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Author Topic: Do those who leave the Christian Faith to become Atheists/Agnostics miss it?  (Read 7632 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: April 13, 2010, 07:50:04 PM »

I have noticed that there are several people on this forum who have ceased to be Christians and have become atheists or agnostics. This thread is not about criticizing you nor is about trying to change your mind. I am just curious (and this is curious for curiocity's sake with no ulterior motives) but do you miss being a Christian or do you find your self happier now?
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2010, 08:23:14 PM »

I suppose, to a degree, I feel 'happier', but mostly because I feel more at peace and 'where I should be'.  I was happy as a Christian, but I could never see the 'Truth' in it all, and it just never felt completely natural.  I am not some bitter 'ex-Christian', I simply don't believe in it. 

Are there things I miss?  I do miss some things, but they tend to be more the social aspects of subscribing to a faith, rather than the faith itself.  For example, there is a little community you are no longer a part of.  Those you became friends with you might stay in contact with, but with acquaintances you would see weekly, they tend to leave your life.  In addition, I have lost a few friends over my lack of faith.  Though I suppose they weren't really the friends I thought they were.  But, I have slowly gotten active within the free-thought and humanist community more, so it is beginning to replace the community I lost. 

Do I miss things about the faith itself?  Not particularly.  I didn't view God as overly interventionist, so losing prayer or the thought of divine assistance was never really an issue.  Certain saints were important to me, but good people are good people.  Just as I look fondly on the memory of countless other human beings, I still look fondly on them.  The prospect of death and the afterlife is a question people ask me about.  If I now fear death, and no longer find comfort in 'something else'?  For me, it has been the opposite.  I have (fairly) recently had two people who were close to me pass away, and I have found greater comfort now, about recent and past passing, compared to in the past (as a believer).

I'm sure I'll think of more comments once I post this.  Or if you have any other questions, just let me know.
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2010, 09:31:28 PM »

I suppose, to a degree, I feel 'happier', but mostly because I feel more at peace and 'where I should be'.  I was happy as a Christian, but I could never see the 'Truth' in it all, and it just never felt completely natural.  I am not some bitter 'ex-Christian', I simply don't believe in it. 

Are there things I miss?  I do miss some things, but they tend to be more the social aspects of subscribing to a faith, rather than the faith itself.  For example, there is a little community you are no longer a part of.  Those you became friends with you might stay in contact with, but with acquaintances you would see weekly, they tend to leave your life.  In addition, I have lost a few friends over my lack of faith.  Though I suppose they weren't really the friends I thought they were.  But, I have slowly gotten active within the free-thought and humanist community more, so it is beginning to replace the community I lost. 

Do I miss things about the faith itself?  Not particularly.  I didn't view God as overly interventionist, so losing prayer or the thought of divine assistance was never really an issue.  Certain saints were important to me, but good people are good people.  Just as I look fondly on the memory of countless other human beings, I still look fondly on them.  The prospect of death and the afterlife is a question people ask me about.  If I now fear death, and no longer find comfort in 'something else'?  For me, it has been the opposite.  I have (fairly) recently had two people who were close to me pass away, and I have found greater comfort now, about recent and past passing, compared to in the past (as a believer).

I'm sure I'll think of more comments once I post this.  Or if you have any other questions, just let me know.
Thanks for your thoughtful response. I was just wondering how things change for a person.
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« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2010, 09:53:51 PM »

Any time.  Most people I know who left a faith for atheism/agnosticism tend to say something similar, about finding peace.  Those who feel a more drastic change usually come from rather negative theistic background.  There is one woman I know who came from a Muslim background, and her health and quality of life has greatly improved since her apostasy.
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« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2010, 10:02:53 PM »

I'm trying to grasp your mindset Nebelpfade. When you say that you found greater comfort now. Do you mean that:

A. You no longer fear a punishment from a god because in your mind you have blocked him out.

B. You don't have to block him out because you are convinced that he doesn't exist. "Please explain"

C. He doesn't exist and you have proof of his non existence.

D. If He exists I can't recognize him. So why worry what he thinks.

E. I don't believe in anything except the fact that we die into non-existence and there is nothing after that.
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« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2010, 10:18:39 PM »

For me there are both positives and negatives. One big negative to not being a Christian is the whole afterlife thing. At the moment I just see death as an end of consciousness. We're alive and then--blink--it all goes black. Forever. I sometimes wish that I believed in heaven, so that I knew I would have a chance to see family and friends again, and so that I could live on somehow for that matter. I also sometimes miss the assurance that I had as a Christian. Whatever might have come, whatever might have happened, I could 1) assure myself that God was in control, and 2) believe that my prayers had some impact, and thus I always had some degree of control (do points 1 and 2 contradict each other? that's a discussion for another thread, I think).

On the positive side (of no longer being a Christian), I feel much less guilt about things in my life, which has increased my happiness significantly. I no longer view myself as a sinner, as most people would use that term. I have flaws, I make mistakes, but I only "sin" in the sense that sinning is "missing the mark".  I do not think that I sin in the sense that there are spiritual consequences attached to them. I don't believe in a soul, so how could I believe that I have tarnished my soul? I suppose I am also happier in that I believe I am still striving to find the truth. I would be miserable as a Christian, because I do not believe what Christians believe. I would feel like a fake. I would feel guilty, like I was just playing church, when things like our world view and how we conduct ourselves deserves more respect than that.

I now forge my own path, I am not following the "royal road". That has both positives and negatives. It was nice to know, as a Christian, that I had guidance in the form of saints and holy books and Church Fathers and so forth. Now I'm on my own. I wouldn't say that I'm free to "make it up as I want," though, because I'm still hampered by a nagging want to do what I think is right and believe what I think is true. Schopenhauer said, truthfully I believe, that "a man can do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants". I didn't leave Christianity because I got mad at God, or wanted to lead an immoral lifestyle, or something like that, I left because I felt that I had to. I felt that if I was honest with myself, and if I was honest with others, I had to admit that I just didn't believe. Maybe some day I will believe again. And I will return in that case. I will bounce like a tennis ball for the rest of my life, for all I know. And I don't really care, either. I would rather bounce back and forth and know that I am being sincere, than stick to one path and know that I was living a lie, not to mention feeling miserable.

There is also a certain exhilarating feeling of freedom when you are on the outside looking in on Christianity. So, overall, I am happier now, though that is mostly because I am being honest with myself. I could become a Christian again 6 months from now and be happier then than I am today. I doubt that'll happen, but I don't deny that it's a possibility. There have certainly been times in the past when I was a very happy--if struggling--Christian.
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« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2010, 10:38:35 PM »

I'm trying to grasp your mindset Nebelpfade. When you say that you found greater comfort now. Do you mean that:

A. You no longer fear a punishment from a god because in your mind you have blocked him out.

B. You don't have to block him out because you are convinced that he doesn't exist. "Please explain"

C. He doesn't exist and you have proof of his non existence.

D. If He exists I can't recognize him. So why worry what he thinks.

E. I don't believe in anything except the fact that we die into non-existence and there is nothing after that.

The world is the natural world, the world understood by science, and that in and of itself is comforting, no supernatural violations of physics.  You live your life for the betterment of humanity, and once you pass on you will continue to live on in the memory of those close to you and those you inspired.
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« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2010, 10:48:51 PM »

I'm trying to grasp your mindset Nebelpfade. When you say that you found greater comfort now. Do you mean that:

A. You no longer fear a punishment from a god because in your mind you have blocked him out.

B. You don't have to block him out because you are convinced that he doesn't exist. "Please explain"

C. He doesn't exist and you have proof of his non existence.

D. If He exists I can't recognize him. So why worry what he thinks.

E. I don't believe in anything except the fact that we die into non-existence and there is nothing after that.

The world is the natural world, the world understood by science, and that in and of itself is comforting, no supernatural violations of physics.  You live your life for the betterment of humanity, and once you pass on you will continue to live on in the memory of those close to you and those you inspired.

Nicely said. Do you not view death as a violation to your freedom and do you not love yourself enough to want eternal life?
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« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2010, 11:09:14 PM »

Nicely said. Do you not view death as a violation to your freedom and do you not love yourself enough to want eternal life?
Oh, I believe two of the greatest things humanity should strive towards are "immortality" (or at the very least, radical life extension) and space exploration/colonisation.  Evolution depends on time and death, so without those things we would not be here.  But we are entering a period where we can take hold of our own evolution and grant us the ability to live extremely long lives and live outside of the cradle (Earth).  An eternal life to explore the secrets of the cosmos would be great, but we just might not be there yet for this generation.  I do so love humanity that I hope that I may add to the body of knowledge that will allow for radical life extension (maybe even my own) and its continued existence.  If I am to die, or live much longer with the help of technology, I hope to have done my part (a simple branch on the mighty tree that makes up life on Earth).
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2010, 11:34:37 PM »

I'm trying to grasp your mindset Nebelpfade. When you say that you found greater comfort now. Do you mean that:

A. You no longer fear a punishment from a god because in your mind you have blocked him out.

B. You don't have to block him out because you are convinced that he doesn't exist. "Please explain"

C. He doesn't exist and you have proof of his non existence.

D. If He exists I can't recognize him. So why worry what he thinks.

E. I don't believe in anything except the fact that we die into non-existence and there is nothing after that.

The world is the natural world, the world understood by science, and that in and of itself is comforting, no supernatural violations of physics.  You live your life for the betterment of humanity, and once you pass on you will continue to live on in the memory of those close to you and those you inspired.

It's funny you mention this. I was just thinking today about the education level of those in my parish as we just had nuclear engineer join our community.
We are chock full of engineers and a biologist and a geologist and people who speak five languages and seven languages..etc. It occurred to me that the level of scientific knowledge within the group of believers that I know ( and have known in the past in another parish) is far far greater than the folks I know who dismiss religion and think of themselves as too smart to believe.

It also seems to me that science has badly lagged behind things our religion has taken for granted. Not that many years ago , the "Rational Person" laughed at anything you would believe in that cant be seen. If it is invisible, it cant be real..... And then the microscope was invented Smiley

And there cant be other dimensions of existence, laughable...until physics caught up and discovered that there can indeed be other dimensions or parallel universes.

And of course, the dead fall into non-existence...until we learned about universally common experiences of near death cases who are revived to tell the tale..

on and on and on
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« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2010, 12:04:01 AM »

It's funny you mention this. I was just thinking today about the education level of those in my parish as we just had nuclear engineer join our community.
We are chock full of engineers and a biologist and a geologist and people who speak five languages and seven languages..etc. It occurred to me that the level of scientific knowledge within the group of believers that I know ( and have known in the past in another parish) is far far greater than the folks I know who dismiss religion and think of themselves as too smart to believe.
Don't know what to say besides there are well-educated people on both sides.  Not sure exactly what this proves.

Quote
It also seems to me that science has badly lagged behind things our religion has taken for granted. Not that many years ago , the "Rational Person" laughed at anything you would believe in that cant be seen. If it is invisible, it cant be real..... And then the microscope was invented Smiley

And there cant be other dimensions of existence, laughable...until physics caught up and discovered that there can indeed be other dimensions or parallel universes.
As yes, the random, ad hoc concepts within religion.  Proof religion is true when they are right, metaphorical when they are wrong.

Quote
And of course, the dead fall into non-existence...until we learned about universally common experiences of near death cases who are revived to tell the tale..

Or they are merely hallucinatory?  Neuroscience is still in its infancy; we have to give it some time.


Not really sure what this all has to do with how atheists/agnostics feel after abandoning theism?
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« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2010, 03:36:32 AM »

I assume there are plenty of atheistic/agnostic websites available for these people who profess such a "faith" (and make no mistake, atheism is belief system predicated upon tremendous faith.) I wonder what keeps these people so active on this forum dedicated to superstition, fideism, and ignorance? I suspect it's because what they profess is not what actually resides in the depths of their hearts. Wink


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« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2010, 09:47:51 AM »

Nicely said. Do you not view death as a violation to your freedom and do you not love yourself enough to want eternal life?
Oh, I believe two of the greatest things humanity should strive towards are "immortality" (or at the very least, radical life extension) and space exploration/colonisation.  Evolution depends on time and death, so without those things we would not be here.  But we are entering a period where we can take hold of our own evolution and grant us the ability to live extremely long lives and live outside of the cradle (Earth).  An eternal life to explore the secrets of the cosmos would be great, but we just might not be there yet for this generation.  I do so love humanity that I hope that I may add to the body of knowledge that will allow for radical life extension (maybe even my own) and its continued existence.  If I am to die, or live much longer with the help of technology, I hope to have done my part (a simple branch on the mighty tree that makes up life on Earth).

I wasn't asking about humanity. I was being more direct and asking you on an individual level. Even if humanity and science finds a cure to death. It may not be for ages. That leaves you and me out of it. We are talking about here and now and you and me.
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« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2010, 10:07:16 AM »



Not really sure what this all has to do with how atheists/agnostics feel after abandoning theism?
Agreed. I think that some of the posts by others are a bit off topic now.
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« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2010, 10:08:53 AM »

So to atheists/agnostics, what is your interest in posting on a Christian forum? Don't get me wrong. I do NOT want you to leave at all. I am just curious as to what the interest in the forum is. Is it a general interest in Christian theology? Is it because of the aquiantances that you have made on this forum?
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« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2010, 10:18:34 AM »

So to atheists/agnostics, what is your interest in posting on a Christian forum? Don't get me wrong. I do NOT want you to leave at all. I am just curious as to what the interest in the forum is. Is it a general interest in Christian theology? Is it because of the aquiantances that you have made on this forum?

I wouldn't combine these two groups together. An agnostic is someone who admitting doesn't know where the truth is. Revelation can sway these people. While an Atheist is someone who knows or believes that there is no god.
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« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2010, 11:14:30 AM »

I wasn't asking about humanity. I was being more direct and asking you on an individual level. Even if humanity and science finds a cure to death. It may not be for ages. That leaves you and me out of it. We are talking about here and now and you and me.
I don't see a problem with that though.  Our common ancestors had to perish for us to be able to evolve to this point, death has allowed us to advance.  Maybe immortality will only come once we have evolved into a Homo Novus.  Then I will be like 'Lucy' and numerous other pre-modern humans are to us.

So to atheists/agnostics, what is your interest in posting on a Christian forum? Don't get me wrong. I do NOT want you to leave at all. I am just curious as to what the interest in the forum is. Is it a general interest in Christian theology? Is it because of the aquiantances that you have made on this forum?
1)  Acquaintances/Friends
2)  Assisting with technical issues (whether forum-related or some other aspect of computation)
3)  The odd scientific discussion
4)  Sharing of previous knowledge (I was Roman Catholic for many years and in the Orthodox Catechumenate for some time, maybe I have some information or a perspective would be helpful to some)

I wouldn't combine these two groups together. An agnostic is someone who admitting doesn't know where the truth is. Revelation can sway these people. While an Atheist is someone who knows or believes that there is no god.
There is typically a great deal of overlap, but I agree to a point.  Agnosticism pertains to knowledge, whether one definitely knows or can know that there is a god.  From there, you have theistic agnostics and atheistic agnostics.  Those who don't 100% there is a god but choose to live their life as if there is one, and those who lack a belief in god (believing in a naturalistic universe).  You do get pure theists and atheists, but I believe pure atheism is unscientific in nature and lacks proper scepticism.  I suppose I am a de facto atheist, but I do not claim to 'know' 100% there is no god.
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« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2010, 11:43:40 AM »

So to atheists/agnostics, what is your interest in posting on a Christian forum? Don't get me wrong. I do NOT want you to leave at all. I am just curious as to what the interest in the forum is. Is it a general interest in Christian theology? Is it because of the aquiantances that you have made on this forum?

Here's something I wrote about five months ago, and I pretty much still agree with it...

I stick around for a few reasons. First, I have a long history here (over 7 years), and have become familiar with many of the people. I've been a jerk to many, and they have forgiven me (or at least appear to have forgiven me); that's not something that happens everywhere. Second, it's the best discussion forum I've found, with a great mix of intelligence, post volume, civility, freedom of expression, etc. And third, regardless of my religious affiliation, I am still very much fascinated by Christian history and theology. It might be likened to studying the Greeks: one does not have to be ethnically Greek to appreciate Greek philosophy or culture. Likewise, IMO one does not have to be a Christian to appreciate Christian theology or history. I disagree with a lot, of course, but I also find a lot that is insightful, and whether I disagree or not I find it interesting.
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« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2010, 12:00:40 PM »

Don't know what to say besides there are well-educated people on both sides.  Not sure exactly what this proves.?

I was just giving my personal experience. It seems to me that if Science were anathema to Christianity there would not be so many Scientists who are Christians. At my parish we are wall to wall with such people.



As yes, the random, ad hoc concepts within religion.  Proof religion is true when they are right, metaphorical when they are wrong.?

Sorry.. I don't follow your point exactly. The metaphysics of religion, such things as the existence of beings who dwell in other dimensions of existence and survival of death become more and more reasonable as time and science march on, not the other way around.



Or they are merely hallucinatory?  Neuroscience is still in its infancy; we have to give it some time.

Not really sure what this all has to do with how atheists/agnostics feel after abandoning theism


I understand how those experience can be rationalized away. However, it is now perfectly reasonable for a person to say that they believe in survival of death ...based on the evidence. You couldn't say that a few decades ago..

This has to do with how abandoning religion is rationalized and the comfort one gets from doing so. The claim was made that Science is the security one can find. I am pointing out that more and more  Science dove tails religious beliefs and that many Scientist (the ones I know) see no problem reconciling their profession with Christianity..... Your milage may vary.   
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« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2010, 12:23:59 PM »

I assume there are plenty of atheistic/agnostic websites available for these people who profess such a "faith" (and make no mistake, atheism is belief system predicated upon tremendous faith.) I wonder what keeps these people so active on this forum dedicated to superstition, fideism, and ignorance? I suspect it's because what they profess is not what actually resides in the depths of their hearts. Wink


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Most online atheists are indeed religious, and alot of them like to join christian boards.
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« Reply #20 on: April 14, 2010, 12:32:21 PM »

So to atheists/agnostics, what is your interest in posting on a Christian forum? Don't get me wrong. I do NOT want you to leave at all. I am just curious as to what the interest in the forum is. Is it a general interest in Christian theology? Is it because of the aquiantances that you have made on this forum?

I wouldn't combine these two groups together. An agnostic is someone who admitting doesn't know where the truth is. Revelation can sway these people. While an Atheist is someone who knows or believes that there is no god.

Some Atheists like to call themselves agnostic anyway, and so, to me, ....it's a matter of being a soft or hard agnostic. Also, most atheists I know will simply dismiss His existence. The wet behind the ears atheists will say that they "know" He doesn't exist. But after a few arguments, they will have to fall back to being a hard agnostic and admit that there is no way that they can be 100% certain that He doesn't exist.




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« Reply #21 on: April 14, 2010, 12:36:14 PM »

It's funny you mention this. I was just thinking today about the education level of those in my parish as we just had nuclear engineer join our community.

Although this is a tangent, thought I'd just add some hard facts from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, which has been a decade-long, massive survey of some 2 million worshipers across denominational lines. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24.4% of adults 25+ have a Bachelor's degree or higher. The U.S. Congregational Life Survey has found that 47% of adults 25+ who regularly attend worship have a Bachelor's degree or higher. Personally, I think that says more about the socio-economic reality of church in the U.S. than it does about intelligence's relationship to faith.
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« Reply #22 on: April 14, 2010, 12:46:04 PM »

(and make no mistake, atheism is belief system predicated upon tremendous faith.) ...I suspect it's because what they profess is not what actually resides in the depths of their hearts. Wink

Not really, and not really.

Most online atheists are indeed religious, and alot of them like to join christian boards.

Not really, and not really.
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« Reply #23 on: April 14, 2010, 01:01:08 PM »

(and make no mistake, atheism is belief system predicated upon tremendous faith.) ...I suspect it's because what they profess is not what actually resides in the depths of their hearts. Wink

Not really, and not really.

Most online atheists are indeed religious, and alot of them like to join christian boards.

Not really, and not really.

Most of the ones I run into are.
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« Reply #24 on: April 14, 2010, 01:14:16 PM »

It's funny you mention this. I was just thinking today about the education level of those in my parish as we just had nuclear engineer join our community.

Although this is a tangent, thought I'd just add some hard facts from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, which has been a decade-long, massive survey of some 2 million worshipers across denominational lines. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24.4% of adults 25+ have a Bachelor's degree or higher. The U.S. Congregational Life Survey has found that 47% of adults 25+ who regularly attend worship have a Bachelor's degree or higher. Personally, I think that says more about the socio-economic reality of church in the U.S. than it does about intelligence's relationship to faith.
Could it also have to do with the fact that those in Church realize that God wants us to do the best with what he has given us, so many go on to earn degrees?
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« Reply #25 on: April 14, 2010, 01:32:31 PM »

I wasn't asking about humanity. I was being more direct and asking you on an individual level. Even if humanity and science finds a cure to death. It may not be for ages. That leaves you and me out of it. We are talking about here and now and you and me.



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I don't see a problem with that though.  Our common ancestors had to perish for us to be able to evolve to this point, death has allowed us to advance.  Maybe immortality will only come once we have evolved into a Homo Novus.  Then I will be like 'Lucy' and numerous other pre-modern humans are to us.



First I would like to point out that our idea of immortality isn't the same. Your view is based on the possibility of medication or a genetic shift making it possible for man to live longer and not forever because one still has to deal with mortality in this instance. secondly, I would like to point out. That you have given a mechanism of thought to evolution based on mans ability to control it. I don't know whether you realize it or not but you believe that evolution is heading in a direction that you want it to. The "what if", of it is that a negative genetic shift could be as lethal to the human race as it was to the dinosaur. While I put my trust in man to help certain situation. I don't foresee man conquering this enemy on his own.



I wouldn't combine these two groups together. An agnostic is someone who admitting doesn't know where the truth is. Revelation can sway these people. While an Atheist is someone who knows or believes that there is no god.
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There is typically a great deal of overlap, but I agree to a point.  Agnosticism pertains to knowledge, whether one definitely knows or can know that there is a god.  From there, you have theistic agnostics and atheistic agnostics.  Those who don't 100% there is a god but choose to live their life as if there is one, and those who lack a belief in god (believing in a naturalistic universe).  You do get pure theists and atheists, but I believe pure atheism is unscientific in nature and lacks proper scepticism.  I suppose I am a de facto atheist, but I do not claim to 'know' 100% there is no god.


There is a way to Scientifically know god. the concept exists.
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« Reply #26 on: April 14, 2010, 01:47:25 PM »

It's funny you mention this. I was just thinking today about the education level of those in my parish as we just had nuclear engineer join our community.

Although this is a tangent, thought I'd just add some hard facts from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, which has been a decade-long, massive survey of some 2 million worshipers across denominational lines. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24.4% of adults 25+ have a Bachelor's degree or higher. The U.S. Congregational Life Survey has found that 47% of adults 25+ who regularly attend worship have a Bachelor's degree or higher. Personally, I think that says more about the socio-economic reality of church in the U.S. than it does about intelligence's relationship to faith.

But past the intelligence issue, it is a point of curiosity for me that a mathematician, engineer, biologist, physician or physicist would have no problem with the Christian faith or see it at odds with Science.
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« Reply #27 on: April 14, 2010, 01:57:15 PM »

It's funny you mention this. I was just thinking today about the education level of those in my parish as we just had nuclear engineer join our community.

Although this is a tangent, thought I'd just add some hard facts from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, which has been a decade-long, massive survey of some 2 million worshipers across denominational lines. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24.4% of adults 25+ have a Bachelor's degree or higher. The U.S. Congregational Life Survey has found that 47% of adults 25+ who regularly attend worship have a Bachelor's degree or higher. Personally, I think that says more about the socio-economic reality of church in the U.S. than it does about intelligence's relationship to faith.

But past the intelligence issue, it is a point of curiosity for me that a mathematician, engineer, biologist, physician or physicist would have no problem with the Christian faith or see it at odds with Science.
I am not sure how believing in God is at odds with science at all.
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« Reply #28 on: April 14, 2010, 02:05:45 PM »

The Platonistic view of Christianity certainly does.
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« Reply #29 on: April 14, 2010, 02:07:29 PM »

It's funny you mention this. I was just thinking today about the education level of those in my parish as we just had nuclear engineer join our community.

Although this is a tangent, thought I'd just add some hard facts from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, which has been a decade-long, massive survey of some 2 million worshipers across denominational lines. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24.4% of adults 25+ have a Bachelor's degree or higher. The U.S. Congregational Life Survey has found that 47% of adults 25+ who regularly attend worship have a Bachelor's degree or higher. Personally, I think that says more about the socio-economic reality of church in the U.S. than it does about intelligence's relationship to faith.

But past the intelligence issue, it is a point of curiosity for me that a mathematician, engineer, biologist, physician or physicist would have no problem with the Christian faith or see it at odds with Science.
I am not sure how believing in God is at odds with science at all.

There are other suppositions that have been laughed at by people who think they are being Scientific or Rational. For example, a religious person may believe in Heaven. The Atheist would laugh at him " Where is this Heaven located ?... In the Sky ?  har har har"

Not today. What physicist would deny that there may well be other dimensions of existence and other ways to experience time or that it is possible to be outside time?
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« Reply #30 on: April 14, 2010, 02:11:35 PM »


There are other suppositions that have been laughed at by people who think they are being Scientific or Rational. For example, a religious person may believe in Heaven. The Atheist would laugh at him " Where is this Heaven located ?... In the Sky ?  har har har"
On there part, I think that this must come from shallow thinking. There is nothing intrinsically impossible about there being other levels of reality outside of the one with which we are aquianted, realities that function by different laws than the physical ones we know. Of course we would absolutely need Revelation to know of such a reality, because such a "place" would utterly different than our own.
Not today. What physicist would deny that there may well be other dimensions of existence and other ways to experience time or that it is possible to be outside time?
Yeah, I think modern physics is a great subject. It demonstrates that their is more mystery even in our physical universe than was previously held.

But I digress...
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« Reply #31 on: April 14, 2010, 10:05:32 PM »



Are there things I miss?  I do miss some things, but they tend to be more the social aspects of subscribing to a faith, rather than the faith itself.  For example, there is a little community you are no longer a part of.  Those you became friends with you might stay in contact with, but with acquaintances you would see weekly, they tend to leave your life.  In addition, I have lost a few friends over my lack of faith.  Though I suppose they weren't really the friends I thought they were.  But, I have slowly gotten active within the free-thought and humanist community more, so it is beginning to replace the community I lost. 


I wouldn't be too hard on your old friends.  Friendships are a weird thing.  I've moved around to 4 different churches in my adulthood and it is hard to keep up with friends when you don't see them on a regular basis. Of course, there are friends that one is very close to and others aren't quite that deep, but there is something important about regularly meeting together that nourishes any friendship.
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« Reply #32 on: April 15, 2010, 01:44:22 AM »

So to atheists/agnostics, what is your interest in posting on a Christian forum? Don't get me wrong. I do NOT want you to leave at all. I am just curious as to what the interest in the forum is. Is it a general interest in Christian theology? Is it because of the aquiantances that you have made on this forum?
Likewise, IMO one does not have to be a Christian to appreciate Christian theology or history. I disagree with a lot, of course, but I also find a lot that is insightful, and whether I disagree or not I find it interesting.
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« Reply #33 on: April 15, 2010, 05:11:00 AM »

(I was Roman Catholic for many years and in the Orthodox Catechumenate for some time, maybe I have some information or a perspective would be helpful to some)
So you went from RC to Orthodox to atheist?
what was it that caused you to go to Orthodox from RC?
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« Reply #34 on: April 15, 2010, 05:13:38 AM »


The world is the natural world, the world understood by science, and that in and of itself is comforting, no supernatural violations of physics.  
But consciousness is part of the natural world. And our longing for the spiritual. How does one explain the universality over time and culture of religion ?
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« Reply #35 on: April 15, 2010, 10:40:32 AM »

Most of my atheist/agnostic friends say they miss the sense of community the most.
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« Reply #36 on: April 15, 2010, 10:46:34 AM »

Most of my atheist/agnostic friends say they miss the sense of community the most.

That's interesting. My friends who used to be Christians in childhood (mostly Baptist or Methodist, a few Roman Catholic) do not seem to miss the sense of community after they became atheists in their youth. On the contrary, they say that now, they belong to real community, to the community of friends THEY choose, as opposed to the friends who were actually merely members of a particular congregation.

Of about maybe 20-30 or so former Christians turned atheists whom I know, nobody seems to miss anything.
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« Reply #37 on: April 15, 2010, 12:18:51 PM »

But you are talking of those who became atheists in their youth. If one has spent nearly one's entire life as a Christian, it can quite unsettling to have to suddenly start over and to not have the close-knit spiritual community to be there for you. I know, if I were to do this, it would be totally devastating in the social sense, as I have almost no real life friends who aren't connected with church.
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« Reply #38 on: April 15, 2010, 01:47:24 PM »

Most of the ones I run into are.

Fair enough. I've had the fortune or not running into many of them. A motley, intellectually unkempt lot they are, IMO.  angel
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« Reply #39 on: April 15, 2010, 02:02:46 PM »

So you went from RC to Orthodox to atheist?
what was it that caused you to go to Orthodox from RC?
I had explored most of the major, apostolic Christian churches at the time, in search of any sort of 'Truth'.  I found that I couldn't agree with various aspects of Roman Catholicism and found my way to Orthodoxy.  As you can see it worked out quite well.   laugh

But consciousness is part of the natural world. And our longing for the spiritual. How does one explain the universality over time and culture of religion ?
An attempt to explain that which we don't understand?
An attempt to cope with death?
It evolved from simple superstition and rituals (do a ritual before a hunt, the hunt is bountiful, one is likely to continue to do this ritual each time now, a 'goddess of the hunt' might even grow out of this)?
...

It is a fascinating field within neuroscience and there are multiple hypotheses as to how spirituality would have at one time assisted us in our survival, and well, just like all things, it evolves.  Personally I tend to lean towards the hypothesis Gould fielded and which a great deal of study has gone into, but some of the other hypotheses are equally possible (except that VMAT2 hypothesis).
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« Reply #40 on: April 15, 2010, 05:43:57 PM »

  I suppose I am a de facto atheist, but I do not claim to 'know' 100% there is no god.

This brings up the question of Pascal's Wager. What do you think about it?

I must say, Nebelpfade, no matter where you are belief-wise, you've always comported yourself with gracious respect for others here. I have never seen any bitterness from you towards Catholicism when you were an Orthodox catechumen, and I now see none from you towards Christianity or theism.

You've always been fair and respectful, and I salute you for your irenic nature towards others.
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« Reply #41 on: April 15, 2010, 06:44:44 PM »

I wonder if we could turn this around and ask what former atheists/ agnostics here miss now that they are Christians. I might gives some thoughts of my own later.
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« Reply #42 on: April 15, 2010, 07:16:59 PM »

This brings up the question of Pascal's Wager. What do you think about it?
I've never really liked Pascal's Wager.  Faith isn't merely something one can turn on and off like a light switch, either it is true faith or it is not.  If I were to declare myself a theist, it would be a feigned faith (seemingly for the chance at a post-life reward), and if there is a God, surely it could see through my feigned faith.  If I am called to be judged after I pass away, my scepticism was honest and not malicious, I hopefully tried to live a good life, and I will be judged upon that.   Smiley

I must say, Nebelpfade, no matter where you are belief-wise, you've always comported yourself with gracious respect for others here. I have never seen any bitterness from you towards Catholicism when you were an Orthodox catechumen, and I now see none from you towards Christianity or theism.

You've always been fair and respectful, and I salute you for your irenic nature towards others.
Thank you very much for the kind words.  I hold no ill will towards Roman Catholicism nor Orthodoxy nor Christianity, for they all played important roles in my life for a time and have brought me to this point.  I might strongly disagree with various beliefs and mindsets that can stem from it, but I know very well how people can find comfort, peace, meaning, etc. from it.  Though I support a secular state built on humanist ideals, I also support the freedom of religion/belief and view it as one of our many fundamental and cherished rights in the West.  We constantly run into people with whom we strongly disagree with, whether I disagree with someone about faith, social policies, or computational paradigms, I show an opponent on the subject of religion the same respect I would show a University colleague with a competing hypothesis.  
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« Reply #43 on: April 16, 2010, 03:15:21 PM »

This brings up the question of Pascal's Wager. What do you think about it?
I've never really liked Pascal's Wager.  Faith isn't merely something one can turn on and off like a light switch, either it is true faith or it is not.  If I were to declare myself a theist, it would be a feigned faith (seemingly for the chance at a post-life reward), and if there is a God, surely it could see through my feigned faith.  If I am called to be judged after I pass away, my scepticism was honest and not malicious, I hopefully tried to live a good life, and I will be judged upon that.   Smiley

Besides that, Pascal's wager only really works if a single religion is claiming that there will be consequences for those who choose wrong. As it stands, you could just as easily make up Mahommed's Wager, or any other number of wagers, and say that you had better convert to religion X, Y, or Z, "just in case". I really cannot understand why obviously intelligent people think Pascal's wager to be of any value. To me, it's about as worthless as the arguments that go something like: "Well you can't prove/disprove the existence of God, therefore I must be right! Nyah!"
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« Reply #44 on: April 16, 2010, 03:38:54 PM »

This brings up the question of Pascal's Wager. What do you think about it?
I've never really liked Pascal's Wager.  Faith isn't merely something one can turn on and off like a light switch, either it is true faith or it is not.  If I were to declare myself a theist, it would be a feigned faith (seemingly for the chance at a post-life reward), and if there is a God, surely it could see through my feigned faith.  If I am called to be judged after I pass away, my scepticism was honest and not malicious, I hopefully tried to live a good life, and I will be judged upon that.   Smiley

Besides that, Pascal's wager only really works if a single religion is claiming that there will be consequences for those who choose wrong. As it stands, you could just as easily make up Mahommed's Wager, or any other number of wagers, and say that you had better convert to religion X, Y, or Z, "just in case". I really cannot understand why obviously intelligent people think Pascal's wager to be of any value. To me, it's about as worthless as the arguments that go something like: "Well you can't prove/disprove the existence of God, therefore I must be right! Nyah!"

Pascal was a brilliant man, but his "wager" was one of his less brilliant ideas. I reject the underlying premise, which is basically "fire insurance." I'll gamble that I "believe," just in case. The whole idea is antithetical to Orthodoxy, which teaches that the purpose of our existence is to experience God, not simply to find a ticket to heaven.


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« Reply #45 on: April 16, 2010, 04:14:32 PM »

I've always saw faith as neither true or false, but one of different levels.  When one loses all types of faith, one is bound to lose all type of hope, and increase in despair.

But there are those who have faith in morals, then you increase that to faith in society, faith in government, faith in one's friends.

Faith in God takes on different levels too.  People simply start to have faith in the afterlife, faith in staying away from hell, faith in wanting rewards.  The ultimate faith of course is one with God alone, and not things associated with getting to God.  But when one thinks on the side of leveling faith, I don't see the other ways of conducting people's faiths as necessarily wrong, just less mature.

One thing that got me thinking though is this.  If I were to fall into non-existence no matter what, even if there was a God, or if I were to live immortally, but have no God, life would seem ultimately vain to me.  Our own ever-existence along with God's "existence" seems to be a necessary part this thinking of mine that no matter how much I try, I can't shake it out of me.

I do find though at times when I fall out of prayer habits, I get troubling and doubting thoughts.  It's as if I haven't went to the gym for a while, and I already feel myself rot away.  I never thought of it as a matter of disagreement with the faith, but more so a relationship with the faith.  Understandably, I'm speaking about one's experiences and that can be questioned itself considering the other religions' experiences.

My questions are these:  What do you think about the prospect of non-existence?  And what if mankind achieved materialistic immortality?  Can one also have faith in them achieving materialistic resurrection in some way to benefit those of the past who didn't get a chance to exist to see this, rewire their brain in some way to continue where they left off in life?  Or can someone be comforted by thinking it is enough that their descendants will achieve immortality without being alive to see it or experience it?

What about your prayer life?  Did you feel a difference between times of prayer and fasting, and times of laxity?
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« Reply #46 on: April 16, 2010, 04:39:32 PM »



What about your prayer life?  Did you feel a difference between times of prayer and fasting, and times of laxity?

The rest of your post was too deep for my shallow mind, but I can try to answer this question.

I notice a definite difference when I pray and fast, although I do not always feel better. Often I feel nothing. I'm beginning to realize that one of the deceptions of the passions is "feeling." We want to feel something, because when we feel, we feel alive. That's why many people continue to do things that make them feel miserably, because even feeling misery is preferable than not feeling anything at all. And those who try to numb themselves from feeling are actually engaged in trying to feel "better."

But for me, prayer and fasting rarely results in feeling the experience and presence of God. But now I realize this is probably a good thing, because I have lived for too long chasing feelings. Perhaps the true experience of God transcends feelings. Perhaps the authentic experience of God is completely unrelatable to any passionate experience we have in the flesh. Perhaps those who live moral lives and fight the daily battle against the passions without exhibiting any emotional highs and lows are the ones wo are really experiencing God in the most profound way. I am not there yet; in fact I am far from it. I still feel pulled towards things that make me feel something, even if they are not necessarily "bad" things. 

Yet I will say this: whenever I pray and fast, I do sense (not necessarily feel) a certain peace that nothing else gives me. But this peace is sometimes unsettling. It's as if I am aware of something of which I am not worthy, and I feel uncomfortable with this. I am used to sin and failure, shame and guilt; but I don't quite know how to enjoy the peace that comes from drawing near to God.

Don't know if any of that makes any sense. Embarrassed


Selam
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« Reply #47 on: April 16, 2010, 04:48:15 PM »

That seems to make sense to me Gebre.

What about Asteriktos and Nebelpfade when you guys were practicing believers?
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« Reply #48 on: April 16, 2010, 04:58:26 PM »

This brings up the question of Pascal's Wager. What do you think about it?
I've never really liked Pascal's Wager.  Faith isn't merely something one can turn on and off like a light switch, either it is true faith or it is not.  If I were to declare myself a theist, it would be a feigned faith (seemingly for the chance at a post-life reward), and if there is a God, surely it could see through my feigned faith.  If I am called to be judged after I pass away, my scepticism was honest and not malicious, I hopefully tried to live a good life, and I will be judged upon that.   Smiley

Besides that, Pascal's wager only really works if a single religion is claiming that there will be consequences for those who choose wrong. As it stands, you could just as easily make up Mahommed's Wager, or any other number of wagers, and say that you had better convert to religion X, Y, or Z, "just in case". I really cannot understand why obviously intelligent people think Pascal's wager to be of any value. To me, it's about as worthless as the arguments that go something like: "Well you can't prove/disprove the existence of God, therefore I must be right! Nyah!"
I think it may work for the general purpose of giving us a little nudge in the direction of seeking the ultimate truth/ground for our existence/meaning of life.
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« Reply #49 on: April 16, 2010, 08:27:03 PM »

What do you think about the prospect of non-existence?
Well, my consciousness did not exist prior to my birth, so if I fall back into non-existence, so be it.  I'd rather avoid it, nature possesses so many secrets still waiting to be uncovered.

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And what if mankind achieved materialistic immortality?
Personally I believe it is a reality we must strive for.  With advances in medical science, I do see radical life extension as something that will be with us in the not too distant future.  With the ability to continually repair our bodies and the prospect of better and better synthetic parts, I believe it is a distinct possibility.

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Can one also have faith in them achieving materialistic resurrection in some way to benefit those of the past who didn't get a chance to exist to see this, rewire their brain in some way to continue where they left off in life?
Funny you should mention that, I have for quite some time been a huge fan of Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov.  He held the position that until we have the ability to resurrect our ancestors, we have truly not conquered death.  It is definitely a fascinating concept, even though I currently have difficulties imagining how it could occur.  But that is what makes the future so fascinating.

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Or can someone be comforted by thinking it is enough that their descendants will achieve immortality without being alive to see it or experience it?
As a parent always wishes for a better life for their child, I don't think it is a far stretch that most people hope that humanity will one day not have to face many of the problems we face now.  Dr. Carl Sagan once said about our predecessors, "We remember those who prepared the way, seeing for them also."  I might not live to see the day when we have immortality, but I take a great deal of comfort in the fact that not only will later generations have it, but that it is through our efforts, our struggles, and our body of knowledge that they had the chance.  We have lost many brilliant minds, but we see for them now, just as future generations will unlock secrets and 'see' for us.

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What about your prayer life?  Did you feel a difference between times of prayer and fasting, and times of laxity?
I never noticed a difference.  Never a sense of peace or anything in particular.  I would find myself more at peace staring into the cosmos at night, or working on a problem of some sort.
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« Reply #50 on: April 18, 2010, 12:22:29 PM »

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I've always saw faith as neither true or false, but one of different levels.  When one loses all types of faith, one is bound to lose all type of hope, and increase in despair. But there are those who have faith in morals, then you increase that to faith in society, faith in government, faith in one's friends. Faith in God takes on different levels too.  People simply start to have faith in the afterlife, faith in staying away from hell, faith in wanting rewards.  The ultimate faith of course is one with God alone, and not things associated with getting to God.  But when one thinks on the side of leveling faith, I don't see the other ways of conducting people's faiths as necessarily wrong, just less mature.

Well, this is a very interesting set of thoughts. I'm up in the air about it, but I think you present things well. Some non-believers would consider any type of faith to be anathema. They seem to be allergic to the very word. Yet these same people wouldn't have a problem admitting that they have opinions, a point of view, etc. I've thought that maybe faith and opinion are the same thing: believing something without being able to prove it conclusively. But what you say here, it illustrates the problem with my thinking, because what we call faith is something more. I think I agree that if someone lost all types of faith, they would lose hope and fall into the pit of nihilism. Faith is somehow different.

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One thing that got me thinking though is this.  If I were to fall into non-existence no matter what, even if there was a God, or if I were to live immortally, but have no God, life would seem ultimately vain to me.  Our own ever-existence along with God's "existence" seems to be a necessary part this thinking of mine that no matter how much I try, I can't shake it out of me.

A priest friend that I know said much the same thing to me a couple months ago. Asked what I would consider the worst thing that could happen to me, I said probably becoming a quadriplegic. His response was that the worst thing that could happen would be coming to believe that there was no God, which would mean to him that ultimately that there is no eternal purpose. However, I came to terms with the idea that there might not be a God, so I do not respond in the same way. Perhaps that's why I'm comfortable being an agnostic, intellectually speaking. I don't know, and I'm fine with that. I figure, if there is a God, and my eternal soul depends on making some right choice, He'll get through to me eventually.

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My questions are these:  What do you think about the prospect of non-existence?  And what if mankind achieved materialistic immortality?  Can one also have faith in them achieving materialistic resurrection in some way to benefit those of the past who didn't get a chance to exist to see this, rewire their brain in some way to continue where they left off in life?  Or can someone be comforted by thinking it is enough that their descendants will achieve immortality without being alive to see it or experience it?

I really don't think we'll achieve immortality, though I could be wrong. And I have no problem with non-existence. Not that I'm in any rush to cease existing, of course! But I sort of see it as an end of pain and struggle, even in times when I don't have much pain or struggling (I happen to be in such a place at the moment). But when I am depressed, I find myself looking forward more to non-existence. I've even written about that a bit on the forum somewhere, about how I looked forward to the experience of non-existence (of course I won't actually "experience" it, but I think the terminology conveys something important about my beliefs). I've come to terms with the possibility that there is no God, no soul, no afterlife, and I'm ok with that. I hope there is an afterlife, but if there isn't, well I won't know it, and I'm not going to let fear or worry run my life or strongarm me into intellectual beliefs I wouldn't ordinarily have(I am not, of course, meaning to imply anything about people who do sincerely believe in an afterlife).

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What about your prayer life?  Did you feel a difference between times of prayer and fasting, and times of laxity?

When I would pray and fast, sometimes I felt more... like I was making progress. I guess that's the best way of putting it. It was an intellectual thing: I knew in my mind that if I did X, Y, and Z, with a sincere heart, it was supposed to have spiritual benefits. I'm not really one given to religious or spiritual feelings "in my heart" or "in the depths of my soul". I can only remember once ever having anything that could be described in that way, when I was at Vespers one time shortly before I was chrismated. I felt... something other... come over me, and I had to leave for a moment to compose myself.
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« Reply #51 on: April 18, 2010, 12:23:27 PM »

I think it may work for the general purpose of giving us a little nudge in the direction of seeking the ultimate truth/ground for our existence/meaning of life.

Ok, fair enough, I can understand that.
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« Reply #52 on: April 18, 2010, 03:43:25 PM »

Could it be possible to scientifically resurrect our ancestors, including their memories?  Would they be an actual race of men, or just a synthetic creation (a sub human species).

I remember reading a book years ago called "Arise and to You're Scattered Bodies Go" which was about a race of aliens resurrecting every human who ever lived on Earth and putting them in a jungle type planet.  It was obviously written by an atheist, but I thought that the plot sounded interesting.
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« Reply #53 on: April 18, 2010, 05:13:48 PM »

Well, my consciousness did not exist prior to my birth,....
Is consciousness, awareness of one's surroundings, and longing for meaning and seeking causes of things part of the natural world? How did this arise?
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« Reply #54 on: April 18, 2010, 06:40:06 PM »

Is consciousness, awareness of one's surroundings, and longing for meaning and seeking causes of things part of the natural world? How did this arise?
My background in the cognitive sciences is extremely poor, so I could hardly do some of the major theories any justice.  The theory I believe has the most promise is that consciousness is the naturalistic adaptation of older recursive brain circuitry, making up key portions of the cerebral cortex.  Further study into synthetic intelligence will assist us greatly.

Could it be possible to scientifically resurrect our ancestors, including their memories?
No idea, possibly one day we could have the quantum computational capacity to simulate any/all life choices and 'resurrect' people.

Would they be an actual race of men, or just a synthetic creation (a sub human species).
I don't see why something being synthetic would make them a sub-human specie.  They might be completely biological (possibly cloned, and therefore the same specie), or we might give birth to an entirely new synthetic race.  Either way, it is fascinating stuff.
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« Reply #55 on: April 19, 2010, 03:04:32 AM »

The more we learn about the brain, the more abundantly clear what we know about psychology may soon become neurobiology.
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« Reply #56 on: April 20, 2010, 11:50:30 AM »

Could it be possible to scientifically resurrect our ancestors, including their memories?
No idea, possibly one day we could have the quantum computational capacity to simulate any/all life choices and 'resurrect' people.
I doubt it. I think advances in neurobiology will reveal that people are more than the sum of their choices.
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« Reply #57 on: April 20, 2010, 11:11:56 PM »

Here's some of what I miss about atheism:

Being able to enjoy, unreservedly, a great deal of art, literature, and popular culture that I now recognize as corrupted or morally questionable.

Being able to draw inspiration from numerous religious and philosophical traditions without really investing any devotion into them (I took the religious myths as metaphors).

Being able to adore the beauty of the natural world in itself, without looking for the hand of a Creator behind it (ie, what I would call idolatry now).

Being able to indulge, without any thought of shame, my many passions (I still indulge them, so perhaps I'm worse off now that I know they are shameful).

But I was a different kind of atheist than the sort commonly represented. While modern science interested me to an extent, especially cosmology, I never embraced the glib scientism represented by, say, Richard Dawkins. I was a much more romantically inclined atheist, more interested in art, poetry, etc.- like the surrealists, I considered poetry to be a better gauge of truth than any rationalism or empiricism. My denial of God's existence was in the very romantic strain of Mikhail Bakunin- "If God really did exist, it would be necessary to abolish him." Eventually I got really into William Blake, who, heretical as he is, did a lot to cure me of my atheism.
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« Reply #58 on: April 20, 2010, 11:56:32 PM »

Here's some of what I miss about atheism:

Being able to enjoy, unreservedly, a great deal of art, literature, and popular culture that I now recognize as corrupted or morally questionable.

Being able to draw inspiration from numerous religious and philosophical traditions without really investing any devotion into them (I took the religious myths as metaphors).

Being able to adore the beauty of the natural world in itself, without looking for the hand of a Creator behind it (ie, what I would call idolatry now).

Being able to indulge, without any thought of shame, my many passions (I still indulge them, so perhaps I'm worse off now that I know they are shameful).

But I was a different kind of atheist than the sort commonly represented. While modern science interested me to an extent, especially cosmology, I never embraced the glib scientism represented by, say, Richard Dawkins. I was a much more romantically inclined atheist, more interested in art, poetry, etc.- like the surrealists, I considered poetry to be a better gauge of truth than any rationalism or empiricism. My denial of God's existence was in the very romantic strain of Mikhail Bakunin- "If God really did exist, it would be necessary to abolish him." Eventually I got really into William Blake, who, heretical as he is, did a lot to cure me of my atheism.

That's very interesting. Thomas Merton was very influenced by William Blake, but he advised others to stay away from him. I have not read Wiliam Blake, so I am curious as to what is simultaneously spiritually appealing and spritually dangerous about his works. Do you care to share your thoughts?


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« Reply #59 on: April 21, 2010, 12:55:19 AM »

Blake was kind of mentally unbalanced.  It seems to have affected his writting and religious views as well.
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« Reply #60 on: April 21, 2010, 02:47:48 AM »

Blake was kind of mentally unbalanced.  It seems to have affected his writting and religious views as well.

From what Merton says about him (and the remarks by Iconodule), it seems Blake must have articulated some profound thoughts about the reality and nature of God. Maybe he had a prophetic voice? You know, the Prophets always touched people's consciousness, but the people said "That guy is crazy, stay away from him!"

I feel compelled to read him; but I know he is full of unOrthodox ideas, so I think it best to abstain from his writings right now. But I really want to know what my Orthodox brethren think about him- both good and bad.


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« Reply #61 on: April 21, 2010, 10:14:22 AM »

Here's some of what I miss about atheism:

Being able to enjoy, unreservedly, a great deal of art, literature, and popular culture that I now recognize as corrupted or morally questionable.

Being able to draw inspiration from numerous religious and philosophical traditions without really investing any devotion into them (I took the religious myths as metaphors).

Being able to adore the beauty of the natural world in itself, without looking for the hand of a Creator behind it (ie, what I would call idolatry now).

Being able to indulge, without any thought of shame, my many passions (I still indulge them, so perhaps I'm worse off now that I know they are shameful).

But I was a different kind of atheist than the sort commonly represented. While modern science interested me to an extent, especially cosmology, I never embraced the glib scientism represented by, say, Richard Dawkins. I was a much more romantically inclined atheist, more interested in art, poetry, etc.- like the surrealists, I considered poetry to be a better gauge of truth than any rationalism or empiricism. My denial of God's existence was in the very romantic strain of Mikhail Bakunin- "If God really did exist, it would be necessary to abolish him." Eventually I got really into William Blake, who, heretical as he is, did a lot to cure me of my atheism.
Interesting. I do enjoy art, literature, and popular culture unreservedly, and because I understand the meaning of "fiction," I do not believe I am engaging in any sort of immorality. I draw inspiration from numerous religions and philosophies, too, because I am able to recognize in them what is of God and what is not, and therefore these sources give me greater insight into Orthodoxy. I also love the beauty of the natural world, and I can enjoy it in itself, and I do not feel compelled to make a political opinion about how it got here. It is enough for me that it exists. With the passions, I agree with you that I cannot indulge them, but I do not miss being able to. In fact, feasting (which is the godly indulging of the flesh) is so much more meaningful now that I know how to fast.

I say all this not to say how mature I am (for everyone who knows me can testify that I am not), but to warn of the danger of becoming "hyper-Orthodox." Because we know Orthodoxy is true is not a reason to deny that there is truth in anything else. Where we find the Truth, we find Jesus. I found Jesus long before I found Orthodoxy, and He led me to His Church. There are many with a variation of that story, and so we must never say that we must refrain from enjoying anything in the world. "The Earth is the Lord's, and everything in it," says the Psalmist--be it nature, philosophy, culture, or whatever else. It is true that corruptions occur, but never does what is corrupt destroy what is holy.
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« Reply #62 on: April 21, 2010, 02:17:04 PM »

Blake was kind of mentally unbalanced.  It seems to have affected his writting and religious views as well.

From what Merton says about him (and the remarks by Iconodule), it seems Blake must have articulated some profound thoughts about the reality and nature of God. Maybe he had a prophetic voice? You know, the Prophets always touched people's consciousness, but the people said "That guy is crazy, stay away from him!"

I feel compelled to read him; but I know he is full of unOrthodox ideas, so I think it best to abstain from his writings right now. But I really want to know what my Orthodox brethren think about him- both good and bad.


Selam
I'm not Orthodox. Having said that, I would say that Blake represents a type of radical acceptance of human desire. His antagonism towards traditional religion originates from his belief that religion tries to stamp out desire. Instead, Blake posited that true religion was the perfect expression of infinite desire, or Energy.

Such an idea can be dangerous if not properly understood, as Merton implied.
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« Reply #63 on: April 21, 2010, 02:34:06 PM »

Interesting. I do enjoy art, literature, and popular culture unreservedly, and because I understand the meaning of "fiction," I do not believe I am engaging in any sort of immorality. I draw inspiration from numerous religions and philosophies, too, because I am able to recognize in them what is of God and what is not, and therefore these sources give me greater insight into Orthodoxy.

This is probably more a matter of individual maturity, as you say. I do still enjoy plenty of non-Christian art and literature, but, even if I recognize what is of God and what is not, some elements that might be present in a given work, such as intense eroticism, would awaken too many temptations for me.


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Because we know Orthodoxy is true is not a reason to deny that there is truth in anything else.

That was certainly not my intended meaning. I do continue to find inspiration in Dante, Milton, Zhuangzi, Plato, and many other writers who are not Orthodox Christians.
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« Reply #64 on: April 21, 2010, 03:02:24 PM »

Blake was kind of mentally unbalanced.  It seems to have affected his writting and religious views as well.

From what Merton says about him (and the remarks by Iconodule), it seems Blake must have articulated some profound thoughts about the reality and nature of God. Maybe he had a prophetic voice? You know, the Prophets always touched people's consciousness, but the people said "That guy is crazy, stay away from him!"

My impression of Blake is that he was not particularly imbalanced. Of course I never met the man, but I think his work "makes sense" in light of his premises. I wouldn't say he was any more imbalanced than many other philosophers and religious thinkers.

Jetavan made a good point about Blake's elevation of "desire". Another central concern for Blake was the exaltation of Imagination. What he meant by imagination is not quite the same thing as we normally think of the word, or what the Fathers warned against, but there's enough overlap to make his idea problematic. Essentially he considers imagination, the world of vision, creation, myth-making, etc., to be the ultimate reality, while reason and sense perception represented our lowest faculties. He looked at art as the highest expression of worship and thought of the Bible as the ultimate guide to making art. He took inspiration from other sources, like Dante and Milton, but he rejected anything that could be called a religious tradition. He had for a while been involved in Swedenborgianism but he came to reject it as too limiting. This led him to articulate an intensely subjective and personal cosmology, most fully laid out in his long poems like Milton and Jerusalem, which make for some very difficult and obscure reading. So I think the most obvious problem with Blake is that subjectivity and personal "visions" get elevated to divine heights. Some of his stuff, like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, is almost Satanic, though I would still argue that that work has its merits. I personally never felt like Blake was someone whom one could have a genuine spiritual fellowship with- he was too far into his own world. Even writers that took a lot of inspiration from him, like W.B. Yeats, seem very conservative and conventional by comparison.

On the other hand, I think Blake makes a very simple but compelling case against a materialist or rationalist worldview (which he personified as Newton). His insistent pointing to the inner world, the spiritual world, manifested in poetry and art, is a good antidote to the assumption that reality is grounded in what can be proven using sensory data or measured mathematically. Poetry and beauty have more truth in them than bare "facts" and rationality. To a degree, his critique of fetishized reason dovetails with the Orthodox critique- I sometimes wonder what Blake would have thought if he were familiar with Orthodox spirituality. (I wonder the same thing about Milton, who had planned on studying in Greece but canceled the plan when the English Civil War started).

Many of Blake's worthwhile ideas are presented in a more digestible and Orthodox-compatible way by Philip Sherrard, who was indeed an Orthodox Christian.

Aside from that, Blake is simply a beautiful writer, especially in his lyric poems such as those collected in the Songs of Innocence and Experience. These poems, for me, show such sensitivity and a depth of insight into human nature unparalleled in any other English poet I've read. His longer poems, crazy and convoluted as they are, also have their moments.
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« Reply #65 on: April 21, 2010, 06:35:39 PM »

Blake was kind of mentally unbalanced.  It seems to have affected his writting and religious views as well.

From what Merton says about him (and the remarks by Iconodule), it seems Blake must have articulated some profound thoughts about the reality and nature of God. Maybe he had a prophetic voice? You know, the Prophets always touched people's consciousness, but the people said "That guy is crazy, stay away from him!"

My impression of Blake is that he was not particularly imbalanced. Of course I never met the man, but I think his work "makes sense" in light of his premises. I wouldn't say he was any more imbalanced than many other philosophers and religious thinkers.

Jetavan made a good point about Blake's elevation of "desire". Another central concern for Blake was the exaltation of Imagination. What he meant by imagination is not quite the same thing as we normally think of the word, or what the Fathers warned against, but there's enough overlap to make his idea problematic. Essentially he considers imagination, the world of vision, creation, myth-making, etc., to be the ultimate reality, while reason and sense perception represented our lowest faculties. He looked at art as the highest expression of worship and thought of the Bible as the ultimate guide to making art. He took inspiration from other sources, like Dante and Milton, but he rejected anything that could be called a religious tradition. He had for a while been involved in Swedenborgianism but he came to reject it as too limiting. This led him to articulate an intensely subjective and personal cosmology, most fully laid out in his long poems like Milton and Jerusalem, which make for some very difficult and obscure reading. So I think the most obvious problem with Blake is that subjectivity and personal "visions" get elevated to divine heights. Some of his stuff, like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, is almost Satanic, though I would still argue that that work has its merits. I personally never felt like Blake was someone whom one could have a genuine spiritual fellowship with- he was too far into his own world. Even writers that took a lot of inspiration from him, like W.B. Yeats, seem very conservative and conventional by comparison.

On the other hand, I think Blake makes a very simple but compelling case against a materialist or rationalist worldview (which he personified as Newton). His insistent pointing to the inner world, the spiritual world, manifested in poetry and art, is a good antidote to the assumption that reality is grounded in what can be proven using sensory data or measured mathematically. Poetry and beauty have more truth in them than bare "facts" and rationality. To a degree, his critique of fetishized reason dovetails with the Orthodox critique- I sometimes wonder what Blake would have thought if he were familiar with Orthodox spirituality. (I wonder the same thing about Milton, who had planned on studying in Greece but canceled the plan when the English Civil War started).

Many of Blake's worthwhile ideas are presented in a more digestible and Orthodox-compatible way by Philip Sherrard, who was indeed an Orthodox Christian.

Aside from that, Blake is simply a beautiful writer, especially in his lyric poems such as those collected in the Songs of Innocence and Experience. These poems, for me, show such sensitivity and a depth of insight into human nature unparalleled in any other English poet I've read. His longer poems, crazy and convoluted as they are, also have their moments.



Thanks!



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« Reply #66 on: April 21, 2010, 07:34:52 PM »

Blake was kind of mentally unbalanced.  It seems to have affected his writting and religious views as well.

From what Merton says about him (and the remarks by Iconodule), it seems Blake must have articulated some profound thoughts about the reality and nature of God. Maybe he had a prophetic voice? You know, the Prophets always touched people's consciousness, but the people said "That guy is crazy, stay away from him!"

Some of his stuff, like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, is almost Satanic, though I would still argue that that work has its merits.
Almost Satanic, but not quite? What stops it from being Satanic?
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« Reply #67 on: April 24, 2010, 11:09:54 AM »

I left the Christiasn faith but did become an athiest or agnostic. I miss some of the people, some of the customs. But I don't miss the belief system.
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« Reply #68 on: April 24, 2010, 11:09:55 AM »

Merton is popular with many Christians, but toward the end of his life he gravitated towards Bhuddism and Hinduism.
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« Reply #69 on: June 08, 2010, 12:26:36 PM »

It is a fascinating field within neuroscience and there are multiple hypotheses as to how spirituality would have at one time assisted us in our survival, and well, just like all things, it evolves.  Personally I tend to lean towards the hypothesis Gould fielded and which a great deal of study has gone into, but some of the other hypotheses are equally possible (except that VMAT2 hypothesis).
They certainly all sound plausible but they all suffer from the same problem: none are supported by any empirical evidence.
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« Reply #70 on: December 27, 2011, 03:27:49 PM »

I was wrong about Pascal's wager, and was overly and unfairly critical of it in the past.
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« Reply #71 on: December 27, 2011, 03:49:26 PM »

I was wrong about Pascal's wager, and was overly and unfairly critical of it in the past.

How do you feel about it now, and what lead you to this belief?
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« Reply #72 on: December 27, 2011, 04:33:05 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Two interesting themes expressed by Atheists and reiterated on this thread:

A) Atheists to often miss the sense of culture, family, and community created by a religion.


B) Death is a common motif on both sides.


In regards to A), like the Dali Lama said, Compassion and Ethics are the water, religion and faith is the tea.  Religion the spice which makes the tea more fulfilling and satisfying than plain water, however many human beings survive just fine only on water.  That being said, so long as atheists are compassionate and ethical rather than egoistical and vitriolic (I.E. the ever mercurial Dawkins/Hitchkens crowd) then their life will be fine, but if they are atheists simply to argue against religion, that is neither compassionate towards the religious or even ethically sound in the sense of common human decency of mutual respect and tolerance (by the way, it goes both ways, we religious folks equally need to be compassionate to atheists and skeptics). 

In regards to B), it seems only natural that atheists may be even MORE comfortable with death than religious folks, once they ascribe to negating the possibility of an afterlife.  If this life is all there is, then that is simply that.  One thing human beings are really good at is pragmatically accepting the limits of our reality.  If we are going to die, we are going to die and that is that! Now religious folks who believe in an afterlife have a different mindset, death is only a transition, but life continues in some way.  This is an altogether different challenge, now the actions of our current lives can have seemingly eternal consequences and repurcussions? If death is final, then there is sincerely nothing to be afraid of, because if you stop existing at death what realistically is there to fear? Death becomes completely unavoidable, and so in true to human form, we can accept this inevitably with a certain sense of stoicism.  After all, what can we do to stop it?  Whereas the religious mind views the afterlife as a reality, and so the actions of this life have reverberations into the next life, and that can cause a lot of tension, anxiety, and even fear of death. I personally believe that human beings are only afraid of death because we commonly believe in an afterlife so death is not final, more so its just another continuation of the wild roller coaster of unexpected happenings which mark the human experience.  We have no control of a lot of factors  in our lives, and that makes us afraid, and we certainly have little control over the afterlife, or do we?

See, from my perspective, those that fear death are those who fear the afterlife because these are control freaks.  Human beings need to have control in a primal sense.  Our ultimate fear is a complete lack of power or control.  We even try to control God by manipulating Him with the idea that if we please His will through this good deed or that good action, then we can manipulate God into giving into our Will and supplying us with an agreeable afterlife.  However that is wrong.  We should not try to control the afterlife anymore than we can control this life.  We can not earn our way into Heaven, and we cant avoid our way out of Hell. Realistically, it seems that human preoccupation with the afterlife is an extension of our control-freak mentality and approach to this current life, if we think we can control this life we think we can control the afterlife as well.  This is simply up to Grace of God, just as all matters of our current lives are.  We are never in control, God is always leading.  So we in Christianity learn to accept God's Will, both in this life and the next, where as a certain preoccupation with being "saved" or a certain fear of "going to hell" I feel are actually reflections of an inner battle for control.  Humans need to relinquesh control, both in this life and the next, to God.

In this way, atheists actually have one up on Christians in that seemingly they have accepted the reality of their deaths.  They are not trying to vie for control of their afterlife, they are accepting reality as it occurs.  They have relinqueshed control to reality, and they don't even realize that reality is God, whereas we Christians supposedly are trying to submit to God and yet man folks are trying their hardest by force of will to determine the outcome of future events outside of our control.  We clearly have much to mutually learn from each other about death and dying then don't we.

stay blessed,
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« Reply #73 on: December 27, 2011, 04:41:19 PM »

I was wrong about Pascal's wager, and was overly and unfairly critical of it in the past.

How do you feel about it now, and what lead you to this belief?

Just grappling with the idea of... sort of... "what's the point?"  I guess over time I've struggled more and more with the whole "I can make my own purpose" thing. I came to accept it fairly quickly at first, possibly because if I was going to go down that path of unbelief there was either that or some extreme form of absurdism/nihilism/etc.  Lately (this year) I've been reconsidering this stuff though...
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« Reply #74 on: December 27, 2011, 05:17:37 PM »

I was wrong about  Pascal's wager, and was overly and unfairly critical of it in the past.

Amazing! a Mark of a mind worthy of respect!
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« Reply #75 on: December 27, 2011, 06:54:46 PM »

I was wrong about Pascal's wager, and was overly and unfairly critical of it in the past.
Can you explain this further?
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« Reply #76 on: December 27, 2011, 06:54:46 PM »

possibly because if I was going to go down that path of unbelief there was either that or some extreme form of absurdism/nihilism/etc.

If I'm reading this correctly you are saying that unbelief can yield a form of extreme nihilism, which is funny because the atheists who are challenged to follow their beliefs down logical end upon the shores of nihilism and effectively ending any sort of meaningful life.

I got a good chuckle reading Educhtinsugblah's response that before his consciousness existed he was not conscious and from thence will he return to. Basically he says his life has no meaning, no purpose, and any sort of meaning he applies to his own life is arbitrary.

Before orthonormie gets his panties in a bunch, I think the above was on the reasons for Nietzsche's insanity.
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« Reply #77 on: December 27, 2011, 10:25:42 PM »

(and make no mistake, atheism is belief system predicated upon tremendous faith.) ...I suspect it's because what they profess is not what actually resides in the depths of their hearts. Wink

Not really, and not really.

Most online atheists are indeed religious, and alot of them like to join christian boards.

Not really, and not really.

Most of the ones I run into are.

Most of the ones I run into

1.) Still celebrate Christmas, St. Valentines day, Easter or both.

2.) Still want to get married in a church

3.) Still read religious or spiritual books from Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism,  Atheistic/materialistic Satanism, Wicca, Vampirism, gothic, New Agism, neo-paganism........etc. Even a number of Jewish atheists do this.

Most atheists I ran into or know are nothing more than cultural Christians, cultural Muslims, or cultural Jews.


Now this doesn't mean they all are like this, but there are a number of atheists who are like this.

To be honest, this sort of thing is nothing new! I mean, didn't the materialist greek philosopher Epicurus do the same-thing?

He was an atheist who still liked religious rituals.

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« Reply #78 on: January 01, 2012, 03:36:43 AM »

Most of the ones I run into

1.) Still celebrate Christmas, St. Valentines day, Easter or both.

2.) Still want to get married in a church

3.) Still read religious or spiritual books from Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism,  Atheistic/materialistic Satanism, Wicca, Vampirism, gothic, New Agism, neo-paganism........etc. Even a number of Jewish atheists do this.

Most atheists I ran into or know are nothing more than cultural Christians, cultural Muslims, or cultural Jews.

Now this doesn't mean they all are like this, but there are a number of atheists who are like this.


Ok Smiley
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« Reply #79 on: January 01, 2012, 04:10:33 AM »

I did.
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« Reply #80 on: January 01, 2012, 09:36:00 AM »

...I think the above was on the reasons for Nietzsche's insanity.

I absolutely agree.
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« Reply #81 on: January 01, 2012, 05:43:21 PM »

(and make no mistake, atheism is belief system predicated upon tremendous faith.) ...I suspect it's because what they profess is not what actually resides in the depths of their hearts. Wink

Not really, and not really.

Most online atheists are indeed religious, and alot of them like to join christian boards.

Not really, and not really.

Most of the ones I run into are.

Most of the ones I run into

1.) Still celebrate Christmas, St. Valentines day, Easter or both.

2.) Still want to get married in a church

3.) Still read religious or spiritual books from Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism,  Atheistic/materialistic Satanism, Wicca, Vampirism, gothic, New Agism, neo-paganism........etc. Even a number of Jewish atheists do this.

Most atheists I ran into or know are nothing more than cultural Christians, cultural Muslims, or cultural Jews.


Now this doesn't mean they all are like this, but there are a number of atheists who are like this.

To be honest, this sort of thing is nothing new! I mean, didn't the materialist greek philosopher Epicurus do the same-thing?

He was an atheist who still liked religious rituals.



I think this is true. I spent a few years in the wilderness as well, and like clockwork, when the Christmas decorations would start to go up, that's when it would hit me- how much I had lost.

I'm glad I came back.
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« Reply #82 on: January 01, 2012, 11:17:30 PM »

Asteriktos, where are you in the spectrum now?
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« Reply #83 on: January 01, 2012, 11:27:38 PM »

Asteriktos, where are you in the spectrum now?

Stuck in neutral somewhere between practicing Christian and a doubting not-sure-what-I-am. I try to pray when I can, I try to read the Bible, etc. I still read Christian books and do research and such, but that doesn't really count since I enjoy that and would do it even if I was firmly in the agnostic camp (I just find traditional Christianity interesting). But I don't get to Church right now because of transportation issues, and I do have some days that are worse than others when it comes to skepticism/agnosticism. I'm probably/maybe going to be moving this spring, and will be getting a vehicle, which will hopefully help. I've also made a decision, because of my craptacular record of inconsistency, to only change my faith status in my profile if I've been attending a place for at least 6 months.
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« Reply #84 on: January 23, 2012, 12:45:31 PM »

Perhaps some Christians went elsewhere other than becoming "Atheists/Agnostics".

I believe that if I continue to breath, I will remain conscious.  However, I then choose to leave my belief behind, and move to the truth of which it speaks of. If I stuck to my belief, thus became a "BELIEVER", I would soon be in deep trouble, since I would have chosen not to actually/truly perform the act of breathing, but would have chosen to simply believe in it instead.

Some people have chosen to walk the path of truth, the path that grows wider and wider.

Beliefs and disbeliefs are only required if one is located at a distance from the truth, thus be located within the zone of less than truth.  Those who have reached the truth are 100% ignored by believers. What these people speak of, is beyond belief, for it is truth.

To believe in something is to accept something as truth. However, being located at a distance from that truth, only so much of it can be seen. A person who is a "BELIEVER" and thus sticks to his or her beliefs, is a person who sticks to only accepting truth from a distance, via the practice of a belief. Thus one can not successfully hand truths directly to this "BELIEVER" since this believer only accepts truth from a distance. Thus one can only speak to a believer, indirectly. Thus one must in turn speak to believers via parables/stories, for this is a method of indirect/distant communication.

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