The Godless Voice on Capitol Hill
Lori Lipman Brown is the first registered lobbyist in Washington dedicated to atheists and other nonbelievers.
02/15/2006 08:15:27 AM
The origin of this rule is to permit forced converts to Christianity to resume the practice of Judaism after the danger pasted without the embarrassment of a formal conversion. An apostate otherwise has no standing as being Jewish. You can voluntarily leave the Jewish community – I do not believe the child of a voluntary apostate would be considered Jewish. When apostate groups appear, that can trace Jewish origin, and seek immigration to Israel as Jews, they must undergo conversion. “Jews for Jesus” are not considered Jewish either. This group is part of the Baptist Church. Orthodox is the most liberal in acceptig back apostates. Many of their norms have been frozen from the middle ages.
02/15/2006 06:59:21 AM
Paul, you are Jewish in the sight of Orthodox Judaism. If you're born a Jew, you're always a Jew - there's no going back. An Orthodox shul would still recognise your mother as a Jew, even though she doesn't practise the faith, and by their definition that makes you one too. You must remember that Judaism is far more than a set of religious beliefs.
02/14/2006 11:12:41 PM
EZ: Technically, I'm not half-jewish. My mother converted to Catholicism before I was concieved. Chrs, P
02/14/2006 10:13:13 PM
paul: You can't be half Jewish. You are either Jewish or Gentile. If your mother was Jewish you could join a congregation without conversion. Reform would accept you based on your self identification without conversion. For anyone interested in Judaism, you should not start with mysticism. Without a sound foundation in rational thought and normative Judaism, you would get nothing of real value from it, other than misunderstanding. If there is a CHBAD near you they give you the flavor linked to normative practice. Some aspects are not for general consumption.
02/14/2006 10:12:40 PM
"Anyone who thinks they know with certainty anything is foolish." I'm almost absolutely certain that's correct.
02/14/2006 05:27:40 PM
H4C: Right on, brother. It sure is more interesting. EZ: I'm really interested in Jewish mysticism. I started reading about Kabbalah a while back but didn't get to spend any real time with it due to graduate studies. I'm familiar with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and vaguely familiar with Indian mysticism...but Kabbalah is something I'd like to learn more about. Being half-jewish, I almost feel obligated ;) Cheers, Paul
02/14/2006 05:03:30 PM
Paul, Your argument sounds like the classic "first cause" argument. As for other universes, my understanding was that the rate of expansion vs the overall gravitational attraction makes it a very close call as to whether expansion will 1) continue forever, slowing asymtotically but never coming to a complete halt; or 2) stop, at which point contraction will commence, ultimately leading to a Big Crunch. Apparently, the data seem so finely balanced that scientists are not sure which scenario is correct. #1 suggests a unique Big Bang; #2 suggests a cosmic oscillation between Big Bangs that expand for a time and then contract to a Big Crunch that leads to another Big Bang. All I know is that this stuff is a heck of lot more interesting than doctrinal debates on whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father alone or from the Father and the Son.
02/14/2006 04:50:11 PM
Paul: The Jewish mystical system embraces both #1 & #2. There is also #3. The big bang happened more than once. The parallel universes are close to the primal point “Ein Sof” (no thing) in terms of causality, not space or time. There have been previous universes that have collapsed back into non-existence. All this is expressed in non-scientific language, highly figurative. The concept is that our known universe, that includes everything, physical and spiritual and operates by our laws of physics, has parallel universes, that are outside our measurement of reality, that are affected by our reality and in turn our reality is affected by them. Figuatively speaking Ein Soff (no thing) had to “contract” to permit existence.
02/14/2006 04:31:32 PM
Man, I love talking with you guys. In terms of my so-called "reasonable faith", it simply is this: Either all of our frameworks for deriving conclusions from premises are all broken, or there exists some entity outside of space-time. Why? Because all of the data we have regarding the big bang point to it as a singular event that happened ONCE in the past. In the end, there are only seem to be two reasonable hypotheses: 1) the universe was created and designed ex nihilo at a singularity, by an unobserved cause (call it God). 2) there are an infinite number of other universes, all unobservable, which may serve to explain why our universe has the particular qualities it does. However, this still suffers from the problem of explaining where all of these infinite universes came from. I'll choose #1, since it has less parameters and makes fewer assumptions. Other arguments to the effect that the universe has always existed do not square with inflationary data. Best, Paul
02/14/2006 04:20:42 PM
LivingEZ, "You really have to “choose to believe”" I think I see that in others, but the corrolary to that is I choose NOT to believe. I honestly can't see that. I tried my darndest TO believe and I just couldn't. It's like I have no choice but to be skeptical about God.
02/14/2006 04:16:13 PM
Jack: “Sometimes I think that for me, "agnosticism" is my most truthful answer. I REALLY don't know. That is my truth. The rest seems to be opinion.” Anyone who thinks they know with certainty anything is foolish. My conceptions of God are supplied to me by my culture. You really have to “choose to believe” because there is no certainty. Ultimately God is outside time, space and even existence. I can not really conceive of non-existence because any “void” is conceived with reference to something. How can I expect to really conceive of the true essence of God? My religion supplies a paradigm that works. It, however, is a conceptual model, not God. Think of your most abstract concept of primal points of thought and values as being but a garment of God. It conceals God but you can get some sense of what is behind the garment. It is not literal. I don’t see a problem with being an agnostic who chooses to have some faith in what he doesn’t really know with certainty. We call that healthy skepticism.
02/14/2006 04:04:43 PM
I wish I could contribute something scholarly to this discussion, but I can't. My sense of God is experiential, not based on reason. (However, I know that some leading scientists participate in an ongoing forum on these topics; unfortunately, their discourse involves concepts derived from realms of science that far exceed my nuts-and-bolts understanding by way of clinical medicine.) Could I be wrong? Could I, in a sense, just be talking to myself when I let myself experience the presence of God within me? Sure. As jacknky observes, we really don't know with certainty. And since we don't and can't know the answer, I don't spend any time fretting over it. What I do know is that my perspective, accurate or not, won't lead me astray - I won't hate or kill anyone for having contrary beliefs, and I won't go off on a spree of crime and debauchery even if I knew for sure that there is no God.
02/14/2006 03:42:23 PM
LivingEZ, "My belief in God, however, is derived from reason." I find that an interesting statement, just as Paul's statement that he bases his belief in God on the natural world. I can't relate to a belief in God being based on reason or a naturalistic view. I agree with what you said to Paul. Not only does it seem that words have different meanings for many of us but it almost seems as though we live on different planets. In my world, reason and the natural do not lead to supernatural explanations. I guess it's just expressing our human values and needs in different ways.
02/14/2006 03:36:33 PM
"However, if my sense of God within us is correct, then atheism would represent an inner conflict in which the intellect denies what the spirit senses..." Or, atheism could represent the triumph of reason over fear. Sometimes I think that for me, "agnoticism" is my most truthful answer. I REALLY don't know. That is my truth. The rest seems to be opinion.
02/14/2006 03:33:39 PM
Paul: You stimulated conversaation but frankly we are talking a different language. I do not understand most of the jargon you uses. Our definitions are also different. We use the same words to mean different things.
02/14/2006 03:32:02 PM
(3) I am fully Jewish, but I put great authority in Torah, Jewish law and world view. My belief in God, however, is derived from reason. I am secular in that I reject ecclesiastical control, although I do consider Jewish legal and moral scholarship as authoritive, precisely because it is grounded in reason. I approach the Bible as a cultural record of my history, legal, literary and religious thought. Judaism has always put emphasis in the practical. Its development of norms has been incremental through law and individual decision in real cases. Judaism requires a person be grounded in the practical prior to the enjoying the luxury of Mysticism. I am a “Mystic”, I love the paradigm of “God and creation” that Jewish mysticism presents. I enjoy the intense emotion and direct sense of divinity that it creates.
02/14/2006 03:30:53 PM
(2) Secular meaning not under the control of the church. Humanist in believing man, his interests and development should be central and dominant, not worrying about saving souls and counting how many angles can dance on the head of a pin. Thus intellectual emphasis is in terms of the cultural and practical.
02/14/2006 03:29:46 PM
HFC (1) “Secular humanism is NOT synonymous with atheism. However, if my sense of God within us is correct, then atheism would represent an inner conflict in which the intellect denies what the spirit senses...” - Well put. Academics needs categories, you fit the definition of a Deist since believe is not derived from revelation but reason in combination with subjective experience. Many people who believe in a “God” are also secular humanists.
02/14/2006 03:13:18 PM
Paul, "Why do you relate what's in the Bible, Koran, or other religious doctrine with ontological or existential claims about reality?" I don't Many theists do and that's what I react to. Admittedly, I'm very reactionary to growing up and living in the Bible Belt. Also, Paul, being a scientist I'd love for you to briefly explain the statement "my belief in God is squared with what we know about nature".
02/14/2006 03:05:19 PM
Paul, "Why does what you see make a bit of difference to the way things ARE." Good, basic question. I defer to you on issues of science. On a personal level though, what I see, what I experience, IS my reality. The more I see clearly the more difference what I see makes. Before I meditated, "Love one another" was mostly words in a book. When I began to SEE the way I am similar to others, our connectedness, when I began to notice how much more rewarding my life is when I infuse it with caring for others, then "Love one another" has much more impact on me. I realize you were talking about science, not personal experience. "Science claims that approximately 96% of the world is unobservable." I hadn't heard that. Why is so much of the world "unobservable"?
02/14/2006 03:04:53 PM
nnmns: What I'm claiming is that on the scale of religious creeds (ascending based on the number of assumptions each requires), I'd imagine that most people are at the minimum, Deists, accepting the agency of some immaterial entity as being central to the order of the universe, where agency requires only the ability to choose (and bring about some state of affairs). Any ascriptions made to this agency beyond these basics will always be contentious. As far as beliving in God at death's door, I'm not claiming that everyone converts...rather that the human psyche naturally seeks its own preservation..or at least hopes for such. Whether this translates into a conversion experience should be subject to a case-by-case analysis. Best, Paul
02/14/2006 02:55:01 PM
"I think there are only a small number of people who would make negative existential claims regarding God, thoough they may have serious concerns about the properties (omniscience, omnibenevolence, etc.) that are ascribed to Him. I see these hard-core few as having conflated religiosity with existential beliefs concerning the immaterial." If I'm understanding you, you are saying almost no one believes the world doesn't contain something beyond what we can see, but that something could be pretty much anything and it's ok to call it "God". continued below
02/14/2006 02:54:23 PM
continued above I don't know about the almost no one, but the willingness to call, say, the laws of physics (whatever they turn out to be) "God" in our society is grossly misleading. The majority of people around here, I'm pretty sure, view "God" as a supremely powerful, supremely intelligent creature with whom one can, now or after death, hold a discussion. So to them, to say virtually everyone who dies believes in "God" means we all come around to their view. And we don't! My parents didn't. I'm sure I could come up with a long list of famous people who didn't. So please let's don't propagate what amounts to a lie.
02/14/2006 02:16:56 PM
Precisely, Jack. If I was going to grossly generalize, I'd take that experience and say that the UU church, IN GENERAL, or in whole, was just packed full of abrasive atheists. I didn't. I said, and I meant, a FEW. It actually syncs with the poster I was talking to's experiences as well. Hardly an impossible scenario. And given that I'm an atheist, do you think that if I was going to generalize, it would be over how many obnoxious atheists there were? Sheesh. I was AGREEING with her experience.
02/14/2006 02:15:32 PM
Jack: Love is a universal theme. I was just presenting an example. Why does what you see make a bit of difference to the way things ARE. The whole perception = knowledge obsession in the Enlightenment is what has kept its high-priests from crushing postmodern dissent. General relativity and it's implications are among the most rigorously tested, and most predictive of scientific assertions. As someone on this board has said: Science claims that approximately 96% of the world is unobservable. Let Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and the rest of them fool about with their 4%. Why do you relate what's in the Bible, Koran, or other religious doctrine with ontological or existential claims about reality? These texts serve as interpretations of reality..or perhaps even metaphorical descriptions, but certainly not science-books. The fact that fundamentalists treat them in such a way is (perhaps) a failure of creed...but has no import on whether or not God exists. Best, Paul
02/14/2006 02:12:17 PM
Yes Heretic, I've noticed you and I think very similarly (You're more eloquent, I admit) except you ascribe that basic wisdom and compassion as God or "from God". The difference may be as simple as my Baptist upbringing leaving the word "God" as a hot-button for me.
02/14/2006 02:11:39 PM
Paul, Re: Christian nation. Sorry, I still disagree. Values have indeed shaped many elections, but there is no such thing as "Christian values" - that is, values that are unique to Christianity as distinct from Judaism, Islam, and other belief systems. The only thing unique to any religion is its own dogma - and dogma is not a value. So it can be argued that America is a religious society, de facto if not de jure, I see no basis for saying that we are a Christian nation; if we were, we'd be a theocracy.
02/14/2006 02:07:03 PM
jacknky, Great minds, etc... I've described it as trusting a book that describes rainbows as jagged black patches versus trusting my own awareness that they are arcs of color.
02/14/2006 02:03:23 PM
"Love one another is absolutely basic to the human condition. It was Jesus' greatest commandment." aarrgghh....Paaaull. My point was that no particular religion has an inside track on this kind of basic human wisdom. "Personally, I'm a just-the-facts kinda guy, and my belief in God is squared with what we know about nature." I find these kinds of statements from you very interesting. I ain't no scientist but I fail to see the supernatural in the world in which I live. It's as though the Bible, Koran, etc. say the sky is red but when I look all I see is blue.
02/14/2006 01:52:55 PM
jack: A wonderful and insightful posting. In terms of your questions regarding fear of death, etc..I think that in some part, fear plays a big role, but also the question of purpose, meaning, and the uniqueness of the human person. My contention is that for the vast majority of people, fear or misery in the next life (or next incarnation), or the unimaginability of one's own non-existence play a motivating factor in religiosity. Personally, I'm a just-the-facts kinda guy, and my belief in God is squared with what we know about nature. I try not to make claims about the nature of God...but it seems clear to me that He exists. Love one another is absolutely basic to the human condition. It was Jesus' greatest commandment. Cheers, Paul
02/14/2006 01:39:53 PM
H4C: Touche. I misspoke. Secular Humanism isn't atheism, and I apologize to any humanists reading that post who felt misrepresented. In terms of America's Christian identity, in an official capacity we are a secular, predominantly Christian nation, but in any nation where governance is the result of the will of the people, it is ultimately the identity of the people which shapes the (pragmatic) classification of a nation. Whole elections have been won and lost in recent years over "values" issues. In terms of your deathbed experiments, I'm not sure they've ever been done, but I think there are only a small number of people who would make negative existential claims regarding God, thoough they may have serious concerns about the properties (omniscience, omnibenevolence, etc.) that are ascribed to Him. I see these hard-core few as having conflated religiosity with existential beliefs concerning the immaterial. Best, Paul
02/14/2006 01:33:48 PM
Paul. I would contend that all cultures die whether godful or godless. "In terms of secular humanism, it's a nice idea, but not compatible with the human psychological condition. Even avowed atheists like Stalin and A.J. Ayer supplicated on thier deathbeds." How much of the "human psychological condition" associated with religion would you say is based on fear? fear of death, loss, suffering? Is it your contention that belief in the existence of a supernatural being is necessary in dealing with human fear and suffering? There are some Buddhists, myself included, who would not accept that contention, Buddhists who use the tools of meditation and contemplation to see and understand THIS world more clearly, not postulate on a next one. There are very human truths available through religions. One is not required to accept life after death, eternal damnation or any of that to access those truths. "Love one another" is basic to the human condition, if we are not too ignorant to see it. Peace...
02/14/2006 01:22:51 PM
Paul, With respect, America is not and never was a Christian nation; we are a secular constitutional republic in which the majority of citizens happen to be Christians. I suspect it is nigh impossible to create a sound-bite explanation for the fall of an entire culture, and so I question the assertion that non-religious societies are prone to collapse. I also question the meaning of deathbed conversions by avowed atheists; would it not be more meaningful to survey the families of deceased atheists and see how rare or common such conversions really are? And keep in mind that some who call themselves atheists are really agnostics. I don't see why secular humanism is incompatible with the human psyche, but perhaps hard-core atheism is. Secular humanism is NOT synonymous with atheism. However, if my sense of God within us is correct, then atheism would represent an inner conflict in which the intellect denies what the spirit senses.
02/14/2006 12:52:50 PM
jack: Well, my quote had nothing to do with society evolving. Certainly all societies evolve. I'm talking about the death of cultures...like the fall of Rome. In terms of secular humanism, it's a nice idea, but not compatible with the human psychological condition. Even avowed atheists like Stalin and A.J. Ayer supplicated on thier deathbeds. Again, it's hard not to do, but I wish people would confuse existence claims about God with official religious explanations for various natural phenomena. The assertion "God exists" is wholly seperate from any religious institution, although most institutions take it as a defining assumption. Peace, Paul
02/14/2006 12:35:33 PM
Paul, "Where God dies, society withers. It's an axiom of history." ALL societies whither, whether with God or without. Societies are living entities and like all life, are born and ultmately die to allow for new societies. Personally, I believe the longer we cling to the "old ways" in meeting new challenges the quicker this society will pass along to another. White slave-holding males are no longer the majority in our country's decision making. Women and minorities have to be given voices. And as science continues to answer the questions religion used to answer, perhaps secular humanism will be allowed a more important role. Who knows, maybe someday we'll even have a woman or black or non-Christian president.
02/14/2006 12:23:06 PM
kannbrown, I guess if it was your experience that there was a ton of obnoxious atheiests in a few UU churches then that was your experience.
02/14/2006 12:06:29 PM
nnmns: I think the only thing entailed by my statement is that throughout America's short history, we've been a decidedly Christian nation, standing in contrast to EZ's assertion. I never claimed that we should reinstitute religion as practiced by pilgrims, and thus I think witch burnings are out of the question. I just hope that your commentary was meant jokingly rather than a serious rejoinder. -P
02/14/2006 11:59:31 AM
"what did the pilgrims come to America for? They came to practice thier own brand of Christianity." I always heard they came for religious freedom. But if your statement is correct and if we presume we should still be doing what the Pilgrims came to do, then we need to dust off the records of their sermons and, I guess, find public places for witch burnings. Glad I'm a guy.
02/14/2006 10:51:46 AM
EZ: It's really incumbant on the litigant's legal counsel to advise against frivolity. Usually this doesn't happen, in the interest of greed. I agree that religious denominationalism will either fade or come full-circle in a reactionary way (depending on world events). Secular humanism will probably never become a dominant force in any country. Even in Europe, most studies suggest that 75-85 percent of Europeans believe in some sort of God, yet many do not identify with a religious body. This "anti-establishment" attitude has been conflated with atheism, and the two aren't comparable. IMHO,(scientific) secular humanism is basically a rehash of the Enlightenment in rigor mortis. Reductive materialism is a great way to DO science, but wildly incompatible with what we know about matter, energy and mentation. Where God dies, society withers. It's an axiom of history. Personal belief aside, churches provide a nucleus for family values and the basics for morality. Best, Paul
02/14/2006 08:32:04 AM
Paul:It is not the judge’s place to dismiss law suites as nonsensical without a hearing. If was so called “nonsensical” litigation that established the rules that we now follow. Courts had to decide what had become “cultural” and what had its primary function to advance religion. Each case was heard on its own merits. That is how we make good laws. Judges don’t paint with a broad brush. Law changes incrementally in a living Society. Christianity is not monolithic, there being 30,000 denominations. By 2050 America will have a white minority and a very large and growing Muslim minority. If we go the European route the percentage of believing Christians will continue to dwindle. Secular humanism will become the dominate force, not only in academics but among the ordinary man. Christian churches are seeing growth only in Africa and Latin America. There are probably people who considered every landmark legal achievement as “frivolous”.
02/14/2006 07:55:19 AM
LivingEZ: Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that these things were banned, per se. I meant to imply that frivolous lawsuits to these ends are actually seriously considered by the courts rather than being dismissed out of hand as being nonsensical. And to answer your question about Judeo-Christian heritage: what did the pilgrims come to America for? They came to practice thier own brand of Christianity. While there is no official state religion, every president has been (at least a professed) Christian. Cheers, Paul
02/14/2006 12:21:40 AM
And one cannot forget all the wonderful Native American religions that were practiced here long before Christianity arrived with the first Europeans!
02/13/2006 10:51:12 PM
Paul: “, America was founded by … governed by a white Christian majority…Judeo-Christian symbolism will remain. I … can't see…a burden… there are Christmas trees in the most secular of European nations. Only in THIS country have we gone to the hilarious extreme of erecting "holiday trees." : You have fallen victim to the right wing sectarian straw man. Our courts have held that Christmas trees and Santa Claus are allowed on government property. There is no government holiday tree. The Christmas liturgy may be performed in pubic schools, as may Gospel music. Happy Holidays makes the cash registers ring louder, and is a product of “extending the selling season.” Nothing to do with government. My pet peeve – there is no such thing as a “Judeo-Christian” heritage. There is a Judeo – Greek heritage. Modern concepts of due process, equal protection, as well as social and economic justice were borrowed from Jewish Law. Science, democratic government, and standards of beauty are Greek. What is Christian?
02/13/2006 07:28:11 PM
Jacky, How is noting that there's a few (I had BEEN in those) that had a ton of abrasive atheists in any sense a gross generality? A generality wouldn't involve just a 'few', now would it? To state it was wrong would be to say there were NONE, and that would be a generality.
02/13/2006 01:39:45 PM
Paul, Thanks for the clarification. Yes, Pres. Bush stated his support for teaching ID, but I don't know if that statement constitutes the formal position of this administration.
02/13/2006 01:26:51 PM
H4C, Four our sake, I hope so too. Government ties to evangelical Christianity is downright scary. It harms the public trust, and does nothing but reinforce labels imposed upon the average American by the rest of the world's citizens. However, I don't think that the administration has officially endorsed the teaching of ID in the classroom (at least I hope not). I think GWB endorses such a policy, but it doesn't seem to be an official proclamation by the administration. Further, the problem with any document, be it the Holy Bible or the U.S. Constitution is that it was written by men in a certain social context for other men living in that same context. I think the founding fathers are weeping in the next life because of how we've maligned and twisted a set of principles that they established, without regard for morality or ethics. Best, Paul
02/13/2006 12:51:12 PM
Christmas trees have been mentioned as an example of extremism in opposition to infringements on church-state separation. I agree in principle; this should be a non-issue. However, when government itself is acting in harmony with fundamentalists who deny that such a thing as church-state separation even exists, then ANY infringement becomes horribly dangerous, even when the issue at hand seems trivial. In other words, Christmas trees (which of course are not even religious EXCEPT for the name) would not be an issue at all if it were not for the fact that this administration that has publicly declared its support for the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classes. (And by the way, story in the news today reports that churches across America are saying that there is no conflict between science and faith, and that evolution poses no threat to Christianity. I hope it means that rational Christians are finally telling fundamentalists to shove it.)
02/13/2006 10:51:50 AM
Good to see you, Jack. Well, it could really just be a function of my field of expertise more than anything else. I haven't hung around enough physics or chemistry graduate seminars to get a feeling one way or the other. However, in the world of cognitive science, prevailing opinion is that man is just an overly adapted byproduct of his environment. I'm very much against black-and-white thinking, and it seems as if our political institutions have become more polarized rather than less, which scares the bejeezus out of me. Like it or lump it, America was founded by and predominantly governed by a white Christian majority. Ultimately, some Judeo-Christian symbolism will remain. I just can't see how this imposes a burden. I wouldn't go to a Middle-Eastern country and ask for an Imam to stop praying over a loudspeaker. Geez, there are Christmas trees in the most secular of European nations. Only in THIS country have we gone to the hilarious extreme of erecting "holiday trees."
02/13/2006 10:50:41 AM
"where atheism is propped up: mostly in the university" If that's where it's happening it doesn't seem to be working. But I've been a professor and I, and I think most of my colleagues, took care to not involve my religion or lack thereof with my teaching. I had too much to cover as it was without distractions. I did have a fundamentalist colleague who involved himself with some sort of Christian student group that met on campus. I doubt that ever harmed him.
02/13/2006 10:11:10 AM
paul.bello, "where atheism is propped up: mostly in the university" I've attended and worked in universities in the South most of my adult life and I don't find that to be true. Living in the Bible Belt, I don't find atheism "propped up" much of anywhere except in our little UU congregation, where we are just one of many diverse value systems. From my standpoint, there sometimes seems to be a knee-jerk reaction among some Christians that if you don't agree with us you're against us. Of course, that kind of black-and-white thinking can be found in any group, including atheists. I am sometimes embarrassed by the small minds exhibited by some atheists sometimes on these boards. But have you noticed that "If you're not for us you're against us." thinking amongst Christians?
02/13/2006 10:02:59 AM
paul.bello, "I think organizations like the ACLU have gone much too far in reverse-discriminating against harmless pomp like Christmas trees and the like." This ACLU card-carrying liberal atheist tends to agree with you. As long as my tax dollars aren't being used to promote any particular religion I'm down with Christmas trees. Peace...
02/13/2006 09:59:28 AM
credo, Wonderful post. Thank you. I'm glad I don't have to type your handle in every time I log on, though. Peace...
02/13/2006 09:57:01 AM
and to address nnmns's question concerning where atheism is propped up: mostly in the university, and mostly by reactionary leftists who oppose fundamentalism, and in the process do injustice to the vast majority of non-fundamentalist believers who have a dynamic, evolving faith, and who see intellectual discovery as a buttress rather than a destroyer of faith. Unfortunately, in academe, all sides are NOT presented equally and those with the audacity to question the quality of data interpretation given by the established cognoscenti are utterly marginalized. Best, Paul
02/13/2006 09:54:58 AM
kann, "Odd. Maybe the UU church. They seem to have a few that (oddly) have a ton of atheists in them, and pretty abrasive types." First, there's nothing "odd" about atheists being in a UU church. The UU's celebrate the search for truth and wisdom, not any particular set of dogmatic beliefs. Secondly, it's been my experience that, while there are some obnoxious athiests there, I doubt there are any more obnoxious people than in any other group. Third, you seem to have a propensity of speaking in gross generalities about groups of people. Even though I'm an atheist I find myself agreeing more with wifeinlove, who seems to understand that you can find all kinds of people in any group, including wise, compassionate people and selfish jerks.
02/13/2006 09:50:04 AM
wifeinlove: Maybe youre trying to be a little provocative? Maybe Im wrong though ;) No, I don't think I'm trying to be provocative. As an atheist and a English literature grad, the Bible, is, well, "literature." Being raised Catholic, I do find the deuterocanonicals to be very interesting. In fact, Susanna once was called the most perfect short story ever written. And it's subject content is very contemporary, especially in the Catholic world.
02/13/2006 09:48:55 AM
All, Thanks for a thoughtful and insightful discussion so far. I have a bit of a different take on matters of the "underrepresented atheist minority." My main scientific collaborator is a non-believer, and I am Roman Catholic. We've had some absolutely fascinating conversations (some of which have been heated), but in the end, it's back to work for us at the end of the day. While I certainly endorse a seperation of church and state, I think organizations like the ACLU have gone much too far in reverse-discriminating against harmless pomp like Christmas trees and the like. Some of the violence and trash on TV is reprehensible by any standard, believer or not, all in the name of the first amendment. Decency is irrespective of creed. I think the vast majority of theists are concerned about restoring a standard of decency in this country for the sake of our kids. contd..
02/13/2006 09:48:00 AM
"But lately it has been more of the former[Atheist preach against Believers], and often in such a cruel way, insulting intelligence and beliefs." cknuck, where is this happening? What are the "pulpits" from which all this anti-Believer preaching is happening? The radio dial is full of stations where Believers attack Atheists and others regularly, and TV has its share. There is the occasional magazine with an atheist slant but also Christian magazines with many times the subscribers. My daily paper, a relatively good one, has a column wherein atheism is occasionally pronounced a poor choice at best but no column pointing out the manifold problems of Christianity. Where is all this happening? I want to listen in!
02/13/2006 07:22:51 AM
I often wonder what to do about these things when Atheist preach against Believers and Believers against Atheist. But lately it has been more of the former, and often in such a cruel way, insulting intelligence and beliefs. Within myself I will try to follow a truce and let the chips fall where they may.
02/13/2006 05:46:05 AM
Credo, Welcome to Beliefnet. What you wrote is as fine a creedal statement as your user name!
02/13/2006 04:21:12 AM
Agreed with the article. To much condescension when it comes to Atheism. Atheists should be treated like anyone else in this country. They aren't different, and certainly have no less moral values than theistic people. The problem is that firstly most Theistic people don't have any exposure to Atheists or Atheism, and usually don't have any exposure to other belief systems in general. The second problem is that most religions teach "If you follow God, and these set of rules, you will become a good person." Hence, Theists conclude that since Atheists dont follow a God or a specific set of rules... that they must not be good people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Atheists should be given the same courtesy any other group is given. Government should stop trying to intertwine itself with religion. In fact, government should stay out of the religion business all together.
02/12/2006 11:26:01 PM
EZ, worth a try but a hard sell to get them to partake.
02/12/2006 10:57:40 PM
02/12/2006 10:54:38 PM
nn: I have often thought that funding a campaign of “critical analysis and thought” aimed at the sectarian right wing would be a good idea. Many adherents are trapped in a cult. They are taught that if they loose faith they will go to hell or God won’t love them. Would you want your mother or father to reject you! Critical thought is bound to alter blind faith. Thinking is liberating, but freedom brings responsibility and doubt. Who knows, some of the liberated may become atheists, some moderate Christians, some may explore other alternatives. In any case, in the true spirit of American freedom, we have an obligation to liberate those trapped in emotional and/or intellectual slavery. To think is to be free. What could be more patriotic American?
02/12/2006 10:31:04 PM
Atheists don't fund missionaries. Who knows what we might do if we could get organized, but we do not. Christians do. Christians proselytize way more!
02/12/2006 09:42:28 PM
Kann:... "And I agree, HFC. For anyone who realises that their religion either isn't, or may not remain the majority, or in power.. It is in their best interests to keep the government from interfering in their religious practices. Even if it means that the same courtesy is extended to those they disagree with.".... True, True, very True! Being a minority my beliefs and practices are challenged every day by the very existence of the majoriy culture whoes view of reality is taken as truth. Imagine how offensive Jesus worship is to Judaism. American culture in inudated with the message Judaism is false and Christian aren't even aware. Christiantiy turns my culture into myth. My scripture is totaly revised into something I can't even identify. Very few American know anything of Judaism. What they think they know is Christian revisionism.
02/12/2006 05:34:53 PM
Kann, I see the distinction, but there were many examples--sometimes its more like bashing, other times more like proselytizing, soemtimes a mixture of both--when they try browbeating you into believing otherwise (for example: "dont you see how unreasonable and illogical that belief is? come over to our side where the people are intelligent, reasonable, blah blah blah")
02/12/2006 04:46:51 PM
Well, actually, wifeinlove, what you described sounds more like bashing than evangelizing. Hey, not that its better, but talking nasty about 'those guys over there', even if you're considered the token 'nice Christian' still isn't evangelizing. Not that its any better, but evangelizing is trying to change someone to what you are, not talking nasty about what THEY are. Ask them if they'd like to turn those 'fundies' into atheists. I'd not be surprised if they said 'no'. If you think someone's nasty, do you want them to join your group? Again, not better, probably worse. Just not evangelizing. Never said prejudice didn't exist among atheists.
02/12/2006 02:59:27 PM
Costrel: "As a Christian friend once told me, she finds it comforting that I, as an atheist, choose to live in the reality of the physical world." - great quote. That is a distiction between Judaism and Christianity. Judaism's focus is "to live in the reality of the physical world." I like the people on beliefnet who are anchored in reality, appreciate reason and are not preoccupied with saving souls. Judaism has its mysticism and abstacts but as a child it was never defined as a "faith" or "religion". It is "a way of life". If we all focused on living a "decent way of life" we can compromise,find common ground and live in peace. There has been to much conflict over issues that don't really matter to us as a pluralistic society, even if they have great sujective importance. I want to live in peace both physical and inner. I am willing to let each person find their own inner peace free of government coercion. Right wing sectarians are the real threat to peace on earth and good will toward men.
02/12/2006 02:10:38 PM
And Kann, in my experience it happens very often. Also, just to clarify, I didnt claim that any posts here were proselytizing, just that I have seen atheist posters that have posted here proselytize on other boards. Costrel, Maybe youre trying to be a little provocative? Maybe Im wrong though ;) I do like your comparison using Moby Dick. I was thinking of using the brothers karamazov to illustrate the same idea. You know honestly Im not familiar with the books within the Catholic and orthodox Bible. Im Protestant.
02/12/2006 02:01:07 PM
Kann alot of the time people dont know what I am. Its a little like when people make fun of homosexuals; use derogatory terms, make jokes, but they dont realize the guy next to them is gay (its not identical because its a lot more socially acceptable to be Christian of course than it is to be gay but a good example anyway) Soemtimes they do know and challenge me with it. Other times they know and just think Im different from those *other* Christians and use terms like "evangelicals" "fundies" or "born agains" to describe them, then they insult them and their religious beliefs as they interpret them. Its very uncomfortable, because there are many great evangelicals and born agains out there and a lot of the time the insults spill over into my faith. Friends and family that do it are just as annoying in my opinion--probably worse, because you dont want to just cut off contact like you can with a stranger. This is especially true if its habitual.
02/12/2006 12:27:49 PM
And my problem hasn't been with friends. It has been with complete strangers pigeonholing me on the street, or bus depot, etc. Friends, I can handle. Even if I need to tell them to back off.
02/12/2006 12:27:00 PM
Odd. Maybe the UU church. They seem to have a few that (oddly) have a ton of atheists in them, and pretty abrasive types. Happens sometimes in colleges too. Could just be blowing off steam, but still sounds obnoxious. Hell, most of the people I know don't even know I AM an atheist, and I don't imagine what context it'd come up, outside of their trying to convert me. And my Democratic Party meetings are more filled with the 'Wallis' and 'Sojourners' style Christians and a few pagans, non-practicing, etc. So, no, I don't think all Christians act that way. But also lived plenty of places where they did.
02/12/2006 12:23:44 PM
"So, has that happened to you with atheists?" On street corners? No. At parties, public functions, friends' homes, school, church (Unitarian Universalist) etc. They bring it up and then they argue about it. Even when you make it clear you dont want to convert them and could care less what they believe, alot will challenge you to make them "believe" because they heard youre Christian. Its highly annoying. Or they riducule your beliefs. Once someone remarked that we should run over some kids leaving a Chrisian grade school. Haha. Theyll just grow into 'idiots' That sort of thing. Maybe we just hang with different folks, but there are eduacated, politically active, liberal minded groups in which this is pretty common. Thats my experience anyway.
02/12/2006 12:23:27 PM
And actually, you gave the people who were in your life, and that somehow they were trying to 'enlighten' you, but didn't really give any examples of how that happened. Because if they did, sounds like they're jerks. And unfortunately, that sort of thing is universal. I have no desire for everyone to be an atheist. It'd make for a boring world for everyone to be alike.
02/12/2006 12:23:19 PM
I don't say it never happens. I said rarely. You seemed to indicate it was often. That it happened 'all the time'. And on this very board. And I haven't seen a single post on this board that seemed to be evangelizing. So that'd be a great example, if you'd point me to the post number so I can see what one looks like. That can create a different dynamic, I suppose. Though I'll note, my son attends services (he's 21 y.o.) and I never said anything negative about it, nor told him he shouldn't go, or that what he thinks is wrong. So, I do say that I've never seen an organisational structure to facilitate that sort of thing (even the Atheist societies mainly deal with countering negative PR, than promoting people becoming atheists..)
02/12/2006 12:16:29 PM
Sorry... that should read Judith, not Jidith!
02/12/2006 12:16:09 PM
wifeinlove: The Bible is chock full of wisdom and comfort, but when one reads literally, theyre likely to miss much of it. True, just like when one reads Moby-Dick literally, one misses out on much of what Melville is trying to say about God and Nature. It's so much more than just a story of a man chasing after a whale that took his leg. That's why I love applying Psychological, Desconstruction, and Mythological Literary Theory to the Bible as well as to any other literary text, including the countless other scriptures of the world's religions, the Bible of course being only one of them, and definitely not my favorite. I especially love Greek myths, Native American myths, and the Gnostic Nag Hammadi Scriptures. My favorite books of the Bible, by the way, are Susanna, Tobit, and Jidith.
02/12/2006 12:15:05 PM
"But if debate or dissent is viewed as attempts at conversion, then I suppose that it can definitely happen." Is that the ONLY way it can happen Kann? I dont understand your point? Are you arguing that it never happens? (because I was under the impression you only meant those you know NEVER do it?) Isnt it highly possible that others have had different experiences than you have? And no, I dont consider debate proselytizing. I already gave distinctions, and examples. I dont know how else to make my view clearer. "You seemed pretty darn sure on those points, yourself. And I don't recall your chiding the poster who DID say that 'Christians try and get along with everyone'." I didnt see it. I definitely disagree with that blanket statement.
02/12/2006 12:13:32 PM
And I agree, HFC. For anyone who realises that their religion either isn't, or may not remain the majority, or in power.. It is in their best interests to keep the government from interfering in their religious practices. Even if it means that the same courtesy is extended to those they disagree with.
02/12/2006 12:10:59 PM
Oh, and what do you think the 'many reasons' there are for no atheist stations or shows, or radio programs, or music intended to promote or evangelize atheism that does not apply to various versions of theism?
02/12/2006 12:10:29 PM
Costrel, The Bible is chock full of wisdom and comfort, but when one reads literally, theyre likely to miss much of it.
02/12/2006 12:09:59 PM
HTC: I again agree with your posts. Your belief system is anchored in reason as well as personal experience. I also agree with your politics. – Kannbrown: As I said I happen to admire independent thinking, sound education and critical reasoning. I have no problem with atheism. Many of the people motivated to protect my freedom from government interference are atheists. I have, however, not found your posts to be responsive nor have they demonstrated critical reasoning. They are more argumentative for the sake of arguing.
02/12/2006 12:09:38 PM
Oh, and I've had plenty of Christians approach me on the street. I've been handed tracts. I've been handed Bibles. I've been asked by strangers if I've been saved, and had people offer to pray for me. (Also been asked if my 'feet are hot' yet, after saying what I DID believe.)
02/12/2006 12:08:30 PM
Well, your claim seemed to be that lots of atheists were out there trying to convert people. I was making sure that we meant the same thing by 'conversion' and evagelisation. When I talk about it, I don't mean someone disagreeing with me on a debate board of an internet site, or trying to persuade me to their view. I mean 'go out through all the world, preaching'. I mean, going to people who you never met, never brought up what they believe, claiming what you think is right and if theirs differ, they are wrong, and that they should be what you are. That is what I mean by evangelisation. Note, the important parts are.. they go to you, they bring it up, this isn't an argument or debate, it is a sales pitch. So, has that happened to you with atheists?
02/12/2006 12:05:02 PM
"Where do you live that you have legions of atheists knocking on your doors and handing you tracts, trying to share their atheism and to get you to convert?" Why would you ask that? Thats pretty black and white thinking. And no, Ive never had atheists or Christians approach me on the street. But Mormons did come to my house once. They were nice, and left within less than a minute. And no, atheists arent usually on tv shows trying to convert me, but there are many reasons for that. Whats your point? Is it that there are many *more* Christians in the west out there actively trying to convert and control others? Sure, Ill agree to that. That doesnt change anything Ive asserted though.
02/12/2006 12:04:03 PM
Is there a difference, in your view, between debating a point, and having a disagreement, and 'sharing your enlightened views' with the poor ignorant folk? Did anyone tell you that you had to become an atheist? That you wouldn't have a good life, or be a good person if you weren't? I live around people who don't agree with my political views. We debate all the time. Don't agree with just about anything. At no point did I ever consider this to be a conversion attempt. But if debate or dissent is viewed as attempts at conversion, then I suppose that it can definitely happen. So, is it that 'radical an idea' that atheists can think abstractly? Or take the Bible less than literally? THat they can understand concepts of God and still not believe them? You seemed pretty darn sure on those points, yourself. And I don't recall your chiding the poster who DID say that 'Christians try and get along with everyone'.
02/12/2006 11:58:33 AM
Kann, cont So, all the atheists you know dont ever approach the subject to try to convince others who believe differently. Again, Ive experienced all types: atheists and Christians that respect the views of others and those who constantly want to share their 'enlightened' views with us poor ignorant folk, so that we may become enlightened, or 'saved' of course (depending) Ive known my share of atheists as well (in fact, some very well: 1 parent and 2 sibliings, and a grandfather. Another parent is agnostic but pretty spiritual minded) Ive also known my share of Christians (two parents are evangelical, born again btw) There are atheists and Christians (and Muslims and Jews and Pagans and etc) that can be pretty disrespectful of others' views. Its not that radical of an idea is it?
02/12/2006 11:55:08 AM
wifeinlove: But I have noticed a lot of atheists do seem to have difficulty understanding the Bible figuratively. I always say that no one takes the Bible more literally than fundamentalists and nonbelievers. I myself have been guilty of that as an atheist. The thing for me is, that the Bible is a piece of literature, and as such, needs at times to be taken literally, as any novel, play, or poem is to be taken literally. Of course, when one begins to apply some forms of literary theory to the Bible, like any other literary text, then one can begin to view it through non-literal means, like Mythological, Psychological, and Moral/Philosophical criticisms.
02/12/2006 11:50:59 AM
Actually, since all atheists, by definition, don't believe in God, my objection to 'immoral due to not believing in God' would be with the argument. Not with the lack of 'some' or 'many'. But you still haven't told me about all these atheists in your experience who have been telling you that you should be atheists. THAT, after all, not disagreeing with, or debating, or arguing points of theology or experience, is evangelism. Where do you live that you have legions of atheists knocking on your doors and handing you tracts, trying to share their atheism and to get you to convert? I have to admit, lived all over the country and never experienced the like. Most places, I don't even talk about being an atheist without the anonymity of a bulletin board due to social costs of doing so.
02/12/2006 11:48:58 AM
Back to the topic - a lobbyist for atheists - I think that the most devout believers should welcome Lori Brown's presence and goals. The only real threat to religious freedom is from governmental interference, and atheists are at the forefront of the effort to keep government out of religion and religion out of government. The Christian conservatives who cheer the demagogue-politicians who pander to them should stop and ask themselves - is this about their faith or about political power? And which is it that Jesus promoted?
02/12/2006 11:46:04 AM
Kann: "where in 'if they leave us alone' is there any claim to superiority? Note, this assumes that some theists leave us alone, now doesn't it?" Its true that the "they" to which you referred left room for differences, my point was that the "we" didnt. Im glad you now make a distinction though in your more recent posts. "I expect to never see you use the word 'Christian' or 'theist' without seeing 'some' in front of it, ever, or you are claiming those groups are the 'borg'. (sheesh)" Yes, I try to. I wonder how you would react if I said "atheists are immoral because they reject the idea of God"? or "Christians only have your best interest in mind"? You see "some" "many" and "most" are important.
02/12/2006 10:42:17 AM
And that mindset originated in an ironic place (given who often uses it now). The Christians executed by Romans usually were charged with 'atheism'. Which according to Roman law was not 'non-belief in God', but not observing the rites of the State Religion. Hmm.. maybe the definition hasn't changed all that much.
02/12/2006 10:41:08 AM
(5)The law and institutions of any living culture continues to adapt to new circumstances. Judaism retained judicial autonomy through out European and Middle Eastern history. In the 20th century the people of Israel (Judea was a tribe of Israel), were reunited in the Land of Israel and once again the word of the Lord goes forth from Zion. The reason I have no problem with Torah and the Bible is that nobody has to convince me that I exist or that the Jewish people exist. I was born of Jewish parents.
02/12/2006 10:40:36 AM
And that's true, davidchai. Some use 'atheist' interchangeably with 'non-believer' in their particular religion.
02/12/2006 10:40:13 AM
(4) One of Judaism’s core beliefs is ethical monotheism. Law incorporates not only religious practice but impacts every aspect of human existence. It is the vehicle for the expression of a cultures values and ethics. Judeans establish universal education and access to “the law” and its authority has become a meritocracy. About five hundred years later the second Temple is destroyed by Rome. By this time, however, Judaism was no longer tied to a physical Temple. It was most closely tied to universal study and practice of Jewish law, both religious and civil.
02/12/2006 10:39:54 AM
Oh, and something can include real historical elements and still be fiction. (Not going to argue if it is or isn't. Just noting my position on it.) The Scarlet Letter has many accurate details about life in Puritan days. Doesn't mean its not fiction. Now, obviously, you would disagree, and that's fine. Just noting that as an atheist, I don't take the Bible literally. My debates with literalists may be upon their paradigm, but that doesn't mean that's how I read the Bible, or take it to mean, if anything.
02/12/2006 10:37:45 AM
(32) In Babylonia the beliefs, law and religion of Judea is made permanent and portable, it has become Judaism. Cyrus allows a return and a rebuilding of the Temple. There is now a fundamental difference. Along side the Temple is the synagogue. The office of prophet comes to an end. The national history and religious belief that was once preserved by prophet and priest has been taught and given directly to the Jewish masses in Babylonia. The study of Torah has become the central religious expression of Judaism.
02/12/2006 10:37:42 AM
Also, there are some here who some others define as atheists who are not atheist at all. I have been called an atheist more times than I can count on Bnet, simply because I do not believe in Jesus or the Abrahamic deity. As if they are the only valid deities or theirs is the only valid theological construct.
02/12/2006 10:36:46 AM
That's why I used 'fiction' and not 'myth'. I'm not Jewish. I'm an atheist. I do know the difference.
02/12/2006 10:36:40 AM
(2)The “myth” itself is, however, part of Jewish intellectual and literary history. Mesopotamian, Hebrew, Israelite, Judean, Jewish have historical and intellectual continuity. The Jewish Bible goes full cycle. Abraham, a Hebrew, has Mesopotamian cultural origin. The Kingdom of Israel has a civil war and splits into Israel and Judea, Israel is destroyed and its people loose their identity, many probably emigrate to Judea, Judea is later conquered and its intellectual establishment is exiled, back to the future, in Mesopotamia (Babylonia).
02/12/2006 10:34:42 AM
Kann:(1) “…Personally, I don't take it literally. I take it fictionally. After all, an atheist….” Myth is often used with the meaning “fictional”. “Fiction” is however, as a vehicle to express an author’s non-fictional world view. Written Torah, parts of which have been incorporated into Christianity and Islam, contains stories, presented as historical, dealing with the cosmological and supernatural traditions of the Jewish people, the Jewish conception of God, Jewish heroes and Jewish religious belief. It also contains the constitution of Jewish oral law.
02/12/2006 10:32:41 AM
So, the 'in your experience' I wonder about is out there, in the real world. So, how many atheists have you had knocking on your door uninvited to 'share' their atheism with you? How many tracts have you seen? How many people on street corners sharing the word of atheism? How many television shows dedicated to converting people to atheism? How many songs, and stations on the radio to promote atheism? How many atheists do you personally know? How many times have you heard the word 'atheist' said in any positive context? So, what, exactly, ARE your experiences. And no, if you make a claim and an atheist disagrees, this is not the same as an evangelisation effort. That's called a debate.
02/12/2006 10:32:32 AM
First off, where in 'if they leave us alone' is there any claim to superiority? Note, this assumes that some theists leave us alone, now doesn't it? If they all were bothering us, we'd be leaving nobody alone. And when I speak of the atheists, I mean the ones I know. And I probably know more than most, given that I am one. Are there exceptions? Certainly. But then, I expect to never see you use the word 'Christian' or 'theist' without seeing 'some' in front of it, ever, or you are claiming those groups are the 'borg'. (sheesh) And I wonder about your experiences. No, not here on B-net. This is a board specifically for addressing matters pertaining to religion. If someone didn't want to hear about religion, and challenges TO religion, they don't have to log in.
02/12/2006 10:23:39 AM
"The ones who leave us alone, we leave alone." Again not in my experience. I wonder if you notice that you are arguing that atheists are so great they dont do what those theists do! Afterall, you are atheists! ;) Besides, what are you? Borgs? You are independent people. Why would you argue that "you" (as a group) do anything? Alot of people seem to be arguing that people that believe as they do are right on, rather than admitting the obvious: people are people and belief systems cannot make you perfect. Just as atheists are not necessarily immoral, they are also not necessarily faultless. And, btw: there are atheists on this page that have not 'left those alone who leave them alone' Ive seen it.
02/12/2006 06:44:46 AM
Agreed, kann. The people impacting our lives badly are quoting the Bible. So some of us quote it back to them.
02/12/2006 01:28:19 AM
Perhaps it is that the only ones out there who seem to be trying to change public policy, interfere in our personal lives, and convert us are ones who take the Bible literally. The ones who leave us alone, we leave alone. Therefore, most of the debates are based upon literal readings because those are the ones coming to debate us. Not because we take the Bible literally. Personally, I don't take it literally. I take it fictionally. After all, an atheist..
02/11/2006 10:42:16 PM
(4)At some point there was non-existence. Ultimately I can not conceive of non-existence. Unless God was “created” ultimate reality dictates that God is outside of time, space and existence. What we “conceive of God” and “worship” is not truly God, but some manifestation at its very primal root. As a metaphor, we never see the “King naked” we only conceive of "Garments". The Garments both conceal the “King” as well as “reveal” the “King”. I believe the universe was set in motion by cause and effect from some source beyond any conception. The God of Torah identified himself to Moses as a verb “I am that I am”. Perhaps all reality is but a “garment” of the first cause. That comes close to pantheism. I have subjectively experienced presence and epiphany. Simple “faith” is just that “simple”. I prefer reasoned “faith” with a strong does of skepticism.
02/11/2006 10:39:18 PM
(3) To the extent that there is “revelation” it is cultural. I have “faith” in my culture which embraces reason and history and tradition. At worst I am a product of my culture. Reason also tells me there was a “first cause” of creation as we know it. It also tells me that intelligence and reason can take me only so far.
02/11/2006 10:36:36 PM
(2) I judge people on their character. I also admire people who are independent thinkers. I rather be in the company of an interesting atheist than an ignorant sectarian. I also believe that if there is reward and punishment after death that many atheists will be spending their time in heaven and many sectarians are going to hell. I strongly identify with Judaism. I consider Torah as my ultimate authority, it provides my world view and I relate all things to it. Torah strongly encourages study and reason. The source of intelligence gave me both Torah and intelligence. My 21st century education and reason, tells me that the Bible can not be “self proving”. In that sense I am a deist.
02/11/2006 10:35:23 PM
(1) Many on beliefnet are deists. Anyone believing in a personal God, based solely on the testimony of reason and rejecting any supernatural revelation. This is often called natural religion. For some God is not personal but the “first cause” and is also based on reason not faith. Then there is pantheism, the concept the self developed and self –existent and self – developing universe conceived as a whole is God. All of these concepts have in common their basis in reason. Atheism also has its basis in reason. My guess is that many “atheists” are similar to pantheists and deists. Atheism is a product of reason and an atheist does not conceive of the universe as having intelligence in the sense that a “human being” has intelligence.
02/11/2006 10:35:21 PM
"No one takes the Bible more literally than fundamentalists and nonbelievers." That's probably true. But I'm most concerned about the effects of those who claim to believe every word of the Bible, like interfering in teaching science, electing the worst president ever and ignoring global warming to name just a very few. So I try to point out the fallacies in their belief. I presume others feel the same way. These people are too dangerous to leave them alone with their fantasies. In particular they have elected the worst president in history. They ignore environmental disasters for the most part. And they confuse harassing homosexuals and eliminating the right to abortion with living morally.
02/11/2006 10:01:20 PM
wifeinlove, I must remember that! A brilliant observation: "No one takes the Bible more literally than fundamentalists and nonbelievers." Like all generalizations, it is sometimes true but not always. Now I wonder - perhaps the literalism that some nonbelievers display is a function of the way fundamentalism has become the public face of Christianity in America. Someone who hasn't studied scripture and hears only literalist interpretations that are often preposterous can be forgiven for assuming that the Bible is a worthless set of lies and fairy tales. Ironic and not at all what the proselytizer intended.
02/11/2006 06:55:15 PM
I see what you mean Costrel. But I have noticed a lot of atheists do seem to have difficulty understanding the Bible figuratively. I always say that no one takes the Bible more literally than fundamentalists and nonbelievers.
02/11/2006 06:00:46 PM
BrendanMcPhillips, An atheist is someone who is great at thinking “concretely” but has a hard time thinking "abstractly" therefore all of this "God stuff" is confusing for them. And, for example, figuratively interpreting a parable doesn’t come easy for them. This is untrue and insulting. I don't find the "God stuff" confusing. I've studied Christianity, Gnosticism, Buddhism, Shinto, Plains Native American religions, Wicca, and even though I am no expert, I do not find them confusing, though I do find them all interesting. I just do not believe in any of them. And as a former literature teacher and English Grad student, figurative language is not difficult or confusing for me either. As a Christian friend once told me, she finds it comforting that I, as an atheist, choose to live in the reality of the physical world.
02/11/2006 04:42:11 PM
Andrewcyrus, The quote you made from Exodus was directed ONLY at KLAL Yisrael. It did not and does not apply to non-Jews. Anyone who is not Jewish is not bound by it (and a Jew can theoretically break the bond too.) And the spirit you mention is not in everyone nor is it meant to be. Brendan, Actually, every atheist I know is very very good a thinking abstractly. The have no problem understanding the “god stuff” they just think it is false. And tier abstract thought processes provide far more fuel fo r that assertion than their concrete thought processes do.
02/11/2006 04:20:32 PM
We all accept loads of things on faith. Atheists and rational people of faith want evidence only when a claim of an incredible or supernatural nature is made. For me, the possible range of my beliefs is not what must be so because it has been proven, but what might be so because it has not been disproven - not disproven factually or logically. I reject standard church doctrine because I find it self-contradictory. The fact that hundreds of millions of people serenely accept what I find impossible is not my concern. The atheists I know shrug indifferently at my experience of God as pervasive spirit of rationality in the universe, imbuing us all with the capacity for rationality as well as imagination, creativity, generosity, and compassion. What annoys them - and me - is being accosted by fundamentalists whose idea of a coherent argument is scriptural proof-texting, which shows nothing but their own lack of understanding.
02/11/2006 03:05:08 PM
Good points, wife. There surely are many kinds of atheists. I never believed in a god. It must be tougher for a person who did and had issues with It (and who wouldn't!) and concluded it doesn't exist. Probably such a person has occasional flashbacks.
02/11/2006 02:34:47 PM
And of course there are those who are very empathetic and kind hearted and cant imagine a loving omnipotent God who would permit such suffering in the world. I think thats a question with which many of us, theists and atheists, struggle though.
02/11/2006 02:32:13 PM
Nnmns, Well, it takes all types. Some atheists are 'thinkers,' some arent. Some are very emotional. Some are angry at that which they say they dont believe exists (hows that, right?) Some are rejecting a belief system which represents an overbearing hypocritical and religious mother (for example) Some are just very logical and wont believe that which cant be proven or demonstrated in some way. Some just have never experienced anything to make them believe otherwise. Some are rejecting the hypocricy and exclusion they witnessed in the name of religion. Some may cite alot of reasons for their beliefs. So, I think youre right too.
02/11/2006 02:21:46 PM
"An atheist is someone who is great at thinking “concretely” but has a hard time thinking "abstractly" therefore all of this "God stuff" is confusing for them." Now there is a strange statement, given that a lot of scientists are atheists. You don't get much more abstract thinking. How about "An atheist is one who demands some evidence before believing fantastic things."
02/11/2006 02:14:59 PM
Great post Brendan. That is true for many atheists Ive known myself (even myself at one time!)
02/11/2006 02:05:47 PM
An atheist is someone who is great at thinking “concretely” but has a hard time thinking "abstractly" therefore all of this "God stuff" is confusing for them. And, for example, figuratively interpreting a parable doesn’t come easy for them. Luckily Jesus clearly interpreted a parable of his that seems almost specifically taught for atheists. In Mark 4:3-20 Jesus explains that as soon as atheists hear the message, their “concreteness” comes and takes it away. I discuss this more fully in my article “Bible: Literal or Figurative?”
02/11/2006 01:56:56 PM
While I start my point of reference with God. He did give Adam and Eve the option to disobey him. The freedom of choice is an intrinsic human value. Freedom from bondage is what God's first rule is. Exodus 20 1And God spake all these words, saying, 2I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Whether or not man recognizes that power greater than himself is the vision that comes only when has recognized his creator's spirit within himself. It's a journey mankind is on, some know the destination others choose another path.
02/11/2006 11:06:34 AM
I just signed up!!
02/11/2006 09:48:16 AM
Now admittedly there some real jerks in the atheist community just like there are in any other community. But Lori Lipman Brown represents the majority of atheists who, like the majority of Christians, are sick and tired of small groups of extremist Christinas trying to shove religiously-based (and usually rights denying and hate-based) legislation down the US throat.
02/11/2006 01:18:33 AM
Well, I do have to say Wind that in my experience many atheists do try to convert believers--constantly. In fact, it is atheists that have demonstrated to me how annoying it must be for nonChristians when Christians try to convert them! (not all atheists of course, just some!) In fact, this isnt just the case in the real world. Here on this site I have seen it alot. There are Christian discussion boards that are chock full of atheists trying to argue us out of our beliefs. Maybe Christians are just more likely to be targeted because their mother/father/exwife, etc is a Christian and the cause of much strife or something. I dont know but many atheists seem to me to be pretty consumed by the uh, mission. ;) Its annoying.
02/10/2006 07:14:57 PM
Sometimes I think the almost knee-jerk reaction of visceral fear by fundamentalists to the presence of an athiest is akin to that seen in their reaction to gays, Jews and many other folks they see as antithetical to their idea of righteousness. It seems to me that the root of this is related to their acceptance of the notion of proselytizing. It's as if they assume that since they themselves were drawn into the fold, so to speak, that it must be true that gays can make other people gay and that the atheists want to "convert" everybody else. Of course, like Jews, athiest recognize that most folks have enough trouble already and don't seek to add to their burden. Still, your local Baptist minister will tell you that they're doing the devils work - the Protestant version of; "You're either for us, or against us." Bush likes that one too.
02/10/2006 01:02:56 PM
Thank God for Lori Lipman Brown. (irony intended)
02/10/2006 10:59:29 AM
It just occured to me - you know why I even read Belief.net as much as I do? It is a religious website where atheists as well as everyone else get to explore a bit. There is a lot less preaching to the choir than on denominational sites. I genuinely appreciate what the atheists, secular humanists, Christians of many colors, Moslems, Jews, pagans (self-identified) and everyone else bring to this project.
02/10/2006 10:51:09 AM
Technically, the Article in question is from the Bill of Rights, not the Constitution proper. By the way, I find myself a lot more comfortable with sinners, like Ishie listed, than with the regular, church goin' folks. Our denomination seems to specialize in welcoming all those "sinners" as they are - including a bunch of atheists. Are we confused - sure. Are secular humanists and all sorts of other folks welcome - yes. Do we have fun nonetheless - seem to. I think even Jefferson himself would find us to be more compatable than combative.
02/10/2006 10:45:28 AM
(cont)Oh, and some of them periodically commit acts of violence against "sinners" like gays, atheists, and interracial couples. "Under the United States Constituion, you will not find the words separation of church and state. You will not find a mandated state sponsored Church." No, that statement comes from Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. The Constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".
02/10/2006 10:45:26 AM
Chevy - I seem to have stoked a fire! I do not propse some Harvey-like alternative for anyone whose spiritual self is different than me. And, please, do not become safe -there is nothing worse than mere safety! But don't assume I am trying to mush you or anyone into conformity. As a musician, I hope you are as open to the wide variety of genres, styles, and approaches to music as there are in the spiritual/religious symphony. It seems that the avenue of religion has become a five way street. We try to keep the door open (we have nothing to steal but plenty to give) and the lights on (low wattage, eco-friendly bulbs) for anyone who wants to come by. I'd love to hear your music.
02/10/2006 10:45:17 AM
"Secular Humanism IS a religion" No it isn't. If you're a good Christian, why would you lie? "Secular Humanism has always led to Communist Marxism," Sigh. No worries. Atheists are used to the ignorant and intolerant calling us pinkos. To circumvent your next 'point', we also hate God. And puppies. "Christians always try to get along with everybody," How is calling atheists communists "trying to get along with everybody". I've also had Christians tell me I'm going to hell, I deserve to go to hell, that I hate God, that I can't be moral, and a multitude of hateful stuff.
02/10/2006 06:52:43 AM
boomergrl, Please stop posting the false claim that the Supreme Court has declared secular humanism to be a religion. That is absolutely false. What the Supreme Court did was refuse to reverse a lower court ruling in which an ethical culture society was granted tax-exempt status, in case dating back decades. Much more recently, in a case involving a science teacher who objected to being forced to teach evolution because it promoted the "religion" of secular humanism, the court stated plainly that no court, including the Supreme Court, had EVER recognized secular humanism to be a religion. Stop spreading this preposterous lie.
02/10/2006 06:41:25 AM
The bias against atheists is appalling; there seems to be an assumption that atheists have no morality because they don't believe in retributive justice after death. Horse-sh*t. Christians seem baffled at the idea that one can choose to lead a life of integrity and compassion for its own sake, without being promised heaven or threatened with hell. The bias against religion in the sciences, mentioned by paul.bello earlier, may be a function of the degree to which fundamentalism has become the public face of religion in America. The scientists I know would have no problem with the idea of God as a pervasive intelligence in the universe (there is, in fact, an ongoing forum on this topic with some of the most renowned scientists in the world participating), but they roll their eyes at the notion of God as a superbeing sitting somewhere out there, scowling at Earth and periodically sending floods, tsunamis, and George W. Bushes to display his wrath.
02/10/2006 05:26:31 AM
"Don't read too much into what I am saying. I am not defending atheism. I am a minister who works the other side of the street!" Ah, but that street has a lot of other sides! There are so many gods being worshiped now (for instance there are several different "Christian" gods alone, not to mention Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, ...) that if for some reason I wanted to worship a god after all I wouldn't know what one to pick. And apparently picking the wrong one is likely to be a serious mistake. So I pick none of the above and don't have to worry about religious errors.
02/10/2006 03:30:02 AM
Well, I think the confusion was with 'promotion'. We're not promoting atheism. And yes, alot of it involves what we aren't, and what we don't want. That's not that uncommon with groups. There's groups who simply want someone to 'not' drill somewhere, etc. Basically, as far as I'm concerned, I'd be happy to simply NOT be viewed as demonic, not be openly insulted, NOT have 'atheist' and 'atheism' used as a threat, or insult by politicians. (Better use more god talk, or people will think you're all atheists.. Which is, apparently, a fate worse than death.) And to NOT have to either be singled out as an atheist, or lie to go along while reciting various loyalty oaths and group prayers at public, government functions.
02/10/2006 03:22:49 AM
Secular Humanism IS a religion and is in fact recognized by the United States Supreme Court as such! Why should everybody trade off their religious beliefs for theirs? Now, that's intolerance. Secular Humanism has always led to Communist Marxism, disarming the people, poverty and no free markets and no free speech. No wonder Islam/Muslims are caleed the Left Hand of God, they take vengenace out on those who defame their religion! Christians always try to get along with everybody, even when they loose sight of what they are supposed to be about...sticking to doctrinal truths of love, hope faith, and kindness and moreover to spread the Gospel message. Under the United States Constituion, you will not find the words separation of church and state. You will not find a mandated state sponsored Church.
02/09/2006 09:57:46 PM
The human spirit has enough common positive characteristics that I am sure the more artistic atheists can create something powerful and positive to express their won hopes and aspirations. > I make my living as a composer and am fortunate to be paid to create. The ability to create is not predicated by belief or non-belief in theism. My work also doesn't come with some type of parental disclaimer or caveat, E.G.: "Caution- this song was created by an atheist" I am less interested in what a person is not and much more interested in who they are, and how they tell me this. > Bull. You appear extemely interested in having us be some safe little stereotype that makes you feel non-threatened. If you truly want to know who someone is, you deal with the whole package, not your stereotype of the person.
02/09/2006 09:47:34 PM
Continued Are there rituals that atheists can promote that do not stand one one groups toes while making themselves a little more prominent? >Gosh, why don't we atheists just start a knitting circle to convince all the theists out there that we're really a bunch of harmless little fuzzy-bunnies that won't hurt your kids, blow things up, or destroy people's faith? Really, all we ask is to not be marginalised, anymore than you'd wish to be marginalised for your beliefs. How can spirituality be squared with atheism? >Simply by not proselytizing, belittling or patronising us. Seriously, all atheism is is absence of belief in deities. Period. We can't be lumped into one solid mass.What is your definition of spirituality?
02/09/2006 09:38:52 PM
It would seem to be very hard to promote not-something.> A belief system is not a negative because it doesn't include someone's invisible companion(s). You also seem to be confusing promotion with education. I think the atheists need to work out a positive statement rather than a negative one. >Did you actually read the article? Again, it appears that you are equating absence of a belief in deities with negativity. Are there rituals that atheists can promote that do not stand one one groups toes while making themselves a little more prominent. >First off, I'm an atheist, and if acknowleging our existance and not wishing to be proselytized is somehow stepping on your toes, too bad. To be continued...
02/09/2006 03:17:22 PM
Funny. I have too often seen in my short and meer 19 yrs of existence both extremely religious and the atheistic/agnostic get bashed. whislst im an atheistic theravada buddhist who knows a few things bout christianity. i wont judge to say what is wrong or not, since most of the people i happen to hang with apatheistic or nontheistic. we get bashed and laughed by our theistic peers, liberal or moderate or conservative, for not leaving up to the american idea that to be amercan one believe in a higher being or plethora of higher beings. and it is true, most of us are not mean, and we do not mind the name of god everything, we just hate being prothytised and imposed on because we don't believe. i wont say the pledge of allegienace at all because i am against the american government in many aspects, including its propogandic agaenda to make us believe in one christian god, but i dont force others to not say it o certain aspects. just dont force me to submit myself to believing in a deity.
02/09/2006 02:57:15 PM
You never know when a 100 foot tall frog may leap into your backyard! Don't read too much into what I am saying. I am not defending atheism. I am a minister who works the other side of the street! However, I am simply saying that atheists would benefit from making positive, creative statements, rather than simply saying who they are not. Arguing a negative is like preaching in a vacuum - lots of effort but no sound. I'd rathr hear what is, not what is not.
02/09/2006 02:48:19 PM
jestrfyl, I have no argument with most of what you say, but to claim that the universe exists without a supernatural powerful entity is like claiming it exists without a frog 100 feet tall. I don't think you would consider that a negative statement. It's just that you are used to the idea of some god and think there would be a hole without it. We are used to a universe without such a thing and think there would be a very strange, and perhaps dangerous (think, e.g., "original sin") situation with one. If we can conceive of it at all.
02/09/2006 02:33:29 PM
It would seem to be very hard to promote not-something. I think the atheists need to work out a positive statement rather than a negative one. What about rituals - humanity has ritual-making as one of its universl characteristics. Are there rituals that atheists can promote that do not stand one one groups toes while making themselves a little more prominent (I hope they are more creative than to try to building on Seinfeld's "Festivus" campaign!)? How can spirituality be squared with atheism? The human spirit has enough common positive characteristics that I am sure the more artistic atheists can create something powerful and positive to express their won hopes and aspirations. I am less interested in what a person is not and much more interested in who they are, and how they tell me this.
02/09/2006 01:09:53 PM
paul.bello 2/9/2006 5:38:47 AM as soon as a believer mentions the possibility of the supernatural, they are immediately labelled a flake. Ironic." Because science is not static, the supernatural is. Ironic, that creationists try to use science, via I.D., to prove the genesis creation myth when its theology is a matter of faith. Science is debate, not dogma. The last debate in christianity that did not end in cataclysm was at the council of nicea.
02/09/2006 11:53:27 AM
Interesting. I've worked in the sciences, and haven't found a bias against theism. Now, if a young earth creationist comes in, naturally that's a bit different but attempting to claim that 'theists' are shunned rather than anti-science folks are shunned... well. But in this culture, atheists and gays are the "safe" ones to bash. We are living under a government that barely views us as humans and rallies its 'troops' through religion. It is difficult to imagine the ~85% population in this country made up of theists, specifically Christians being closeted.
02/09/2006 11:29:35 AM
Paul I've lived in that world too. You spend a lot of your time with people who are more intellectual than average and who have spent more time thinking about basics of their field than most people are able to. And some of them were able to grow up without the burden of a theology imposed on them at an early age. So many of them do see the failings of most or all of the religions around. And some may worry about others who don't see what's probably obvious to them. But I expect they work quite well with people who don't; let's face it those make up the majority of the population. And if you haven't noticed, avowed atheists can't get elected to almost any office, regularly get told we are going to hell, and of course regularly are strongly encouraged to take an oath to a being they know doesn't exist. Some folks may provide more painful examples. So let's all try to get along and not impose our beliefs on others and, oh, yes, let’s examine our assumptions.
02/09/2006 05:38:46 AM
It's really so bizarre, this culture of ours. Among my colleagues and peers in the scientific community, there are tons of closeted THEISTS who remain so because public acknowledgement may have unpleasant career repurcussions. So, I really have ever thought about the shoe being on the other foot. I guess I just didn't realize how militant the common man was against secular-minded folks. I experience the opposite. In my community, the pressure is to become more secular, no matter what kinds of intellectual gymnastics you need to do in order to bring yourself there. I've always found it odd that evolutionary biologists can frely tak about "the way things could have maybe happened" (i.e. a so-called evolutionary explanation *cough*), and theoretical physicists can talk about M-theory (full of non-existentials), but as soon as a believer mentions the possibility of the supernatural, they are immediately labelled a flake. Ironic. Best, Paul
02/08/2006 09:29:14 PM
Yes, amazingly some people seem to think "atheist" and "godless" are bad words. Go Lori!
02/08/2006 08:50:47 PM
I disagree with what she says, but to the death, yada yada yada. Personally, I think a certain spirituality should be kept in the public square, so I'll probably be peeved at Ms. Brown eventually. But I like the idea of a "nice" atheist. (P.S.: Message to all atheists, keep in mind, people praying for you can never be a bad thing. :-) God bless!
02/08/2006 08:48:49 PM
This is a really positive sentiment and as an atheist, it's very good to hear.
02/08/2006 07:04:52 PM
Whilst i am a believer, i applaud Lori Lipman Brown's courage to stand up for yet another group that is frowned upon in religious society - Atheists. Atheists are often demonised for no good reason and this needs to stop. Everyone has the basic moral right to believe whatever they want to, including no belief in a supernatural power. Forcing people to believe something that they dont believe in is utterly futile in most cases, and is a selfish act.