My experience with Christians At school

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Postby Goat Starer on Mon May 22, 2006 8:10 pm

I think there is a really interesting discussion for atheists here. I also apparently spontaneously announced that there wasn't a god at an early age despite being raised in a catholic household. The way in which most atheists i know have reached their atheism seems to tend towards the 'road to damascus' moment - blinded by a flash of logic and all that.

Atheists are therefore far more akin to fundamentalists because of their means of 'conversion'. The sudden realisation that "I am right and anybody who disagrees with me is simply wrong/mad" is very much the experience of the religious zealot and the atheist. Most religious people I have met tend to a more moderate point and I would be inclined to equate agnosticism (certainly the common agnostiscism I encounter along the lines of 2I know its all hokum but I rather like the idea) with the atheist equivalent of what most christians call christianity (ie. not really being sure about the detail but leaning in one direction).

I have no idea where i am going with this so i will simply toss it out there and see what happens :D

but something about the validity of the conversion event
...

and I am sure that when i started this it was intended to demonstrate that the Artheist conversion is more spontaneous, internal and can occur without external influence of ideas and is therefore in some way more valid but I cant quite make that hang together now..... darn it :mrgreen:

so the interesting discussion bit at the top is probably baloney!
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"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." - George Bernard Shaw
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Postby Poincare's Stepchild on Mon May 22, 2006 9:12 pm

Curiously, I just ran across this cartoon while I was reading this thread.

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I see no evidence for the existence of a god, nor can there be proof of non-existence. That is why I am agnostic. Both theism and atheism require a strong element of faith.
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Postby daniel on Tue May 23, 2006 10:02 am

Since nobody can know whether there is or is not a god (or gods) the terms "athiest," "theist," and "agnostic" refer to belief. I define the terms as follows:

Theist: A person who believes there is a god or gods.
Hard theist: A person who thinks he knows there is a god. This person does not understand that this is a question of belief rather than knowledge. Fundamentalists fall into this category, though there are hard theists who are not fundies.
Soft theist: A person who believes there is a god but who understands that this is a belief and that he cannot actually know it.

Along similar lines:
Atheist: A person who believes there is no such thing as a god or gods.
Hard atheist: Like the hard theist, this person does not understand that nobody can know whether there is a god or not. He thinks he knows.
Soft atheist: As above. A person who believes there is no god or gods, but who understands that this is a belief and not an item of knowledge.

Agnostic: A person who holds no belief as to the existence or not of a god or gods.

Too many people assert that, since nobody can know, we must all be agnostics. And some atheists call themselves agnostics because they do not understand (or hold to) the above definitions.

I am a soft atheist. I absolutely believe that there is no god. But I recognize that nobody can know whether there is or not.

I never had a conversion event. I rejected the god hypothesis when it was first presented to me by my contemporaries. My mother tells me this happened when I was five. I have no personal memory of that event.

As for the Bible, it is not a consistent, unified exposition of a single religious or philosophical proposition. It is an extremely diverse anthology. Actually, it is two anthologies, the second of which is found in several forms which differ slightly from one to another, and it comes to English speakers in a variety of translations, each with its own nuances. It has a lot of humanist pronouncements, as Auntie Dee Dee points out, but it also has a great deal of intolerance. You can find passages in it to justify whatever moral precepts you like.

What mystifies me is why the fundies become so emotional over the issue of evolution. A Pentacostal preacher once told me I'm going to hell, not for being an atheist (he said god could forgive that) but for believing in evolution, which he asserted that god could never forgive. And he had convinced himself that god would not and could not forgive a person for believing in evolution, even if that person devoutly believed in god and followed all the other rules. Somehow, for this man of the cloth, believing the evidence of the rocks was the cardinal sin.
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Postby PirateKingOfTheGoldCoast on Tue May 23, 2006 12:37 pm

The only real problem I see with those definition is that the fundie, atleast in the christian church, say that have been touched by the holy spirit. They say there is actually a physicall and mental sensation that accompanies this touch. That is there evidence that there is a god. Although when my born again ex-wife described it to me it sounds very much like a drug induced sensation, and so have a few others that I asked about it.
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Postby PirateKingOfTheGoldCoast on Tue May 23, 2006 3:55 pm

I didn't actually mean any of it in a bad light. I used the term Fundie, mainly because my brain wasn't working and I couldn't figure out how to spell Fundamentalist at the time (still doesn't look right).

As far as what I said about the drug thing. That is how my ex described it, her words where as follows "It feels like what it felt like when acid would kick in."

I meant nothing ill to anyone. I'm a firm believer to each there own. I don't care if people worship a popcicle stick. I believe that all faiths are real personally, just a matter of preference, and I have had many spritual experiences. It was more a comment that this sensation is what most would use a proof of god, and why the definitions above would work, unless speaking to someone who experienced this feeling. To them it is sound proof that god exists because there was no chemical, organic or not, in there system.

I apologize if I offened, I really didn't mean to.
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Postby Dr. Otis Lansa on Tue May 23, 2006 4:20 pm

daniel wrote:Since nobody can know whether there is or is not a god (or gods) the terms "athiest," "theist," and "agnostic" refer to belief. I define the terms as follows:


OOH definitions! Now define 'god (or gods)'. There's one or two here at the moment... :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

(note to new members: we had a big multipage screaming match [so to speak] a while back about these very definitions, so I enjoy new versions. Fun times. No more screaming matches, please!)
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Postby daniel on Wed May 24, 2006 1:51 am

Dr. Otis Lansa wrote:OOH definitions! Now define 'god (or gods)'. There's one or two here at the moment... :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

(note to new members: we had a big multipage screaming match [so to speak] a while back about these very definitions, so I enjoy new versions. Fun times. No more screaming matches, please!)

God is a lot harder to define than theist/atheist/agnostic because different cultures have different supernatural beliefs. The Christian god is a very different sort of thing than, say, the Orishas of Santeria, though these are commonly refered to as "gods" in English. I leave it to people to define their gods as they like. I don't believe in any of them. I give the FSM greater leeway beause Bobby makes it clear that he's joking to make a point about keeping religion out of science classes.

I'll take an off-the-cuff crack at defining "god": Any supernatural being having volition and the ability to alter the course of nature or human affairs without itself being affected by natural forces. Some religions with multiple supernatural beings reserve the term "god" for just one of those beings, and apply inferior terms (e.g. angel or devil) to the rest; others may designate all or several such beings equally.

As an atheist I do not believe in anything supernatural.
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Postby Goat Starer on Wed May 24, 2006 8:59 am

Under your definitions above I would find myself somewhere between an atheist and a hard atheist. I believe I know that god does not exist, not because this can be proven outright but because I believe I can clearly see the historical, psychological and sociological tendencies and processes that lead human beings to construct a concept of god.

This can lead to a degree of 'fundamentalist' atheism and a desire to 'convert' the 'unenlightened'. I am however a fairly rational and sensetive human being so i largely keep this in check (except with my poor mother who gets to bear the brunt!). I save my fundamentalist tendancies for people who believe in homeopathy (but that is another story).

At the end of the day it comes back to the idea that it doesn't matter one jot what people 'believe', 'know' etc provided that this knowledge and belief leads tham to live constructive and tolerant lives. I have a great respect for new testament ethics, for marxism, budddhism etc etc etc. because they all lead peoples fundamental behaviour in one direction (when read properly and takin in context).
Best regards

Goat

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"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." - George Bernard Shaw
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Postby OZ_Nick on Thu May 25, 2006 2:08 am

I was brought up as a catholic, I attended both catholic primary and secondary schools and was even confirmed at around the age of 10 or 11. I still remember being a fervent believer, but all along some things troubled me. For example, why was it that people in the bible seemed to be able to talk to god, but despite my most fervent prayers I never heard any reply and no matter how well intentioned my prayer, it never seemed to make any difference on the outcomes.

Also, there are very many different religions around the world ranging from simple (and complex) animism to the most sophisticated ones such as Buddhism, Hinduism and the people of the book - Jews, Christians and Moslems, without even beginning to think of all the different flavours within those large groupings

I know I had the common paternalistic view of many Christians towards Jews in that why couldn’t they see that the Messiah they seem to be waiting for had already come, and I used to feel sorry for them. (BTW, I am not trying to characterise this as a true exposition on Judaism, it was just my view at the time.) Later I realised that Moslems might just as easily feel the same way towards Christians and I could think of no satisfactory argument to refute that. BTW I have no idea whether this is a common view amongst Moslems, I do know that the few I actually know do not feel this way.

The thing is that all (or at least most) of these religions claim to have The Truth and that all the others are wrong. It became obvious to me that they can’t all be right. Although, maybe it is the case that every religion is right about every other religion. Anyway, I vividly remember one day over the 1971 Christmas school holidays, when I had just turned 14, I was sitting high up in the Jacaranda tree in my grandparents’ front yard when the idea occurred to me that I simply did not and could not believe. I could see no objective evidence for any god and any belief system that required me to beg the question in order to see its “truthâ€￾ (ie, if you believe, then you will see) is not one that I can subscribe to.

Since that time I have thought a great deal over this and many other things. Today my belief system is heavily influenced by my reading on many subjects related to science. For example at the most fundamental level I believe that we can never truly know anything, that there is no true knowledge with the sole exception of some branches of pure mathematics. Everything else I ascribe a probability to. Some things are almost certainly true, for example the universe exists, and so I give them a very high probability, others are almost certainly untrue, eg the universe is really just the dream of the great cosmic turtle (and will you guys please shut up or you’re going to wake him!...) and so I give those a very low probability. Most things lie somewhere in the middle.

Of course for day to day use, this philosophical point is not particularly workable so I operate on the common sense principle of assuming many things are true, or untrue, but always I try to keep my real thoughts handy. This means that I never just take something that anyone says as true, until I have compared it with what I already “knowâ€￾ (remember I do not claim to actually know anything absolutely) and whether what is being said is plausible and whether the speaker should be considered a credible witness. However, even when all these criteria are met, I still retain an element of doubt.

One implication of this is that although I do not believe in any god, or for that matter in an afterlife, I do accept that there is a (diminishingly) small chance that these things are true. I have said to others that if I die and find out that it is not the end I will be disappointed. (Joke: What advantage do non-believers in an afterlife have over believers? A: At least they will have the benefit of knowing they are wrong.) Why is this? it will be because the Universe will then have failed Occam’s Razor and is more complicated than it needs to be.

Just MHO, of course. I am happy to debate these ideas too, so don't feel you will offend me by disagreeing. On the other hand, I will be more than a little surprised if you come up with something I have not heard before, but I do allow that it is possible (just not very probably <grin>)

Anyway, enough of my ramblings for now.

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Postby alexrose on Thu May 25, 2006 3:33 am

Sorry. No debate from me...I think I agree with everything you say. Except for maybe the disappointment at continued existence. I'd be exceedingly happy with that.
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Postby OZ_Nick on Thu May 25, 2006 4:54 am

I take your point, actually I was talking from an intellectual POV. From a personal POV I too would be extremely happy about the event!

Regrettably (again from the personal/emotional POV) the liklihood of that is in my opinion is exceedingly small. Still that is not a council for despair. There are truly more than enough wonders in this world and more than enough things to give one's life meaning. Not least of which is doing things that really help other people.

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Postby St John the Blasphemist on Tue Jun 06, 2006 3:39 am

daniel wrote:Agnostic: A person who holds no belief as to the existence or not of a god or gods.

Too many people assert that, since nobody can know, we must all be agnostics. And some atheists call themselves agnostics because they do not understand (or hold to) the above definitions.


Discordian teachings, combined with my own observations, have lead me to believe and not believe that both everything exists & nothing exists at the same time.

Does that make me an a-agnostic, and, according to my previous statement wouldn't that make me an a-a-agnostic as well.

Me smells a whiff of Von Neumann's Catastrophe coming on.

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Postby Sir Francis Drake on Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:28 am

Tag, you're gnostic!

I can't be an atheist, because I do not know that there is no God. I also do not know that there is one. But my mind is open to the possibility of either.

I choose to worship the FSM because he is thought to be so forgiving and tolerant. I love those qualities in a God.
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Postby Poincare's Stepchild on Tue Jun 06, 2006 8:16 pm

Sir Francis Drake wrote:Tag, you're gnostic!

I can't be an atheist, because I do not know that there is no God. I also do not know that there is one. But my mind is open to the possibility of either.

I choose to worship the FSM because he is thought to be so forgiving and tolerant. I love those qualities in a God.
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Ah...expesses my own feelings on the subject. Another devout agnostic, I see.
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Postby St John the Blasphemist on Thu Jun 08, 2006 8:53 am

But I know that a God exists, but I also know that a God doesn't exist. As I said, I believe everything exists but nothing exists at the same time.

So - as I said - would that make me an a-agnostic, or would it make me an a-antignostic, or what?

I don't believe the 'gnostic' brand fits, due to the deliberate contradiction in my logic. But hey - find me a box & I'll make sure it doesn't fit.

This is usually when people of lesser understanding throw up their arms and say "I don't understand you"

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