Having been an atheist for the majority of my life, I just wanted to know some of your opinions on the stigma associated with atheism – and with various religions. There always seems to be a barrier built up between those who are firmly set in their religious beliefs, and those who aren’t. I know whenever I have opened up about my thoughts on the subject, I am often met with criticism. “Atheist” has such a negative connotation (I have even seen some members of HE placing it in a negative light), I almost hate to define myself as one.
In high school, I began searching for more spiritual ideas (I’m not going to use “answers” here, because that would imply that one idea is right and the others wrong), thus I became more Agnostic…although I feel many religious organizations only serve to further destruction and discord, and would rather find my own sources of spirituality as opposed to confining myself to the doctrines of any particular religion. Religious differences have long been a cause of war and misunderstanding between people and entire civilizations…but that doesn’t mean that it must continue in this way. Why can’t we take what is good about religions (because they do have their positive aspects), and discard what only serves to harm humanity?
I just finished reading “Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris, which is an eye-opener and something I would recommend (especially if you think the Bible – an ancient work of literature – is an infallible source of guidance and information). Please understand that it is not my intention to “bash” or attack Christianity; I have always found religion interesting, and enjoy reading and learning about different practices and hearing about positive experiences people have had through their religion/spirituality. I feel that I have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my own spiritual learning, and want to know more. I also want to know why more people aren’t willing to have more open discussions on the subject, and consider other views rather than immediately rejecting them – one of the problems I see with confining yourself to one set of religious beliefs. The more we are able to discuss and consider ideas (this would relate to anything in life, not just religion), the more we can all learn – about humanity as a whole, and about each other as beings. I’m hoping some of you are willing to open up on the matter.
What are your religious or spiritual views (if any)? How have they changed throughout your life, and how have they affected you? How have you perceived – or been taught to perceive atheism and agnosticism? How do you view various religions, and what do you think the future of religion in society is – or is there one?
@phoebs, I grew up in a Christian home, but slowly grew away with it. To me, religion, as a whole, is generally unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, I am very spiritual (read “Conversations with God” to understand my spiritual viewpoints) and would like to learn more about all religions. My gf is currently interested in buddihsm after being atheist for most of her life, and the only quam she has so far is reincarnation.
I feel the reason atheists get bashed so is because they base their views on a very literal and scientific sense and thus argue using those tools and concepts (by logical theists, illogical theists, like my exgf’s mom and current gf’s mom think if you’re atheist you believe in the devil). Religion, by definition, purpose, and intent, lies outside the rules of physics and sciences that we go by, so why would we use them to try to prove if God is real or not? It’s like trying to see how well a fish swims by tossing it in the air.
Also, on facebook I’ve noticed this the most, is the arrogance a lot of my atheist friends have. They continue to post statuses and pictures mocking how stupid it is to believe in a god and how silly it is, how it is a lie of the mind, yadda yadda etc etc. I was talking to my gf about certain aspects of god and what people believe, and she pretty much threw her hands up and said it’s stupid. Me being a theist, I was quite hurt by her indirect attack. Have some respect for other peoples beliefs, no matter what they are. It’s quite offensive.
I don’t even think I can properly explain why religions will never agree with each other. Christians, for example, only see the light through Jesus, accepting him and submitting yourself to God, and if you don’t you’re doomed to eternal damnation. Which is why they do the good christian thing and tell everyone and force them to be christian. Then you have muslim extremists (Islam…? Forgive me, I’m not very familiar with them yet) that believe everyone that isn’t them are infidels and need to be purged. Overall, people will fight over differences more than they will unite over similarities.
Why believe in not believing in anything.
It doesn’t make any logical sense. How the hell could you possibly understand that there is no god, why would you even want to make that belief hold true – when it is only belief dictating this decision, why make the choice to have an unfulfilling belief?
It is just foolish to me.
I also grew up in a christian household, but my parents were very clear with me that I had the right to believe in whatever religion/spirituality I wanted to. It’s something I respected alot; they would take me to church, and show me their beliefs, but they always taught me that it was important to educate yourself on other beliefs so you could really know what was right for you.
At first I assumed christianity was what I believed in. But then I started to wonder, what if I had been born into a Buddhist family? Or an Islamic family? I then realized that my belief in christianity was a product of the family and culture I was born into. That began my questioning. I was never athiest, but I considered myself agnostic for a long time. I still am in a way; I can’t really ever KNOW for sure what’s out there. But after reading books like Conversations With God, the Tao Te Ching, The Perennial Philosophy, and The Power of Now, as well as educating myself on other religious and spiritual traditions, I believe there’s some kind of higher existence :D out there. I accept that I could be wrong, and there could be no higher spiritual existence at all. But I think if you look past all of the specifics of each of the major world religions they all have the same core teachings about unconditional love, positivity, forgiveness, compassion, etc. Nowadays people grossly misinterpret religions, and this ends up with disastrous results. But I read this piece by the Dalai Lama that I loved. Basically, he wrote that while Buddhism fit his mind and temperament, he believed that any religion or philosophy could help one to lead a life of positivity if used in the right way. It doesn’t matter to “God” if you’re Christian, Buddhist, Islam, or Athiest; it matters that you love the life you’ve been given and do good for the life around you.
Personally, in the end I don’t think it’s right to affirm or deny the existence of any kind of God or spiritual existence. Because you can’t prove if anything along those lines exists for sure. But at the same time you can’t disprove it. People assume that because humans have been granted the tools of logic and reason, and because logic and reason have done wonders in illuminating the mechanics of our physical universe, that logic and reason are capable of comprehending everything. We can hook up electrodes to someones head and see which nuerons in their brain fire off when exposed to stimuli that causes emotion. That’s pretty damn impressive. But that doesn’t even begin to explain the nature of what it is to be a sentient consciousness having the experience of emotion. The mechanics of emotion we’ve got down, but the nature of subjectvity is something we have yet to touch. Logic and reason are tools of great potential, but it is quite presumptuous to think they are tools of omniscient potential. Humans are capable of seeing 3.5×10^-26 % of the visual spectrum. That’s .00000000000000000000000035%. That’s fucking tiny. If so much of the visible light in front of you right now is eluding you, how can you think that your rational brain would be capable of understanding, or even simply perceiving, a potential spiritual reality? I think to prove or disprove something like God will require a highly evolved being; one capable of using reason and logic in conjunction with an entirely different medium of processing that is far beyond the imagination of the human brain.
The intuitive part of me says something’s out there. Maybe there isn’t, but something tells me there is. Exactly what it is will elude me until after the day I die, but that doesn’t mean I should ruin the fun of pondering it. I just wish people would be more open to the fact that they are of very limited perception, and can’t know anything for sure. And even if they weren’t, I wish there would be less judgement about what others believe. If you show me peace, I’ll show you peace back, regardless of what you think.
I was brought up Wiccan/Druid/Protestant. How did it affect me? It opened my eyes to the magic of the mind. To how beautifully creative it can get when it desires to spread the message of good via simplistic values. And how dangerous a mind can be when it figures out that good can be used as a force for power. That power in return reaps the benefit of glory, and to achieve a level of desired fame via a force easily understood by vulnerable people yearning for guidance. And thus, religion and cult followings are formed. People who are arrogant and power hungry feed on the sheep who are too blind to see the word for itself. Those who see the word but disagree with the idol become enraged when the blind sheep become defensive, defensive over their hopeless idea of truth. A circle of arrogance is formed, and the leaders just sit back and watch their sheep mingle with other sheep, for they have all achieved their power with a message of good.
And that leaves us with the negative. For as long as there are sheep following the hungry leaders, the word of good and love will be foreshadowed by power and faith.
@phoebs, Honestly, Ive been all over the map. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools, then in grade nine, my parents switched it up, and put me in a public school. and that changed everything. I was rasied believeing that noi other religion was right. Now, as much as I would like to agree with it, I very much dislike catholoism. I find it a very fear based religion with too many roots in the government, but thats just my opinion. When I started going to a public school, I was shown more religions, my best friends was actually a jahovas witness, and as much as I never thought I would, I agree with almost everything about jahovas witness and there beliefs. The only thing is, is i believe that every person has pretty much the same basic belief system and morals, but they percieve it in a different way, which does cuase conflict. I guess now ive just invested myself in spirituality and I now believe that God and the universe are all the same thing, that heaven and hell are just a mind state and that evolotion and craetion, are basically just the same thing. but, Im just learning, its just what makes sense to me at this point in time
I keep going between religious to atheist to agnostic.And I’m only 16.
I kept believing in the God concept till I was 13.That’s when I read Angels & Demons.Didn’t quite get most of it but one idea seemed to stick to me.There was this line where Langdon is questioned by someone what religion he follows.He says somin like,”I cannot follow a God which demands so much from his creations and failure to do so results in eternal damnation.”
That line really made me think about religion,God and our existence.
My parents never really talk about atheism or agnosticism.But I guess that’s what they all think;if you don’t believe in God,you’re the devil.And whenever they do talk about religion (not just atheism),I just casually leave the room or put on my headphones.
I view other religions as they basically teach the same thing.There are a few differences here and there but that’s about it.
The future of religion? I think it will either go on this way,but the number of atheists and agnostics increases.Or maybe Science will somehow magically prove/disprove the existence of God.
@flyingrhino, Indeed! And I have read the Conversations with God series (that was one of the first things in high school that got me more interested in spirituality as a whole). I agree that we should respect others’ views and beliefs, because they’re obviously an important aspect of that person’s life…
@benjamin, You make some great points. With such a limited perspective, how can we say what is and what isn’t in the universe? There’s so much we have left to learn. I have also read a couple of the Dalai Lama’s books…he has much wisdom that I think many could benefit from reading. :)
@alexa, Very true. Another reason I wish more people would be less passive and agreeable about what they are told, and what is put before them, and come up with their own ideas and conclusions…perhaps one day. My former roommate and friend is a Wiccan, so she has taught me some about it. She finds her spirituality in nature – something that resonates with me well (nature has always been my muse when it comes to my artwork/animation).
@ijesuschrist, While it may seem “unfulfilling” to you, keep in mind that for others this might not be the case. My first tattoo artist is an atheist, and he was perfectly happy and content with it (and willing to have an in-depth discussion about why, which unfortunately has been so long ago that I can’t remember exactly how it went).
@kellah, That does make sense. It’s kind of similar to the conclusions I keep coming to (God and the universe being essentially “the same thing” – and how we are all “One”).
@ziggy, I understand your flip-flopping! And that’s a good line…very slightly reminds me of some of George Carlin’s thoughts on religion/God.
@trek79, I like your second statement. This is definitely something to ponder.
I consider myself a Buddhist. That’s my answer when people ask, but I go my own way whenever I feel helps further me along in my pursuit for whatever the hell it is I’m searching for. I know a lot of atheists that say they’re atheist because they’re “too smart” for religion or because they had one religion stuffed down their throat all during their childhood and decided all were wrong. If you went through an agnostic phase, searching for one and looking around, that’s better, in my opinion. You were smart enough to give them a chance. And you chose atheism. More power to you. I looked around, read The Bible, Qur’an, Bhavagad Gita, I Ching, and Tao Te Ching. I found that the Tao was what I was looking for for the most part. Ever since I “broke free” of the Catholic Church, my mindset has been that I cannot possibly begin to understand a higher being if there is one without first understanding myself. It could be argued that I am an atheist, seeing as I dont believe in a guy with a beard on a cloud or a guy with 40 arms, or someone throwing thunderbolts. I think of my path as a philosophy more than a religion. But that’s another discussion entirely.
@phoebs, I’d wager he could be in an even more blissful state. . .
This is how I look at it;
There is no possible way to prove or indicate that there is or is not a God.
Once you understand that you don’t really understand reality or any of this stuff, then why not remain agnostic, and really seek out a belief that fulfills you more so than an decaying casket.
Most atheists to me seem to carry it over from spite and anger from a young age. Around 8-17 people really start to question this kind of stuff, and if they are the intelligent questioner, born and raised religious or with many religious friends they start departing from that because the Bible doesn’t make sense. Then something irrational happens; Since the Bible doesn’t make sense, there is no God.
The bible was not written by god, it was not written by any overwhelmingly incredible and knowledgeable source. We don’t even know who wrote the bible – at any rate, take the entire book with a grain of salt. But the bible is one interpretation of why we are here, and it has no actual proof any more than any other belief of why we are here. So why throw out all possibilities of something of an afterlife and an understanding of a god, simply out of spite for one other religion. Of course not all atheists, but the resounding majority I were born into atheism like this.
Slowly, I’m sure people can become content with atheism, but I highly doubt it was born from contentedness.
I wonder if most atheists smoke marijuana or not. That is an interesting question to me.
@ijesuschrist, I agree, but to each his own. My own atheism wasn’t really born from anger or spite…it was just that my parents were never religious. I suppose now I’m more agnostic. If they are content believing (or rather, disbelieving) what they do, then why not leave them to it? Also, I know plenty of people, (Christians, atheists, agnostics, you name it) who smoke. ;)
@bongodeburrito, …another discussion that is more than welcome here! I’m all about finding your own path and (as I said previously) taking what works for you from certain religions. I also agree that it is important to first understand yourself, something I am trying more and more to do. Have you ever read The Tao of Pooh? :D
@phoebs, Funnily enough I made up that reasoning while writing a story about Jesus, it was in the water to wine part. I will quickly break down how that bit goes.
Jesus asks the couple to join hands then draw water form the well, they struggle but they work together and succeed, as a married couple should. He then instructs them to use their free hands to take water from the vessel and drink. They confirm it to be water, then he tells them to use the hands that are joined and they find it to be wine. An example of the power of the love of God and how it is like water and people are a vessel that can over-flow with that love.
But I certainly respect philosophies that fortify moral behaviour without asking for the belief in things that are beyond proving, that is supposed to be the only real point of religion and if you can find the motivation to be a good person without metaphysical faith then that is all that really counts in my book.
@phoebs, As cool of a guy as Lao Tzu was, he and I are two different people (or the same, depending on which vinegar taster you ask) so we’ve got different things that work for us. Your life dictates its own spiritual needs. So I believe the best way to a fulfilling spiritual life is to take bits and pieces that fit you out of each religion. Sadly, it works both ways and I’ve seen a lot of people take only the parts they want, like the stereotypical asshole Christian. Sadly it bodes true in more cases than not.
I think I may have heard of it before. I just looked it up on wiki. I might have to add that to my library.
@phoebs, I’d like to see a correlation between different religions and marijuana (or other entheogen) use. It would be meaningful to me!
If they are content I don’t care. But a lot of atheists, even on this site, seem to want to convert everyone to atheism, its the same as the spreading of religion in my book.
Convert to atheism or you’re stupid!
Convert to Christianity or you’re stupid!
If an atheist is content with being an atheist I don’t care then, but I feel like its usually going to erk you in some way or another to have such a limited belief.
@phoebs, I also grew up as Christian (catholic) and when I was teenager I decided to become atheist.
I was atheist during a long time in my life and I felt pretty embarrassed and stupid at first when I started to notice that God exists, and how I was actually so ignorant to think I knew better than the older people that teach me when I was a child.
During the years I was atheist, I had no wish of becoming a better person, or thinking about my soul and about life and purity. I thought science would teach me everything! I also read books and thought they would also teach me everything I need.
Now I think many scientists are people that are afraid of what they can’t know. They are control freaks… they want to understand everything, and what could be not-understandable, they consider unreal, imagination or myth. There are so many things that they will never be able to answer! Near death-experiences, miraculous cures, people that float with meditation, mediums that speak to spirits, etc. When you are atheist, you look for answers and deduct it could be the power of mind, fraud, hallucination… It seems so hard to accept that there is a God… and you know why?
Because they are afraid of God! Or they think God wouldn’t accept them! Or they think it was all an old impossible myth, because they can’t explain it and figure out! All negative! I can’t find a positive side of atheism!
In the end, if you want to REALLY know if God exist or not (without being afraid of finding the answer you won’t like at first), search for example the history of Chico Xavier (he could speak to spirits and did amazing things with his power), search about the weeping saints (many are scientifically proven as miracle), search about people that have near-death experience (a great documentary called “the day I died” will impress you!) .
When you put the answers together, you will see that there is no way God doesn’t exist! You’ll also understand that God was not like Christians, Muslims, Buddhists teach you… God is much better!
@prittii, I can’t express enough how much I love this comment. On the positives of atheists, though, one of the top quantum physicists said that he would rather believe everything was a beautiful accident than engineered by a higher power. But on the flip side, one of my electronic professors said the more he learned about creation, the more he realized the was some sort of higher being that helped make it all. so to each his own, I guess.
@flyingrhino, One of the things I don’t try to understand is creation. I’m not sure if I think God is a being with “consciousness” to “engineer” the whole universe, or if he is just an energy of happiness and love and just provided the power for everything to happen by itself.
I think it’s impossible to be sure, so I just try to focus on the love, life, beauty of everything, travel, see the world… Because if we try too hard to understand things we will never be able to proof, we fall back into the atheist scientists negativity of trying to “control” reality and trying to be able to explain everything. ;)