Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm An Atheist ... Kind of


One nice thing about being an atheist is that there are not necessarily any codes or ideas you have to live by. We all agree on at least one thing, sort of, and disagree about many things. Another nice thing about this is if someone comes to debate you on your 'beliefs' they have no footing, especially if they don't know you. I like being able to say, "Uh, no, that's not how I think at all." Or, "I don't believe that."

So I will attempt to classify myself. I partially am doing this to take a break from homework and cause I'm short on time and brain energy, but I hope it's enjoyable all the same.

Atheist - I am an atheist ... most of the time. Well, part of the time. For shock value I'll tell people I'm an atheist, but generally I introduce myself a different way. I need specifics to say I'm atheist to a particular god. If you say your god controls the weather to reprimand the wicked I'm gonna call bullshit and say that I do not believe in a god like that. I'll say that the Mormon god does not exist ... cause it doesn't.

Agnostic Atheist - I call myself this most often. I'm also fortunate to have all the atheists I've asked clarify that they would say they are agnostic atheists when it comes down to it. I'm sure there are plenty of true staunch atheists, but I haven't had any tell me that. I leave room for doubt because I really don't know. Given the way the world is, how religions act, and what people are like in general, I don't think there's any sort of higher power, anyways not one that wouldn't be indistinguishable from super intelligent alien life-forms.

Agnostic - Not so much here, I don't like being wishy washy, but let me go to the next.

Agnostic Deist - There is some appeal here and it is reasonable. If you don't think so do some research into why people are deists. I also like deism cause it is so versatile and open to differing ideas. Also that generally deists recognize that religious gods are full of crap. I for one do not like a lot of things about deism though, but I admit I cannot know if there is some form of a deistic god. I will probably write about deism in the future (among the other dozen or so promised posts I've made).

Anti-Theist - Yes and No. I want a world with no religion, but I'm not sure that will happen, and if it happen soon it would probably not be a good thing. However I think religion helps people to do immoral things, and crazy people to do even crazier things. I recognize good that comes from religions though, I happen think Mormonism is 'okay,' but in the end I'd rather the world was not enveloped in lies.

Secularist - Moving more into cultural and political realms I am all for separation of church and state. I in fact enjoy looking up creationist trials and court rooms extravaganzas just because when it comes down to the pavement creationists just perform so poorly. I also have long held the notion that most values, worth their weight, do not need a god in the equations. Secularism works fine in many countries.

Humanist - Not yet, but someday I expect to count myself as part of the humanist movement. But for now I'm focusing on other things.

Spiritualist - Not really, though I like to look for beauty and awe in life. But do I wander off into the woods to find my inner material soul ... no. Perhaps I'm treating this shallowly. Being an agnostic about deism I am at least partially a spiritualist, and spiritualist ideas and philosophies are very appealing in a kind of sci-fi way. Eastern thought interests me.

Materialist - Yes, but I don't think there's a bottom-most turtle. I also don't think there's a beginning and an end to 'time' or the universe or cosmos.

Skeptic - Yes, but I am still very close to my family cynicism and history. I grew up gullible till about 13 or so, and now I doubt things automatically. It's good and bad, but it helps me to look into things.

Free-Thinker - I think I identify with this the most, as to why it's last. I like the idea of a religious-less society that is not communistic or dogmatic, but allows free inquiry, criticism, and an openness to ideas. Obviously there are limits (Pandas and People) to how open we should be, but I think a society built on progression and criticism would be good.

I could easily write a whole post on any one of these areas, but I hope this was a fun little read. Sorry spiritualists if I seem offensive, but you're just gonna have to deal with that.

12 comments:

  1. I'll go with you into the woods to help you find your inner material soul. I bet we can find it. :)

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  2. You know, one of the nice things about being religious is that when someone comes to debate you on your "beliefs" it's easy to say "no, that's not how I think at all". Most of the secular world makes some pretty ridiculous assumptions about what religions teach that evidence the lack of time they've spent seriously studying religion. I've had several people point out to me that this is pretty much the flow of every post these days. You make some unfounded accusations, I call you on them, you retract, and the cycle starts over again with the next post.

    I have yet to meet a religious person who will not admit that their theology is ultimately a statement of faith and not defensible on purely logical grounds.

    Atheism helps people to do immoral things, and crazy people to do even crazier things. I have heard many a new atheist say "well, there's no afterlife and no ultimate accountability, if this life's all I've got I may as well do whatever the hell I please." Most values worth their weight are ultimately derived from the Bible and are logically indefensible without a God in the equation. Secularism only works well in societies that have a long religious tradition that has provided a Ten-Commandments-based communal ethic upon which secularists can build.

    If you don't think that there's a beginning and an end to 'time' or the universe or the cosmos, then you're on the wrong side of science. Robert Jastrow wrote an interesting book called "God and the Astronomers" detailing how many scientists were reluctant to accept the Big Bang Theory in spite of overwhelming evidence because it proved that the universe had a beginning which implied a Beginner. It seems you fall into the same camp as the creationists, and your ideology is overwhelming your ability to accept scientific evidence.

    "Free Thinker". Please do a post on what exactly this term is supposed to mean. It seems to me that "Free Thinker" is your way of saying "Someone Who Agrees With Me". You have exactly the same number of unfounded assumptions as a religious person. This is because there are certain things in the universe that are unknowable, and we have to take a position anyway. Most religious communities allow "free inquiry, criticism, and an openness to ideas". And many secular communities don't. As an example, try suggesting in a symposium at a major university that gender roles might have some basis in neurobiology worth researching (a crime for which Larry Summers was fired as President of Harvard), that men and women might have unique and important things to offer a child, or that what is good for society sometimes trumps what is good for certain individuals.

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  3. Hmm.
    When I say atheism in that regard I view it as a particular belief system about gods. For me it's more of a "you're a Muslim, or a Christian, or an atheist, etc..." rather than atheist versus theist. I also don't equate 'religious' with atheist.

    I view the universe as either being born out of another universe, or cosmos, or that we have a cycle going on with big crunches and bangs. But I remember hearing that matter seems to be speeding up so a big crunch idea is losing its footing with me.

    I really don't see how this post is going back and forth. People justify doing crazy things by 'becoming' atheists or losing faith and then justifying doings crazy things after. People sometimes are in a religion that helps them along to do those crazy things, by giving them a doctrine or a teaching that stews in their minds.

    I don't think there really are any 'free thinker' societies, as to why I didn't name any, and I understand there are limits on that, I did so by making a joke on Pandas and People. I go about my day pretty regularly, not very interested in hearing religious ideas, but also not arguing with people over them. I could waste a lot of time in class if I wanted to, but it's not even about that. I simply don't care to tear down people's testimonies. I think that's pretty evident by my lack of bringing up 'anti' on this blog.

    I sometimes rant, yes, but fyi I'm the guy who told many people I don't believe anymore and 5 of those friends, some of them close, stopped talking to me. However, I am optimistic, and 3 of them have come back to being friends again, albeit months or even a year later.

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  4. past post = You do have me on edge here though. I've reread the post and comments looking for anything, but really I'm not seeing it. I don't think I need to keep restating my positive views of religion or negative views of atheism every time I make a negative point on religion or a positive point on my atheism.

    Add on - Okay, the free-thinker one, for me, is mainly progression and criticism, with a lack of dogmatism and religious ... ism. I want to clarify that the society I have in mind is not related to theism and atheism, those could coincide. See, I should make a post on my 'ideal' but I feel this needed to be said. For me free-thinker is not equated with theism and atheism but dogmatism and religious dogmatism.

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  5. I'm not sure I understand your reply, and it seems I've unwittingly put you on the defensive. Please forgive the tone of my first paragraph, I'm trying to understand where you're coming from on this one and I'm a bit abrasive when I don't have clarity.

    It seems to me that you are again trying to set up an argument that atheism is rational, ethical, and logically consistent, whilst religion is benighted, amoral, and nothing more than a tool for social control. My point is that this is a false dichotomy that I feel I am fighting against with every succeeding post. Religion can be good or bad, just like atheism or any other ideological system. You seem to be consistently comparing the best of the atheist world with the worst of the religious world. It makes perfect sense to do so as it easily bolsters your own point of view, but it's not intellectually honest.

    Comments like "atheism is great because I can believe whatever I want" while "religion is abused by the crazies" work just as well in reverse. "Religion is great because I can believe whatever I want while still getting the benefits of a religious community" and "atheism has been used to justify the murder of hundreds of millions in the last century alone" are equally true.

    You accuse religions of enforcing orthodoxy in opposition to science while openly admitting that you are an atheist for emotional reasons, and that you believe unscientific things like a beginningless universe. This is not terribly consistent. I have no problem with inconsistency, but let's not attack religion for faults your atheism shares.

    Language like "you cannot be religious and a free-thinker" seems rather closed-minded to me. Your habit of referring to "gods" about which you are atheist is a disingenuous linguistic sleight-of-hand. Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, Jews, and Muslims do not all believe in their own tribal small-g-gods, they have differing understandings of the characteristics of a capital-G-God. Showing theological inconsistency does not demonstrate that "such-and-such a god does not exist". It merely demonstrates that the description is faulty. Which any religious person on the planet would readily acknowledge. Virtually nobody says that their ideas of God are comprehensive or even all that likely to be accurate. Religious people really are not as dogmatic as you make them out to be, except in the few cases you bring up of crazies. Which I can match with examples of atheist crazies who justify their actions based upon their atheism. I don't mind at all discussing the problems with religion, and I don't think you need to keep pointing out that there are good things too, but let's make sure we're discussing mainstream religion.

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  6. My most recent comment seems to have disappeared. If that was deliberate feel free to ignore this, but if not let me know and I'll re-post.

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  7. It was marked at spam for some reason, ill reply later.

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  8. Let's move away from the universe beginning situation. I really don't know much there, but I like the idea our universe coming from another universe. So, yeah, for this universe I would say I lean towards it being 'new' but that it came from somewhere else. That's what I'd say. Cause the big crunch theory has faltered a bit lately in my mind.

    I do think atheism is better than religion, being that I don't believe in most of the doctrines or gods of religions. Even if the lie works it's still a lie. I won't retract those statements. I also do believe that religion has a natural way of handicapping people's personal morals into doing things that they wouldn't have done, such as hating gays just because they're gay.

    But I agree, though this is more recently, that people will act how they wish to act, and an atheist can certainly hate gays just because they don't like gays. My issue is that a religion can indoctrinate a whole society into hating gays because the man in the sky said so. Atheism COULD do that, a society on secular beliefs COULD do that, cultures DO this all the time, but religion has a way of doing it more often and more invasive in the populace. At least from my point of view (and not just about gays).

    The atheism is better comment came in mind when I was thinking about 'being' Mormon and being told what my beliefs are based on doctrines. Things I was 'supposed' to believe. I don't see how I'm wrong there. People can vary, but only so much in a religion like Mormonism, whereas as an atheist I am far more versatile.

    The 'a religious person can not be a free-thinker' statement is false as long as the religion is not dogmatic. Mormonism is not conducive to free-thought. But an atheist can be just as dogmatic. That's why I say a free-thinker society, in my fantasy mind, could have theists and atheists, but no dogmatism on either side.

    And I noticed you commented on St. Pickles' blog, I'm sure you read my statement to him. Honestly, going through your email and back and forth, is making me more into an agnostic.

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  9. I think I see the source of confusion here. It appears that your only real exposure to religion is Mormonism, and that makes perfect sense. Mormonism actively discourages interfaith dialogue and teaches that Mormonism encompasses every other religion, plus eternal truths that are unique to Mormon theology. It's the reason so many ex-mos become atheists, because we've been brainwashed from infancy to believe that it's Mormonism or nothing, so when Mormonism fails, why look elsewhere? I'm now coming from a position where Mormonism is a badly done caricature of sophisticated religion, and when you say "religion = x", you mean "Mormonism = x" and I hear "Judeo-Christian tradition = x". I say religion does not teach its adherents to hate gays, and your response is "of course it does, look at the church's involvement in Prop 8". To which I say that Mormonism is an idiot example of religion, but if it's the only example you're familiar with that's a hard argument to make. While that doesn't solve the problem, at least it gives me a little more clarity as to its source.

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  10. I'll agree to a point. Especially while going through the email and the credo I've sometimes had to look back to see if I was talking about religion in general or Mormonism. I've been trying to clarify more on that, such as saying 'Mormonism is dogmatic.' I don't find every religion to be dogmatic, though dogmatism is in everything to a degree. But any religion that is anywhere near the level of doctrine and adherence as Mormonism would fall into dogmatic levels.

    I hope I've stated clearly where I don't agree with you and where we differ, but I honestly enjoy the debate, you always make me think, and may some day swing me over to some of your thinking.

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  11. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure where we do differ. I know that you would prefer a world without religion, but I can't pin down any specifics as to why. Here's a list I've pulled from the most recent 6 posts on which we've had discussions in the comments:

    1. From 9 Page Reply #1: you said religion is used by nutcases to do despicable things. I pointed out that nutcases come in all varieties of religious practice and non-practice, and you agreed that the culprit is ideology and not religion. You also agreed that a world without ideology is neither possible nor desirable.

    2. From Atheist Books Part 2: We're back to religion = fundamentalism. I point out that this isn't the case, and you agree. We seem to do this a lot.

    3. From 9 Page Reply #3: We discuss ethics, and I assert that ethical systems are either immoral, baseless, or based on Biblical assertions of humanity being in God's image. You say that it's true but you don't care, religion is still bad. We then revisit the idea that fundamentalism does not represent religion.

    4. From 9 Page Reply #4: Once again we are back to fundamentalism does not represent religion. We then discuss meaning, where I assert that life is meaningless without an afterlife. You agree and then say something about crime statistics that doesn't really relate to the meaning question.

    5. From 9 Page Reply #5: I remind you that I think you're a decent guy. Unless you've changed your mind we still agree on that one. =)

    6. From this post: Still we're arguing about whether fundamentalism is an appropriate proxy for religion in general. I maintain that it is not. You agree, but still want to score some points because religious fundamentalism exists, as if religion has some sort of corner on the market of ideological nutcases.

    So, in sum, I'm clear that we disagree on whether religion is desirable, but I have no idea why we disagree. Every time we've discussed your reasons we end up agreeing that your reasons aren't very good. I'm quite comfortable with the idea of an emotional reaction to the traumas you suffered at the hands of the LDS church being at the root of your opposition, but I'm getting the vibe that you don't have the same level of comfort with that as I do. You seem to want to have solid logical/philosophical bases for your atheism. I'll be thrilled for you if you find them, but I haven't seen them yet. I hope if I've misread anything here that you'll be able to clarify for me.

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