Discussions Religion and Theology, Scriptures, Bible Debate, etc.
I'm curious as to the different ways that people define atheism and define themselves as atheists. I would be most grateful if folks could share their definition here, along with what you think theism, or more specifically god is, and what it is that has led you to that idea. I think it would be helpful if, for the purposes of this thread, we could refrain from commenting negatively or criticising the views of others, so please just give your opinions on this and resist the flame.
In case you think i'm not participating, i'll say right now that I don't consider myself as an atheist. I'd love to try to define atheism anyway, but if i'm honest I don't think it really exists - at least in the way people think it does. That's one of the reasons that i'm hoping you will all share your points of view and feed the greedy data monster.
Viewing myself as an atheist (though probably more agnostic as I do hold out hope), I simply don't believe there is an afterlife. I believe that when we die, we're dead and that there's no "spirit" or anything that checks in at the Pearly Gate Hotel. I see humans as having the same composition as any other animal and if we had a spirit, then they would too. Why am I better than that deer I just saw run across the road this morning? What about all the insects in the world? Shouldn't they have a spirit also if we do?
I believe that people invented the idea of heaven because they were afraid to die and they didn't believe that their parents could just die and never be seen again. I think religion does have a place in society as it does help people grieve after the passing of a loved one. I know when my parents passed last year, I prayed that they be allowed into heaven as it helped with the healing process, but I knew deep down that they were now nothing more than dust (they were cremated). I believe in evolution and think "survival of the fittest" is logical. A God, or any form thereof, just isn't logical to me. Religion may have also been invented as a way to set a standard for morality, though I don't believe one needs to believe in a deity to be moral.
There are as many religions as there are people in the world. There are no two people in the world who believe exactly the same thing. Why? Because nobody knows for sure. If nobody knows for sure, then it makes the most sense to me that Howard doesn't exist to begin with. (God's real name is Howard, if you didn't know...)
To summarize your question, my definition of atheism is simply not believing in an afterlife, although, as I said, since no one knows for certain, then agnostic may be the better term for all of us. We can only believe in a deity or not believe. The simple definition of religion is "what you believe." (This is the same definition as superstition.) I believe there is no afterlife while others believe there is. Atheism is a religion just like Catholsim, Protestants, etc., except Atheists get to sleep in on Sundays without feeling guilty...
The definition of atheism is defined by the definition of theism. Theism, is essentially, the belief that a deity or deities exist. Atheism is the lack of belief in such a deity or deities.
Now, you can push it a little bit further into hard and soft atheism. Soft atheism is essentially the consideration that there is not enough reliable information to believe in God, but its not specifically saying there is no god. Hard atheism is the positive assertion that there is no god or gods. Atheists spend a lot of time arguing over the differences between hard and soft atheism and it can get very confusing.
Also, to clarify: atheism is not a worldview. It holds no precepts whatsoever other than the lack of belief in deities. Individual atheists have a wide variety of worldviews, but these should be kept distinct from atheism proper.
That's a trickier question. I've never tried to define it myself, and don't know that there are any good definition because many people have different concepts of deities. Obviously its a supernatural being(s). They usually have great powers, from the specific up to the omnis. They are generally considered immortal.
I prefer, however, to respond to conceptions of deities that are presented to me, and evaluate the claims being made.
Why the interest ?
Still bored and trying to chum the waters.
Arouet gave the classic definition of Atheism
Bertrand Russell said something to the effect of, “everyone is an atheist about the religions they don't believe, and I simply believe in one less god than you.” It was by this logic that Christians and philosophers were both called atheists by sincere pagans.
Alternatively, describing modern atheism, someone, I think it was CS Lewis, said, “No one is an atheist about a religion they were not born too. An atheist is one who denies the religion he was raised in.” Or, as someone said to Isaac Asimov, “I am a Catholic atheist. What kind of atheist are you.?” (I am using quotes to show these are not my definitions, but I admit I am paraphrasing from memory)
Asimov and Russell, however, although they were non-theist, were both raised without religious indoctrination.
To say what atheism means to me requires telling a story.
My father was an agnostic when I was a child. My mother belonged to the cult of Christian Science. I have defined myself as agnostic most of my life. My response to the question “Do you believe in God ?” in my youth was, “Which one?”
I had been told I was going to Hell in my brief exposure to Sunday school, and promptly decided that, regardless of the truth or falsehood of Christianity, I had no reason to give it any credence, or pay any attention to it. If I was going to Hell anyway, I could literally do and think what I damned well pleased.
I decided early that I would serve Apollo, the only god I have heard of to this day who commands one to seek the truth, and said truth would be our liberation. I took Pythagoras and Sokrates as my prophets, and eventually came to believe that mathematics was the thoughts of “the Creator” in the sense that Einstein, Sagan, and Hawkings believe(d). Meanwhile, I investigated other religions. I learned of the Jungian concept of archetypes, and concluded that all human concepts of gods were illusions created by evolution, and equally true for believers in a particular archetype, equally false for non-believers, and equally useful as group control mechanisms.
The only exception to that was Animism, which fit with my perceptions that everything is alive and imbued with spirit, and segued into Hinduism
Unfortunately, Polytheists were thin on the ground in Texas, while Christians cannot be ignored. Also, two people I adored, Bob Dylan and John Lennon (according to Yoko) became Christians, and when Lennon was killed, I decided to believe Christianity was true so I could believe Lennon was standing before the Throne saying “Let all the angels sing!” I “believed” even tho I believed I would go to Hell by YHWH's election, being a fag and all.
Then I started hearing a voice that claimed to be YHWH. After three years of getting more and more into the fantasy, I asked it what I should do to be saved. YHWH told me I should join the army, marry a third worlder, and kill commies in Nicaragua. I became an atheist in Lewis' sense in an instant, throwing out not just Christianity but Apollo and animism as well.
I didn't bother being annoyed with other religions, tho, since they were not forced down my throat, but instead were mocked by ignorant people who knew little or nothing about them.
I became very familiar with the errors, contradictions and historical “evil” of the various varieties of Christianity I was exposed too, and reached a point, when I was thirty, where I would become filled with rage when someone spoke of believing in the Christian gods. I was one sick puppy at that point, as I was also hearing voices saying I did not deserve to eat, and perceived everything around me as being dead matter.
I decided my beliefs had given me a neurosis, and to deal with it, I became friends with a very intelligent woman who had heard YHWH speak to her all her life. She converted me. I married her, and remained a “Christian” until she decided I was a demon and tried to kill me.
At that point I became a radical agnostic, and worked at systematically doubting everything I had ever thought until I could find something verifiably true. I also became a very nuanced polytheist, and skilled at believing ten contradictory things before breakfast, and disbelieving them all after dinner (That is only a slight exaggeration.) The only liberating truth I had left is Sokrates. The correct answer to every question is “I dunno”
So I am left with this definition of atheism, which seems to fit most “atheists” I know: Atheism is a religion which involves disbelief in anything other than materialism. It has three main sects, scientific materialism, Marxism, and Objectivism. Atheists can be as unpleasantly certain of their beliefs as any other fundy.
If you are still around, Ellie, I hope this feed your hunger for data.
"What's so Funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding?"
While I most certainly believe in a "higher something" I don't necessarily believe in a "deity", such something that is beyond the who & what I am presently. Buddhism and many aspects of the Pagan and Gnostic traditions seem to mirror the idea of a "Higher Self" which arguably, could be seen as something "divine" while I tend to see it as simply more "evolved" -- a future sense or aspect of the self that hosts greater knowledge, wisdom & understanding simply because it has already attended the seminary of hard knocks and awoken to certain greater truths -- "laws" if you would.
Technically, and as the Dahlia Lama has pointed out, this is a kind of Atheism in that it does not really support an organized/dogmatic sense of doctrine outside the idea of living life in a manner that is conducive to positive mental, spiritual and physical discipline. That is to say that we strive to think no ill of others and to wish, even for those that would oppress us, goodness and kindnesses, and ultimately, to see our physical being as a living temple that represents all things wondrous. . . we are the divine trinity -- the three aspects of divinity set into one being but as such, we are still evolving so as to become that higher sense of self and thus, akin to the Buddha or its various parallels as taught in other cultures and times.
Some of the most balanced spiritual people I know personally, are in fact atheists. Many however fall short when it comes to "enlightenment" because of their outwardly expressed rage and bias towards those who've yet learned to understand what it is they've but caught a glimpse of and begun to see. Their brashness and radical . . . carnal, attitudes literally rob them from knowing the sense of Nirvana that is literally within arms reach for them. But ego blinds them and thwarts their ability to understand; to simply let go and behold the greater picture.
So yes, depending on how you wish to define the term, I am an Atheist. The truer sense of things however, paints me best as that Shaman that teaches things in a somewhat off-beat manner that is at times, gruff and yet soft simultaneously. I am the mystic that can make magick of all kinds as real and tangible as we think ourselves to be and yet, I am likewise that wisdom teacher that is able to spark within ones heart, that flicker of hope that awakens the soul that has yet to settle. I am a human being who, like yourself, simply seeks to understand the greater mysteries in life and to be able to walk confidently on the paths that fall before me.
Well, it ain't rocket science. All we need to do is look at the date in the last post to get a clue. I, on the other hand can go into the Admin controls to see the last time a member logged in.
I was just reflecting that that exchange with ellie didn't seem so long ago!
Who is online
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest