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Author Topic: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...  (Read 645 times)

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Offline Vanity EvolvedTopic starter

Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« on: March 22, 2013, 01:16:28 PM »
... How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Reality.

It's a snazzy title, I know; I just felt like being a bit clever.

One thing I've noticed on these boards, quite regularly, is the idea people seem to hold about Atheists; that we're a group of people who are irrationally striking back at something. That we've had one experience in the past, religious or otherwise, which led us to instantly cast off any notion of the divine and cloister ourselves in Science!(tm) like some sort of comic book villian. I've had a lot of assumptions made about me for my Atheism. I have nothing to believe in. I'm an immoral person. I'm someone who has done wrong and deserves eternal punishment (but of course, never to my face. It's always veiled in a seemingly benign line, such as 'I'll pray for you'). I'm simply trying to justify an immoral lifestyle.

Why did it strike me to write this now? Because today, I have a pang of doubt. For a brief couple of moments, even after my long months as a non-believer, for whatever reason, I wondered 'Hmm. What if there -is- a God...' and after a few minutes of thinking on this, I realized something which further reinforced my lack of belief in a divine being. But we'll get to that simple reasoning later. What is the point of this post, you ask? I just wanted to explain a little about myself. Give a little insight into the way this Atheist's mind works and how I came to my lack of faith in religion. It's short, it's sweet but I'm surprised to find how many people are shocked that there is more thought in a lot of Atheists mind on the non-existance of a diety than 'I had a poor childhood, I don't believe in God'.

-

I wasn't much for religion when I was younger. My parents didn't care about it (other than my father's occasional watching of Songs of Praise after the Sunday roast for his regular nap). My school life wasn't a good one, and one of my few friends introduced me to a youth scheme which was held weekly at my local Baptist church. While skeptical, I joined him and it was there that I found faith. I found a lot of people who, unlike the people I knew, weren't judgemental. They accepted me. We'd read stories of how Jesus would cure the lame and about God's righteous nature then we'd have juice and biscuits after while playing some pool. Like a lot of Christians I know now, and my fellow church-goers, I actually hadn't read the Bible. Heck, I didn't start reading for pleasure until I was about fourteen, let alone reading a huge, leather-bound behemoth like the Bible! But as we were constantly told, reading the Bible didn't matter. It was accepting Christ's love in your heart and knowing He loved me. And so I did, for many years.

It wasn't until those couple of years later that I actually had my faith questioned. I never remember who it was, but someone posed me the question. "Why is there suffering? If God is such a great guy, why does he let people suffer and little children die?". I brushed it off. I didn't have an answer. So, I began to actually look through the Bible, I asked the people who teached me. "God works in ways we can't understand. They'll recieve their reward in Heaven", and how someone's suffering was a test from God, to test our faith. It was here I began to get confused. So, the suffering I had daily at school, which drove me to suicidal attempts and a youth of being a shy, beaten up little geek was something I had been given by the guy I asked for help? Children across the seas were starving and dying because God wanted them to? That didn't sound right. That didn't sound like the God I was taught to love. And so, for the first time, I read. I read and so much of it, as a child, confused me. Stories of stoning women. Stoning children. Stories of how God flooded the world and how men gave up their daugthers to rape.

I struggled with this, a lot. I carried on for a year or so, trying to rationalize it in my head, but it didn't work. I found myself drifting, not away from religion, but from Christianity. It was during the time I discovered my love for Asia, when anime, manga and roleplaying games began to become my refuge for escapism. I read about Buddhism, a religion which placed me ahead of the rest. A religion which encouraged me to try and fix my life, rather than sit and be told I was being given this punishment because of who I was. Even then, I later found myself abandoning some of these concepts; the idea that actively tying myself down to the world would only bring me suffering, that attempting to help in this world prevented me from moving on and becoming a higher self. This didn't sit with me very well.

Even now, I still partially identify as a Buddhist. I still find some of the philosophy a good way to live and encourages the right sort of attitude that I think someone who loves their fellow man should hold.

-

It's a little brief, I know. But I thought I'd hold this thread here so people could see a little into my head and see how I tick, and for those who wanted to post their own little stories. As we know, Atheists are a broad, diverse group of people who share only a single tenant - and their reasons for embracing their lack of belief and proclaiming themselves Atheist is just as broad and diverse!

Edit: Oh, and of course, I forgot my little explaination; I found myself pondering maybe there is a God. My next thought to follow that? "Well, why do I think there may be a God? I never worry that I think there may be a Thor or an Allah or a Vishnu. Funny how the only one I worry about is the biggest God spoke about in my country and who I grew up to believe in..."
« Last Edit: March 22, 2013, 01:19:18 PM by Vanity Evolved »

Offline Healergirl

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2013, 07:29:52 AM »
Wonderfully well written.

.
 

Edit: Oh, and of course, I forgot my little explaination; I found myself pondering maybe there is a God. My next thought to follow that? "Well, why do I think there may be a God? I never worry that I think there may be a Thor or an Allah or a Vishnu. Funny how the only one I worry about is the biggest God spoke about in my country and who I grew up to believe in..."

I'll take a shot at why you may feel that way. Your worry about your lack of faith in big-g God is quite natural, that is the deity  of the Culture you were raised to believe in.  That God - whom Muslims would argue is also known as Allah - is a part of you.  Part of your upbringing, you say your parents were not particularly religious, but I would not be surprised if you were being read Bible stories before you were capable of understanding speech.

I know I was.

Christianity is a very mystical religion, when we look at it closely.  The hooks set by that faith can bite very deep into our psyches.

Me?  I call myself an Agnostic.  Perhaps I merely lack the strength of my lack of conviction to call myself a true Atheist.

For me, my crisis of faith occurred when I looked  closely at the doctrine that God was omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient.  After a bit of thought I came to the independent conclusion that I could pick any two.  The discovery soon thereafter that I was not alone was a huge relief.

You find yourself wondering if there is a God?  Consider this:

If there is a God, must He be sane?  Not a new question, but a very good one.
 
 
« Last Edit: March 23, 2013, 07:35:56 AM by Healergirl »

Offline Vanity EvolvedTopic starter

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2013, 09:26:36 PM »
Wonderfully well written.

.
I'll take a shot at why you may feel that way. Your worry about your lack of faith in big-g God is quite natural, that is the deity  of the Culture you were raised to believe in.  That God - whom Muslims would argue is also known as Allah - is a part of you.  Part of your upbringing, you say your parents were not particularly religious, but I would not be surprised if you were being read Bible stories before you were capable of understanding speech.

I know I was.

Christianity is a very mystical religion, when we look at it closely.  The hooks set by that faith can bite very deep into our psyches.

Me?  I call myself an Agnostic.  Perhaps I merely lack the strength of my lack of conviction to call myself a true Atheist.

For me, my crisis of faith occurred when I looked  closely at the doctrine that God was omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient.  After a bit of thought I came to the independent conclusion that I could pick any two.  The discovery soon thereafter that I was not alone was a huge relief.

You find yourself wondering if there is a God?  Consider this:

If there is a God, must He be sane?  Not a new question, but a very good one.

This is similar to my experience; as I say, my parents didn't read me stories about the Bible. I actually did believe, quite strongly, at one point in my life. But my point is that I only ever wonder about the Christian god - my mind doesn't have a similar reaction to worrying if there's a Thor, or a Quitzacoatl waiting to punishing me, or take me to Valhalla when I die. But the one divine figure I did identify with heavily, and the most common one in my country/life, is the one I worry about, which points quite heavily to the fact that religion is part of where you're born. I'm sure if I was born in, say, Iran, my worries would be concerning does Allah exist, not does Guan Yu or Nu Wa exist.

My big crisis of faith came when I began severely questioning the logic of the Bible; omnipotence and all the big omni- aspects are apparently later addition to the Bible (like a lot of things), which I can buy. It makes God slightly more understandable, in the sense that he isn't everywhere, doing everything, but it still brings up a bunch of questions; such as, why is God so subjective in his abilities? Why can he create the world in a way which defies modern physics (light came before the sun existed) and create a race of people in his own image out of nothing, but then to make a woman, he needs to use a rib? Why can God create all animals on Earth, but now, requires a man in a boat to carry them while he floods the boat to rid the world of Evil, the Evil that -He- created? Why would a beneficient being create a world where suffering is possible when it would have been less effort and better for us if he didn't? And then each question refers to another part of the Bible, which causes more questions, and so you get this perpetually feeding loop of realizations.

My opinion now is I'm generally an agnostic Atheist, leaning heavily on Atheist. I still identify as Buddhist, but I don't believe in any of the supernatural trappings along with it. My big question which always makes me not doubt myself isn't so much 'Is God sane?', it's more 'Is this a God that, if proved to exist, I would want to worship and love? Because if the Bible is really evidence of his doings on Earth, then no, he is not a being whose morality I would like to say I condone'.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2013, 09:50:21 PM »
My big crisis of faith came when I began severely questioning the logic of the Bible; omnipotence and all the big omni- aspects are apparently later addition to the Bible (like a lot of things), which I can buy. It makes God slightly more understandable, in the sense that he isn't everywhere, doing everything, but it still brings up a bunch of questions; such as, why is God so subjective in his abilities? Why can he create the world in a way which defies modern physics (light came before the sun existed) and create a race of people in his own image out of nothing, but then to make a woman, he needs to use a rib?

Well, Light did exist before the sun.  But that's by the by.

Interestingly, or I think so at least, there are clearly two different Creation stories presented in the first chapters of Genesis.  The first one is called the "E" source for "Elohim", which is the word used for God in it.  My Bible translates it THE LORD in small caps.  What we're presented with is a broadly unknowable God who can Fiat Lux things into existence on a whim.  Unrelatable, no opinions, emotions, anything like that.  This is Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 and in it God doesn't need a rib:

Genesis 1:27
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

There's no indication of ribs or Adam coming first or anything like that.  Starting at Genesis 2:5 though there's another Creation story, called the "J" source for "Jehovah" - here my Bible translates it as "God".

The J source presents a much more human and personable God.  2:5 says no plants existed in direct contradiction to 1:29.  He kneels down and makes man from clay when just a chapter ago he could will things into existence ex nihilo.  There's clearly two different stories here that have just been placed one after the other.

This J source god lacks the omnipotence and omniscience of the E source god.  In 3:8-9 Adam and Eve hide from God and he has to shout out "where are you?"  Clearly not an omniscient god, and hence not omnipotent. 

Both are tough to date but the consensus is that the J source is from around the period of the Babylonian Exile (about 6th-5th century BC) while the E source is later (how later depends on who you ask.  The explanation above is a bit of a simplification of things - above is the "Documentary Hypothesis" which is no longer in favour in the pure form I've presented it in.)

So yeah, to answer your questions - its because you're trying to reconcile two different stories which were (probably) never meant to be reconciled.  They are myths and etiological tales - biblical literalism didn't develop until much later.

Offline Vanity EvolvedTopic starter

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2013, 09:54:43 PM »
Well, Light did exist before the sun.  But that's by the by.

Interestingly, or I think so at least, there are clearly two different Creation stories presented in the first chapters of Genesis.  The first one is called the "E" source for "Elohim", which is the word used for God in it.  My Bible translates it THE LORD in small caps.  What we're presented with is a broadly unknowable God who can Fiat Lux things into existence on a whim.  Unrelatable, no opinions, emotions, anything like that.  This is Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 and in it God doesn't need a rib:

Genesis 1:27
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

There's no indication of ribs or Adam coming first or anything like that.  Starting at Genesis 2:5 though there's another Creation story, called the "J" source for "Jehovah" - here my Bible translates it as "God".

The J source presents a much more human and personable God.  2:5 says no plants existed in direct contradiction to 1:29.  He kneels down and makes man from clay when just a chapter ago he could will things into existence ex nihilo.  There's clearly two different stories here that have just been placed one after the other.

This J source god lacks the omnipotence and omniscience of the E source god.  In 3:8-9 Adam and Eve hide from God and he has to shout out "where are you?"  Clearly not an omniscient god, and hence not omnipotent. 

Both are tough to date but the consensus is that the J source is from around the period of the Babylonian Exile (about 6th-5th century BC) while the E source is later (how later depends on who you ask.  The explanation above is a bit of a simplification of things - above is the "Documentary Hypothesis" which is no longer in favour in the pure form I've presented it in.)

So yeah, to answer your questions - its because you're trying to reconcile two different stories which were (probably) never meant to be reconciled.  They are myths and etiological tales - biblical literalism didn't develop until much later.

That would make a lot of sense; considering as far as I know, the Bible is already a bunch of authors putting their own stories together in one huge anthology, which also partly explains why God has such a scitzophrenic personality throughout.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2013, 09:59:06 PM »
The Bible is largely considered a collection of stories, myths, legends, parables and lessons collected by at least two monotheistic religions (Judaism and Christianity).  The Bible makes more sense when read as a historical text instead of God's autobiography.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2013, 10:00:54 PM »
That would make a lot of sense; considering as far as I know, the Bible is already a bunch of authors putting their own stories together in one huge anthology, which also partly explains why God has such a scitzophrenic personality throughout.

Precisely.  The Ten Commandments are given in both Exodus and Deuteronomy, several tales are told multiple different times with different slants (I forget which way round it is but either the J source prefers Canaan to Israel and E Israel to Canaan or the other way round mutatis mutandis).

Offline Healergirl

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2013, 09:44:24 AM »
The comparisons between Jehovah's personality and that of a raging alcoholic father have been drawn long before I came along.

Jehovah is certainly  more personable than Elohim, but that is hardly all to the good.

Vanity evolved,

Your parents didn't read you Bible stories, but are yuo sure no one did? Those stories permeate preschool literature for children to an amazing degree.  the names and settings serial numbers are often filed off, but the stories themselves crop up in the most amazing places.

Offline Vanity EvolvedTopic starter

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2013, 11:07:48 AM »
The comparisons between Jehovah's personality and that of a raging alcoholic father have been drawn long before I came along.

Jehovah is certainly  more personable than Elohim, but that is hardly all to the good.

Vanity evolved,

Your parents didn't read you Bible stories, but are yuo sure no one did? Those stories permeate preschool literature for children to an amazing degree.  the names and settings serial numbers are often filed off, but the stories themselves crop up in the most amazing places.

Hmm, that is a point; I didn't go to preschool, but yeah, I distincty remember Noah's Ark from when I was younger.

Offline Healergirl

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2013, 11:28:21 AM »
Oh, I didn't mean just formal preschool, but literature for young children in general.. Christian themes are everywhere!  Much of this is due to the fact that many of the parables in the Bible are teaching good moral behavior on a basic level.  There is a lot of wheat in the Bible mixed in with the chaff after all.

Offline Vanity EvolvedTopic starter

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2013, 01:35:20 PM »
Oh, I didn't mean just formal preschool, but literature for young children in general.. Christian themes are everywhere!  Much of this is due to the fact that many of the parables in the Bible are teaching good moral behavior on a basic level.  There is a lot of wheat in the Bible mixed in with the chaff after all.

Ehh... Depends on the parable. I remember being told about the Tower of Babel, and the moral of that story is 'don't work together, it'll get you killed'.

And Noah's Ark to me is always 'that story where God murdered everyone'. Not exactly a great moral lesson to teach kids; it's nice showing the kids that looking after animals is nice, but I can do that without using the Bible.

Offline Healergirl

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2013, 02:01:30 PM »
Oh it very much depends on the parable!  The two you mentioned the entire book of Job which to me can be boiled down to "Love your raging abusive alcoholic father no matter what he does to you."

Jehovah sending bears to rip apart 42 children for making fun of the prophet Elijah's bald spot is another.

Whet and chaff.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2013, 02:08:12 PM »
The problem that I as an atheist see with "But the Bible has good moral lessons!" is that... well, okay, it has some. Mixed in with a whole lot of extremely unfortunate and problematic ones. Why not just teach good moral lessons directly, without introducing a whole body of issues? What makes the Bible so extra-special that it's worth tolerating all the problematic bits?

Offline Healergirl

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2013, 02:26:37 PM »
Ephiral,

Other than the fact that it permeates the culture, nothing really.  But it does permeate the culture, even Western European culture, which is considerably more secular humanist than the USA.

Offline Vanity EvolvedTopic starter

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2013, 02:32:00 PM »
The problem that I as an atheist see with "But the Bible has good moral lessons!" is that... well, okay, it has some. Mixed in with a whole lot of extremely unfortunate and problematic ones. Why not just teach good moral lessons directly, without introducing a whole body of issues? What makes the Bible so extra-special that it's worth tolerating all the problematic bits?

Pretty much this. I can teach children that looking after animals is a good thing, or not to lie/be mean to children much better without the baggage of Christianity.

And especially without the baggage of '... and if you are mean, the man in the sky who loves you will send a bear to murder you. Or his son will come in with a whip made of leather and broken glass and beat you down.'

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2013, 02:34:54 PM »
Ephiral,

Other than the fact that it permeates the culture, nothing really.  But it does permeate the culture, even Western European culture, which is considerably more secular humanist than the USA.
But... that just seems circular and, frankly, weak. Inertia hardly seems like a good reason to teach morals from something that condones slavery, frex. And... well, "It permeates the culture, so let's make sure it permeates the next generation's culture too" is both circular and not-good, given the number of problematic bits.

Offline Healergirl

Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2013, 05:12:32 PM »
Ephiral,

Oh, I'm not defending it as the way things ought to be, that's just my opinion of why things are the way they are.  Cultural inertia, so to speak.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Heathan, or...
« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2013, 05:15:49 PM »
Ah. Minor point of rupture: I'm asking what reason we have to keep it that way. Why should it be? I see no compelling reasons.