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Author Topic: Note From A Demon ~ On Atheism And Incredulity  (Read 1310 times)

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Offline BraiochTopic starter

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Note From A Demon ~ On Atheism And Incredulity
« on: September 08, 2013, 10:24:37 AM »
AN: This is not meant to be a debate thread, and if it should spark the urge for debate or discussion that's why E has a section for such a thing. Should anyone feel the need to debate the subject matter of this particular post, make up a thread for it where it belongs. I'm sure some who may share what I write down here would be willing to engage in that discussion, I may even be drawn into it myself. This is not the place for it however, and I ask that you respect that. (My PM box is also open :P) Oh and this is an off the top of my head bit of writing, so don't expect a perfectly written piece of eloquent composition, I suppose maybe one day I might go in and edit it to be a bit more properly and eloquently written, but today is not that day.

Now there seems to be a bit of confusion in regards to those who are atheist and how they perceive religion/spirituality/belief/faith/etc (I'll refer to it as Faith from now on to just simplify things) among some other matters. These other matters involve the respect or lack thereof for other's Faith, how one eventually came to be an atheist, and how one can simplify function in a world that is looked at in the manner of an atheist. I'll attempt to do my best to address each of these things in turn, and even attempt to give some sense of a coherent answer to each question in turn. Mind you I won't be giving what many regard as 'polite' answers, but as I have tried to point out, one man's rudeness is another's truth. So bear that in mind as I go over each of these things and keep your temper and indignation down to a bare minimum if you will.

Attending to how one became an atheist, it differs for each of us and you'll get a different story each way, some very similar but with varying differences. I, for instance, bore Faith of some sort throughout most of my life until just about two years ago. (2 years in December as a matter of fact) Mind you, I was never raised to be religious, nor do I remember ever being given any expectation on my Faith. It wasn't until I moved into Wicca that I noticed that others truly do tend to have a problem with others faiths. Mind you I noticed it in Middle School when September 11th happened and a lot of the Muslim believers came under fire so to speak, but it wasn't until my own pronouncement of faith in something outside the expected norm that it became a personal experience. With my new found Faith, I suddenly found people leery of me, insulting me and my own family members expressed a notable disappointment and had to resist the urge to attempt and convert me.

Now in the intervening years from then and now, my Faith trickled off, a bit through the metaphorical leak in the side of my mind. It wasn't hard to notice that all my prayers, rituals, spells, etc didn't seem to be doing a damn thing. I believed very hard and tried my damnedest for a result that never came, though I noticed that my own efforts seemed to provide a much more noticeable effect. Eventually, after my own Faith failed me in a romantic matter that damn near killed me, I slipped very quickly into agnosticism.

This lasted for a few years, me trying to hold to the last vestiges of Faith and the often times painful hope that goes with such a Faith. Then, about two years ago (2 this coming October, early November) I became violently ill. Ill enough to become hospitalized and as I found out later, nearly died. Mind you I was quite thoroughly drugged and unable to remember a lot of the week I was on the painkillers, but the stories are enough to inform me of how bad it truly was. And I had had, during the course of that week, what I had hoped was a spiritual moment. I addressed it in a different thread, but long story short, I pretty much took that as I had felt the strength and goodness of family members soul and tried to hold to that. Mind you it wasn't until later that I found out that when one of the two organs of mine that failed, fails, (I can't remember if it's the liver or kidneys that do it, but I'm thinking liver, haven't quite gotten around to looking it up again) it pours a chemical/hormone/whichever, into your system and produces hallucinations. Of course the Dilaudid didn't really help that any, and I was quite....loopy while on the stuff, so that came into play.

Eventually it came to the point where, a couple of months after being released, I had to look back on that moment and I had to truly face whether or not I believed that had really been a moment of Faith, or just one that I hoped had been. When faced with the facts before me, I had to see that it wasn't, it was just my body going haywire and showing me something I attributed later to the soul, afterlife and some form of deity. It was at that moment I had to look at everything Faith related, and shove it side by side with all of the facts that I have ever collected over my short life time and compare them. Inevitability the Faith broke beneath fact, and I watched my Faith begin it's rapid dissolution as I found myself looking up more and more things, as I started comparing Faith to fact more fervently and with a passion I had never really showed for all the metaphysical knowledge I had attempted to gather before. Within a few months, my Faith was gone, and in its place was, by itself for once, the love of reason, rationality, logic and fact that I had always possessed, and I found myself as an atheist.

Mind you, like so many who came from Faith backgrounds into atheism, I attempted to be as gentle and respectful with other Faiths. Over time, as many other atheists have learned, it became rather difficult and tiresome to do so. It's not only in the face of plenty of opposition and downright rudeness of Believers,(seriously, I have received more bullshit for being an atheist in the past two years than I have in the past 8 years of having come out as gay) but the constant, never ending circle of illusion and at times, downright lying that goes with it.

Look at it this way, if you faced constant opposition, often times very aggressive opposition in the form of proselytizing, preaching, insults, ridicule, etc etc, you would become a little embittered as well. So many only see things through the eyes of Faith, which is what blinds them to what can happen to those who do not. We are seen as rude, disrespectful and I swear I have been called a heathen (or the like) more times than I would be willing to admit.  Often times for doing nothing more than admitting my atheism, which also gets attacked for shoving it out there for everyone to see. Which I will point out is so many kinds of bullshit, since everyone else gets to admit to their Faith, and yet when an atheist admits to their lack thereof, it suddenly becomes an insult, which yes for the record, is both amusing beyond all hell, and exasperating for the atheist involved.

Which also comes down to the fact that no one seems to understand that atheists look at Faith and question it completely and utterly. Let me point out too that so many of these Faith based thoughts fail the test of being logical or rational trains of thought. When you cancel out your Faith, your belief, your hope, etc, it falls flat before the face of logic and rationality. Mind you, this doesn't bother an atheist, but apparently it sends many believers into a foaming at the mouth frenzy. A question about the believability of a piece of Faith, an askance look, an admittance of the sheer incredulity or ridiculousness of a belief, and suddenly Faith is under attack. Suddenly the atheist is being disrespectful and mocking, lo' how awful those disrespectful atheists are being.

Let me let you in on a little secret, most of the time, they're not being disrespectful. Displaying a lack of Faith, having a damned good question, or even looking at something and going, "eh, that doesn't seem right...actually it seems kind of silly," is not disrespect. You convince no one and win nothing when you call it such things. There is this expectation of mutual respect of others beliefs, of their Faith and yet when an atheist calls something into question or expresses their disbelief, it's rude. Honestly that whole 'amused but exasperated' thing comes into play again. If your Faith is so strong, a question shouldn't threaten it, our disbelief shouldn't harm it, and yet so many times, it seems to do that. When it comes right down to it, it's the believers that have a problem, not the atheists.

Don't get me wrong, we often times do find Faith and belief to be anything varying from a little silly, to downright harmfully ridiculous. Look at the facts, it's Faith that leads to people forgoing necessary medical procedures and medicines, it's Faith that justifies so many of these awful deaths and massacres. We live in a world where Faith is used to destroy other's rights, still used to downtrod women, those of African descent or any other descent other than Caucasian, where if you do not believe, you are considered lower than those who do. Where Faith has perpetuated some of the absolute worst atrocities in history, not solely justified by Faith, but Faith is the reason, the driving force behind these horrible moments. And it's still happening.

So before you cast a shady glance at an atheist about their disrespect, bear in mind that Faith has done next to nothing to earn that respect. Your Faith is not sacred and above question, when faced with the results of what Faith can do, they are no longer sacrosanct. We are expected to let people go about their business and often times do, but when that Faith crosses the line into pushing into other people's lives, you will often times find an atheist squirming to draw the line. We are long since used to the idea of people balking us, of people questioning us and disregarding us. However Faith and believers have for far too long, gotten used to being the ones in the comfortable seat, of being above question and reproach. Now it seems when the questions and spotlight of doubt gets cast back the other way, it's Faith that has difficulty.

Which I'll point out is not the atheists problem.

Lastly, there is the matter of how an atheist looks at the world and how they function within it. Mind you, I'll be leaving out any commentary at this point on Faith, as obviously we have disregarded it by the time we have reconstructed our view of the world, so adios to that. (However I will point out that when a believer asks how we can possibly be good without Faith, we are scared shitless. Seriously, if you can't be good without a book or some code of conduct written years ago, what the hell is wrong with you?)

So in any case, we live in a world of fact and questions. It honestly is as simple as that, we take accepted fact, and we make sure it is up to par. Like scientists we always maintain that there is the probable chance of alterations being done to such fact, whether it be an enhancement from further study, or be it an actual change of the fact through a new discovery. I will say science is not our religion, logic and rationality are not our Faith, so stop saying that! However, when you use the analytic and critical thinking part of your mind, it becomes obvious that science holds the answers we seek. Mind you they're not 'pretty' or 'kind' but who gives a shit? They're reality and we seek nothing but the truth and nothing but the truth, even if we don't necessarily like it in the end. It's fact that we want, and if that means having to change the 'facts' because new and approved (cited, sourced, peer reviewed, you ain't got it, we skeptical) evidence has come into play.

As for morality? Honestly, I wonder why this ever gets questioned, because it quite frankly isn't that hard to see why we choose 'good' things over 'evil' things. Simply put, 'good' things not only make the person feel good, (yay for evolving as a social species) but it is productive for society as a whole, whereas 'Evil' things are not. We do 'good' things because you bloody well should without the promise of metaphysical or physical reward, otherwise you're kind of a selfish douche. Now mind you, atheists are pretty good for not holding to having a universal morality, which can be a point of contention. Frankly, I personally hold that rape is never to be done, murder...well it's not murder if you're defending yourself, and murder bad, mkay? Theft, while bad, if you're in need of what you steal, I don't hold that to be bad. Simply put, morality is not considered universal in almost every type of moral question.

See? It's all very simple when you get right down to it. Every atheist came to their atheism somehow, whether through being raised that way, (rare for now) coming to the conclusion through deduction and critical thinking, (as I did, quite common) or through some horrendous meeting with Faith and believers. (Sadly not as uncommon as you would hope) Each of us of course has to deal with a lot of the bullshit that comes from dealing with Faith at some point and time when they realize their own atheism. Mind you it's not really a matter of disrespect on the atheist's part, insomuch as the drive to question and analyze things. Remember, critical thinking, not rudeness, bear that in mind the next time you get questioned. Finally, we do in fact hold to fact because the process to gaining true facts is rational and logically sound. Also, stop asking how we can be moral and 'good,' it's fucking scary when you ask those things, and we also manage to form our morals based on fact as well as the needs and motivations behind the moral dilemma in question.

Well I think that sums up what I wanted to say...yep, pretty much, so there ya go.

Oh, and congratulations on being my guinea pigs of trying to get back into the mode of writing essays again. So yay you.

Offline HannibalBarca

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Re: Note From A Demon ~ On Atheism And Incredulity
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2013, 11:15:22 PM »
I went about becoming an atheist the same as you.  I was born into a catholic family, and worshiped so until I was twenty-two.  I went without church for a few year after that, until I accepted Jesus as my savior and became born-again--although that was really to decide if there was another religion that made more sense.  You see, when i was a young child of 4-7, I used to wake up with these night terrors, with this foreboding feeling that after we die, there was nothing, it was simply the end of my existence.

Four.  I started doubting young.  I'd go into my parent's bedroom and they'd try to comfort me, but despite me being a good, obedient child my entire childhood, that doubt and constant fear of annihilation upon death stayed with me, regardless of prayer, belief, talks with religious leaders.  No one addressed the root question I had--how do you know there is a God?

They didn't.  It was called Faith...believing in something without proof.  Now, as good of catholics as my parents were, they still held to some liberal ideas for their conservative background--birth control was okay, priests should be able to get married, women should be able to become priests, and (when I got old enough for it to matter) masturbation was not some evil.  Talk about being relieved by that :P 

But also, my parents taught me and my brothers to be rational, logical thinkers and skeptics.  Odd how such things can go along with each other, isn't it?  Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance.  What it pretty much means is when people block out an idea or concept because to accept it would mean rejecting another strongly-held belief...as in accepting reason completely, and having that shatter your religious foundation of your life.

It did it to me.  Later, as an older twentysomething, I read of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Zen...you name it.  I found solace somewhat in the familiar refrains of the Golden Rule in basically all of them...which made me ask:  If they all, at their root, espouse the same general idea once stripped of their multitudes of ticky-tack rules, why should I have to choose any of them?  Why can't I have an individual religion of my own?

So I lived like this for a few more years.  Once I met my wife and got married--in a very liberal Church of Christ community church--I went back to believing in Christianity, but very modified.  Still, I felt no pull of spirituality when I prayed in church, or sang hymns.  I was moved by the pastor's sermons, but that was becuse he preached the universal themes of brotherhood, loving one another, caring for your fellow human, not being judgemental...I didn't need religion to believe in these.

What finally brought me to atheism's door was a book by Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World.  I'd loved science all my life, and deeply respected Sagan as a supreme rationalist.  But his book peeled away the veneer on the last vestiges of my 'faith'.  It was merely the remains of my upbringing that left me still calling myself Christian.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who is considering rationalism, humanism, agnosticism, or atheism.  If facts are what you want, and not platitudes of just have faith, just trust us, we know best, believe in the writings of people who thought the world was flat and covered by a dome that opened to let rain come in...this will allow you to strip away opinions, and leave you with just the proven facts.

Of course religious believers will become hostile to you when you mention you are an atheist, or ask them questions.  You are attacking the foundation of their belief systems, some of which are deeply ingrained.  You are telling them their creator or savior doesn't exist. 

You are telling them that, when they die, there will be no reward, but simple nothingness; annihilation. 

I got it when I was four.  Some people hold on to their beliefs until they die.  In fact, most of the world's population does.  It wasn't hard to come to the conclusion for me.  What was hard was to accept it, to give up the notion that I would somehow be rescued from my own mortality and live on forever in a perfect place with a perfect master who would take care of me as long as I swore he was my master and I believed only in him, and worshiped him eternally.

Replace master with any of the various deities you wish, from ancient Egyptian to the newest branch of Christianity today.

I'm not afraid of death anymore.  I'm not afraid of eternal damnation, either--most world religion don't have it, anyway, pretty much only Christianity.  If I go on odds of which religion is correct by numbers, the non-hell religions win out over the hell religions.  And that is if I even give a damn what they teach, which I don't.

Sociologists have proven the moral imperative--the scientific name for what religions call the Golden Rule--is built into our DNA as social animals.  We couldn't function as a species without cooperation and mutual benefit through teamwork.  Caring for one another promotes the tribe, and through that, taking care of yourself as well.  You care for others and take of them when they need it--they will take care of you when they need it.  It's built-in.  And as you said, Braioch, if someone has to be threatened with everlasting torture to follow the rules, then they aren't being good of their own accord--they're being good because they are afraid of being punished.

I have this belief:  Good people don't need laws and rules to do the right thing; bad people won't follow the rules and laws regardless.  Laws and rules are for those in the middle, who don't possess sufficient self-control and goodwill to do what they know is best for all--they would rather just do what is good for them.  Self-interest is built into us, too.  But overcoming that is the product of either good upbringing or life experience.  All of us are born self-centered...it takes proper exposure to good deeds to unlock that moral imperative in us.  It can be overridden by poor parenting or bad decisions by one's self.

Anyway...I have gone on quite longer than I expected to, but I just wanted you to know, Braioch, that I understand exactly where you are coming from.  I've seen polls that ranked atheists below pedophiles as far as who is trusted in the United States.  Really?  Yes...we represent a threat to faith, because we require reason and evidence, not belief, to make us accept something.  Our courts run this way.  Our science runs this way.  We ask our children to prove to us what they've done to earn rewards.  We use this system in our jobs.  Why, then, does the use of reason, logic, and the scientific method end when it comes to religion?  Because at that point, it is useless.  Science can neither prove or disprove the existence of a supernatural being, because science studies the natural, not the supernatural.  The supernatural cannot be proven, therefore science ignores it.  At this point, one is an agnostic...stating that the evidence neither proves nor disproves a deity is real.  An atheist, however, goes a step further and refutes the existence of any deities, because...the circumstantial evidence goes against it, too.  Logic goes against it.  Rationality goes against it.

We have freedom of religion in many nations in the world, but apparently, in the U.S., many people believe there is no freedom from religion.  And so atheists like us continue to be one of the minorities still persecuted for our beliefs.

It's okay.  Abolitionists and suffragettes and LGBTQ-rights advocates were once in the minority, too, as were those who believed the Earth was not the center of the universe.  Time, and reason, proved otherwise.  I'm proud to stand up for truth and reason like you.  I know there are many others, too, some vocal, some silent.  Our species has come a long way from the Stone Age, but we still have a long way to go to remove all of our Stone Age beliefs.

Offline BraiochTopic starter

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Re: Note From A Demon ~ On Atheism And Incredulity
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2013, 09:37:31 AM »
Well thank you for the addition Hannibal ;D

Oh and a note on the Supernatural bit, I don't remember where I read/heard it but it was a statement somewhere along the lines of if Science proves something supernatural to be true (or explains it I should say) then it's no longer supernatural but now part of the natural world.

For some reason that (logical) line of thinking amused me to no end.

Offline lunanox

Re: Note From A Demon ~ On Atheism And Incredulity
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2014, 03:48:41 AM »
@OP

bravo *claps*

i would leave a longer response but you have said everything i would have said