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Old 02-15-2013, 10:07 AM
Utopian Utopian is offline
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Default In the Spirit of Transparency

The general rule in the workplace is don't talk about religion or politics. The same rule often seems to apply socially. The same can be said for philosophy and pretty much anything that actually matters. So when is the right time to talk about these things?

Surely if we can truly have openness and honesty anywhere it is here within the Poly community.

This thread is meant as a precursor to these such subjects, including those that people have a tendancy to shrink away from, to discuss what subjects what we deem important and why, to discuss the areas where subjects converge and to have a general and productive, laid back chat.

This is not a thread to go into great detail but to skirt over subjects to instigate further threads.

...which was instigated by the following post...
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Old 02-15-2013, 10:10 AM
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'Hi Kevin and thanks for the warm welcome. I'm thoroughly disturbed by religion in all honesty - especially the Abrahamic ones. I know America is sadly rife with it. A travesty for a country built on secularism and the pursuit of freedom. It's been suggested that it's actually because or at least partly due to that secularism that has allowed the religious hard selling free-for-all that you find yourself swamped in today. And I know atheists are thoroughly oppressed in America. At least you don't live in the Islamic world. The majority of Muslim scholars would have you killed for your apostasy.
I think we need to firmly protect the rights of the individual. Especially the rights of children to learn and to be given the necessary tools to think for themselves and to have the courage to question things for themselves, not to be intellectually neglected, emotionally abused and socially isolated.
I think that multiculturalism - at least as it is - is a fools game as it safeguards the perpetuation of culture and religion over the rights of the individual and the longer we sit on the slippery slope, the harder the climb will be when we finally decide to do something about it.

To answer your question, I consider myself a 'de-facto atheist' (since reading 'The God Delusion'*). Prior to that I considered myself Agnostic. There was little change in my viewpoint. The shift was largely semantic. I still freely admit that I don't know if there's a God or not. I don't claim to know anything (or if I do I'm happy to correct it) but the word or definition of the word - 'know' is (or should be) largely redundant. We need a concise word for 'believe beyond reasonable doubt' to begin with and then a few more to further define the various layers of that.

*Incidentally, Dawkins (who wrote the book) doesn't even consider himself a 100% atheist in that sense. He happily acknowledges that he doesn't know 100% that there is no God. It's just that the evidence suggests that it's a nonsensical idea that doesn't warrant further pursuit. I'd been led to believe that he was thoroughly up himself and to my shame, had this pre-conception of him before reading his books. He's certainly frustrated but not arrogant nor egotistical in any way as far as I can tell.
I'm 3/4 through 'The Greatest Show on Earth' currently. It's a fantastic book. I never realised just how much evidence there is to support evolution (as if we needed more). From geological to molecular clocks and tree rings. Not to mention the bonus of a vast quantity of surviving fossils, all of which - the isotopes, the tree rings, the fossils - all concur with each other. Of course there's a vast quantity of evidence I've not mentioned with regards to DNA hybridisation and other methods to the same effect, tectonic plates, study of biological variation, experiments using bacteria and guppies that actually show the effects of natural selection/sexual selection before our eyes and the breeding of dogs, chickens and cabbages etc... and it's all thoroughly disprovable but there isn't in all of the concurring evidence, one solitary suggestion to the contrary.

As for 'unconventional thinking' and free will; the closest thing I think we can get to the latter depends of the autonomy/sentiency of the individual. Reason is like religion without religion (or perhaps religion is like reason without reason). It's an all pervading force that is seemingly integral to the foundations of existence. Omnipresent. Unlike the 'will of God' it has no deep seeded bigotry nor megalomania nor wrath nor jealousy nor any of the other things the Bible suggests are all part of His personality.
If we allow reason into our lives - and given enough time I believe it's inevitable - we will discard our superstitions and society will harmonise.

Well that's my laymans rant anyway. I can't claim to be well educated - I went to the worst school in England which was burned down thrice while I was there and got shut down a year or two after my leaving (Joint worst with one other to be precise. I still have the newspaper cutting somewhere).

It's definitely time for me to quit typing.

Laters.'

-me
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Old 02-15-2013, 09:38 PM
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Re:
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"Hi Kevin and thanks for the warm welcome. I'm thoroughly disturbed by religion in all honesty -- especially the Abrahamic ones. I know America is sadly rife with it. A travesty for a country built on secularism and the pursuit of freedom. It's been suggested that it's actually because or at least partly due to that secularism that has allowed the religious hard selling free-for-all that you find yourself swamped in today. And I know atheists are thoroughly oppressed in America. At least you don't live in the Islamic world. The majority of Muslim scholars would have you killed for your apostasy."
Ha-ha, no doubt I would be in deep do-do if I lived in the Muslim world. Basically, I'd have to pretend to be a believer.

Christianity is kind of the definition of "normal" in the United States, although a lot of conservatives lately are complaining that "everyone's an atheist now." Good grief, I think I know exactly one other atheist in this country. Where are all the others hiding? and what are these church buildings I keep seeing on every street corner?

I have a unique "problem to contend with" as I was raised LDS/Mormon, so when I'm in Utah I'm surrounded by believers. Some of my friends and brothers have become agnostic, but I know only one guy who's gone clear to the atheist end of the spectrum.

So, I have had to learn to be diplomatic, and strive to remember what life was like for me when I was a "believer." My oldest brother is still a staunch Mormon, and I have had to learn to speak in a way that is respectful of his beliefs -- despite Christianity's total rejection of, and disrespect toward, atheists. It is commonly said, here in the United States, that if you're an atheist, you're not a *real* American. I suppose I am supposed to move to Sweden or Denmark or something? Heh, even if I tried, I'll bet the immigration laws are too strict to allow me. Being an atheist in America is not unlike being Alice in Wonderland.

Fortunately, my beliefs seldom come up in conversation, especially in conversation with believers. I think they know I'm an atheist, but they also know I won't take crap about it, and will even stop associating with a family member if they start riding me about it.

When push comes to shove, I think Americans are (reluctantly) tolerant of atheists; that is to say, they are more bark than bite. It's an interesting question though, as to whether I could get a job as an organist for a church that knew I was a non-believer.

Utah will always be my "First Base," as I lived about my first 20 years there. The standard there is to indoctrinate the kids from the cradle, which I don't like but I can't do much about it. I sigh and smile at the irony. So many kids will grow up with the confusion I grew up with. At least my few agnostic brothers/friends will teach their kids a little more of an open view of the Universe.

I consider myself a "99%" unbeliever; that is, I hold out about a 1% chance that God exists. More importantly (from my perspective), I hold out about a 3% chance that there is any life after death. Semantically speaking I guess I could call myself an agnostic, but really, 99% atheist is close enough.

Although science isn't always right, I think it's right in modeling life by the process of evolution, and I think humans had "half-ape" ancestors (technically humans *are* apes), which throws a "monkey" wrench into the Adam/Eve story.

I accept that as an organism that can be broken down to the molecular level, I can have the illusion of freewill but not the real thing (unless I soul, and I think it's 97% likely that I don't have a soul). Combined with the unfortunate reality of death, I figure my best move is to enjoy the here and now as much as possible, and treat other people well as much as possible.

Further details are available on request.
Regards,
Kevin T.
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Old 02-16-2013, 09:36 PM
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Thanks Kevin! I had time to read it but after a 12hr shift and another one tomorrow I have no time just now to give you a worthwhile response but I will when I can.

Til then then
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Old 02-16-2013, 09:48 PM
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Looking forward to hearing more when you're rested up.
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Old 02-20-2013, 06:04 PM
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I wonder just how many are pretending for their own sakes and for the sakes of their families/friends. Sadly, I think that due to the nature of the beast, the vast majority buy into it and returning to my disbelief in free will; the chances are that if you or I were born and bred in that world, we too would be joining in in the madness.
The area you live in sounds really claustrophobic*. I spent a while in Toowoomba, just West of Brisbane. I imagine that is akin to your town. Apparently if you want your children to go to a half decent school there, it has to be a Catholic one.
*Why do we say that when we really mean that we feel trapped and not that the particular environment feels trapped which of course would make not a shred of sense. :S
I'm not entirely sure what a Mormon is. Are they the ones that think Jesus came to America?
None of my immediate family are religious thankfully but I know what it's like to be unaccepted by ones family. My father is an overbearing homophobic bigot. I get on with him better than my siblings because I put up with shit quite well. My sister disowned him and hasn't been in contact with either of my parents for years.
I digress, it's a shame you don't feel able to talk to your brother without treading on egg shells. Everybody loses.
I wonder, is he as careful not to speak ill of atheism?
Oni and I watched Alice in Wonderland last night (well, the remake at least which isn't strictly Alice in Wonderland but a kind of seqel).
I don't know that it is so fortunate that your beliefs rarely get an airing. Sometimes I wonder if I talk about it too much. With me it often slips into the conversation. Of course it's really important but it's all a matter of how best to tackle the issue. Frank often walks into a wall.
I have to say (I don't but I will) regarding the church organist comment that I don't think that is an interesting question. Further more, why would an atheist want to be an organist for a church? Screw that. I used to be a choirboy for a local church (we're talking some time ago now). I got out for precicely that reason. I wasn't part of it. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made so one day I asked my mother what she thought and she did one of the best things she's ever done for me as a mother; she advised me to make my own mind up about it. So I did and here I am.
I'm interested to know how you came to your percentages, albeit approximate ones. I can trawl through all the evidence supporting evolution/theism and try to compile a list of all the evidence to suggest there is no god (as far as I know there's nothing to the contrary) but I'd have to be some mathematician to work out the probability that any mythology or fairy tale is inherrently true. How does one come to anything better than a very approximate percentage?
Only a fool is 100% sure of anything of course but if all evidence weighs against a divine creator, what percentage can we estimate in favour of the possibility?
What do you mean by a soul? What is its function? What evidence is there for its existence and how did you come to the 3%?
Until a couple of years ago I still kinda believed in an afterlife and that I had a soul - an etherial conciousness that would continue into it but then I always wanted to escape this existence to a richer, more forfilling one. Wishfull thinking, special pleading... Maybe there is a better than laughable possibility that we are in a simulation or something to that effect and that after life we will go on to or return to some other form of existence but there is still not the slightest piece of evidence to support it.
It seems that if we want heaven to exist and for life everlasting, we have to make it happen in this existence and we can't do that with our heads buried in our own asses.
...well that's why I called myself Utopian.
PS. I couldn't be bothered to proof read that so please don't feel any obligation to give it more than a skim and I appologise for any typos.
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Old 02-20-2013, 11:25 PM
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Well to understand my perspective, you must be aware that I was raised a staunch Mormon, without a lot of choices and with immense family/social pressure to believe in the church's teachings. I would say I was a faithful believer for 25 years (1970-1995), went through some heavy-duty personal changes (1995-2005), and have been an atheist ever since.

Re:
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"I'm not entirely sure what a Mormon is. Are they the ones that think Jesus came to America?"
Good shot, that's exactly what they think (among other things). The technical name of that church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," often abbreviated as LDS (e.g., the LDS church).

Re:
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"I wonder just how many are pretending for their own sakes and for the sakes of their families/friends."
One of my friends is largely atheist but keeps it on the down-low because he doesn't want to upset his family members. I believe he goes to church and that.

Re:
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"The area you live in sounds really claustrophobic."
Well luckily for me, I don't live in Utah anymore, haven't since 1987. When I did live there, the town I lived in -- Highland -- was essentially a small farming town. Today, however, Highland is quite claustrophobic. Mormon doctrine and culture highly encourages having a lot of kids, and the consequences of that meme is catching up to Utahns and to Highlanders. Just about every square inch is occupied by a road, house, or yard, and the farms are gone. It is quite the posh place to live. Property values have soared.

But it doesn't matter to me as much now where I live. (Currently I fancy Seattle, but.) I don't feel the same pressure I used to to be a participating member in the church. Albuquerque has a lot of church buildings, covering quite a range of religions (including Mormon), but I just kind of smile as I ride past, and don't give it much further thought.

Re: my oldest brother (who remains a staunch believer and participant in the Mormon church) ... he is a mixed package. Basically, he's easy to get along with. He never loses his temper, and addresses people in the most positive, polite way possible. I don't have to tread on eggshells with him ... however, I do try to speak to him with care when it comes to the church, as I like him and don't want to hurt his feelings.

Now, my youngest brother (who is agnostic with an atheist bent) has kind of thrown down the gauntlet with my oldest brother, and challenged him to defend his beliefs. There has been an email debate (though my youngest brother insists it's not a debate) going on with me, my brothers, and a few of our friends. My oldest brother seems to avoid the direct questions that are put to him, but he preaches a bit, and sends apologetic articles with his emails.

One of these articles was pretty bold, in basically saying that any persistent atheist is living a lie. However, my oldest brother avoided responsibility for that strong statement by saying ahead of time that he didn't agree with everything the article said. So he had plausable deniability. However, he also said that none of the article should be ignored, so he simultaneously advocated the whole article as well. That's my oldest brother. He's rather a passive-aggressive type, and you'd never guess he had any aggressive in him until you ran smack into it. Actually passive-irritating would be a better word.

Re: church organist ... I mention it because I used to be a church organist, for several churches. It used to be a good fit. It's not a good fit now, but it's a job and a way to make money so I think about it wistfully sometimes.

The 1%/3% I cite for my belief in God and an afterlife are really based on the first numbers that sprang to my mind. There's little to no evidence of the existence of any God, and in my opinion no signs of life from the "afterlife." Recently my youngest brother stated that if there is a God, then He/She/It/They is a purely spiritual God, and does not interact with the physical world at all. I agreed with him. If there is a spiritual plane, then we are completely separated from it. (Which makes no sense if we say that we have a spirit, and "spiritual experiences.")

I believe in what I experience through my physical senses, but I admit that I can't be 100% sure that my physical senses are true indicators of my environment. Maybe I am just a brain in a vat, with electrodes attached to my brain to send "physical sensations" to it and make me believe I live in the apparent physical world.

I have just one friend who cites 0% for his belief in God and an afterlife. Other friends/brothers range around 15-25%. My oldest brother ranges around 95%, as he believes he'd be able to work mighty miracles if his belief level was 100%.

Re:
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"What do you mean by a soul?"
A spirit, a metaphysical being, a "mind" that lurks behind the physical circuitry of our brain.

Re:
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"What is its function?"
It contains our thoughts and true existence. Our bodies are a mere "shadow" of our soul.

Re:
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"What evidence is there for its existence and how did you come to the 3%?"
Ah, now we come to it. I bascially thought up 3% on a whim, based on the idea that I believe slightly more in a soul than I do in a God. That said, I don't have much belief in a soul. The only evidence in its favor are our thoughts, dreams, and emotions, things which could just as easily (or more easily) spring from our glands and our brain.

One big evidence against a soul's existence is our brain. Why do we humans have such a big, complicated brain, if our soul is what does the real thinking? Also, why do our thoughts cease if we have a blackout, a seizure, or are put under anesthesia?

Of course, there are many published tales of "returning from the world of the dead." I highly doubt these tales. Even if the person thinks that's what happened to them, oxygen deprivation to the brain and altered memory could easily account for it. But, tales such as that, and of the existence of God, may be contributing to my 1% and 3%.

Re:
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"It seems that if we want heaven to exist and for life everlasting, we have to make it happen in this existence and we can't do that with our heads buried in our own asses."
Indeed.

Eventually, I believe that humans will invent life extension. Unfortunately, I don't think that will happen during my lifetime. Sigh.
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Old 02-22-2013, 03:17 PM
Utopian Utopian is offline
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Epiphany was it? They can be painful I know. I guessed LDS stood for latter-Day Saints but I wouldn't have been able to tell you what that meant.
What would happen to your friend if he came out as Atheist? I still haven't come out to my parents that I'm attracted to people regardless of gender so I take no high ground. Although in my defence, I have no interest in the sexual appetites of either of my parents and think it none of my business. Likewise, I see mine none of their business. I know it'd not be welcome news. I think I'm perhaps a little cowardly in all honesty but we weigh up the pros and cons and make our choices - frying pan or fire?
I get the impression you care deeply for you brothers despite these fundamental differences.
Musical huh? Do you ever write anythin?
I like trad gospel/black slave blues dirges and that kinda shit but when religion creeps into it it sullies it for me.
'I can't be 100% sure that my physical senses are true indicators of my environment.'
Well worded. I was going to correct you out of habit before realising there was no need - our senses serve as indicators or more accurately what they sense serve as indicators.
It does suck that that there is so miniscule hope for our generation to ever see humanity mature enough to leave superstition behind and to live for the collective. All we can do is do our best to make it happen whilst enjoying what little we can of our own meagre lives.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:45 PM
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"It does suck that that there is so miniscule hope for our generation to ever see humanity mature enough to leave superstition behind and to live for the collective. All we can do is do our best to make it happen whilst enjoying what little we can of our own meagre lives."
Yeah, I've had to kind of come to peace with that.

Re:
Quote:
"Epiphany was it? They can be painful I know."
It was. Painful for me and for those closest to me as well.

Re:
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"I guessed LDS stood for Latter-day Saints but I wouldn't have been able to tell you what that meant."
The "latter-day" business has to do with the idea that we are living in the "end times," and that Christ will soon return in glory to reign over the Earth. (Now, as for what "soon" means, that's wide open to interpretation. )

Re:
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"What would happen to your friend if he came out as Atheist?"
Heh, in this case the question is what did happen. At first he only distanced himself somewhat from the church. You know, stopped attending services and that. His wife and kids did likewise. Well, the church soon engaged in a little "love-bombing," constantly sending people over to my friend's house with casseroles, fixed smiles, and pleas for them to return to active membership. When he'd had enough of that, my friend finally told the church to remove him and his family completely from membership and from the roles of the church. After that, they finally stopped sending people to his house. So in a way, he did come out as Atheist, just so the church would stop pestering him and his family.

Unfortunately for him, he came out to his family as Atheist, and they really gave him the rubber hose treatment. Lots of excoriation, telling him he was going to Hell, etc.

I guess things calmed down after awhile. But he doesn't have much fondness for the church, nor for any church or Theism. "Faith is a crock," to put it in his words.

Re: coming out to your parents about your sexual orientation ... you're right, it's really none of their business, and you're under no obligation to tell them. Of course if you have to do a bunch of pretending around them that's not fun. You just have to decide the lesser of two evils there.

Re:
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"I get the impression you care deeply for you brothers despite these fundamental differences."
I do. And it's really just the oldest who's the "hold-out." All four of the others (plus a couple of our friends) have gone either the atheist or agnostic road, and no longer have a regular active church life. But we've had many email discussions over the years, and learned (sometimes the hard way) to hold our tongue when it came to really lashing out against another's belief system.

Re: music ... I enjoyed it for many years, played a lot of piano, and did make up a few songs of my own (some written, some just in my head). I'm happy to say I wrote two very nice songs for my wife and for my "poly wife," respectively. But I've been "out of the music game" since about 2006, and while I still like music, it doesn't capture my interest, energy, and time like it used to. Nowadays I just lurk and post on these poly forums.

Putting religion into music sometimes spoils it for me too, but I'm also of two minds about a few songs, where the music is so excellent that I feel like I can tolerate the theist lyrics.

Re:
Quote:
"Our senses serve as indicators or more accurately what they sense serve as indicators."
Yes, I will always be slightly less than a 100% atheist since one can never be 100% sure of anything -- at least that's how I see it. But I think it's sadly unlikely that we have any afterlife to look forward to (let alone a God). Like you said, the best we can do is make the most of whatever life we do have.
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:49 PM
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Interesting discussion.

I, too, am a disaffected Mormon. I am decidedly *not*, however, an atheist. I personally find it amusing when atheists act all put-upon and say they're persecuted to some extent; that you have to be Christian in today's America, etc. It's laughable. I don't mean that to be insulting, I mean that in a literal sense - if you look at the big picture, it's actually humorous.

Every group of people feels put down or ostracized in some way for some perceived slight of society at some point. For some, it's easy - racism against blacks is easy to see in many places, and the historical persecution of Jews makes one wonder why they keep trying. Mormons have a unique place in American history as the only religious group whose constitutional right to exist was violated by a congressional order to use the United States armed forces to exterminate them!! Atheism is misunderstood in the same way the Wicca and Satanism usually is. Beyond that you aren't facing persecution. You aren't denied jobs, cast out of social functions, harassed by police or having your civil rights violated. In fact, the courts are constantly upholding your view as the only legally recognized one - despite the fact that this too, constitutes backing a belief system. Oh well, lol.

The conservative Christian as a political force in this nation is a relatively recent (~30 years) concoction, and one that the media overstates dramatically. The fact is, most Americans do subscribe to a religious order of some kind - but relatively few are more than passively active in it. You know this about Utah if you visit there much these days kdt26417 - to use the local vernacular "Utah Mormons" and "Jack Mormons" are the rule, not the exception. It isn't any different with other religions.

I don't understand why you make it sound as though on every corner stands a Baptist with a flag and a gun condemning atheists. That simply isn't true.

Last edited by HappiestManAlive; 02-23-2013 at 09:53 PM.
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