Ok, I am a bit afraid to broach this subject, so please; I want to preface this very, very carefully. I have a feeling these could be rather dangerous questions I’m about to ask. Just so everyone knows, I’m not trying to be a dick, and I’m not trying for any gotcha questions, hand to god (please excuse the pun). I am genuinely curious on the subject of atheism and while I have a number of publications that have been suggested to me (and I intend to read!), I wanted to hear from people who were perhaps a bit more, well, personal on the subject. I don’t wish to offend anyone, and I’m not looking to be a bother, I just want to reach out and hear from real people.
My experience with atheism isn’t exactly pretty. Most atheists I have met tend to fall into the camp of what I imagine would be call ‘fake- atheists’; the same way you might have a ‘fake- lesbian’ or even a ‘fake-Buddhist’. What I mean to say is I don’t get the impression that they understand why they are atheists or have made the choice for a reason that might have nothing to do with religion. Most I’ve met are people who enjoy the shock value of saying “I hate/don’t believe in god”, but press them on why and what you discover is they hate/don’t believe because it gets their daddies panties in a twist, and that’s about as deep as it goes. Hey, live as you want to live, that’s great! But that kind of atheism, I’m afraid, does little to help bring any light to the subject, at least for me. I listen to the Sunday school podcast and I read through the posts here on the forum, and I feel there is more to most atheists then just a personal Freudian vendetta. I also hear stories of some of the atheist lawsuits and, to be sure, there are some that make perfect sense, but there are others that feel like they are just rabble rousing. I don’t want to make any judgments however, since I feel I have not heard from both sides on these arguments… and so here I am.
Forgive the long winded intro, but a bit of context might also be in order. Feel free to skip ahead to the questions if you so choose.
I am an artist, and in my masters studies I have become interested in the question of the functional responsibility of art (since so much of it in the recent years…well…sucks) - which, in turn, has lead me to look into questions of social structuring. This includes not jut social, political, and economic functions but recently religious functions as well. For my part I was raised catholic, but none of it stuck- if anything it left me with more questions than answers so I abandoned the whole mess at the time. I’ve been called a humanist on more than one occasion, but the word has little meaning to me at this time (take that for what it’s worth). I come to the subject of religion as an archeologist and philosopher rather than a practitioner. I am rather keen to many of the theories of religion put forward by scholars such as Joseph Campbell (my gris-gris you might say) who argue that religion is best understood as a sequence of metaphors for psychological phenomena.
I suppose what I am (unsuccessfully) trying to explain is while I understand the basic intent of Atheism, I am that ass hole who is given to asking ‘why’. I understand the rough why of ‘why have religion’, but I’m not sure I understand ‘why atheism’
Ok, enough of that, here are the questions…
Is it that atheists, on the whole, reject prospects of established religion because of its pointless dogma, or is it a rejection of the concept principle of a higher ‘cognitive power’, or is it the rejection of the systematic structural function religion seeks to provide as a whole?
Campbell describes religion in terms of four functions (wikipidia does a pretty good job outlining them if you are interested)- do atheists reject the need for such functions, or are those functions provided by alternative means?
I’ve heard many atheists say they do not believe because “what greater power would make a human suffer”- would someone be at all willing to expand on this point? I completely understand the argument in the context of a western narrative, but I wonder about system structures where a higher power is devoid of judgment (for example, many eastern cultures and tribal cultures do not make such a distinction).
I suppose I’m also a little confused on the prospect of an atheist community. I mean, if there is a rejection of a larger system structure, that would imply to me that an atheist draws on their own personal experience to create things like ‘affect images’ and life rituals and so on. That makes sense, but then I hear about atheist communities and I wonder ‘is there an established set of images and rituals, since that’s usually the reason to have a community- to share in rituals. Or is it unified by the fact that it is independent?’
I feel horrifically guilty reading out over all of this. Way to bring a fun forum down- I’m going to go look up some monkey news now. Maybe then I won’t feel so guilty.
Like I said, this is only someone asking questions who wants to understand, not someone looking to cause problems, and everyone here seems so nice and so fun I thought ‘if ever there was a time to ask, people here might be the most willing to put up with your stupid shit’ If this is too much of a downer/serious I invite the community to simply ignore.
All the best
You assume there are no morals without religion.
I don't need "Christian Values" to understand that stealing from my boss is wrong. I find it disconcerting that it is only a religion that keeps you from steeling from your boss. You mean that you don't know that it's wrong in this society to steal and that you need a conjured religous diety to prevent you from doing it?
Please list the cultures where life is not valued. I saw that Mel Gibson movie about the Aztecs too, but I doubt that it really depicts true Aztec culture. It is impossible to form a society without parental love and child rearing. Apparently you mean a love of your fellow man? Christians through the ages have loved their fellow men so much that they oppressed and slaughtered their way through the Crusades, the Inquisition, the aquisition of the Americas and afterward the Salem Witch hunts.
This is a Christian Nation because non-thiests "share" Christian values? No we don't. Non-theists don't need a psuedo-god to make clearly moral and correct decisions.
Christians believe in Original Sin, the Trinity, Jesus as the son of God (capitalized for your reading pleasure), Armageddon (arguably a Christian invention anyway), the rapture, a 6000 year old Earth, the Flood, the rebirth of Christ, Moses getting the 10 commandments on a mountain, and well, lots more. If you are a Christian and you don't act a certain way there will be an act of revenge - eternity in hell. So you are motivated to do good not by choice but by self preservation. You want to live forever with 72 virgins, or with all of your previously dead relatives or what ever your indoctrination may be. You NEED to be told what to do, then checked and monitored all through life by this network of pious overseeers so you will do the right thing. So fear is ruling who?
Well now there is an OLD religion in town that never had a Reformation. It claims that you Christians should be hunted down and beheaded, that you should be labeled "infidels" and that your nation is "The Great Satan". This religion flies airplanes into buildings and wires bombs to it's devotees. Do you have a strong enough sense of self preservation to know where this will lead? Because in the end I feel that that is where ALL religion takes us. As long as you believe in a god that condones killing, a god that says the only reason to do good is so you'll get into "Heavan", a god that has bibilcally demonstrated genocide, slavery, and starvation, then you are little better than "they" are.
Christian beliefs might lead to values, but they are not values. Thus beliefs such as original sin are not shared by Hebrews, yet the reverence for life is.
Nor does a lack of reverence for life mean a culture doesn't love its children. But it might mean it doesn't love strangers' children. The Thuggee culture in India would infiltrate caravans, gaining their trust. Then after becoming friends, they would murder them all.
The Mongols were very loving to their own families, yet killed strangers on whims. The Vikings were known raiders and murderers who placed far more value on heroism than on life, including their own. The Comanche happily tortured people. Finally Mel Gibson wasn't the only one to accuse the Aztecs. Their own surviving writing supports the accusations.
Different cultures value different behaviors differently. The Navajo value luck more than intelligence. The Samoans highly value the ability to sit calmly in a storm. English doesn't even have a word for this value. The Irish would avoid nakedness even during mating relationships, while the Inuit would have sex with everyone they met, including children.
I see no support for the idea that there's a single, unifying, rational behavior set. Rather American atheists adopt our Christian culture's values then rationalize them.
Yet religious beliefs can change cultural behavior patterns over time. Comanches no longer torture people since converting to Christianity for example. After centuries of murdering people, the Thuggees could not survive contact with Christianity. Inuit don't molest children either.
Nor am I trying to imply Christianity is special in this. But the examples I know are from Western culture.
BTW, Islam offers peace to Christians and other "peoples of the book". The Copts in Egypt survived under Islamic rule for a thousand years. Christians can and have held positions of power in Islamic governments. Islamic values don't match American secular values like freedom, but they are a much closer match for Christian values. Christianity can survive Islam. Atheism cannot.
It always amuses me that because an atheist disagrees with a believers views on religion it is an attack on that religion. I am positive that I disagree with everyone else in this forum when it comes to our choice of which football teams we support - is this an attack on those other teams?
You must be from over the pond. In America football views are far more likely to engender a violent response than religion is. Wandering around Oakland muttering about how great the 49ers are is a good way to get hurt.
I follow Australian Rules Football (the first football code - it predates soccer by 5 years). Depsite the fact we loath other teams and their supporters, we hold the game with such reverence that commiting acts of violence in "out teams name" is unthinkable - it would bring the game into disrepute.