In the Spirit of Transparency

Utopian

New member
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...
 

Utopian

New member
A-hem...

'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
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Re:
"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.
 

Utopian

New member
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 ;)
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Looking forward to hearing more when you're rested up.
 

Utopian

New member
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. :D
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
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:
"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:
"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:
"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:
"What do you mean by a soul?"

A spirit, a metaphysical being, a "mind" that lurks behind the physical circuitry of our brain.

Re:
"What is its function?"

It contains our thoughts and true existence. Our bodies are a mere "shadow" of our soul.

Re:
"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:
"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. :(
 

Utopian

New member
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.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Re:
"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:
"Epiphany was it? They can be painful I know."

It was. Painful for me and for those closest to me as well.

Re:
"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:
"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:
"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:
"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.
 
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.
 
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ThatGirlInGray

New member
Maybe it's not true in Vegas, HMA. If so, great!

But not every place in America is the same. My daughter goes to a fairly conservative but PUBLIC school (in an area with a significant Mormon and Catholic population) and if I were "out" as agnostic we would be ostracized from school functions. My daughter would probably not have to deal with backlash from the teachers but most definitely from the other students/families. Any teachers there would have difficulty being anything other than some variety of Christian, and even Jehovah's Witness is not dealt with well. If it were known that a teacher did not believe at all?? There are parents who would make teachers' lives miserable by constantly complaining to administration about them and requesting their children be moved to different classrooms. I have not lost my job over being a non-believer but I have definitely had to deal with an unpleasant, even hostile work environment because of it. And this is CA, which is supposed to be more on the liberal side of things. Where my partner lives in TX, it's even worse, and if we are able to move there I am seriously considering homeschooling my children due to how "religious" and "scientific" education are treated in that state.

Among the three of us we have an ex-Catholic, an ex-JW, and an ex-Baptist (who still pays lip service to avoid being ostracized by his family). We have a wide range of experiences, so how about you don't try to tell me what I have or have not experienced as a non-believer?
 
Wow - touchy much?

I have lived all over the country. I have lived in areas where non-believers are ACTUALLY actively ostracized and even persecuted to some extent. I have experienced this from both sides of the coin.

Try reading my last post again, this time without your victim glasses on.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
I don't say that "atheists are picked on;" I just state what my own personal experience has been. I actually experienced more ostracizing and/or harrassment when I was a faithful member. I was trying to fit in, in a world where I was not meant to fit in. I had some nasty run-ins with church authorities. When I finally realized I was fighting a losing battle and got myself out of the church, people seemed to forget I had ever been there, which was a good thing, because I didn't want to be bothered by the church anymore.

I think that situations are different in different towns and localities. Some may favor one particular religion over others. Albuquerque is kind of a nice place to live because it seems to have a place for just about all religions. True, there are no "atheist church buildings," but that would be quite a crazy thing to see anywhere, wouldn't it?

I don't think TGIG was being touchy, she was just pointing out what her experience is in the place where she lives. Some people do object to atheism, in more than just philosophical terms. And yes, some atheists do too much looking down the nose at believers.

As for Utah, I still visit there regularly, as I have tons of relatives (including my parents and some siblings) there. I would say that Salt Lake City has become pretty cosmopolitan religion-wise, but Highland is still pretty deeply entrenched in Mormon favortism; I know this because friends and siblings I have there have given me first-hand accounts of the pressure exerted on them. And there are tons and tons of LDS church buildings in Highland. So someone is attending. I imagine Salt Lake has more of the Jack Mormons. I won't speak too much about other Utah cities, but I reckon that many of them are still deeply (and actively) Mormon.

The thing is, though, it doesn't really matter that much to me how much of this or that religion (or belief system) resides in which place. Like you said, it's not like Baptists are standing at the corners with guns pointed at us. I am free to be an atheist, and I guess if I find myself in a situation where atheism will be frowned on, I probably just won't tell anyone that I'm atheist. Let them presume what they will.

By the way, I should clarify (from my above posts) that I have two "atheist friends" in Utah: one who is largely atheist, the other who is completely atheist. The "largely atheist friend" keeps it on the down-low. The "completely atheist friend" has come out to family and church leaders. Sorry if that created any confusion.

The "largely atheist friend" has had times when he was "accidentally outed," and he did not enjoy the experience that resulted. We're talking mostly psychological persecution from family members. I know it happens because it did happen. Somehow he has gotten everyone to calm down by acting more like a believing church member (attending church, etc.).

Anyway, I do know many conservatives who have a really bad attitude about atheism. Kind of an atheist = liberal = godless commie type of thing. My father and his wife are two of the people who have the worst attitude to belief systems not their own. On the positive side, my mother and her husband are very active in the church, but are also very tolerant towards other people's beliefs and orientations.
 

JaneQSmythe

Well-known member
Just wanted to add my two cents...I have enjoyed reading this conversation.

I consider myself a "little a" agnostic (since for some the term Agnostic implies a dogma that not only does the person not know whether or not there is a god but that such knowledge is, in fact, "unknowable" - which implies a level of "belief" that I don't have.)

I very strongly suspect (in the 99+ % range) that 1.) there are no gods/goddesses 2.) there is no afterlife 3.) there is no such thing as soul - because I, personally, have never seen or experienced anything that could be considered evidence to the contrary. However, should such evidence come to light I would not be dismayed or distraught in any way - I've been wrong before, I will be wrong again - no matter.

"Free Will" is a concept that I have a MUCH harder time conceptualizing - having made a "choice" in a given circumstance, it seems to me that - as a being that is the sum total of my thoughts and experiences up to that point - I could NOT have chosen differently. (Even if the decision is left up to a random event - the toss of a die for example - I ended up being the person who would let a die toss determine my decision.)

I have a slight affinity for the concept of "karma" - not in the sense that the "universe" is somehow keeping a tally of our actions but in the sense that if you are kind to people, then they reciprocate by being kind to others, and the world (which I am also inhabiting) is a kinder place as a result. Win-win-win.

Some of the "existential questions" that I am exposed to through my reading/studies don't seem like questions to me (I read a lot in the area of secular buddhism) - often implying underlying assumptions that I don't hold (Why, for instance, should there be an answer to the the question of "Why are we here?" "Why do we exist?" "Why can I think?" the fact that we are, we do, we can does not imply, to me, that there is necessarily a "reason" for this.)

In my private/personal life I am happy to discuss/debate these sorts of concepts exhaustively. I am fascinated by the very concept of "faith" and how people come to that state that seems so very foreign to me (despite having attended church/Sunday School "religiously" for the first 18 years of my liife).

In my public/professional life I avoid the topic or let the underlying assumption of Christianity slide, giving a non-committal or vague response...unless I am asked directly. In which case I answer gently but accurately.

It amuses me that when "Christians" I talk to assume that I "turned away" from the church due some "bad experience" I must have had. Nope, it just never seemed to "add" anything to my existence, the concept of "God" always seemed so unnecessary, it didn't change anything for me, I wasn't going to behave any differently if there was some "magical sky-wizard" scrutinizing my every move. There was no epiphany, no pain involved. The people I went to church with for 18 years were, for the most part, GOOD people, the people that weren't "good" were just humans failing to live up to their own expectations, not mean, not monsters.

Ethical behavior does not require a warden to enforce the "rules."

JaneQ
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Good post; I always think of morals/ethics as something we do for the sheer sake of doing good -- or for the good feelings we derive from doing good. We are in a sorry state if we won't do good unless we get a Heavenly mansion for it (and/or are saved from Hell). Just as we outgrow Santa Claus as a reason for good behavior, I trust we also outgrow the need for a Cosmic Policeman as the reason for good behavior.
 

ThatGirlInGray

New member
I dunno HMA, maybe I am, are YOU touchy much?

I find it interesting that you say this:
I have lived in areas where non-believers are ACTUALLY actively ostracized and even persecuted to some extent.

AFTER saying this:

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.

Looks like a little bit of backpedaling to me. But then your post had a bunch of absolutes and "this is the way it is, and I know what I'm talking about!" types of statements, which is what I was reacting to. You're welcome to talk about what you've experienced, as others here were doing, but I don't have to passively accept you telling me what I've experienced. I'm well within my rights to call you on it and I chose to exercise that right.

This line:
We have a wide range of experiences, so how about you don't try to tell me what I have or have not experienced as a non-believer?

was a direct response to your statements about what non-believers do or do not experience in this country. Admittedly, there was attitude in that line, but no victimization. The rest was just a statement of fact. If you have, as you say, lived places where non-believers are actively ostracized and persecuted, then it shouldn't be that difficult for you to wrap your head around the idea that someone on this forum has experienced it to some degree or has a valid reason to worry that it could happen.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Well-said; there is a difference between describing one's own experiences, and between assuming that those can be extrapolated into shoes one has never walked in.
 

Utopian

New member
Oh yeah, come to think of it I probably could have guessed what 'Latter Day' implies. As for 'Saints', who are they supposed to be? Perhaps there are a few PRAISE JESUS! LDS salesmen who aspire to the title.
Holy shit! (apt) These people sound like bonafide nut jobs. Especially his family. How ever did a country that showed so much promise fall so far? (I might have mentioned a theory on that earlier that precicely because The US was (or should that be 'were') founded as secular which allowed for an all out religious hard sale scramble).
'Faith is a crock'
It always gets me that religions use the fundamental weakness that the belief is completely unfounded by calling the necessary denial/ignorance 'faith' and insisting that it's a positive trait.
Re: Sexuality and my parents; (ugh, you see? Those two words have no place being so close to eachother!) I used to laugh at my fathers homophobic digs when I was little and when I was a bit older I was homophobic (even though I knew full well I was a bit of a batty boy).
After my own barrage of epiphanies, I went from not saying anything to speaking out in 'their' defence. In the mean time I'd already come out to my closest circle of friends (though most of them turned out to be a bunch of wankers).
These days I keep my business to myself bar a small few but will debate openly (even with my family) about sexuality discrimination and racism. I even had one about recreational drugs. My dad would often tell us that dealers should be 'strung up' and how nothing good ever came from drug use. Ha! Then he'd go and put on a jazz record.
Dawkins said something along the lines of 'I'm agnostic about god as I'm agnostic about fairys'.
The inspiration to play and hear music comes and goes I find. The same can be said about any art (for me at least). Perhaps one day you'll randomly find yourself sat in front of a piano and 3 hours later you'll still be hitting keys.
'...my wife and for my "poly wife," '
Now, here's an interesting point that I'd imagine has popped up on this forum more than once. Poly marriage rights. I wonder how much of a legal headache it would be to decriminalise it. What exactly is in our way here? Also, I think it's important to specify what we're talking about. Firstly, as with gay marriage, I don't think church leaders should be forced to marry anyone. Secondly, I don't think that church leaders should have any autority to legally marry anyone as church and state should be separate. Thirdly, I don't know precicely what marriage entitles (and it varies from country to country of course) but how would it translate to a poly marriage? Would it need to even? Perhaps a poly marriage only needs to be a collection of marriages.
As for children, I'm a bit extremist perhaps in my view that our rights to procreate need to be conditional. Over population and dysgenics/stagnation are among those subjects that need addressing yet few have the balls.
I think the last two subjects deserve their own threads so I'll stop here.
Re: Lacking an afterlife. I'm motivated by the thought that it may well be possible in the future to create an afterlife (or an extension to it). A collective of consiousnesses. Minds converted to AI or brains in jars - whatever. All swimming around in lsd and dmt...
...ha ha ha! I was wondering where to start with 'happiestmanalive' - there are enough studies to support the viewpoint that Atheists are persecuted in America but thatgirlingrey saved me the bother for which I'm greatful.
...then hma does the equivalent of clutching an imaginary handbag and going 'oooooh'.
In response to Kdts ...where are we ... 3rd to last post, there is in fact an Atheist church in London somewhere and I think there are others. I may even go this coming Sunday. A celebration of existence, science/philo talks, charity events, stand up comedy and live music. It sounds awesome!
I would also agree with you kdt that the world is not short of people who look down their noses at others regardless of their beliefs on theology but I think you are too amiable for your own good sometimes. Mr 'I don't mean to be insulting but...' is clearly not a very nice person.
It's terrible that your friend feels that he has to go against his beliefs and pretend to be religious but at least they don't tend to burn people anymore.
Hi Jane, I used to consider myself agnostic (little 'a') but now consider myself a de-facto atheist (little 'a'). It was not a shift in belief, only in semantics. Technically, I'm both agnostic and atheist ('as agnostic about god as I am the tooth fairy' I believe Dawkins put it) but if we interpret agnostisism to mean unsure and atheist to mean firmly in the belief that the notion that a supernatural being exists that created everything and spends its time listening to prayers and suchlike* is a notion not worth entertaining until there is cause to do so then - and I don't want to tell you what you are or aren't but from your description, our position is identical.
I believe only a fool believes they know implicitly that there is no god, tooth fairy or flying spaghetti monster but until there is cause to consider them, best leave them in the fiction section.
Ooh, the much neglected question of free-will. Did I bring this up earlier? Jane, I think you hit the nail on the head again; there seems to be no reason to believe in free-will as we are purely circumstantial entities.
Jane Q Smythe, you sound like a sane person. I'm so excited to virtually meet you.
I concur with you and Kevin both; belief in divine repurcussions should not sway a person to change their attitude. A good Christian might risk Yahwehs wrath and go 'fuck you God, I will not take my children to the town elders to have them stoned to death. What kind of depraved lunatic demands something like that?'
A good atheist would just bypass the lot.
ThatGirlInGrey, please waste no more time or energy on HMA. It's upsetting that there are people like that in the world but don't let it hurt you. I find peace in the thought that now is seemingly the most enlightened time on this Earth and that the trend has always been progressive. It gives me hope that the human race will eventually grow up. Perhaps the most enlightened minds of today are equal to the most neglected minds of tomorrow.
Peace and titilation.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Re:
"Oh yeah, come to think of it I probably could have guessed what 'Latter-day' implies. As for 'Saints', who are they supposed to be? Perhaps there are a few PRAISE JESUS! LDS salesmen who aspire to the title."

Well let's say the LDS church is big about having its own special terminology for things. Basically, they are defining the word "Saint" as being any member of the church. Probably in concert with the idea that the LDS church is the "only true church;" hence, LDS members are "extra special." :rolleyes:

I should add that LDS culture is pretty low-key. Anyone who jumped up and yelled "PRAISE JESUS" during a church meeting would be silently frowned upon as inappropriate/obnoxious. The church's hallmark, in fact, is blandness, in my opinion.

Re:
"Now, here's an interesting point that I'd imagine has popped up on this forum more than once. Poly marriage rights. I wonder how much of a legal headache it would be to decriminalise it."

A huge legal headache. Right now the battle being fought is to legalize same-sex marriage. And that battle has far to go before being won. Same-sex marriage is legal in a few states; that's all. Poly marriage isn't even on the table yet.

Re:
"In response to KDT ... where are we ... 3rd to last post, there is in fact an Atheist church in London somewhere and I think there are others. I may even go this coming Sunday. A celebration of existence, science/philo talks, charity events, stand up comedy and live music. It sounds awesome!"

Well that's interesting. I might be curious enough to attend one meeting at least, if I were in the area.

Re: agnostic or atheist ... often a semantic question. I hold out about a 1% chance that some kind of God exists, so since I'm not 100% sure God doesn't exist, does that make me an agnostic? Well technically yes, but by and large I'd still call myself an atheist.

And just a thought in closing ...

"No, I don't know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic. This is one nation under God ... I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists."
-- attributed to George H.W. Bush, President of the United States 1989-1993
 
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