Atheology

I appreciate the courage of Coven Oldenwilde’s taking on the Carolina Stompers [“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Witch,” Commentary, Feb. 6]. I believe in many of Paganism’s sacred tenets. However, I disagree with the writers’ view that atheism leads to “the denial of all spirituality.”

I might be an atheist if I weren’t such a skeptic. Therefore, I know that atheists, by freeing themselves from total submission to one or many Gods, are able to experience the spiritual or the material from many points of view, including Paganism and Christianity. Certainly poly- or monotheism are juicy vantage points from which to contemplate the indifferent Big Bang or the meaning-filled creation, but they are two among many that have great value.

— Bill Branyon
Asheville

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73 thoughts on “Atheology

  1. “I appreciate the courage of Coven Oldenwilde’s taking on the Carolina Stompers”

    I, too, applaud Oldenwilde aggressively speaking up in their defense against slander and intolerance.

    But, taking on five Christian bigots in Buncombe County is not a particularly heroic show of courage.

    And now it has even become tedious as the Thumpers retreat into ignominy.

  2. Rob Close

    which, when someone introduces themselves to me as an atheist, is what i take them to mean – “i am someone who denies all spiritual truths.” The atheists aren’t experiencing the spiritual, only the ritual & material – if they experienced the spiritual, they wouldn’t be atheists!

    at least those who label themselves agnostic are open to the possibility of spiritual belief. Calling oneself an atheist is to take a stand directly against such beliefs.

  3. Ken Hanke

    True atheism works on the simple premise of “There is no God.” In itself, this is just as dogmatic as the most fundamental of fundamentalist Christianity.

    My guess is that the term is often used in knee-jerk reaction to an encounter with an outburst of zealous religiosity. I once toyed with the idea of opening my review of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST with, “I went into this movie an agonstic and came out an atheist,” but I knew it wasn’t really true and that I had come out exactly as I went in. But the temptation to make the claim was great — and was grounded solely in my reaction to the film, not in my actual beliefs or lack thereof.

  4. brebro

    How is refusing to blindly believe in something for which there is no proof dogmatic? If atheism as a word has become too derogatory, maybe we can replace it with another term for people who won’t simply take ridiculous claims on faith alone. How about “logical?”

  5. Ken Hanke

    Because it works on the exact same absolute concept. Can you prove there’s no God? You can reason that it seems unlikely, but in stating that there simply isn’t one is taking a claim on faith alone. I certainly don’t blindly believe in God, but I’m not ruling out the possibility. That said, you’ll have a hell of a time convincing me that anyone knows who or what he or she is and what he or she wants.

  6. brebro

    Can you prove there is no tooth fairy? The burden of proof is on the claimant of the fascinating myth, not those who doubt it. You can’t prove a negative.

    I can insist that there is an invisible, Pink Unicorn who can hear your every thought and will doom your existence if you also do not believe like I do and I even have a book I claim is inspired by the Unicorn that says it’s true, and since the Unicorn chooses not to present itself to us due to it’s unknowable plan, you will just have to take it’s word for it and live your life by the arbitrary rules that the Unicorn’s book has laid down for us. Can you prove me wrong? If not, then you have no choice but to believe and respect my ridiculous story, or else risk being labeled an unbelieving malcontent (in addition to the whole dooming thing in the hereafter).

    Saying you don’t believe in something because you have no proof whatsoever of it’s existence, particularly something as fantastic as a god with supernatural powers never before seen or recorded anywhere but in fiction and myth, is not just the arrogant refusal to accept what must be true that you portray it to be. It’s simply a logical reaction to an illogical prospect. It does not rule out the acceptance of one if the facts present themselves later, it simply uses reason in place of the all too human fear of the unknown and need to anthropomorphize a larger force in which to seek guidance and hope. That explains the concept’s popularity, but does not make it a forgone conclusion, the denial of which is automatically a religion in itself.

  7. Nietzschobean

    Nietzsche talks about the habit of assigning a transcendent experience, a great synchronicity, to God or the supernatural. He felt that was undervaluing what it meant to be human. People can achieve great levels of coordination of their surroundings, and are also capable of great feelings of spirituality without Gods.

  8. Johnny

    I’m going with brebro here.

    If it’s dogmatic to not believe there is a god, then it’s dogmatic to believe in god as well.

    So in order to be not dogmatic you have to just say you “don’t know”? Agnostics, I am afraid, haven’t cornered any particular market when it comes to laying out who and why someone is dogmatic or not.

    I’m sorry, but I find religion to be a most amusing sham, filled with many fine people — to be sure — and yet overall the result has been (and continues to be) a net negative for the world.

  9. Ken Hanke

    “Saying you don’t believe in something because you have no proof whatsoever of it’s existence, particularly something as fantastic as a god with supernatural powers never before seen or recorded anywhere but in fiction and myth, is not just the arrogant refusal to accept what must be true that you portray it to be”

    The above omits the barefaced factual statement “There is no God,” which moves “I don’t believe in God” to the realm of a dogma with no room for doubt. I don’t “believe in God” myself — especially not what is generally meant by that term — but I stop short of categorically stating that there ain’t no such thing.

  10. It is the Theist who makes the positive claim and, therefore, it is his to prove. The Atheist has no negative obligation to disprove another’s wild claims. It is an impossible task to soundly refute any and all fantastic claims through all of history ever time their made using logic and evidence. No — someone has to bear the burden of proof when making a claim and it should be the storyteller not the audience.

    Atheism is not the positive claim that “there is no God.” The Atheist says, instead, “I don’t believe in God.” Non-belief is the proper logical starting point in thinking about God. If someone maintains the positive claim that “God exists,” then it is the claimant who should be eager and able to provide logical or physical evidence.

    Atheism should be properly described as the mere non-belief of the unfounded and fantastic idea of God in the absence of any logical, legitimate and provable arguments.

  11. travelah

    Atheism (as advanced by it’s own activists) makes absolute declarations regarding the existence of God. From an apologetics perspective, the Atheist argument is easily addressed as a religious, faith based position i.e. “I believe there is no unprovable entity”. It is an assertion as dependent on “belief” or faith as the Theist’s belief or faith in God.

  12. brebro

    We can argue all day about whether it’s worse to insist that there “am God” or where there “am not God” but remember, am god backwards spells dogma.

  13. Eli Cohen

    Travelah,
    That’s the kind of argument advanced by lawyers and menopausal housewives. (I had assumed you were a man, maybe I was wrong) Honestly, you have added zilch to the discussion with your snide little comments.
    I beleive that Paganism is more believable than Christianity…but I believe in neither. Thats what I believe. See how simple that is Travelah. Try it sometime!

  14. Ashevegasjoe

    Eli, I think you’re setting someone up for another “jesus loves me this I know” rant. I can feel it coming like some kind of vision.

  15. Nietzschobean

    The point is, is that you can not believe in the supernatural, but have many spiritual experiences, and attribute them to earthbound causes rather than supernatural. Thus giving more value to this life, and less to some other.
    What’s obvious is that just mentioning the word “Atheist” is such a hot button that the word is no longer very useful. Regardless, things, often miraculously appearing, happen, and you can attribute it to whatever cause you wish. Most of the time, no one can prove one way or another. But the question remains, which belief is best for your personal and community goals? If supernatural is best, go for it. If earth bound but transcendent is best, have at it. If earth bound and nihilistic, be my guest. See you in death. Or not.

  16. quotequeen

    When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.
    Oscar Wilde, An Ideal husband, 1893

  17. travelah

    Eli, I particularly noticed you failed to address my actual comment and instead launched a personal diatribe. You get no brownie points for such empty rhetoric.

  18. travelah

    Eli, I see … Eli huffs, dismisses and therefore it must be. The atheist paradigm has succeeded again. What better example of atheist faith in action could one ask for?

  19. popsicle

    the fact that we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of this ‘god’ entity doesn’t mean we have to consider existence and non-existence as equally possible. i would argue the probability of a supernatural creator-being (or beings) that doesn’t follow the laws of physics as we’ve come to understand them is far less than the probability that there is no such god thing. my problem with agnosticism is the attitude that there are some things we just can’t ever know, so there’s no use forming an educated opinion.

  20. travelah

    Popsicle, your argument has been the position held by non-believers of many stripes down through the ages. Yet, keep in mind that with Christianity for example, the object of evangelism is not to prove the existence of God. There is a passage in the scriptures that speaks to this thing called faith and it acknowledges that these are not empirical measures to be put to a test.

    “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Heb 11:1-3 AV)

    The wise Evangelist avoids trying to engage in empirical arguments concerning faith because it is an unnecessary bother. Another passage demonstrates to us who are faithful as to why such disputes are unnecessary.

    “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Ro 1:19-20 AV)

    The disputes over empirical evidences and reconciliations are usually “in-house” discussions among various sects and groups within the faith.

  21. Ken Hanke

    “There is a passage in the scriptures that speaks to this thing called faith and it acknowledges that these are not empirical measures to be put to a test.”

    How very convenient.

  22. popsicle

    the wise evangelist? that’s a good one, travelah. the fact that an unquestioning acceptance of ancient literature as absolute truth is seen as virtuous is not only “convenient” in not being able to back up your beliefs, it’s kind of weird and pretty downright dangerous. if i accept your faith, then i also must accept the faith of the suicide bomber who believes that virgins are awaiting him in paradise. there is no difference.

  23. travelah

    popsicle, how do you back up beliefs in the theological realm other than to point to faith? Keep in mind that I have no interest in backing up my beliefs to your satisfaction. It is my satisfaction with what I believe in that matters. It does strike me as odd however that you equate my beliefs with those of a fanatical murderer and assume you would have to hold to both in order to be consistent. That is simply illogical.

    Ken, if you cannot step out into something based on faith, regardless of what it might be, then you are living a deplorably safe existence.

  24. Eli Cohen

    And there goes the “jesus loves me this I know” rant, coming from the travelah.(who else?)
    Travelah, I’m glad you have found comfort in your faith, but I must say, that last post of yours is almost incoherent.

  25. Ken Hanke

    “Ken, if you cannot step out into something based on faith, regardless of what it might be, then you are living a deplorably safe existence.”

    It’s quite one thing to take something on faith. It’s something else altogether to have to take something on faith because the book on which it’s based says you have to. How much more “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” can you get?

  26. travelah

    Ken, how is it something else altogether to accept a source for a particular faith? Do you not realize that every belief you hold to regardless of what it is has a source of some sort?

    Eli, what is “almost incoherent”? Should I have “dumbed down” my post in order to accommodate your cognitive abilities or are you a rather intelligent fellow who never learned manners as a child?

  27. Ken Hanke

    “Ken, how is it something else altogether to accept a source for a particular faith? Do you not realize that every belief you hold to regardless of what it is has a source of some sort?”

    But is it a source that comes equipped with the instructions that I dare not question it, but must accept it at face value without examination? That’s really stacking the deck. If it works for you, fine. It’s the sort of thing that immediately makes me skeptical. I doubt very much that you wouldn’t be equally skeptical if it came wrapped in any package other than the Bible.

  28. travelah

    Ken, being an apologist, I find myself questioning theological issues from several vantage points. Christianity is not lockstep in agreement among all it’s adherents. There are core doctrines, essentials if you will, that are faithfully held to but not without examination and with absolutism. It remains that every belief you hold to has a source of some sort and you have made some decision to accept it as truth.

  29. Ken Hanke

    “There are core doctrines, essentials if you will, that are faithfully held to but not without examination and with absolutism.”

    And one of those is to faithfully hold that you can’t put faith to the test, but have to accept it on the word of the Bible. So, in essence, you’re still saying it’s true because it says so in the Bible and you can’t question it. Right?

  30. Nam Vet

    “I appreciate the courage of Coven Oldenwilde…” HUH? From these threads, it was like about 20 to 1 jumping on the Stompers. From behind a keyboard, most of it anonymously. That is “courage”? No way. Not that the Stompers don’t deserve to be taken to task for outrageousness. BUT, it is not courageous to criticize them. And this covenwilde blew this way out of proportion and carried it on for way past it’s 15 minutes of fame. The result? I have an even lower opinion of xagans now than I did before this all errupted.

    Ken, I am not surprised that a man who admires John Waters’ Pink Flamingos doesn’t like Christianity or the Bible. Personally, I’ll take the “love thy neighbor as thyself” of the Bible over Waters’ wanting to shock society with a poorly made movie about a grossly overweight cross dresser who eats dog dodo.

  31. who

    My two cents, for what it’s worth: The question of God or no God is a paradigm that not all people move in. If someone were to ask me whether or not I believe in God, I would first have to ask the questioner what definition of God that they were asking me ponder. And, more importantly to me, who is the “I” in the “me” asking whether or not God exists. Where is the true fallacy of asking that question?

  32. Who knew that the atheist/agnostic camp would come out for a discussion? We’re a notoriously quiet group when you get down to it.

    That’s the thing being an atheist: It’s hard to work up the enthusiasm for yet another endless argument with someone who isn’t really interested in putting any kind of test to their beliefs, but seems dedicated to talking on and on about them anyways.

    “Facts? Who needs ’em? I have faith!” It’s like some awful merry-go-round of logic, and it gets really boring because there’s rarely anything new to look at.

    The tendency, for me at least, is to let people talk and go back to reading the latest Dawkins book.

  33. Ashevegasjoe

    travelah–Christianity is not lockstep agreement among all its adherents? really? how is that possible as the Bible is the word of God? I would think that to be Christian would be to believe that the Bible is the word of God, and therefore, being in lock step would be a requisite.

    The fact that every belief has a source and therefore requires faith is quite a supposition. Some beliefs are based on knowable, provable facts (i.e. evolution, the age of the planet). I can say empirically, no one has ever died and been resurrected, and has never came back to take all of the believers to live in an eternal state of bliss. (but if said messiah did, I’m sure eternal bliss would ensue on the planet bereft of such self-righteous pricks). Faith is unknowable, but there are beliefs that are, like if I keep arguing with irrational Christians, I will get a headache.

  34. travelah

    Ashevegasjoe, stating the Bible is the Word of God is a very generic statement, one which Christians will agree on. However, ask a Calvinist and an Arminian about the context of John 3:16 or John 6 and you will receive two opposing viewpoints. So, no, Christians are not in lockstep agreement.

    Secondly, faith and belief are synonyms (pistis in Greek means both to believe and to have faith). Your example of the headache is a belief and not a fact since there is no evidence that your headaches are caused by mis-diagnosing Christians as irrational. In fact, the frustration caused by your mis-diagnosis could itself be the cause of your headache. In fact I am sure of it.

  35. who

    Okay, question: If there is no propagation of life – propagation meaning one doesn’t go to heaven, or one isn’t reincarnated, or just simply the life that is now is in no way connected to any life in the future, and one’s existence is totally random and totally gone at death; and in light of the hardship inherent in just simply being alive, wouldn’t the only solution in this scenario be suicide?

  36. Ashevegasjoe

    There are many Greek words that exist in the English language in two or more words that are similar but not synonomous. That is because we have a much LARGER vocagulary. Faith and belief may have the same origin in Greek, but to say they are synonomous is erroneous. People base faith on un-provable, un-knowable, irrational feelings. Beliefs can be the same, however, I can also believe that the sun will rise because I have empirical, concrete evidence that it always has. It may not, but there is historical evidence, and a basic knowledge of astronomy ( a provable science), that is the foundation of said “belief”.

    The headache example was not so good, and said in jest, as I almost never get headaches. If I did, it would probably be dehydration, I believe.

  37. [b]Who:[/b] Why would that be the only “solution” to anything? You’re alive. You make the most of it. You have fun, learn, grow, change, make your mark on the world (either through works, or, in the broader evolutionary view, passing along your genes) and generally [i]live[/i].

    Your argument, if I understand it, is akin to saying “If Disney World has lots of long lines, and everything is overpriced, and you still have to go home at the end of the trip, why not just stay at home and watch reruns of [i]Everybody Loves Raymond[/i]?”

    Why does one have to justify their current existence with some dangling carrot of hypothetical immortality? Isn’t cool enough to just be alive?

  38. Ken Hanke

    “Ashevegasjoe, stating the Bible is the Word of God is a very generic statement, one which Christians will agree on. However, ask a Calvinist and an Arminian about the context of John 3:16 or John 6 and you will receive two opposing viewpoints. So, no, Christians are not in lockstep agreement.”

    There’s a big gap between the general and the specific here. You’re talking points of interpretation, but the big picture still starts with taking the Bible at face value and agreeing that — by its own admonition — its basic veracity cannot be questioned, that it must be accepted on faith and it cannot be tested. So while there’s some division on specifics of what this or that really means, the basics are pretty darn lockstep.

  39. Ashevegasjoe

    Who: I agree w/ Steve. I don’t think that “who’s” statements are what I personally believe, but if that is what you (or who) believe, than suicide is not the logical conclusion. Rather, living in the now, enjoying every moment (even if it is painful), is the reasonable conclusion. If this life is all we have, then make the most of it. Ending the life would be to deny it the possibility of further experience.

    Ken– I concur

  40. Chuck Zimmerman

    I agree with Jefferson’s definition of “Atheist”.

    Letter to John Adams
    Jefferson’s letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

    Dear Sir, — The wishes expressed, in your last favor, that I may continue in life and health until I become a Calvinist, at least in his exclamation of `mon Dieu! jusque à quand’! would make me immortal. I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Dæmonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5. points is not the God whom you and I acknolege and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a dæmon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin. Indeed I think that every Christian sect gives a great handle to Atheism by their general dogma that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of a god.

  41. who

    I am not proposing suicide. My post was a query into the ongoing question of life’s meaning. If your view is that life is just a random happening and then at death there is a total extinguishment of your life-a total blankness – a nothingness – so to speak; and living for the now in order to just experience life’s pleasures ie., food, sex, love, thrills(Disney Land Rides), feel good altruism etc…, then your life is really kind of a hedonistic nihilsm. Even the continuation of your genes has no meaning to you if the life that “lives” you now isn’t around in some future for to benefit from your current genetic “struggle”. It is good that one can find positive stimulation in one’s life, but that will not always be the case, and is not the case for many now.

  42. [b]Who:[/b] I’m not seeing your point. Life [i]does[/i] have meaning without there having to be some hypothetical (at best) afterlife to look forward to at the end of it. There’s nothing hedonistic or nihilistic about it. No one is saying: “Life has no point, let’s go trash stuff because there’s almost certainly no afterlife.” They’re saying: “You only go around once; make the best of it when you can.”

    It’s not a matter of “positive stimulation,” either. We have been built, through the ever-wonky process of natural selection, to keep replicating our genes and furthering our species. In the process, there may be some fun stuff to do — our genes made sure that things like eating and breeding has some payoffs in terms of chemical rewards — but that’s more of a collection of fringe benefits.

    There’s no need for it to “mean” anything more than that. And, for that matter, there’s no real evidence that it does. In fact, I don’t see any evidence to suggest that, as a species, we’re anything other than very complicated sea monkeys. Why isn’t that enough?

    But that doesn’t mean your best bet — the “solution,” I guess — is to clock out early. After all, temporary life is, by and large, far more interesting that permanent oblivion.

  43. who

    Nihilism doesn’t mean destruction. I also have no problem with evolution or being a complicated sea monkey. If life doesn’t mean any thing more than just being alive, then what meaning is there in that? What is there to be said for people who live out there whole lives, for better or worse, and they don’t pro-create? Their adversity doesn’t contribute to the gene pool. They just live to live. That’s kind of tenuous when things get rough. There is, in my view, more to an individual’s existence than just to be alive for life’s sake, or propagating the gene pool. Science doesn’t have all the answeres. Scientist will have to start looking inwards for some answeres. Many have.

  44. [b]Who:[/b] No one is saying that procreation is the means to happiness, just that that’s the mechanism for gene propagation. It’s what your body is trying to do, and, even if you decide to opt out of that arrangement or aren’t able to do so because of other genes that didn’t get the memo, it’s the reason you’re here. As reasons go, it’s a pretty good one, I’d say.

    Natural selection is a crap shoot, and only the combination of genes best suited for the challenges of the environment — whatever those may be at the time — get to go on to the next round. It “tenuous when things get rough”? No more so than anything else. It’s not a comforting fiction of immortality, I guess, but at least it’s consistent.

    But that’s beside the point. It addresses the “how” and the “why,”
    but not the “now what?” part. You’re alive. If you need to justify that by saying that you’ll always be alive in some form because, since your sole experience in life comes from seeing everything firsthand, you can’t imagine a world without you in it, that’s certainly understandable. But that doesn’t mean that the only other alternative is to make the quickest exit to the black beyond.

    It’s true that science doesn’t have all the answers. It just has an awful lot of them, a vested interest in getting more of them all the time, and making sure that the ones they do have work the same way every time.

    I gather by “inwards” you mean “to the supernatural or mystical,” which is exactly where science has failed numerous times to find much of anything other than unfounded claims and anecdotes. And they’ve looked plenty, I assure you.

  45. quotequeen

    “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
    – Albert Einstein

  46. Eli Cohen

    And not everything can be understood, where is travelah when you need him? I think you guys need an existential body slam or two from the travelah to set you straight!

  47. who

    Happines is not the issue here. The processs (evolution) doesn’t explain the reason for existence. We don’t know why were here. You don’t know why you exist. Deep down you don’t even know who or what you are or what all of this is that you seem, and I seem, to be encompassed in. Science can’t tell you. But it can point to things that renders people to deduce that their lives have a spiritual nature. I say spiritual for lack of a better word. Saying that evolution is the reason you’re here begs the question.(paragraph) (I don’t know how to make a paragraph)I don’t need to feel the comfort that life goes on in some way. I would be okay if the life that constitutes “me” would be totally gone at death. But that doesn’t make sense. My original suicide post was a rhetorical question. Philosophy and religion exist to help us with the problems of living – to make sense of, find meaning, or to ease hardship. Only religion and spirituality point to some sort of negative consequence to the individual after suicide. Secular humanism based on science alone doesn’t have any such thing. The pragmatic realist without spirituality could see escape in suicide; someone with spiritual\religious beliefs sees no solution in it. Finally, if you someone spent as much energy looking “inward” with the discipline that serious scientist spend looking “outward”, they would be just as mystified. Don’t knock it until you’ve seriously given it a go.

  48. “Happines is not the issue here. The process (evolution) doesn’t explain the reason for existence. We don’t know why were here. You don’t know why you exist. Deep down you don’t even know who or what you are or what all of this is that you seem, and I seem, to be encompassed in. Science can’t tell you.”

    Sure it can. And it does. You just don’t seem to like the answer very much, seemingly because it conflicts with the preconceived notion you have about spiritual immortality. Science doesn’t have any serious reason to believe there’s anything to this idea — in spite of centuries of looking — and you find that hard to swallow. That’s fine, and you’re entitled to your view, but unless you’re prepared to present some serious evidence, there’s not much point in opening it up for discussion.

    “But it can point to things that renders people to deduce that their lives have a spiritual nature. I say spiritual for lack of a better word. Saying that evolution is the reason you’re here begs the question.”

    Such as? What hard evidence do you bring to the table to back this view? People have “deduced” a lot of things over the years — the “science” of phrenology comes to mind for this — but that doesn’t mean that it holds up to serious examination.

    ‘I don’t need to feel the comfort that life goes on in some way. I would be okay if the life that constitutes “me” would be totally gone at death. But that doesn’t make sense.”

    Why doesn’t it? It seems to be, by far, the most likely scenario. It’s the only scenario that appears to fit the body of knowledge we have, and it’s also the only one that doesn’t rely on some hypothetical, wholly undetectable, ethereal realm of post-existence.

    “My original suicide post was a rhetorical question.”

    So, are you saying that you didn’t really want anyone to present another view, that you weren’t (and aren’t) interested in seeing this issue from another angle, and that you just wanted to drop a bunch of pointed statements by introducing a theme you have no interest in seriously discussing? I doubt that. I think it was more likely a prompt to start this exact sort of discussion. To a degree, I’m glad you did, as discussion of this sort are exactly what makes the internet so awesome.

    “Philosophy and religion exist to help us with the problems of living – to make sense of, find meaning, or to ease hardship. Only religion and spirituality point to some sort of negative consequence to the individual after suicide.”

    It’s also the only view that does things like point out some eternal negative and personal consequences for things like homosexuality, premarital sex, taking “the Lord’s” name in vain, eating pork, working on the Sabbath, wearing mixed-fiber clothes or shaving your beard.

    For that matter, why should suicide need to be punished eternally? Chances are, the person who killed themselves had, to them at least, good reasons for doing so. It’s painful for the survivors, sure, but I think it’s a little weird that someone who, say, was suffering in great pain from terminal cancer and decided that the pain outweighed the benefits of not being dead should be eternally punished because they clocked out early.

    And, getting back to the evolutionary model, someone who kills themselves is VERY punished severely, as their genes can’t (generally speaking) be passed on after death. In the physical sense, everything that made that being what it was is snuffed out, and (assuming they didn’t procreate) all the biological investment put into that person is, in essence, wasted. That’s oblivion without legacy, and that’s a pretty harsh reward if you ask me.

    “Secular humanism based on science alone doesn’t have any such thing.”

    Again, why should it? Why should suicide be “punished”? And what demonstrable, non-religious evidence do you have to have that it is punished at all?

    “The pragmatic realist without spirituality could see escape in suicide; someone with spiritual\religious beliefs sees no solution in it. Finally, if you someone spent as much energy looking “inward” with the discipline that serious scientist spend looking “outward”, they would be just as mystified. Don’t knock it until you’ve seriously given it a go.”

    Who says I’m not mystified? The universe is an amazing, fascinating and eternally surprising place. It’s that way regardless of your spiritual views, and I think that a Muslim-culture scientist and a Buddhist-culture scientist looking at the life in a drop of water under a microscope for the first time would probably have the same kind of astonished experience. There’s no need for any injection of faith, or some eternal reward, to make the experience of life thrilling and moving — or for that matter, totally mundane in the same way that’s familiar to both spiritual and non-spiritual people alike.

    But, for me, I don’t need to be bribed into being a reasonably good person with the sketchy promise that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to live on in some ectoplasmic form.

  49. Laurel Asheley

    I believe in love. I believe in God. I believe in the love between husband and wife. I believe in the love of parents for their children. I believe in love between fellow human beings. I believe in the love God has for his children. God blessus all!

  50. travelah

    Eli, there is something you do not understand?? Surely you are jesting with the locals.

  51. Eli Cohen

    No travelah, I was just suggesting that we needed an expert to navigate the murky waters of superstitious beliefs. Lets start with that book of fairytales called the bible.

  52. If we’re going to have a rip-snorting discussion of religion, maybe we should move this discussion over to the forums. For anonymous users like “Who,” you’ll need to sign up for an Xpress Forums user account. (It’s free, we never sell your information, and it takes just a few moments to set up). Everyone else with a user account should be able to use the forums by clicking the tab in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

    I’ve started the thread, which you can get to by clicking here:
    http://www.mountainx.com/forums/viewthread/236/

  53. quotequeen

    For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.

    -Charles Bukowski

  54. Eli Cohen

    Sorry quotequeen, but it needs done.

    The only thing that the artist cannot see is the obvious. The only thing that the public can see is the obvious. The result is the Criticism of the Journalist.

    Oscar Wilde

  55. Laurel Asheley

    I just don’t uderstand why some people do not believe in God. Who do they think makes the world go round? It doesn’t do it on it’s own. As far as the witch’s group, I try to be open minded but this seems even worse than being an aethiest. Sorry, but the devil should not be worshipped.

  56. Laurel Asheley

    Timpeck, because the devil is evil. He does very bad things. But you know that. You just like to be contrary don’t you?

  57. Eli Cohen

    Atheism is a non-prophet organization…but really folks, there’s an invisible man…living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money. (thanks George Carlin)

  58. “I just don’t uderstand why some people do not believe in God. Who do they think makes the world go round? It doesn’t do it on it’s own.”

    Out of curiosity, why do you believe a invisible, intangible and wholly supernatural being would be any more responsible for this fact than, say, the very observable and demonstrable laws of momentum and gravity?

    “As far as the witch’s group, I try to be open minded but this seems even worse than being an aethiest.”

    That’s odd. Fundamentally speaking, they seem to believe in most of the same kinds of things that you do. Deities (granted, you probably just have the one, not counting Satan and angels and whatnot), an afterlife, the power of making ritualized appeals to these deities (prayer and the like) and some kind of organization to support and share these beliefs (churches and covens).

    Atheists don’t do any of that stuff. You would seem to have far more in common with Pagans than Atheists, by almost any view.

    “Sorry, but the devil should not be worshipped.”

    Who is worshipping the devil? Pagans don’t really do that. Generally speaking, their beliefs tend to be a mix of polytheistic and animistic elements, kind of like the Shinto faith. They don’t worship “evil,” just many different kinds of good.

  59. Laurel Asheley

    “Out of curiosity, why do you believe a invisible, intangible and wholly supernatural being would be any more responsible for this fact than, say, the very observable and demonstrable laws of momentum and gravity?”

    Out of curiosity, just how do you think the laws of nature came about? How did nature itself come about? Albert Einstein said: “The more I study science, the more I believe in God”.

  60. Ken Hanke

    “Out of curiosity, just how do you think the laws of nature came about? How did nature itself come about?”

    How did God come about?

  61. VIDEO

    Reason vs. Faith, 1 of 8
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=D1jMD3bFJdI
    Reason vs. Faith, 2 of 8
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=Rd-3C9l7d0E
    Reason vs. Faith, 3 of 8
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=tZ0i71VuV_o
    Reason vs. Faith, 4 of 8
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=7hxKyIO6YoE
    Reason vs. Faith, 5 of 8
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=b-BEQqDS7Fo
    Reason vs. Faith, 6 of 8
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=M37Kq0ob9MA
    Reason vs. Faith, 7 of 8
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=cYm-U_etSrU
    Reason vs. Faith, 8 of 8
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=1z87IeNbLA0

  62. “Creationists believe every word of Genesis is fact. I don’t even think Phil Collins was a good drummer.”

    – Jimmy Carr

  63. Eli Cohen

    Laurel, obviously a quote from Einstein isn’t going to change my mind, but maybe there’s hope for you. “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”

    Albert Einstein

    Maybe you should find someone else to quote.

  64. DR.ANTINEOCONUS

    Eli
    You are a magnificently cynical curmudgeon; I mean no disrespect Sir, I am actually a big fan of your posts!
    It is hard to believe in a God when he has so many idiots speaking in behalf of him, isn’t it?? The Blind leading the Blind.
    On the right, he has neocon corporate Republican chrisitasins, speaking for him on fox News, on the Left he has self-obsessed baby booming yuppies, living in a bubble of ignorance as they climb the corporate ladder only to fall down the rungs once again.

    If I might be so bold, please do not Judge the creator by the idiots who speak in behalf of him. After all, at least once he has said in the Bible he was sorry he made them, so he brought a flood and tried to drown the suckers. He promises further future retribution by fire, at which time he promises to toast at least half of them during a tribulation. Like roaches intent to survive a nuclear holocaust, they have invented a rapture to fly away from the judgment they so readily deserve.

    It is hard to believe in a God when he has, Kentucky Fried Chicken Eaten Southern Baptist idiots speaking for him., Islamic extremists, or Roman Catholic Tyrants, and New Age whimps.
    If I might quote God on this matter, he has told them “be quiet and know that I am God” a rough paraphrase.
    Alas, Eli it is to no avail, they cannot stop speaking in his behalf, while they reel from the delusions they are under. They mold God into their sick image, they use his name to sell everything from wars to Amway products in his name

    There is hope however my friend, a huge population reduction and thinning of the herd is promised and coming very shortly, maybe then, enough of a respite of silence will ensue, that might just enable people like yourself, the peace and quiet needed to discover, that GOD has nothing in common with the idiots who speak in behalf of him.

    Until that happens your posts make perfect sense to me, keep it up, the best retort to a fool is to mock them by agreeing with them.Heck I was surprised when God told me he wasn’t a republican, all in all, I think he needs a good attorney and sue the bastards for defamation of character, what a judgment he would get!. ACTUALLY, YOUR NAME SAKE IS WHAT IS COMING. ELI’S COMING AND THIS TIME HE AINT HAPPY. AND IT COULDN’T HAPPEN TO A MORE SICK DESERVING SPECIES Check it out http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Eli's+Coming

  65. “Out of curiosity, just how do you think the laws of nature came about? How did nature itself come about?”

    I’m not sure how they came about, but I’m fairly certain it didn’t happen in the version you’d read in Genesis. It seems a bit of a stretch to say “Because God said so,” never mind where this “God” person came from in the first place.

    And since we have a pretty good working theory on where the universe came from, at least back to a few fractions of a second after it started, there’s no reason to believe that we’ll never, ever figure it out. It may take a couple of hundred more years, but we’ve come awful far in the last few hundred.

    “Albert Einstein said: ‘The more I study science, the more I believe in God.'”

    Einstein had an extremely specific view of the universe, and he was very clear in his writings that he was using the word “God” in a very symbolic sense to mean a greater order to the universe, not the deity of any specific faith.

    His most telling quote on this topic is: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

    You could read the quote as Einstein being a deist, I suppose, but my reading of it is that he’s mostly in awe of the admittedly elegant universe we live in. Either way, he’s not talking about the Judeo-Christian deity.

    For me, the whole idea of a “god” seems a infinity-to-one longshot at best. Where’s the hard evidence for such a thing? I don’t mean faith here, I mean something that can be quantified and tested.

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