraph was meant to state what you said. it's the folks in the believer camp to whom I was referring.

                            Thank you for clarifying!

                            When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                            by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:11:19 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Many here reply to those of us who point out (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            mcronan, KVoimakas, dakinishir

                            the reality of deep-seated, pervasive discrimination against atheists, by saying, "but I'm not that way".

                            With all due respect, that is neither the point nor helpful.

                            For too long, theists who claim to be tolerant have ignored the treatment of atheists in America. Now, theists who claim to be tolerant direct all their ire at atheists who dare to be a bit uppity and in your face about it.

                            This is a site that is all about activism to change attitudes, yet I have never, ever, in ALL my years here, seen a SINGLE SOLITARY theist EVER post a diary calling other theists to task - and to action - for discrimination against atheists.

                            Nor have I seen even a consistent set of comments - actually, now that I think of it, a single comment EVER by a theist - that calls on other theists to combat prejudice against atheists.

                            Mostly, we get "stop complaining - it's not like the black or gay civil rights struggle" and "you atheists and your atheists community and all you atheists are so arrogant and hateful, I'm not like those fundies who talk about you atheists and your atheists community and all you atheists!"

                            The most we can hope for is that you push back on the theocrats when they threaten your freedoms.

                            Where are all you "I'm not like that" enlightened theists when we ask for you to join us in protest public figures dissing atheists?

                            You're nowhere to be found.

                            Where are you when the bigots attack us here on Daily Kos? Even here, you are nowhere to be found. Every HR a bigot troll gets for attacking atheists is placed there by an atheist. Every rec they get is placed there by a theist - and often it is the same people who protest the loudest that atheists are lumping them in with the fundies.

                            So, with all due respect - and I do respect and believe that you don't go out of your way to hate on atheists - that's beside the point.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:00:33 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  well ok. fair enough (0+ / 0-)

                            I've not been asked before to join the protests against public figures dissing atheists. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never even heard of such a protest. This is not an issue I've been aware of at all. My personal journey led through atheism and agnostisicm, but I live in seriously blue north east country, and I've encountered far more prejudice as a theist than as an atheist.

                            But now that you've raised my consciousness, I'll be on the look out.

                            I tend to stay off the GOS, but if I'm there and see folks dissing atheists (for their atheism and not random acts of assholeishness) I'll be sure to speak up. Ok?

                            Thanks.

                            When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                            by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 04:52:51 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                  •  You're 100% sure there is a god (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    KVoimakas

                    why is it not offensive for you to say that, but it is offensive for an atheist to be 100% sure there is no god?

                    What if I said, "Xenu is a fantasy".

                    Would that offend you?

                    If not, why not? Isn't that intellectually inconsistent?

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:51:42 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  There's a HUGE difference between (5+ / 0-)

                  There is no God; it's a fantasy.

                  and

                  Belief in God is a fantasy.

                  There's a fundamental semantic problem in discussions like these because "belief" often has very different associations for different people in the conversation (I'm not going to break it down evenly between atheists/theists, because not all people on either side of that line are alike, though in general, that is how it tends to play out).

                  For many religious people, "belief" isn't just "thinking X is true."  Belief may have as much to do with or even have more to do with a sense of commitment to a set of values, a disposition of trust, or a source of strength to get through adversity.  It may, in some cases, even be about the latter things instead of "thinking X is true."

                  The problem with a blanket statement "belief in God is fantasy" is that it doesn't stop to listen to whether or not the statement "fits" a given perspective.  Instead, it predefines people according to narrow categories; admittedly, there are plenty of cases where the category fits well, but especially when you're talking among people on Daily Kos, the likelihood is that if you're talking to someone religious, you're probably not talking to someone who's a Fundamentalist and thinks "thinking X is true" is going to make the difference as to whether you're a good person or not.

                  •  Give this man a hand! (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    dirkster42, dakinishir, blue aardvark

                    Take a bow!

                    Yes yes yes! What you said!

                    no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

                    by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:48:04 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  The "belief in God is a fantasy" idea (0+ / 0-)

                    Gets things slightly wrong. "Belief" is something that people do, it has a structure. "Fantasy" should not be understood to be like a dream. "Mystification" is I think a better term for how these things work.

                    "No Hay Banda!"

                    and yet we hear a band.

                    It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

                    by MnplsLiberal on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:27:01 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  but the set of values, etc are all derived from a (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    mcronan, KVoimakas

                    set of beliefs, and if those beliefs are fantasies, the conclusions based on them will be, too.

                    Believing something in the absence of evidence (and, a point folk don't like to discuss, isn't just neutral but requires violating known laws of the universe we live in) is irrational.

                    If it were belief in anything else of a similar nature, we'd be sharing a laugh. But, because it is called "God", we are told to give it deference.

                    Why? Simply because it is a popular belief.

                    That is not a basis for deference.

                    And, in point of fact, no belief is automatically worthy of deference of any kind. beliefs are not people. People deserve respect, but the beliefs they hold do not. Beliefs have merit based on their merit, not based on their popularity.

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 12:21:23 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  why is this so?: (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Indexer, Colorado is the Shiznit

                  But atheists are expected to accept that when a theist says "There is a God; it's the highest truth" it's no insult to athiests.

                  I think that is insulting to say to an atheist. It'd be ok to say "There is a God; that is MY highest truth." but not THE highest truth.

                  Who really knows?

                  When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                  by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:26:52 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Why should it be insulting to you (0+ / 0-)

                    That someone believes in an error? I am not insulted by flat earthers, are you? I doubt you are. Why then should it matter so that someone believes in a god or gods?

                    The fact that it does matter so indicates that to you it is more than mere belief.

                    It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

                    by MnplsLiberal on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:37:48 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  i do not understand your question (3+ / 0-)

                      i'm not saying I'm insulted by someone believing an error. I'm saying I think it is rude to state your belief as absolute truth to someone who holds a different belief, when the truth of both of those beliefs is not provable.

                      When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                      by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:42:04 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Objecting to and being insulted (0+ / 0-)

                        are two different things. I can understand why one would object to someone saying they believe in an absolute truth, God. But feeling insulted? No, that doesn't make sense.

                        Unless of course your atheism means as much to you as belief in god means to others. Which is what I'm getting at. For some atheists, many even, their atheism is functionally equivalent to a fundamentalists belief in god. It is something that they cannot tolerate disagreement about. That's why many people lump strong atheists together with fundamentalists. You're both pretty much the same.

                        It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

                        by MnplsLiberal on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:53:49 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  reading comprehension fail (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Indexer, Colorado is the Shiznit

                          perhaps we now come to the crux of your problem. reading comprehension.

                          try it again and see if you can figure out what I'm talking about.

                          When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                          by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:20:19 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  not really.. (0+ / 0-)

                          Because they seem functionally equivalent to you doesn't make them equivalent. For me 'atheism' and 'faith' aren't 'flip sides of the same coin'- they aren't even  the same currency. One is a view grounded in the same facts/reason/logic we all use all the rest of the time, and one is a system based on fiction. Not the same to me.

                        •  you've got to be kidding me (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Rieux, Colorado is the Shiznit, bol

                          For some atheists, many even, their atheism is functionally equivalent to a fundamentalists belief in god. It is something that they cannot tolerate disagreement about. That's why many people lump strong atheists together with fundamentalists. You're both pretty much the same.

                          Completely false.  How many atheists do you know that form entire institutions to convince people of the following:

                          1. That gay marriage is evil.
                          1. That abortion is murder.
                          1. That evolution is a myth and that creationism is true.
                          1. That global warming is a myth.
                          1. That if you disagree with #1-#4 or if you don't believe in a creator, that you're a godless sinner who deserves eternal punishment in the afterlife.

                          I can disagree reasonably with people of faith.  I have plenty of people in my life that I get along with and love quite a bit regardless of our differences on this issue.  But for you to equate "many" atheists with religious fundamentalists shows that you have practically no understanding of atheism at all.

                        •  Let's assume you are right (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          mcronan, Indexer, KVoimakas

                          what then?

                          If atheism is just another religion, under our system of government that means atheists should be included in all faith-based activities, commnications, that we should be invited to all faith-based events and have an equal say (or, at least a proportional say) comparable to all other believers in America.

                          Also, our social institutions should enjoy exemption from taxation as well as the reporting requirements normally expected of nonprofit organizations.

                          Presidents should give deference to us and candidates should lobby us to gain our support.

                          "Interfaith" conferences should extend us invitations. We should be in the rotation for giving benedictions at Prayer Breakfasts and invoking the opening of the workday in Congress.

                          Signs reading "THERE IS NO GOD" should be placed on public property wherever other religious symbols are located.

                          There should be designated, funded atheist chaplains in the military.

                          And it should be as politically incorrect and socially unacceptable for bigots like you to talk about "you atheists" and "atheists are" as it is to say those things about Jews.

                          So, let's say you're right - atheism is a religion.

                          Are you willing to spend your time, energy and money fighting for the right for atheism to be recognized as a religion under US law?

                          One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                          by RandomActsOfReason on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 12:00:17 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

            •  I think (4+ / 0-)

              the problem goes back to the semantics, a bit, because that statement makes a lot of assumptions about what both "God" and "believe" mean, assumptions that have worked in the context of the Atheism Digest series for narrowing the topic, but when you actually get into how religious people define themselves - well, that might or might not apply depending on context.

              •  it pisses off some atheists (4+ / 0-)

                when I assert that I do not believe in God, I experience God.

                Of course, what I am calling my experience of God is subjective, and might be something else entirely. Which I willingly admit.

                Does that mean it's a fantasy?

                When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:48:29 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yes! wait...NO! (4+ / 0-)

                  It all comes down to definitions and points of view.

                  Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                  by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:52:08 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Let me have some more coffee (2+ / 0-)

                  before I sort through that one.  :)

                •  Curious. I see no reason your (4+ / 0-)

                  description would piss off an atheist. At most, an athiest would think it's besides the point.

                •  Whether or no it pisses anyone off (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  mcronan, Indexer, KVoimakas, dakinishir

                  has no bearing on its merit.

                  It is neither reasonable because people defer to it, or because people mock it.

                  Given that we can induce the experience of God at will in a lab by applying current to particular electrodes attached to your head, then, yes, it is a fantasy - just like the other sensations we can induce by similar means - or, the fantasies you experience when you take some bad mushroom or eat a fajita past its due date.

                  Subjective experience is, if unsupported by objective evidence and if it contradicts known physical laws of the universe we live in, a fantasy.

                  The only reason you treat a "God" fantasy any different than a "I'm on a desert island with Marie Antoinette" fantasy is cultural taboo which serves to perpetuate and propagate the "God" fantasy.

                  If we treated belief in god just like any other belief, and subjected it to the same criteria, it would fade from human society a lot faster.

                  It's a survival mechanism of one of the most successful memes ever to emerge in human society.

                  As the fortune cooke says, Help! I'm trapped in a meme factory!

                  One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                  by RandomActsOfReason on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 12:28:04 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  thanks for your perspective (0+ / 0-)

                    i have a question. seriously, this is honest curiosity and not a veiled argument. I do respect you and your clarity of thought - what is your thinking on the centuries old consciousness studies that have been going on in the east? I'm far more interested in the community of people in the Buddhist world who have raised consciousness studies to something approximating science (please don't hurt me, I'm sensitive!), than I am in the Judeo-Christian God meme.

                    When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                    by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 05:01:59 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The only reliable, consistent, predictable (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      mcronan

                      and thus useful form of study that humans have discovered that works is scientific study. To the extend other study holds up to valid, double-blind, empirical studies, peer review, and all the other tools in the scientific method toolkit, that other study is valid. To the extent that it is refuted by the scientific method, it does not.

                      The "centuries" of study are irrelevant - the amount of time something has been studied, or the amount of time it has been believed, have proven to be irrelevant measures of veracity. If it isn't studied with proper scientific controls, history shows us false results cannot be reliably distinguished from valid results.

                      Most false beliefs were held for most of human history (and many still are). Arguments from age are no more valid than arguments from popularity ("most everyone believes in something supernatural, therefore there must be something to it").

                      Subjective experience has similarly proven unreliable - and, anything that exists only in the imagination and has no material effect on anything or anyone else (like the deist notion of a being that launched the universe, but has no interaction with it since that time) may be fascinating, but it is not "real" in any useful sense (except to the extent that noncritical thinkers act on others in the world based on those unreal imaginary thoughts), and thus it is not particularly useful.

                      One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                      by RandomActsOfReason on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 11:26:58 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  thanks for your response (0+ / 0-)

                        When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                        by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 11:28:56 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  oh, and I didn't mean to convey that it was (0+ / 0-)

                        reliable because of the time frame, simply trying to pinpoint the studies to which I was referring.

                        I'm not certain about the conditions of the studies or if they meet all the criteria of scientific method. I know they are independantly peer reviewed, but again, since they began before our scientific method was widely disseminated, it may be in a different manner.

                        I'm no expert, is what I'm saying. But I wonder if there is some value to inner-based consciousness study, as there is no way that I'm aware of to study these things externally.

                        When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                        by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 11:33:00 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

            •  That's harsher (4+ / 0-)

              because it suggests that you are right, believers are wrong, and there's no room for debate.

              Compare: "I am a Democrat" to "Democrats are always right". It's sort of the same feeling.

              In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

              by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:25:58 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think so. (4+ / 0-)

          Respect is usually more about tone than content, anyway.

          And, as a religious person, I even agree with you up to a point.  (Some points where I'm guessing we'd diverge is the value we place on "fantasy" (I think it's intrinsic to an interesting life and absolutely inescapable in culture), and I'd be inclined to think there's an element of fantasy in religion, where I think you might be inclined to say that's the whole thing?)

        •  "In my opinion" (4+ / 0-)

          softens almost anything that follows it. It acknowledges that other people might disagree without being stupid or bad.

          In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

          by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:24:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Even being enlightened... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Colorado is the Shiznit

        ...is no insurance against acting like a jerk.  I've met some enlightened assholes.

        Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

        by WarrenS on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 02:01:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  you have? isn't that an oxymoron? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WarrenS, Colorado is the Shiznit

          how do you define enlightened?

          When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

          by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 02:54:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'd say that if you experience... (2+ / 0-)

            ...the underlying unity of all things and phenomena at a visceral level, you've had an "enlightenment experience."

            If you're a selfish jerk and you have an enlightenment experience, it doesn't necessarily make you stop being a selfish jerk.

            Yeah...it sounds weird, but I've met 'em.

            Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

            by WarrenS on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:53:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I cannot tell you how many (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              WarrenS, KVoimakas, dakinishir

              people in the Boulder area have this very affliction. "I'm totally enlightened, so let me try to make you feel like a piece of shit because I think I'm better than you" is the underlying message I receive.

              It's fucked up and twisted. These folks are no better than Rick Warren.

              no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

              by Colorado is the Shiznit on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 05:42:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Doesn't that suggest that individual perception (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mcronan, WarrenS, KVoimakas

                is an unreliable measure of reality?

                Doesn't that suggest that having an experience of "oneness with all things" may just be an illusion, caused by a misfiring of a particular set of neurons in response to a flood of neurotransmitters brought about by some mushrooms or a ham sandwich passed its due date?

                Doesn't that suggest some humility and recognition that being 100% certain of one's belief is both irrational and unjustified by human experience and empirical evidence?

                We now know how to generate that sensation in the brain at will with electrodes in a lab.

                I know you will take this the wrong way, but when you diss other people who claim to have had an experience of enlightenment because they still act like assholes, you sound exactly like the Christians who dismiss other CHristians as not "REAL" Christians, because they behave in ways that the "REAL" Christians find offensive.

                See, the advantage of the scientific method is that it teaches us that individually we have limited perceptions and are prone to error - but that, collectively, we can correct and average out those errors, act as checks and balances to one another, and arrive at useful models of reality that mirror it closely enough to be, well, useful - we can make predictions based on those models that reliably turn out to be true, and we can change our fate using this knowledge - to cure disease, to alleviate pain and suffering, to feed the hungry, to build roads so that we can share our bounty, and, ultimately self-govern as a collectively free people.

                THAT is the kind of "Enlightenment" with a capital E that inspired the founders of this nation to envision a society governed not by individual faith, but by collective reason.

                It is ironic that the one lesson least learned from Buddhism is, "if you meet Buddha on the road, kill him".

                Even people who practice this in the sense of maintaining skepticism of dogmatic faiths, rarely think to apply it to their own certainty - their own "Buddha".

                It is ironic that theists tend to call atheists arrogant. The most arrogant thing of all is to say, "I know 100% what the truth is, because I experienced it myself".

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:18:27 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Jesus H. Christ. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  dirkster42, dakinishir

                  Ya know what? As the only believer invited to participate in an Atheist Digest Series with a bunch of non-believers, I have found most of your comments here to be not only condescending, but downright insulting. I didn't get that from most of the other folks, believers or not.

                  I think you are part of the problem regarding communication between atheists and theists, which (I think) was part of the point of the creation of this series. I hear absolutely no respect in your tone. Nada. It doesn't sound to me as if you're interested in bridging any kind of gap here - you're just slamming us theists, all of us, with blatant disregard. I also find it very interesting that you posted all of these comments way after the fact, so I have no back-up here.

                  Wtf, man. If I remember correctly, you were also asked to participate in this series and you declined. I guess now, I understand why.

                  You seem to have this holier-than-thou thing going on and a chip on your shoulder regarding theists, that is generally the size of New York.

                  So don't come into my house, shit on my carpet, and expect me not to call you on it.

                  In short: please stop acting like a complete and utter dick.

                  no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

                  by Colorado is the Shiznit on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 07:24:19 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I think you're reading a tone in his comments he (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    mcronan

                    didn't intend to convey.

                    He's stating his thoughts on the issue, and we have to realize going into this that people may question our ideas and statements. Let me completely honest with you Shiz:

                    I have tremendous respect for you. You are a fantastic writer and a thoughtful, compassionate individual. I envy your optimism and kindness and I try to learn from you as much as I can.

                    BUT

                    I have zero respect for your religious beliefs. Contrary to popular opinion, that isn't bigotry. I may find crucial flaws in some of your ideas, but that isn't intolerance, any more then finding flaws in a political idea is intolerance.

                    RAoR isn't "shitting on your carpet", he's criticizing the ideas you've presented. I know that you hold them very dearly, but don't confuse the idea for the person. I really appreciate your participation, and I hope you don't choose to hold a grudge against an entire group over this perceived mistreatment.

                    Peace

                    Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas, which, given enough time, turns into people.

                    by Chicagoa on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 10:51:51 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I wish I had time to respond to this in full. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      dirkster42

                      If I did ... but I don't.

                      You have "zero respect" for my beliefs. That's a pretty harsh statement. While I certainly don't hate all atheists (and don't plan to), I'd say that this concludes my work for/with Atheist's Digest.

                      no one has th eright to sell me to abc.

                      by Colorado is the Shiznit on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 04:17:01 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  How can a statement about an idea be harsh? (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        dirkster42, dakinishir
                        I have zero respect for authoritarianism. I have zero respect for anarchy. Those concepts are fatally flawed. That is the sense in which I have zero respect for theism. I find the idea to have no merit - it's a big zero.

                        If you want to explain what your problem is with my position, I would be happy to hear it and consider it. I also hope you won't choose to hate anyone at all over this. I'm sorry if you had a bad experience, but I'm not sure why you expected your ideas to be free from criticism.

                        I hope you have a great day, and I have incredible respect for you as a human being, and a great communicator.

                        Peace

                        Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas, which, given enough time, turns into people.

                        by Chicagoa on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 09:28:13 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  It's still unclear to me (2+ / 0-)

                          to what extent this series is about building community and visibility for the Atheist community and to what extent this series is about developing a conversation across lines.

                          But if someone invites someone to be part of a series, I would expect that to be a gesture that indicates, disagreement about ultimate conclusions aside, there is a basic respect for the other person's thought process.  "I think you have reached a wrong conclusion," should not equal "I have zero respect for your beliefs."  The first is a criticism, the latter is a put down.  The difference is between pinpointing exactly where the point of disagreement is and writing someone's ability to think off altogether.  Ideas don't exist in isolation - they're part of a larger, yeah, I'll say it, reasoning process, and I think respect across difference always means trying to find some point where you can say, "I see how you got there, I just think you draw the wrong conclusion at this point."

                          This is also a key point where a conversation just doesn't work at all because one side is generally looking for something zero sum - "does a deity exist or not?" - which actually isn't how most people, on Daily Kos, at least, who are religious think about the issue.  Even shiz comes right out and says

                          I feel that there is Higher Purpose. I feel that there is Higher Power. But I freely and willingly admit that I have no idea what that Something is.

                          That's not a defense of a concept, but a grappling to account for a feeling.  And it's that shift in where the focus lies that gets the conversation 99% of the time stuck in talking past each other - because when we on the religious side of the fence say "God" accounts for that feeling better than anything else we know, we may or may not, depending on the individual, be making a leap to a classically defined deity (some of us might be perfectly content with saying "God is just a brain state").  But in any case, when you've got one side trying to talk about something objective and another side trying to talk about something subjective, you're kind of comparing oranges and giraffes.

                          •  Thanks for your comment. (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            dirkster42, dakinishir

                            I'll think about it for a bit.

                            Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas, which, given enough time, turns into people.

                            by Chicagoa on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 04:06:52 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  thank you for this (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            dirkster42, Chicagoa

                            so glad someone articulate could put it out there. spent a good part of today wrassling with it to no avail.

                            the distinction between subjective and objective is useful.

                            When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                            by dakinishir on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 06:28:58 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Yeah, it is useful - (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Chicagoa

                            people should address the objective substance of other people's remarks, and not attack them personally based on subjective issues.

                            That's probably not what you meant, but that is how I see it.

                            I wrote nothing personal about Shiz, she attacked the hell out of me personally, and yet no theist here sees a problem with the way she escalated an objective discussion about ideas into an emotional personal diatribe.

                            It is hard not to conclude that there is an underlying bias that consistently produces these results - a subjective sympathy for a theist or magical thinker over an atheist or rational thinker.

                            How quickly the conversation turned from the substance of the debate into personal issues.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 12:29:56 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  A little selective quoting there? (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Chicagoa

                            In the very beginning of this diary, Shiz says,

                            I absolutely, 100% believe in God.

                            I referred directly to that kind of definitive statement in my comment, the one that for reasons that still evade me particularly harshed her mellow.

                            There is no grappling in that statement, it is a statement of absolute, unquestioned, unquestionable theist faith.

                            Why is such a statement automatically worthy of respect, and why is challenging it any more or less offensive than the challenge it inherently posits to my worldview? Absolutely 100% believing in something implies that the opposite is 100% false, does it not?

                            I did not attack Shiz' person (unlike the way she attacked me personally), I did not attempt to discredit her message by attacking her credibility (unlike her attack on me), and I addressed specific substance in her argument (unlike her substance free spew on me).

                            And yet, rather than address her personal, ad hominem, insulting, gratuitous, substance-free attack on me - you are defending that behavior and condemning people from frankly and objectively stating their own opinions - about IDEAS, not about people!

                            The double standard here is blindingly obvious - and this is why these discussions deteriorate to hostility - because too many theists can't tolerate rational dissent and can't separate ideas from their emotional attachment to them, which prevents objective examination of beliefs to determine true from false.

                            I have not insulted the diarist, the diarist insulted me - quite blatantly, extensively and rudely and personally - yet the diarist is defended.

                            It just reinforces my experience that my mere existence as an atheist and a rational thinker is inherently and profoundly offensive to theists and magical thinkers.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 12:26:45 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  Precisely (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Chicagoa

                      I happen to have a life, and so I was away from my computer for longer than the 24 hours a comment can be rec'd, so I'm just noting in this comment that Chicagoa echoed my thoughts entirely. There was nothing disrespectful in my comments.

                      Magical thinkers are just not used to having their assertions rationally challenged, and they tend to take offense when they don't have a rational rebuttal to a comment that debunks one of their claims.

                      I made no reference to Shiz's merit as a person, I made no ad hominems, I did not make any attempt to discredit the messenger by attacking her manner or credibility (as she has just done to me).

                      I merely stated facts that believers tend to consider inherently offensive - such as the fact that any number of "spiritual experiences" can be triggered at will in a laboratory these days with a few electrodes.

                      One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                      by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 12:15:28 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  As for belated responses (0+ / 0-)

                    I have a life, I don't sit on this site waiting for comments to jump on.

                    In fact, I wasn't aware of this diary at all until long after it was published. If you look back at the other atheist diaries, you'll see that in most cases I didn't post a first response until much later, sometimes a day or two later. I'm not obsessed with this issue as some appear to be.

                    I was also away white-water rafting this weekend, so I'm just getting back to respond to comments today. Please forgive me for having the temerity of not placing Daily Kos at the very tippy top of my life priority list.

                    The rest of your comment is just personal insults and imaginary grievances that have nothing to do with the substance of my comment.

                    If you are unable to respond substantively, then just admit that you don't have answers, you "just believe it is so". No need to get all personal and ad hominem about it.

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 12:18:34 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  agreed (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                WarrenS

                When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 04:37:01 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  That's not enlightenment (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mcronan, WarrenS, KVoimakas, dakinishir

              that is mistaking subjective experience for objective reality, and believing (arrogantly, in my view) that one's individual experience must be "true".

              The "underlying unity of all things" is an emotional response that may or may not have any basis in reality.

              Like other emotional responses, it may very well be utterly wrong and based on something you ate.

              Not to mention the fact that these days, it is a specific sensation that can be induced at will in a neurological laboratory, by applying electrical current to a particular area of the brain.

              One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

              by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:10:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  quibble (0+ / 0-)

                one's subjective experience is true, at least in some way, for some length of time, for the individual having the experience. it may or may not be true for anyone else, or true with a capital 'T', but that's a different matter.

                I'm also confused by why you think an experience created by stimulating the brain in a neurological lab is less real than any other kind of experience. All our perceptions are due to firing neurons, right? so what if they happen out there or in a lab? I'm not getting the distinction.

                I think you and I may be missing each other in semantics, maybe.

                When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

                by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 09:43:27 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  You have it exactly backwards (0+ / 0-)

                  The experience in a lab is real, the experience "out there" may or may not be.

                  Surely you've seen optical illusions. If you "see" that one line is longer than the other, but, when you measure them, they are the same, are the two statements equivalent? Is there no difference between reality and perception? If the length of the line were to determine whether a bridge carrying millions of people to work every day would stay up or fall, would you rely on your subjective perception or on the measurement of reality?

                  Similarly, if one says, "I was visited by an angel yesterday, when I was grieving for a loved one, I felt the angel's presence in the room with me," one is making a statement about reality that is unsupported by fact.

                  When it is shown that the precise same sensation can be generated at will in a laboratory, then alternative explanations - such as natural chemical imbalances and electrical activity produced during grieving, coupled with the brain's attempt to fill in the gaps created by the absence of a familiar person in one's cognitive processes, create a sensation of another presence", then one is making a very different statement, one supported by fact.

                  One is based on reality, affected by an actual external stimulus - electrical current flowing through an electrode - and one is based on an error of perception - a misfiring of neurons, in a way, that leads to an illusion.

                  The sensation is "real" - no one is questioning that people have a feeling of divine presence sometimes - but the alleged cause is what matters here. It matters whether the cause was an actual divine presence, or the after-effects of yesterday's taco dinner.

                  One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                  by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 12:40:29 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  one enlightenment experience does (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              WarrenS

              not an enlightened being make.

              neither does 5 or 10 or 100 discrete experiences. An enlightened being carries that perception with them 24/7, it is not a fleeting experience.

              When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

              by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 04:36:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  But seriously now, (4+ / 0-)

    I was raised as an atheist. Not a "we don't believe in god" atheist but a "we'll let you make your own decision once you've grown up" atheist. When my parents didn't know, they told me, we don't know.

    My current position on 'where we came from' and 'is there a god' is this:

    I don't know. I don't think we can. I'm going to live my life as if there is no god by my own set of standards and if there is, I don't think I'm a bad person (hopefully) so maybe god'll look at me and go, eh, you're in! And if there is no god, I've lived how I've wanted to.

    Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

    by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:23:23 AM PDT

  •  Another poll option (4+ / 0-)

    I would have answered:  I love atheists.

    And I also look for opportunities to share the gift of peace that I have received since coming to know God.  Not in that "you better believe" kinda tone, but more by getting to know people, learning what gets them jazzed and hoping they ask the same questions of me.

    Thanks for your diary!

    The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me' MT 25:40

    by Ed G on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:28:00 AM PDT

  •  I am just waiting for a certain theist to come (10+ / 0-)

    in and stir up the pot with his...um...unique personality like he has done in all atheist diaries and in some of my non-atheist diaries...so I am just enjoying the calm before the storm.

  •  Curiously (6+ / 0-)

    It is neurologically impossible for two people to share the exact same set of beliefs, any more so than they can share the same neurons. Everyone has their own perception of reality. There is always a margin of error. Some folks margin of error is course corrected more frequently than others, giant invisible agents not withstanding. Those folks accept the science is measurement, not opinion.

    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident." Arthur Schopenhauer

    by Instant Dogma on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:43:28 AM PDT

  •  A general comment about spirituality (4+ / 0-)

    Is that you'll get more water, by and large, with one well 12 feet deep than with 12 wells one foot deep.

    Setting aside, for the moment, the knotty question of "truth" (or, maybe, "truer"), you can do yourself more good in terms of climbing Maslow's pyramid by finding what scratches your itch and delving into it than by switching faiths every time you buy a new pair of shoes.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

    by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 07:58:20 AM PDT

    •  of course there is also the general experience (3+ / 0-)

      that the deeper you go down the well of any particular spiritual tradition, the more similarities you'll find.

      I have more in commen with mystics of other traditions than I do with fundamentalists or secularists from my own.

      When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

      by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:55:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I took comparative religion (3+ / 0-)

        in college, the Professor tied religious experience into Jungian psychology. He said that most psychological theories of religion work just fine in Europe - but they reach India, try to cope with the Hindus, and blow up into little tiny fragments.

        His thesis was that, broadly speaking, people can be divided into:

        Rational     Mystical
        Physical     Emotional

        with the implication of opposites. I don't know if I arranged things correctly.

        Anyway, there are those who want their religion to 'make sense', and answer their questions. Atheists tend to deny the existence of these people, but that's another debate. Contrast to the Rationals are those who want their religion to make them feel a certain way, regardless of whether it makes sense. Then there are those whose spirituality is very much about searching for God within. And finally, there are people (normally simple people) whose lives are about food, and sex, and a warm place to sleep, and their religion tends to deal with those issues.

        So a Christian mystic might very well find more in common with a Hindu Brahman than a Christian Catholic of the "pray to Saint Bob to get a job for today" variety. A Christian rationalist (a Jesuit, perchance) might be more like a Hindu Kshatriya than an ecstatic Pentecostal.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

        by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:10:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  is there any room in this construct (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Colorado is the Shiznit

          for the both/and thing?

          What if my religion/spirituality is very much about relating to the god within in order to most wholly serve, but it gets extra bonus brownie points for assisting with the pragmatic side of things as well?

          or if those things are so completely intertwined as to be indistinguishable?

          When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

          by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:15:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am not very familiar (2+ / 0-)

            with Jungian psychology, but I believe Jung divided personalities into those four basic categories, and therefore your religion will tend to correspond to your personality.

            Every faith has aspects of all four, and every person thinks and feels and lives and searches for meaning. It is a matter of emphasis.

            I think it's more like one of those "social liberal / economic liberal" graphs. There are regions, rather than single points, and some people are closer to the center than others.

            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

            by blue aardvark on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:30:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  nice diary, but... (6+ / 0-)

    I disagree with the bit about atheists needing a support group of other atheists to see them through the rough times or, conversely that atheists feel like they can handle everything themselves and don't need community.

    For me, and I assume for many other atheists, we need community and we have strong support networks, they just aren't god- or religion-centered.  We have awe in the beauty of nature and the magic of a child's smile, and it in no way diminishes the experience that we don't ascribe it to some higher power/being/green blob/50 person orgy (loved that possible description of god!)

    I toyed with Buddhism for a bit in my recovery from being raised Catholic, but ultimately it didn't work for me.  I have what could be called "spiritual" feelings but I just don't believe they arise from anything/being/power/force outside myself and what I'm experiencing.

    I enjoyed your diary, but think it would have been more provocative to get the faith perspective from someone who actually believes in the Judeo-Christian god that dominates political discourse in this country.

  •  crop circles are all hoaxes, there (4+ / 0-)

    is no such thing as an "honest to goodness psychic", there is no evidence of "ghosts".  And what do you mean by "little green men"?  And what would their existence have to do with god or spirituality?  

  •  Needing is not the same as knowing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    papicek, dotalbon, Front Toward Enemy

    "I need understanding and guidance. I need help. I need belief. I need faith."

    Needing to believe in something and then choosing to out of a psychological need isn't the same as knowing something. Needs change.

    It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

    by MnplsLiberal on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:12:43 AM PDT

  •  Very honest diary, and much appreciated (4+ / 0-)

    Not everyone can lay out one's belief system when it's (probably) a minority viewpoint, then invite potshots from all sides.  Lucky for you that dailykos is (usually) a civilized place to do that.

    My Dad, a very firm believer in God and the divinity of Jesus, has exchanged many e-mails with me on why he believes in a Deity and I don't.  We wrestle with the intellectual implications of faith -- since he's a Christian, there's a lot of writing on the subject, and he's done it all -- but in the end, it always comes down to this:  he believes, and I don't.   The universe makes sense to him with a God leading it, and it makes sense to me without one.

    He's a creationist, too, but we don't go there in our arguments since there is no arguing with a creationist.  

    It is scarcely possible to conceive of the laws of motion if one looks at them from a tennis ball's point of view. (Brecht)

    by dotalbon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:15:13 AM PDT

  •  My discomfort is not with theism, (6+ / 0-)

    but with certainty about theism.  The whole "I know there is a God and that he wants us to do X" philosophy.  I'm sure 99% of theists with that level of certainty are good people, but that kind of theistic certainty is what Bush had about invading Iraq, ("Please Jacques, we must defeat Gog and Magog!!!!!,") which makes me uneasy about that line of thought.

    *This comment was directed to no one in particular.  Except Bush.

    THER EI SNO EXCUSE FOR THIS TOERTURE -9.00, -7.38

    by TFinSF on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:16:23 AM PDT

  •  I'm going to wait and see. (5+ / 0-)

    Until then, I'm busy.  Seriously though, immanent or transcendant?  I'm not really down with the whole anthropomorhic god- seems hubristic and chauvinist.

    Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow

    by peterborocanuck on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:18:19 AM PDT

  •  have to disagree with one thing: (8+ / 0-)

    All of these things are enigmas. All of these things are mysteries. Even if you wanted to, you could spend your entire life trying to cohesively puzzle the pieces together and coming away with nada, or very little.

    Sometimes, there just aren't any answers.

    My girlfriend (who is Catholic, but doesn't really go to Church) said the same thing to me, her atheist boyfriend.  Here's how I responded:

    While some questions are no doubt incredibly difficult to answer, it doesn't mean they don't have one.  For example, how the universe came into existence is a very complex, difficult problem to solve.  We have only limited bits of knowledge about self-replicating DNA molecules, and the Big Bang, etc.  But, although the question might tricky to answer, it doesn't make the existence of God any more truthful.

    Also, as I'm sure you know and others have pointed out, we atheists also find great wonder in the beauty of those things you mentioned (baby's smile, rainbows, etc).  We just don't see those things as evidence for God being there.

    But it's all good.  In all, though, I enjoyed the diary.  I especially liked the Margaret Cho quip.

  •  Nazis! (7+ / 0-)

    There, Godwin's law and all that. But I do have a serious question about morality, immorality and amorality.

    There was a comment (in a previous diary) made about society's standards providing a moral base. So you can have multiple wives and be moral in certain societies. You can kill someone under you and still be moral according to society. I have yet to see a truly universal morality.

    I don't see religion as an automatic moral compass and I don't see atheism as a lack of one. Is this one of the major stumbling blocks when it comes to theists and atheists getting along?

    Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

    by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:31:47 AM PDT

    •  There does seem to be a universal standard (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      papicek, Colorado is the Shiznit

      of morality, even if most people don't live up to it.

      It is, simply, the Golden Rule:  treat people as you'd wish to be treated.

      It is scarcely possible to conceive of the laws of motion if one looks at them from a tennis ball's point of view. (Brecht)

      by dotalbon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:40:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't live by that though. (4+ / 0-)

        I treat people as they treat me. But I start of with giving them the benefit of the doubt. Until you're a dick to me, I'll be nice.

        Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

        by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:43:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Interestingly, that's the winning strategy (4+ / 0-)

          in a lot of zero-sum games.    

          It is scarcely possible to conceive of the laws of motion if one looks at them from a tennis ball's point of view. (Brecht)

          by dotalbon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:49:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And it's still "golden rule"-esque (3+ / 0-)

            Give people the benefit of the doubt at first (as you would have them do to you.)  Then if they're an asshole, punish them for it (as you would, presumably, expect someone to do to you if you acted that way).  But, and this is the key to tit-for-tat being such an effective strategy in zero-sum games, if the other person goes back to cooperating, you're willing to forgive and go back to cooperating also.

            Golden rule doesn't mean you have to be nice no matter what anyone else does.

            •  Interesting (2+ / 0-)

              thought I disagree in one regard: there are some things I will never forgive or forget.

              Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

              by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:15:30 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I only meant "forgiving" (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Colorado is the Shiznit

                in the sense of returning to cooperation, which has a higher payoff than "mutual defection" or punishment for the rest of the 'game,' especially if it's expected to last for a long time.

                The other option of course, is to simply stop playing with that particular opponent, which may be a better strategy, but not always possible.

                As for forgetting, never.

                •  Ah. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Colorado is the Shiznit

                  I've disowned all my aunts/uncles/cousins/ and grandparents on one side of my family (that doesn't extend beyond the first IMMEDIATE ones) so I get the 'simply stop playing' section.

                  And I don't miss them at all. Now, if I could inflict punishment on them at the expense of myself, I would. Does that make me a vengeful bastard?

                  I would like to point out, I'm not talking about shooting them or beating them with a hockey stick: I mean mental punishment.

                  Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

                  by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:50:51 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I think you're still in the golden rule (2+ / 0-)

                    broadly defined. If you find them so worthy of punishment, then presumably you believe that if you behaved that badly you would deserve to be similarly punished.

                    In my interpretation, being a vengeful bastard doesn't violate the golden rule, as long as you would hope and expect others to be equally vengeful to you in the face of similar transgressions.

    •  The God Delusion will march you through that (6+ / 0-)

      including such tidbits as the studies looking at some standard "morals" that religious folks do no "better" that non god-fearing folks.

      The reality is that people don't need a God or a heaven or a hell to do the right thing. There was a great passage in Dickens and I can't remember which one - complaining that people did good not because it was good, but because something good was to be got out of it.  One of the principal contradictions of Christian religion for me (after the Jewish baby and CHristian baby die and one goes to heaven, the other to eternal torment problem - or even anyone going to hell regardless of how they lived their life because they don't believe that cracker turns into a delicious gob of blood and flesh, or that a 2000 year old carpenter was God's son, or any such test of faith), is that whole bit about people not doing good because it is the right thing to do, but instead because god will give you a cosmic lollipop if you do it...kind of a fucked up morality.

      All too often I find myself thinking that if this really is your God and he/she/it really exists, I'd rather not sit at his side in paradise thank you.

      "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

      by SteveP on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:51:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  can't speak for the rest of the theists but, (3+ / 0-)

      I don't see religion as an automatic moral compass and I don't see atheism as a lack of one. Is this one of the major stumbling blocks when it comes to theists and atheists getting along?

      my world view agrees with the first sentence of your quote, so it's not a stumbling block with atheists for me.

      When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

      by dakinishir on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:00:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Slight difference in terminology (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Colorado is the Shiznit

      Polygamy, customs about who may kill whom, fall under cultural mores. Morality is a function of cognitive development per Piaget and Kohlberg. This is a very important point: People don't "get" their morality from society or from religion. It's not an add-on - it's a part of normal development.

      Some people have attachment disorders, and for genetic or environmental (bad parenting) reasons have disordered morality. Your basic Ted Bundys.

      But when all goes well, it is normal for most people to acquire a sense of general "fairness" which is fairly universal across cultures. This is why it's such an absurdity to talk of Christianity's "golden rule" as if its something particular to that religion.

      Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

      by The Raven on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 12:08:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And Yet - (0+ / 0-)

    I certainly don't begrudge anyone who does practice religion, however, or (in contrast) considers him/herself an atheist  - whatever trips your trigger.

    And yet - you regularly denigrate Christianity
    and use the name of Christ as an expletive.
    Hundreds of times.

    Is it part of the Buddhist tradition to mock others' beliefs?

  •  Thanks, Shiz! Great read... (3+ / 0-)

    I wonder if you've read my diary on the subject.

    I noticed you inquired about further reading material upthread and would like to highly recommend "Gnosis" by Phillip Gardiner.

    "War is a Racket" - MajGen Smedley D. Butler, USMC(ret)

    by PvtJarHead on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 08:55:33 AM PDT

  •  Regarding Buddhism's pragmatism, (3+ / 0-)

    On p. 93 of Karen Armstrong's Buddha, she writes, "Hence there were no abstruse theories about the creation of the universe or the existence of a Supreme Being. These matters might be interesting but they would not give a disciple enlightenment or release from dukkha (suffering). . . those who refused to live according to the Buddhist method until they knew about the creation of the world or the nature of the Absolute would die in misery before they got an answer to these unknowable questions. What difference did it make if the world was eternal or created in time? Grief, suffering and misery would still exist. The Buddha was concerned simply with the cessation of pain." Very practical, no need to worry about any kind of "God."
    In fact, a little later, on p. 104, she wrote, "The Buddha found the notion of a personalized deity too limiting, because it suggested that the supreme Truth was only another being. Nibbana was neither a personality nor a place like Heaven. The Buddha always denied the existence of any absolute principle or Supreme Being, since this could be another thing to cling to, another fetter and impediment to enlightenment. Like the doctrine of the Self, the notion of God can also be used to prop up and inflate the ego."
    We in the West seem to like "absolute principles," just as you need your "Higher Purpose" and "Higher Power." I prefer the Buddhist way, which is compatible with atheism--no God of any kind because it's irrelevant. We should live our lives to ease suffering, ours and others'.

    •  Why? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      papicek, KVoimakas, dakinishir

      Buddhism still states dogmatically what we "should" do, even if it leaves the specifics up to the individual.

      It is dangerous, in my opinion, and contrary to the things in my experience required for human progress - primarily, the willingness to think independently and use reason and common sense, not someone else's dogma, no matter how liberal or enlightened, to arrive at conclusions about how to act.

      And then, to share those conclusions with others, so that they can be peer reviewed and refined, so that we can, collectively, arrive at tentative, provisional conclusions about what to do and how to act, and encode those collective consensus conclusions into laws and regulations to follow in order to coexist sustainably in a more just society.

      Why should be "live our lives to ease suffering, ours and others" - because Buddha said so?

      Why quote what "Buddha thought" and "Buddha found" and "Buddha taught", as if Buddha is an absolute, inerrant authority?

      That's organized religion right there, even though Western Buddhists like to disguise it with a lot of contemporary rhetoric.

      What if Buddha was full of shit? Or, more realistically, what if Buddha had some valuable insights, some utterly useless insights, and some insights that were just plain wrong?

      If you just accept Buddha as your guide, you are really no different than accepting Jesus as your guide, or Zeus, or, for that matter, a political demagogue or popular cult figure.

      People with a magical, faith-based worldview tend to think that atheists revere Darwin, or Dawkins, for a reason - their entire basis of approaching reality relies on arguments from authority, rather than independent thought.

      Lots of what Buddha preached arguably helped to perpetuate a system that kept the poor, poor and accepting of their lot, and kept the rich and powerful, rich and powerful.

      I happen to agree with much Buddhist philosophy - but not because I accept what Buddha said as some kind of ultimate authority; rather, I evaluate each idea in the context of everything else I have learned and figured out on my own, and everything I have learned from others, and everything I learn by sharing with others.

      And then, free from authorities of any kind, I make up my own mind.

      THAT, in my experience, is the virtue of a rational worldview.

      One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

      by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:38:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  you miss the point (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        papicek, dakinishir

        Buddha believed in no authority of any kind, as I said, including himself. He told his followers to think for themselves. Haven't you heard of the directive, "If you meet the Buddha, kill him!"? You're doing exactly what the Buddha said to do--"evaluate each idea in the context of everything else . . ." For the record, I'm not Buddhist, probably a secular humanist more than anything else, but, like you, agree with much of Buddhist philosophy.
        As for Buddha telling us what we should do, what about "encode those collective consensus conclusions into laws and regulations to follow in order to coexist sustainably in a more just society"? Isn't that telling us what we should do? We have to follow some kind of laws/societal guidelines. I prefer ones based on being kind and compassionate, no matter who suggested them in the first place. My point was that you don't need to believe in a supernatural being to do that.

        •  The difference is (0+ / 0-)

          that encoding consensus conclusions into laws and regulations is a collective enterprise of diverse humans with diverse opinions and beliefs, not the product of some uber-wise/enlightened individual who is in touch with some greater force.

          One need not be a Buddhist or follow Buddhist principles or even agree with basic Buddhist premises in order to participate in collective self-governance.

          The danger arises, not from Buddha, or from Jesus, or from whoever, but from the way humans solidify those ideas into inerrant dogma and ritualistic thinking-on-rails.

          And that is inherent in organized religion and organized religious thought. It is quite rare to hear someone describe Buddha as just another thoughtful guy who wrote some interesting stuff down, which is part of the general body of interesting stuff thoughtful people write down. Buddha is considered to have some kind of "higher" spiritual knowledge, and it is natural to defer to "higher" authority, no matter how benevolent.

          The notion of learning any "ism" that represents some authoritative, "higher" knowledge - even if the message is "if you find Buddha on the road, kill him" - is, in my understanding, inherently dangerous and antagonistic to human progress.

          Unlike Buddha, I don't have a fancy name and legacy of worshipful followers to give particular weight to my opinion over others - it is just one person's opinion, tossed into the idea marketplace to compete with all other ideas. I'm fine with that. I think that ideas, stripped of their originators and without being wrapped up in authoritative packages, are the purest way to share knowledge, learn and think.

          THe problem is that you are arguing the merit of Buddha's teachings, rather than arguing the merit of an idea without "Buddha" attached to it. That is where the argument from authority comes in, and that plays right into the current cultural tendency to follow authority. Which is where organized religions and authoritarian ideologies and political systems derive their power.

          One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

          by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 12:04:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  me too (0+ / 0-)

        I happen to agree with much Buddhist philosophy - but not because I accept what Buddha said as some kind of ultimate authority; rather, I evaluate each idea in the context of everything else I have learned and figured out on my own, and everything I have learned from others, and everything I learn by sharing with others.

        And then, free from authorities of any kind, I make up my own mind.

        kinda ironic, isn't it?

        When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

        by dakinishir on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 09:37:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm surprised... (2+ / 0-)

    that in this diary series I haven't read the simplest of formulas: atheism does not imply a lack of faith. I expected to to see this touched on in Dog's diary on Belief, but his point seemed to imply that one had either to believe in a deity or in empiricism.

    Here, I wondered if I'd see it expressed, and I haven't. Does no one share my thoughts and feelings on faith? (One person I know did.)

    Well, here they are...

    Faith exists outside of question of god, cosmos, ontology...whatever. Faith is needed by everyone, and always has been, for who can predict that an airliner  won't crash into your roof while you sleep? Or some wasting disease might ravage all of humanity? Or the Sun go nova while I'm sitting down with my morning coffee tomorrow?

    Or that next year's crops, on whose existence our societies depend and for millennia whose processes were little understood, will sprout up healthy and whole?

    In short, if you give it any thought at all, you've some sort of faith that indeed, the sun riseth again in the AM. Faith is therefore a necessary part of conscious self-and-other-awareness. I'm an atheist with a ton of faith. In all sorts of things material and ethereal, and it does indeed provide my moral compass. So I'm not going to talk about science or empiricism or the nature of knowledge here, though I could. I'm going to talk here about my private morality, and how it is informed by my faith.

    For the world, which seems
    To lie before us like a land of dreams,
    So various so beautiful so new,
    Hath really neither joy nor love nor light,
    Nor certitude nor peace nor help for pain.
    And we are here as on a darkling plain,
    Swept with the confused alarms of struggle and flight
    Where ignorant armies clash by night."

        -- Mathew Arnold, "Dover Beach"

    (If I misquoted that, my apologies. Memory isn't what it used to be.)

    Apart from our collective treatment of nature, for me, the largest edifice in my faith-based universe is in the simple, mundane, ethical treatment of one human with another. It's an arena without certainty at all. Murders occur, children are imprisoned and tortured in Gitmo, people willingly choose to endanger others while driving in order to gain a second or two in their mad race to work and back (see this one 5 days a week, many times per 6 miles of highway commute - about 2 months ago, I saw where people had just died of this, mere minutes before), people neglect or mistreat their children (or their pets - see this one on a regular basis as well). So it's not a given that people behave ethically, courteously or thoughtfully with one another. I myself have been told (again today) that I need to lie to our customers, that the publicly traded company I work for might increase its future revenues by the smallest fraction of a percentage point.

    I believe yet in a degree of moral certitude in people's relations with one another though. I depend on it. Were I to question my faith in this, I'd degenerate into anxiety and paranoia. Though I see evidence to the contrary on a daily basis - many times throughout the course of any day - I truly believe that people are decent and deserving of the benefit of the doubt. I deduce, therefore, that it's a matter of faith with me. There's no question of existence or being in my faith, frankly, I don't give a rat's ass for any of that (only say that in a Colorado is the Shiznit diary :7).

    My old, dog-eared, spine-split, yellow-paged copy of Andre Malraux's Man's Fate is long, long gone (hard to find another these days, btw), and I cannot remember if Old Gisors was speaking with Young Gisors (I think not), or to Kyo or maybe even Chen when he, out of his opium-seasoned wisdom, told whomever it was that:

    when you don't believe in God, you're left with only faith in the "virtues of the human heart" [to believe in].

    I've never forgotten that, and I've found over the years that this is true. For me. Was I directed and conditioned by my exposure to Malraux decades ago at an impressionable age when I sought to soak up the world's wisdom like a sponge? Perhaps. Either way, I can live with it. It's totally besides the point.

    So my faith is essentially that in you who read this, in those around you, around me, and those with whom we deal with only indirectly (those who believe they are my corporate masters, for instance) will exhibit their innate kernel of decency when it really counts. They could donate their spare millions to a hospital in South Sudan or Chad. Or in some backwater county in the US where it is needed. They could become Big Brothers or Sisters, save a life or make one better...whatever. Or maybe they could just drive safely.

    Kenneth Lord Clark, in his 60's BBC series Civilisation, thought that the impuse toward civilization was essentially an act of confidence - of faith if you will, and that fear could destroy it. Indeed. Mine isn't always an easy faith. I thought many, many times during the BushCo madness which inhabited many Americans that the basic assumption that people will treat others decently was a edifice so fragile and vulnerable to fear that it was dangerous for me to continue to hold it. That it might come back to haunt me, personally, as my well-being depends on it. Perhaps it will, I don't really know.

    But I have faith. And I'm an atheist.

    Too many books, too little time. . . .

    by papicek on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 09:51:32 PM PDT

    •  I disagree on the faith thing. (3+ / 0-)

      I don't think a plane will crash into my house because no one flies over my neighborhood. I don't have faith that I'll receive a paycheck: I expect one because that's the standard. I don't have faith that my motorcycle will start: I expect it to because it has every time before and I take care of it.

      Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

      by KVoimakas on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:33:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  doesn't matter... (0+ / 0-)

        it's fine that you get a paycheck because that's the standard, though almost any economist would say that's a function of a legal system that, relatively speaking, works. It is certainly not necessarily the case if you're a foreign worker anywhere in Latin America or Asia. Visit the National Labor Committee website for examples. (Slavery is alive and well today.)

        Again, do you drive that on the road alone? If not, then you've faith that the elderly man you pass on the road isn't about to have a heart attack, swerve, and...etc.  Highway accidents can happen much faster than anyone's ability to react. There's nothing to say your luck won't, st some moment, be dangerously bad, even though you've certainly no expectation of this on any given day. In what way is that not faith? (Btw, everyone whom I've known that rode a bike has a history of at least one bad encounter with something ending in broken bones. If you haven't, then you still have something to look forward to. Beware sandy patches, please.)

        No airplanes? Then how about a comet? Or a nickel-iron meteorite? Hazard exists for everyone, at all times. The only sane response is to recognize this and minimize it to whatever extent possible. However, hazard cannot be eliminated, and to the extent that we expect our lives to continue with hazard falling on the other guy and not ourselves, to the extent that we plan our futures and expect that our efforts won't be tragically misplaced is almost by definition an article of faith.

        When I was growing up in the 60's, I lost one schoolmate a year starting with the 6th grade. This kept up until four years after high school graduation, when a guy I didn't particularly like died in a car crash in Maine (leaving behind a wife and daughter). I stopped taking note of this then. Some were acquaintences, one, the first, was a good friend. Leukemia got him. Why?

        That you have any expectations at all is a demonstration of faith.

        Too many books, too little time. . . .

        by papicek on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 03:12:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm going to disagree on definition here. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mcronan, papicek

          My expectations are grounded in physical or legal law.

          Yes, I've been down on my motorcycle. A few times actually. I haven't broken bones but I have scars. I definitely watch out for sand (the worst kind is the silt sand. shudder) I've almost been hit a few times. I don't think I agree with minimizing hazards. If I did, I wouldn't be riding.

          Abolish gun control, marriage, and helmet laws. -7.00, -3.79

          by KVoimakas on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 04:03:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  BTW, Shiz... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Colorado is the Shiznit

    Your situation reminds me of how E. M. Forrester opened his essay, "What I Believe". Quite simply he said,

    "I do not believe in belief."

    I always thought that delicious :7)

    Too many books, too little time. . . .

    by papicek on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 10:09:59 PM PDT

  •  When are we getting to the practical? (0+ / 0-)

    As a committed atheist (actually an anti-theist, to follow the semantics of the first diary), I have been following these diaries with interest the last couple weeks.  Although I appreciate the philosophy, will there be some discussion of the practical side of being an atheist (sorry, anti-theist)?  

    And I apologize if this has been covered in the comments.  I have read some of the comments, but honestly, it gets tedious going through the kudos, and the back and forths, etc.  Anyhoo . . .

    As an athiest, are you committed enough to tell your kids that there is no God?  It is one thing to damn your own soul to enternal hellfire, but your innocent children?  If you believe, like me, that they need to make thier own choice on the topic, is this realistic if you have set them back 18 years and denied them the weekly indoctrination that other children have received?  Or do you take them to church anyway and grind your teach while the stupid myths are pronounced as the truth?

    Ever have the bible thumpers invite your kids to the youth groups and the Christian rock concerts as an outreach to the "unchurched"?

    Ever have a child with a serious illness, and think that maybe, just maybe, some praying, or some faith, or whatever magic they might be able to bestow on her, might at least help her mental state?  

    These are the issues I struggle with . . .

    •  here's one thing that gets my goat (2+ / 0-)

      there are plenty of religions, and theists, that don't talk at all about eternal damnation. That don't do the god thing out of fear of hell.

      I'm a theist, but I'm perfectly fine with my kids choosing another path. I'm not worried about the state of their souls. I'm not worried about the afterlife. I hope they live lives of meaning and love and joy. I hope they give back to their communities, I hope they leave the world a bit better than they found it. They don't need God for any of that. If they find that relationship with the God concept is a value add in their lives, great. If they don't, also great. I'm cool either way.

      I don't have to be an atheist or an anti-theist to have that world view. So please stop tossing me into the theist group that doesn't. We're not monolithic. It's frustrating.

      When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

      by dakinishir on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 06:36:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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