Religion without Deity or Dogma

154


Discussion by: MacFR

When I read comments about "atheists" disproving God I am always surprised that I never see any alternative solutions being offered.  I feel that someone trying to disprove the existence of a theist’s deity is as likely to enforce the theists ideas as it is to dispel them.

I do understand that people need to believe in something, I believe that it helps them to avoid living in a state of fear.  Fear being a normal state due to ignorance, which is not a crime and is also understandable as none of us can know everything.  (All of us have fear in some of things that we don't understand – it's a normal self-preservation instinct.)

Does anyone have any thoughts about what alternatives could be considered as replacements to the dogmatic style of religion that we know today?  Is it even possible to have a non-dogmatic, non-deity based "religion"?  I use the word religion in a loose manner – I use it more in the "having something, rather than nothing, to believe in» sense rather than in a theistic sense.

154 COMMENTS

  1. On the contrary, atheists do not disprove the existence of gods; they simply do not believe gods exist. And for good reason: there is no evidence to suggest, no reason to believe, anything of the sort.

    • In reply to #1 by Cairsley:

      On the contrary, atheists do not disprove the existence of gods; they simply do not believe gods exist. And for good reason: there is no evidence to suggest, no reason to believe, anything of the sort.

      You have to wean yourself of the use of the word BELIEVE. when you use that word you are allowing the believers to think that science is a system of beliefs, whereas it’s a system of empirics. It may sound a bit picky but as you know.. giving these people anything to cling to is enough for them.

      • In reply to #47 by Jon Sims:

        You have to wean yourself of the use of the word BELIEVE. when you use that word you are allowing the believers to think that science is a system of beliefs, whereas it’s a system of empirics. It may sound a bit picky but as you know.. giving these people anything to cling to is enough for them.

        Thanks for the suggestion, Jon, but ‘believe’ has a time-honored use in philosophy going back to Plato, so I am not inclined to let some present-day religious extremists steal the word from me. It is the ordinary word for referring to the attitude of mind one has adopted with regard to the existential status of something, and it is used (as I am sure you already know from ordinary usage) in combination with other terms like ‘evidence’, ‘reason’ and ‘justification’. One of the well-known definitions of ‘knowledge’, derived from Plato’s discussions of the topic is ‘justified, true belief’ (- there are difficulties with that, but I am not proposing it as the best definition of ‘knowledge’; I mention it only to indicate the place the word ‘believe’ has in the philosophical tradition). The current religious extremists who seem to have an inordinate influence at present in the United States do use ‘believe’ to mean a determination of mind that is independent of any forms of justification (evidence, reasoning and so on) except their precious scriptures. They are simply misusing the word. I have found in discussions with such people that it can be a good procedure to clarify what they believe and then ask them to clarify why they believe it – what are their reasons for believing it? That can be a good opportunity to educate such people on the need to examine their assumptions. Someone’s mere belief has no authority and no claim on anyone else’s credence unless he can provide publicly available and adequate reasons for that belief.

    • In reply to #1 by Cairsley:

      On the contrary, atheists do not disprove the existence of gods; they simply do not believe gods exist. And for good reason: there is no evidence to suggest, no reason to believe, anything of the sort.

      The Chinese did not used to have a value for Zero in their number system as, well. if you think about it if there is nothing there, what is there to talk about? It may be quite useful to equate God with the classic Chinese Zero and make a simile..

    • In reply to #1 by Cairsley:

      On the contrary, atheists do not disprove the existence of gods; they simply do not believe gods exist. And for good reason: there is no evidence to suggest, no reason to believe, anything of the sort.

      there is as much reason as to believe that everything just came out of nothing by chance (chance coming out of nothing itself) and ordering itself y chance, life forming from “dead” matter….by chance, etc. I think Atheists do believe in god…it’s called CHANCE.

  2. Cairsley beat me to it. Where have you read comments about atheists disproving god? I can’t disprove god and I really am not going to waste my time in an impossible exercise.

    But not being able to disprove god does not mean that it’s at all likely god exists, as there’s no independently verifiable evidence that god does and plenty to suggest god doesn’t.

    As to your main point, why is it necessary for people to seek comfort in untruths?

  3. I do understand that people need to believe in something, I believe that it helps them to avoid living in a state of fear. Fear being a normal state due to ignorance, which is not a crime and is also understandable as none of us can know everything. (All of us have fear in some of things that we don’t understand – it’s a normal self-preservation instinct.)

    While not in possession of an objective psychological opinion, I don’t think I live in a state of fear as an atheist. However, a fear component certainly did exist when I was a believer.

    Mike

    • In reply to #3 by Sample:

      … I don’t think I live in a state of fear as an atheist. However, a fear component certainly did exist when I was a believer.

      If personal testimony counts for anything in these matters, I think you have mentioned something here that resembles my own experience. One of the differences I have noticed between my erstwhile life as a Catholic and my current life as a godless humanist is the presence of fear, however much disguised as devotion or whatever, in the former and the sense of freedom to let myself be and think as naturally comes to me in the latter. There is no doubt in my mind that this latter life is much the happier.

      • In reply to #4 by Cairsley:

        If personal testimony counts for anything in these matters, I think you have mentioned something here that resembles my own experience…

        Whereas my experience has been never to believe in a god (or at least to regard the whole ‘god’ thing as just quaint). My parents were free thinkers who possibly believed to a slight extent – or rather were curious about an afterlife – but never (never!) imposed a belief system on me. Consequently I was encouraged to think for myself and to discuss things openly from a young age.

        I’m English and can recall being very puzzled when I first learned how religious Americans were. It seemed so illogical. Therefore, I find it difficult to empathise with the ‘convert to atheism’ mind. But I do have a good friend who is Catholic (always a little unusual in Britain) and I can recall how he was wracked with guilt and fear in his 20s when he went through a ‘crisis of faith’. Very tragic.

        I’ve never experienced anything like that, so rather object to being told that fear is a normal state of mind.

        Not for me it isn’t.

        Ever.

        • In reply to #8 by Pabmusic:

          … I’ve never experienced anything like that, so rather object to being told that fear is a normal state of mind.

          Consider yourself fortunate, Pabmusic. But, if you are suggesting that I have said that fear is a normal state of mind, you are mistaken, and I am puzzled where you got that idea. It happens all too often that people raised in religion have fear instilled in them as a basic constituent of their worldview. As I mentioned before, I have noticed the marked difference between the basically fearful life I led as a Catholic (many years ago now) and the generally fearless (and much happier) life I have led since then. However, I would not expect you to empathize with this, since it is, as you have said, beyond anything you have experienced.

          • In reply to #10 by Cairsley:

            …if you are suggesting that I have said that fear is a normal state of mind, you are mistaken, and I am puzzled where you got that idea

            No!

            You didn’t suggest that at all. The OP did; here:

            …Fear being a normal state due to ignorance, which is not a crime and is also understandable as none of us can know everything…

            I think your posts have been lucid and rather humbling, since I’ve not experienced that.

          • In reply to #11 by Pabmusic:

            You didn’t suggest that at all. The OP did…

            Ah okay. Sorry, I should perhaps have thought of that passage in the OP.

            Anyway, I wonder whether we will hear back from MacFR, whose queries we have been responding to.

          • In reply to #13 by Cairsley:

            Anyway, I wonder whether we will hear back from MacFR, whose queries we have been responding to.

            I doubt it. This site attracts creationists (or similar) who post questions along the lines of “I’m a devout atheist, but…” or “I’ve read Richard’s book (??) but…”

            My experience of Christians from this website is that they are generally dishonest.

          • Use of the word “devout” kinda gives away his mindset
            In reply to #14 by Pabmusic:

            In reply to #13 by Cairsley:

            Anyway, I wonder whether we will hear back from MacFR, whose queries we have been responding to.

            I doubt it. This site attracts creationists (or similar) who post questions along the lines of “I’m a devout atheist, but…” or “I’ve read Richard’s book (??) but…”

            M…

      • In reply to #4 by Cairsley:

        In reply to #3 by Sample:

        … I don’t think I live in a state of fear as an atheist. However, a fear component certainly did exist when I was a believer.

        If personal testimony counts for anything in these matters, I think you have mentioned something here that resembles my own experience. One of t…

        I agree. My many years of being a practising Catholic were filled with guilt, guilt and more guilt. Fear of death, fear of hell, fear of missing Sunday mass. Since I’ve rejected religion, I have a wonderful feeling of freedom. My only concern is that most people are still religious (or claim to be), and I feel they are missing out on my experience of liberation.

  4. McFR,

    It’s a puzzle why you write God with a capital G, when it is not a proper name but a generic term which applies to any of the 2791 deities. Do you have a specific god in mind for atheists to disprove, and if you do, then can you tell us what kind of evidence would satisfy you in disproving a negative?

  5. The Only Way To Get Away With Capitalizing God Round Here Is To Treat All Other Words The Same.

    Though I fear that might only lead to escalation, god->God->GOD.

    AND ONCE YOU GET CAPSLOCKED, THERE’S NOTHING LEFT…

  6. Firstly, as stated, atheists don’t generally attempt to disprove a god. Normally this is because theists refuse to give a concrete definition of their god. That said, when a solid definition is given, they often disprove themselves because they’re logically contradictory or incoherent (to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, for example, is logically impossible).

    Secondly, why are you surprised that no alternative is offered? When I express a lack of belief in unicorns I shouldn’t have to put forward something else to replace them.

    Finally, I’m not afraid of things I don’t understand. I may be ignorant, curious, disinterested, excited or ambivalent but I’m not afraid. I reserve my fear for things I do understand.

    • In reply to #7 by BenS:

      Firstly, as stated, atheists don’t generally attempt to disprove a god. Normally this is because theists refuse to give a concrete definition of their god. That said, when a solid definition is given, they often disprove themselves because they’re logically contradictory or incoherent (to be omnisci…
      Fear is a healthy tool for survival.. Fear impels us to run, jump etc… Our problem is our programming is for survival..Well.. actually our programming is for reproduction. What has happened as we became intellectually “aware” we distorted the concept of survival as meaning ourselves rather than survival through reproduction. Once this happened, fear stepped in and we created this idea of an afterlife, which when you think about it, exists, through our following generations. The interesting thing to ask is how much of us exactly exists in our “children”? I’ve written a bit about the existence of “GOD”, but not in the deistic sense but more as the all seeing and all knowing chappie.. It’s at: http://www.simplesite.com/JonSims/132729954

  7. “Does anyone have any thoughts about what alternatives could be considered as replacements to the dogmatic style of religion that we know today? Is it even possible to have a non-dogmatic, non-deity based “religion”? I use the word religion in a loose manner – I use it more in the “having something, rather than nothing, to believe in» sense rather than in a theistic sense.”

    MacFR, perhaps you would like to explain what is to be understood by an undogmatic, atheistic, believing-in-something-rather-than-nothing religion and why there is any need for such a thing (if it is in fact a coherent concept). There might then be something to discuss.

  8. To all rational thinkers, please listen to my grevience and have the courage to support me, or if you feel my complaint has no merit, tell me why.

    The author of the discussion “the nature for miraculous claims”, “achromat666″, first had my account deactivated, then when I created a new account he had my ip blocked. I can only assume he complained of spamming or harassment, both of which are baseless accusations. Read the thread and you decide whether I was simply having a rational back and forth (meaning he was responding to me and so I responded to his response) or if I was spamming nonsensical posts with total disregard for rational discussion. Unfortunately, achromat666 also manipulated the thread by deleting several of my posts, which ofcourse does nothing to help his argument, but only shows his lack of respect for truth and debate. How is this not like the religious who resort to anger towards any challenges to their perspective. My point to archomat666 was to offer him a fresh perspective on the common assumption and claim made by many like him that evidence will convince him of the truth of a supernatural claim, which is the same as saying I don’t believe in the supernatural explanation for phenomenon x because there is no evidence. The perspective I was offering him was this:
    The unique property that real things have (which is the potential ability to be proven true or false because evidence and reason is capable of acting on it) should not be surrendered to irrational views and claims like the supernatural, which by very definition (one that is as intellectually vacuous as the definition of the trinity) claims that the validity to the truth of itself is outside of reason and evidence. What a fancy way to say made up purely from imagination. Are the convinced by the philosophical hogwash that anything imagined must possibly exist in reality? Aren’t we easily capable of stringing words together to conceptualize things that are completely irrational?
    Basically, asking for evidence for the supernatural reinforces the notion that rational evidence can act directly on their claims, thus affording the supernatural the possibility of truth and the weight of reality. What evidence can act on the supernatural claim that, for example, an old shroud somehow contains the physical spirit and healing powers of an ancient man-deity. How can we say, without denying everything we know about reality, that we have to wait for the evidence to decide if its true or not. Is that really a rational stance?
    I understand it is a fine line that separates the two perspectives, but it an important distinction to understand because much like how the general acceptance of faith by even the nonreligious undermines rational criticism of religion, the general acceptance that the supernatural could, with evidence, be true, undermines science by creating skepticism towards its position as the only method to understanding truth. If we allow for an alternative reality outside of scientific understanding, first its not a coherent concept, but more importantly we disempower truth and reason from claiming the unique status they deserve.

    All that being said,
    Please understand that I have to post this to discussions other than the one this is about because the author has proven that he does not have the courage nor ethical conviction to deny himself from acting on the urge to silence and reshape arguments that hurt his ego. Please consider again, whether I was spamming his discussion or engaging in a rational debate with the author. (Please forgive this one spam) Also, if anyone thinks I am misunderstanding his position please let me know how. I’m always open to rational debate as thinking rationally is more important than shielding my ego from the devastatingly shattering blow of being wrong.

    I’m not asking for a march or boycott, just please show support or tell me why you won’t. I just want to quiet that fear that any rational thinker has, that I am obliviously making some illogical leap in my reasoning that completely discredits my argument. If you have the power, please ask administrators to review the complaints of achromat666 towards me.

    Hey crookedshoes, notice how your post in support of my stance on the supernatural was deleted. I hope you or anyone else that is here to have a rational discussion, never has to feel the disappointment of being forcefully silenced by a site that champions free thought and debate.

  9. “When I read comments about “atheists” disproving God I am always surprised that I never see any alternative solutions being offered.”

    For sake of argument, let’s say that atheists do refute the claims made by theists about the existence of their particular deity. The refutation, when accepted by the theist, would be the solution. If they are entrenched in their god belief, it’s likely they fear the alternative solution because they fear their god.

    “I do understand that people need to believe in something, I believe that it helps them to avoid living in a state of fear.”

    I believe that earthquakes can be harmful – so I’m quite fearful of earthquakes. Believing in something – in this case real events or things – doesn’t necessarily mean you avoid living in a state of fear. Likewise, believing in gods and other imaginary characters, doesn’t necessarily mean you avoid living in a state of fear. Believing such things can add to that state of fear.

    If you are ignorant of those imaginary characters, you aren’t going to fear them. If you find no good reason to believe in those imaginary characters, you aren’t going to fear them.

  10. “having something, rather than nothing, to believe in”.

    Like, making the planet a better place for all future generations kind-of-thing?

    You can always go the Carl Sagan’s Pale-Blue-Dot way. You’re an insignificant part of a gigantic universe, isn’t it amazing, ect… There’s a lot there to reflect on human condition and how parochial and narrow-minded our concerns are. We should really be focusing on making good use of what we know, and try to understand what we don’t know, instead of running around in circles screaming, chopping heads off. Enough of that already.

    You can also go eastern-style. Taoism, Confucianism, meditation that kind of stuff, but it’s a slippery slope. A philosophy of life if you will, establishing a code of ethics. There is no real need to adhere to a particular movement wholly, or ensconced a particular idea into a system of belief or framework. Just pick and choose.

  11. There have been some who have given up deism but then feel a gap, thinking that without god their lives have no purpose or, seemingly from a recent post here, that no afterlife means no justice or morality.
    For such views, if they truly are from atheists ( rather than theists posting here, seemingly on some mission?) represent an intermediate step ie a loss of belief in God but yet to move from the mindset of dependancy (which of course is vital to induce in the faithful else they would start to think for themselves and, yet worse, stop parting with their cash). So the earlier phase of atheism is a time like leaving the nest, one is exercising thought muscles not used in ages, if ever at all, properly. So perhaps some fear, as well as exhalation, is quite possible as one starts to soar up from the mire of superstition.

  12. There are already non-dogmatic, non-deity based religions. Unitarian Universalist, New Thought, some new age stuff… Are you only considering Abrahamic religions? There are plenty of other views out there.

    My guess is that you are either a theist or someone still “sitting on the fence” concerned about taking the plunge of atheist. Perhaps the “something, rather than nothing” you need is faith in other people and your ability to deal with difficult issues as they arise. Frequently, when life challenges us, we are afraid or hesitant to ask for someone’s help. We fear being vulnerable or looking weak. Yet, help is there if we only search and ask. People really do care about other people and can relate to your being vulnerable. Calling out to a God character, when in need, is easier than calling out to others. Others can reject us, belittle us, or act in a variety of unkind ways. Yet we still need to be brave and persist.

    Ask yourself what really is “having something?” What does it substitute? A friend? hope? meaning and making sense? Substitution is avoidance of doing the deep personal mining into our own hearts and minds to find the answers. So frequently theists view atheist as being void of “spirituality.” I found that when all the false teachings and stories end, I was left with a blank canvas – frightening – but I needed to rebuild and find meaning and hope in new ways. It’s a continual journey, but it is as if I see the world with new eyes.

  13. When I read comments about “atheists” disproving God

    Why do you use scare quotes? Is it because you believe “people need to believe in something”? That there are no atheists, really?

    Well, atheists really do exist. I am another ex-Catholic, and I can attest to the fact that religion causes fear, not prevent it. And not only fear, but a constant state of mental self-censorship that kept me blindly following for decades.

    I had the experience of a two-stage deconversion. Once I realised Catholicism was not credible, I spent some time as a free-thinking seeker of god (whatever he would turn out to be, my mind was open), while exploring other religions and faiths for whatever they might have to offer. At this point I had no fear or mental reservations; I was just trying to experience the real god directly.

    And in the end, there was nothing. No experience of god, no reason to believe in one; only to realise the most straightforward conclusion is that there is no god.

    The worst part about that was knowing there was no grand universal meaning to my life. That troubled me for a whole week or two.

    People are always asking atheists why we don’t just kill ourselves, because our life has no meaning. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong. We don’t just kill ourselves because we love our families and friends. Because we’re involved in interesting and worthwhile projects. Because we’re reading a really good book. Because there’s this really interesting article about the far reaches of space and the beginnings of the universe and another on new species of mammal. Because we’re looking forward to dinner.

    Our lives are absolutely stuffed with meaning. Meaning needn’t be “universal”; it can be local, and still profound.

    • In reply to #20 by dandelionfluff:

      When I read comments about “atheists” disproving God

      Why do you use scare quotes? Is it because you believe “people need to believe in something”? That there are no atheists, really?

      Well, atheists really do exist. I am another ex-Catholic, and I can attest to the fact that religion causes fear…

      I agree wholeheartedly. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that “why don’t you atheists kill yourselves” line. Our lives are absolutely, as you say, “stuffed with meaning”. More so, in fact, than your typical theist. For we have no “afterlife” to yearn for.
      This is it. Our one go round.

  14. I am more and more convinced that religion is not about believing in stuff. Philosophy and politics do that.

    Religion is a matter of “feeling a presence” and then you add your local mythologies or codes of laws.

    So you can imagine any kind of ideology where people would believe in stuff without proper evidence (that mass produced food is healthy enough, that free enterprise will lead to the greater good, that united workers would rule a better world or that the universe would be better off without Jews) but that would never be a religion without the ecstatic feeling of a supernatural omnipresence.

    A religion is the unjustified link between ordinary circumstantial beliefs and a short-circuit in the brain. There is no point in splitting hairs about the detailed beliefs. The problem is not what’s believed but how it is believed. Read the Old Testament without faith and you are reading bronze age philosophy, science and politics. A code of laws and the best available explanation for nature at the time. Arguably, bad ones, but that would exactly be a “religion without deity or dogma”. Without faith, Yahweh is no more a deity than the crow or the fox in Aesop’s fables and you can freely endorse or reject his commandments as an individual or as a society. No deity, no dogma.

  15. You cannot disprove things. It is like “pointing at whoever is NOT here”… The onus is on the person who claims that there is a god to provide the proof.

    Proof is a positive; disproving is a negative. I agree with providing alternate solutions. However, bullshit ids bullshit and if you are determined to “believe it” at all costs, there is no “disproof” that would sway you.

    BULLSHIT IS BULLSHIT.

  16. Is it even possible to have a non-dogmatic, non-deity based “religion”?

    Yes, it is, many Pagans are atheists. They reverence the earth and the universe instead of deity or dieties, with a spectrum degrees of anthropomorphism of the planet Earth. Indeed, I’ve seen some discussion especially among Druids about whether Druidry is a religion or a life philosophy, with some Druids claiming religion and others claiming philosophy. I speculate that where a pagan stands on the religion/philosophy line is linked with how much they enjoy or feel a need for formal ritual in their lives. Perhaps those with the greater need are more likely to be a part of a circle/grove/whatever. This is all with the possible exception of witches, however, it seems to me they do believe in deities and their lives are thick with ritual.

    However, there really is no such thing as dogma in paganism. Those who try to impose dogma do not seem to be received well.

  17. I have not been near a computer all weekend hence my late reply.

    I realize that my initial question may not have been expressed as clearly as I would have desired. I have also seen that some of the replies do not really remain within the context, so I will try to respond to those points that seem the most valid.

    As to your main point, why is it necessary for people to seek comfort in untruths?

    I think what is most important in this reply is the fact that “it is necessary for some people to seek comfort”.
    They appear to need an alternate solution to that of having to think for themselves hence their requirement for religion, belief or any other series of ideas that can be spoon fed to them.

    Rather than think for themselves they accept to be subservient. Anyone that realises this point also realizes how easily he can gain a captive audience and therefore preach whatever he pleases.

    This is where I wonder what alternative could be offered to these subservient people, it would be impossible to teach them to think as rational people, they simply weren’t born with that capacity…

    It’s a puzzle why you write God with a capital G

    No other reason than using the standard given manner. I hold no importance to upper or lowercase.

    Firstly, as stated, atheists don’t generally attempt to disprove a god.
    I am surprised to see this recurring reply, I think this is just an error on my behalf; I just can’t think about the term that I should have used. It may have been more correct to state the “within the typical theist versus atheist discussion”.

    Finally, I’m not afraid of things I don’t understand. I may be ignorant, curious, disinterested, excited or ambivalent but I’m not afraid. I reserve my fear for things I do understand.
    I do not know many people that do not fear death; it is the element that will always remain unknown and probably the greatest reason for fear amongst the common man:

    The fear of death is drummed into us by religion, scary movies, books and also that of being completely clueless as to what death truly means. I do not know anyone that is looking forward to his death.

    Fear.. that is the keyword. Religious leaders use fear of the unknown to control the minds of the masses. Its very similar to the use of fear by Organized Criminals to control their territory.

    Exactly, I believe that it is something inherent to all of us. Fear is one of the natural states that help us to survive. Without it we would make many mistakes, it is not something that we can easily remove. When I stand at the edge of a cliff I feel fear, it doesn’t matter how hard I try I cannot remove that feeling. Yes religious leaders press on this weak point, exaggerate it and use it to their own advantage.

    “When I read comments about “atheists” disproving God I am always surprised that I never see any alternative solutions being offered.” For sake of argument, let’s say that atheists do refute the claims made by theists about the existence of their particular deity. The refutation, when accepted by the theist, would be the solution. If they are entrenched in their god belief, it’s likely they fear the alternative solution because they fear their god.

    The snake the eats its own tail…….a very difficult solution to resolve.

    “having something, rather than nothing, to believe in”.Like, making the planet a better place for all future generations’ kind-of-thing?
    You can always go the Carl Sagan’s Pale-Blue-Dot way.

    I will give it a look.

    Are you only considering Abrahamic religions.

    Yes, I must admit to not knowing much about other religions probably due to the fact that here in Europe they are not very fervently marketed as are the others

    Substitution is avoidance of doing the deep personal mining into our own hearts and minds to find the answers.
    As mentioned above I do not believe that most people have this capacity.

    After reading some of the comments and having thought a little further possibly my initial question should have been as follows:

    If a theist was to accept an atheists point of view it would create a void in the theists life. In many of the theist versus atheist discussions, I seldom if ever hear solutions which could successfully fill the void that the sudden non existence of would create.

    A rational thinker sees the void simply as a series of questions that he answers for himself, he therefore has his own solution. The non-rational thinker, the theist, does not have that same fortune, so what alternatives exist for him ?

    • In reply to #24 by MacFR:

      A rational thinker sees the void simply as a series of questions that he answers for himself, he therefore has his own solution. The non-rational thinker, the theist, does not have that same fortune, so what alternatives exist for him ?

      You want us to tell you that legs are an alternative for crutches ?

    • In reply to #24 by MacFR:

      Just a few thoughts(partly to help me get my head around some of your post because it seems like you’ve chucked a sack full of clothes in a basket just to get at the socks at the bottom).

      I think what is most important in this reply is the fact that “it is necessary for some people to seek comfort”.

      While some may seek comfort in falsehoods or unsubstantiated ideas, it’s really about disempowerment and empowerment – or regaining a sense of control; comfort follows as a result. Some people get that from identifying and discovering what is true. Some don’t give a damn. And others find what is true disempowering or terrifying even.

      They appear to need an alternate solution to that of having to think for themselves hence their requirement for religion, belief or any other series of ideas that can be spoon fed to them.

      Religions at their origin, as with conspiracy theories, are the result of people thinking for themselves. To gain a following, people – thinking for themselves – are influenced by the claimed “evidence” – or fearful/appealing incentives.

      Rather than think for themselves they accept to be subservient.

      As a religion or conspiracy theory gains mass within a population, future generations are likely to accept them as true. But that doesn’t mean they are entirely subservient; some, recognising inconsistencies and contradictory evidence – or simply recognising there isn’t any tangible evidence to support those beliefs – wake-up.

      This is where I wonder what alternative could be offered to these subservient people, it would be impossible to teach them to think as rational people, they simply weren’t born with that capacity…

      I don’t really agree with your claim that they aren’t born with the capacity to think rationally. In fact, it could be argued that given what they believe is true, they are thinking rationally(at least within the confines of those beliefs).

      The only way to get some of them to wake-up is to keep presenting more powerful and consistent arguments that don’t support their views.

      Having said that, and I think these are the people you are getting at, some people just can’t – no matter what – accept that their existence is finite; the thought terrifies them to the core. IMO, there is no alternative that would be acceptable to those people.

      • In reply to #27 by Bruiser40:

        In reply to #24 by MacFR:
        Some people get that from identifying and discovering what is true. Some don’t give a damn. And others find what is true disempowering or terrifying even.

        This is partly what I was getting at when I mentioned fear or the void in my earlier comments.

        The only way to get some of them to wake-up is to keep presenting more powerful and consistent arguments that don’t support their views.

        I am not convinced that that would be the most appropriate correct method : Finding arguments that don’t support someones views are more likely to deepen the other persons views.
        I think that providing alternatives, let us call them parallel alternatives, might be more suitabel. For example presenting “nature” as the giver of life, nature after all is the scientific version. This would be far less radical and the transition would be far easier. It would be interesting for someone, or a collective, to write the equivalant of a “scientific bible” whereby the deitys, prophets are replaced by the evolutionary processes but portrayed in allegorical fashion rather than mathematical notation.

        accept that their existence is finite

        That depends on the definition of what is an existance. Manifested as a human, yes finite, from a molecular point of view, well that’s another scale of finite. I prefer the molecular point of view….

        the thought terrifies them to the core

        This again refers to the fear that i was talking about previously.

        there is no alternative that would be acceptable to those people.

        This is actually the first real answer to my original question, unfortunately it might actually be true..

        In reply to #29 by Libertyinfinite:

        Problem is, we are so crippled, & so convoluted by the bible & it’s effects on us

        That would only represent the christian world, the same situation also arises within other cultures. This is why I believe that it is inherent to all, regardless of culture, the need to fill the void.

        The Void : It is that place within us in which we ask ourselves the fundamental questions. What purpose do I serve, what is life, where did we come from, where do we go to, what is the meaning of life etc Some use religion, some use science but we all have the need to fill it. This is why I mentioned in my first post the “need to believe in something”.

        In reply to #28/30 by speechresearcher:

        Where I mention the Void , you mention that “spooky feelings”. it’s probably all around the same area.

        • In reply to #33 by MacFR:

          I am not convinced that that would be the most appropriate correct method : Finding arguments that don’t support someones views are more likely to deepen the other persons views.

          It may further entrench some. With others, it may help get the cogs working. If it does get the cogs working and those particular theists drop their long-held beliefs and religion, then some may find it liberating – others may feel a void. Those voids, after sometime, usually get filled as the person finds other hobbies and interests.

          I think that providing alternatives, let us call them parallel alternatives, might be more suitabel. For example presenting “nature” as the giver of life, nature after all is the scientific version.

          The problem here is those alternatives already exist. And those who are entrenched in their particular god belief, and accompanying religion, are just as unlikely to drop those beliefs for the alternative – that goes whether it’s scientific or woo-woo based. The alternative is still seen as a threat to them.

    • MacFR, let’s go back to the god with a capital “G” that you wish atheists to disprove.

      Before about 3300 BC the idea of gods was fairly simple. People wished to believe that there were gods of wine that boozers toasted, goddesses of children, which mothers thanked for the health of their babies, and others that farmers praised for a good harvest, and sailors honoured for letting them navigate the sea safely, and there were gods looking after the dead and others watching over the sick, etc. Because those ancient people were naturally superstitious and gullible (today we are no better), the priests encouraged the faithful to believe in them, taking a little cut from the harvest and the wine and the trade, etc., while artists made a modest living drawing pictures and making statuettes of these gods. There was little harm in them and I for one wouldn’t like to disprove any of them.

      The pernicious disease of religion emerged in earnest when a clever dick swept away all the gods, replacing them with just one, but since this new god was created with the attributes of all other gods, the faithful were discouraged from making any portraits of him or even giving him a proper name. This clever dick and others after him wrote his biography which sounds like the work of an illiterate and innumerate imbecile, attaching characteristics to this god as they went along to reflect the changing circumstances. So he would save some from slavery one day, then ordains taking thousands of slaves next. Orders never to kill, then plans the slaughter of millions. Demands never to covet a neighbour’s ass, then steals the land and property of the neighbours. The list of contradictions is mind-boggling. It is not surprising, therefore, that we don’t have a clue what this god looks like, or what his core values are. He is everything to some and nothing to others, which makes proving or disproving him a fruitless exercise and a waste of time.

      But what is really surprising is that when the son of this god comes along, surrounded by a dozen of companions, some of whom (as well as other admirers) wrote books and long essays about him, yet none of them saw fit to give us the equivalent of a photo-fit of him. None bothered to tell us whether he was Norwegian pink or desert brown, hooked or straight-nosed, brown, blue or black eyed, side-burns and hair in a bun or crew-cut, or even whether he was turbaned or sported a snazzy yarmulke. It is almost as if he never existed, thus allowing the Ethiopians to picture him like an “African American”, the Italians like Leonardo, the Danes like Canute, the Chinese like Genghis Khan, and if horses were Christian they would picture him with hoofs, a mane and a muzzle. How do you go about disproving a god like him?

      The third of these one-and-only gods (I have 16 such gods on my list) was made up, not only as a carbon-copy of the first, but his creators had the temerity to give him ownership of the universe, Adam, the flood, and the exodus, and denied that the intermediate fake Trinity ever existed, let alone having any pretensions to being a god.

      Which of these gods would you like an atheist to disprove?

  18. In “talent” style television competitions, the producers let the worst of the contestants get through to the filming. This happens because there’s ratings to be had from viewers that just want to laugh at people. I’d have thought RDFRS moderators were above this play, when deciding which discussions to publish. I’d have been wrong.

  19. I think the main problem is that we all get “spooky feelings” from time-to-time. A particular place may seem particularly mysterious, or after the death of a loved one we may hear their voice again. Then there are traditional attitudes that we pick up from our parents, for example about inheritance, or the special condition of being the first-born, who is often expected to carry on the family farm or business. This makes good evolutionary sense, since the eldest son is going to get the maximum interval of experience of working with his father, before the father’s powers start to decline.
    And the common experience of watching a family member grow old and sick and often confused starts us thinking about the meaning of life and everything. As their conscious mind deteriorates, they often fall back on the religious attitudes of their childhood.
    The big problems start when the professional priest-class hijacks these experiences, and

  20. I think that the almost universal mistake that is made when people try to figure out wtf makes the heart go boom boom after life, or external to this life, is that they either place all of the power & responsibility on some tyrant, or they proceed to be a god-tyrant themselves. This is the tragic, fatal error in 99.999999999 percent of all religion.

    Science is actually the only viable alternative to religion. Problem is, we are so crippled, & so convoluted by the bible & it’s effects on us, that we are like a bunch of morbidly ignorant krauss’es (oops, I mean bugs). We must first lose the chain about our being, before we can feel the beauty of liberty & truth. I still believe that immortality exists. & if ever we get rid of the curse over us that is christianity, it will soon be ours. Not a tyrants, ours, each having one heart.

  21. I think the main problem is that we all get “spooky feelings” from time-to-time. A particular place may seem particularly mysterious, or after the death of a loved one we may hear their voice again. Then there are traditional attitudes that we pick up from our parents, for example about inheritance, or the special condition of being the first-born, who is often expected to carry on the family farm or business. This makes good evolutionary sense, since the eldest son is going to get the maximum interval of experience of working with his father, before the father’s powers start to decline. And the common experience of watching a family member grow old and sick and often confused starts us thinking about the meaning of life and everything. As their conscious mind deteriorates, they often fall back on the religious attitudes of their childhood. The big problems start when the professional priest-class hijacks these experiences, and attempts to gain power over us.
    I have found the books of Carl Gustav Jung very helpful. His ideas about the (collective) subconscious explain many of these sorts of experience.
    And the operation of completely subconscious mental operations has been well and truly proved in cognitive psychology. I am much more than my conscious mind. From time to time I ask my subconscious what it thinks about some decision I have made, and I often get a reply. That does not of course imply that I am talking to god, and my particular subconscious makes no pretense that it is relaying a message from any god. However, if I had had an intensely religious upbringing, then that could well happen.
    I find that I am particularly likely to get this sort of communication as I cross a threshold of some sort, into a car or a house. The pagans would no doubt explain this by the little god of the threshold.
    We do live in times that are more uncertain and complicated than they have been, and I think this sort of communication with the subconscious is nowadays very useful.

  22. (1)
    Is it possible to have a non-deity religion?

    Obviously YES: Stalin and Hitler were the founders of two religions without deity

    (2)
    Is it possible to have a “non-dogmatic religion”?

    If for “non-dogmatic” you mean that for all kind of problems and questions about the world of the society we must build models and theories and then make experiments to discover what of them are the best, then the answer is “YES”, it is possible …

    … BUT this is invented and has a well-known name … :-)

    • In reply to #31 by leocano:

      (1)
      Obviously YES: Stalin and Hitler were the founders of two religions without deity

      Scary thought but probably not far from the truth, although a “softer” set of ideals and methods might be more appropriate.

      (2)
      Is it possible to have a “non-dogmatic religion”?

      And can this non-dogmatic religion be taught in such a manner that it could replace the existing dogmatic religions ? If so please share the method, it would resolve part of my original question .

    • In reply to #31 by leocano:

      (1)
      Is it possible to have a non-deity religion?

      Yes, it’s possible to have religions without deities. However, Hitler didn’t found a religion without a deity; Nazism stood in defence of something called positive Christianity and Hitler, along with many other noted Nazis, frequently mentioned and wrote about God.

      • In reply to #40 by Bruiser40:
        >

        Yes, it’s possible to have religions without deities. However, Hitler didn’t found a religion without a deity; Nazism stood in defence of something called positive Christianity…

        Indeed, and according to Goebels, Hitler was a Catholic in good standing as late as 1943. (The German army wore belt buckles inscribed “Gott mit uns”, too.)

        As for Stalin, it’s difficult to say he founded anything – perhaps he treated the communist ideology as if it were a religion – but his predecessors did, too. Certainly he milked the ‘religious’ aspects of it with icons, ceremony and dogma.

  23. Is it even possible to have a non-dogmatic, non-deity based “religion”? I use the word religion in a loose manner – I use it more in the “having something, rather than nothing, to believe in» sense rather than in a theistic sense.

    Yes, of course it’s possible. Try this one for size:

    Many of the humans on this planet are not actually humans but they are real creatures. They are the subject of a long-term experiment – the exact nature and reason for which are unknown. These “people” form only a tiny percentage of the apparent human population with rest of “humanity” synthesised by a giant computer.

    If you have real thoughts such as I think I am, then you are a real creature whose perception of the world is entirely provided by the computer. It is impossible to determine if those around you are real or synthetic because all your sensory information is provided and controlled by the computer.

    When people die they are removed from the experiment or deleted from the program depending on whether they were real or virtual. There is no way to prove or disprove this idea; you just have to believe!

    What scientific evidence is there to back up this hypothesis? None, however there are several very good reasons to believe it is true.

    • 1) If it’s not true then why are we here?
    • 2) Where has all this “stuff” come from?
    • 3) All the apparent suffering in the world, what would be the point of that if not to test a subject’s reaction?
    • 4) Deja Vu – That’s a dead give away!
    • 5) TV channels are increasing in number, but the amount of watchable stuff remains constant. A maxed out computer maybe?
  24. What do you mean by ‘prove’? As in a mathematical proof?, or a consensus amongst a number of people?, or one just decides arbitrarily that there is enough evidence for proof? If you require evidence in order to establish ‘proof’ then….well I guess that you need hard evidence. Evidence that isn’t imaginary. Personally I feel that I have enough hard evidence to adopt uncertainty and doubt as my ‘religion’, although I wouldn’t call it such, just a pragmatic point of view, really.

  25. Why would you want to introduce another organised religion. If the whole thing is untrue, why bother.

    If people really want something organised with morality and all that stuff,

    there’s always humanisim.

  26. Got bored of reading comments about how atheism is so cool and better than religion so there is no need to unite and organize socially held beliefs cos of course we atheists do not recognize this need as we are cats rather than dogs…

    There’s a couple of places to look for clues as to what will be replacing religions, but the reason you don’t see it being talked about or alternatives being offered in those conversations is that nothing has been done in this regard. It takes so much time and effort to disprove the delusions of people trapped by faith that replacing the core beliefs with rational, emotionally-satisfying ideas would take days of intensive re-education, and we have no organized methods of influencing these people. Atheism as it works now is a collection of individuals who share a disdain for religious belief, nothing more, so the replacement ideas people come up with are completely personal and unique to each person, generally making them very hard to share.

    Alain de Botton’s book ‘Religion for Atheists’ is highly provocative, brimming with practical ideas for building a secular wisdom tradition and is definitely a great place to start once you’ve delved a bit into science and arguments against theism.

    Sam Harris has some great works on this topic (in a roundabout way). His talk ‘Death and the Present Moment’ is one of the replacement ideas that you describe which basically talks about what atheists have available to get excited about. It has a bit about meditation, he has a few articles on his websites on this and some short guided meditations that went up recently that I highly recommend as software-upgrades for your brain.

    Sean Faircloth is another person working on organizing atheists, though he wouldn’t appreciate the word ‘religion’ being used in his presence. He has a talk about secular joys that is work looking at.

    I don’t know of anyone else covering this area, but de Botton’s book hits the nail on the head for me and as I see it the only question coming from his work is: where do we start? Very exciting times that we live in.

    • In reply to #38 by utopia:

      Alain de Botton’s book ‘Religion for Atheists’
      Sam Harris has some great works on this topic (in a roundabout way).
      Sean Faircloth is another person working on organizing atheists

      Thanks Utopia, I do not know any of these names, I will look them up late. Your whole reply was actually very sensible, none of the knee jerk stuff that I am beginning to see in the thread, thanks.

      There’s a couple of places to look for clues as to what will be…

  27. MacFR, After reading some of your comments and questions, I think the comment “You want us to tell you that legs are an alternative for crutches ?” is apropo. I commented “Substitution is avoidance of doing the deep personal mining into our own hearts and minds to find the answers.”To which I believe you responded ” As mentioned above I do not believe that most people have this capacity.” I agree. I liken this to creating art. As a former art teacher, I found it shocking how some people (of all ages) want to be told what to create. They want cookie cutter instructions of how to make something turn out successfully with no extra thought on their part. They’d be happy with a “coloring book” until the end of their days. They frequently look for instruction that is step-by-step. Many hobbyists are attracted this type of instruction andlike to take art classes in which the instructor leads the lessons as a social event. Constructive criticism or learning how to see on their own often is viewed as threatening to these students and they will usually rebel or leave if they are an adult. I’ve seen plenty of senior citizens frame their poor quality art in hopes that they will get their work in a gallery. They want to maintain the social atmosphere they find in certain community art groups, but do not want to accept the deeper, inner work and technical instruction necessary to develop as true artists. They want to gain skill – easily, and usually not the reasoning behind a creative act.

    Many of us will never be artists of our own life. That’s just the way it is. I think it’s fine that some people like certain instruction, it leads to easy success. Some are in it for the social aspect. (Just like churchgoers.) Yet, the problem occurs when some of these people arrogantly compare themselves to artists who are daring to explore and do the deeper work. Some sort of Dunning-Kruger effect kicks in and they are clueless to their true skill as artists. Everyone gets a trophy in certain circles, but those who dwell in the upper echelons know the difference.

    Here is my solution. All the humanist goals, values, appropriateness of behavior (and psychological reasoning behind these views) need to be made into dumbed down, sugar-coated “learning materials” and creative endeavors in order to make a shift in the world. It needs to be easily packaged and readily available. It needs to be secular and not atheistic. It could be books, poems, movies with a theme, cartoons, etc. It needs to be worded so that the person emotionally connects with the subject and feels the truth within the words. It needs to be free of political agenda and propaganda. It needs to be a creative project in which the creator feels wholeheartedly in the truth and value of the creative act. The project needs to strive for the highest quality above and beyond the ego of the creator. You’ve seen and read stuff like this before, but you’ve probably overlooked the value that it could have on your life if you viewed it as a guiding tool. You’ve probably been exposed to this sort of stuff when you were a child, but simply felt good afterwards with no thought of someone trying to indoctrinate you. (They weren’t.) That’s it!

    Too often people value the “good Book” when the Book of Mom would offer more wisdom. Guidance can be found in alternative locations and sources. People need to be taught skills on how to properly handle situations in a realistic manner. We as a society have greatly improved our parenting skills. Thousands of TV shows offer alternatives to “the rod.” I can go into a public library and find a brochure that lists many books, organizations, and other materials to aid a parent in gaining skills. It is a matter of accessibility and organization. If you’re not a creative maker of stuff, you can still put your organizing and curating skills to work.

    • In reply to #41 by QuestioningKat:

      It needs to be secular and not atheistic.

      I can only agree with eveything that you have replied, you give more real world examples of what I have been unsuccessfuly trying to say, most notably about many peoples desire to be spoon-fed.

      The idea that a secular rather than an atheistic solution in my opinion is extremely important , I couldn’t agree more.

  28. Hi MacFR,

    When I read comments about “atheists” disproving God …

    Comment #1 by Cairsley covers this.

    I am always surprised that I never see any alternative solutions being offered. I feel that someone trying to disprove the existence of a theist’s deity is as likely to enforce the theists ideas as it is to dispel them.

    Never is a big word so, although I’ve never actually seen an Atheist missionary, I’ll take your word for it that such an exotic creature exists.

    It seems to me that you are correct: Theists generally cling to some dogma or priestly authority so preaching against those rules, or that authority, is likely to be counter-productive. It’s the main reason that I find it hard to imagine an Atheist missionary – surely any Atheists would be able to work that out for themselves?

    I do understand that people need to believe in something …

    I don’t. I don’t need to believe in something, and I have difficulty understanding people who say they do.

    I believe that it [belief] helps them [the faithful] to avoid living in a state of fear.

    Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
    Bertrand Russell

    The problem is that faith does not bring courage – it brings dishonourable consolation, dishonest hope and delusions of recompense. Faith is a bubble in which to hide from the real World.

    Fear being a normal state due to ignorance …

    That is not the usual wisdom, which states: ignorance is bliss. But I do take your point; fear and ignorance go hand-in-hand.

    [ignorance] which is not a crime …

    Then it should be. People are born ignorant, but only remain ignorant by the diligent application of idleness. The history of all human civilisations is that more knowledge means less fear. But it’s not just the individual that suffers, when they fail to learn – we are all the poorer, we must all carry the ignorant and fearful.

    [ignorance] is also understandable as none of us can know everything.

    We can agree on that. Furthermore, I will add that we can all study but, we cannot all understand.

    The whole problem with the World is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
    Bertrand Russell

    Does anyone have any thoughts about what alternatives could be considered as replacements to the dogmatic style of religion that we know today?

    • Education – incl. far broader adult education.

    • An honest dialogue between citizens and politicians – re-invent journalism and publishing.

    • Freedom of information.

    Is it even possible to have a non-dogmatic, non-deity based “religion”?

    I don’t understand what you mean. Religion: a belief in, and veneration of, supernatural powers (creator and/or governor of the universe). Religion is defined by deity(ies)?

    Dogmas change anyway – the Catholic Church used to support slavery.

    I use the word religion in a loose manner – I use it more in the “having something, rather than nothing, to believe in» sense rather than in a theistic sense.

    I’m sorry to be dim but I just don’t understand any of that.

    Peace.

    • In reply to #43 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      Hi MacFR,

      I don’t understand what you mean. Religion: a belief in, and veneration of, supernatural powers (creator and/or governor of the universe). Religion is defined by deity(ies)?

      I see that we agree on most points, please allow me to further explain above point/question. ( Please keep in mind I am not a theology student, so I may be wrong on some points.)

      Within most (all) religions there is always the belief in an fantastic entity of some kind or other. ( Please correct me if I am wrong). This to me is where the problem lies.

      Why is there no “religion” whereby we are taught to believe simply in “ourselves” and without the typical dogma. It would require a rational rather than a hypothetical approach. As mentioned above it would need to be presented in a secular manner.
      No praying, or idols etc just belief in oneself, no fantastic characters or unnecessary or false history. It would not need to be “handed down” because it could be understood first hand. There could be gathering places, the Internet itself is one, it allows those that practice to evolve their ideas and therby improve the method as a whole.

      It would require people to take responsibility for themselves instead of expecting someone else to do it for them…. This would be the difficult part..

      • In reply to #53 by MacFR:

        In reply to #43 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

        Hi MacFR,

        I don’t understand what you mean. Religion: a belief in, and veneration of, supernatural powers (creator and/or governor of the universe). Religion is defined by deity(ies)?

        Within most (all) religions there is always the belief in an fantastic entity of some kind or other. (Please correct me if I am wrong).

        It seems to me our statements are essentially identical in meaning.

        This to me is where the problem lies.

        Why is there no “religion” whereby we are taught to believe simply in “ourselves” without the typical dogma.

        Because then it wouldn’t be a religion.

        To be clear; when people say religion they generally refer to organised religions. I concede that it is possible to follow the teachings of a Shaman who is dead – and for which teachings there is no existing priesthood. In such a case you would be free to interpret the teachings of said Shaman and their teachings would not, in my view, count as a dogma – because those teachings would not be incontrovertible.

        There is a grey area between these ideas which is illustrated by the example of the Quakers.

        All other religions thrive on dogma because they are, by their very nature, political organisations. They attribute – to themselves – a form of untouchable power via there unique connection with the supernatural.

        It [a religion without dogma] would require a rational rather than a hypothetical approach.

        I cannot agree. Our experience of religions through the ages teaches us that a religion without dogma requires a religion without priests. It is the presence of priests, and their need and desire for (surprise, surprise) earthly power that drives religions away from rationality.

        As mentioned above it would need to be presented in a secular manner. No praying, or idols etc. just belief in oneself, no fantastic characters or unnecessary or false history.

        Surely such an approach to life and living exists? I call it free-thinking.

        It would not need to be “handed down” because it could be understood first hand. There could be gathering places, the Internet itself is one, it allows those that practice to evolve their ideas and therby improve the method as a whole.

        Free-thinking. No religion, pseudo-religion, imitation religion, ersatz religion, or crypto-religion required.

        It would require people to take responsibility for themselves instead of expecting someone else to do it for them.

        Okay, free-thinking with added scepticism and autodidactic habits.

        This would be the difficult part.

        It seems to me that you misinterpret the real problem. People are being led away from truth in order to serve the political whims of priests (Shamen, Mullahs, Cohens, or whatever). They do this by undermining our critical thinking, subverting our desire for human connections and group identity (tribalism) and by poisoning our natural tendency to listen to ‘fire-side’ stories.

        If you need a different method of meeting other people to gain group identity and support – in a way that will bolster your free-thinking, support your learning, encourage your scepticism and give you a good time, try this.

        Peace

        • In reply to #62 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

          In reply to #43 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

          Okay, free-thinking with added scepticism and autodidactic habits

          Yes, I definately agree but I can’t even begin to imagine how most people would be able to bring themselves into that
          condition/state/frame of mind…. It requires a very conscious decision to be continually made on behalf of the concerned party.

          People are being led away from truth in order to serve the political whims of priests

          Are they being led away or are they allowing themselves to be led awayin the hope of ? This relates to my statement about being subservient.

          • In reply to #65 by MacFR:

            In reply to #62 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            Okay, free-thinking with added scepticism and autodidactic habits

            Yes, I definitely agree but I can’t even begin to imagine how most people would be able to bring themselves into that condition/state/frame of mind

            I did it. I did it before New Atheism, before the Net, before ‘smart’ mobiles – when the public discourse still avoided mention of atheists.

            The basic story of de-conversion, repeated in people’s personal stories time and again, is one of a gradual change. People take in oblique references – but don’t necessarily respond directly to challenges to their beliefs.

            It requires a very conscious decision to be continually made on behalf of the concerned party.

            As above, I don’t believe that the evidence suggests that.

            People are being led away from truth in order to serve the political whims of priests

            Are they being led away or are they allowing themselves to be led away … ?

            People are not sheep. People, like sheep, can be bullied, cajoled, pushed … but in the end they’re still free to think differently. I hear you: Those who have been influenced by religion from a young age will find it hard. But in the end they can join the dots as well as you or I.

            [regarding the] statement about being subservient.

            Again, I see the potential to help people through mutual support but, again, I didn’t need anyone. I don’t see the need for a ‘religion’ replacement to offer that support. You appear to be suggesting there is a need for some kind of ‘methadone religion’, but people leaving a religion generally feel much better without it – so far I have not heard of any newly-atheist withdrawal syndrome?

            Peace.

    • In reply to #43 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      Hi MacFR,

      •Education – incl. far broader adult education>

      This is probably the most important fact of all because those same adults will eventually become the teachers for their own children. Two birds with one stone.

      • In reply to #54 by MacFR:

        In reply to #43 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

        Hi MacFR,

        • Education – incl. far broader adult education

        This is probably the most important fact of all because those same adults will eventually become the teachers for their own children.

        It’s also a good short-term policy. The secular, sceptical, agnostic community is looking for some early wins since Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens started the ball rolling. Greater access to adult education is one area – and the more difficult raising of the status of adult learning is another. We have seen some recent great strides with the former, but the latter remains behind schedule.

        In addition, many people are convinced that Old Media are doing a good job of educating them on important issues. While some of us are wising-up, the Old Media remain a poor method of helping people understand the real issues. But, while Old Media continue to exist – they compete with better methods of discovering truth.

        To me the rise of adult education, and the separation of journalism from publication go hand-in-hand.

        Peace.

  29. …and here is another thing that can be done: Encourage theists to make better decisions within their own views. For instance, on another site, there is an article about a gay teen who was rejected by his religion. My comment was for him to find another church. If a church is backward enough to discriminate against him, it’s a dead giveaway that they really are not in alignment with “love” nor truth. There are plenty of churches out there that will accept him as he is and will even marry him with his eventual partner. It’s a matter of economics; they aren’t meeting his needs – so find some place that will.

    I have to believe that the majority of theists know what is good and right. They cherry pick their Book. Now they need to cherry pick their church and ditch the destructive BS. Change will happen from within. Certain individuals will gain insight from secular, psychologically balanced perspectives and studies; they will translate these views into their belief system. It has been happening over the centuries. Churches that evolve will survive; those that don’t, won’t.

  30. MacFR.. A state of fear is created by fear.. “you have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
    You cannot make an alternative to something which patently does not exist. You hit the nail on the head when pointed out people’s fear.. To them God is the big milky tit in the sky they can suck on.
    Religion has become more and more dogmatic because it is failing. You use more energy getting off a ship when it is sinking than when it is coming into dock.
    The thing is you don’t need anything to believe in that your own self. It’s not perfect but it’s a lot more real and nourishing than the great tit in the sky.
    I have a bit of a thesis on line about the all seeing and all knowing god. It comes around I hope to showing you that you are not alone but part of everything.. I’m a crap writer but you may find it a bit of a laugh.
    http://www.simplesite.com/JonSims/132729954

  31. In reply to #33 by MacFR:

    It would be interesting for someone, or a collective, to write the equivalent of a “scientific bible” whereby the deities, prophets are replaced by the evolutionary processes but portrayed in allegorical fashion rather than mathematical notation.

    Hi MacFR,

    Look up The Good Book by A. C. Grayling, and read the Book Description, some sample pages, or the Comments. This is the KJV Bible rewritten from a humanist, non-theist point of view, and I think it is one viable answer to your statement…. Mac.

    http://www.amazon.ca/Good-Book-The-A-Grayling/dp/0802717373

    • In reply to #52 by CdnMacAtheist:

      In reply to #33 by MacFR:

      It would be interesting for someone, or a collective, to write the equivalent of a “scientific bible” whereby the deities, prophets are replaced by the evolutionary processes but portrayed in allegorical fashion rather than mathematical notation.

      After looking at the comments about the book I realise a little more about what would actually mean to write a non-theistic bible……Something I hadn’t considered is the fact that most people have probalby never even read their bible anyway…..

      I should rethink about another vector rather than the written word…

      I will defnately look into AC Grayling though, it appears as though he has some very interesting ideas.

      Hi MacFR,

      Look up The Go…

      • In reply to #55 by MacFR:

        In reply to #52 by CdnMacAtheist:
        .I will definitely look into AC Grayling though, it appears as though he has some very interesting ideas.

        All his writings are excellent, a great Secular Humanist, a quiet force for good, and one of only a few modern philosophers I have much time for.

        I have A.C’s ‘Ideas That Matter’ and it’s also a ‘must read’ book…. 8-) Mac.

      • I cautiously accept this idea, but how would such a “bible” distinguish between moral & immoral acts? Granted, the OT god was prone to anger, jealousy & gawd-awful actions, definitely lacking in morality. But Jesus was, in general, a pretty decent soul.In reply to #55 by MacFR:

        In reply to #52 by CdnMacAtheist:

        In reply to #33 by MacFR:

        It would be interesting for someone, or a collective, to write the equivalent of a “scientific bible” whereby the deities, prophets are replaced by the evolutionary processes but portrayed in allegorical fashion rather than mathematical n…

  32. I have only read half-way through the comments so forgive me If I repeat something already said. While I agree with most of the comments I’ve read, that there doesn’t necessarily need to be something to replace irrational belief, I feel mostof us are missing an important aspect of belief.

    While for us it may be a case of cold, hard logic, rationality standing on it’s own, self sufficient reasoning, for many people, especially theistic believers, it’s a very emotional subject. We may have already made the stept to separate emotion from the prospect of a godless universe and get our emotional sustenance from elsewhere in life, but a lot of people haven’t made that step.

    If you don’t realise this, that’s when debating with theists gets frustrating. “Why can’t they just see reality for what it is!?” you think, and the reason is there are some pretty hefty emotional barriers in the way, and that void left by rational thinking is very real for them.

    As for undogmatic, atheist belief systems, I believe there are already a few out there. Zen Buddhism and Daoism are quite close, although accompanied by their own irrational baggage in some places, their core values include; recognising reality for what it is, comming to terms with a mortal and finite life and finding happiness in the world around you. Zen Buddhism, when followed properly, and not necessarily the pop culture version that was exported to the west in the last few decades, doesn’t seek to teach any kind of “facts” or dogma, all it’s teachings are internal reflection and recognising your own fallibility.

    I think if this can be embraced by a former theist or someone who isn’t capable of seperating emotion from their worldview, this will fill that void nicely. However when one first begins to look into Zen Buddhism it looks quite depressing, so it could scare some people away.

    I’m not necessarily saying all christians should convert to buddhism (certainly not the traditional Indian buddhism) although that would probably be a net benefit to humanity. I’m just proposing it as an example of such a belief system.
    An ideal scenario would probably be an entirely secular structure, that perhaps touches on how other belief systems do it, taking the best aspects of all religons and dropping the negative, irrational aspects.

  33. Gandhi’s contribution: “It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion”. Would that be a start?

  34. As someone who has lost many family members and a fiancee in the past 13 years, has lived in poverty pretty all of his life and been robbed at his job at gunpoint I can tell you I shall never seek and have never sought consolation in any higher power or felt any need for religion to answer any of life’s more difficult questions.

    If there is anything to be believed, it is that we have to make the absolute best of the lives we have, struggle fervently to improve them, and accept the limitations of being human. No better or worse than any other creature living, no more entitled to anything. There is no temple required, no exhalations or groveling necessary and my life is my own to do with as I choose.

    I think the OP may be confusing the need for belief for the need for consolation. Life can be very hard and very cruel at times, but a personal quasi religious belief is no more the answer than praying to a deity. Consolation is sought among friends and loved ones, among other people that have pains similar to yours or simply to a very select crew of people you choose to associate with. But consolation is sought among people nonetheless.

    If I wish to seek comfort in fiction, I’ll pick up a favorite book, or watch a movie. If I need comfort for loss or pain, I’ll seek out friends and professionals that can give me consolation, love and wisdom. Religion, in any form, serves me no useful purpose.

    • In reply to #59 by achromat666:

      … If I wish to seek comfort in fiction, I’ll pick up a favorite book, or watch a movie. If I need comfort for loss or pain, I’ll seek out friends and professionals that can give me consolation, love and wisdom. Religion, in any form, serves me no useful purpose.

      I agree entirely. I admit that for while (en route to honest atheism) I argued to myself that, even if Christianity was not true eg Jesus was not the Son of God, at least it gave good values to live by – and that the Church was a supportive organisation to be a member of. It does seem the case that some atheists see religion as being a good thing, even if false (I saw a YouTube debate with William Craig where the atheist seemed to have that view).

      But, how on earth can believing something that is false have any real and lasting value? The philosopher Nigel Warburton uses the case of Santa Claus. For young children, Santa is a source of excitement but also an incentive for good behaviour. But the big day itself would go rather badly if the parents shared their child’s expectation that the presents would be magically and freely delivered on Christmas Eve.

      Likewise, maybe in a crisis the idea of a protective god might stop briefly complete meltdown – but at a terrible cost of more grief when it is obvious that no protection is forthcoming. The only way then is loss of faith – or multiplying the self delusions. I suppose one could live a life based on delusion and die without any real doubt – but what a waste. And the collateral damage of delusions is being felt this day in many Islamic societies, not to mention many individual lives (think of the impact on women, LGBT, etc etc.).

      How can any atheist want any truck with all that terrible nonsense for the sake of a shallow and brief ‘comfort’ which needs regular renewal to ‘work’? It’s rather like how a heroin addict needs that daily £10 ‘bag’ to keep going.

  35. I agree that some humans need to believe in something. But why a deity that offers nothing. If you watch a David Attenborough programme you will quickly understand that Nature is very cruel. This is normal for our planet to maintain life as we know it. Fear tends to be a state of not understanding the natural world and believing in a supernatural dieties who threaten damnation if you do not believe in them. The dogma of religion does not respect the nature world. For example, if you are gay, black people(slavery in America) a woman(not equal in many countries) or just plain different. As an Atheist I don’t have to believe in something which threaten me if I don’t go along with the morals of an old book. I have my own set of morals which are not mention in the bible. I am very kind to animals, not voilent, not bigorted, and accept every one for what they are.

  36. Does anyone have any thoughts about what alternatives could be considered as replacements to the dogmatic style of religion that we know today?

    yes and no

    “newagism” is abit like a replacement for religion. it’s an alternative many have chosen where they can be free to develop their own hippy-dippy “meaning” in life but unfortunately, dogma is never far away. it may not be the enforced dogma of an established church but there is an inbuilt dogma of not pointing and laughing at patently stupid beliefs.

    the trouble with any such worldview is it becomes egocentric. question the view and the viewer gets snitty. it’s ape nature.

    having something to believe in is fine, but beliefs are sometimes, if not, always wrong, and what happens when you have to face that fact?

    there is an alternative to the benefits of belief systems that grows as beliefs are shattered. it’s called wisdom. it’s a comfort of sorts

  37. When I read comments about “atheists” disproving God I am always surprised that I never see any alternative solutions being offered.

    Solutions to what exactly?

    I do understand that people need to believe in something, I believe that it helps them to avoid living in a state of fear.

    No, I think their beliefs make them fearful.

  38. unfortunately, we all must face the reality that there is no alternative. just because we don’t like one story because it does not seem real enough . . . it does not follow that there must be another story that is real. whatever. our purpose is not to believe dogma . . . read up on what our purpose is; from what I’ve seen, it involves stuff. someone else can explain it. 4

  39. This is a fair question. The memeplex ‘god’ is properly considered here as a null set, properly reasoned for one example ‘complexity cannot precede simplicity’. As a mind experiment consider the possibility that a non human intelligence could evolve faster than mankind. This God did not create us yet it has what we today would consider as god like powers . This is not an unreasonable idea when you consider the micro-mechanisms of organic,technology of animal bodies are only now being understood much less replicated. Evolution R&D has always been way ahead of science. It has way more experience running trials.

    Our all knowing god would know what is best for us, help us make the right life decisions, direct us when we go astray, make us prosper. All of this is enough to make a good atheist’s blood boil I am afraid. But wait, there’s more! Our imaginary god will protect us from evil and he is right now ever so close to you. In fact you are looking directly at him. Not me, your computer! Add a dash of yet to be AI and a few dedicated agents and you are there. At least this imagined god has a chance of having real effects other than make-believe god. It may look like one and could probably quack pretty good too.

  40. clarification: the question is “how can we help people who are leaving their religion to fulfill the needs that used to be met in the context of their church (or whatever), albeit in a secular context without dogma?”

    • In reply to #70 by utopia:

      clarification: the question is “how can we help people who are leaving their religion to fulfill the needs that used to be met in the context of their church (or whatever), albeit in a secular context without dogma?”

      Utopia, I agree that you have rephraed the question far more clearly that I managed to do.

    • In reply to #72 by Roedy:

      What would a religion consist of without deity or dogma?

      That is a bit like saying what would chicken soup be like without chicken, water, salt or vegetables?

      What would it consist of?

      Replace deity with yourself, replace dogma with free-thought and you have an answer.

      Learning to respect oneself whilst continuing to open up ones mind.

      Is their any valid reason for that not to become a religion ?

        • In reply to #75 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #74 by MacFR:

          Replace deity with yourself, replace dogma with free-thought and you have an answer.

          Sounds like “free will”, you are not self caused.

          Accepted.

          Replace deity with yourself, replace dogma with free will.

          I would accept that as an answer to my initial question, although teaching it to, or allowing others to learn it for themselves will not happen overnight.

          Thanks to all who answered, the conclusion is a summation of your ideas.

          • In reply to #76 by MacFR:

            Replace deity with yourself, replace dogma with free will.

            There is no such thing as “free will”. Freedom exists, but it is purely subjective.

          • In reply to #77 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #76 by MacFR:

            Replace deity with yourself, replace dogma with free will.

            There is no such thing as “free will”. Freedom exists, but it is purely subjective.

            Free will – The capacity to think for oneself.
            Freedom – That which provides an environment in which free will can take place.

            Are the two not connected inextricably.

          • In reply to #78 by MacFR:

            Free will – The capacity to think for oneself.

            Freethought is the ability to think without dogma, this is entirely deterministic.

            Freedom – That which provides an environment in which free will can take place.

            “Free will” is an oxymoron. What we will is entirely determined.

            Are the two not connected inextricably.

            No.

      • Replace deity with yourself, replace dogma with free-thought and you have an answer.

        Learning to respect oneself whilst continuing to open up ones mind.

        Is their any valid reason for that not to become a religion ?

        You seem very hung up on redefining terms. For instance, it is in the nature of religion to be dogmatic – to have unchanging ideas that need to be accepted unquestioningly – and free thinking would seem to be the opposite of that. Therefore, to redefine free thought as dogma – which you seem to suggest – is little more than a semantic trick.

        Abraham Lincoln once posed his cabinet the question, “How many legs does a dog have, if you call its tail a leg?” After several people answered “five”, Lincoln replied that the answer was four, since “however many times you call a tail a leg, it still remains a tail”.

        • In reply to #82 by Pabmusic:

          You seem very hung up on redefining terms. For instance, it is in the nature of r…

          I only reason that I do this is for want of better terms, I simply reuse the terms that a theist would use. There is no other intention behind this choice.

    • In reply to #72 by Roedy:

      What would a religion consist of without deity or dogma?

      That is a bit like saying what would chicken soup be like without chicken, water, salt or vegetables?

      What would it consist of?

      What needs do religions meet in people? How do people who do not believe in a deity meet these needs? Do we even have names for such needs?

      At this point, this is unexplored territory. If you actually want that question answered, Alain de Botton’s book ‘Religion for Atheists’ has several practical ideas that could be used, such as Agape Restaurants (places to meet strangers and discuss personal insecurities, gratitudes, etc., in the form of a ritualized meal), a Tower of Perspective (40 metre tall building decorated and marked to symbolize the length of time passed since the universe began, with 1mm gold band at the bottom to signify man’s time on earth), museums organized as meditations on secular values to spread messages of kindness, wisdom and yugen (awe at the universe’s complexity), etc.

      Meditative practices have yet to be truly bastardized by the secular movement, mindfulness meditation is scientifically shown to be correlated with increased grey matter density in the brain, decreased neuron loss over time, lower anxiety, and there are many subjective reports of people freeing themselves from bad habits and relearning to appreciate every moment of life with the same intensity as if it was the only one there was. Sam Harris has some guided meditations up on his website, samharris.org, one is 9 minutes long.

      People want to feel as though they are a part of something larger than themselves, even if the larger thing is just a group of similarly weak and fallible humans, secular groups have yet to even attempt to organize to the point of bringing us as a group to tears at the sheer scale and wonder of the universe (Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot), never yet have we had assistance in coming to terms with our collective weaknesses and failures to achieve perfection so that we can be sympathetic and non-judgmental with our fellow humans.

      There is so much more to be done than just say there is no god, we must espouse the Good Life at the same time as we attack and denigrate the Bad Life, otherwise people see us as a completely destructive and nihilistic movement. We must show them where the beauty is, as this is our duty as educators.

    • In reply to #85 by shortpolock:

      Yes, it is possible. It is called Atheism.

      I am not at all convinced that that is true.

      It is actually quite a difficult task to define what Atheism is and therefore it would be extremely difficult to present the school of thought that Atheism encompasses in an objective manner. I would go as far as to argue that most Atheists probably don’t even agree amongst themselves as to what Atheism is.

      Thereby I would not consider “Atheism” as being a solution to my intial question.

      Can Atheism really be wrapped up into a “package” that would be suitable for someone weening themselves of a religious dogmatic existance ? .

      • Can Atheism really be wrapped up into a “package” that would be suitable for someone weening themselves of a religious dogmatic existance ?

        You must have evidence to confirm your belief in unbelief. It would be based upon education, examination, etc. Your beliefs may be open to the idea of change in scientific knowledge, but your beliefs are closed to the idea of God. That closed belief is dogma. Unrelenting unbelief, searching for support of the unbelief. Isn’t it?

        You say weening as if you are describing baby weening the breast or an addict from a drug. If one loses their faith I would imagine (no personal experience in this arena) that it is a paradigm shift. The image of weening oneself from useless propaganda is counter to what I imagine the experience would feel like. If there is no God then there is only the consequences of society to constrain my behavior. Even my conscience would just be the collective conditioned response to societal framework.

        In reply to #87 by MacFR:

        In reply to #85 by shortpolock:

        Yes, it is possible. It is called Atheism.

        I am not at all convinced that that is true.

        It is actually quite a difficult task to define what Atheism is and therefore it would be extremely difficult to present the school of thought that Atheism encompasses in an obj…

        • In reply to #88 by shortpolock:

          You must have evidence to confirm your belief in unbelief…

          At its simplest, this is just wrong. Atheism is a lack of belief in deities. That’s it. No evidence needed. It’s a position where the clear implication is that there is insufficient evidence to support a belief in gods.

          The onus is on the person who proposes a fact to support it. There is a god (so prove it) – vs – I do not believe in any gods (so prove …what exactly? That I don’t believe?)

          Of course I could go further and say “There are no gods” – in which case proof would be required. But neither I nor thousands of atheists (including Richard Dawkins) say quite that. It doesn’t stop me believing that that’s very probably right, but I can’t begin to prove it conclusively.

        • In reply to #88 by shortpolock:

          You must have evidence to confirm your belief in unbelief. It would be based upon education, examination, etc. Your beliefs may be open to the idea of change…

          I would argue that what is required is a “reason” to no longer want to believe. Evidence is what scientifically or rationally minded poeple require and in majority they would already belong to the non-theistic groups.

          I use the word weening because I find it difficult to believe that a man is capable of forgetting, making a large paradigm shift, suddenly unaccepting 1,10,20 or 30 years or more of theistic indoctrination. Doubts/preconceived ideas will remain in that persons mind for a very long time if not forever.

          I have never been a religious or theistic person, I had a very minimalist Scottish protestant upbringing, I learned not much more than the 10 commandments as did most of those around …. As an adult I have never felt the need, nor the desire for a deity, I consider myself as a free thinking, rational person and yet those very few Sunday Schools mornings created memories that cannot simply be forgotten. This is an example of the powerfull techniques that religious schools use in order to “insert the grain of theistic belief ” into childrens minds at a very young age..

          I can fully understand the difficulty for someone to move away from years of indoctrination, it is an almost impossible task especially when the alternative is so radically opposed.

          Someone that has been educated on religious dogma for a certain amount of tme , temporarily loses his desire/ability to change, the step is too large/too diffucult to make. Unless of course some extraordinary flash of lucidity arrives in their lives and this is obviously the extreme exception rather than the rule.

          Unfortunately I read too many comments that do not take into account the process that would actually be required for someone to radically change their thoughts/beliefs/mindset.

          In my personal opinion, offering Atheism to a Theist is nonsensical.

          • In reply to #90 by MacFR:

            In reply to #88 by shortpolock:

            Someone that has been educated on religious dogma for a certain amount of tme , temporarily loses his desire/ability to change, the step is too large/too diffucult to make. Unless of course some extraordinary flash of lucidity arrives in their lives and this is obviously the extreme exception rather than the rule.

            You seem to be attempting to project what you think a deconversion experience would be like onto other people. I’d suggest that this occurs in a such a diverse number of ways, and affects each individual person differently that trying to impose some sort of procedure on them is quite pointless, and also quite patronising.

            However, there are plenty of users on RD.net who have been through such a deconversion – why don’t you ask them what it was like?

          • In reply to #91 by bob_e_s:

            In reply to #90 by MacFR:
            I’d suggest that this occurs in a such a diverse number of ways, and affects each individual person differently that trying to impose some sort of procedure on them is quite pointless, and also quite patronising.

            It is not my intention but I can understand why you see it that way.

            I can imagine that most theists, became theists through exactlly these techniques, I think it provides quite conclusive evidence that the method is very successfull.

            If every theist must be dealt with on an individual basis, then any battle is lost from the beginning.. it would be the equivalant of emptying the oceans one drop at a time…

            If thetechniques used by theistic and political leaders, capable of reaching out to the masses, are successful, I do not see any reason why the same tools could not be used or would not be successfull in order fopr to provide an alternative solution. The difficulty lies in ensuring that the tools/techniques are not abused.

          • I would argue that what is required is a “reason” to no longer want to believe.

            Yes, I believe that is where we agree. That reason seems to more often be moral disgust at some “God”, or that Life seems to possess an incomprehensible flaw of randomness. I just find myself on the flipside of this coin from you, trusting in the Bible as revelation rather than – not… the bible for revelation… :-/ What underpins your reason?

            In reply to #90 by MacFR:
            >

            In reply to #88 by shortpolock:

            You must have evidence to confirm your belief in unbelief. It would be based upon education, examination, etc. Your beliefs may be open to the idea of change…

            I would argue that what is required is a “reason” to no longer want to believe. Evidence is what scient…

        • In reply to #88 by shortpolock:

          You must have evidence to confirm your belief in unbelief.

          Asserting a belief has some solidity because it cannot be absolutely disproved has been covered here and elsewhere many times. Maybe consider this argument from the viewpoint of atheists+1, ie monotheists. Can Christians (Jews, Muslims) provide absolute ie incontrovertible evidence for their unbelief that Ganesha (etc etc) is a God to be worshipped to the satisfaction of a devout Hindu? If not, why not?

          I’d suggest two main reasons. One, it is impossible to absolutely disprove anything outside maths (one plus one is never three, but I can never prove that apples will never start going up and so on). The other is specific to many deisms – at least those with intangible gods, to wit, how can one prove there is not an invisible, intangible spirit in the room? In other words, most religious beliefs concern entities not susceptible to tests for – or against – reality.

          … Your beliefs may be open to the idea of change in scientific knowledge, but your beliefs are closed to the idea of God. That closed belief is dogma. Unrelenting unbelief, searching for support of the unbelief. Isn’t it?

          If scientific knowledge was closed to the idea of God, or indeed anything different to its current position, then strictly speaking it would not be science. For science is the process of constant questioning, like the innocent (but maybe also irritating) child who never stops asking, ‘Why?’. I wrote ‘strictly’ because in practice science requires funding, which means research bids have to justified, not least by operating at what is generally agreed to be some kind of frontier. In that sense science might be closed, as there are unlikely to be large scale scientific researchers into phlogiston or expensive instruments built to see if the earth is flat. However, some paranormal research does take place, I think.
          >

          You say weening as if you are describing baby weening the breast or an addict from a drug. … The image of weening oneself from useless propaganda is counter to what I imagine the experience would feel like.

          Drug addiction is a crude parallel maybe – but those who later escape from ‘cults’ do seem to have had some kind of addiction. ‘Cults’ tends to be a label for unconventional sects, but one could argue some religions have retained ‘cult’ traits despite having become respectable through their longevity, size and influence.

          If there is no God then there is only the consequences of society to constrain my behavior. Even my conscience would just be the collective conditioned response to societal framework.

          This is a different point but is no support for belief in God. If in a godless universe humans would struggle to constrain their behaviour then that may just be reality, even if it is a problem. That is, that some things are bad or unwanted does not make them non-existent. If there was no god we would still need to cope without what we feel would be the help of a god, in the way we have to cope with other truths (cancer, famine, earthquakes etc)

          But in reality humans, including the religious, have manifest problems with restraining their behaviour. For how does belief in God actually provide morals? Suppose a god advocated the oppression of women and mass murder – would that make those things good? If so, why don’t all followers of the misogynist and genocidal Jahweh carry out terrorist atrocities and demean women? How come some Jahwehists (Christians, Jews and Muslims) condemn fellow believers for following Jahweh’s example and direct commands?

          The answer is surely that many believers do not read scripture uncritically and, even if they claim literal obedience, do not actually practice it. People usually bring their their own values to scriptures and judge any divine examples or commands accordingly. The really immoral and unconstrained behaviour happens when zealous believers do not apply their own judgement but uncritically accept and pedantically apply some text or ideology.

  41. MacFR

    The problem is those are tools of indoctrination, and only serve to close minds.
    An indoctrinated atheist isn’t much better than an indoctrinated theist. They might squark the right words but they’re still just as ignorant or unenlightened on the inside, and therefore wide open for reconversion to theism, because they’d view atheism, in their experience, as being no different to any other religion.

  42. Atheism doesn’t require ‘indoctrination’.

    It’s a freeing from such chains, in that it requires no deity to please, no dogma to adhere to, no rituals to start, finish, or begin anything, much less a daily regimen. It has no clothing to have to wear, no rules to adhere to, and it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not . . . a literal ‘truth’. It’s only the current knowledge, and often, the very central core that exists in us regardless of who tries to convert us to a cause that has more to do with a ‘club’ or ‘pretence of All’ for its’ own purposes, not for the parishioner.

    Religion isn’t about spirituality, and it relies on fear . . . that much we know. It relies on fear of punishment at the extreme, and at the most basic level for the ‘modernists’, it relies on the more subtle fear of not only disappointing their ‘parental god’ by not being true to their faith (often confused or even sold as ‘themselves’). If it wasn’t necessary to maintain, it would not have evangelistic political movements determined to do the most extreme events to maintain earthly fear in everyone, or more politically-motivated campaigns of kindness or ‘We’re Not Like Them’ movements to try and re-write history by ‘moderates’ or ‘apologist modernists’ that always use the phrase that ‘They and all the other bad people and/or events in our history was done by people who hijacked my faith.’

    Spirituality in Atheism requires no ‘crutch’, no movement, no ‘replacement’. It is already the ultimate in ‘spirituality’, as far as I can tell. An atheist can (and note the lack of capital ‘A’ . . . not necessary . . . I hereby say so . . . today, anyway) make up whatever they like to have as ‘rituals’. It can be meditation, it can be yoga, it can be the very buffet of exersizes both mental and physical . . . or the lack of. It can be as simple as a daily morning coffee and a crossword puzzle, or sitting on a hill with a good book. Or in my case, having ‘created’ . . . as an artist, I am a creator, I don’t believe in them as ‘universal’ other than the cosmic soup.

    It is nothing more than the knowledge that one is finite, that one will be forgotten, even by those that love them, and likely cease to exist with no trace of them left at all . . . and being at peace with that thought. If one can achieve that, it’s about as ‘one with life and the universe’ as one can get. No crutch, no props, no lack of imagination.

    Religion or faith doesn’t have any patent on morality . . . if anything, as often proven by its’ own scriptures, it even brags about its’ lack of as a moral plus. It clearly suffers from a flawed mentality . . . a very human one. As a ‘creator’ myself, I can see the limitations of human imagination in writing, and scriptures are clearly that.

    There is nothing to replace with Atheism. There is nothing to ‘fill a void’ other than what one wants to fill it with. Life is finite, and who says ‘traditions’ can’t be changed . . . even yearly. Weekly. Daily. The whole point of life and any form of ‘spirituality’ is to feel part of it, and be at peace with oneself. No complications are required. The less you complicate your day, and your life to the degree you can handle it, since we are all individual, no one ‘standard’ applies. Trying to impose a ‘one-size-fits-all’ lifestyle on any one person is ludicrous.

    • In reply to #96 by JeffMunroe:

      Atheism doesn’t require ‘indoctrination’.

      I do not understand the connection between Atheism and statements like “Life is finite”, “It is already the ultimate in ‘spirituality’, or “The whole point of life and any form of ‘spirituality’ is to feel part of it, and be at peace with oneself. “.

      Atheism as far as I have always understood was simply the non-belief that deitys exist. Anything more would either be dogmatic or conjecture.

      • In reply to #97 by MacFR:

        Hardly at all.

        One has to understand that ‘belief’ is just that . . . a form of understanding that requires a ‘leap of faith’. It’s a literal interpretation of the universe as per some deity. In that leap, one has to assume that without gods, without proof, without substance, there cannot be, by any leap of any non-faith, a belief in all the ‘perks’ (so to speak) of believing in gods that go with it.

        My memories have no sense of the ‘infinite’. I do not remember any past lives, or have never seen any proof of said past lives as per reincarnation that can be proven. I’ve never seen any definitive interviews, if you will, with any disembodied people that have or will tell us what any ‘afterlife’ is all about apart from the nonsensical, and pseudo-science of paranormal studies. It’s not for lack of trying, and it’s been amply pointed out that it would be ridiculous to not ‘discover’ God, or an ‘Afterlife’ of some kind even if it’s just in the form of an energy pattern and/or ‘spirit’ . . . for lack . . . since if it was discovered, it would only benefit science, as a new branch would be open to exploration. Not to mention that there would be no lack of funding.

        Given all that, it’s not a ‘belief’ as much as it is what I know after 51 years of life. I’ve have nothing that tells me to expect any ‘great white light’, nothing that suggests any existence past death since I also have no memory of existence before life, and given that so many of Religion’s ‘literal truths’ have been shown to be false scientifically as well as logically or even morally, at what point does the concept of Occam’s Razor need to step in and just say, ‘enough with the false hopes’?

        Then, we have ‘instinct’. My gut tells me the same. I don’t feel it, I don’t see it, I don’t have any lingering sense that I will be ‘everlasting’. It’s not merely a ‘belief’, it’s a critical and frank question that I asked myself, and even though I didn’t really like the answer (and it wasn’t for lack of trying, believe me), based on the facts that the ‘real life experiences’ of many, many millions of others along with my own life compared to the ‘belief and/or fantasies created out of stories that have no credence in reality unless manufactured by Hollywood’, it comes down to a simple course of reasoning that leads me to conclude that my own ‘disbelief’ on all subjects attached with the Theist are merely wishful thinking. To quote Jonathan Miller, I don’t even really like using the word ‘atheist’, simply because ” . . . my disbelief is so self-evident to me, I don’t feel the need to give it a name.”

        It validates an argument I don’t even believe there are ‘two-sides’ to. It’s like arguing about whether or not JK Rowling actually was right about magic. And, being a writer/artist myself, I know how to ‘create worlds’ where there are none except in one’s mind. In that, creating an ‘afterlife’ is no less different than believing in Never-land. It’s wishful thinking, born out of the fear of an eternity of nothingness that most don’t want to face.

        That said, if people want to believe, I could care less, but to me it’s no less a ritual and/or side than the rituals created by people who are in the military.

        That, and there’s that last option . . . the fact that nearly half the world’s population are following the words of the mentally ill.

        After all, from the last point of my ‘scientific argument’ is medical. These days, it seems that most prophets are megalomaniacs, or are street-people with various illness such as schizophrenia, in which people do believe they are talking to deities, ghosts, demons, or ‘other selves’. Based on the studies on that, and my own experiences with epilepsy and seizures, one can be fooled into thinking and believing in a great many things.

        I’ve had grand mals, I’ve had partial temporal seizures that ‘fool’ one into feeling many things. For example, I had one partial that I woke up from sleep, felt like I was ‘late for an appointment or had somewhere to be’, and at 4am I got out of bed, went downstairs after getting dressed, and was half a block away from home before I realized that I had no where to be. To this day, I still feel as if I ‘missed something’. Another partial I had, I felt like I was floating down the stairs, and down the hall, all by myself, and it felt like I was being ‘pulled’.

        I wasn’t. My kids were in the living room, they watched me walk down the stairs on my hands, crawl down the hallway, and proceed to have a full grand mal.

        Based on all this information on how the brain can fool one, how chemical imbalances or injuries (my epilepsy is based on a TBI I received in hockey when I was 14), I fully understand and know exactly one other simple truth . . . perhaps all of the ‘genuine prophets’ are just people who were just mentally ill. Or had suffered multiple head injuries . . . considering we don’t even fully understand how much damage can be done with years of accumulated minor concussions. That, in itself, is far more plausible.

        Based on that, I have to conclude that either we’re medicating or imprisoning God’s messengers, or billions are following the words, writings, and ramblings of the mentally ill or damaged ancients. Given that ever since our ability to record time without having history being re-written by the various Religious authorities, and how so many of the written ‘grand miracles of various gods’ seemed to disappear as our literacy rates have improved along with portable recording devices and better mental health care, it becomes overwhelmingly difficult to objectively even be agnostic, much less just accept that gods, afterlives, and eternal punishments are all just part of some ‘belief buffet’ that one can pick and choose from.

        So no. It’s not really a ‘belief or tenet’. It’s merely common sense based on what is a series of events in the context of our ability to understand. We evolve, we don’t de-volve. If anything is dogmatic or conjecture, it’s trying to talk around all of that by complicating it far more than it needs to be. I would be more prone to accepting any such ‘beliefs’ if they weren’t constantly making excuses for past mistakes of claiming to have the ‘Knowledge of All’ while not even being aware of bacteria (which in itself explains a lot of rituals concerning death, food and clothing) . . . or, currently needing to overcomplicate philosophies to try and justify something they believe as ‘literal truth’. That, in my opinion, is where they shot themselves in the foot . . . and when faced with that, when they ran out of being able to force their beliefs on people, they resorted to trying to justify it, even politicize it, and advertise it as if it was some sort of ‘consumer product’.

        It just comes down to what’s plausible, and what’s not from a pragmatic point of view, while taking into account human nature. And picking/choosing from the religious buffet is not plausible, based on all of that.

        • In reply to #98 by JeffMunroe:
          What it comes down to, is that my position is one that has nothing to prove or disprove. I have all the evidence of medical discoveries of the brain and what controls what part of our psyche, what controls our body functions, and the utter lack of any discovery of the part of us that is the ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’, other than paranormal science and interpretations of medical readings during the time of death. It’s helpful to be married to a 30+ year veteran of neuroscience. I have ample evidence that the scriptures that have claimed ‘knowledge’ are slowly but surely being painted into a corner by science as one belief after another falls, some even by the faithful’s own (Bruno comes to mind . . . he had differences in how he saw the universe from the Church, and was abruptly burned at the stake for it. Such brutality suggests a ‘fear’ in the maintaining author’s intentions when speaking of ‘truths’). It is increasingly more obvious from a scientific and logical point of reasonable view that the concept of gods and afterlives are just fictions, and as of yet, other than the stalwart determination of the orthodoxy that incessantly reinvents the myth to try and support their version of the truth.

          In that, there is no onus on me to prove that there is no afterlife. To me, it’s a fiction. It’s like asking me to prove that there is no such thing as Santa Claus at the North Pole. The onus is on the ‘believers’ to prove to me that there is one.

          I have all the current evidence I need to declare that there is nothing at all to even suggest there is an ‘afterlife’ or ‘eternal’ from a scientific or even a philosophical point of view that makes any sense metaphorically or literally. That isn’t belief. It’s merely observation of available facts. The ‘belief’ tag belongs to Theists, not Atheists.

  43. Thanks for the clarifying comments regarding those things that make atheists tick. So it is not any overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that God absolutely does not exist? Simply a choice based upon some inference or deduction? So even if the Bible were to be proven to everyone’s satisfaction historically accurate, predictive of future events; not plagiarized, forged – just eerily accurate and seamless – you would rather not have anything to do with it? Indeed, some have said even if they saw the God of the Bible Himself…

    Just asking.

    BTW, just a yes/no question. Since so many have stated they do not believe in evolution but hold to it because it can be checked, does evolution become a default position? I know this is off-topic but it would go a long way for this shorty. Not asking for a manuscript.

    • In reply to #101 by shortpolock:

      Thanks for the clarifying comments regarding those things that make atheists tick. So it is not any overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that God absolutely does not exist? Simply a choice based upon some inference or deduction?

      As has been stated earlier, atheism nothing to do with ‘proving’ god does or does not exist. Disproving any supernatural entity is impossible, and actually I think you’re giving your faith too much credit, as I’m assuming the capitalised ‘God’ you’re asking about is the Christian god. There are a lot of other gods, spirits, djinn, elves, ghosts, etc, all of which hold an equal level of disinterest for me.

      And I think you’ve also slightly revealed your misunderstanding of atheism in your comment above. Disbelief is not what makes atheists tick. Apart from in discussions on this site, gods and religion has absolutely no place in my life. I barely think about it. It’s completely insignificant compared to the rest of the universe. That is atheism.

      So even if the Bible were to be proven to everyone’s satisfaction historically accurate, predictive of future events; not plagiarized, forged – just eerily accurate and seamless – you would rather not have anything to do with it? Indeed, some have said even if they saw the God of the Bible Himself…

      I know you’re just creating a scenario here (and again, a christian-centric one; other faiths are available and I think all of them are nonsense), but stop and think about it. How could the bible be ‘proved’? I’m no scholar but one thing I know is that it is riddled with inconsistencies. So even if parts of it were factual, it would therefore render other parts obviously false.

      Likewise with YHWH, accounts of him as so varied and inconsistent, and the characteristics he is purported to possess are so ill-defined that it would be impossible for that character to exist. And even if he did I would want nothing to do with such an unpleasant character.

      Besides, if an entity appeared and told me it was god, and displayed what I might perceive as god-like powers, I think (Like Dawkins has said) I’d be much more likely to assume it was aliens. It just seems more likely.

      Let’s turn it around; what would you have to see/experience to be convinced you were stood before the god of the bible? Just asking.

      BTW, just a yes/no question. Since so many have stated they do not believe in evolution but hold to it because it can be checked, does evolution become a default position? I know this is off-topic but it would go a long way for this shorty.

      It’s not a yes/no question because you’re misunderstanding people’s approach (either deliberately or not; I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt). Saying they do not ‘believe’ in evolution is a way of avoiding equivalence with the understanding of evolution as a scientific theory and the evidence which supports it, and a person of faith’s ‘belief’. Can you see the difference?

      And so it’s not a default position (whatever that is), it’s not a position at all. It’s a fact. That the planets of the solar system revolve around the sun is not something I need to believe in, and it’s not a position to hold, it’s a fact, in that it’s a scientific theory supported by overwhelming evidence.

      What’s your hang-up with evolution, by the way? Just asking.

    • In reply to #101 by shortpolock:

      So it is not any overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that God absolutely does not exist? Simply a choice based upon some inference or deduction?

      I’m not sure how I can convey the point on this any better than before. It is as ever, that the absence of evidence is not evidence for presence. What is the overwhelming evidence that Wotan, Thor, etc – or a Celestial Teapot orbiting Mars – do not exist? I have no evidence of any kind to say that Wotan (etc) exists: but then I have no ‘overwhelming’ evidence that Wotan does not exist. Should I then think he is, on the basis that I have no evidence for Wotan of any kind? Are you saying that because someone has suggested there is a God (I think you are referring to Jahweh rather than, say, Wotan?) then that suggestion alone is enough proof? That the very absence of evidence to disprove God (Jahweh/Wotan) means that I should think he is real??

      There can be no evidence from things that don’t exist. So if there is no evidence for something, surely it is more reasonable to think that lack of evidence for existence means the supposed thing doesn’t exist: rather than that absence of contradictory evidence means it might?? How can one logically choose to believe something for which there is no evidence? How can one deduce anything from nothing?

      If the Bible were to be proven to everyone’s satisfaction historically accurate, predictive of future events; not plagiarized, forged – just eerily accurate and seamless – you would rather not have anything to do with it?

      The Bible is full of contradictions – from the first two chapters of Genesis onwards. The is no evidence it is historically accurate (to say there have been sieges, floods and earthquakes in the Middle East is hardly proof of useful accuracy). There is much evidence for multiple authorship despite implications in book title etc of a single writer – a kind of dishonesty, maybe (though plagiarism and historical accuracy are modern concepts we perhaps should be cautious to impose retrospectively).

      If there was a holy scripture that was coherent, reasonably accurate and seamless, that would be a different matter. But I don’t think across Christianity / Islam / Judaism / Mormonism / Hinduism etc etc there is any such scripture: certainly neither the OT or NT.

      …..Since so many have stated they do not believe in evolution but hold to it because it can be checked, does evolution become a default position?

      Who are these many? Why would anyone think evolution was true unless there were reasons for the belief? Once again, ‘belief’ is being stretched too far. My ‘belief’ that it is raining outside is not on the same level as my belief there is alien life (for example). The first is a matter of looking out the window, the second one of informed speculation. Evolution – like my fingernails growing – is not something I can see immediately in the way I can see rain. But – like my fingernails growing – it is something for which there is a massive amount of evidence.

      On the grounds that you don’t actually see your nails growing, do you never cut them??!

  44. You guys don’t seem to understand what MacFR has been talking about here. It is well understood by everyone here that god doesn’t exist, and that the burden of proof is on theists. There is no need to belabor this point.

    The point is that religions meet deep-seated social and spiritual needs in people, atheism has no institutions or structures in place to meet these needs, so people are disincentivized from the conversion until they have absolutely no other option, because the emptiness of leaving all the faith traditions behind in favour of just not believing anything amazing in particular is terrifying to theists.

    MacFR is asking how we can help people meet these needs without needing to turn to god, via united secular institutions and the like.

    Just remembered some atheist churches have cropped up, google them, I wouldn’t be a big fan though.

  45. I asked God once what he thought about Atheism. After a long pause, he informed me their was little scientific evidence support it.

    Seriously though, the fear argument is absolutely correct. Two considerations that need to be addressed.

    1. Fear of dying, death, the end
    2. Fear of consequences. To decide that God doesn’t exist has a perceived inherent risk that if they are wrong, they will spend their afterlife in hell.

    It’s a two-pronged issue. Fear of hell, fear of dying. To tamper with one, invokes the other.

    Ultimately, their needs to be a narrative that reconciles people to the concept of dying that includes the end of their existence. Remove the fear.

    Secondly, the issue of hell is very much rooted in the existence of religion as an institution, scripture, interpretation, and control. It has significant cultural overtones, and is often merged with society and community activities. A much more difficult thing to achieve.

    Taking a step back, I guess another question we might ask is what we want to achieve by convincing religious people that their is no God. It is a point of fact argument but doesn’t say anything about the benefits of atheism against religion, especially when for many, to give up religion might involve giving up a wider social circle.

  46. utopia:

    You guys don’t seem to understand what MacFR has been talking about here. It is well understood by everyone here that god doesn’t exist, and that the burden of proof is on theists. There is no need to belabor this point.
    The point is that religions meet deep-seated social and spiritual needs in people, atheism has no institutions or structures in place to meet these needs, so people are disincentivized from the conversion until they have absolutely no other option, because the emptiness of leaving all the faith traditions behind in favour of just not believing anything amazing in particular is terrifying to theists.
    MacFR is asking how we can help people meet these needs without needing to turn to god, via united secular institutions and the like.
    Just remembered some atheist churches have cropped up, google them, I wouldn’t be a big fan though.

    You’re absolutely right that there is a deep-seated need for many theists for that social and spiritual support.
    The problem is that if they need this support, they’re still not going to convert to atheism even if there’s a similar support network avalable.
    If they’re a part of a social community based around their faith, then it’s that community they would be losing. It doesn’t matter if the atheist church down the road is just as good, or better, they’re not going to alienate their friends and family.

    So while the issue is emotional and social, it cannot be solved in that way. It can only be realised on an individual level, and they have to make the choice between their church community, and their integrity. In scenarios like this, this process canonly be started on logical grounds. Emotional issues come later, and only after they’ve reconciled with their local community.

    • In reply to #106 by Seraphor:

      If they need this support, they’re still not going to convert to atheism even if there’s a similar support network available.

      It doesn’t matter if the atheist church down the road is just as good, or better

      this process can only be started on logical grounds. Emotional issues come later

      This discussion is pertaining to the fact that we have already compiled all the best reasons to not believe in god, the foundational beliefs of the major world religions have been utterly dismantled and, logically speaking, there is no reason left for faith.

      Having said this, people continue to believe. They cite morality, community and spiritual practice as the remaining reasons for believing, and they think that atheists’ lives are empty without god providing these things for us. The question is, what are we doing to fix this problem? How do we make it so that people can meet like-minded strangers, experience feelings of connectedness, transcendence and awe at the wonder of the universe without needing god to explain these emotions? How do we show that our way of life is just as, if not more, compassionate than that of a religious person?

      As MacFR said at the start:

      “Is it even possible to have a non-dogmatic, non-deity based “religion”?”

  47. utopia:

    I agree, but I don’t think this is a problem that can be fixed.

    The problem is individual and emotional, like the acceptance of same-sex relationships, it can only happen through putting it into the public view, making it widely known and hopingthat it gradually becomes more acceptable and more understood.

    • In reply to #108 by Seraphor:

      utopia:

      The problem is individual and emotional, like the acceptance of same-sex relationships, it can only happen through putting it into the public view, making it widely known and hopingthat it gradually becomes more acceptable an…

      “What” exactly can be put into the public view ?

      Atheism is not a religion, it has no dogma, there is nothing tangible, no symbology, there are no guides or priests or ceremonies, there is nothing about atheism that people can adhere to.

      Utopia described the situation much better than I did. “religions meet deep-seated social and spiritual needs in people”.

      In order to fill this need, people, especially those with theist tendancies, have to be led towards a solution because most of them do not want, or have any desire to arrive there on their own.

      This is where, in my opinion, “atheism” is not and does provide a solution to the problem. Atheism cannot be offered to a theist, it would be like offering an empty golden cup to an alcoholic in exchange for his bottle of whisky. This would leave the alcoholic with an lovely empty cup but with nothing to drink, any idea how to fill it or what to fill it with.

      Seraphor : this process can only be started on logical grounds.

      Unfortunately, and even though I agree with the intention, I think that the “logical grounds” approach is not complete, the “logical grounds” could be assimilated with being a up, what’s missing though are its contents. .

  48. Atheism does have a ‘structure’, contrary to philosophical arguments about ‘what constitutes structure for a moral and/or social society’. The trap one falls into is that ‘need’ is based on placating one’s fears with stories or acts not unlike the disorder often referred to as ‘Obsessive Compulsive’, in either personality or merely the need to perform certain ‘acts or rituals’ in order to fill the need to feel as if a step has been completed in order to safely proceed. It has no founding whatsoever in reality, but it is a way past the fear.

    For any artificial structure, it’s the equivalent of teaching a child that if you ‘Step on a crack, you break your Momma’s back.’

    I’ve already spoken at length about why Religion or Theism has lost it’s sense of ‘purpose in spirituality’ and focused far too much on teaching/encouraging that disorder. It seems to me that the latter is the most relevant for not only the laity, but most certainly counted on by the leaders of various religions.

    People, on the whole, want to feel ‘good’. They want their lives to be good, they want their social connections to be positive ones. Those that don’t, are mentally ill, and likely in need of help. Or merely seek solitude, if they are harmless to society. Many people, especially those with minor or major social anxiety disorders, and often enjoy merely being alone throughout their lives.

    Religion is a structure, but it fails to account for all. There is no freedom in that structure, and it becomes meaningless when that structure is altered. ‘Faith or belief’ after all, counts on continuity. That continuity suffers from flaws as we progress.

    Many have evolved to the point that we can start creating our own ‘structure’, and deal with fear on an individual basis. It’s not as if Religion offered any true solutions to individual needs . . . for myself, Epilepsy was considered a ‘Sacred Disease’ by Pagans, and far less kinder by others . . . demonic possession was the usual culprit.

    Now, we have medications that treat it. I’m a whole person because I no longer have an illness, having been treated by medical professionals, and the people who helped me through it were merely medical professionals, not ‘exorcists or priests’.

    I’ve already suggested an alternative ‘structure’ . . . basically, it’s called ‘Freedom to Choose’. Freedom to set up one’s daily regimen as per how one has individual needs. We are an evolving species, and there are no lack of social platforms, clubs, structures, and forms of moral teachings that require no gods, no fairy-tales, no special rewards or feelings of joy thinking that one has placated a paternal father figure largely and most likely based on fictions (for the most part . . . many aboriginal groups do use maternal spirits, as are some ancient or current gods). For lack of legal morals, we have laws to provide structure that are designed by people taking human rights into account.

    In short, maybe it’s time we can make our own ‘structures’ individually, and choose what makes us feel whole? We are, by nature, a social species . . . even our cousins, the other primates, have social orders and hierarchies. It seems to me that as we are evolving away from religion, we are finding our own ways, our own causes, our own ‘happy-places’ in which we feel more at home. And, as people are, others find it there too.

    Does talking about it here not constitute a sense of ‘structure’ that benefits people who want that freedom?

    To wit: how would a building with Atheists in it having a luncheon or picnic, or even a general meeting to discuss . . . well, anything . . . not constitute structure any different than the golden trappings of an ornately-decorated Church filled with people sitting on pews? Apart from the lack of comfort and feedback from the laity, that is, other than parroted prayers that mean largely nothing other than the same as the Pledge of Allegiance or a Boy Scout’s oath to some of them anyway. People claim to want a sense of ‘social cohesion’, but refuse to call it for what it is . . . ‘To Be Around Others That Think Like They Do’. That’s all any social group is, regardless of how holy one makes it.

    To each his or her own, but I submit that we already have structure. I have structure in my life with and without my family, and I do what I love. I chose to do it. I also chose not to drink, not to do drugs, and enjoy a crime-free life. I help out my neighbours when I can, and celebrate our traditions each holiday without any gods . . . and yes, that includes a ‘Christ-free’ Christmas. I don’t feel bad about ‘stealing’ that holiday, since it was ingrained into our family long ago (and it was largely lifted from Pagans anyway), but we are not chained to it . . . if our calender doesn’t match up for everyone to be there, we make it the 26th. Or the 3rd of January. We control how we want to do it. Some years, we don’t bother, and have a big Ground-Hog Day Feast.

    Nothing is more freeing than being free to create your own structures. And fun. And, we’re evolved enough to start doing as much. I’m proof of that in that I raised two kids without religion, and plenty of ‘structure’ morally, and socially. They experience life, all without the trappings of all the things people see ‘wrong’ with the world, like drugs, over-indulgence, and they are compassionate and patient with others. They are not limited to seeing ‘Good and Evil’ as entities, they see them for what they are . . . in some, choices. In others, compulsions or even outright mental breaks with reality. Morality is easily taught by simply using common sense, and not choosing sides. If people need help with that, there are more than enough ‘social groups’ that can aid with it.

    Atheism IS a buffet, and we can build our own plate. If one feels the need to create a ‘counter alternative’ to Theism as a form of what sounds like a need for a ‘sales pitch’ to convince people of the merits of a side, which to me is what the original question in the starting post sounded a bit like (and I mean that in the most positive sense), what more can one ask than the freedom to create one’s own traditions with no holy strings attached, or one’s own group? If it’s structure that one wants to not have to create and maintain, there are Atheist orgs that do charity work already, so one can join that and promote the cause even further.

    For example, Rebecca, the woman and her baby who was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer, who told him politely she was an Atheist when he told/asked her ‘Don’t you feel grateful to God for sparing you?’ (loosely paraphrased), received donations from a fund specially set up for her to help rebuild her home. She handled the situation very politely, and even replied that it was ‘Okay if people wanted to bless her’, but she didn’t feel it was necessary.

    I suppose if one needs or wants a person to put up as a ‘spokesperson’ for the benefits of how Atheism does still create good people, with humility, compassion and caring for family, she does certainly stand out.

    Whatever ‘structure’ one sets up, it should avoid ‘making up fictions’ beyond our current understanding of reality is. The trap I referred to earlier, such as ‘making unsubstantiated claims based on faltering dogma’ is one that is currently destroying the Theist sales-pitch.

    • In reply to #111 by JeffMunroe:

      Atheism does have a ‘structure’, contrary to philosophical arguments about ‘what constitutes structure for a moral and/or social society’. The trap one falls into is that ‘need’ is based on placating one’s fears with stories or acts not unlike the disorder often referred to as ‘Obsessive Compulsive’…

      People want and like structures, especially in a social context. Why not help out and provide that, rather than leave everyone to their own devices? Why not organize into large social for groupings so that tighter-nit communities can be built, certain values can be spread widescale (secular compassion, respect for science, etc.), and people can be given the excuse to be generous and non-judgemental towards people they don’t know very well?

      You claim that people only believe in religion to alleviate fear, which ignores every report of someone using religious practices to experience profound personal transformations, ecstatic joys and ultimate connectedness with the world around them. These experiences are worth investigating, and if the practices can be altered for use in a secular manner (hint: they can) then, even on a simply hedonistic level, we should explore and understand such practices.

      It is difficult to build communities, especially on this existential doctrine that everyone is obligated to build their own meaning in life, build their own social structures in life and find the truth about the nature of reality on their own. We have to admit some values are essential to all humans, then it becomes clear that we must help others to come to these values and help them reap the rewards therein.

  49. And yes, it’s possible to be ‘non-dogmatic’ to have a club or group. One can have a set of rules to create order as with any political or chair-room, but as for ‘dogma’? The whole point of Atheism, as we know, is to discard ‘dogma’ and create one’s own as per one’s needs or limits of knowledge.

    Atheism requires a complete ‘tear-down’ of dogma, and start from scratch. Work with knowledge at hand, and adapt as necessary. You can argue at length as to whether or not it’s ‘dogma’ or not to do that . . . and based on posts of many here, philosophical points have been exhaustively made about that . . . but reality is just what we know, nothing else.

    In short (thankfully), Atheism is nothing short of the ‘Now’ of life, discarding any fantasies that we harbour as ‘belief’. Many people, even aboriginal tribes considered primitive that don’t have ‘gods’ and have even converted Christian Missionaries to their way of thinking, are capable and mature enough to handle it.

  50. It isn’t the first. Some North American tribes are similar, in that they ascribe ‘stories’ as teaching fables, but are only meant to be interpreted as stories, not literal truths. Sadly, as we know about Residential School scandals in Canada and the US, it was largely beaten out of them. I suggest ‘A National Crime’ by Pr. J. S. Milloy as a long, but detailed read about that.

    • In reply to #115 by JeffMunroe:

      It isn’t the first. Some North American tribes are similar, in that they ascribe ‘stories’ as teaching fables, but are only meant to be interpreted as stories, not literal truths. Sadly, as we know about Residential School scandals in Canada and the US, it was largely beaten out of them. I suggest ‘…

      Do you have some reference to support that because I’ve read books about Native Americans (e.g., Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee) and they all seemed to believe in the truth of their spiritual beliefs. One tribe rode into battle against the US army believing they had special protection from their spirits against bullets with predictable results.

  51. http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismhistory/a/PrimitiveAtheismSkepticism.htm

    Just a quick link to notes about African and North American. My books are at home right now, and I’m not. I don’t read online, much. You can only take what you get with a grain of salt.

    To mention as well, I’m a Metis, since my great-grandmother was possibly Cree . . . hard to say, since she was married off as a ‘white woman’ . . . a common practice back in that day. My own experiences with talking with some elders, largely from the prairies, is that they lament the loss of the ‘lack’ of cultural norms from their own teachings. One such gent sticks out in my mind, as I remember talking to a Crow elder in Calgary about 30 years ago named James (I don’t remember his Crow name), that they felt that the ideology of the ‘Creator’ was given too much literal credence as the faith was watered down by Christian beliefs that were forced on them, which of course made it harder to bring the youth back to the spirituality without giving it a ‘competing edge’ and creating a more literal sense of truth that could compete with the Christian one.

    It wasn’t universal.

    Most Native tribes did have a more ‘animal spirit’ belief, and a Great Creator, but there are some that felt them to be stories to help them navigate the world, not to be taken literally. Not all had afterlives, eternal souls or spirits, or ‘creators’. There are over 5,000 tribes in North America alone, so it’s quite a buffet of knowledge. Many tribes even changed ‘allegiances’ of faiths just to form treaties with others.

    • In reply to #118 by JeffMunroe:

      http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismhistory/a/PrimitiveAtheismSkepticism.htm

      Just a quick link to notes about African and North American. My books are at home right now, and I’m not. I don’t read online, much. You can only take what you get with a grain of salt.

      To mention as well, I’m a Metis, sin…

      There is a great book that describes the deep ties between the oil industry and evangelical missionaries. Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon : Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil. It documents how the two worked hand in hand, the missionaries going in and “saving” the native people, moving them off their land and destroying their culture, and the oil companies coming in right with them to suck the resources out of their land. The story of the book itself is kind of interesting, for a long time it was unavailable due to the influence of the Rockefeller family.

      What I found amazing was how completely the imperialists had to destroy the native peoples. Not just steal their land but destroy every aspect of their culture.

      • In reply to #119 by Red Dog:
        Pretty much the theme of many indigenous peoples, through one ‘gold rush’ or another.

        I’m home now. And thanks for that link. I’ve barely scratched the surface south of the equator, and I’m always on the look-out for that sort of info.

        Okay, a lot of the books I read were fairly diverse, and I included the ‘mythical’ ones (during a time of my life after having found absolutely no solace in anything the Bible had to offer (most of it was far too inconsistent, repetitive, and incoherent . . . the same charge the Jesuit priests in Quebec levelled at the ‘Spirit Doctors’, or later called ‘Shamans’ . . . but some people still believe that to be an incorrect term. Many languages on the West Coast don’t even have a word for ‘shaman’ or ‘priest’. They were considered a mythical ‘psychologist’ of sorts, taken literally by some, not so much by others. Even the word ‘Trickster’ wasn’t really in many languages according to an essay I read by Shannon Thunderbird . . . it was often confused with ‘Satan’ or ‘demon’. There are people who take offence to the concepts that were later introduced as ‘Indian’, but were sort of integrated or ‘polluted’ by European influences that go back to the 1600′s.

        “We know that we are connected to all living beings by an unbreakable, unshakeable belief that we are the children of The Great Mystery”. Shannon Thunderbird.

        Animism is a common theme of FN peoples, and often words and symbols from the mystical stuff gets confused or muddled by the infusion of Christian beliefs post-1800′s.

        Some books I read were pretty dry stuff, and had a lot to do with the systematic destruction of North American tribes, primarily Canadian ones. ‘Native Peoples: A Canadian Experience’, Morrison and Wilson . . . ‘Native Peoples In Canada’, James Frideres . . . ‘Indian Falls’ D’arcy Jenish (it’s a good read on the experiences of the fall of the Plains Cree and Blackfoot confederacy . . . along with ‘Black Elk Speaks’ . . . speaking of Wounded Knee . . . it’s his recollection of those experiences as a ‘Spirit Doctor’ or holy man . . . it’s more mystical, and read during my days of wondering about my own history, and why was it so important for so many of the people I was sparsely related to, to reclaim that . . . ‘American Indian Myths and Legends’, a collection of other stories was another book I read).

        What’s fascinating about it all is that it all seems to have a common thread of no sense of ‘greatness above all other things’, which is what attracted me to the concepts in the first place.

        Unfortunately, the largest part of my ‘contexts’ comes from living and talking to a lot of the people I lived near. Being in poor neighbourhoods in Calgary as a kid gave me a lot of opportunities to talk to elders in 1967 onwards that had experiences. Many talked about ‘pretending’ to submit to Christian teachings in places like the Father Lacombe Residential School, just to avoid punishment. (‘Stolen From Our Embrace’ by S. Fournier goes into a lot of detail about that . . . a shorter book and from personal experience than ‘A National Crime’ . . . she talks a lot about how punishments were meted out . . . hours spend on stone floors kneeling in prayer . . . when any kid uttered a word in their native language, needles were stuck in their tongues . . . lashes with whipping crops for fairly minor infractions).

        There are many people out here on the West Coast (I live in British Columbia, now) that also teach spirituality, and with some of the elders I’ve spoken to out here near Fort Langley, they tend to differ on subjects. Some see the teachings as ‘truths’, others see them as stories to teach lessons.

        It’s pretty diverse. There’s a lot of ‘Literalism’, a lot of it pre-dates European influence . . . and I’ve run across elders that swear up and down that they’re just stories meant to teach. These days, I’ve talked with, and read, the different views of both. Many ‘myths and legends’ are historical, while others are like Aesop’s Fables, meant as lessons in morality.

        • In reply to #120 by JeffMunroe:

          In reply to #119 by Red Dog:
          Pretty much the theme of many indigenous peoples, through one ‘gold rush’ or another.

          I’m home now. And thanks for that link. I’ve barely scratched the surface south of the equator, and I’m always on the look-out for that sort of info.

          Okay, a lot of the books I read w…

          We agree on a lot. One thing I feel that many atheists, especially people that comment here, don’t give enough credit to is that I think there is some value to the idea of a “higher power” or seeing that you are just one small spec in the universe. Also,that we can live a happier more fulfilled life if we make sure to live some of it for others and commit to helping family, friends, society, something other than just ourselves. Actually, “higher power” has connotations that it’s some conscious agent which I don’t believe, I just really mean acknowledging that science has made amazing progress there is an infinite amount more we don’t know and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can be a source of wonder and an incentive to learn more.

          I think all that is completely consistent with saying there is no God or spiritual world. The one thing we may differ on a bit is I think that virtually all primitive peoples had some form of, normally I would say religion but I don’t want to confuse what I’m saying with Christianity because it’s obviously not that at all but with some spiritual beliefs. The Piraha are the only ones that I’ve seen where that might not be true. Saying that though isn’t really inconsistent IMO with anything you said.

          I think some atheists get hung up on just feeling that they have to fight religion. To me religion is something interesting. I want to understand it not combat it. I even fault Dawkins a bit on this. I don’t have to fight religion because I’ve thought through my position a lot and I have strong convictions. So when I say almost all primitive people had some form of spiritual or religious belief that doesn’t imply that people need organized religion or spiritual beliefs to be happy or good and certainly not that they need Christianity.

  52. As has been stated earlier, atheism nothing to do with ‘proving’ god does or does not exist. Disproving any supernatural entity is impossible, and actually I think you’re giving your faith too much credit, as I’m assuming the capitalised ‘God’ you’re asking about is the Christian god. There are a lot of other gods, spirits, djinn, elves, ghosts, etc, all of which hold an equal level of disinterest for me.

    Yes, but those are not the God which divide history and not the God with whom many, if not most atheists have such angst towards. If Christ were fiction, there would not be this divide, there would not be this much fight against another god.

    And I think you’ve also slightly revealed your misunderstanding of atheism in your comment above. Disbelief is not what makes atheists tick. Apart from in discussions on this site, gods and religion has absolutely no place in my life. I barely think about it. It’s completely insignificant compared to the rest of the universe. That is atheism…

    How could the bible be ‘proved’? I’m no scholar but one thing I know is that it is riddled with inconsistencies.

    If atheism was the ignorance or active ignorance of any deity then your belief system would be more like the amazonian tribe which converted this missionary to atheism.

    http://freethinker.co.uk/2008/11/08/how-an-amazonian-tribe-turned-a-missionary-into-an-atheist/

    But I’m betting I can go look and find where we have paid particular attention to the Christian God, who has taken up more than a few of your waking minutes posting what you consider to be proof the Bible is false. If the Bible and atheism cannot be proved why do you call yourself an atheist?

    Besides, if an entity appeared and told me it was god, and displayed what I might perceive as god-like powers, I think (Like Dawkins has said) I’d be much more likely to assume it was aliens. It just seems more likely.

    Let’s turn it around; what would you have to see/experience to be convinced you were stood before the god of the bible? Just asking.

    Him returning, fulfilling what is still unfulfilled. You will see it too, and I hope it is from my side of the aisle.

    BTW, just a yes/no question. Since so many have stated they do not believe in evolution but hold to it because it can be checked, does evolution become a default position? I know this is off-topic but it would go a long way for this shorty.

    It’s not a yes/no question because you’re misunderstanding people’s approach (either deliberately or not; I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt). Saying they do not ‘believe’ in evolution is a way of avoiding equivalence with the understanding of evolution as a scientific theory and the evidence which supports it, and a person of faith’s ‘belief’. Can you see the difference?

    No, no. This is not deliberate. I’m kind of a tool. Or maybe a lot of people are saying different things. I dunno.
    Do you believe the chair your sit in will hold your derriere off the floor? This is what is meant by ‘believe’. Trust. You trust what you know of evolution to some degree to inform your atheism. And are you saying I should hold evolution equal with religion?

    And so it’s not a default position (whatever that is), it’s not a position at all. It’s a fact.

    It’s still a theory. You can test facts.

    What’s your hang-up with evolution, by the way? Just asking.

    Because I equate evolution with dogma, and the religion to which it belongs is called atheism.

    _In reply to #103 by bobe_s:

    In reply to #101 by shortpolock:

    Thanks for the clarifying comments regarding those things that make atheists tick. So it is not any overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that God absolutely does not exist? Simply a choice based upon some inference or deduction?

    As has been stated earlier, atheis…

    • In reply to #121 by shortpolock:

      I’m going to continue discussing this with you even through you constantly twist and turn your train of discussion, and absolutely will not stay on topic. I should think by now you know there is no chance of converting anyone here, so I can only assume you do have some doubts, or some curiosity about other options. Hopefully you’re learning something.

      There are a lot of other gods, spirits, djinn, elves, ghosts, etc, all of which hold an equal level of disinterest for me.

      Yes, but those are not the God which divide history and not the God with whom many, if not most atheists have such angst towards. If Christ were fiction, there would not be this divide, there would not be this much fight against another god.

      Have you spoken to many if not most atheists? Do you think an atheist in Saudi Arabia gives two hoots about the christian god? I’m staggered that you still don’t understand what atheism is.

      If Christ were fiction, there would not be this divide, there would not be this much fight against another god.

      It depends if the followers of the god assumed special privileges and tax-free status as a result of their belief. You can’t get over your individual bias – I’m assuming that where you live is a christian country?

      An atheist is simply a person with a lack of theistic beliefs. Every baby is an atheist by default. Removing your own faith from the equation, you are atheistic about every other god and belief that humankind has practiced. So if you think of the way you feel about, say, native american beliefs- that’s how an atheist is about all gods. We only differ due to one instance.

      What you are probably getting confused with are people who campaign for secular rights. It is unfair that religions are granted special privileges that are not granted to those with no religion. Therefore, to attempt to gain equality you have to look at the other side of the disequality – the biggest players, i.e. christianity and islam.

      If atheism was the ignorance or active ignorance of any deity then your belief system would be more like the amazonian tribe which converted this missionary to atheism.

      I didn’t say ignorance. Please stop misrepresenting what I write.

      I notice you also ignored what I said about the bible being impossible to prove?

      But I’m betting I can go look and find where we have paid particular attention to the Christian God, who has taken up more than a few of your waking minutes posting what you consider to be proof the Bible is false.

      So you’re going to go and look up posts I’ve put on this site on the subject of the christian god, after I specifically said “Apart from in discussions on this site, gods and religion has absolutely no place in my life.” And I would bet that those posts you find are in conversation with you. A christian. Why would I discuss voodoo or homeopathy with you?

      If you want, I’m sure you can find posts I’ve made on the subject of islam, too. Get over yourself. Christianity is just another flavour of woo.

      If the Bible and atheism cannot be proved why do you call yourself an atheist?

      Sorry, you’ll have to explain this. I’ve got no idea what you’re trying to say.
      I would add that I don’t call myself an atheist. I AM an atheist but only due to the contrast with you. If there was no religion then I’d just be a person. Which is what I am, anyway.

      Let’s turn it around; what would you have to see/experience to be convinced you were stood before the god of the bible? Just asking.

      Him returning, fulfilling what is still unfulfilled. You will see it too, and I hope it is from my side of the aisle.

      Spare me the high-horse redemption talk. You should have grasped by now I’m not interested. What I am interested in is what would have to happen to prove to you that your god was before you, and that it wasn’t a dream, or hallucination, or aliens, or a practical joke…?

      No, no. This is not deliberate. I’m kind of a tool. Or maybe a lot of people are saying different things. I dunno. Do you believe the chair your sit in will hold your derriere off the floor? This is what is meant by ‘believe’. Trust. You trust what you know of evolution to some degree to inform your atheism. And are you saying I should hold evolution equal with religion?

      I am trying to be very studied in my use of the word ‘belief’. Because what will happen if I say I believe in evolution, or quantum theory, or the placebo effect, or gravity, is that you’ll immediately jump up and down saying ‘Belief! Belief! See, science needs faith just like religion!”.

      I would use the word trust. I trust in the scientific method, where enough research has been undertaken that the conclusions could not be an error, or a hoax, or a misunderstanding.

      My understanding of evolution has nothing to do with my atheism. What is your beef with this? You’re like a dog with a bone. I’ve been an atheist since birth, by default, but by active consideration since about age 10 or 11. I knew nothing of evolution then.

      I’m not saying you should do anything. But if you want to understand evolution better read The Greatest Show on Earth, or the Ancestor’s Tale.

      Also, evolution is not on-topic – start another thread if you want to discuss it. I’d recommend you go read a book or two first, though, as you don’t really seem to know what it is.

      And so it’s not a default position (whatever that is), it’s not a position at all. It’s a fact.

      It’s still a theory. You can test facts.

      You can test theories, and evolution passes every test.

      What’s your hang-up with evolution, by the way? Just asking.

      Because I equate evolution with dogma, and the religion to which it belongs is called atheism.

      Wrongly.

  53. Are you saying that because someone has suggested there is a God (I think you are referring to Jahweh rather than, say, Wotan?) then that suggestion alone is enough proof? That the very absence of evidence to disprove God (Jahweh/Wotan) means that I should think he is real??

    Not suggestion, proof by prophetic fulfillment, and mental concepts which should otherwise be non-existent if He were fairy dust.

    There can be no evidence from things that don’t exist. … How can one deduce anything from nothing?

    My question exactly. That puts the atheist in the same boat as the theist.

    The Bible is full of contradictions – from the first two chapters of Genesis onwards.

    Every single one of those “contradictions” can be fleshed and understood as seamless accuracies.

    There is no evidence it is historically accurate…

    this is because the atheist does not want to consider that those closer to the source had a better grasp on recent history than we do, looking back through gaps and missing documents.

    If there was a holy scripture that was coherent, reasonably accurate and seamless, that would be a different matter…

    I do find that that statement hard to believe, coming from one as educated as yourself. If a 2,000+ year old scribe’s copy of Isaiah cannot convince someone that there are no inaccuracies, what will?

    …..Since so many have stated they do not believe in evolution but hold to it because it can be checked, does evolution become a default position?

    Who are these many?

    Sorry, I thought that the thousands of posts on the other discussion boards were favorable towards evolution.

    Why would anyone think evolution was true unless there were reasons for the belief?

    I am asking, Is there an alternative to evolution explaining the origins of life, allowing for your inference that humans will have evolved or gone extinct millions of years from now?

  54. You can get rid of fear of the unknown in two ways. Firstly you can tell them a soothing lie, which is what religion does. Secondly you can teach people that there is no reason to be afraid of the unknown and to overcome this survival instinct.
    I don’t think there is a need for a soothing lie. To say that people need one is condescending, we can rise above superstition and irrational fears. What we need to do is not to create a new lie replacing the old one, but to give people access to information.
    If people need to believe in something, let them believe in something rational, for example that they can make a contribution to the welfare of humanity by scientific research, humanitarian-aid and ecologically sustainable behavior, for example.
    Additionally fear of death is very rational and healthy. It keeps people alive, gives them a reason to live their life to the fullest and makes it harder for someone else to use or exploit them. Most people who have lived a full life, stop to fear death not because they believe to survive it by some form of magic, but because they tire of new experiences and get satisfied.
    For that matter I personally think oblivion is preferable to an eternity with people like William Lane Craig.

  55. In reply to #7 by BenS:

    Firstly, as stated, atheists don’t generally attempt to disprove a god. Normally this is because theists refuse to give a concrete definition of their god. That said, when a solid definition is given, they often disprove themselves because they’re logically contradictory or incoherent (to be omnisci…

    The problem is that atheists refuse to give a concrete definition as to what proof of “god” really means. Do you expect to find god in a microscope? Maybe a telescope? There is an almost child like aspect to saying that there is no “proof” of something is necessarily beyond human understanding, actually I find it arrogant. So, good luck with that. I am not a religious person, but I think it is sensible to think there is something (not necessarily an anthropomorphic being ruling the universe) out of which everything emanated and is the matrix, if you will and the source of matter as well as intelligence. No religion needed. No dogma. Just plain common sense. Something does not come out of nothing, as nothing, simply and by definition, does not and could not exist. That ultimate something must by necessity be unknowable, infinite, eternal, and every other human label for THAT which IS.

    Also, why exactly is it that concepts like omnipresent, omniscient, etc are logical impossibilities? Please elaborate.

    • In reply to #127 by Truth:

      In reply to #7 by BenS:

      The problem is that atheists refuse to give a concrete definition as to what proof of “god” really means. Do you expect to find god in a microscope? Maybe a telescope? There is an almost child like aspect to saying that there is no “proof” of something is necessarily beyond human understanding, actually I find it arrogant.

      Ok well you started this line so if you means what you say you will need to follow it.

      Is it arrogant to say one cannot prove something beyond human understanding – or is it realistic? What would a proof for something that no one understood look like? If no one understood the thing being proved, how could anyone tell if it had been proved – or not?

      There are in any case huge logistic issues with disproving Gods: namely, which one? all of them? I’ve seen figures here for estimates of over 2,000 gods. Are you expecting atheists to provide proofs of the non-existence of each of them? Hopefully not. But that immediately leads to the question if not all, which one (or three of four?)? It would be tempting on this Anglophone and dare I say largely ‘Western’ forum to assume the God to be disproved is the ‘Abrahamic’ god of Jews, Christians and Muslims. But even that can be disputed – on this forum Christians have said that Allah is not their god.

      Consider Ash, the ancient Egyptian god of oases as well as the vineyards of the western Nile Delta[1] and thus was viewed as a benign deity. Flinders Petrie in his 1923 expedition to the Saqqara (also spelt Sakkara) found several references to Ash in Old Kingdom wine jar seals: “I am refreshed by this Ash” was a common inscription.

      Petrie found good evidence that Ash was worshipped, but what evidence could be found that Ash exists, or at least did exist then? Inspecting the oases or Nile vineyards *(are there any of the latter left) would not help. All one has are the jar seals – maybe a statue or two. Conversely, from the a-Ashist perspective, a-Ash-ists cannot deny the cult, but arguably they should spend even more time than Ashists, as maybe they should check every oasis and vineyard?

      Aphrodite might be easier in terms of quantity of remains there are plenty of ruined statues and temples and writings. But any specific location now for Aphrodite seems tricky. If we could go back in time with suitable devices, maybe Aphrodiitans could obtain images when she emerged from the sea foam (aphros) after Cronos had cut off Uranus’ genitals and cast then into the sea. Or maybe modern divers could find some relics of Cronos’s action.

      Yet, overall, the plight of would be a-Aphroditians looks bleak. After all his time, surely the absence of even the smallest fragment of Uranus’s pride and joy prove that the story is wrong? We don’t have time machines, so does that mean that not having footage of the Med without any trace of Aphrodite’s miraculous – if somewhat dubious birth – means that a-Aphroditeans are arrogant to discount the story as a load of b*****cks?

      • In reply to #128 by steve_hopker:

        Belated errata on the last paragraph in my last post – though hopefully readers worked them out!

        Yet, overall, the plight of would be a-Aphroditians looks bleak. After all THIS time, surely the absence of even the smallest fragment of Uranus’s pride and joy CANNOT absolutely prove that the story is wrong? (etc)

    • In reply to #127 by Truth:

      The problem is that atheists refuse to give a concrete definition as to what proof of “god” really means.

      And why should they? There are people who insist that there exist beings that we can’t experience in any ‘natural’ way. It is for them to provide evidence to back up their claim – after all, no-one else knows exactly what they mean until they tell us. This is only what we expect of any other fantastic claim made in life (abduction by aliens, for instance).

      …I am not a religious person, but I think it is sensible to think there is something out of which everything emanated and is the matrix, if you will and the source of matter as well as intelligence. No religion needed. No dogma. Just plain common sense.

      This so vague that almost anything would do. You are saying, in effect, “I cannot conceive of how things came into being in any way other than how I could ever imagine it”. This is the age-old argument from ignorance. If you can’t conceive of it, maybe someone else can, or maybe someone will in the future, or maybe no-one ever will. But inventing a magical solution hardly helps – and it’s certainly not ‘sensible’ to do so.

      Something does not come out of nothing, as nothing, simply and by definition, does not and could not exist. That ultimate something must by necessity be unknowable, infinite, eternal, and every other human label for THAT which IS.

      You clearly haven’t read Lawrence Krauss. You are using the philosophical definition of nothing (an absence of anything) whereas the truth seems to be that ‘nothing’ is an unstable physical state where virtual particles appear and disappear constantly. Because it’s unstable it yearns to be stable . That is, that the natural state is for something to come out of nothing. The usual tactic of the devout at this point is to say that we’re cheating by redefining ‘nothing’. Well, it seems that in a physical sense (but not a metaphorical one) ‘nothing’ may never have existed. Particle physics is mind-boggling, isn’t it?

      Also, why exactly is it that concepts like omnipresent, omniscient, etc are logical impossibilities? Please elaborate.

      A being that is both omnipotent and omniscient is a logical paradox. If god is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene in something, using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent.

      Also, can God create something so large that he can’t move it? And does he realise this? If he can, then he’s not omnipotent because he can’t move it. If he can’t, then he’s not omnipotent either. If he didn’t appreciate this would happen, he’s not omniscient. A more complicated paradox is this: “If god is omnipotent, omniscient and good, then why is there evil?” (forget for the moment that there may be no ‘evil’, just people doing evil things). If god is all-knowing (omniscient) then he understands the source of evil; if he is omnipotent (all-powerful) then he could do away with it; if he is “good” he would surely want to rid us of evil. [The only way to reconcile this is to admit that god is not good - or rather that his "good" is not ours.]

      There’s plenty more.

      • In reply to #130 by Pabmusic:

        A being that is both omnipotent and omniscient is a logical paradox. If god is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene in something, using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent.

        There’s plenty more.

        Yip…this one was done to death a few months back too. The goalpost moving and what I call theological pretzelmania by the ‘soo-fisty-kated feel-oogins’ is quite outstanding to watch. Check out the thread for yourself…What evidence would be enough?…it was like trying to pull hens teeth to get a straight answer from the OP author.

    • In reply to #127 by Truth:

      In reply to #7 by BenS:

      FThe problem is that atheists refuse to give a concrete definition as to what proof of “god” really means.

      No, the problem is that theist cannot give a concrete definition of what ‘god’ really means. Do that first, then we’ll discuss evidence.

      There is an almost child like aspect to saying that there is no “proof” of something is necessarily beyond human understanding, actually I find it arrogant.

      A. Proofs are confined to mathematics. We talk about evidence here.
      B Hard to define evidence for something which is beyond human understanding, isn’t it?

      I am not a religious person

      Sure about that?

      but I think it is sensible to think there is something (not necessarily an anthropomorphic being ruling the universe) out of which everything emanated and is the matrix, if you will and the source of matter as well as intelligence.

      That is the least sensible thing I’ve heard in a while. Unless by sensible you mean ‘comforting’. Still sure about the not religious thing?

      No religion needed. No dogma. Just plain common sense. Something does not come out of nothing, as nothing, simply and by definition, does not and could not exist. That ultimate something must by necessity be unknowable, infinite, eternal, and every other human label for THAT which IS.

      Waffle, waffle, waffle, bullshit. Yawn.

  56. I like Richard Dawkins and this foundation for what he/it is doing to undermine the outdated and superstitious beliefs within religions. But, I do not like the tendency to reject religion as having no basis in rationality and having no value. A radical progressive religious movement has been growing for a decade or more, kicked off by John Robinson’s Honest to God and strengthened by Don Cupit’s Sea of Faith movement. The Progressive Christain movement and Free To Believe groups continue this and authors like John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg and Dominic Curran are attracting many Chritians with their radical views which are exposing tradition based on error going back to the early days of Christianity, and promoting a much freer, open minded, less institutional form of Christianity. This and the burgeoning spiritualities emerging demonstarte the remaing strong religious sense which exists and is an inseperable part of the human psyche. There can be I believe full supporters of this foundation and admirers of Dawkins who are nonetheless theists and who believe in God in a sensual and experimental way evoid of traditional excrecences.

    • In reply to #133 by geoff newton:

      I like Richard Dawkins and this foundation for what he/it is doing to undermine the outdated and superstitious beliefs within religions. But, I do not like the tendency to reject religion as having no basis in rationality and having no value. A radical progressive religious movement has been growing…

      It is perhaps worth pointing out that “no basis in rationality” and “no value” are two quite different things. It may be that believing in a god has enormous value for an individual or a society but that doesn’t meant there are any. Moving on from that what is left of Christianity if you accept that science tells us that (1) there absolutely zero evidence for any form of god (2) there is no soul that can exist after death and (3) evolution means that there is no Adam and Eve, no original sin and no need for Jesus’ sacrifice ?

      I had a look at Don Cupitt, not having heard the name before:

      In his writings Cupitt sometimes describes himself as Christian non-realist, by which he means that he follows certain spiritual practices and attempts to live by ethical standards traditionally associated with Christianity but without believing in the actual existence of the underlying metaphysical entities (such as “Christ” and “God”). He calls this way of being a non-realist Christian “solar living”.
      wikipedia

      Years ago in the US someone told me you could order a skim milk decaf coffee which was called a “why bother”. This sounds to me like a “why bother” religion.

      Michael

      • In reply to #134 by mmurray:

        Years ago in the US someone told me you could order a skim milk decaf coffee which was called a “why bother”. This sounds to me like a “why bother” religion.

        How does Don Cupitt put bread on the table…books by Cupitt…that’s “why bother” Michael, 38,000 + 1 snake oil sales pitches….just another load of bollocks.

      • In reply to #134 by mmurray:

        In reply to #133 by geoff newton:

        I like Richard Dawkins and this foundation for what he/it is doing to undermine the outdated and superstitious beliefs within religions. But, I do not like the tendency to reject religion as having no basis in rationality and having no value. A radical progressive…

  57. You say “I do understand that people need to believe in something.”

    You are engaging in the false equivocation fallacy of treating the two different meanings of “believe in” as if they were the same when they’re not. Believing in a thing could mean believing that it exists, or it could mean believing that it is worthy and good.

  58. mmurray puts 3 reasons why religion should be rejected. First. There can be no proff there is anything outside of the material universe. I totally agre. We can only prove or disprove anything by use of the scientific method of testing all phenomena against our experience and rational judgment, In this way all the discoveries of the scientific recvolution which we benefit from have come. But, and it is a big but, neither can you disprove, by this method that there is a supernatural entity we bcall God. There can be no definition of this entuty because all existing definitions bty world religiouns are anthropmorphic just as all religions are human creations.Atheists who are militant and combative like Richard Dawkins, whom I have nonetheless a tremendous refgard for as a scientist abnd thinker, go too far in equating all religious drive and belief as based on faear and incredulous belief in rubbish. I too reject the other two things listed in mmurray’s list. Frankly the idea that a supernatural being could become human and then die to save the world from sin is just preposterous and a further emergence of the old theme of a Saviour strong person saving the fair damsel or the world as all heros have done. But that does not mean that humans can not sift into the heart of the Christian or any other religion to get to what is beyond the rubbish…and there is plenty. Biblical criticism of a literary critical nature reveals to even the superficial reader the kind of book the Bible is and can sift through the additions of faith orientated people interpreting the life of the man..human totally Jesus and making him a God in thje Gospels. Also it is easy to read the New Testament as special pleading and to get ruid of the biased bits to reveal the very fine writing and transcendentally inclined very forward looking progressive ethis which have fuelled the best in Christianity. Similarly the same could be done for other religions and there are many movements incruding the ones I mentioned examining and joining with other religions in the furtherance of equality and human rights. I want to use Richard Dawkins and this agency in a fught against the evil of fundamentalism in Religion as it is in plenty of other ares but lets confine it to religions…and get Moslem and die gard Christians etc to recognize full female rights and rights of LGTB people Also believe me there are delights unassociated with dogmatic anthropomorphic views of ‘God’ open to people who would merge the aesthetic emotions of art..literature..music and painting etc with a religious spiritua; experience.

  59. i am a believer of god so its ironic to be here, i also believe the theory of evolution by darwin. if a i am believing in it i need to deny the concept of creationism given by the people who call themselves religious(a person is religious if he follows the rituals customs traditions etc).i believe in all religions but i do believe there are many faults in the scriptures of these religions at last they were written by humans.and there also parts which are misinterpreted . misinterpreted in sense taking all the written matter literally. i believe in the vedata of indian philosophy. it states that the thing that we know as reality is nothing but illusion(maya). we can only differentiate between reality and illusion through what we really see so here comes god . god being the ultimate reality(brahman)and we being stuff of his imagination. coming to imagination you can never control it, it grows on automatically , that is to say the origin of this universe is independent of god but the same time dependent because it is his(imagination).the reason why god let this imagination grow , consider if any person is born in a completely isolated place with no human beings with no life except him , he would starting asking the question who am i ?question of existence. i have not experienced any of this neither can i guarantee about this , this could all be made up but i believe in who claimed to have experienced this such as lord krishna. i agree people have exploited in the name of god , god is a mere hypothesis with no hope of scientific proof. there are paths to see god but these paths are to say impossible much more of madness. prayer was said not to protect ourselves but to praise god in his true form , original traditions were out of love not of selfishness , superstitions were a reason to protect something.logically seeing no human being can do only good or only bad he has done both and both of these are relative, hell and heaven are just state the soul goes through after death.ultimate goal of a soul is to realize our true selves as part of god himself. hell and heaven symbolizes the true nature of life with happiness and sorrow ,fear is of something that we don’t know of , true believers of god state that nothing exists permanently except for god , there are many things that are to be said . i do understand the part why to believe of what we don’t know and scientifically doesn’t exists , as said the burden lies on the shoulder of believer to explain and reason something that is exactly opposite , but i ask why not believe its doing nothing wrong except to pity those people who really didnt understand the true meaning of being a believer.i would like to at last i believe religion and science should go hand in hand (religion – true believers of god in a society).religion that induces fear is not a religion at all for its main purpose is to promote love among all beings.

  60. Zen? Buddhism? Meditation? Rational Emotive Therapy? Humanism? One does not need a deity to project ones fears, trust and respect in each other will get you further.
    At a certain point in life we tell our children that Father Christmas does not exist, does that scar children permanently? I don’t think so, if anything it helps them develop a a more rational approach towards life to counterbalance the predominant emotional approach.

  61. Perhaps the closest thing we have in the form of a “religion” that replaces the dogmatic style of the past ones is Zen Buddhism. There is an emphasis not on dogma, but practices and rituals which are probably best described as means through which we can become closer to ourselves than through any other way. Learning about giving and appreciating being given to through the deeply profound but simple ritual of Oryoki is perhaps one way in which we can see how practice, ritual and life all come together in one simple but beautiful whole. Or the Tea ceremony, wherein ones learns about tranquility, hospitality and mindfulness. Some might call these things done in such a mind way somewhat staid, but I find them sublimely beautiful and a complete and total immersion and presence in the very act of doing such a simple act. This perhaps is as close as I can come to see a non-dogmatic religion being present in our lives.

  62. Humanism is probably what you are looking for. Wikipedia describes humanism as, ‘Humanism is a group of philosophies and ethical perspectives which emphasize the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers individual thought and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism)’.

    Humanists have ceremonies and other things normally associated with religions but do not believe in supernatural forces or gods.

  63. Hey guys,
    If you are looking for a suggestion, I am an atheist and I have considered a similar question on my own before. One thing I vehemently disagree with is the assertion some theists make that atheism is also a religion. That is patently nonsensical. Atheism, or should I say the social activity we are now participating in however: secular promotion and such, though may actually fulfill a similar role as religion. What I mean by that is that both naturalism/secularism and religion are both ways to interpret and relate to the world in which we live. The similarities pretty much end there as one relies on facts, the other faith but I have often wondered what we would have left to advocate in the absence of theism and dogmatism.
    My suggestion would be in a combination of philosophy, scientific inquiry, and perhaps some other personally appealing activity that does not include dogmatic faith. For example: meditation, martial arts, even Feng Shui if you remove the supernaturalism. I imagine many people have social and reflective activities they can indulge that could easily replace their religious activities and be much more constructive.

  64. I understand your sentiments, and infact I would go so far as to say that I believe A.J. Ayer to have given us the absolutely correct attitude to take. He said that, logically speaking, if you believe the sentence “God exists” is meaningless because you believe that god does not exist, then equally the sentence “God does not exist” is meaningless because god does not exist. Infact the only logically proper way to conduct oneself as an atheist would be to act in accord with our beliefs regarding god and to disengage from conversing about the subject. If an atheist truly believed there were no god they would simply behave as though there were no god and stop discussing the matter of proof. In other words, if you truly believe no god exists how come you are still talking about it in a way which only affirms the belief of the theist? Surely all conversation about god is meaningless drivel? If you believe god does not exist then why are you talking about it in terms that affirms the theists beliefs because you are using their language on their terms and so are simply talking nonsense at each other

  65. A Religion without a Deity? There is plenty of them – Communism, Capitalism, Humanitarianism – and all the -isms generally. Unfortunately most of them just dont “work”.

    A Religion without a Deity AND dogma? That would be just philosophy.

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