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Thread: Do we have to chose between atheism and theism?

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Do we have to chose between atheism and theism?

    Warning, heavy on metaphor... you know... just like God is.

    I grew up in Sweden, an atheistic society. While I had heard the concept of God growing up, I'd never had it explained to me by anybody who actually believed in God. It's a bit like a person who doesn't care about sports explaining the rules of football. While possible accurate, there's just no way they can capture the motivation behind why anybody would be interested. So the life of Jesus always came across as if an explorer describing weird rituals made by some remote tribe in some jungle somewhere. To me, the pope was nothing but a bearer of a funny hat.

    This type of society is sometimes referred to as post-atheist. In order to be an atheist you need to, at some point, have made a decision not to believe in a specific type of God. In order to make that decision it needs to be presented in such a way as that this is viable option. Menu items I can't afford, I'm just going to skip. I'm not going to waste time wondering how they might taste.

    That's why I've stopped identifying as an atheist. I still do, when I'm here. But out in the real world, being an atheist is not part of how I see myself. At no point in my life did I reject religion. I've rejected religion in the same way I rejected to ride a zeppelin to work. It was never a viable option.

    If this is a sliding scale, it looks like this:

    theism---------agnosticism----------atheism---------------post-atheism

    I'm way off the deep end.

    When people ask me if I believe in God or I'm an atheist, I tell them I'm "nothing". Because it's accurate. In this society the words "theist" and "atheist" have stopped carrying meaning. If somebody here tells me they believe in God, that evokes zero associations to me, other than that they must be foreigners. I don't know the difference in behaviour between an atheist or theist. I don't really know how their beliefs differ. Not really. I don't know if their values are different.

    I came to this realisation when I was at a spiritual retreat of sorts and we were using woo language. We were talking about God... or rather god. We all wanted to show respect for our host and each other so we refrained from saying we didn't believe in the mumbo jumbo. But it wasn't until afterwards we all realised that we were all atheists. Most of us were engineers, scientists, a mathematician, a venture capitalist... all upper middle class people.

    In the rituals, we had no problem to slide back and forwards between our "atheism" and "theism". Because the word god could never be anything but a metaphor for us. It turned out that even the team of teachers were all atheists. The people who had been using all the spiritual language to begin with.

    I live in a society where God is dead. The society that Nietzsche described. Not only dead, but has been dead for generations. Nobody has even a grandmother to explain what this nebulous God concept means to them. So it's elevated to a symbolic tool. Which I suspect was what it was initially. It just got a bit out of control.

    Thoughts?

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    Agreed that religious behavior is cultural. If one is not familiar with the cultural ritual and significance it hardly stands that one has some position relative to those practices. That sounds like you.

    Many of us were drenched in those cultural practices and later found them lacking, like becoming aware that Santa was just another children's tale.

    I tell people I'm not religious, that gods are just ghosts and ghosts aren't real. If the word atheism comes up then yes, if that works I use it. It's not a choice as much as an observation, like knowing the earth isn't flat.

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    Veteran Member Sarpedon's Avatar
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    No, we can always just not give a shit.

    If it weren't for the religious people trying to force me to do their insane shit, I wouldn't.

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    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarpedon View Post
    No, we can always just not give a shit.

    If it weren't for the religious people trying to force me to do their insane shit, I wouldn't.
    That sounds like atheism.

    I am also aklingonist. However if there were such a thing a thing as people who believed in Klingons and used government to force the public to abide by their Klingonist beliefs then I would resist them. There is no need or even reason for an atheist or an aklingonist to give a shit about gods or klingons that don't exist.

    It would seem to be unreasonable to me that anyone would give a shit about anything that they don't believe exists. It is the actions of those who do earnestly believe silly things that should rightly concern us.
    Last edited by skepticalbip; 03-27-2019 at 07:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Warning, heavy on metaphor... you know... just like God is.

    I grew up in Sweden, an atheistic society. While I had heard the concept of God growing up, I'd never had it explained to me by anybody who actually believed in God. It's a bit like a person who doesn't care about sports explaining the rules of football. While possible accurate, there's just no way they can capture the motivation behind why anybody would be interested. So the life of Jesus always came across as if an explorer describing weird rituals made by some remote tribe in some jungle somewhere. To me, the pope was nothing but a bearer of a funny hat.

    This type of society is sometimes referred to as post-atheist. In order to be an atheist you need to, at some point, have made a decision not to believe in a specific type of God. In order to make that decision it needs to be presented in such a way as that this is viable option. Menu items I can't afford, I'm just going to skip. I'm not going to waste time wondering how they might taste.

    That's why I've stopped identifying as an atheist. I still do, when I'm here. But out in the real world, being an atheist is not part of how I see myself. At no point in my life did I reject religion. I've rejected religion in the same way I rejected to ride a zeppelin to work. It was never a viable option.

    If this is a sliding scale, it looks like this:

    theism---------agnosticism----------atheism---------------post-atheism

    I'm way off the deep end.

    When people ask me if I believe in God or I'm an atheist, I tell them I'm "nothing". Because it's accurate. In this society the words "theist" and "atheist" have stopped carrying meaning. If somebody here tells me they believe in God, that evokes zero associations to me, other than that they must be foreigners. I don't know the difference in behaviour between an atheist or theist. I don't really know how their beliefs differ. Not really. I don't know if their values are different.

    I came to this realisation when I was at a spiritual retreat of sorts and we were using woo language. We were talking about God... or rather god. We all wanted to show respect for our host and each other so we refrained from saying we didn't believe in the mumbo jumbo. But it wasn't until afterwards we all realised that we were all atheists. Most of us were engineers, scientists, a mathematician, a venture capitalist... all upper middle class people.

    In the rituals, we had no problem to slide back and forwards between our "atheism" and "theism". Because the word god could never be anything but a metaphor for us. It turned out that even the team of teachers were all atheists. The people who had been using all the spiritual language to begin with.

    I live in a society where God is dead. The society that Nietzsche described. Not only dead, but has been dead for generations. Nobody has even a grandmother to explain what this nebulous God concept means to them. So it's elevated to a symbolic tool. Which I suspect was what it was initially. It just got a bit out of control.

    Thoughts?
    It sounds like you are an atheist. You live in a world were most people are not, you just happen to live on a piece of that world where most people are.

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    Veteran Member Wiploc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    In order to be an atheist you need to, at some point, have made a decision not to believe in a specific type of God.
    Many of us (most of us?) don't use the word that way. For us, any nontheist is an atheist. Babies, for instance, are atheists.

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    Part of what I read in Buddhism is getting beyond dualities. They can form a trap that hooks you into a ceaseless conflict. By being atheist you become part of the theist narrative.

    My view is get beyond attaching to eater, drop the duality altogether.

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Agnosticism doesn't lie on a line between atheism and theism.

    The atheism-theism dimension measures what you believe.

    The agnosticism-gnosticism dimension measures how confident your belief is.

    These are orthogonal.

    Similarly what you are calling post-atheism is, I suspect, the stance taken by people who are atheists, but fall at the 'don't give a crap' end of a third dimension orthogonal to both, that goes from 'cares deeply about their beliefs' to 'doesn't give a second thought to what the believe'

    There are three independent questions.

    Do you believe in gods, or not? How confident are you about your belief/disbelief? and How much do you care about it?

    Post-atheism is people who say 'No, very, not at all' to these three questions. But any combination of responses is possible.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J842P View Post
    It sounds like you are an atheist. You live in a world were most people are not, you just happen to live on a piece of that world where most people are.
    But I have very little contact with people who believe in God. If I do it won't be friendship or any deep conversation. It's not because of any principle. It's a matter of statistics. The chance of that happening over here is infinitesimally small. I do meet religious people when I'm travelling around the world. But that's a quite superficial type of friendship and conversation.

    When I was young I decided I was an atheist. But I was wrong about what it was I wasn't. Because I'd misunderstood what God was. I thought God was like the tooth fairy. You asked to get things and if you didn't, that proved God didn't exist. I performed this experiment. I had nobody to ask what God was.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Agnosticism doesn't lie on a line between atheism and theism.

    The atheism-theism dimension measures what you believe.

    The agnosticism-gnosticism dimension measures how confident your belief is.

    These are orthogonal.

    Similarly what you are calling post-atheism is, I suspect, the stance taken by people who are atheists, but fall at the 'don't give a crap' end of a third dimension orthogonal to both, that goes from 'cares deeply about their beliefs' to 'doesn't give a second thought to what the believe'

    There are three independent questions.

    Do you believe in gods, or not? How confident are you about your belief/disbelief? and How much do you care about it?

    Post-atheism is people who say 'No, very, not at all' to these three questions. But any combination of responses is possible.
    I don't agree. You're just projecting a modern re-interpretation of those words. The words came out of the Enlightenment. Both words assume that the only God being discussed is the Christian God. Which makes the question simpler. It's something like this. Theism is if you are sure God exists. Atheism is if you are sure God doesn't. Agnosticism is if you think the arguments for or against are equally good. There's no grey area in this system. Or degrees of being sure.

    Once you introduce other Gods the entire system breaks down. We don't have any official terminology for the way our world works. Religion today is also wildly different than what religion was in the 17'th century.

    Back in the day whether you were religious or not wasn't a choice. It was tribal. The tribe you grew up in was the religion you had. Rejecting your God was rejecting your king and family. That's the world that bore these words. Shopping around for a religion and faith that feels right for me, is extremely modern. Arguably, un-Christian. That's what the first three commandments are about. Your definition comes from a world where people shop around for religions. But in the world that created these words being religious or not was pretty much binary. Agnosticism was used much. It was initially purely a philosophical construct. Nobody identified as it. That's a very recent development.

    I'm not saying that your definition isn't good to have, or useful. But it's not "the" definition of these words. Today they are actually quite vague. Because the world change around them.

    Compare this with Hindu atheism, Advaita. The atheist "gods" or god aspects just plugged into the rest of them. Problem solved with minor friction. It's a different kind of religion than Christianity. So the word atheism means something completely different.
    Last edited by DrZoidberg; 03-28-2019 at 09:49 AM.

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