Atheism Defined: According to the Advocatus Atheist


Atheism Defined: Introduction

How does one come to be an atheist? For that matter, what is an atheist? What does it mean to embrace atheism? What do atheists believe?

I’ll tell you what they don’t believe. Atheists don’t believe in God. That, at least, we all can agree on. Yet for many who adhere to religious faith of one kind or another, and believe in God, such a concept is not only dreaded, it’s downright detestable. This is why religions of various stripes often deem atheism heretical.

As such, there have been many attempts to define atheism according to the theistic worldview, since atheism is in opposition to theism, but still many people are under a misconception about what atheism is and what it means. It is to the point where the majority of atheists get marginalized in society and are frequently discriminated against as moral abominations (see: the article “Atheists as “Other”…” in the American Sociological Review). I wish to set the record straight about what atheism means and what an atheist is. Hopefully my general overview of atheism will be agreeable with what the majority of atheists think. I know there is controversy surrounding the term, but we will discuss this shortly.

Atheism Roughly Defined
Just as theism is the belief in a supernatural God, atheism is the lack of belief in God and the rejection of the theistic proposition. Atheism, based on this crude designation, is the contrary position to theistic belief, therefore atheism is opposed to theism, in this sense atheists often find theistic beliefs unwarranted (for reasons we will soon get to). Contrary to what some on both sides of the argument have espoused, atheism isn’t the claim that theism is false, since this would be a positive statement and is incorrect for the following reasons. Atheism isn’t a positive truth claim, it’s the rejection of one which fails to stand up to scrutiny. Therefore atheism doesn’t claim anything is ‘false’ because this would be assuming that said thing might probably ‘true’ in the first place. The theist claim that God is real cannot be confirmed, and so, cannot be said to be true or false. The existence of God is, at this time, simply unknown. So nobody can correctly assert the claim is true, therefore there’s no reason to believe that this truth claim is false since the truth claim technically cannot be made to begin with. There can only be the rejection of the claim. We can, however, argue that the belief in God’s existence is false for various other independent reasons.

I don’t disagree with the idea the atheists believe that the concept of God is false, but Atheism itself is the ‘absence’ of a certain type of belief, not the presence of an equivalent belief. It feels wrong to advance the lack of a belief as correct, let alone established. True and false claims only work if you are starting from a position of not knowing, with regards to the existence of God this would mean we would have to start from the default position of agnosticism; not of absolute certainty. Therefore atheism is NOT the claim that theism is false, but instead atheism is the rejection of the theist assumption that theism is somehow the de facto truth.

The Dictionary Definition of Atheism
The Oxford Dictionary of English (2005) allows for both definitions stating that atheism is: either the lack of belief that there exists a god, or the belief that there exists none. So there is, in essence, positive and negative atheism with regards to the theist stance.

This attempt to supply a definition is probably not definitive, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least try. As I understand it, the term atheism breaks into two basic meanings depending on one’s perspective with regards to theism. This leaves us with 1) a positive claim, that there is no God, and 2) the negative claim, a plain lack of belief in said God.

Therefore we might say, depending on one’s atheistic outlook, that…

Positive Atheism is: the position that there is no available, substantive evidence for the existence of any God or gods, and thereby rejects theism.

And…

Negative Atheism is: the lack of belief, for various reasons derived from objective experience, common sense intuition, and perhaps cultural upbringing so that, all things being considered, the theistic claim rings untrue and cannot be believed without further validation.

This covers both definitions, according to the two listed in the Oxford Dictionary of English. I think both definitions are sound. That said, however, there is no plausible reason to use the modifier of positive or negative before atheism, since according to the Oxford Dictionary, the final authority on the English language, both meanings are encompassed within the single term Atheism.

Of course, as some with attention to detail may point out, there are all sorts of varieties of atheism. There are hybrid terms such as Christian Atheist, Millitant Atheist, Naturalistic Atheist, and so on.  But as a rule of thumb I rely on the principle of parsimony when it comes to defining atheism. Why create so many new variations of the term when the current terminology suffices? Excess terminology is needless since one can simply clarify their point in just a few words. There’s no reason to create terms like “militant-atheist,” or “Christian-atheist” or “Reactionary Atheist,” “Blue” or “Green Atheist,” etc. They’re all superfluous since the term atheist encompasses them all.

What we need to sort out beforehand is the position of atheists (or at least the majority of them) on the existence of god(s) and the truth merit of religions. This can be defended, as “what atheists think,” far less awkwardly. The belief that no God or gods exist may seem like a substitute system of belief, but it’s not. It’s the absence of a belief system. What needs to be brought to everyone’s attention is that the belief that there is no God or gods is predicated on, as we will soon get to, naturalistic observations.

The Rejection of the Supernatural
Atheists merely look at the available evidence of theistic “truth” claims and find them to be lacking in all the areas that matter, mainly empirical evidence and subsequent support, and as a consequence are completely unconfirmed, unjustified, and unproved. Based on this we cannot presuppose God exists, and so the proposition must be rejected on the basis of intellectual honesty. Reason dictates that if something is unreasonable to believe, lacks any real tangible empirical evidence, fails to predict the world it claims to define, and frequently predicts wrongly, then we are within our right to reject it. To accept something at face value which is virtually lacking in any veritable proof whatsoever would be a position of faith. Hence the rejection of theistic claims is predicated on the fact that they lack support, so are not trustworthy, thereby cannot just be assumed without further validation.

What follows then is that atheists do indeed reject the supernatural for the very same reason they reject theism. There is no verifiable evidence to support theistic claims about God or the metaphysical claims about the supernatural.
Atheism does not arise out of one’s stubbornness to accept the theist proposition (which is what one must tacitly assume if one is to believe that atheists don’t reject the supernatural), rather atheists must reject the supernatural for the very same reason they reject God, otherwise they would be in danger of cognitive dissonance.

Problematic Terminology: Debating Misnomers
In truth, one of the reasons atheism is so appealing to ex-Christians like myself is that it doesn’t leave us with any cognitive dissonance. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim has said the same. Theism is totalitarian in design because it sets up a system of legalistic thought which is under the rule of a supreme Lord with uninfringeable decrees, sacred rights, and divinely sanctioned moral precepts. To adhere to the theist position means to subject one’s self to the rules of a higher authority, thereby relinquishing one’s autonomy. For many people this gives order and a sense of security to their lives. Everything is being overseen, they are looked after, and for them this is a comforting thought. I know this because I can speak from experience, not only because I was a deeply religious believer for three decades, but also because most of my family members are still deeply devoted Christians and they have expressed as much to me in our religious discussions.

In contrast, the feeling one is left with after embracing atheism is pure liberated, joyous, enlightenment. It’s freedom of thought, pure and simple. It’s full autonomy independent of any divine overlord or imposing religious hierarchy. And unless you were first an atheist, only to later take up a rigid belief system with doctrines and rules, with ordained practices and dogmatic convictions, well, I don’t see how any theist could properly define atheism from within the enclosure of a sheltered faith. I’m not saying they couldn’t come to understand or comprehend atheists, but unless they’ve experienced it firsthand, theirs is not the final say on whom or what an atheist is.

Granted, the term atheism causes people a great deal of confusion. Why it this? Because it’s a strange term which, according to a naturalistic worldview, shouldn’t even exist. Perhaps the irony of this can be better explained via analogy. Consider the person who doesn’t collect stamps. It’s not in their interest, it’s not their hobby, and it may be that in their whole life they never had the slightest urge to collect stamps. What do we call them? Nothing. We call them absolutely nothing. But along come the dogmatic stamp collectors, zealot aficionados, who find any disinterest in stamp collecting an offense. You don’t collect stamps? What’s wrong with you?! From now on you shall be called the non-stamp collector!

How silly is that? Yes, I am aware of the irony of calling myself an atheist, and I can’t help but find it a little gratuitous—except for the theist need to define those who don’t subscribe to their faith based beliefs—atheism is largely a senseless term. Yet because of theistic opposition, which has increasingly become necessary, we find that atheism becomes not only a valid term, but essential.

Drawing the Line in the Sand: On Atheism and Advocacy
Atheism is now used to mark a line of delineation, and is used as an indicator in society to mark a separation between those who believe and those who don’t. But more importantly, the very existence of atheists shows us that there is a reason to doubt those who offer the theistic worldview as the only valid one, and to expose the deficiency of their beliefs by challenging them. Some have called this militant atheism, but again, it’s simply the rejection of theism with the added reasons of why. If theists ask why we reject their beliefs, accordingly we must give just reply, and that will entail giving an explanation for why we lack or reject the theistic claims. Therefore there is no such thing as militant atheism. We are free to explain ourselves as we may.

Someone might raise the objection and ask, “But then why do you feel you have to call yourself anything?” Obviously, that’s easier said than done—especially with every religious believer, and there are a lot of them, trying to tell us what we do and don’t believe. I don’t know about anybody else, but I can make up my own mind, thank you. And whether we like it or not, if we don’t want to be pigeonholed or stereotyped, we have to stand up for the word and wrangle in the terminology so that it can’t be so horribly manipulated. This is where I disagree with both Sam Harris and Dan Dennett, the former proposing we don’t use the term atheist or atheism and the latter offering an alternative terminology in its place. Neither seems to work in lieu of the ubiquity of religious beliefs. Moreover, the religious would be free to pigeonhole atheists if we didn’t take back the right to define atheism with regard to the atheist’s position and understanding of what it means to be an atheist—which is something I personally find unacceptable.

Supernatural Reasoning vs. Rational Naturalism
Having discussed why the term atheism is necessary, we now can turn toward analyzing how the term comes about in the first place. By what right can atheists claim the term atheism means what it means?

Let’s try to think of it from another angle. Atheists don’t claim that the existence of fairies is false, because we don’t need to, so there is no reason for A-fairy-ism. Fairies are, according to the literature, supernatural entities with magical properties. There is nothing in the real natural world to suggest fairies exist, so we simply do not believe they exist. If proof became available today that fairies were real then the existence of fairies would be verified, and so belief in fairies would become justifiable. If this were the case we would not offhandedly dismiss little ole Tinker Bell’s existence (we’d probably want to ask her on a date).

As such, it is safe to assume that no well grounded rationalist believes in the existence of magical fairies. It’s not that we reject the truth “Fairyism” thereby stating it’s false, rather, “Fairyism” is invalid because it is untestable, unverifiable, and does not correlate with the nature of reality as we know it, and so cannot be believed.

Unchecked flights of imagination aside, no matter how many people may think fairies exist or how badly they want Tinker Bell to be real, the truth is that it takes faith to believe in any of it. At this point, only the most delusional and misinformed individuals could believe in fairies contrary to what the evidence says. This is why it is so easy to trick children into believing that Santa Clause is real. They have little to no real world experience, much of their perceived world is simply the mind design working out via inference the difficult to fathom attributes of a complex reality, and therefore children are entirely gullible when an authority figure, such as an adult or a parent, tells them that Santa Clause is real.

Presents at Xmas time miraculously appearing under the Christmas tree seem to be valid enough proof, and so children can buy into the delusion that much easier. Not only this, but parents deliberately misinform their children as to Santa’s whereabouts, not to mention his levitating sleigh with magical flying reindeer and chimney spelunking abilities, as to keep the fantastic farce going. If nobody ever told the child that Santa was not real, then the child would undoubtedly continue to believe in it–the delusion is maintained–until of course someone tells them otherwise. Inevitably, a brother or sister, a friend, a classmate, or the parents themselves reveal the truth and the jig is up. It goes without saying that kids who do not receive Christmas presents or have the illusion of Santa maintained by their immediate culture do not likely believe in the Santa myth (after living six years in Japan, a culture where the Santa clause story is only viewed as a holiday practice in Western societies, I can verify this for a fact).

The problem with religious belief arises in the fact that religious institutions have been largely designed to block out this sort of doubt and skepticism. Religion safeguards the God delusion by making it so its parishioners never have to face the cold hard facts of reality—they never have to grow up—they can keep living in Never Never Land forever.

If there was real world evidence for the existence for God, and it was testable, and then corroborated numerous times by independent sources, then atheists may be more inclined to change their minds. We’re not stubbornly defiant of the truth, we want the truth.

The fact is however, there is no testable or demonstrable evidence for the existence of God. We atheists don’t find it a false concept; we find it an erroneous one. Therefore, we reject metaphysical supernatural claims for the same REASON we reject theist claims. They lack in support, do not stand the test of scrutiny, therefore are not trustworthy, and so cannot simply be assumed.

Yes, atheists do in fact reject the supernatural. This doesn’t mean we can’t be duped by our senses into thinking supernaturally. This brings us to the realm of psychology, and modern psychology along with anthropology and neuroscience justifies a naturalistic worldview and so lends positive support for atheism (see HERE).

Is Atheism Predicated and Mutually Dependent on Naturalism?
One may wonder whether there is a distinction to be made between atheist and naturalistic atheist, i.e. an atheist who subscribes to naturalist philosophies. I, for one, do not believe so. For me they are one and the same. Please allow me to briefly illustrate why I think so.

If you are an atheist, you can begin by asking yourself, why don’t you believe in God? If you’re an atheist and haven’t yet asked yourself that, then one might conclude that you’re a rather confused atheist.

At any rate, I am assuming that most atheists have asked themselves this at one time or another, and if you’re an atheist, I am guessing your answer will be standard atheistic response. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would posit a standard atheist’s response would resemble this, basically that because there is no genuine or reliable evidence for the existence of God, we just can’t infer from the natural world that God is at all real. Something that lacks in support cannot tacitly be assumed. For that reason as an atheist, we feel we are within our right to reject the idea of God. I think most atheists would agree with me up to this point.

What I’d like to ask is: how is this not a naturalistic position? Do we not arrive at our atheism through the same naturalistic means? I think that, all considered, we find that we do.

Hypothetically speaking, I guess it could be possible for an atheist to be raised by secular parents with no concept of God from day one, and presuming they never questioned their beliefs (however unlikely), there may be such a thing as atheism apart from naturalism. But then how do they differentiate between the supernatural claims of religions if they can’t ground their position in naturalism?

There are those who were raised in secular societies that do not hold a belief in any particular God or gods that are not opposed to theism, but these people hardly are ever called atheists. They are called non-believers or free thinkers, and mainly exist in predominantly secularized cultures.

Atheism entails an awareness of theism. In order to reach the atheist’s conclusion one must traverse the logic of naturalistic philosophy. If you reject naturalistic philosophy, then in so doing, you are opening yourself up to any interpretation no matter how unfounded, including supernatural claims. However, this would mean then that God could not be rejected for the reasons which justify atheism with regard to its understanding of the natural world. Naturalists, however, often reject God for the same reason. Consequently, the majority of naturalists are atheists as well.

So coming back to the question of whether or not atheism is predicated and mutually dependent on Naturalism, the answer is, yes.

Knowing what atheism entails, what it means, and how we arrive at an acceptable definition of atheism, I see no need to retract my statement that atheism is derived from juxtaposing the theistic “truth” claims with the real natural world and considering the implications—leads us to dismiss those claims based on naturalistic reasons. Therefore atheism depends on naturalism in order to take the contrary position to theism, which means that naturalistic atheism and atheism proper are one and the same.

One possible objection may be that I’m conflating the terminology. Alone they are separate meanings, as Naturalism is a philosophy, but atheism is the lack of a theistic belief system. I am aware of the difference, but we’re not talking about two separate things with regards to this question, we’re talking about atheism—not naturalism. Atheism is anchored to naturalistic philosophy because without a naturalistic philosophy we couldn’t properly define atheism apart from theism in the first place. It becomes clear when we objectively ask, how could we prove that atheism is not dependent on the natural world? If it was completely independent of reality, then our concept of atheism could be anything, it would be at the mercy of our subjective whim.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t change the fact that the two terms are interrelated and so atheism is dependent on the reality of the natural world and so inseparable from naturalism. If not, then atheism alone cannot be validated because it could not appeal to the natural world for support. In fact, atheism independent of naturalism would be thinly veiled deism. Therefore we know that naturalism and atheism are codependent with regards to the theistic claims. As such atheism is derived from natural philosophies and natural philosophies in turn lend credence to atheism.

Conclusion
Atheism properly defined can only be derived at via a naturalistic understanding of the real tangible world. If I’m wrong about this, I sure would like to know. But I don’t think I am. I have investigated my beliefs in depth, and I find no other explanation which can pass muster. I hope other atheists find this explication of atheism beneficially agreeable.

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35 comments

  1. Nice Post!I do enjoy very much reading your writing. It is apparent to me that you are very intelligent and are able to articulate your thinking very clearly. I think that your efforts are a valuable contribution to the "dialogue". While you are passionate in your approach to this subject or issue, you write with sufficient sensitivity towards people who might not share your perspective so as not to demean them. At least that's what I think.I don't know if you have written previously about your observations of religion/s in Japan. If you have could you direct me to the appropriate posts? If not, is this a subject that you might be interested in writing about? I am sure I would find your observations very interesting and informative.The Reverend Sub CeePractically AtheistMetaphysically AgnosticDevoid of Missionary Zeal

  2. Steve!Thanks for the praise. Although I'm not sure I'm always as sensitive as I could be. I think because I scrutinize everything sometimes I come off sounding more critical than I really am intending to be. That small deficiency aside I'm glad you like my writing. I'll try not to let it go to my head!My goal is always to get my ideas across more clearly. For example, I was editing this article a freakin' day. Even as you posted your comment I was changing a few sentences that seemed a bit confusing to me on a fifth read through.I'll probably come back a week from now and find even more things to tweak. But I try to make it so I don't have to do this by stating it as precisely as possible. Which requires some thought. It normally takes me a couple days to write a piece. I did this one in about 8 hours since I had the whole day to write, but that's a rare event.Thanks for dropping by and dropping a few comments!! Much appreciated.

  3. T-Vick!It's funny that you shold mention the effort that is required to compose one of your articles. As I was finising up my last comment on your previous article I had to laugh at myself. It occured to me how painfully evident it would be to anyone watching me compose such a brief response that they are bearing witness to a major dork overworking very limited natural resources in an effort to not reveal his true dork-nature. Alas, perhaps I should resign myself to being a "No-Nothing Cheerleader" as the venerable JD so aptly labeled me…Oh well, I might not know much but I know what I know, if you know what I mean.Keep Smilin'Steve

  4. Oh Yeah!Do you like being called T-Vick?Personally I think folks should be honored by any moniker, or derivative of, that the esteemable Feeno might bequeath them with. But that's just me. Your thoughts?The Reverend SubCee-Steve-SubCoolio-Shoolio

  5. "Why create so many new variations of the term when the current terminology suffices? Excess terminology is needless since one can simply clarify their point in just a few words. There’s no reason to create terms like 'militant-atheist,' or 'Christian-atheist' or 'Reactionary Atheist,' 'Blue' or 'Green Atheist,' etc. They’re all superfluous since the term atheist encompasses them all."Perhaps there's a need to create sub-groupings because not all people who identify as atheists share the same philosophies and didn't arrive at their belief systems in the same way? Human beings are an amazingly varied and unruly lot. We tend to defy absolute categories fairly readily.Given freedom of speech and freedom of association, it's certainly your prerogative to narrow down the definition of atheist in any way that pleases you. However, at 8% of the world populace, can we really afford to narrow down the definition? In the US, where I live, that figure dips down to only a few percent. That 8% figure, by the way, only uses the requirement that people not believe in a god, spirit, or life force. It doesn't exclude other supernatural forms of belief.I suppose you could say that atheism isn't a popularity contest. It's about LOGIC and REASON and EMPIRICISM. That sounds good on paper, but how many human beings are completely logical? Goodness knows that I'm not, try as though I may. As with so many great ideas, theories, and what have you, the practical and the ideal can lead to very different approaches. I like ideals. They serve as a good guide, but in the end, I tend toward pragmatism.

  6. Continuing our discussion from Ichthy's blog, I think one of the hitching points in your acceptance of my version of atheism might surround the fact that I'm a blend of agnostic and atheist. I'm not a purist, by any measure. As I stated over in Ichthy's blog, I don't claim to have all the answers. I'm one small human being and when I'm being totally honest with myself, I find that my take on the universe is the result of a long series of educated guesses.I was nominally raised as a Christian. I wasn't that deeply indoctrinated because my parents stopped sending me to Sunday school after being there for only a few years. Plus, the quality of religious education at my church was spotty and poorly executed. After a few years had passed, the influence of the experience had largely faded. By the time I reached 17, I dismissed the Christian god as being too prejudiced for my tastes and decided to believe in a more vaguely defined god, one unrelated to any religious tradition.At some point in college, I began to rethink the whole god question. It was a time of life in which I questioned everything I had been taught in childhood. I thought about the existence of God, and it seemed improbable that I could prove or disprove its existence one way or the other. The Christian god seemed fairly easy to disprove, but what about other interpretations of a god or spirit? I didn't really have a satisfactory answer. Besides, did it really matter? Did God come down to Earth and meet with congress for tea each week? Did God stop by with a little heavenly advice on which career path I should pursue? No. So, I resigned myself to seeing the whole question of "Does God exist?" to be unanswerable and largely irrelevant to daily human life. I hit a point where I just didn't care what the answer was.One day, it dawned on me that Christianity seemed like it was trying to impose a human personality on the universe and everything underlying it. That seemed pretty unlikely to me and I suspected that all forms of religion probably were doing something similar. That single realization tipped me from agnostic to atheist. Nevertheless, as you can see in my words here and at Ichthy's, I retain much of my agnostic way of looking at the world.So, my journey from nominal Christian to deist, to agnostic, and then to atheist hasn't been a long in-depth journey into the logic and reasoning of theistic belief. It has been a limited string of guesswork that has been informed by intuition as much as it has been informed by logic. That's quite satisfactory to me but is understandably anemic for others. The thing is, I was never that deeply indoctrinated into Christianity—not like many of the atheists I see online. It simply wasn't necessary for me to struggle that hard with the whole concept. It didn't take much to break my poorly defined "faith" and once broken, that was that.Since those years of questioning, I have encountered people of many different faiths who seemed like level-headed, decent folk and their variation of religion seemed fairly harmless in the larger scheme of things. So, I remain unmotivated to rid the Earth of religion. Similarly, I remain unmotivated to rid personal acquaintances of religion (besides, I think this practice is as rude as someone trying to convert me to Christianity). I'm happy to speak out where harmful prejudices intersect with religious belief, but beyond that, I remain ambivalent.Consequently, I'm not a very gung ho atheist and I'm not terribly concerned with treatises on why atheism is the best thing to hit the planet since heliocentric astronomy.*shrug* So what does that make me? An agnosto-atheist? An apatheist? A "confused" atheist? A disaffected theist in atheist's clothing? LOL. I'm happy with calling myself an atheist, even if other atheists might want to toss me from the fold because they think I'm a wishy-washy, embarrassing mess.

  7. Well, I just tried to post a little more insight into how I came to be the kind of atheist that I am, but it seems as though Blogger has eaten my response. Yay. Since I've been fighting with Blogger for a while now, I officially give up.If you ever feel the need to switch to a different blogging platform, Tristan, give WordPress a try. In my opinion, they're a little more graceful than Blogger.

  8. OK, I see it finally published. Since Blogger has decided to behave itself, here's one more little tidbit.The thing is, I'm not new to the experience of embracing world-rocking ideologies. I identified as a feminist for several decades. I witnessed a lot of back and forth between different versions of feminism regarding who was a "real" feminist and who wasn't. After a while, the sectarianism grows tiring. In time, I grew tired of the dogmatism and fighting and decided that I was done with embracing the label "feminist." I still see the world through a feminist lens, but I'm loath to associate myself with the label because the de facto politics associated with it are so disappointing.So, for me, there is a threshold in which the behaviors of real life atheists could hit the point were I'd no longer be willing to wear the label. I'm not there yet. I hope not to reach that point, but we'll see.

  9. That's a great explanation of atheism you've got there! That's much more complete and detailed than I can ever hope to write.As for the different names for atheists, I do think that it's necessary, as people vary greatly in their philosophical beliefs and thoughts, more so for atheists, who do not have any religious doctrine to follow.I would also like to add that by definition, a naturalist must be an atheist, since naturalism is the philosophy that everything has natural explanations, and the there's no such thing as the supernatural.

  10. Thanks for all the comments!Steve-Monikers and tags are fine. TV is a popular one for me. I get T-Vick a lot. But Tristan D. Vick will be my publishing name when I come out with a book in the near future. So keep an eye out for that.From Darren's, Steve's, and Timberwraith's (sorry I don't know your actual name) comments it seems that you all find descriptive categories necessary for atheists.I understand the necessity of such, but am awfully weary to try and "denominalize" atheists. First it seems to be creating denominations to define belief systems.As I've argued before, as an atheist I have many independent belief systems, apart from my atheism, which in turn support it. I call them "appreciations." But maybe I can rethink this since you all find it important.Also, Timberwraith's agnostic to weak atheist sort of thing was addressed well by Richard Dawkin's (of all people) with Dawkin's sliding scale of certainty. A 1 being someone who believes in the possibility of God, a 5 being perfectly agnostic, and a 10 being downright certain God does not exist.I am probably around a 7 or 8 for my atheism. I won't commit to any dogmatic certainty against God's existence (at least not yet), since hypothetically some of the philosophical arguments seem at least plausible, and more than this we just can't know what exists beyond our own universe at this time. I guess we can all just wait and see.But that comes back to waiting for the real tangible evidence. Atheism relies on the evidence, or lack thereof, to put itself in orientation with the real world by contrasting or weighing the evidence for whether or not the theist proposition holds.I think I proved that here. Again, thanks for the many insights y'all!

  11. Tristan interesting post about this defining of atheists.timberwraith said… "I was nominally raised as a Christian. I wasn't that deeply indoctrinated because my parents stopped sending me to Sunday school after being there for only a few years."Hi Timberwraith. So very very differnt from my own personal experience .Indoctrination for us was 7days a week and all day sunday.timberwraith said."Besides, did it really matter? Did God come down to Earth and meet with congress for tea each week? Did God stop by with a little heavenly advice on which career path I should pursue? No. So, I resigned myself to seeing the whole question of "Does God exist?" to be unanswerable and largely irrelevant to daily human life. I hit a point where I just didn't care what the answer was."Once again i`d just like to point out, it becomes very different matter when gods seem to decend upon your whole childhood 7days a week.And godly advice was rammed down your throat including what career path was allowed and what wasnt.Including the threats of total excommunication from family and friends if you refused to bow the knee.timberwraith said.."So, my journey from nominal Christian to deist, to agnostic, and then to atheist hasn't been a long in-depth journey into the logic and reasoning of theistic belief. It has been a limited string of guesswork that has been informed by intuition as much as it has been informed by logic. That's quite satisfactory to me but is understandably anemic for others. The thing is, I was never that deeply indoctrinated into Christianity—not like many of the atheists I see online. It simply wasn't necessary for me to struggle that hard with the whole concept. It didn't take much to break my poorly defined "faith" and once broken, that was that.I can totally understand what you are saying here,and knowing the differnt experience we had it would be ignorant of me to expect you to react to religion that same as i do.But im also very thankful you atleast show some understanding that there is actually also some very good reasons why a number of people actually do react badly to religion the way they do.

  12. timberwraith said.."Since those years of questioning, I have encountered people of many different faiths who seemed like level-headed, decent folk and their variation of religion seemed fairly harmless in the larger scheme of things. So, I remain unmotivated to rid the Earth of religion. Similarly, I remain unmotivated to rid personal acquaintances of religion (besides, I think this practice is as rude as someone trying to convert me to Christianity). I'm happy to speak out where harmful prejudices intersect with religious belief, but beyond that, I remain ambivalent.Timberwraith after you explained your experience i also agree it would be rude of me to expect you to feel motivated to rid the earth of religion.But i wonder if some people put on shoes like mine shoes, and walked a few miles.Would you say maybe the very same could apply? .Could it even seem a little rude, if some folks felt and tried to suggest it rude of me to maybe feel this world might actually be a better place without religion.The fact is, the abusive faith i was born to, actually evolved out of another faith group that you discribe as being "level headed" .."decent folk"…. "fairly harmless"I notice on the internet some people from time to time who suggest there is some particular way/standard that all atheists should try to act and behave.You know folks that dislike actions of Dawkins or Hitchens or some other bloke called Barker? or something,and then some find distaste for whom they name as the "new atheists" etc.And these folk suggest atheists should find some standard they all should be expected to abide by.I personally find this slightly idiotic.To me its like trying to ask black slaves of old who have been abused and tormented and treated like scum,to abide by standards set by white intelectuals, who have lived rosy cosy lives and who have been jabbering away for years and years, about how they feel one day slavery really must change, while sipping cups of tea and eating scones, in some Pansy living room thats decked out with all the trimmings, that might tend to actually make almost anyone feel maybe time last forever and didnt really matter that much.Now like me,i doubt the black slave for one moment! even really (expects) the white guy to really be expected to react quite like a black slave does.He/she would need to be pretty brainless and arrogant and ignorant to ever expect that to be what happens.After all the black slave knows very well the white guy actually has no good reason to really be so upset about matters.So why is it the white person would ever expect the black person would/should ever be so likely to be expected to react quite the same? …Is it out of the arrogance and ignorance of having never had to actually walk enough miles in a abused black slaves shoes??.Is it ok? or maybe really a little rude.As usual there is more than one side to a story.Its interesting to me how different experiences change matters.Steve Schuler out of interest, might i ask what was your personal experience of religious faith?.Nice post Tristan,cheers.

  13. Out of interest of the point im trying to point out. David Koresh who ended up in the Waco Siege where many folks died, said he actually first became a born again christian in the Southern Baptist Churchhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_KoreshDavid Koresh started out in the very same type of place as Feeno`s familyStarted out amongst the "level headed" .."decent folk"…. "fairly harmless" folk.Just as the abuse cult i was born to also once did too.

  14. Gandolf, I think that between the two of us, we've done a good job of illustrating the diversity of people living under the rubric of atheism.While it was easy for me to let go of Christianity as a system of belief, it was difficult for me to let go of my intense hatred for it. For years, I couldn't enter a church without feeling my stomach clench with the sense that I was stepping into the heart of evil. Seriously. You see, I'm a lesbian and a transsexual woman. Traditional Christianity is undeniably an adversary toward LGBT people and women. I have plenty of reasons to hate organized religion. I don't feel that hatred anymore, but it took me a while to reach that place. If you have an interest, you can read about my struggle with hatred in this blog entry.I'm not going to claim that different kinds of atheism are going to get along well. Atheism is a topic in which passions run high regardless of atheism's focus upon logic and empiricism. One of the reasons why those passions run high is because a many atheists are people who were deeply hurt by organized religion. That's not to say that atheist's claims are invalidated by their past relationship with religion, but it is important to remember that this collective hurt can create conditions under which emotional toxicity can evolve.Given what I've seen in feminism and other social movements, I have little doubt that there will be conflict. And yes, similar to other social movements, I suspect that people coming from different parts of atheism are invariably going to look upon each other as rude, idiotic, crazy, colluders with the enemy, and any number of other negative valuations.Atheism is a young social movement in the sense that it has only experienced a publicly visible awakening/reawakening in the past five to ten years. The fracture points aren't yet fully visible, but in time, I suspect they will be.As sad as that eventuality might be, it also represents a manifestation of the process of ideological ferment that ushers one variation/wave of a social movement to the next variation/wave.

  15. Also, Timberwraith's agnostic to weak atheist sort of thing was addressed well by Richard Dawkin's (of all people) with Dawkin's sliding scale of certainty.A 1 being someone who believes in the possibility of God, a 5 being perfectly agnostic, and a 10 being downright certain God does not exist.I like the notion of a sliding scale. Overall, I'm probably a 6. However, that's a very general calculation. When it comes to most religious forms of theism, I'm pretty much a 9.9999999. When one talks about a less defined version of a god, I'm about a 6 or 7. When one talks about about some kind of supernatural something lacking in any commonly recognizable form, I'm a 5.When one talks about Elvis and Nixon sitting in a small diner in Decorah, Iowa, chatting over coffee, I'm 4.5cos(2x³)+5.5, where x is the number of drinks that I've had.All joking aside, my position on the sliding scale depends on what god/spirit-related phenomena one is talking about.I know a nice bar in Decorah, Iowa. Anyone want to meet for drinks?

  16. Hey Gandolph!It's a pleasure meeting you! I've seen some of your posts here and at Feeno's, in fact I think that you were in dialog with Feeno the first time I looked at his blog about one year ago(?).You ask about my religious background, which is always a good question. I was raised in a Mainline Protestant family. My dad was in the U.S. military and we moved around quite a bit so I was exposed to a variety of churches, some of them being "generic" Protestant services provided in chapels on military bases. My parents were not hyper-religious and I think that they thought as responsible parents that they needed to include Church participation as part of our upbringing. That would be my older and younger brothers and myself. I was baptised at the age of ten while living in Texas. As a part of that process I took a preparatory class for a number of weeks prior to my confession of faith and dunking. I think it was at that time that I had the first inkling that I might be a "non-believer" although I was still a bit young to be able to articulate my doubts. By the time I was twelve my family was living in Taiwan amidst a largely Buddhist/Folk Chinese culture. It was here that I began to openly doubt the veracity of the tenets of the Christian tradition to which I had been exposed. Living in a non-Christian country did not inspire me to evangelize and in fact had the reverse effect. I found myself once counseling a Chinese friend of mine that I did not think that Christianity was "The True Religion" when he asked my thoughts on whether he should convert to Christianity. I had never developed a strong identity as a Christian which did not seem to bother my parents very much. By the time I was fifteen I enjoyed arguing against the truth of Christianity and had rejected the Bible as being "The Word of God" as that made no sense at all to me and I was aware of the darker sides of God as revealed in the Old Testament. Then, 'Lo and Behold!', I had a (near) Born Again Experience while arguing with some Evangelist who had come to a class in my High School. To this day I do not know what to make of some of what I experienced in that episode. In short, within the span of three days I determined that I Really could not believe that the Bible was the infallible word o' God and that belief in Jesus was our salvation. While this was consistent with what I had already come to believe, the experience did have the effect of triggering an avalanche of existential crisis that rendered me tied up in mental and emotional doubt that has never been completely undone. This was in the early 1970's and, in tune with the zeitgeist of the times, there was significant interest in Eastern religions going about. While this somewhat popular interest in various aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism did provide alternate avenues of enquiry for a youngster looking for "Spiritual Truth", I was never able to make a great deal of sense out of what I encountered and managed to not get caught up in any cultish scenes.So, even these many years later I still have an interest in religion and philosophy. Several years ago when the US Army had their "Army of One" advertising campaign I somewhat jokingly thought, and on occassion would say, "I am a religion of one!" followed by, "With the distinct feature of looking for neither a leader nor any followers!"So make of that what you will.I hope this brief journey through my past is of some benefit to you. I think that writing it has been of some benefit to me!Peace if PossibleSteve

  17. Hey Ya'll!As an afterthought;If there is a benevolent "God" who will ultimately judge us I think that the vast majority of us have nothing to fear, religious or otherwise.If, however, Jehovah awaits our demise I think that almost all of us are "toast", religious or otherwise.I know, nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of discussion. Just a spirit moved bit of my theological insight that I just needed to share with ya'll!The Reverend Sub CeeSelf Ordained to Entertain!

  18. Ohh Bugger.I did write what i thought was a decent reply but seems it was chewwed up.Im tired so instead my reply will have to be real short.Hi Timberwraith thanks again for such a thoughtful reply.In short what i had written was, over here with regards to the feminism for awhile maybe there was some "negative valuations",not everyone found it so enjoyable all the time.Specially at the time all the guns were still blazing and the movement was in full swing.But now that matters have been sorted out properly.We are left with a country and its males who have been taught and have learned to have a little more respect for our women who deserved it.Maybe it could be said the gay movement is now going through some of the same processes,and yes there are those who have negative valuations of that.Im neither female nor gay,but by jingo`s im all for these peoples rights to voice their present personality thats been partly formed through being wrongfully abused.Im all for their rights to voice how they honestly feel,because some things sure do need to change and if everything was kept rosy and cosy and strictly to the standards of others.Its not likely the real change will happen anytime soon.So short of rewriting my last post i lost,my thoughts are this happening between vocal new atheists and some of the church folk who maybe dont find it so appealing, is also just the same type of process humans need to go through before any real honest change actually happens.And its very important.It was always very important,even before when it didnt happen like it should have!, and people like popes of the catholic church simply quietly chose to just move abusive priests on instead of making some real change.But once again i dont advocate that everyone should be reacting the same way,and personally it bugs me a little that some folks seem to be suggesting we should.What do they want?,us to swap one type of church for another called atheism?.No im all for people having the rights to be differnt for different reasons,and think for (atleast the present) there is valid reasons for both the intellectual as well as the vocal new atheists demanding some honest action.Timberwraith hope you have a wonderful week end.

  19. Steve Schuler thanks for the reply it was very interesting to try and better understand how differnt experiences effect people differently.I think if all folks were not so hyper religious religion would maybe never really be any problem.Its why i often discuss with the more liberal type christians the idea of the need of some sort of standard and regulation etc.Trouble is many of these folks like to pretend what happens in other less liberal christian churches, is not their problem at all.Personally i feel this is pointing to seem to suggest these faiths are maybe like some club with people pissing in each others pockets, so as to not be seen as causing any waves.Specially in the USA folks of faith are the majority who are then needed to make a stand with matters of change,and stagely they dont seem to mind making a stand with regards to abortion or gays or maybe gambling or alcohol use etc.To me its just playing lip service to offer words of "sorry to hear that" when faced with experiences of other folks often simply (born) into the abusive faiths.If they expect to hold respect and want church groups like catholics to make a good name for faith as a whole, rather than just moving priestly child molestor on….Then its going to take a little more than lip service and pocket pissing.Trouble is all these folk cherish "faith freedoms" and so thinking MORE of their own skin,tend to worry MORE about how any idea of standards or regulation etc might end up happening to backfire and effect them also.Yeah Steve it most likely was me over at the feens blog …I do like the man a whole lot! ,but sadly find myself disagreeing with him on many things …Which i dont really find pleasent…But that do you do? be straight up and risk hurting a friends feelings? ..or shut up and lie to yourself and dont be true to your thoughts.Hey sub coolio …You keep speakin your mind and dont even let our faithful friend JD try and tell you not to have an opinion.Have a great weekend This reply is 3rd time lucky…Man whats happening tonight with the post eating gremlins

  20. Gandolf, don't feel so bad. Blogger almost ingested one of my posts, yesterday. Thankfully, I've been saving longer comments inside of MS Word before hitting "Post Comment."No doubt about it, feminism brought forth a sea change in the US, as well. I am quite grateful for those changes. Nevertheless, I can only tolerate so much dogmatism before I seek greener pastures. The tipping point for me was the slow realization that there is quite a bit of transphobic prejudice within feminism and then, witnessing feminists defend their prejudice via feminist theory. Arguably, they were simply manifesting prejudice that exists throughout all of society but even so, seeing feminism used as a means to justify hatred and oppression was more than I could bear. It struck me as similar to the way in which moderate/conservative Christians use the bible to condemn homosexuality and then deny that they are prejudiced because they see holy scripture as justifying their hatred.I eventually concluded several things. First, any social group advocating a particular belief system or ideology can become so resistant to critique that it is rendered incapable of acknowledging its faults and prejudices. This is the threshold at which ideology shifts to dogmatism. These conditions are fostered by human beings' vulnerability to conformity and in-group/out-group behavior. Second, as this threshold is crossed, the group starts to lose concern regarding the ways in which its actions harm others. Third, given enough time and accumulated power, the group will tend to shift from advocating for social change to a push for social dominance.Sadly, I do not believe that atheists are immune to this unfortunate process. We are, as all people are, subject to human foibles. Knowing this, my allegiances are established carefully and tentatively. Once burned, twice shy. :)I hope you have a nice weekend, too.

  21. Gandolph,First: Yeah, I really like Feeno as well. I think that he is a really good hearted guy and he has a great sense of humour. I don't fault people for challenging Feen's beliefs but given that he is already dealing with you, T-Vick, Ginx, Tink, Jeffe, Gun Toting and everybody else that I can't think of right now, I don't think I need to add to the chorus of dissenting voices. In fact it's my tendency to side with the underdog in a brawl (although the discussions at Feeno's are not brawls) so…Anyhow, The Feenster has "really big shoulders" and that's another thing about him that I really respect.Second: What variety of Christianity did your family involve themselves with that has left you so embittered? I know that my experience as a lad was really mellow. I had basically zero resistance from my folks when I determined I was "atheist". I realize not everyone is so fortunate and I have been able, via the internet, to gain a little insight and understanding of the sometimes harsh and hateful religious environments that people have extricated themselves from. One thing that troubles me a bit about you Gandolph is the palatable anger that is evident in your writing. I know that I have not "travelled a mile in your shoes", so I am not being judgemental and saying that you "should" feel other than you do. I do know from my own life experience that life is more pleasant when we can live with more compassion and less anger. Very much easier said than done, I know from my own experience. One thought that helps me mellow out on my own and other peoples apparent shortcomings is, "Well, what can you realistically expect from really smart monkeys?" After all, we are a "baby" species and shouldn't be tried as adults, right?Timberwraith,I think you have made some really insightful observations about the tendency towards dogmatism and the acqusition of power within social movements. For better or worse, and probably both, my natural tendency has been to avoid identifying with any ideology. I think there are things to learn from many people and from many sources. This, to me, would include the teachings of Jesus as contained in the Gospels. Of course it is not exactly clear what he taught or advocated, still the Sermon on the Mount and other bits and pieces of what survives of his thinking contain some pretty good wisdom. That folks like Feeno can take the best of Jesus' teachings and use them as touchstones in how they conduct their lives contributes to peace on our planet, and that is always good! (Do you know Feeno? If not, get to know him, very Cool Dude!)Tristan,Like your blog! It's always good to share a bit of time with good folks in a thoughtful environment. Thanks for creating the space!Feeno,Where are you? (laugh!)Later All!Steve

  22. Just a general disclaimer, everyone: I don't mean to trash the entire feminist movement. Like so many large groups of people, it is certainly not a monolith. Plus, I hold a strong degree of hope that younger feminists are sorting through some of the more harmful tendencies of yesteryear's feminism.Steve said:"For better or worse, and probably both, my natural tendency has been to avoid identifying with any ideology."Yes, me too. This is a recently acquired and growing habit for me, but I'm beginning to feel a sense of comfort with this way of being. I no longer feel at ease with identifying very strongly with any ideological label.I believe that I briefly visited Feeno's blog via a link in Tristan's sidebar, but I can't say that I know him.Steve, have you ever heard of a book called "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time" by Marcus Borg? It discusses contemporary scholarship on the New Testament and depicts Jesus as a kind of proto-political activist who challenged the restrictive religious/social beliefs of his day. It opened my eyes to the possibility that biblical stories can (and sometimes are) used as an inspiration for positive social change. It was an interesting read and was suggested by a liberal Christian pastor that I know.Ironically, it left me feeling even more skeptical regarding the veracity of the bible because the book actively points out a number of flaws in the way the New Testament was written.

  23. Timberwraith said.."Just a general disclaimer, everyone: I don't mean to trash the entire feminist movement. Like so many large groups of people, it is certainly not a monolith. Plus, I hold a strong degree of hope that younger feminists are sorting through some of the more harmful tendencies of yesteryear's feminism."Yeah where i live the feminist movement has now mellowed from the group you discribed that once tried the social dominance road for a while.To me it was like a period of enlightenment that was looking to find a level that allowed for better equality.Sure for awhile it went from existing in a place of being dominated to trying out the idea of domination,but because either end of the scale things are not really going to honestly work,we now have found a better place thats more consistant with us both occupying a type of middle ground.It is my opinion that the type of change needed to teach humanity the need for a little more respect of our female fellow humans,needed to also show men what it would feel like to be threatened with the possibility of dominance to fully complete the lesson needing to be learned.So sure there may very well be some atheist groups who might try to impose a certain type of dominance over the faithful (for a while),but will that actually do the faithful so much harm?.Will they not actually learn something good from this experience? that ,maybe without it they might not actually have a way to actually participate and learn.After all they have spent many decades sitting in the dominant seat.It is not always so wrong that people experience a little of the flavour on the other side to actually be able to HONESTLY understand what it tastes like on the other side of the fence.Without this experience we can suggest we have learned something,but once again in any honest reality, its mostly only playing with words and lip service.My thoughts to some will maybe seem harsh and some folks will think i harbour hate for faithful folks.But i dont agree,sure i have anger, but anger isnt nessarily always a matter of harbouring hate.If it was then i suggest,maybe parents also hate their children or maybe our prisons are all about hating the prisoners.No i dont hate faithful folk,but i do think they all need a jolly good shake up and a real lesson or two,and to learn that the world isnt interested in popes paying lip service about matters such as abusive priestly molestors…And kids dont deserve to be allowed to be born into faith abuse….Honest action is whats needed,not feeble "sorrys" and more and more endless lip service for many decades.When i discuss need for some sort of faith regulation…Some faithful folks try suggesting shit like.. oh no, but kids are also born into abusive families….Im sitting there thinking what the ??%#@##??? ..What kind of sad arse answer is thisYou would like to actually hold matters of the standard that should be expected of faith groups, to no better standard that your average family? …You are actually trying to suggest ,maybe that fact you can find two wrongs,then makes you comfortable that somethings right and quite ok?…And im thinking what planet do you actually live on?,dont you realize most modern day countrys these days also have some (laws and regulations) that are designed to try and protect kids from harmful abusive parents.Ive found in general,sadly most faithful folk will do anthing and say anything they can to try and absolve themselves of any responsibility for abuse produced by faith freedoms .And after doing so they still try and suggest they follow some Jesus who they also suggest was all about love .

  24. @timber-If you liked that book you might like to check out "The Masks of Christ" by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. They wrote on the Turin Shroud and the Templars, and their controversial work inspired the Da Vinci Code.At any rate, their "The Masks of Christ" looks at the various political ideologies that the figure of Christ encapsulates and they show that, regardless of what Christians might think, there were a LOT of underground secret political agendas going on in the subtext of the Gospels.All this adds up to, in my opinion, an orchestrated movement to make Christ a modern Messiah… I mean, a deliberate 1st century attempt to force the person Jesus into the role of a modern Jewish savior. This patent retooling of Jesus leaves us with many open ended questions, like how much was historically true, how much was redaction, if not both? Anyone who looks into these things will find that the NT is so unrealiable for the very fact that other than the large overarching themes of the Atonement narrative, most Christians ignore the subtext of the story completely… because contrary to what they espouse, it shows a real human figure who was not divine, with a political conspiracy to make him into a God.I read the book when I was still a believing Christian and it shattered my perceptions of what the Jesus narrative was all about. Worth a look-see. 😉 Have a good one!

  25. Steve Schuler said… "Second: What variety of Christianity did your family involve themselves with that has left you so embittered?"Hi Steve well personally i dont feel quite ready yet, to expose the group to whom i was born .1,I find it really really really!!! embarrassing ..2,Though i personally really dislike their beliefs, i dont want to be involved in bringing any personal type repercussions by way of hatered back upon them .While im fully prepared to being involved in bringing about change,im not at all interested in becoming involved in the singling out of certain faith groups.This is where i make a stand,i dont agree that its (intirely) the fault of certain groups that have become to be the abusers….I suggest faith as a whole has (some) responsibility also, in that there is no actual general standards or regulations for faith groups to know what to follow ..We have "faith freedom" and faith freedom is unregulated and is LEFT OPEN to all the possiblitys of abuse.Why then are certain groups personally fully responsible for what they became?But Steve id say the group i was born into could be kind of be really compared to the faith group the USA knows as the, West Bro Baptists…..Maybe slightly better on some points while maybe slightly worse on other points.But either way ….Its…F**king madness !!My friend Coolio Schulio ,yes its honestly true, many times im seen to be feeling a little angry.But this faith madness i and others experienced has been ALLOWED to continue onward and onward for 50-80 years now .Many many lives have been wasted trapped in a religious cult where leaving meant loseing total contact with all family and friends…Where many families were ripped and torn apart and husbands devided from wives and children…Where sadness abounded and all to often ended in suicide.While the rest of the world stood by silently….Suggesting matters of faith freedomSteve would you really expect me to always seem happy?This abuse still continues onward and onward today.What do you think about it Steve.How should i feel about this problem.

  26. Thanks for the reading suggestion, Tristan. :-)Gandolf, I don't know if that approach worked so well in the US. The US media and US conservatives focused on what excesses they could find in the women's liberation movement of the 60s/70s and used that as a means of effectively painting the entire movement as a bunch of crazy man haters. The term feminist has been seen in a negative light for decades now. We were talking about the negative perceptions of the term in my Women's Studies classes in the early 90s and I still read young feminists complaining about the same negative perceptions, today.As for atheists in the US, we're currently viewed less positively than gays or Muslims, according to a study by the University of Minnesota. I'm not at all certain that an extremely aggressive push by atheists will work all that well in the states.

  27. I personally was a raging Evangelical in the Assemblies of God for 30 years.I was a professional camp counselor at a major Bible Camp every summer. I was part of Campus Crusaders for Christ. I partook in numerous Christian youth services. Later I joined a Messianic synagogue to experience the closeness of a real "Jewish" Jesus Christ and not some watered down Americana version.I wrote numerous apologetics, I was an active missionary, and I was planning on getting a Masters in Theology or Divinity. To prepare I began to look into the real history of it all, of Early Christianity, of the whole Jesus controversy, and then I began to have subtle doubts. The genuine history painted a different portrait. Then at about that same time I moved to Japan, largley a Buddhist and free thinking, nearly entirely secular, society. I fell in love with a Japanese woman and then I really began to have to question my faith.Then, being bold, I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about regarding these New Atheists and their contra-arguments.Needless to say, the more I looked into the actual contra-faith arguments the more they made sense and were in line with the historical perspective, which most of my apologetic outlooks were not.I studied Buddhism for a while and found that it derived a natural world moral philosophy that Christianity completely lacked. Christian principles were deemed to come from somewhere else. I was reading Sam Harris at this time. Finally, after 30 years of intense Bible thumping I put my Bible aside and picked up some scientific literature. I got into cosmology, and 22 physics books later I was certain that there could be no physical evidence for God.My faith dwindled away. It was gradual, peaceful, and after it had gone I did not feel remorse, despair, or any of that. I felt free. Liberated. A whole new world opened up to me.

  28. Interesting article re Minnesota study,thanks Timber.I do wonder if maybe atheists movement might be seen as a serrious threat, to the presence of bigotry that at present is able to continue to festor and provide a hate base, against both Islamist and Christian .How many Islamists will be so likely to continue with a fundamentalist type hate for Christian Americans without god on their side by way of providing faithful followers of Islam?.How many American Christian children will be so likely to continue to see the Islamists as such a personalized threat in a fundamentalist way,if to many Americans become atheists?.I could be wrong but i do wonder about the existence of this factor.Because here in the NZ, we dont have much of the religious zeal that pits one type of human against the other,simply because of who they are and the connections to chosen general faith of their original homeland.And so as well, its also seen as being very much quite ok if so happens you are atheist.People dont fear atheists here,neither is it seen important we NZders dislike Muslims in general or that we should need to connect bombings any of their people are involved with entirely with their particular people/culture or faith in Islam.We see it as being connected to radicals,and know radicals can exist in any nation.Here quite often we see Muslim children freely running around the neighbourhood with Kiwi kids,becoming good friends.Neither kids often really bother about each others families faith belief.Across the salty ditch from here over in Australia, the christian faith is still bound more to government in a more fudamentalist way,they have a prayer at the start of government meetings,and so yes there we can see they have also seemed to have had some problems within the Muslim verses Australian community .And to be honest i think maybe atheists are not really trusted or liked quite so much there either.Tristan thats interesting you said.. "I personally was a raging Evangelical in the Assemblies of God for 30 years" …I now understand much better why it is i felt,it seemed you were somebody who atleast seemed a little more understanding of my behaviour.But i feel i can still honestly say, "oh if only to have had the luck to have been born in the Assemblies of God" ..L.o.L …I think its most likely correct to say yes they most likely are a bit of a cult for sure also .But still even so i knew a few at school and by jingo`s they still had far much more sanity and freedom and more of a natural type life than people in our crazy cult i was born into ever did.Heck people actually decide for themselves to join the Assemly of God church.Nobody ever joined our cult unless they were damm plum crazy …L.o.L ….You were born there .Nobody got to simply decide to join our christian cult,you had to meet many rules and regulations first.Rules and regulations that next to nobody outside would ever understand or be likely to like very much….Hense why nobody ever joined,there was only those born into it.Some day maybe i will pluck up the courage to tell folks who they were.If i told you folks here some of the rules and regulations etc …i know for sure you wouldnt want to believe me ..You`d be in fits of laughter..You`d swear im telling lies or trying to be either a conman or comedianEmbarrassing i tell ya ..Damm embarrassingComplete utter madness

  29. Gandolf-I wouldn't laugh at you at all. I've studied the fringe movements of Christianity quite a bit. In fact, I'm from Montana, and so if you've ever heard of the cult called Universal Triumphant then I think you'll know that I can identify with embarrassing and wildly asinine religious ideologies. I have sympathy for those caught up in such muddled thinking… and that's one of the reasons I write–to act as a beacon of reason.Indeed, reason is a beacon of hope that reaches out to all intellects; beckoning those who heed it's warning… stay close to the light of reason, do not be reckless and take things blindly, think for yourself, and don't venture too far astray in the turbulent and stormy weather of unreasoning dogmas… for they inevitably will lead only to folly.Admittedly though, I agree with you that some of the things we thought or did while in the faith come off as completely loopy, and this radical departure from good sense can come back to haunt us, even embarass us. I think that will be the topic of my next blog. I'll share some of the embarrassing beliefs I held onto for so long. Why not get it out there? Face the fact, be embarrassed, and learn from the experience! It's probably less embarrassing when you look at it for what it was, an honest mistake, than to hold onto it as something you feel you ought to be embarrassed about. We're allowed to make mistakes, after all. And for those who realize it, lucky for us, we can be free to change our minds, and once and for all put an end to the madness.

  30. Gandolph,Thanks for sharing so much of your personal experience and personal history. Anybody who is only modestly thoughtful must be aware that what we each have personally experienced in life very much contributes to what we "are". A person who has never been raped or otherwise brutalized cannot "know" how the experience might effect them and certainly has no place in telling others how they ought to think and feel about their experience. Of course that does not mean that, in so far as we are able, we cannot empathize with others. From what I had read of your experience with religion at Feeno's blog I was already keenly aware that your experience with religion in your youth was so vastly different from my own that I could only guess at what it might have been like. Frankly, I considered myself to be very fortunate to have not been subject to that sort of an environment. That you choose to write about your experience and expose the cruelty, even the insanity, that can be perpetrated in the name of "God" is very worthwhile. I think in telling your story that you are able to help others expand their understanding of the world that we live in and consider further the many facets of what constitutes "religion". In my more pollyannish, overly optimistic, mode of being I might like to think that religion is for the most part benevolent or benign. Stories such as your own are a necessary reminder to not negate the darker sides of what religion can, and does, accomplish.I am now almost 54 and the further I have travelled along the path of my life the more I realize how little I actually know or understand. You ask me if I expect that you should always seem happy. Well, despite the personna I reveal in my writings as being something of a jokester, which is true enough, I also wrestle with the problem of 'keeping my kyak upright'. That is, I too have to struggle with the apparent madness in the world and to not be overwhelmed by the brutality that is all too evident in this world we inhabit. For myself having and nurturing a sense of humour has been very helpful, although sometimes I take it a bit too far and, of course, there are some things that just are not funny.I wish that I had the "silver bullet" to undo the pain that we as humans all experience. Unfortunately I do not. I know that you did not ask me for such a cure, that is just a thought that I often have. Still, I would like for you to think of me as a friend who is willing to share in your sorrows and joys as we pass through this life together. Although we only know each other by way of what we have shared in our writing and that we are physically separated by a vast ocean and half a continent (I live in Oklahoma) please know that I consider you a compadre on the road to who knows where? Hopefully that will be a better planet than the one we currently inhabit. As the Priest who had lost his faith told me, "I'm not sure just what this place we live in really is, but one thing I know with certainty is that it's not Heaven!"Your Cyberfriend,Steveaka Sub Coolioaka The Reverend Sub CeeSelf Ordained to Entertain!

  31. Timber,I have not read any of Borg's books but I am a little familiar with his some of his ideas. I pretty much (read: almost entirely!) restrict my reading to what is available on the internet. It is much more economical than buying books which is an important consideration in managing my budget. For someone who could be best descirbed as being non-religious I have a very strong interest in religion. I have looked into Unitarian Universalism a bit but am quite confident that I will never identify as a Unitarian Universalist. For one thing, the name is entirely too cumbersome. Seriously, don't you think that any title you might employ to identify yourself that requires the use of ten syllables is entirely too long? Well, I do!I am pretty content maintaining my status as being religiously and ideologically unaffiliated, but hey!, that's just me and I don't make that as a general recomendation or offer it as a bit of advice.On the subject of liberal or progressive Christianity I have stumbled upon a Presbyterian minister by the name of John Shuck who heads a church in Tennessee and is overtly atheistic in his orientation. What might seem like an impossible conflict or contradiction is somehow working out for him as he continues to have the support of his congregation. If you are curious you can check out his blog at:http://www.shuckandjive.org/If nothing else I do recommend scrolling down the page and reading the sidebar note which has the heading, "What They're Saying About Shuck and Jive…" Pretty Funny!Catch You Later!StevoSubcool Fool for Crazy Love!Yeah! That's what I'm talkin''bout!

  32. Oh Yeah!I think that more than just looking like the villian, Fred must be the villian!Uncanny resemblance.Too uncanny, if you know what I mean…Thanks for the links!

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