Atheism Isn't a Religion Redux

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I was disheartened to hear Thom refer Atheism as a religion once again along with perpetuating the false meme that atheists who speak out against the more fantastical aspects of religious belief or defend against religious intrusion of our government as "evangelists" which of course is an impossibility.

This took place while S.E. Cupp was left unchallenged repeating the false meme of "the liberal media" over and over many times during her not brief enough stint on the show.

I usually let the "atheism is a religion" and atheists who speak out are being "evangelists" nonsense slide, but enough is enough. I expected better from Thom. Di di mao

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Comments

Thanks Chris for this comment. As a former minister and former graduate student in sociology, specifically sociology of religion, i also am bothered by this false idea. Atheism is not a religion. People may believe it in many different ways and their fervor may reflect that found in religion but all enthusiasm is not fundamentalism. It is important to stop making this mistake.

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I don't understand what "being evangelical" about it has to do with anything. Jews aren't particularly evangelical, does that make Judaism not a religion?

Atheism can properly be classified as a belief, but not a religion.

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Bad Liberal wrote: "Atheism can properly be classified as a belief, but not a religion."

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The difference between a strongly held belief and a strongly held belief is?????

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
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The difference is between belief and religion could broadly be labelled as dogma and fellowship. So... if atheist groups hold meetings to discuss how firmly they believe that they are not in a religion and/or that all religions are bad or wrong, then ironically that gathering and discussing inviolate beliefs on the subjects of faith and religion makes the atheist group into a religion

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When I have heard Thom discuss the issue, he has usually talked about the nature of a positive assertion that one "knows" something about a religous question as being equivalent to the religous persons same "knowing" of the same kind of question. I think this is Polycarp's point. Also Thom makes a point of the zealous nature of some atheists beliefs and attitudes towards religous understanding as being similat to religous zealots. Norske's claim that Thom is opposed to atheist's because they criticize the fantastic aspects of christianity seems off base from what I have heard Thom say in the past

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I have always looked at the issue on a sliding scale, personally aligning myself with Stephen Jay Gould, Michael Shermer, Carl Sagan, all between the Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertson, and the more outspoken atheists, Richard Dawkins, Christpher Hitchens.

http://www.philosophypress.co.uk/?p=1001   

instead of a sliding scale, Julian Baginni uses the 4 horsemen of apocalypse theme. Daniel Dennet is the winner.

Thank goodness for Dan Written by: Julian Baggini | Appears in: Issue 48

Posted by: TPM ⋅ January 22, 2010 ⋅

Julian Baggini meets the least apocalyptic of the four horsemen, Daniel Dennett

Daniel Dennett

Conquest, war, famine and death. It’s an interesting parlour game to decide which of the new atheism’s “four horsemen” – Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens – best corresponds to their apocalyptic namesakes. More than one is combative, and more than one seeks to conquer religion once and for all, if not to kill it. Less charitably, you might also say that at times, some have a rather malnourished understanding of what religion actually is.

The game lacks a credible conclusion though, because at least one horseman just won’t fit the eschatological mould. Dan Dennett is certainly capable of pugnacious argument, but he’s more of a wrestler than a boxer, a person who truly grapples with his opponent, even as he tries to get them in a headlock and slam them to the floor.

That’s why his major contribution to the recent new atheism debate, his book Breaking the Spell, is often hailed as the most thoughtful and intelligent. Dennett acknowledges the differences, but is at pains to defend those who take a different approach.

“I don’t object to being lumped in with the others. I don’t think, well, I was doing it the moral way and they were doing it the immoral way, or I was doing it the politic way, they were doing it the impolitic way. I don’t think that’s right. I think we all adopted slightly different but defensible strategies. All four approaches are necessary because there are different people out there, different audiences that have to be reached.”

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The fear I have, as a fellow traveller, is the perception people now have of atheists is the one I thought we were trying to shake off, which is that atheists are very, very self-confident, virulently anti-religious people, who don’t have anything to do in the mornings unless they can wake up and bash a bishop or two, metaphorically. This is not just a tactical matter: there’s also a kind of lack of integrity about it. There’s something inappropriate about an atheist having too much self-confidence in their own ability to see the truth through reason. If you have a commitment to reason, and Hume is one of your great heroes – as he is for many atheists ­– the first thing you know about reason is that it’s fragile thing. Also, you learn just a tiny bit of psychology and you recognise how easy it is for us to co-opt reason to justify what we already think. Given that, isn’t there too much of a desire on the side of atheists to claim reason for themselves and trust they are fully fit to use it?

“Well, since I’ve just debated Alvin Plantinga [the leading Christian philosopher] at the APA meeting in Chicago, you’re not going to find me very sympathetic to this line, because I find the presumption of reasonableness in his work and the other philosophers of religion to be unimpressive, I’ve got to say.”

Or, in a formulation Dennett endorses, you can take the principle of charity too far.

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Quote polycarp2:

Bad Liberal wrote: "Atheism can properly be classified as a belief, but not a religion."

---------

The difference between a strongly held belief and a strongly held belief is?????

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

Before I reply let me state that I've been reading your posts and this is probably the only area where we disagree. I genuinely enjoy reading your stuff.

It seems to me that there's a difference between a strongly held belief and a religion. To me calling something a religion implies a recognizable organization centered around a particular set of beliefs -- a doctrine or orthodoxy. So Roman Catholicism is a religion while Christianity is more of a super-set of religions -- a label for a more general belief structure.

Another way to look at it would be that there are actually hundreds or thousands of religions out there. From Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism to Wiccan, Shinto, and the list goes on and on. You reject all of them except one. I reject exactly one more of them than you. Does your rejection of all the other religions in and of itself constitute a religion? Doesn't it require that you hold a positive belief in some deity? If not, then how does my rejection of exactly one more religion than you constitute a religion?

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Atheism is a religion in the same sense that watching TV is a sport, or that "Independent" is a party affilliation.

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The fear I have, as a fellow traveller, is the perception people now have of atheists is the one I thought we were trying to shake off, which is that atheists are very, very self-confident, virulently anti-religious people, who don’t have anything to do in the mornings unless they can wake up and bash a bishop or two, metaphorically. This is not just a tactical matter: there’s also a kind of lack of integrity about it. There’s something inappropriate about an atheist having too much self-confidence in their own ability to see the truth through reason.

Guilty as charged on the first part. I am virulently anti-religious and rarely a day goes by where I don't bash religion to someone. I try not to limit it to religion, but any irrational belief - homeopathy, "The Secret", all of that nonsense.

But I deny the second charge. It is not that I can see the truth and those religious folks can't, that's completely missing the point. It's not about certainty at all, it's about questioning. And more, how you question. Even the most tried and true scientific theory is merely a statement of probability, and though we may be 99.99999% sure, there is always room for doubt.

At a fundamental level, there is "belief", if you want to call it that, involved, sure. The axiomatic beginning is that there is an intelligible universe and that we are capable for understanding at least some part of it.

When it comes to things outside of the intelligible universe, then there is absolutely nothing we can say. If there was a wholly non-interventionist God, then we have no way of "knowing" in any meaningful sense of the word, about Him. To me, it's simply a waste of time to speculate on something that by definition we can't ever know anything about. If there is an interventionist God, then there should be evidence of His interventions - miracles, if you will. How do we know a miracle? Well, presumably it would defy the laws of nature as we understand them. There is no such evidence. If miracles are within the natural framework, if God that acted only through natural means, then He is indistinguishable from no God.

And of course, as I think Dawkins said, all of us are atheists about some Gods. Who believes in Zeus or Osiris anymore?

Science is not a belief, but a methodology. It is of course imperfect. What human endeavor is not? It is a means of slowly, painfully, finding our way to an approximation of truth. Of reducing (but not eliminating) errors of perception and bias. But best of all it says, there is no such thing as authority. There are no truths handed down from on high. Science is egalitarian, in principle, if not always in practice.

"One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have." --Einstein

"I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the star-less night, -- blown and flared by passion's storm, -- and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish that, and nought remains." --Robert Ingersoll

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.”
--Richard Dawkins

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A strongly held belief you try to base your life on such as Christianity or Judaism is much different then a lack of belief in God, a God or any religeon. I was raised as were a large number of Americans with the Judeo christian ethic and I do live my life by them.. I am not offended when people poke there finger at atheists or the religeous in kind. So I respectfully say that your statement does not hold water.

Go tell an evangelical they are wrong and see the reaction

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Colo001 wrote: Go tell an evangelical they are wrong and see the reaction

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Probably a reaction similar to an atheists who has made atheism their life's crusade. Any "belief" can be turned into a "religion"....god/no god being irrelevant.

"The invisible hand of the free market is a myth, a religion" - Joseph Stiglitz, economist.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
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The unitarians have no established dogma that I know of, but if the point is that religions have an organizations and atheists do not there is some truth to that. But then the statement would read that both religion and atheism hold religous views. For those who claim that atheists simply question, I would disagree. Agnostics are the one's who allow for uncertainity. My favorite question for atheists who present this view is to explain the difference between themselves and the agnostic

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I've avoided this thread because I don't care whether people think that atheism is a religion, so long as it enjoys first amendment protection.

This Wikipedia definition seems as good as any other.

A religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of asupernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.[1]
Atheism seems to fit pretty nicely into this construct.

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"Atheism seems to fit pretty nicely into this construct."

How? Atheism is not a set of beliefs at all. It is simply a statement of disbelief. It doesn't really say anything about what the atheist does believe. I'm an atheist, but my set of positive belief statements about the world is informed by Secular Humanism. You could argue Secular Humanism is a "religion", I suppose, in that it is organized and includes a life stance. Then we can just go rounds about what exactly the definition of religion is. According to your quote, religion emphasizes a supernatural agency, which Secular Humanism rejects. As a matter of semantics, it might be pertinent in legislative matters. For example, can a Secular Humanist organization claim tax exempt status like a church can?

It has been argued, and with some merit I think, that the default human position is atheism, in that children do not begin life believing in God.

"My favorite question for atheists who present this view is to explain the difference between themselves and the agnostic"

I didn't get into this before, but there are certainly atheists whose position is not based on anything substantial. Any absolutist ideology is problematic and dangerous. Under Lysenko in Stalinist Russia, science was perverted by the State, and Darwinian evolution was rejected in favor of Lamarckism. The authoritarian declaration of truth, regardless of good science and evidence, destroyed what was until then a fairly robust scientific community in Russia.

But scratch an honest atheist and you will find an agnostic. There is absolutely no evidence for an interventionist God, as I said before. It is reasonable, as reasonable as it is to assume bacteria can cause disease, and antibiotics prevent infection, to then operationally function as though there is no God. New evidence could, in principle, support the hypothesis of an interventionist God. For a God that does not intervene in the world, there is nothing that can be said. There is no way of knowing anything about such a being. Again, functionally, there is no way to distinguish between such a God existing and not existing.

For those who argue speciously that science is a religion, I say this. If you really do not see a significant difference between religion and science, then you must oppose teaching science as truth or fact in schools as much as you would oppose teaching religious truth in schools. And if you do not support that, you are tacitly admitting there is a difference.

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How? Atheism is not a set of beliefs at all.
It certainly is. It is a set of beliefs that say "I believe that there is no supernatural force that determines how the universe is configured". That's a belief.
"My favorite question for atheists who present this view is to explain the difference between themselves and the agnostic"
That's pretty easy to answer. The agnostic is still asking the question. The atheist has made up his mind.

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Quote Art:

I've avoided this thread because I don't care whether people think that atheism is a religion, so long as it enjoys first amendment protection.

This Wikipedia definition seems as good as any other.

A religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of asupernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.[1]
Atheism seems to fit pretty nicely into this construct.

I like this one better: "Atheism is commonly described as the position that there are no deities.[1] It can also mean the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[2] A broader meaning is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

Atheists simply don't have to carry around all that baggage! Neither should a believer IMO. A believer should have a personal experience of God(s). That ineffable experience cannot be shared with others. Not to say believers can't have a fellowship of some type. But when you evangelize, you politicize.

I can understand calling Hitchens a religionist is satisfying is some small way. I can understand why Hitchens calls out religionists (I don't want to say believers) because of the harm religion does. I think he is wasting his time (if he doesn't enjoy it). Eventually religion will disappear.

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Eventually religion will disappear.
Dunno about that. I think it's in our genes.

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Quote mattnapa:

My favorite question for atheists who present this view is to explain the difference between themselves and the agnostic

An Agnostic says we cannot know god. An Atheist agrees, but understands that the possibility of god is so incredibly small as to not exist at all and simply dismisses the god question.

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Good way to put it.

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Quote Art:
Eventually religion will disappear.
Dunno about that. I think it's in our genes.

LOL, could be true. Might take a long while to evolve. OTOH, there hasn't been a new major religion in what, 1500 years. Plenty of schisms, but no new gods. Maybe there will only be Christian Science, Scientology, Hale Bop type movements from now on. It's hard to hold up all that weight in an ever changing world, and in the light of science.

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Quote Art:
How? Atheism is not a set of beliefs at all.
It certainly is. It is a set of beliefs that say "I believe that there is no supernatural force that determines how the universe is configured". That's a belief.

*sigh* This is a somewhat subtle point and hard for people to grasp. Here, this might help, or this.

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Atheism doesn't have anything approaching clearly defined rules. None. Other than not having any belief in any gods. Other than that, atheists are free to do whatever they want and still be called atheists. Kinda like herding progressives we all think differently about this or that. An atheist can do and believe absolutely anything beyond gods and still fit the definition. Quite the opposite of how rules are treated in a religion. This is one area where a misunderstanding of what atheism is probably comes into play.

There isn't even a common philosophy with which atheists embrace. There are no leaders to follow, no official spokesperson who speaks for us. Some of us are secular humanists while others may be Randians. No pigeon hole with which to honestly put us in. Atheism is simply disbelief, not a belief or a philosophy.

Two atheists may have as much in common as a Christian has with a follower of Zeus or Odin.

To try and claim that atheism is a religion requires a radical redefinition in what it is that "being a religion" is supposed to mean, resulting in a radically equivocal use of the new term-- if atheism is a religion, then just what isn't a religion?

That being said, I have no further use of this site or Thom's show. Very dissapointed.

If there be a Thomlander who is low on funds and would desire a personal XM radio with a 2 yr. paid susbscription just e-mail me and I will send it to you. Be well.

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I had a professor of Science History who contended that Religion is a result of an omnivorous diet. That is, hominids evolved with a genetic make-up that inspired a super-inquisitive nature so that they could learn what foods were safe to eat. I suspect that was tongue-in-cheek, but it makes sense to me that people do reveal the presence of a combination of genes. One is a gullibility gene. Another is a curiosity gene and the third would be a denial gene, an insistence on explanations rooted in mythology rather than science.

Where one fits on the influence of these genes would fit somewhere on normal bell curves which, of course, were not created by supernatural beings.

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Quote Art:

I had a professor of Science History who contended that Religion is a result of an omnivorous diet. That is, hominids evolved with a genetic make-up that inspired a super-inquisitive nature so that they could learn what foods were safe to eat. I suspect that was tongue-in-cheek, but it makes sense to me that people do reveal the presence of a combination of genes. One is a gullibility gene. Another is a curiosity gene and the third would be a denial gene, an insistence on explanations rooted in mythology rather than science.

Where one fits on the influence of these genes would fit somewhere on normal bell curves which, of course, were not created by supernatural beings.

I think if there is a genetic component to "belief" it most likely lies in our utter reliance as children on our parents and the amount of our behavior that is learned. The incredibly plasticity of our brains makes us incredibly and uniquely adaptable, but it does mean bad information can build neural pathways just as well as good. I also think the same faculties that allow us to empathize, to imagine, to extrapolate consequences in to the future, are involved in religion. We can posit and imagine things that have no physical existence yet. Often a very useful ability. And finally, of course, religious institutions are powerful transmitters of culture, which explains their longevity.

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Religion and theology in a post-theistic and post-secular world is going to be a lot of fun, and even more confusing than this curious and endless thread about "atheism" and why some of my best colleagues are offended when it is lumped in with "religion."

Believe me, you have every reason to be confused because people who are for religion say so many stupid things about it. And make such stupid claims about people who don't use their particular metaphysical furniture to imagine "deep reality," beneath the superficial. I would just suggest that if you are having an emotional reaction to something said about what you identify with, try taking a step back and a deep breath.

First, "theism" is a form of metaphysical mythmaking where a "divine being" exists and has something to do with what happens to us on earth. There were some religions with many gods representing things about life and the world, and then we got monotheism and the idea that there was One Encompassing God.

If religions could provide a narrative that supported our human development and inspired us to a maturity that is natural but does not just happen by itself, it will have opened the doors to what I distinguish from religion as "faith." As I understand it, faith is a universal human matter of epistemology and being. As we come to personal identity and individuality, we also embrace our connected humanity. The Dalai Lama is regarded as a saintly and mature human being in general. Mother Theresa also is known for what she did, as with Dorothy Day.

It does not matter if others can become exemplary human beings without religion in the defined sense. But "secular" is an interesting word. It is half of a model of reality, so I ask, does "humanism" cover the missing sacred? "Secular humanism" could also mean a humanity devoid of anything of moral value, so it matters.

And this is where both atheism and secularism run into the problem of protesting. A lot of people use belief in God to address their question of being human. Others find the idea of God too ridiculous to involve themselves in the larger enterprise of religion. And it is very hard to find a religious environment where a good atheist can find community and inspiration, as well as human support and compassion. So where do these things happen, or do they just not happen?

I think theism belongs in the theology museum and is like Newtonian Physics. It can be used to send a rocket to the moon, but it can no longer explain the universe or what we know about it. The Mystery of Reality remains, however, and the models of cosmology we employ to explain what we do know is the closest science comes to theology. I don't count economics which has acted more as a religion.

The Big Question is "What does it take to make and keep human life human in this world?" (Paul Lehmann) Atheism bores me because it is a discussion of past metaphysical mythology employed by a lot of humanity--if we are talking about the actual existence of some divine being or "God." On the other hand, I have heard a lot of very bright and lovely people talk of their "experience" of a personal relationship with "God." I am not sure what they mean in any scientific sense, but I get the need for something personal in relating human nature to the nature of it all.

For all you in love with Doubt like I am, relax. It is an essential component in "faith." It goes right together with belief, imagination and mutuality. They are all part of being human, being adult, and being able to keep "growing" even after we are all grown up. "Belief" is more about affiliation with others and a tradition than intellectual honesty. As we grow up, we learn to doubt and question authority, and religion should help instead of getting in the way. Doubt is the greatest tribute we make to Truth as we question beliefs to see if they are up to the job.

It does not end there, but if your anger at religion is at people who cling to dogma and ideology instead of letting reality inform and reshape their minds, that is what always frustrated the biblical God as well. Faith is intellectual and moral integrity, and we err and need to forgive one another to keep working at both. And when we get filled up with the idea that we can really understand how this world works and can manage it, beware of the banksters holiday and empires with historical destinies and obligations to provide stability and peace in the world.

Sure religions have been used and misused. If you want a history of lessons needing learning, wars of religion can begin the list. Never Again! But if you want to achieve intellectual and moral integrity, what is your human narrative and vision? Where is the sense of mystery and wonder about reality, and where is the community of celebration and human service that makes human life human in this world?

Or for another ethical and justice question, what makes love powerful and justice necessary, or are they?

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Quote DRC:

It does not matter if others can become exemplary human beings without religion in the defined sense. But "secular" is an interesting word. It is half of a model of reality, so I ask, does "humanism" cover the missing sacred? "Secular humanism" could also mean a humanity devoid of anything of moral value, so it matters.

I won't go into the history of the term secularism much. Briefly, the term was coined in the mid-1800s by George Hoyloake. Broadly speaking, it denotes any philosopher which does not derive its system of ethics or morality from religious sources or dogma, and promotes development of art and science. Humanism is another tricky term. Originally it meant simply the study of the humanities. In the 20th century, its meaning has broadened and now includes what might be more properly called humanitarianism. Secular Humanism as a term began to be adopted by non-religious "humanists" in the 60s and 70s, as distinguished from religious and christian humanism. In 1980, the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism was formed and published A Secular Humanist Declaration.

Quote DRC:

Sure religions have been used and misused. If you want a history of lessons needing learning, wars of religion can begin the list. Never Again! But if you want to achieve intellectual and moral integrity, what is your human narrative and vision? Where is the sense of mystery and wonder about reality, and where is the community of celebration and human service that makes human life human in this world?

Or for another ethical and justice question, what makes love powerful and justice necessary, or are they?

I will never understand this idea that science is somehow "unweaving the rainbow". The incredible mystery and wonder of the universe as it seems to actually be is so much more inspiring and incredible than our infantile fantasies of the supernatural. The delicate interplay of atoms and electrons, the elegance of Maxwell's equations, the so far impenetrable mystery of the Primes, the boggling properties of infinite number series. Tales of a 40 day flood, or ghosts and goblins, have nothing on that.

What do you mean by love being powerful or the necessity of justice? I don't buy a Socratic idea of Love somewhere out there. Love is an emotion like any other, developed through the slow process of evolution. That fact doesn't lessen its importance or impact on our personal lives. Our experience of love is powerful. Justice is similar. There is an innate sense of fairness, of which we are starting to get some grasp upon through game theory and the like. All social animals engage in behavior we might term altruistic to some extent. Our modern concept of justice and fairness I think has its foundation in this altruism, this basic capacity for empathy, but culture and philosophy have influenced how we think about it. It doesn't take too great a leap of the imagination to expand the common instinct for altruism beyond family or smallish social group to all of humanity, or indeed, to all living things. But it's still quite obvious that family takes precedence for near everyone, that the immediacy and power of our emotions and sense of fairness has a direct relationship to how close they are to us.

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reed9
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DRC,

In reading your post, I find myself wandering about and going in circles. It's not clear what point you're trying to make.

But "secular" is an interesting word. It is half of a model of reality, so I ask, does "humanism" cover the missing sacred? "Secular humanism" could also mean a humanity devoid of anything of moral value, so it matters.

Who says "sacred" is missing? Where does the half-model of reality come from? If these are opinions, yours or others, please let us know. I know that my world is complete, and lacks nothing.

The Big Question is "What does it take to make and keep human life human in this world?"

Well, I guess our human existence is, in and of itself, human by simple definition. Are you confused about this?

Others find the idea of God too ridiculous to involve themselves in the larger enterprise of religion.

Well, if you find things ridiculous, so be it. However, don't try and apply your opinions and beliefs towards others where you have no idea who they are and what they ascribe to. To do so seems ridiculous to me.

And when we get filled up with the idea that we can really understand how this world works and can manage it, beware of the banksters holiday and empires with historical destinies and obligations to provide stability and peace in the world.

I believe you're inappropriately mixing how the world works from two separate contexts. There is the physical nature of the world, and there is the social and human interaction in the world. I firmly believe there is amply evidence to explain and understand how the physical world works. After all, you and I are using highly complex "things" that allow us to communicate, which would not exist without understanding how the underlying physical technology works. As for human nature and society, we may know much about this area of the world, yet have a long way to go to reach very high levels if understanding. BTW, I'm not aware of how religion has added any significance to our understanding so far.

But if you want to achieve intellectual and moral integrity, what is your human narrative and vision? Where is the sense of mystery and wonder about reality, and where is the community of celebration and human service that makes human life human in this world?

I don't believe you have any standing to discuss my or anyone else's intellectual or moral integrity, unless you have personal experience or significant information to support your opinions. For the record, I relish the "mystery" of reality, to use your phrase. I also have confidence that we have learned how reality has come to be, with great detail on its' underlying physical nature. If we don't know it all yet (will we ever?), I have no fear of the unknown, or feel any need to create fictional explanations to fill the gap.

FYA

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Art said-

That's pretty easy to answer. The agnostic is still asking the question. The atheist has made up his mind.

I assume you realized that was my point

Quote maraden:
Quote mattnapa:

My favorite question for atheists who present this view is to explain the difference between themselves and the agnostic

An Agnostic says we cannot know god. An Atheist agrees, but understands that the possibility of god is so incredibly small as to not exist at all and simply dismisses the god question.

Really? This may be some clinical definition, but in everyday practical terms an agnostic is a person who is open to the question and an atheist is not. So are you willing to admit that there are a lot of folks who would consider themselves open to the question? Some on the atheist side wish to claim they are not making an affirmation of a certainity about the issue, but yet clearly they are more certain about the question than the agnostics I am describing. Yes or No?

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Some on the atheist side wish to claim they are not making an affirmation of a certainity about the issue
Not me.

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Art
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Again? Really?

OK, here we go.

I just received my FSM (Flying Spaghetti Monster) hood ornament in the mail. I'm a proud Pastafarian.

Perhaps I'll order an Invisible Pink Unicorn ornament next. How do they know it's pink if it's invisible? How absurd!

Or, perhaps I'll sit here thinking up new religions every twenty seconds till the day I die?.

Imagine if Atheists were charged with the Hurculean (yet another god) task of disproving every single religion that someone pulls out of their ass?

NO, it's not our job to disprove EVERY religious fantasy. That said, we are under no contract to sit by and let the dominant Christian culture make absurd quasi-scientific claims about god and the universe. Proving someone is wrong is not evangelizing. If you're belief is based on the idea that some man 2010 years ago walked on water...YOU BETTER HAVE PROOF and it BETTER be good because there's a lot of science behind the physics of liquids. If we're just talking metaphor, fine. But that's not what the Christian Taliban is talking about.

To the "Big Question...you know, "is there a god" (to many other questions too). If the history of Science is any indication, we can be fairly certain that god is NOT the sort of god that was exemplified in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." You know, old man with beard popping out of the clouds...

I think we can know these things and the Scientific Method will take us closer to it. I think we will eventually get to a point where the question becomes absurd and infantile to ask. Look at history to see how Religion has ALWASY gotten it wrong and watch how science figured it out. Eventually, even the Pope had to appologize to Galileo for what they did to him. He was right they were wrong...YET AGAIN.

Galileo would be proud today but I think he would see a lot of the same absurdities that guided the pope and the Catholic Church against him. These institutions DEPENDED on the confusion of ignorance. And even today, people STILL insist, even after all that we've learned, that their religion is giving us meaningful Science.

Really?

Are we now to say that Genesis is the embodiment of the Scientific Method because it describes how the universe came to be? Was this really Science or was it the infantile dreams of people that didn't know the first thing about the way the universe was formed? Is Genesis a book of Scientific Discovery that will help us understand how to get a man on the moon or is it the antiquated science time capsule that got stuck in it's own dogma by a people that weren't very interested in discovering the truth? Please Don't send me up in that rocket ship that's based on the Science in Genesis...

No, Science means something.

By the way, to those that say things like "we can't know this or we can't know that..." I say we can know these things, we just can't prove it all today. I say this because there have been times in our history when the religious institutions where protected from the truth by using the shroud of ignorance. Have you heard this one: "We can't know if the Earth is at the center of the universe or not..." Yes, I heard that one too but it turns out, WE CAN (how did we do that) figure out if the Earth is or isn't at the center. It's just unknowable until it isn't.

I love how the religious (Right) ALWAYS house their gods in uncertainty. As Michael Shermer says, you never hear of somebody praying for their leg to grow back after it's been blown off. For some reason people don't ask for these cures because they intuitively know that god can't solve that particular problem. However, for some reason, god IS able to cure cancer. People believe in miricles like this because it feels good to know that we're not alone. They alow the fantasy bec because the rules for a cancer cure are so convoluted and obscured. And as long as the mystery is shrouded in doubt, god rewards the faithful...OR NOT...

And as soon as Science figures out what causes cancer and how to cure it, god will miraculously lose his ability to cure cancer and the believers will acquiesce to the truth. We've seen this process time and time again. We now know that leaches don't cure ailments but we do know that a leach can actually help someone grow a finger back...Beat that god!. There were times when people didn't know what oxygen was so they assumed that there was some invisible god-given force. There was a time when birth was an absolute mystery and now we can make predictions about how people will look and what sort of problems they may have. Science figure out that DNA, NOT GOD is what controls this. There is a string of a billion other Scientific concepts that tell us the "truth" about the world we live in and as we discover more and more of these "truths, these "unknowables," religion is forced ever further back into their proverbial corner.

Today, they still feel relatively safe as an institution because we do live in such a FundaMENTALIST culture. But feel safe, as an institution, only as long as there is a mystery in the world; they love mysteries.

No, with the Scientific Method as a guide, religions ARE NOT safe to make absurd claims of faith that have no basis in Science. Science will continue its drive towards discovery.

NO, THAT SCIENTIFIC METHOD IS NOT BEING EVANGELICAL. It's just not!

No, OUR WORDS MEAN SOMETHING AND IT'S NOT UP TO US TO DISPROVE EVERY CULT THAT RISES OUT OF THE ASHES.

We have a KNOWABLE base of knowledge that means something and as we continue to expand that circle of knowledge, religion will become meaningless.

AND, if you're certain that Science is a religion, you better be careful because our schools are full of Science Classes. You know, if Science is a religion and teachers are Evangelicals, the Christian Taliban will win and the whole church/state issue will be thrown in our face. Go ahead, play along with Religious Fundamentalists, they love it when you make their arguments for them.

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Quote mattnapa:

Art said-

That's pretty easy to answer. The agnostic is still asking the question. The atheist has made up his mind.

I assume you realized that was my point

Quote maraden:
Quote mattnapa:

My favorite question for atheists who present this view is to explain the difference between themselves and the agnostic

An Agnostic says we cannot know god. An Atheist agrees, but understands that the possibility of god is so incredibly small as to not exist at all and simply dismisses the god question.

Really? This may be some clinical definition, but in everyday practical terms an agnostic is a person who is open to the question and an atheist is not. So are you willing to admit that there are a lot of folks who would consider themselves open to the question? Some on the atheist side wish to claim they are not making an affirmation of a certainity about the issue, but yet clearly they are more certain about the question than the agnostics I am describing. Yes or No?

Open-mindedness is not being willing to entertain any absurd notion. Someone is not being open minded if they are willing to entertain the idea that the earth spins due to billions of circus midgets running in a wheel at the center of the planet. But the evidence for that is as powerful and compelling as the evidence for God(s). The philosophical position of agnosticism is properly defined as the view that claims regarding the existence of God are unknowable - they can neither be proved nor disproved. Atheism is simply the absence of active belief in a god. They are not mutually incompatible. I am an atheist because I don't believe in any sort of god or the supernatural. I am agnostic because I recognize that the question of (a non-intervientionist) god cannot be answered. No matter how much of the universe reason and science illuminate for us, there will be shadowy gaps which people will fill with God.

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This is one area where a misunderstanding of what atheism is probably comes into play. There isn't even a common philosophy with which atheists embrace. There are no leaders to follow, no official spokesperson who speaks for us.

I tend to gravitate around skeptics like Michael Shermer who are looking very carefully at how religions people operate, promote and sustain their fantasies.

My favorite example is the church that claimed to have an image of Mary on their windows. People from hundreds of miles away gathered and left offerings at this church. Shermer, being a skeptic, soon discovered that this miracle was caused by the sprinkler system and not by "god." ALL the windows had the same image and he found someone washing those images off the back side of the church...how nice. As Shermer said, "apparently, having too many 'miracles" was embarrassing."

So, here we had a church that KNEW there was a scientific reason for this to happen. Yet, they played an ACTIVE role in promoting and continuing the fantasy instead of show the real truth behind it. They depended on this lie. The people just NEEDED it to be true so they cold make a pilgrimage and feel it's mystical power.

The Scientists, on the other hand, took the mystery out of it and once again showed religion for what it really is.

If we don't challenge the dominant culture that thrives on these mysteries, the institution will continue to lie. In doing so, we all sink back into a kind of Dark Age mentality. Science needs to win because people are dangerously dependent on fantasy. Scientifically proving people wrong IS NOT EVANGELICALISM.

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. I am agnostic because I recognize that the question of (a non-interv[i]entionist) god cannot be answered. No matter how much of the universe reason and science illuminate for us, there will be shadowy gaps which people will fill with God.

I think we under-sell our ability to "know" and it bothers me that Christianity is allowed to so strongly influence our ability to make claims. Because their institutions DEMAND that we CAN'T know this or that, we accept that we can't know this or that.

"We have a long Scientific record and these insights have an amazingly clear direction; this does NOT point toward the proverbial Bearded Christian god hovering in the sky.

I accept you grudging agnosticism but I challenge it and I think we know more than we give ourselves credit for.

A Scientist may be certain that she is right about a cure for cancer. She may understand every intricacy related to cancer but because the instruments for measuring and curing cancer are not developed enough, she can't test it. And although this Scientist may need to claim a form of defeat, she KNOWS what the truth is.

That's not the same as saying the Scientist is wrong and has no arrow to follow. The Scientist may be 100 percent correct, she just can't implement the solution.

Being an Atheist is similar; the Scientific trend points not at a thinking and involved god but points towards Science. However, if we're talking Buddhism, that's something different.

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I'm not quite getting at what I really meant. One more time.

"Does God Exist?" This is an extrememly stupid question and should be exposed as such.

Lets say we live in a world that is dominated by a culture that insists that Pink is the true and only Color. Praise be to Pink.

They think everything is covered in Pink; people talk about Pink. They pray to Pink. This is a world where most people, for thousands of years, never knew what it means not to believe in Pink. Because, to them, Pink is the one true Color and EVERYONE agrees...

Conveniently, this world view is designed by the same people that think that Pink is the most important subject. And because the history of Pink civilization is absolutley dominated by the influence of Pink, nobody questions this pillar of belief. Pink IS the ultimate question.

In this context, the argument is framed by the dominant culture and it never occurs to anyone that Pink isn't what people should really be asking about. They simply accept that it's the ultimate question that needs to be (but can't be) proven.

As a Christian-dominated culture, we are FORCED to accept this frame and GOD, as a concept, is accepted by most EVERYONE, as the ULTIMATE either-or choice.

What I'm getting at is the fact that we are forced to ask the wrong questions. 3000 years of Religious belief has forced us to prove or disprove something that is just as meaningless as having a to prove or disprove the existance of Pink.

Ask yourself, what is god and why does it appear to be the "ultimate question?" The only answer you get is an argument that people have been giving us for thousands of years. Since God people fixate on this question they need it to be answered.

Religious people simply made it up. Through chance/luck/accident, we were handed this meaningless question because, as ignorant people in a savage world, they needed, for really good reasons, a force above them that would protect them from the very real Earthly forces of wealth and green.

From desperation, they simply pulled the rabit out of their ass, and told us how magic is all should be. Today, we have been handed this meaningless and childish question that shouldn't even be asked.

I reject the question just as any of us would reject someone proclaiming our need to figure out if "Does Pink Exist" is the ultimate question.

Clearly, Pink is not the ultimate question. Yet, we accept Christians telling us how important it is to decide if God (that they made up), exists.

Again, it's really just a stupid questions and should be exposed as such.

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Quote artjunky:
. I am agnostic because I recognize that the question of (a non-interv[i]entionist) god cannot be answered. No matter how much of the universe reason and science illuminate for us, there will be shadowy gaps which people will fill with God.

A Scientist may be certain that she is right about a cure for cancer. She may understand every intricacy related to cancer but because the instruments for measuring and curing cancer are not developed enough, she can't test it. And although this Scientist may need to claim a form of defeat, she KNOWS what the truth is.

That's not the same as saying the Scientist is wrong and has no arrow to follow. The Scientist may be 100 percent correct, she just can't implement the solution.

A good scientist may be personally certain, but will acknowledge she might be wrong, and do everything in her power to disprove her own hypothesis before claiming its truth. And that truth, all truth, is still provisional. Science is never a statement of absolutes, but a statement of probability. It says, given what we think we know, what is the probably that this hypothesis is correct? (Math, on the other hand, does make absolute statements. Given these axioms, this must be true. But it is a tautology, true by definition. 2+2=4 by definition of the symbols. This is different than e=mc^2. That is not true by definition, but a description of a relationship. The speed of light and mass are supplied by empirical measurements and are not true by a priori axiomatic assertions.)

I admit and celebrate the role of educated inspiration in science, of those rare eureka moments which may lead to discovery, but "knowledge" based on a feeling of certainty isn't knowledge at all, and is analogous to religious certainty. The eureka moment is only the beginning of the work.

By definition anything that cannot be disproved is outside the realm of science. We cannot know anything about a God who is outside of the natural universe. By definition, if something is super-natural, is outside of nature, there is nothing that can be known or said about it. As such, it's pointless to speculate and we can merrily go about our lives treating it as inconsequential or non-existent. If such a thing existed, it cannot affect our lives in any way. As soon as claims are made that it does affect the universe, it is no longer outside of nature, and science has something to say about it.

I don't understand your special pleading for Buddhism. Just because we happen to like or agree with one religion more than another doesn't make it more true or more scientific. Certainly Buddhists can be just as intolerant as anyone else. Deepak Chopra, while not explicitly Buddhist, markets himself as a spokesman for Eastern Philosophy and is celebrated by many Buddhists, and he is as irrational, dishonest, and profiteering as any evangelical preacher.

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Where would the atheist be without some of the more pathetic examples of religous behavior to attack. Yes there is plenty of ridiculous behavior in the name's of Gods, but that is something I have little interest in defending. It really has nothing to do with whether there are legitimate questions regarding the nature of existence. As to the idea that god is unmeasurable, I would say that a lot of what is taken as sensory perception is not measurable in the scientific sense. Music, humor, emotion, justice, etc are "real" things, but are unexplainable in terms of mere physical science itself. The world of ideas and the discussion of the nature of existence will go on with or without you believing in the need for such a discussion. There is not only the world out there, but there is that which attaches meaning to such a world. And I would claim that the meaning attacher is every bit capable of considering a god.

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Quote mattnapa:

Where would the atheist be without some of the more pathetic examples of religous behavior to attack.

Attacking the less pathetic examples of religious behavior? Religion by its very nature encourages divisiveness and intolerance. There are the saved...and the unsaved. The enlightened and the unenlightened. The pathetic behavior of the religious is simply a symptom of the disease. Show me a theocratic nation, and I'll show you a place of intolerance and hate.

Quote mattnapa:It really has nothing to do with whether there are legitimate questions regarding the nature of existence.

Agreed, but wholly besides point. However, the tenuous connection you're making, I think, it that religion is somehow an answer to these questions. It's not. Religion is the end of questioning and mystery. Religious truth is insensible to criticism or questioning and it is blasphemous to do so.

"The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion." --Thomas Paine

Quote mattnapa:As to the idea that god is unmeasurable, I would say that a lot of what is taken as sensory perception is not measurable in the scientific sense. Music, humor, emotion, justice, etc are "real" things, but are unexplainable in terms of mere physical science itself.

You can say that. It's not true, but go for it. Look, nobody is claiming that science is the end all be all panacea of everything. Questions of meaning are not scientific questions. Science can tell us climate change is happening, but it can't tell us whether we ought to take action on it, and if we decide to take action, science can again tell us something about the likelihood that our action will have the desired effect. We, as humans sharing the planet, need to figure out for ourselves how to deal with questions of meaning.

There's a wonderful Jewish anecdote I heard once. A young man asks his Rabbi, "Rabbi, is it ever appropriate to act as if there were no God?" The Rabbi replies, "Yes. If someone comes to you and asks your help, act as if there were no God, as if there were only one person in all the world who could help this man - only yourself."

If you want to call a sense of wonder or compassion or whatever, spirituality or religion, fine. I think it's a poor use of the terms, but we don't have better words in English. But as soon as you start debating the nature of the divine, there is no ground to stand on. You enter a morass of relativism because there is no objective standard by which to measure the truthiness (thank you Colbert) of the claims. They are arguments without content and cannot be answered.

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reed9
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Agreed, but wholly besides point. However, the tenuous connection you're making, I think, it that religion is somehow an answer to these questions. It's not. Religion is the end of questioning and mystery. Religious truth is insensible to criticism or questioning and it is blasphemous to do so.

Only in dogmatic religions. However I would say the question of whether man needs to be guided by rule and structure goes beyond religion

"The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion." --Thomas Paine

I like Thomas Paine, but I assume the quote is implying a failure of most religous followers to actually apply principles they supposedly stand for. The golden rule works well for me and so does most of jesus teachings, but I will admit it is as poorly followed by religous folks as much anyone else. However at this point it is clear that you are damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you have solid principles you are a dogmatic, if you fail to follow them you are a hypocrit.

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Quote mattnapa:

Only in dogmatic religions. However I would say the question of whether man needs to be guided by rule and structure goes beyond religion

In any religion that makes truth claims. Inasmuch as religion can, like any story, illuminate some aspect of the human experience, fine, I'll buy its usefulness. But we should never attribute anything more than metaphorical "truth" to religion.

Quote mattnapa:

I like Thomas Paine, but I assume the quote is implying a failure of most religous followers to actually apply principles they supposedly stand for.

"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel." --Thomas Paine

"Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, t renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as ameans of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter." --Thomas Paine

"What is it the Bible teaches us? - raping, cruelty, and murder. What is it the New Testament teaches us? - to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married, and the belief of this debauchery is called faith." --Thomas Paine

However at this point it is clear that you are damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you have solid principles you are a dogmatic, if you fail to follow them you are a hypocrit.

Not so. I'm advocating for a system of ethics and morality not based on "revelation" but reason. For the intellectual integrity to let one's opinions be formed by the evidence (and be honest in our methodology for examining said evidence) and not contort facts to fit our own preconceived notions and ideology. Or at least to hold that as the ideal. We will always fail at times.

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Not so. I'm advocating for a system of ethics and morality not based on "revelation" but reason. For the intellectual integrity to let one's opinions be formed by the evidence (and be honest in our methodology for examining said evidence) and not contort facts to fit our own preconceived notions and ideology. Or at least to hold that as the ideal. We will always fail at times.

[/quote]

Reed9- You have been level headed in a discusiion where people usually lose their cool, and I appreciate it. But as far as the not so, I have to disagree. My point was that religion gets it from both sides. If your answer is that the ethics suggested by religion in its textual or traditional forms is always in someway flawed then at least that is an answer to the question. So I will assume that is what your saying. We could argue about what aspect of human cognitive or emotional capacities actually inform what you call reason, but for now if you don't mind lets just look at any qualititative difference betweeen much of the religous codes and the moral codes you claim are infered from our rational capacity. The quotes you gather from the bible are pretty much old testament stuff. Could you rip Jesus a new one in the same way? Even Kant had some trouble with the Nazi's at the door. So if your point is that the source of religous code will effect the outcome of said code, then indeed we should see qualitative and identifiable difference in "all" cases. Correct?

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Buddhism has no diety. Is it a religion? I'd place it in the realm of eastern psychology. An atheist would place it where?

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
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Quote polycarp2:

Buddhism has no diety. Is it a religion? I'd place it in the realm of eastern psychology. An atheist would place it where?

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

Going from the strict meaning of term "a-theist" then at least some flavors of Buddhism could well be considered atheistic. However, most folks that call themselves atheists would disavow anything in the "supernatural" realm. I don't agree with them, but words mean what they mean because we use them a certain way, rather than strictly according to the etymology.

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I am not trying to play devil's advocate. I am merely going to state my opinion.

Science is my religion. It is something I stand in wonder of and hold above my self. Science is something I recognize as being far beyond my comprehension. Yet, it is something I have been drawn to all of my life.

I apply it to almost every aspect of my life. I am passionate, (almost to the point of being a "zealot"), about science. My love for science is something I want to share with the world.

Anyway, I guess what I am attempting to say is; I can kind of understand why evangelicals feel a zeal to share their beliefs with others. Like I just stated, that's the way I feel about science.

Now, what I do not understand is the seemingly pressing need evangelicals, and other passionately religious people, have to covert others to their belief systems. And it seems if they feel they cannot convert - they must impose.

I just don't get that.

bonnie
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Mattnapa, why whould someone who thinks he would know god if he met it, want to call himself agnostic? From the originator of the word: http://www.essortment.com/all/agnosticdefinit_rmak.htm

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Is that before or after meeting god that we are applying the name? With respect maraden I do not think this really captures the point unless you really want to argue that there are a large number of folks that feel thet have an open mind to the subject are mistaken somehow. If you want to insist that this is a delusional or irrational be my guest, but I fail to see how it helps your argument other than blurring the line between atheist and agnostic. Or maybe iyou feel to even allow for a possibility is a pre-existing bias that god is even possible. Just for the record, I do not really think limiting the discussion to god is exactly on point. I think most atheists wish to argue for the mechanist vision of the universe which posits the old LaPlacian tinker toy universe. In many ways I think the argument is about the lack of humility some have for science, and the faith that put behind science to answer man enigma's. Never gonna happen in my book.

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Science is my religion.

Science is not a religion! In case you missed it, that's the point Atheists are trying to make. If Science IS a religion, then EVERYTHING is a religion.

That begs the question, what is religion?

If everything is a religion, then religion is nothing more than everything. ;)

This makes the whole point of religion moot and ultimately, that means going to church is no more "religious" than taking a crap or picking your nose.

Following this logic, if everything is or isn't religion, either way, what it means is some things are probably just MORE true than others. What this proves is that the Religious Taliban is simply passionate about being wrong and never being able to prove themselves right; meanwhile Scientists are passionate about being right while actually geting things right. There really is a huge difference in perspective here.

If one thinks that the Flying Spaghetti Monster IS god, then one must come to the table ;) and prove its noodlie existence.

I like to picture a circle with all those things that we know are in orbit around us. Let's say we are at the center. Close to us is 2+2=4. The normal cast of characters will be right by us.

And way, way, way, out in the darkness sits the normal cast of Religious, Tarot card readers, Ghost believers and similar characters of faith. And they can't even prove that the questions, THAT THEY MADE UP, are even meaningful or valid questions to ask. They have that fuzzy feeling called "faith." How nice. It all works so well just as long as you don't bother to think too much about those insane things you believe in.

Just the same, if you are a Scientist and think a bowling ball, if dropped, will follow PREDICTABLE rules that we DO understand, we can be pretty certain that if you drop that ball above your foot, you WILL be crying bloody murder. That sort of "faith" is NOT the same sort of faith we hear from Pat Robertson and likes. To equate Scientists to THAT (look of digust), I don't buy it.

We KNOW, when their bible says "let there be light" and then doesn't bother creating the objects that give us light, you KNOW their science is a bit off. Being wrong, we are fools not to put them right... We are obligated to correct their science, just as a teacher is obligated to point out that 2+2 does not equal 5.

Remember, the Religious Taliban holds All the seats of power on this planet. If we let them go unchallenged...that will TRULY be a dark place that NO god can pull us out of.

This is NOT being EVANGELICAL, it is being scientific.

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Art Junky- I believe the point is science "can" be used as a religion to some. And by the way why gravity happens is basically not understood further than "it happens." As for the faith and science question, perhaps you are not paying attention. I said there is a faith in science for some that it can answer all questions some day. Ther is another sort of faith that what we experience is indicative of an external world that matches our sensory information, but I doubt you want to go there. anyway Einstien was obsessed with doing in the nature the probabilistic tendency of elementary particles because he could not stand the idea that ther universe was based on a roll of the dice. Many folks somehow equate the certainity of scientific predictive power with proof that there is no god. Maybe that works in terms of the interventionist god, but it seems to play little role in other constuctions of a diety

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mattnapa
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote polycarp2:

Buddhism has no diety. Is it a religion? I'd place it in the realm of eastern psychology. An atheist would place it where?

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

No?

The Gods of Northern Buddhism

Many variations of Buddhism do have deities. They don't, to my knowledge, have any omnipotent deities, but they are gods, nonetheless.

However, BadLiberal is correct in that atheists usually disavow anything supernatural, not just gods, but karma, chi, reincarnation, and all of that as well.

Also interesting reading: God's Existence and Buddhist Philosophy: An interesting debate

Quote mattnapa:If your answer is that the ethics suggested by religion in its textual or traditional forms is always in someway flawed then at least that is an answer to the question.

My answer is that religion is unnecessary to developing a moral and ethical framework to live by, that many of the morals espoused in religious texts are awful, and that if we point to religious texts as a moral authority, then we are forced to accept the terrible examples along with the good. If we cherry pick just the good examples from religion, then we are tacitly admitting that our morals are not derived from said religion, but are being informed by some other standard.

Quote mattnapa:The quotes you gather from the bible are pretty much old testament stuff. Could you rip Jesus a new one in the same way?

Yes. In many regards, there are positive lessons one can take from Jesus as he is depicted in the New Testament, no doubt. I have two main quibbles with the New Testament.

1. Prior to the NT, the atrocities committed by God on people were limited at least to this world and life. It took the NT to conceive of sick doctrine of eternal damnation of everlasting torture, without hope or reprieve.

2. Jesus repeatedly admonishes people not to question, and elevates blind faith as one of the highest virtues.

For a list of other interesting and often despicable tidbits, the Skeptic's Annotated Bible is good:

Cruelty in the New Testament

Intolerance in the New Testament

I think most atheists wish to argue for the mechanist vision of the universe which posits the old LaPlacian tinker toy universe. In many ways I think the argument is about the lack of humility some have for science, and the faith that put behind science to answer man enigma's. Never gonna happen in my book.

What enigmas specifically? You're right, science can't answer questions of the meaning of life. But neither can religion. Science can debunk false pattern seeking such as you find in all manner of superstition and magical thinking, of course. I don't think there is evidence of purpose or meaning in the universe - it is indifferent to us, to our wants and desires. (By saying it's indifferent, I don't mean to imply the universe has "consciousness" though.) Any meaning or purpose to our individual lives is created by us, by our actions and relationships with other people, by how we live.

I don't think most scientifically minded folks put much stock in the "tinker toy universe", as you put it. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and Quantum Mechanics have pretty much demolished any hope we had of that. Uncertainty appears to be a fundamental aspect of reality, or at least of our ability to describe reality. But I'm comfortable with not knowing. I'd rather honestly admit ignorance than make up stories and pretend to knowledge.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

It is very interesting to read all these opinions and personal attitudes about "religion," including the debate about whether Bonnie can really say that her "religion" is science. Folks, please relax a bit. There is a lot of bad religion and bad thinking about religion around, so getting clarity about these issues is very hard.

The big mistake many are making, and one that religionist make in spades, is transforming myths and metaphors in to history and science. This is a misuse of metaphysics which is not science any more than astrology is astromony.

On the other hand, the profound joy and excitement my physicist friends get from "discovering" something new is profoundly spiritual. Their delight in not solving the mysteries of the cosmos and ending the game is a move away from the scientific dogmatism of the Newtonian expectation that science would answer all the questions and fill in the book of knowledge.

My basic point is that the utility of theism has faded or ended, at least in the sense of making sense of the cosmos or "reality." Heaven is too distant to make the metaphor of personal connection to "reality" of a Personal Lord and Savior, work in the way it did work for lots of people, including many of the scientists who forged what we know as modern science. Newtonian physics can get us to the moon. Praying to God can bring comfort and courage. Neither Newton nor theism can account for what we know about the universe.

The next point of significance is that whatever the history of the use of the word "secularism," it is by its own definition the exclusion of the sacred. The dream of a "secular meaning of the Gospel," for example, was part of the intellectual error of reality reductionism. It was like only dealing with the historical Jesus and leaving out all the mythology as if it were meaningless. That is terrible historiography and hermeneutics to begin with, but it is also a finesse on reality.

I ask the question again. Does "secular humanism" imply a humanity of utilitarianism, or is "humanism" about the morality and sacred nature of ourselves in relationship to others and the earth? What makes love powerful? We treat it like a luxury when "hard reality" requires violence because we do not account for the moral realities of our actions. I think it is of our essence, as is justice an elementary requirement for social stability. Can we talk about what makes it necessary or powerful in political and social reality? Or is it just the nice world we dream about when the shit hits the fan?

The problem with the Pink Spaghetti example is that the metaphysics are irrelevant and absurd to the deep questions of meaning and morality. It is a nice little put down on bad theism, but it does not address what theology has really been about which is the question of what it means to be human beings and what we are called to do to be ourselves.

I have also said that faith and religion are not the same thing. I think that can help us appreciate that Bonnie's religious frame is a spiritualized science. I find this in many fine intellectuals of intellectual and moral maturity and integrity. Utilitarian economic "man" is what Raj Patel identifies as a fundamental problem in THE VALUE OF NOTHING. I think "soul" is a way of talking about humanity and connection. We know that being a "consumer" is far from being a human being.

There are identified and self-affirmed religions, and then there is Wall St. I like having the theological ability to smell a bad religion like this one, and I did. People are finally realizing that our "economics" are a religion rather than a science. How did that happen? How do you tell the difference?

I think it helps to appreciate why religion is present in human society and history, both as pathology and as health. Having "no other God" is about having only Reality and not a substitute construct like an ideology. We do use intellectual constructs to imagine the world and ourselves, and we need to keep them heuristic rather than "real" as we employ metaphysics and myths to go deeper into what is real.

Some of my math/physics friends do imaginative math in dimensions beyond those we live in in the real world. It is sort of like prayer and metaphysical speculation, but unlike too many religionists, they meet and check out whether their imaginative speculation connects with the reality we live in. Good religion does the same thing. It inspires possibilities but does not deny realities. "Reality" is always what God is supposed to frame theologically. Religion is a dangerous thing and needs to be handled with care. But it does not disappear because we declare reality to be "secular."

The epistemology of the Age of Reason correctly opposes superstition and dogma. It needs to avoid its own while it also learns to respect the fact that our brains do not function like the intellectual idealists of reason would prefer. Our brain/body system interprets all the information it processes, not just rational thought.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

What Do Democrats Really Want?

Thom plus logo Thomas Friedman, the confused billionaire, told us decades ago that "free trade" is what made the Lexus a successful product when, in fact, it was decades of Japanese government subsidies and explicit tariffs that did so.
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