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The ninth-century Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said, "If you meet the Buddha on the road... kill him."

Harsh words indeed.
Maybe not.

But for those of us who are armchair students of the Buddha, we are given to this understanding; Buddhism is very much like a science and not a religion. The scientific hypothesis being:  

focused  attention in the prescribed way (meditation), and engaging in or avoiding certain behaviors (ethics), will bear the promised result (wisdom and psychological well-being) for its adherents.

For this reason, the Buddha also taught his disciples to cultivate devotional and reverential habits of mind. Thus, devotion is not a "corruption" of Buddhism, but an expression of it.
Of course, devotion requires an object. If Buddha was not a god, why bow to Buddha- like figures?.
Many Zen masters state that when one bows to the Buddha , one bows to oneself.
What do they mean? How do you understand it? Who are you? Where do you find the self? Am I a narcissist now that I inadvertantly bow to myself?

Working with those questions is not a corruption of Buddhism; it is Buddhism.

Therefore, if one can dispense with the golden image of the Buddha for one moment ,  if one can also escape the dogmas of Christianity or Islam or Judaism or Hinduism with all their Gods and Goddesses floating in the sky. Set aside the superstitions of tribal or animist religions and their folk tales and folklores. Forget the mythologies of thousands of years of anthropological evolution  in the form of religion ... then we may be able to talk for a short ecumenical moment. Together.

In otherwords, if we can kill the Buddha figuratively for just one solitary sacrilegious moment,  maybe... just only then MAYBE, can we have a discussion about atheism or the exisitence of "No-God".

When I was asked to write a diary on Atheism (capital A) , I stated that I wanted to write, " The believers guide to atheism (little a)." I have always felt that eastern philosophies were more complex and not so rigid in their subjectivities as their more literalist western zealots. This is not to discredit eastern zealotry in any way. Dogmas are dogmas, they can be ugly anywhere in the world.

If atheism is the absence of belief in gods, then many Buddhists are, indeed, atheists.  However, Buddhism is more accurately described as being non-theistic than atheistic. This transitory definition of non-theistic seems to allow "believers " of other faiths a fleeting moment of gray area in their dogmatic theistic worlds of good and evil, black and white and heaven and hell. The meditative nature of Buddhist teaching is more about self realization than conversion. Many religionists will pause to discover something about themselves at this point. Most are open to understanding a path of self realization through religion or psychology, self respect is an entirely eastern concept.

For the many of us who have lived lives of faith or know and live with the overwhelming majority of faith based peoples,families, friends and acquantainces, this is a difficult topic. We know from a lifetime of personal experience in religious, spiritual and philosophical study that the most interesting  and volatile of discussions are those that posit the unthinkable blasphemy :  I do not believe there is a GOD.

The nature of the human mind and it’s propensity to greed, hatred, and delusion with it’s transcendence to  an understanding  of  human wisdom and compassion are worthy goals of any theist or atheist . IMHO.

The need and desire for many throughout all of human history to ritualized devotions and passionate worship of the wonders of nature and the universe, will probably be analyzed and studied for 1000 more years by anthropologists and social scientists as they disect the human mind.

As Karl Marx lamented:

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.

( it is interesting to note that this quote seems to endorse religion rather than condemn it, as is so widely believed by so many. But that is a debate for another day.)

Sam Harris, the author of "The End of Faith", who argues that Buddhism’s philosophy, insight, and practices would benefit more people if they were not presented as a religion has this to say about the power of meditation:

Political correctness, religious sectarianism and cultural biases simply do not offer an enduring basis for human cooperation in the 21st century. If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith.

It will require a new contemplative humanist philosophy and practice.

Many have proposed a "contemplative science" that fulfills the human desire for devotion and worship.
Even the most cynical of atheists can marvel at the complexity of the natural world that science and reason has helped us to understand more fully. The milky way at night in the dark wildernesses of Colorado leaves this star gazer with a sense of insignificance, wonder and awe.  I have expressed great spontaneous joy at times and thrown my hands skyward as I express the  truth of my consciousness of a universal beauty all around me.

It is a meditation of worship, a yoga of praise for my realization of such infinite beauty consciousness.

"A contemplative science that allows a means of convincing human beings to embrace the whole of the species as their moral community. For this we need to develop an utterly nonsectarian way of talking about the full spectrum of human experience and human aspiration. We need a discourse on ethics and spirituality that is every bit as unconstrained by dogma and cultural prejudice as the discourse of science is. What we need, in fact, is a contemplative science, a modern approach to exploring the furthest reaches of psychological well-being with its many social and physical problems "

which include and are not limited to climate, politics, governance, human rights, economy and compassionate justice.

It is as yet undetermined what it means to be human, because every facet of our culture—and even our biology itself—remains open to innovation and insight. We do not know what we will be a thousand years from now—or indeed that we will be, given the potential lethal absurdity of many of our beliefs—but whatever changes await us, one thing seems unlikely to change: as long as experience endures, the difference between happiness and suffering will remain our paramount concern.

We will therefore want to understand those processes—biochemical, behavioral, ethical, political, economic, and spiritual—that account for this difference. We do not yet have anything like a final understanding of such processes, but we know enough to rule out many false understandings.

Indeed, we know enough at this moment to say that the Gods of mankind are not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; they are unworthy even of man himself.

May all our contemplative meditations be of compassion and wisdom for all the earth.
 

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
Buddha

Originally posted to Brahman Colorado on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 07:55 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for the contribution. (11+ / 0-)

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I can personally identify with much of what you have expressed.  including:

    I have expressed great spontaneous joy at times and thrown my hands skyward as I express the  truth of my consciousness of a universal beauty all around me.

    Contrary to what most might expect, I do not immediately bristle at something simply because it is thought of as a "Religion."  To me the label should not matter.  I've known Buddhism to be a much different animal than most other things that are called "Religion."  This was a nice primer for me on the subject.  I think I do engage, to some extent, in what you refer to as "contemplative science."  To me that means a philosophy of questioning, rather than believing a set of answers someone else feeds me.  

    FWIW, I thik the oft ignored context of that Marx quote you gave was the fact that the plutocrats utilize religion to keep the masses numb the fact that they have all the welth and power.  It is a tool to them, and an addiction for those less fortunate.  I don't think it condemns religion in and of itself, but it doesn't say much for its virtue either.

    "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

    by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 08:16:29 PM PDT

    •  I engage in a contemplative science which (9+ / 0-)

      allows me to think or not think as to whatever the case may be.

      A time to... ponder things. I spent all week with many religionists, asking them their opinions of my upcoming atheist diary. The core of this diary birthed from the many discussions that were generated in the advent of a wedding and funeral that we were back in Missouri for.

      Thanks for the opportunity to write this.

      After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

      by Brahman Colorado on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 08:26:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Glad to have you involved. (6+ / 0-)

        I really do hope for diversity of perspective when I put this series together.  Yours is different than most of the other contributers, and adds another interesting dimension to the discussion.  

        I'll post my next installment tomorrow morning at 10:30 our time if you can make it.  We went awhile with no diaries but I anticipate they'll start coming more quickly now.  If Commonmass posts on Tuesday as promised we'll have one three days in a row.  Cool.  

        I would have loved to be present for your discussions in Missouri.  I don't get to talk about these things in meatspace very often, so I have to get my fix here, hence the diary series ;-)

        "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

        by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 08:33:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Timing of your post didn't work out too well (8+ / 0-)

    You've got a few heavy hitters, inlcuding the venerable Congressman Grayson right behind you.  Ah well, these diaries tend to get late comments even a day or two after post.

    "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

    by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 08:24:04 PM PDT

  •  "Gods floating in the sky" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brahman Colorado

    I stopped reading right there.

    Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

    by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:03:42 PM PDT

    •  Why? n/t (4+ / 0-)

      "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

      by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:07:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  snide n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

        by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:09:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm suprised you made it past the title. (4+ / 0-)

          "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

          by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:10:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It was off-putting but... (0+ / 0-)

            ...I was hopeful that I might be surprised by the contents.  Sadly I wasn't.

            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:13:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Perhaps it improved after you stopped reading. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wader, blueoasis, commonmass

              Did you expect a theist's smackdown of atheism?  I'm curious as to what you were hoping for that one sentence was enough to stop you in your tracks and write a cryptic critical comment.

              "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

              by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:16:41 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Why? Because you already know that atheists (5+ / 0-)

              ...are fools and doomed to Hell, or that the writing was bad, or what?

              "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

              by rfall on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:28:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Silly (0+ / 0-)

                No.  I stopped reading because it was rude.

                Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:05:59 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  This is a Political Blog (5+ / 0-)

                  If you stopped reading when something was rude, especially to the degree that was, you aren't gong to be reading much here.

                  "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                  by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:07:56 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Appreciate the advice. (0+ / 0-)

                    I think I can make these judgments on my own though.

                    Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                    by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:12:24 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Quite clearly you can. (4+ / 0-)

                      You are also free to pearl clutch wherever you want.  Don't expect to not be called out for it though.

                      "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                      by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:14:31 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  It doesn't matter to me either way. (0+ / 0-)

                        I certainly expected defensiveness rather than consideration.  It tends to be what happens in these conversations.

                        As long as you are good with operating in an echo chamber, no problem.  But don't expect anyone who does not already agree with you to embrace the point of this diary if you cannot conceal your contempt for them.  

                        Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                        by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:19:55 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I'm not seeking to built nor inhabit (7+ / 0-)

                          an echo chamber.  I think you're basing your assumptions on some pretty thin evidence.  I would love nothing more than to engage with people that disagree with me.  I find it doubtful, however, that someone who finds the mere characterization of "gods in the sky" as so offensive as to stop all interest in the diary would be able to engage with me and not invent some feeling of contempt that wasn't really there.  

                          I assume your characterization of defensiveness was aimed at me.  I was simply trying to get to the bottom of your comment, and what caused your, in my estimation, overreaction to the diary.  

                          I would seem you aren't that interested in discussing the contents of said diary if you can be so easily deterred from reading it.  

                          "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                          by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:33:37 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I find this disingenuous (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            bigjacbigjacbigjac

                            The first step in engaging people that come from other perspectives is to accept what they tell you about how they perceive your treatment and portrayals of them.  if you are unwilling to do that little, there is no room for engagement.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:43:12 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You leave no room for engagement if (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Rieux, wilderness voice, teknospaz

                            you expect me to tip toe around your beliefs before you've really even given them to me.  I can't come to the table and say "If you don't accept my demands there will be no negotiation."  That contrdicts the very definition of negotiating.  "Engagement" works the same way.  You are free to say: "I find the use of that phrase offensive."  I ask "why."  I don't have to say "I'll never say it anymore."  We have yet to even scratch the surface and I'm sure that there is far more "offensive" stuff down there if you can't handle what has already been said.  

                            There is no room for engagement when one or both parties are easily offended.  I guarantee you can't offend me on this subject.  I've heard it all before and I have the capability of disagreeing whith what I see are mischaracterizations of my opinions without insisting that those responsible for those mischaracterizations bow and scrape to my sesibilities.

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:53:51 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Q: Why did people start shaking hands? (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            bigjacbigjacbigjac

                            A;  To assure each other that that both parties were unarmed.

                            When you want to start a dialogue, a level of good faith is required to begin.  You don't have to promise to never say something again just because I find it offensive, but if you cannot accept at face value that I do - we indeed have no room to talk.  

                            Being offended is a choice.  I do not generally make that choice.  But I also do not ignore clear signs of contempt.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:59:31 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Fair enough. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            bigjacbigjacbigjac

                            I accept that you are offended by some of the diarist's words.  I don't feel I've shown you contempt, and I can assure you that I have no contempt for you.  I wouldn't have invested this much time in this dialogue had I felt otherwise.  You presented me with a statement indicating that you took offense to something which I feel is relatively benign.  I sought futher explanation from you as to why you felt it was so contemptable as to warrant dismissal of the rest of the diarist discussion.  You told me I was being defensive and suggested that if I wished to engage with you I should accept that you feel it was offensive.  I never denied that you felt that way, but simply sought to understand why.  Was that my mistake?  Show me where I showed you contempt and I'll retract.

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:07:30 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Does it necessarily follow (0+ / 0-)

                            that contempt for an idea in which you believe is the same as contempt for you?

                            I think not. My ideas and beliefs can stand up to debate or not. Anyone is free to poke holes in them. If they call me an idiot for believing in them, then it's personal and rude. But they are free to say they find the ideas idiotic. Why should that offend me?

                            The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

                            by denise b on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 10:32:44 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  The first step in engaging people (5+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Rieux, Larry Bailey, fumie, denise b, XNeeOhCon

                            is engaging their ideas, and being prepared to encounter ones that challenge your thinking.

                            You seem to favor negotiation with preconditions, rather than approaching dialog with an open mind.

                            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:16:39 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  "Defensiveness"? Physician, heal thyself. (3+ / 0-)

                          Your moaning and wailing about the ways your ideas (oh, the humanity!) have been disrespected is "defensiveness" at best. No one else is obligated to treat your beliefs with kid gloves just because you prefer it that way.

                          •  Of course not. (0+ / 0-)

                            People have the right to be assholes if they so choose.  Knock yourself out.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:44:20 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Right. (4+ / 0-)

                            So anyone who doesn't treat your idiosyncratic personal ideas as untouchable porcelain figurines—unlike every single other idea we encounter on this political blog—is an "asshole." Sure.

                            Your privilege is showing.

                          •  Nope (0+ / 0-)

                            You can question my ideas at will.  Do so all you want.  But when you couple it with sneering contempt, you are indeed being an asshole.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:54:05 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Bullshit. (5+ / 0-)

                            You do not get to set the ground rules by which your ideas—which are not you—can and cannot be treated. Some ideas are worthy of mockery. Some ideas are worthy of criticism. It is not up to you to decide whether your ideas belong in those categories.

                            Your attempts to set ground rules governing what others can and cannot say about your notions are baseless nonsense.

                          •  i'm not telling you what you can or cannot say (1+ / 1-)
                            Recommended by:
                            bigjacbigjacbigjac
                            Hidden by:
                            wilderness voice

                            I'm telling you what will cause me to judge you an asshole.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:02:02 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Oh, precisely. (2+ / 0-)

                            Just like Jim Crow-era Southerers "judging" folks to be "uppity ni**ers." We who mock your religious beliefs don't know our place—we ignore the obvious fact that we have a duty to grovel and scrape at your superior feet. No one is ever required to show our ideas the slightest respect—but you, as our privileged superior, get to pretend that disrespect shown to your beliefs is a horrid transgression of the Rules of Ethical Conduct.

                            It's bullshit. You just can't handle open critique of the things you believe, so you try to pathologize anything that hits a little too close to home. Too bad: we're going to continue pointing out the flaws in religious belief. Calling us "uppity" isn't going to keep us down.

                          •  You forgot to nail yourself to a cross! (0+ / 0-)

                            Who knew it victimized you so to ask that you engage me with a basic modicum of respect if you want to dialogue with me.

                            Clearly you don't want a dialogue.  You want the license to harangue

                            Go for it.  I'll shut you out.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:13:55 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Buddy, *you're* the one playing the martyr. (0+ / 0-)

                            You are the one continually pretending that a nail pounded into an idea you hold is a nail going through your flesh.

                            And you continue doing it right here:

                            ....to ask that you engage me with a basic modicum of respect....

                            As I and others have explained repeatedly, you are not actually requesting "a basic modicum of respect" for you. You are demanding respect for (indeed slavish deference to) your ideas. Your inability to tell the difference is your problem (and the direct wages of the privilege you enjoy), not ours.

                          •  hardly (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm not acting victimized.  I simply made a judgment and you think you can bargain with it.

                            Given that this is a diary full of people who agree with you, you seem to feel you have that privilege.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:29:09 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Uh-huh. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            wilderness voice

                            I'm not acting victimized.

                            Oh, sure. And all the sad-sack complaining about "Gods floating in the sky"—it was so "snide," boo hoo, sniff... "off-putting," "mocking tone," oh, the humanity, how can we even expect you to go on under these conditions?!?—was just for nothing, right?

                            You have been playing the aggrieved victim ever since your first comment on this diary. Silly denials don't erase what you've written.


                            I simply made a judgment and you think you can bargain with it.

                            "Bargain"? I'm not "bargain"ing; I'm telling where you can shove your snout-in-the-air "judgment." You're trying to take advantage of your society-given ability to silence people who disagree with you; it just doesn't happen to be working for the moment.


                            Given that this is a diary full of people who agree with you, you seem to feel you have that privilege.

                            Yes, indeed, Dr. Schlessinger, all of the African-Americans speaking up to say your radio show is disgusting are just practicing reverse racism. Isn't it awful when your inferiors forget which direction the "judgment" is supposed to travel in?

                          •  you are the only one I have seen on this diary (0+ / 0-)

                            engaging in offensive ad hominem name-calling. Have a donut.

                          •  The problem is that theists tend to find any (6+ / 0-)

                            challenge to their beliefs to be "sneering contempt," no matter what the challenger's actual tone or intent.

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:58:24 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  And that's what's happening right here. (2+ / 0-)

                            The mild—if that!—criticisms that snout is wailing about are precisely that. There is nothing offensive about this diary. Snout just can't stand the slightest discouraging word about his/her beliefs. Under his/her logic, the only acceptable atheist is a silent one.

                          •  Clearly... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...you feel I must answer for the theists of the world - whom you have no problem lumping together and generalizing about what "the problem" with them might be.  

                            Imagine me seeing you as harboring contempt.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:05:25 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Oh, no. (2+ / 0-)

                            Not all of the "theists of the world" think they can get away with the bald bullshit privilege you're trying on this thread. You have claimed that the (comically mild) slights at religious ideas in this diary are "mocking" and "offensive" and that the diarist has therefore committed an ethical transgression against you.

                            You can't pass this off on your religious brethren. They're not here. You are, and you're trying to silence and pathologize critics of religion with your nonsensical invocation of your privilege. You won't succeed.

                          •  What is this idiocy about privilege? (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm not asking you for any undue consideration of my beliefs.  I am asking you to avoid being snide and condescending in how you question them.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:17:31 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  "I'm not writing a Daily Kos comment!" (3+ / 0-)

                            I'm not asking you for any undue consideration of my beliefs.

                            Uh, yeah, sure—just like the sun isn't going to come up on Monday.

                            You are doing nothing but asking for a kind of "consideration" of religious beliefs that no one ever asks, or gives, to any other kind of ideas—including, notably, specifically atheistic ideas.


                            I am asking you to avoid being snide and condescending in how you question them.

                            Funny how your second sentence directly contradicts your first.

                            This is a political blog. It is a free marketplace of ideas. Beliefs are questioned in "snide and condescending" ways every single day. No one bats an eye unless the beliefs being questioned are religious ones.

                            Voila: privilege. Q.E.D.

                          •  I didn't suggest you answered for all theists. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            wilderness voice

                            I didn't even suggest that all theists have this problem, but I find your defensiveness demonstrative of my point, in that by criticizing your ideas I am somehow contemptuous of you, or personally insulting you.  Nothing could be further from the truth, even now.  The fact that you'll likely not believe that only reinforces my point.  Ideas have to be separate from people.  They are independent, critcizable entities which should have no feelings attached to them.  The problem with religion, as previously stated, is that religious ideas are frequently (erroneously in my opinion) excluded from that status.  Before we can engage on the topic, that voodoo doll must be detached from its victim, lest any pin pricks it receives be rendered personal stab wounds.

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:15:36 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Lets take this off of religion for a while (0+ / 0-)

                            Say for a moment that a conservative came here to dialogue with us  - telling us that his intention was to ask us to discuss our differences in good faith and perhaps convince us to "kill progressivism" and adopt his ideas.

                            Then imagine that he casually thew in a line about our hating America...or wanting to push the gay agenda...or hoping to establish death panels, etc.  

                            You'd see right through that guy.      

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:26:44 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Okay. I like a good thought experiment. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            wilderness voice

                            I like a good analogy also.  In that scenario I would ask that conservative if they realized that their statement was taking away from the impression that they really wanted to engage and understand progressives.  I would ask them why they believed that way.  Unless of course I wasn't truly interested in hearing them out in the first place, but needed a reason to shut down the conversation.  I would have to expect a certain amount of inflammatory rhetoric from a conservative, even one that was really here in good faith to make peace with us. After all they didn't arrive at their ideas because they are inherently stupid or evil, but because they, through whatever course, developed a completely different lens through with to see the world.  If the entire diary read like Saturday hatemail-a-palooza, I would tell the diarist to kindly move along and take their blind hatred with them.

                            How does that translate in this situation, I'm not sure.  The main difference is people tend to have stronger stomachs for dissenting opinons and arguments in the politcal sphere than they do for the theological one.  

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:02:39 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  With that in mind... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...lets return to this situation.

                            I did not shut down the possibility of dialogue.  Indeed I have answered more than a dozen responses.  Not a single person here has so much as acknowledged the possibility that the words I took exception to might have been counter productive.    

                            That conservative I posited would need to demonstrate at least a cursory willingness to acknowledge your perspective, wouldn't he?  He does not have to agree with you, but certainly he must at the very least be willing to own up to the fact that you consider his words a breach of good faith and ought to be willing to consider the possibility that you might have reason to.

                               

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:19:08 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Okay, let's take a step back. (0+ / 0-)

                            As I said in another comment above (I can understand if you didn't get to read it given the volume of comments in the thread), I don't think any of us denied your right to be offended, we were, are, puzzled at why such a harmless statement might offend you.  You have every right to be offended.  It is not in my power to apologize to you on behalf of the diarist.  from a third party perspective I sought to engage you about your statement.  "Why?" was what I said, and your response told me that you didn't seem interested in discussing the contents of the diary since you yourself claimed to have stopped reading it fairly early on.  That admission, coupled with your senstivity to a fairly flippant remark suggested to me that you weren't so much interested in discussing the topic of the diary, but rather wished to drop in and voice your displeasure about its content and tone.  Several attempts were made by me and others to draw you out past your wall and tell us what you really felt about the diary or the discussions surrounding it.  You seemed content to slip back behind your fortress of indignation at being asked to defend your opinion or at having your beliefs challenged.  

                            You ask me to acknowledge your right to find the comment offensive.  I do acknowledge it.  I won't tell you what to think, I just want to know why you think it.  That is really what we're here for.  I ask you to aacknowledge that I didn't personally attack you.  I would never do so, even if it was done to me first.  I've been compared to a Nazi before, a couple times.  You can do it now if it will make you feel better.  It doesn't bother me because I know it's not true.  Meet me halfway does not mean 97%-3%  To me, a feel completely comfortable acknowledging that you feel offended by that remark, but I do not feel comfortable agreeing with you that it was offensive, which seems to be the criteria you expect of us.

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:38:43 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I'm fully willing to discuss the basic premise... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...of the diary.  I'd read enough to get the gist (it isn't a new thought) and had a few people summerize it in their comments.  I'll talk about anything if it is done in a respectful manner(something only you have managed to do within this thread- which is why I continue talking to you and will ignore the others from here on in).

                            I think "fortress of indignation" is perhaps a bit of hyperbole on your part, but I'll let that go.  I am happy to engage on any subject you want.  

                            I don't think I am being oversensitive here.  The general tone among the folks in this diary is pretty contemptuous.  Even your sig line is.  

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:34:03 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Guffaw. (3+ / 0-)

                            I did not shut down the possibility of dialogue.

                            Declaring someone an "asshole" and a "jerk" for making utterly ordinary critical points about religion is attempting to use the power of social sanction to do precisely that. You are pathologizing any argument that does not flatter the particular notions you are partial to.

                            "Asshole" is a statement of moral condemnation. As applied by you, in this thread, it's privileged nonsense.


                            Not a single person here has so much as acknowledged the possibility that the words I took exception to might have been counter productive.

                            No one asked for your concern trolling. What you find "productive" about nonbelievers' rhetoric is not our problem. We do not take marching orders from anyone who blows a gasket when an "s" is added onto "god."

                            I find it rather productive to isolate and discredit absurd purveyors of privilege, myself.


                            Dear Believer:

                            Thank you for your concern about the well-being of the atheist movement, and for your advice on how to run it. I appreciate your concern for the image of the atheist movement, and I appreciate you taking the time to give us advice on how to get our message across more effectively.

                            [....]

                            It is difficult to avoid the observation that, whenever believers give advice to atheists on how to run our movement, it is always in the direction of telling us to be more quiet, to tone it down, to be less confrontational and less visible. I have yet to see a believer advise the atheist movement to speak up more loudly and more passionately; to make our arguments more compelling and more unanswerable; to get in people's faces more about delicate and thorny issues that they don't want to think about; to not be afraid of offending people if we think we're right. I have received a great deal of advice from believers on how atheists should run our movement... and it is always, always, always in the direction of politely suggesting that we shut up.

                            You'll have to forgive me if I question the motivation behind this advice, and take it with a grain of salt.

                            You'll have to forgive me if I think your suggestions on making our movement more effective would, in fact, have the exact opposite effect. What's more, you'll have to forgive me for suspecting that this, however unconsciously, is the true intention behind your very kind and no doubt sincerely- meant advice.

                            And you'll have to forgive me if I am less than enthusiastic about taking advice on how to run the atheist movement from the very people our movement is trying to change.

                            Your concern is duly noted. Thank you for sharing.

                            - Greta Christina, "An Open Letter to Concerned Believers »"

                          •  That was great, and right on point! (0+ / 0-)

                            Thank you.

                            Peace.

                            Or, as the fictional Jesus said, when "speaking" words meant to be about philosophy, the very topic of this diary, and, keep in mind, the fictional Jesus represents a personification of truth, simply truth, he said,

                            I do not come to bring peace, but a sword.

                            We must have a verbal swordplay, to tell the truth, to teach the truth.

                            Thank you.

                          •  Your boxed quotation (2+ / 0-)

                            happens to be one of The Family's motivation nuggets they use to justify their embrace of Nazi and Stalinist/Maoist tactics to spread their vision of a fascist corporate theocracy, btw.  Or, in other words, the end justifies the means.

                            If people have to be killed in order to acheive their goals, so be it -- Jesus said he wasn't about peace, he was for killing (their interpretation, not mine).

                          •  Okay, I really have to go to bed now. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            wilderness voice

                            But the invitation remains open, and serious, if you would like to return and try again from the beginning.  My diary will be tomorrow morning at about 9:30 AM Pacific.  Another will be Tuesday night around 4 PM Pacific.  Even if you choose not to comment, please read them.  Thanks for stopping in and participating, even while outnumbered.  That shows courage at the very least.

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:50:44 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Ironic commentary, (5+ / 0-)

                            given your free way of telling all atheists how to behave.

                            And, imagine you just rubbing your hands with glee at seeing your worst stereotypes realized. Just push and prod enough, and, voila! Uppity atheists act as if they were pushed and prodded!

                            "Gods floating in the sky" is not a mockery of you, or of people of faith.

                            It is a comment about beliefs, and about gods. Not about people.

                            Your comments, on the other hand, are all about people of a certain category.

                            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:19:59 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                •  What's rude is religion - may we all burn in hell (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  SoCalHobbit

                  Christianity or Buddhism, they are both the same.  Somebody to keep people who are afraid of being alone from being alone.  Life is a bitch, and then you die.  The end.  For those who can't handle that, there is buddha, jesus, 40 virgins, mother of Zeus, mother nature, or one's navel and the contemplation thereof.  

                  Religion and its value or lack thereof has to be the most popular dorm room conversation from the 60s...perhaps this topic is a generational rite of passage. Whatever it is, my boat sailed long ago.  

                  Don't tax the rich, starve the poor.

                  by dkmich on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 02:44:35 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  It was illustrative allegory, I believe. (7+ / 0-)

          To take it so personally is perhaps to miss an early message that made this diary meaningful: allow yourself to briefly "kill" your faith and/or religion, then see what conversation can take place with others who have done the same.  Mildly calling someone's god a figure in the sky provides an example of how one can achieve that objective.

          With that understanding, the search for common understanding that exists beside (or around) faith eventually led to the proposal of a "contemplative" science, etc.

          I feel that nothing should be so sacred that it cannot be put onto a shelf, even for a small time, given a good cause for doing so.

          "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

          by wader on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:27:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well said, wader. (7+ / 0-)

            I feel that nothing should be so sacred that it cannot be put onto a shelf, even for a small time, given a good cause for doing so.

            Except that many Christians consider such to be impossible, as it would be blasphemy.

            Mildly calling someone's god a figure in the sky provides an example of how one can achieve that objective.

            No f'ing kidding.  There's much worse it could be, and has been, called.  Surely, as Jesus counseled, those offended could "turn the other cheek" for long enough to listen and forgive, at the least.

            "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

            by rfall on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:30:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I disagree. (0+ / 0-)

            It was mockery.  Use of the plural "gods" for instance is a form of mockery as the religions mentioned do not believe in different Gods - they beleive in the same God and simply have differing opinions about he/she/it's nature and different traditions of worship.

            Further - describing God as "in the sky" is another form of mockery.  Tart it up any way you want to, but we both know full well what the intention was.  

            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

            by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:10:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Your taking this personally unfortunately (9+ / 0-)

              misses the point that I attempted to clarify: in order to have the conversation that eventually leads to a new class of science (among other things), then you could take a lesson from Buddhism and find the willingness inside to kill the object(s) and subject(s) of your religion, thereby freeing you for the discussion at hand.  It needn't be discarded, just pushed aside and stored momentarily.

              To speak of god(s) and being(s) in the sky is to Kill the Buddha", in essence.  Mock your own beliefs in a simplistic manner and you've achieved a humbleness that allows for new discussion.  When that discourse is over, bring your true faith back into your presence of mind and heart, perhaps a bit more (fill in the blank) by the experience.

              Again, nothing can be so sacred that we cannot put it into a box for awhile.  Using sarcasm or silliness can be a device for packing it away - it's disarming, which is probably a necessary tool, in this kind of case.

              "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

              by wader on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:33:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It IS unfortunate (0+ / 0-)

                It is unfortunate that the diarist chose to adopt a mocking tone, thus distracting from their point.  This is not my fault.  Don't blame me for noticing.

                As for the utility of mocking one's own beliefs - the key to doing this is that it must actually be you who does so.  You cannot "kill the Buddha" for me.  Nor can the diarist.  

                 

                Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:51:46 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Sure. (6+ / 0-)

                  This is not my fault.  Don't blame me for noticing.

                  In any other arena of human discourse, the "mocking tone" which appears to have slain you so brutally would have been passed off as a matter of course.

                  It is only because the thing being (supposedly) "mocked" was your religious belief that you think you have the moral authority to piss and moan and blame the diarist for his/her awful incivility. It's your right as a Superior Religious Believer never to have your ideas made fun of!

                  Sorry. Won't wash. Religious privilege gets you nowhere here.

                  If you don't want your ideas mocked, don't accept ideas that are worthy of mockery.

                  •  That is idiocy (0+ / 0-)

                    I wouldn't tolerate mockery of atheists either.

                    You know nothing of my beliefs.

                    Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                    by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:07:05 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Blind spot demonstrated. (5+ / 0-)

                      Atheists are people.

                      This diary does not "mock" people. (It doesn't even really mock ideas, though you are laughably claiming it does.)


                      You know nothing of my beliefs.

                      I know that you are given to bitching and moaning that a diarist used the plural (gasp!) noun "gods" and described them as being "in the sky."

                      That's plenty. Your whining deserves to be mocked.

                      But to return to the direct evidence of your overwhelming privilege: atheists are people. The notion of plural "gods" is not a person. The notion of gods being, or not being, "in the sky" is not a person.

                      Your utter inability to notice the difference demonstrates why your complaint should not be taken seriously. Ideas do not have human rights.

                      •  Who is whining? (0+ / 0-)

                        I absolutely affirm your right to be jerks if you so choose.  I simply get to call you a jerk.

                        As for the supposed blind spot - I think you are hiding behind semantics.  You mock ideas as a means of mocking those who hold them.

                        Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                        by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:35:20 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Uh, that'd be you. (0+ / 0-)

                          Right here:

                          "Gods floating in the sky"

                          I stopped reading right there.

                          And here:

                          snide n/t

                          And here:

                          It was off-putting but I was hopeful that I might be surprised by the contents.  Sadly I wasn't.

                          And here:

                          I thought I might encounter a thoughtful diary about transcending one's beliefs.  I gather that this was the intention of the diary - but by striking a mocking tone against people of faith all credibility was lost.

                          You have done little in this entire thread but wail that treating your special snowflake ideas in anything other than the precise way you demand renders someone an "asshole" and a "jerk."

                          That's whining, indeed notably pathetic whining. As I said at the outset, no one else is obligated to treat your beliefs with kid gloves just because you prefer it that way. Your attempt to do with social sanction what you can't with law will not succeed.

                          Pretend as hard as you'd like that attacking your ideas is the same thing as attacking you. As atheists are constantly having to remind theists, pretending doesn't make it so.

                          •  Ah. (0+ / 0-)

                            I suppose you'd call any words I might type "whining".  Last I checked that word had a specific meaning.  

                            At least any oretense of good faith on your part has been dropped.

                            I think I'm done now.  Piss into the wind without me if you want.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:04:31 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Please join us again. (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            wader, RandomActsOfReason

                            I do not ask that ironically.  Perhaps we can reset and start over.  I'm posting tomorrow morning and you might actually be interesed in Commonmass's diary on Tuesday evening as described below.  I know you probably won't believe me, but I don't bear you any ill will.  It seems like an attack when this many people disagree with you at once, but I think I speak for everyone involved in this thread when I say that we just like to argue.  I certainly wouldn't blame you it you avoided us in the future, but I would like to hear what you have to say about other topics sometime.

                            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                            by XNeeOhCon on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:17:21 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Yes, please do come again, snout (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            XNeeOhCon

                            and try not to have your very first comment be one that attempts to shut down the discussion, or any discussion, of the topic on any but your personal terms.

                            I think you'd be surprised to learn how open folks are here to debating substantive ideas - rather than rolling over and saying, "hit me again" every time some religious apologist comes in here to tell us how mean and hateful we are for even having an intellectual discussion within a hundred miles of the "f" word (that would be faith, not fuck, in case you were wondering).

                            Come in, with an open mind, hackles not raised, presumption and entitlement released, and discuss honestly the philosophical or political issues raised by one of these diaries. All opinions are welcome. Not all attitudes are. Respect the difference. And, by all means, come again. Unlike some other communities here, we welcome dissent.

                            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:02:22 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Heh! (0+ / 0-)

                            I suppose you'd call any words I might type "whining".

                            Uh, no—just the amusingly plaintive ones. Your high dudgeon that the diary dared to use the plural noun "gods" just doesn't fit with any vocal tone other than the five-year-old wailing that he wants Lucky Charms for breakfast, not oatmeal.


                            At least any oretense of good faith on your part has been dropped.

                            Again, this is just a comedy of errors projection. You declare in your very first comment that you stopped reading the diary when you found a phrase that you were unhappy with... and then you think you have any standing to question anyone else's good faith? As another commenter pointed out, you didn't even read the fucking diary! How much gall do you have?


                            I think I'm done now.

                            That'd be swell, if true, but I'm not convinced.

                        •  Oh, and: (0+ / 0-)

                          I think you are hiding behind semantics.  You mock ideas as a means of mocking those who hold them.

                          Yes, it's perfectly understandable that someone utterly buried in religious privilege would see it that way. How could any of those scummy atheists disrespect your precious ideas so, unless they hated you personally and wanted to attack you? Everyone knows that religious ideas are supposed to be untouchable, so that must be what's going on!

                          Sorry, but no. Your inability to tell the difference between your self and your beliefs does not imply that anyone else does, or should, share that inability.


                          Claiming that I'm "hiding behind semantics" is, again, very funny. Who, pray tell, wrote "atheists" in your comment? You could have said "I wouldn't tolerate mockery of atheism either"—but you didn't. Because the operative factor here is that inability of yours: you really didn't notice that what was being (comically mildly) criticized in this diary was certain kinds of theism, not theists. You honestly missed that, leading you to honestly miss the difference between atheists and atheism.

                          As I said, it was your "blind spot demonstrated." The "semantic" error was yours, pal.

                          •  Your words drip with contempt. (0+ / 0-)

                            Imagine me picking up on it.

                            Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                            by snout on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:05:13 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Your behavior DESERVES contempt. (0+ / 0-)

                            I notice you have decided to ignore my argument, and try to escape by taking a personal shot and running away. You have earned what you've gotten.

                            When you stop trying to wield your privilege as a weapon to silence impious treatment of religious ideas, you will no longer receive contempt from me.

                            'Til then, the shoe fits, and you'll wear it.

                      •  hmmm (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Rieux

                        Vajrayana Buddhists can be fairly said to believe in "gods in the sky" whereas Christians do not.  Coupled with the original refernce to "killing the Buddha" there is reason to believe the diarist was actually referring to Buddhists.  That would render snout's offendedness misplaced.  Maybe as a Buddhist I should be offended instead.  Curious that I can't be bothered.

                    •  Tell us, then, of your beliefs (4+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Rieux, Larry Bailey, wader, louisprandtl

                      Drop this bullshit and engage in a constructive discussion of substance.

                      How can you, with a straight face, justify innumerous comments in a diary you state you stopped reading at the first sentence that offended you?

                      You didn't even read the fucking diary!

                      No wonder you have nothing of substance to contribute here.

                      Surprise me. Prove me wrong. Nothing a rational thinker loves more than to be proven wrong (another thing that distinguishes rational thinking from faith-based thinking, by the way).

                      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                      by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:23:10 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  I am merely offering what the diary offers (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ScienceMom, XNeeOhCon

                  in my own form, because I think the suggestions have merit.

                  Any device or utility seems fine, to me.

                  But, there's no need to take umbrage with those used by others, I feel.  Any post-religious discussion should be beyond one's sense of self that may be bound to specific religion(s), it would seem - I mean, that's the point of looking outside the box for something more universal among the spectrum of believers through non-believers.

                  "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                  by wader on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:49:45 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Ugh. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RandomActsOfReason, XNeeOhCon

              It was mockery.  Use of the plural "gods" for instance is a form of mockery as the religions mentioned do not believe in different Gods....

              News flash: religions are belief systemsideas. It is not morally objectionable to "mock" ideas.

              •  By extension... (0+ / 0-)

                ...you mock those that hold them.  And worse - you respect them so little you expect them not to notice.

                Obama is losing John Edwards' base.

                by snout on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:46:59 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Bullshit. (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  crose, RandomActsOfReason, XNeeOhCon

                  That is not how any idea of any other kind is treated in the world of public discourse. Economic theories,  It is only religious belief that gets the kind of laughable "Attacking an idea is attacking the person who holds the idea" nonsense defense that you are pushing here.

                  You are not a human shield for your beliefs, much as you pretend you are. Ideas do not have human rights, and no one is morally obligated to respect them. Your attempt to strangle all critical inquiry into ideas you hold is the end of a free marketplace of ideas; it can't stand.


                  Now, the invention of the scientific method and science is, I'm sure we'll all agree, the most powerful intellectual idea, the most powerful framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and that it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked and if it withstands the attack then it lives to fight another day and if it doesn't withstand the attack then down it goes. Religion doesn't seem to work like that; it has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. That's an idea we're so familiar with, whether we subscribe to it or not, that it's kind of odd to think what it actually means, because really what it means is 'Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not? - because you're not!' If somebody votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it, but on the other hand if somebody says 'I mustn't move a light switch on a Saturday', you say, 'Fine, I respect that'. The odd thing is, even as I am saying that I am thinking 'Is there an Orthodox Jew here who is going to be offended by the fact that I just said that?' but I wouldn't have thought 'Maybe there's somebody from the left wing or somebody from the right wing or somebody who subscribes to this view or the other in economics' when I was making the other points. I just think 'Fine, we have different opinions'. But, the moment I say something that has something to do with somebody's (I'm going to stick my neck out here and say irrational) beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say 'No, we don't attack that; that's an irrational belief but no, we respect it'.

                  It's rather like, if you think back in terms of animal evolution, an animal that's grown an incredible carapace around it, such as a tortoise - that's a great survival strategy because nothing can get through it; or maybe like a poisonous fish that nothing will come close to, which therefore thrives by keeping away any challenges to what it is it is. In the case of an idea, if we think 'Here is an idea that is protected by holiness or sanctity', what does it mean? Why should it be that it's perfectly legitimate to support the Labour party or the Conservative party, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows, but to have an opinion about how the Universe began, about who created the Universe, no, that's holy? What does that mean? Why do we ring-fence that for any other reason other than that we've just got used to doing so? There's no other reason at all, it's just one of those things that crept into being and once that loop gets going it's very, very powerful. So, we are used to not challenging religious ideas but it's very interesting how much of a furore Richard creates when he does it! Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you're not allowed to say these things. Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn't be.

                  - Douglas Adams, "Is There an Artificial God?"


                  The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

                  - John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

                •  You have (6+ / 0-)

                  succeeded in hijacking what was an interesting diary. You have not proved your point in any way and have made your weak position even more shaky by continuing to insist that you personally were mocked. Many religions believe, image or even insist that their gods inhabit the sky in a cloud-strewn, floating world. Throughout the history of the RCC, paintings, sculptures and illustrations commissioned and paid for by the Church have depicted the Christian God as floating in the sky. Islam forbids the depiction of Allah or Mohammed, but the Prophet is said in some traditions to inhabit a realm in "midheaven" neither in Paradise nor on Earth. It is these images the diary was addressing, not to any particular belief of yours. Get over yourself and please allow the discussion of the diary continue.

            •  Wow. Just. Wow. (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rieux, Larry Bailey, crose, Prof Haley

              Use of the plural "gods" for instance is a form of mockery

              Unbelievable - pun intended.

              Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

              by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:20:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  The distinction between (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RandomActsOfReason

              one god or multiple gods may be of interest to you, but it's meaningless to me, since I don't believe in any of them. But when I tell you I am an atheist, you already know that I make no distinction between one or many gods, so rather than mockery it is just a way of stating my own non-theism. Why is this a belittlement of you? Or if it is, then aren't you belittling people who believe in multiple gods by what you say?

              And since you admit that people have differing opinions about her/his/its nature, why not just say her/his/its/their nature?

              The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

              by denise b on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 11:00:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  You are right. If I could make one edit, (0+ / 0-)

      I would remove that reference. It would make the article so much better.

      After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

      by Brahman Colorado on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 07:11:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for a thoughtful diary. I appreciate (14+ / 0-)

    your nod to nontheism which implies something closer to my beliefs than atheism which is often interpreted as anti-theism. I've recently been reading Godless for God's Sake - Nonthesism in Contemporary Quakerism which had been recommended in an earlier DKos diary about atheism.  I really enjoyed the great variety of experience, each one deeply personal.  Perhaps some nontheists/atheists simply do not care about the mysteries of existence or the perplexities of the human condition -it's not a topic that interests them. They have no spiritual inclination.  Yet other nontheists/atheists are more profoundly spiritual than most believers. Of course, those are the ones who write essays and diaries and comments. Thanks again for sharing your insights.

    All right, then, I'll go to hell. - Mark Twain

    by seethruit on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:08:43 PM PDT

    •  great comment, (5+ / 0-)

      although I recommend caution when using the term "spiritual."  In the context of your comment I presume you mean it to convey the sense of wonder about "the mysteries of existence or the perplexities of the human condition," but the root word implies the idea of the supernatural in some form which is something (in my experience) most self described atheists reject.  

      "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

      by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:23:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Which is, strictly speaking, not the case: (9+ / 0-)

      than atheism which is often interpreted as anti-theism

      Yes, some of us are anti-theistic in the sense that we think rationality is opposed to any kind of philosophical system which relies on unknowable Prime Movers and unassailable "laws" known only through reading of ancient and poorly written and translated texts.

      "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

      by rfall on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:31:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I know of many "spiritual" and imaginatively (5+ / 0-)

      holistic atheists, which does seem more the norm than the completely uncurious, in experience.

      Similar to the concept of defining "good morals" and such, I've never felt that ascribing to a specific religion as one's faith was a pre-requisite for such open-mindedness and curiosity about the ties which bind us to existence.  Yet, so many people seem to believe that religion is, indeed, required to enable such a state of inner wonder and sensitivity.  That may say more for about the nature of their public subscriptions to religion(s) than about true spirituality, though.

      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

      by wader on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:32:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oops, a bit of pejorative stereotyping there (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        denise b

        Juxtaposing "spiritual and imaginatively holistic" vs "completely uncurious" is a bit of a judgment call, isn't it?

        Just because a particular atheist chooses to apply the same criteria to alleged spiritual phenomena as they do to alleged divine phenomena - and, finding no evidence, similarly lack belief in the spiritual kind - does not mean they are completely incurious.

        In fact, I would argue precisely the opposite. It is profound curiosity that leads the rational skeptic to explore and question all things, using consistent method and applying consistent criteria.

        Disbelieving in one thing for which there is no evidence and which contradicts known physical laws, and then turning around and believing in another thing for which there is no evidence and which contradicts known physical laws, is not "imaginatively holistic", it is just superstitious. And it is the opposite of curious.

        Phrases like "true spirituality" are no more rational than "true religion" or "true theism".

        When one believes one has the answer to something, one stops asking questions.

        Certainty is the death of curiosity.

        Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

        by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:14:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Urgh. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      XNeeOhCon

      I appreciate your nod to nontheism which implies something closer to my beliefs than atheism which is often interpreted as anti-theism.

      Come on, now. This is precisely why Atheist Digest series always start off with glossary diaries, such as mine from a few weeks ago. Nontheism and atheism are the same thing.

      •  Good catch. Diarist, what precisely is the (0+ / 0-)

        difference between "non-theism" and "atheism"?

        Atheism means lacking belief in gods. Nontheism means lacking belief in gods. What's the difference?

        Atheism is not anti-theism. If you had written, "often misinterpreted", at least we might think you are attempting to to avoid a term that has been associated with pejorative stereotypes - and attempt which, ironically, ends up perpetuating them.

        But, since you wrote "often interpreted", I'm confused. Do you interpret "atheist" as anti-theist"?

        So, what's the difference between non and a?

        Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

        by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:06:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Many of the most vocal atheists are anti-theists. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wilderness voice

          Christopher Hitchens, for example. In addition to being a nonbeliever, he is avowedly anti-theist, attibuting many of the worst turns in human history to religious belief. Many atheists agree with him.  However, the conflation of not believing in a God with anti-religiosity, has confused and distorted public reaction to the broad term "atheism". If it were up to me (which it isn't), I'd prefer to see a clear distinction since there are proud atheists of both stripes: anti-theists and not anti-theists, with many shades in between.  To me, non-theism is synonimous with atheism but without the added baggage of IMPLYING anti-theism.

          But all this is just my own point of view.  I don't think there's any "correct" way of thinking about this.  But I do get concerned that we don't create our own dogma traps, of the sort that many believers are so drawn to.

          All right, then, I'll go to hell. - Mark Twain

          by seethruit on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 10:06:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You did not answer the question (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rieux

            The question was not what misunderstandings do the public have about the meaning of terms, or what does one atheist or another believe.

            The question was, what is the actual difference between the terms "atheist" and a "nontheist"?

            I'd like to hear the diarist's answer. If the only answer is, as you imply, that he is afraid of what theists might think, and so is using a code-word, that tells us one thing.

            The diary, however, implied a material difference between "atheist" and "nontheist".

            What is that difference?

            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 10:38:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  The "path to atheism." (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brahman Colorado, h bridges

    Sounds kinda like a cult.

  •  Very Nice Diary (5+ / 0-)

    "The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower." -- Robert M. Pirsig

    One very small point: if words mean anything, then 'atheism' is not an 'absence of the belief in gods;' it is rather the belief in the absence of gods. Like theism, atheism is an assertion, just at the other end of the teeter-totter.

    Non-theism, as you describe the Buddhists, is probably closer to the fulcrum.

    •  The prefix 'a' means "without" (7+ / 0-)

      not "against."  I belief in the absence of gods is how most thesists want to paint atheists as a vehicle to insist that they have an antithetical but just as faith based "belief structure" to theists.  It just isn't the case.  We don't have to have faith in anything.  We are open to new evidence of the existence of a god but, absent any, do not establish a belief in one.

      "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

      by XNeeOhCon on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:31:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This reminds me of a Clarke story: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wader

      "The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower." -- Robert M. Pirsig

      Read, if you haven't, The Nine Billion Names of God.

      "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

      by rfall on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:34:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "If words mean anything"? (4+ / 0-)

      Please.

      I wrote a diary in this very series addressing this very point. As I wrote in my introduction:

      What is an "atheist"? What's an "agnostic"? Why are non-believers so adamant about these words and what they do or don't mean? These are the kinds of issues that need to be hashed out at the beginning of any in-depth discussion of non-believers and our ideas. The idea is to head off a number of disputes that constantly bedevil public discussion of atheism and related concepts; the disputes in question are based on common misconceptions regarding what "atheism," among related terms, even means.

      So, if you're tempted to respond to any diary in this series by pointing out, say, that atheism requires just as much of a "leap of faith" as belief in God does, please read this diary first. It is very likely that you are operating from an understanding of the term "atheism" that conflicts severely with the widespread consensus, among self-declared atheists, regarding what that term means. At the very least, you need to be aware of that conflict.

      Apparently my attempt to "head off" stuff like this hasn't been so successful.

      Wading into a series like this one waving sentences such as "Like theism, atheism is an assertion, just at the other end of the teeter-totter" is just a very bad idea. Please look before you leap.

    •  Do you believe in the absence of the Tooth Fairy? (3+ / 0-)

      Or do you simply lack a belief in the Tooth Fairy?

      Atheism is a belief like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      Theism posits the existence of a supernatural intelligence. That is an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary evidence (personaly, I'd settle for ordinary evidence - hell, any evidence at all).

      The default position is not to arbitrarily believe in extraordinary claims absent corresponding evidence. No faith is required not to have faith.

      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

      by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:18:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wrong (0+ / 0-)

      Atheism is not the "belief in the absence of god(s)," it is the lack of belief in the existence of god(s).

      Moreover, one could argue that atheism is a rejection of the concept of faith.

      "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

      by Apost8 on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 07:14:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomActsOfReason

      If words mean anything?

      a- simply means "without". Why do you think atheism cannot mean absence of belief?

      I think most atheists would find this to be a distinction with a difference. Do I not believe there is a Tooth Fairy, or do I believe there is no Tooth Fairy? I don't care. I'm not a philosopher, just a person speaking English, and these two things basically say the same thing. Why? - because only in a hair-splitting debate about epistemology - which I have no interest in having - would I entertain the possibility that there is a Tooth Fairy.

      The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

      by denise b on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 11:25:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As usual, we will get no response from (0+ / 0-)

        the asserter, indicating in any way, shape or form, the possibility of acknowledging error, or, heaven forbid (pun intended), an expression of delight at learning something new.

        No, we'll likely get crickets, or the doubling-down of faith in the rejection of all contrary evidence.

        Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

        by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 11:47:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Buddhism and -theisms (8+ / 0-)

      Although certain Victorian sympathizers (and some few moderns uncomfortable with atheism) tried to reconcile Buddhism and monotheism, the fact is that not only is no creator God, ruling and guiding the destinies of the world to be found in Buddhism; such a God is explicitly denied (even ridiculed) at certain points in the Buddhist canon.

      However, that does not mean that the entire concept of gods or deities is absent.  In fact, a great many deities are mentioned, occasionally by name (e.g. Brahma, Shakra) but more often as classes of beings.

      Now, the textual use of these deities may be viewed as didactic, satirical, or even whimsical, or just as a concession to the predominant views of the peoples of India at the time the texts were written. But the fact remains that they are there, playing an often decorative but by no means wholly insignificant role in the Buddhist characterization of the universe.

      That makes it more difficult to call Buddhism simply "atheist" -- a term that carries elements of archaic Christian polemic with it.  On the other hand, characterizing Buddhism as "polytheistic" (or "heathen", "pagan", etc.), while not without its grain of truth, misses the central point that while Buddhism includes gods in its mythology, it is not about the gods, and the worship of the gods is not the point of Buddhism.  It is not even about becoming gods, except in a very tangential and secondary manner.

      Without going into great detail, it's safest to say that Buddhism defies the pat Western categories of atheism/polytheism/monotheism in a way that suggests that, not only are those categories not terribly useful, but they also misidentify what religion is about; and that because, religious or secular, Westerners tend to privilege the Christian worldview (in which "do you believe in God" is indeed a central question) above all others.

    •  "Gods" in Buddhism (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WIds, bigjacbigjacbigjac, XNeeOhCon

      Are not viewed in the same way western religions view an omnipotent omnipresent God.  Named dieties that are venerated represent the pinnacles of compassion, wisdom, etc., and are similar to the Jungian concept of archetypes.

      •  Yes and no (0+ / 0-)

        There are several different types of being who can be described as 'gods' in Buddhism; a few of them are, perhaps, 'archetypal'; most are not.  Traditional Buddhist scholastic texts make a point of distinguishing these types, for reasons which are about more than just monastic subtleties.

        Buddhism is about a path to release from the cycle of death and birth, and involves a number of practices, intellectual, ethical, and contemplative.  As the mind becomes less and less entangled in mental defilements, it reaches levels of happiness, ecstasy, and eventually dispassion which correspond to the conditions of existence of the 'gods'.  So for the people who follow this path, divine states aren't a legend or a hypothesis, but a lived reality.

        Ultimately, however, Buddhist practice isn't about attaining these states, but about leaving them behind.

        When you refer to "named deities that are venerated", however, I suspect you are thinking of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas like Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, or Kshitigarbha, who are, however (a) not gods, and (b) despite being associated with particular qualities (like Avalokiteshvara with karuna, compassion, or Manjushri with prajna, wisdom) something more than just imaginary instantiations ("archetypes") of those qualities.

        •  Buddhism (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bigjacbigjacbigjac, iceweasel

          sprang from Hinduism. Siddhartha was a Hindu. He was schooled in the depth and width of Hinduism. He chose the middle way because the other ways of Hinduism--the ascetic and the princely--had already entered his experience. The way he spoke of reaching nirvana was the essence of the middle way. He didn't bring his known Hindu pantheon onto the discussion because, by his own experience, he didn't need them anymore. He asked that his disciples not fall into petty argument about dogma after his death. The last thing he wanted was to coin a new religion, and yet all across the Buddhist world, his image and those of the people who sectized his words are worshipped by thousands of prostrating pilgrims a day. Most of those people are not in daily "practice." Most do not follow the eightfold path. Yet they take time off in their daily pursuits to prostrate themselves in front of a goldleafed image of the Buddha, who asked not to be made into a god. That the Dharmapada is such a small collection of teachings should say something about the roots of Buddhism as opposed to what it has become. In typical fashion humans have complicated something gracefully simple by writing about it over and over, covering it with gold leaf and making it nearly impossible to acheive what the originator wished for everybody.

          •  Thank you for the insight. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            iceweasel

            Maybe I will read more about buddhism someday.

          •  That's not really true (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wilderness voice

            Hinduism, as we know it today, did not exist in the Buddha's time. The cluster of beliefs we now call Hinduism arose in the Middle Ages -- partially on the basis of the Vedic religion that existed in the Buddha's time, but also on the basis (in sympathy or in reaction to) of various other traditions, including Buddhism!

            That the Buddha amply rejected the religious mode represented by the Vedic Brahmanism of contemporary India is well-attested in Buddhist texts.  One can, of course, speculate that those texts don't represent the Buddha's "real" teaching, but then you have to make up the "real" teaching out of whole cloth.

            As for the statement "The last thing he wanted was to coin a new religion", that is not true even in part.  It is quite clear that that is precisely what he wanted to do.

          •  prostrations (0+ / 0-)

            the western religious mindset automatically assumes prostration = supplicatory worship. However, the practice of prostration in Buddhism is about letting go of pride and ego.

            Buddha himself said that many different kinds of teachings were necessary and appropriate for the varied levels of development of different people.

    •  Theism and religion are different things (2+ / 0-)

      and the axis is simpler than you suggest, there being the binary theism/atheism. one either believes in deities or one does not. There aren't separate categories for "apolytheist" and "amonotheist", for instance.

      Belief or lack of belief in gods is a personal thing.

      Religion, on the other hand, is an organizational thing, a system. As such, religions have an impact on politics, policy and society.

      And individual can be a theist and belong to a religion, or a theist belonging to no religion. One can also be an atheist belonging to a religion, or an atheist belonging to no religion. They are not the same thing, nor should they be confused.

      Finally, as I've noted elsewhere, in practice, Buddhist theism is very common throughout Asia. The Western type of atheistic Buddhism may be followed by many or most American Buddhists - but all American Buddhists combined only account for about half of one percent of the US population.

      Most Buddhists are, in fact, theists, regardless of what one may think Buddhism "really" says.

      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

      by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:25:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course it's more complicated (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brahman Colorado

          Polytheism and monotheism are very different ways of relating to the spiritual universe -- not wholly exclusive, of course, but still very far apart.  Consider that polytheists have stigmatized monotheists as "atheist", and of course vice versâ!

          When something is described as "theist", the default assumption in Western countries is to read "monotheist" (and especially of the Jewish/Christian/Islamic type).  But that's not the kind of "theism" (if any) found in Buddhism, Asian or American or of almost any other type.  Nor, for that matter, is Buddhist 'polytheism' of precisely the same kind as that of, say, Hindu polytheism, much less the Neo-pagan kind.

          So no, things are not "simpler than [I] suggest"; they are actually much, much, MUCH more complicated; it's just that I don't have the room to write a complete dissertation within the space of a Daily Kos comment.

        •  You are making a category error (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brahman Colorado

          Stating that, in the context of a diary about atheism, part of a series about atheism, the primary distinction is between those who believe in gods and those who do not, is wholly accurate and appropriate.

          Distinctions between those who believe in many gods or one, or in tangible gods or ethereal, or gods that live in the sky or in the rocks or in each of us, or between one version of Jehovah or another, are interesting to theists in the context of other discussion.

          But they are not relevant to the fundamental distinction between those who choose to believe in supernatural entities that affect the universe, and those of us who do not.

          Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

          by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 09:13:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Siddharta was a Hindu. (0+ / 0-)

      He came from a royal caste of Shivites. His teachings brought the concepts of a "divine life" to the common person no matter how low their station in Indian life.

      After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

      by Brahman Colorado on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 07:18:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great series. (6+ / 0-)

    I suppose that I am still up for Tuesday.

    Gustav Mahler(1860-1911)is God--Leonard Bernstein.

    by commonmass on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 09:27:12 PM PDT

  •  a misunderstood saying, "if you meet the Buddha.. (5+ / 0-)

    that I believe has been mistranslated both etymologically and contextually.

    The definition of "kill" can be taken as "to change" or "to imbue oneself with (such as the  tarot deck does).

    This original saying can be stated, "As you are the buddha, when you finally know yourself, you know the buddha, and the distinction between the two (the personal and existential self) are therefore dissolved.

    It is not a warning or exhortation towards violence, but imploring for self awareness.

    Well, that's my own interpretation.

    "It's war. It's one damn thing after another" -- Julian Assange

    by mydailydrunk on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:07:52 PM PDT

  •  A genuine question: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    crose

    Whether I believe in God or the absence of God I think that I am free to define (or imagine) God any way I care to.

    That said, isn't it more interesting (and challenging) to figure out what meaning of God I believe exists, rather than which meaning of God I believe does not?

    We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

    by RageKage on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:22:49 PM PDT

    •  Why even bother? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac

      With all of the profuse evidence that gods—all of them—are the creation of humanity, what precisely is the point of "figur[ing] out what meaning of God I believe exists"? That sounds rather like figuring out which James Bond—the one who... er... looks like Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, or Craig—is the "real" Bond and not just a fictional character. (Never mind this guy—he's just a God Shammgod.)

      One could, I'm sure, spend time contemplating which Flying Spaghetti Monster one believes in... and yet no one does. So the special pleading is a little tiring.

      •  No, you have it backwards. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bigjacbigjacbigjac

        Figuring out which Bond is the "real" Bond is exactly like figuring out which meaning of God you DON'T believe in.  (ie. Both God and Bond would both be fictional characters).

        Same with the Spaghetti Monster.  The whole point of the Spaghetti Monster is that no one actually believes it exists.  

        You ask what the point of such an exercise would be, and I am wondering as well.  Because atheists also need to have an idea of what God means (ie. the thing he or her believes does not exist).  How can you affirm that "it" does not exist if you can't say what "it" is?  It's atheists that are in the position of figuring out the meaning of something they do not believe exists.

        So that's really my original question: what is the point of being an atheist?  Isn't it more interesting and intellectually challenging to figure out what you do believe in, rather than what you don't?

        And what the fuck do you mean by "the special pleading"?

        We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

        by RageKage on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:56:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There is not "point" - it simply is (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bigjacbigjacbigjac, XNeeOhCon, TFinSF

          If one lacks belief in a god or gods, one simply lacks that belief.

          If one holds the simple standard that one does not believe in extraordinary claims for which there is no extraordinary (or, in the case of gods, even ordinary) evidence, then one need not agonize about it, one simply applies the standard.

          Isn't it more interesting and intellectually challenging to figure out what you do believe in, rather than what you don't?

          In fact, it is, and since atheists don't presume to have found a magical guide who has all the answers for us, we do, in fact, spend a great deal of time exploring what values and principles we conclude are valid and worth, contingently, following.

          Your insinuation, that atheists are lacking something to "believe in", which is shorthand for lacking morality is unfounded and rather stereotypical.

          Also not much of a defense of believing in a god, because one lacks the capacity to set moral standards oneself, and has to resort to unquestioning following others, even mythical others.

          Nonbelief is a default position, absent any evidence.

          There is no "point" to not believing in a god any more than there is a "point" to not choosing to collect stamps. One simply does other things instead.

          Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

          by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:41:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  not at all (0+ / 0-)

            Your insinuation, that atheists are lacking something to "believe in", which is shorthand for lacking morality is unfounded and rather stereotypical.

            Also not much of a defense of believing in a god, because one lacks the capacity to set moral standards oneself, and has to resort to unquestioning following others, even mythical others.

            I meant to insinuate no such thing.  This has nothing to do with moral standards.  I was raised as an atheist and continued to consider myself one into my twenties.  And my moral code has not changed one bit since then.

            In fact, it is, and since atheists don't presume to have found a magical guide who has all the answers for us, we do, in fact, spend a great deal of time exploring what values and principles we conclude are valid and worth, contingently, following.

            Did I say anything about a "magical guide" with all the answers?  Who is imputing stereotypical views now?  

            But I do stand by my original point: To say "I do not believe in X", one has to have an idea what "X" means.  It's not as simple as saying "nonbelief is a default position".

            Now you can simply say "I don't believe in God as traditionally understood by most major religious institutions" (which I am guessing is along the lines of what you don't believe in).  That's fine.  I don't either.  

            But I approach the entire question differently.  I start with the a priory assumption that God exists.  Then I spend my time thinking about how must I define "God" in order to believe that statement to be true(based on my own critical experience of existence).

            We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

            by RageKage on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 07:25:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Fabulous! (0+ / 0-)

              I start with the a priory [sic!] assumption that God exists. Then I spend my time thinking about how must I define "God" in order to believe that statement to be true(based on my own critical experience of existence).

              Wow!

              You really don't have any excuse for not believing in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Hell, you don't have any excuse for lacking a belief in anything whatsoever. If you think the FSM doesn't exist, the problem is just that you've mis-defined the FSM! (Uh-oh: if you think about it, I'm afraid you have cancer. And, uh, every other conceivable disease. Damn this semantic profligacy, anyway!)

              Yours seems to be a swell method, except when words need to actually mean things. Defining "God" as Connecticut--or anything else that's utterly divorced from what the former word means to several billion people on this planet--doesn't actually make it so. Semantics is not a parlor game, to be batted around at a whim. And demanding that "God," unlike every other noun, deserves the incredible privilege of being overtly presumed to exist before we even figure out what the word means, is simply absurd.


              How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?

              Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

              - (attributed to) Abraham Lincoln

              •  Not unlike EVERY other noun, just most (0+ / 0-)

                There are nouns that by their very nature are utterly subjective and have no set meaning. "God" is the most extreme example of that kind of noun.  Can you really assert that most people agree on a precise definition of "God"?  Indeed, defining "God" as the FSM if one chooses to do so is completely legitimate.  "Good" would be a similar word that I can think of, off hand.

                Now, one can take a position that "good" does exist and one can take a position that it doesn't.  Such a debate, however, would be utterly useless without any discussion of the meaning of good.  I think it would be that part of the discussion that is actually interesting.

                It's not a matter of granting the word the "incredible privilege" of being overtly presumed to exist before we even figure out what the word means. Rather it's the first step I choose to take in defining the word for myself.

                Now you can call this "semantic parlor games", but I call it freedom of conscience.  I'm not about to let some superstitious dogma impose a definition of God on me.

                We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

                by RageKage on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 10:59:21 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  No dice. (0+ / 0-)

                  There are nouns that by their very nature are utterly subjective and have no set meaning. "God" is the most extreme example of that kind of noun.

                  Not to billions upon billions of theists (and atheists), no, it is not.

                  You have simply arbitrarily declared "God" to be an "utterly subjective" noun. That doesn't make it so; vast numbers of potential definitions of "God" (such as one I offered, and you conveniently ignored: "God" = Connecticut) are comically absurd and unworthy of serious attention.

                  Figuring out a way to flagrantly misinterpret the language that our species uses so that you can shore up a faltering belief system is not actually a defense of that system. It's dishonest semantic sleight-of-hand.


                  Can you really assert that most people agree on a precise definition of "God"?

                  "Precise"? Irrelevant. "Most people" cannot agree on a precise definition of anything. This does not license a resort to utterly boundless semantic nihilism.

                  Defining the things that exist (or could exist but don't) around us unavoidably involves ambiguity. The FSM doesn't have a "precise" definition either, and its devotees have arrived at schisms aplenty regarding definition.

                  Deciding that such ambiguities provide grounds for literally any definition one can possibly imagine is just laughable.


                  Indeed, defining "God" as the FSM if one chooses to do so is completely legitimate.

                  What do you mean, "Indeed"? I suggested nothing so worthless and silly as defining the FSM as God--that's just replacing one question mark with another. I pointed out that your semantic nihilism allows anyone to define the FSM any way they'd like--including ways that make your a-FSM-ism look just as pigheaded as you pretend atheism is. Who, pray tell, are you to say that "no one believes" that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists? If I define the Flying Spaghetti Monster as the Internet, then clearly you were flatly wrong to claim that no one believes in it. How narrow and denuded a view of the FSM you have!

                  Which is to say that under your approach, language simply collapses. Thankfully, most of us think words need to mean things.


                  It's not a matter of granting the word the "incredible privilege" of being overtly presumed to exist before we even figure out what the word means. Rather it's the first step I choose to take in defining the word for myself.

                  What a parody of logic that is: "It's not privilege because it's my first step." Heh!

                  Again, your "first step" is irrational nonsense. The power of definition is not unbounded; defining "God" as creamed corn is useless in actual discussions with actual human beings with actual notions about things--including gods, creamed corn, and language. Ergo your premise that God is an "utterly subjective" noun is false.

                  There's some half-baked Anselm in your presume-existence-before-even-defining-anything gambit. Even Anselm, though, wasn't so silly as to think a god could be defined to be absolutely anything.


                  Now you can call this "semantic parlor games", but I call it freedom of conscience.

                  Who's talking about rights? You have the right to play all of the meaningless word games you'd like. It's just that no one has any responsibility to take your semantic fumbling seriously, or to credit any aspersions you cast on atheists for failing to join you in pretending that you can make words mean whatever you want them to mean just by saying so.

                  You have the unquestionable human right to concoct any notion about gods that you'd like. Many of us are more interested, however, in notions about gods that actually matter in the world. "God = Connecticut" and "God = creamed corn," among several trillion other potential meanings for the word, don't matter. As a result, your pretenses that God is an "utterly subjective" noun, and that anyone should join you in first assuming that God exists and then trying to figure out how to define it, are just laughable nonsense. That's not how reason works.

            •  Thank you for illustrating the critical differenc (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rieux

              between a rational, secular or scientific approach to knowledge, and an irrational, religious or faith-based approach to knowledge.

              Faith assumes an answer and then seeks to justify it with cherry-picked evidence to fit, ignoring contrary evidence (and often inventing evidence outright). A faith-based mind is obsessed with knowing The Answer.

              Science is more concerned with asking the right questions. Science approaches knowledge through open inquiry, and follows the evidence where it may lead. Conclusions only and always follow the evidence, and are always contingent on support from new evidence.

              There is a profound incompatibility between the way or reason, and the way of faith.

              You have a habit of telling other people what they should say or how they should think. You might want to review that habit, it is unattractive.

              I don't presume to speak for all atheists (ironically, even though you aren't one, you do). I can only say that, for myself, I simply do not believe things for which there is no evidence. In particular, I do not believe extraordinary claims that contradict known scientific facts, absent extraordinary evidence.

              That is a default position by which I approach all questions. The god question is not inherently privileged over all other questions. Many think it is special, somehow, because it happens to be popular at this time.

              You can try to define it away so that it is so innocuous and meaningless that no one can object to the term 'god'. What is the point in that? I can call all colors 'red', and then claim we all see red. That doesn't make it true.

              Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

              by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 09:09:35 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  last paragraph meant to say, (0+ / 0-)

                "...and then claim all we see is red"

                Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 09:10:22 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  You have me backwards (0+ / 0-)

                I can only say that, for myself, I simply do not believe things for which there is no evidence. In particular, I do not believe extraordinary claims that contradict known scientific facts, absent extraordinary evidence.

                That is a default position by which I approach all questions.

                I completely agree.  And I too am more interested in questions than in answers.  In fact it's in the interest of further questions that I play these "semantic games" (as some might call them).

                If I start with the premise that "God exists", then the next question is "what is God?" (based on the evidence of my own experience)".  And this is certainly a question that instigates further discussion.  If I start with the premise that "God does not exist" then there are no further questions relating to the meaning of God.  (NOTE: There are always other questions, to be sure.  I don't want to imply that being an atheist leads to an end of asking questions)

                You can try to define it away so that it is so innocuous and meaningless that no one can object to the term 'god'. What is the point in that? I can call all colors 'red', and then claim we all see red. That doesn't make it true.

                I'm not trying simply to find a definition that everyone can agree with.  Just one that I can.  And along the way I can have lots of interesting discussions with others who have their own ideas about what God means.

                We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

                by RageKage on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 11:16:53 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  "If I start with the premise that "God exists'" (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Rieux

                  If I start with the premise that dragons exist.

                  If I start with the premise that aliens are abducting humans.

                  If I start with the premise that Barack Obama is in league with the Devil.

                  If I start with the premise that Jews own the banks.

                  Not sure starting with an arbitrary premise is necessarily helpful.

                  Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                  by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 11:26:46 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes, (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    RandomActsOfReason

                    that pretty well gets to the core of this.

                  •  If you can't see the difference (0+ / 0-)

                    If I start with the premise that dragons exist

                    ... I would be dressing up in fake armor and acting out battles with foam weapons.

                    If I start with the premise that aliens are abducting humans

                    ...then Kucinich is RIGHT!

                    If I start with the premise that Barack Obama is in league with the Devil

                    ... it would confirm my suspicion that the devil has taken the form of Timothy Geithner.

                    If I start with the premise that Jews own the banks.

                    ... I'd be wondering where my share is.

                    Not sure starting with an arbitrary premise is necessarily helpful.

                    It is not arbitrary.  I start with that premise because it allows me to explore different ideas about God and have interesting conversations with other people who have their own particular notions about what God means.

                    And I am not arbitrarily giving some random meaning to the word.  It is a life long quest where I am constantly re-evaluating and adjusting my understanding, based on all the knowledge and experience available to me.

                    We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

                    by RageKage on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 04:13:45 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Swell. (0+ / 0-)

                      I start with that premise because it allows me to explore different ideas about God and have interesting conversations with other people who have their own particular notions about what God means.

                      How very nice. Some of us are more interested in believing things that are true. I guess that's just not something that interests you much.

        •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

          Figuring out which Bond is the "real" Bond is exactly like figuring out which meaning of God you DON'T believe in.

          No. It would be precisely figuring out which Bond I did believe in.

          (ie. Both God and Bond would both be fictional characters).

          Only if you don't believe in any Bond--and that's exactly the exercise you knocked as uninteresting and unchallenging.


          Same with the Spaghetti Monster.  The whole point of the Spaghetti Monster is that no one actually believes it exists.

          Not so. The whole point of the Spaghetti Monster is that there's no reason to take it any less seriously than any other supernatural silliness--most relevantly, a Christian creationist's god.

          That "no one actually believes" the FSM exists is just the ad populum fallacy; it's irrelevant. So why don't you quit wasting your energy on which meaning of Flying Spaghetti Monster you believe does not exist and start, instead, figuring out which meaning of Flying Spaghetti Monster you believe does?


          So that's really my original question: what is the point of being an atheist?

          What is the point of being South Asian? What is the point of being left-handed? What is the point of being gay?

          Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. It isn't particularly energy-intensive.

          However, in a world saturated with theism and religious privilege, speaking out against bad ideas--including the ways in which atheists are routinely abused--does matter to many of us. Your dismissive nonsense about "figur[ing] out ... which meaning of God I believe does not" exist is not actually what atheism involves.


          Isn't it more interesting and intellectually challenging to figure out what you do believe in, rather than what you don't?

          Not self-evidently, no. There are enormous numbers of ideas on offer, and figuring out the exact reasons why so many of them are wrong is plenty interesting and challenging, actually.

          But the more important point is that your premise that atheists don't "figure out what [we] do believe in" is insulting garbage. The fact that you lack interest in criticism of religious ideas does not make us empty vessels with no affirmative ideas of our own.


          And what the fuck do you mean by "the special pleading"?

          You might try looking it up. You pulled precisely that fallacy on James Bond and the FSM.


          Again, atheists see religion as just another hypothesis about how the world works and why it is the way it is. We don't see any reason not to ask hard questions about it. In a free society, we all get to ask hard questions about scientific theories, political opinions, public policies. Hell, we ask hard questions about restaurants and dog breeding and reality show contestants. Why should religion be different? In the marketplace of ideas, why should religion get to drive its wares to the market in an armored car? And sell those wares behind a curtain? And insist that people stay politely quiet when the teakettles they bought at the religion booth don't hold water?

          For centuries, indeed for millennia, people have only been allowed to see things one way: God's way. (Okay, thousands of ways, and thousands of gods... but you know what I mean.) For centuries, indeed for millennia, religion has been the only game in town. And now that another option is appearing on the table, now that serious questions are being asked about both its usefulness and its plausibility... now you want people to stop arguing and just let each other believe what they believe?

          So I guess my reply to "Can't we all just get along" is: Can't we just have a conversation? Can't we talk about religion as if it were any other political opinion/ moral philosophy/ hypothesis about how the world works? Religion is a widely- held belief system with far- reaching effects -- can't we have a conversation about whether that belief system is plausible?

          If you don't want to participate in that conversation, fine. But why are you trying to stop other people from having it?

          No, don't tell me. I know the answer to that question.

          Shut up.

          That's why.

          - Greta Christina, "Atheism and the 'Shut Up, That's Why' Arguments"

      •  why bother? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RageKage

        i submit we bother whether we want to or not, because the human being thirsts to know about the condition one finds oneself in once we've become a thinking being;

        we are always using our brains to try to figure out the big meta:  what is this existence?

        some of us acknowledge this quest, others haven't yet understood that it is inherent in us, others haven't been able to bear it alone so they give it to an olympian, but we're talking here about our essential nature;

        everything we have created has been an expression of a creature looking for contact with its essence

  •  Buddhism is a religion. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WIds

    As my Buddhism professor put it, calling Buddhism a science does a disservice to both Buddhism and science.

    My comments may not be used for any purpose without explicit permission.

    by cai on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:44:13 PM PDT

    •  I dunno. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WIds, bigjacbigjacbigjac, crose, XNeeOhCon

      "Religion" is a European word for a concept created in Europe. It shouldn't be surprising that it's a more questionable fit for non-European belief systems.

      I wouldn't call Buddhism a science, either, but given that it does not necessarily include supernaturalist beliefs, it's at least not self-evidently a religion.


      Academics in religion departments, meanwhile, have a vested interest in making the category "religion" as overwhelmingly broad as they possibly can. I find such definitions are often utterly useless, as all too often they drag in massive proportions of human endeavor within the category "religion." That dilutes the meaning of "religion" entirely.

      The belief systems that clearly fit within the category "religion," as that word is commonly understood—e.g., Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism—have important things in common that other belief systems—e.g., rationalism, agnosticism, Keynesian economic theory—do not. It is simply useful, when discussing and debating things like Christianity and Islam, to have a word that applies to the category of belief systems that share those important characteristics. Pretending that rationalism or Keynesianism are "religions" makes it at the very least harder to have those discussions. From a standpoint of skepticism toward the value of religion, that makes "religion" harder to fight. And it's hard to avoid wondering if that isn't precisely the point of defining it broadly: to paralyze criticism.

      •  What? (0+ / 0-)

        given that it does not necessarily include supernaturalist beliefs, it's at least not self-evidently a religion.

        Buddhism is about liberation from the cycle of rebirth, that can be attained by enlightenment.  How is that not a supernatural idea?

        The belief systems that clearly fit within the category "religion," as that word is commonly understood—e.g., Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism—have important things in common that other belief systems—e.g., rationalism, agnosticism, Keynesian economic theory—do not.

        1.  "Belief" is a key category of how Americans conceive of religion.  It is a Christian and particularly Protestant conception.  It is not necessarily the primary characteristic of Asian religions, including Hinduism.
        1.  Buddhism shares key things with those other religions: it has supernatural revelation.  It has scriptures.  It has a foundation story/myth.  It describes how the world works.  It has a monastic class.  It has rituals.

        The idea that Buddhism is a philosophy is part of how it is sold to Americans: you don't have to convert!  It's not a religion, it's a philosophy!  Many American Buddhists think this.  If you actually study Buddhism -- sutras and writings not written for Americans or Western audiences -- you learn that one precept of Buddhism is "skillful means".  This essentially says that bringing people to the path of Buddhism is so important and useful to them, that you can lie to them.  

        Thus, you give people the form of Buddhism they can use: if they're not up for the best form (always defined by the sect as that sect's form), you give them a form they can follow.  The logic is, it's better than nothing, and perhaps in a later life, they will be capable of higher attainment.

        So Buddhism is sold to Americans as philosophy.  I defy you to show me any other philosophy that has monks, nuns, temples, and chanting.

        My comments may not be used for any purpose without explicit permission.

        by cai on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:00:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What? indeed. (0+ / 0-)

          Buddhism is about liberation from the cycle of rebirth, that can be attained by enlightenment.  How is that not a supernatural idea?

          That is one synopsis of Buddhism. It is not unanimously held, and it is entirely possible to interpret Buddhism in a wholly naturalistic manner.


          What is Buddhism?
          Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of life. Buddhist practices such as meditation are means of changing oneself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom. The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource for all those who wish to follow a path — a path which ultimately culminates in Enlightenment or Buddhahood.

          Because Buddhism does not include the idea of worshipping a creator god, some people do not see it as a religion in the normal, Western sense. The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent; actions have consequences; change is possible. Thus Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective of race, nationality, or gender. It teaches practical methods (such as meditation) which enable people to realise and utilise its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully responsible for their lives and to develop the qualities of Wisdom and Compassion.

          There are around 350 million Buddhists and a growing number of them are Westerners. They follow many different forms of Buddhism, but all traditions are characterised by non-violence, lack of dogma, tolerance of differences, and, usually, by the practice of meditation.

          - Friends of the Western Buddhist Order


          It is unquestionably true that an overwhelming proportion of real-world Buddhists believe things that are unavoidably supernatural. (Millions of Mahāyāna Buddhists also believe in entities that are not meaningfully distinguishable from gods, too.) So there is plenty to real-world, as opposed to theoretical, Buddhism that is clearly religious. But my assertion was that it isn't self-evidently so. And it isn't.


          "Belief" is a key category of how Americans conceive of religion.  It is a Christian and particularly Protestant conception.

          Indeed. And in light of the fact that the word and concept "religion" was invented in Europe, by (possibly pre-Christian pagans and) Christians, that makes a whole lot of sense.

          The ivory-tower notion that "religion" applies to belief systems that aren't supernaturalist is (1) directly at odds with the manner in which the word is actually used (check that dictionary definition again) and (2) a notably effective way to protect religion from criticism.


          The idea that Buddhism is a philosophy is part of how it is sold to Americans: you don't have to convert!  It's not a religion, it's a philosophy!  Many American Buddhists think this.

          Indeed. Which rather proves my point. If Buddhism is, contra me, self-evidently supernaturalist, how do you explain how that's not evident to them?


          This essentially says that bringing people to the path of Buddhism is so important and useful to them, that you can lie to them.

          C'mon, now. Haven't we had enough about Taqiyya in the Park51 threads?

          Buddhism is practiced and understood in different ways in different places. That you consider the Buddhism of "skillful means" wielders real Buddhism, as opposed to the "fake" Buddhism practiced by Westerners, does not make it so. It is simply not self-evident that one school is more authentic than another.


          I defy you to show me any other philosophy that has monks, nuns, temples, and chanting.

          Uh... Catholicism? ("Temples" is a slight stretch, but not a huge one.)

          I'm not sure where you get the notion that "philosophy" and "religion" are mutually exclusive categories. I didn't even assert that Buddhism was a philosophy, because it seems to me irrelevant.


          My religion professor did not consider rationalism, agnosticism, or Keynesian economic theory religions.

          Uh, okay. Meanwhile, plenty of academic defitions of "religion" do precisely that. So... one vote to the contrary, I guess.

        •  misrepresentation (0+ / 0-)

          "skillful means".  This essentially says that ... you can lie to them.  Thus, you give people the form of Buddhism they can use

          Bullshit. Is it lying to 3rd graders to teach them arithmetic instead of calculus?  Is it lying to children to teach them ethics instead of Tantra?

      •  P.S. -- My religion professor (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WIds

        did not consider rationalism, agnosticism, or Keynesian economic theory religions.  They're not.  Buddhism is.  If you think otherwise, you do not know enough about Buddhism.

        My comments may not be used for any purpose without explicit permission.

        by cai on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:04:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Buddhism is both. There is the religion. (0+ / 0-)

      There is the science.

      I find Judaism, Hinduism and Christianity to have both elements too. My argument was for Buddhism the science.

      After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

      by Brahman Colorado on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 07:21:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thoughtful diary (5+ / 0-)

    I do think it commits some culturally common errors, that involve confusing or conflating the atheist/theist axis with the religious/secular (or faith-based/scientific, or mystical/rational) axis, as well as creating an artificial distinction between "Eastern", cool religions, and "Western", uncool religions.

    The theistic axis, as the author notes, is about belief in a god, and there are, indeed, atheists who belong to various religions as well as at least theoretically atheistic religions.

    There are also millions of theists who don't adhere to an organized religion - they believe in a god or other supernatural force, but do not necessarily follow a doctrine or set of prescribed practices.

    More to the point, there is a fundamental difference between individual belief - in a god or other supernatural force - and organization of humans into a religion - which teaches certain practices based on received wisdom. There is, in particular, a critical distinction in terms of this website. Individual theistic or mystical beliefs are more of a personal thing. Organized religion directly affects public policy, social norms and, I argue, acts inherently in opposition to secular scientific, humanistic progress to a better world.

    Whether one is a theist or atheist, I argue, one should oppose organized religion - Eastern, Western, or Upsidedownern.

    The religious approach to knowledge is fundamentally different from the scientific or rational approach to knowledge.

    It is, respectfully, more than a bit disingenuous to describe Buddhism as a "scientific hypothesis."

    Scientific hypotheses are merely means to derive testable experiments in order to learn more about a studied phenomena. A decent scientifc researcher has no particular stake in an hypothesis being "correct" (in fact, not only are the overwhelming majority of scientific hypotheses incorrect, but scientific researchers generally hope for such a result - one often learns a lot more from the failure of a hypothesis than from it' success, because failure rules out and narrows possibilities, while success often does not help to identify the critical factor in the result).

    Science is entirely results-driven. Buddhism is a series of beliefs about certain practices. It starts with fewer assumptions and fewer prescriptions than some other religions, to be sure, but it is belief-driven nonetheless. Do this and this will result. There is an assumption about the nature of the desired result, and "received" wisdom which is to be followed that will attain that result. There is a definition, after all, to being a "Buddhist" vs a "non-Buddhist". There is a set of beliefs and practices underlying that title.

    Approaching Buddhism truly scientifically would be to limit oneself to testable, measurable hypotheses based on unambiguous criteria, and then to test all the variables. That would mean, in the example of your definition, comparing the efficacy of various forms of concentration and distraction, without any particular bias toward Buddhist meditation traditions, for example. It might even include a deliberate period of drunken orgiastic distraction, as well as a neutral control group. It would require carefully randomized subjects in double-blind studies. It might require comparison with placebo.

    All the data, as well as all the procedures and methods followed to conduct the experiments, would have to be shared, openly and democratically and publicly, and peer-reviewed, replicated, and tested again.

    That is just a small part of the process that would happen if, in fact, Buddhism were "scientific". Another part would be questioning the historicity and veracity of any and all claims about Buddha and Buddha's alleged teachings. Instead, it is considered a given that someone named Siddhartha Gautama existed, achieved "enlightenment", and shared the experience and a recommended path to that experience with others. Buddhism includes other unquestioned assumptions, about reincarnation, about various states of being, all based on the most fundamental belief of all, the dualist existence of a "soul" independent of a physical body.

    In point of fact, so-called "Eastern" religions (and, by the way, the majority of the world's Buddhists are, in fact, theistic - we tend to think our Western version is the "real" version, but it it not how Buddhism is practiced in the real world through Asia, where it is common to find people praying to statues of Buddha or other mythological figures in Buddhist iconography.

    Also, for perspective, it is useful to know that in the US, Buddhists only account for an estimated 0.5% to 0.9% of the population. (the lower estimate is from the more authoritative ARIS 2008, which is based on individual's self-identification, rather than congregation-reporting or choosing from a pre-formed list of options).

    Final point - let's please get away from the hoary old, "they're not doing it right" defense of religious theory vs the actual practice of religion in the world.

    Calling theistic Buddhism a "corruption" of Buddhism is no different than calling Christians of a certain belief the "wrong" Christians.

    In any case, I don't really have any beef with Buddhists (pun intended), and certainly in this country they don't constitute any kind of significant political constituency that affects my rights one way or another.

    I just think we should really be careful to separate the philosophical question, "do gods exist?", from the political question, "is religion helpful or harmful to human society?"

    People can have different answers to each question in any possible combination.

    Atheists are not necessarily anti-religion, the two are separate issues.

    Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

    by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:00:15 AM PDT

  •  How can anyone walk in a Park (0+ / 0-)

    for more than 5 minutes and not discover God for christsakes? Atheists are gonna be shocked and awed. That old guy with the long white beard floating in the sky?? Yep. Okay, maybe just an old guy with a long white beard floating in the sky. But...
    May the Force be with you.

    •  I've walked in a lot of parks. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomActsOfReason

      Haven't bumped into any God, gods, or even anybody named god, unless you count Jesus.

      "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

      by XNeeOhCon on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:21:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For the second time, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        XNeeOhCon

        I link to this guy. I don't think I'm very likely to run into him in a park (or anywhere else), though (1) I have seen him on TV a few times and (2) I am much more confident that I could meet him in a park someday than that any level-headed atheist will have the kind of experience winkk contemplates.

    •  Huh? (4+ / 0-)

      How can anyone walk in a Park for more than 5 minutes and not discover God for christsakes?

      Uh, by avoiding a certain range of irrational inferences?

      What have you discovered that you think should lead us to "discover God"?


      But "walk in a [p]ark," hell: the vast majority of biologists, chemists, and physicists—the people with the deepest and most thorough understanding of what's actually going on in that "[p]ark"—are overwhelmingly disproportionately likely to be atheists.

      It appears that walks-in-the-park are more likely to lead to theism if you don't really understand what you're seeing. Or at least that's a hypothesis with some evidence to support it, anyway.

    •  Atheists (6+ / 0-)

      are awed every day. The planet we live on is an amazing place. There need be no deity to enjoy its beauty. Perhaps you will be shocked and awed yourself when and if you put aside the irrational notion that a deity must be in the details for you to walk anywhere on Earth and wonder at it.

  •  Wow. (0+ / 0-)

    How can they call out and condemn one form of bigotry while engaging in another form of it without being hypocrites themselves ? ~ Akursten Kowziauk

    by WeBetterWinThisTime on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:33:39 AM PDT

  •  Some counterpoints. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WIds

    The ninth-century Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said, "If you meet the Buddha on the road... kill him."

    The reasoning behind this was that if you meet the Buddha, he's likely to be an illusion.

    focused  attention in the prescribed way (meditation), and engaging in or avoiding certain behaviors (ethics), will bear the promised result (wisdom and psychological well-being) for its adherents.

    Of course you can practice this way; nothing stopping you.  However, the actual "promised result", according to the Buddha, was liberation from the cycle of rebirth.  "Existence is suffering" -- you've heard that one, yes? -- and the point of meditation was to achieve enlightenment, which would lead to escape from existence.

    This is not a scientific hypothesis; it is untestable.

    Sure, they can run MRIs on monks and see bits of their brains lighting up as they meditate on compassion -- hoorah!  But, they can't run any kind of scan to prove they're not getting reborn.  Or, if they've taken the bodhisattva vow, that they're being reborn in a form that helps the most to lead all beings to liberation.

    As I said, you can certainly practice for "wisdom and psychological well-being."  You are, ultimately, the ultimate judge of the latter, so if it works for you, that's great.

    You cannot, however, rewrite the history of a major world religion to suit your own purposes, and expect no one to object.

    My comments may not be used for any purpose without explicit permission.

    by cai on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 01:19:44 AM PDT

  •  Man, oh man, oh man, I love this diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brahman Colorado, toilpress

    I love the diary, and the comments, including the thread hijack by the concern troll.

    I have a poem for the concern troll, and the non-believers who engaged with him, all the way down the right margin, back and forth, all of you acting like small children with big brains, writing big words, but acting like children:

    What Does That Word Truly Mean?

    What does the word, "contempt" mean?
    What does the word, "snide" mean?
    What do the words,
    rude
    mocking
    asshole
    privelege
    respect
    victim
    etc.
    etc.
    etc.
    What, exactly do these words mean?

    I mean, exactly, precisely?

    Or even generally?

    None of you have an answer to that.

    None of you, on either side, have an aswer to that.

    Am I writing in a tone that is rude,
    to all of you?

    Are you sure?

    Arrogant?

    Are you certain?

    I actually agree, but
    but
    but
    there is no precise,
    or even general.
    way
    to nail it down.

    All of you may think so,
    on both sides.

    But I will,
    to my dying day,
    with everything in me,
    deny,
    as fervently as I deny any gods
    or goddesses,
    I will deny
    that you
    or anyone
    can define
    what
    is RUDE.

    Or any of those other words.

    I once wrote a diary stating that atheists, and only atheists can love everyone, and I still say that is true, because only atheists can see that the concept of morality is a false concept, and we have no free will, so every event, including all human behavior, is pure accident.

    So, therefore, it was by accident that the thread hijack, and all similar arguments, take place.

    You simply felt that you had a clear definition of those words, and the other side was that, and not you.

    So, I love you all.

    I am truly not trying to brag.

    I am saying that I am unusual.

    I never get into those arguments, and never will, because I do not understand how anyone can try to latch on to a clear definiton of those concepts, while accusing the other party of not having a grasp, when there is simply no clear cut truth on such terms as asshole or victim or too sensitive.

    I am repeating myself.

    I love you.

    Oh, by the way, I truly want to write a diary in this series.

    No too soon.

    I need to read a few more of these, to get a feel for the regulars and such.

    I am writing a diary at The Grieving Room on Monday, August 30th, if anyone wants to visit.

    I have a poem at the top of the Gulf Watchers' ROV diaries, if you care to read.

    Thank you.

    •  I love you too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac

      but I have to make two observations:

      1. Rudeness is like pornography. You don't have to define it to know what you see it, and of course it is a subjective value.
      1. We'd all be much better off if we focused on the substance of people's arguments, and simply responded to the thoughts people actually write down - rather than what we think their emotional state is behind the scenes, what we imagine they meant between the lines, or what we prefer to think they said.

      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

      by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:42:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Rudeness is like pornography (0+ / 0-)

        and I simply do not agree that we can recognize it when we see it.

        In classical times, nudity was common, and there was no feeling, or was there?, similar to the feeling.....

        You see, it comes down to vague and shifting feelings, fuzzy borders.....

        No, no, no, I simply do not see any remotely clear way to define rudeness or pornography.

        Not any clarity at all.

        None.

        I simply and firmly do not agree that we can give each other a resonable boundary or definition of rudeness, pornography, or who is overly sensitive.

        No.

        And your number 2 point, while it seems to make some sense, it still does not work, obviously, to write those words to someone who is arguing the same arguments, over and over.

        It usually does not work.

        If I state an idea that is simply correct information, but I fail to get the attention of my readers, or I fail to make myself clear enough, then my readers will not benefit.

        So, you can be correct, but fail to do anything but waste time.

        I know, because I have been there, and done that, myself, with some of my diaries on philosophy, and overpopulation, and nutrition.

        Peace.

    •  Atheists love more- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac

      not because we have no free will and everything is an accident, no. We do have free will and nothing is an accident, but a consequence of prerequisite freely occurring events.
      We love more because we are alone, with no God overseeing and making sure you're alright. We love more to make sure other people are alright, as there is no one out there to do it for us.

      •  We have no free will, and every event (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        toilpress

        is an accident, caused by all the previous accidents.

        I have understood that for so long, I no longer understand why anyone doubts it.

        Anyway, we who understand that fact, can see that when that person or those people do those things we hate, we can see that it was an accident, and we can love, and go forward with our decisions, based on love, not hate.

        We cannot avoid anger, but we can manage our anger by understanding that behavior we hate is always an accident.

        While religionists struggle to forgive, we understand that everyone is an innocent mindless machine, so there is nothing to forgive.

        I know there are very few who agree with me on this, but the human brain, the whole human organism, operates on cause and effect, like any computer or car.

        When enough people understand that we are all mindless chunks of matter, we will only stay angry at each other about as long as we stay angry at our computers or cars when they break down.

        Peace.

  •  Hinduism has a vast body of philosophy, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brahman Colorado
    some schools of which encompass other "dharmas" such as Buddhism, Jainism and even non-theistic ones. Hindu gods should be viewed as symbols that typify various qualities with important social and cultural value, as, eg, Saraswati representing knowledge and learning.

    Boxing in Hinduism with "all their Gods and Goddesses floating in the sky. Set aside the superstitions of tribal or animist religions and their folk tales and folklores" is surprsingly naive, especially coming from someone with "Brahman" in his or her name handle. May I suggest reading up on Vivekananda's writings and speeches?

    The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

    India and America share a mutually beneficial trade and economic relationship.

    by iceweasel on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 03:23:06 AM PDT

  •  what is going on here? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brahman Colorado

    this diary is such a lovely exposition of the most humane thought, and when i finished it and got to the comments, the first response which was dismissive, then became the subject, as far as the eye could see;

    i guess that's a good example of the power of the subject, as much as the prickliness of those commenters;

    i hope as i continue to look that i find some really interested kossacks, as the subject is one that's occupied my mind from childhood on;

    there is nothing more important than the difference between happiness and suffering for each of us minutiae, and yet we in the "first" world seem even less able to achieve a balanced way of being than "have-nots";

    i'm grateful for this diary, will be looking for more on the subject

  •  Anyone who knocks God... (0+ / 0-)

    ...as the first cause (whatever his/her/its nature) should at least be ready to discuss the alternative nature of the beginning or the nature of no beginning.

    No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, `less you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it.

    by dov12348 on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 05:05:32 AM PDT

  •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brahman Colorado

    I don't feel like I need to categorize myself with an ism.  

  •  This diary has nothing to do with true atheism. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brahman Colorado
    •  You are correct. (0+ / 0-)

      It is an essay on the closest thing to pure orthodox atheism.

      After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

      by Brahman Colorado on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 02:48:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Then why is it that you write about (0+ / 0-)

        such spiritual nonsense like buddishm, meditation, yoga, etc? None of it has anything to do with atheism at all, much less with pure orthodox atheism?
        What are your credentials to speak for all atheists? You're not one.

        •  Credentials? I have None. Sorry to disappoint. (2+ / 0-)

          I do have a brain though and I slept at a Holiday Inn last week where I had meditative moments to contemplate and discuss atheism with a lot of people.

          Since you asked:

          Sometimes I going into nothingness and being. Jean Paul Sartre wrote a masterpiece that is called existentialism that corresponds with this no-theism concept.

          Your seeming indignation that I speak for all atheists is greatly mistaken. I offered a different perspective that from someone who is only self educated.

          When I wrote for Progressive Historians blog, I received a lot of grief from the many credentialed PHD's who all scrutinize one another there.

          Did you miss the point the diary tried to make?

          After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

          by Brahman Colorado on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 03:10:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Existentialism is not atheism- (0+ / 0-)

            It is a philosophy I am quite familiar with, and I read Sartre before becoming an atheist, which led me to it.
            I do not fully read diaries that presume to write about atheism and talk about spirituality the way you do. It's as if you are trying to hijack atheism and what it means, and redefine it to your own, as you admitted, liking.
            Leave the word 'digest' out of your diary title if you do not pretend to be a flagship for all atheism related diaries on the site. Thank you.

            •  LOL. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wilderness voice

              Maybe you should write a diary on Atheist dogmas and Atheist absolutism. You seem eminently qualified to insist your interpretation to be the god-be-damned absolute purest one.

              You are exactly who I speaking to in the diary and you sure don't like it just like the orthodox buddhist, christian and Hindu who took the same route you did.

              Who would have known? An orthodox atheist?

              Looks like I flushed out everything under the sun this time around.

              After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

              by Brahman Colorado on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 03:50:19 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  The "digest" is there because he was invited (3+ / 0-)

              by me to participate and lend a different perspective to our series about atheism.  It is entitled "Atheist Digest" and he added that to his title to disclose his diary as part of that series.  This series, nor this diary, is not meant to be an encyclopedic expression of all that which is "true Atheism' (as if there was such a thing).  And no, I don't pretend to speak for all atheists in my diaries or the series as a whole, just simply seek to open dialogue in this community and have some interesting discussions on the topic.  I think you have jumped to some unwarranted conclusions.

              "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

              by XNeeOhCon on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 06:34:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  You really need to learn to ask question first (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Brahman Colorado

              before shooting yourself in the foot.

              You basically don't understand how Daily Kos works, and have come barging in here with the arrogance of youth, assuming you know it all.

              Online forums 101 - learn the conventions of the particular community before you step in your own poop.

              Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

              by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Aug 24, 2010 at 12:08:59 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  This comment has nothing to do with (0+ / 0-)

      well, anything.

      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

      by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Aug 24, 2010 at 12:07:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting diary - thanks! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brahman Colorado

    I got here late, but I'm glad I got here in time to tip/rec this.

    Buddhism is a very heavy thing to study - I'd like to know more, but my mind starts to boggle whenever I try to get into it. I guess the old hippie philosopher inside me no longer wants to get out - it just wants a nap. :-)

    You are receiving this email because we wish you to receive what we have sent.

    by SciMathGuy on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 03:55:23 PM PDT

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