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Thread: Atheists and anti-theists

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    Sr. Member Ouranos Ouroboros's Avatar
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    Atheists and anti-theists

    When I was growing up - knowing I was pagan but stuck in a Christian system - I used to be relieved when I heard someone was atheist. It usually meant we had a good deal in common.


    I still have several atheist friends, and we're cool with each other. But lately it seems I'm seeing more and more atheists who are hostile to all theists. I've heard a lot of claims that theists' faith and experiences can be disproved because we can find parts of the brain that activate when we're having spiritual experiences.


    Here's the way I see it: we can make fact-based claims about the physical world. We cannot make fact-based claims about the otherworld. Those experiences are personal and subjective. My relationship with Osiris is beautiful, but trying to prove that he physically existed would be against the very non-corporeal nature of his being.


    I also feel we cannot disprove subjective experiences, such as those that occur in the otherworld. Yes, certain neural pathways light up when we have spiritual experiences. But why should the experiences not be genuine and valid just because we can see parts of the brain responding? Maybe we're seeing certain parts of the brain light up when a deity is present. I wouldn't try to prove that, but I don't see how anyone can disprove it.


    Have other people noticed divisions between atheists and pagans in the last few years? If so, did they have anything to do with this debate about neural activity and attempting to disprove spiritual experiences?

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    Copper Member Aeran's Avatar
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    Re: Atheists and anti-theists

    Claiming that spiritual experiences are somehow not real because a certain part of the brain becomes more active as they take place is nonsense. They're making a huge logical leap 'x part of the brain is associated with y phenomenon, therefor X part of the brain must be entirely responsible for it' with absolutely no basis in fact, it's a complete misinterpretation of the science. Which is the irony of the anti-theist crowd, they claim that all they support is the scientific method, but the reality is that they have their own set of biases and dogmas and assumptions about the world that they defend viciously, often with just as little hard evidence or logic behind them as the worst of religious assumptions.

    If you cut through the disingenuous semantics ("atheism isn't a worldview, just the lack of belief in divinity!"), the reality of the modern atheist movement which grew out of the thought of Dawkins, Hitchens, Randi etc. is that it's a highly dogmatic materialist philosophy which is in many ways comparable to a religion and which indulges in many of the tactics of organized religion they claim to fight against (dogmatism, selective evidence, appeals to authority, logical inconsistency, refusal to engage threatening ideas, bigotry etc.). I used to ascribe to this worldview before I found (irony) that it just doesn't hold up under the evidence, and I've been incredibly disappointed to watch it become more and more like the organized fundamentalist religion it claims to be trying to counter since then.

    Of course not all of them are like this, there are a lot of people who really do just lack a belief in god because they don't see the evidence for it (passive atheists - although far less of them claim the label), but the current strain of the new atheist movement (activist atheists) is mostly an aggressive backlash against the influence of organized religion which should have listened to what Nietzsche said about fighting monsters...

    Hopefully they'll realize that the dogmatic posturing is counterproductive and take a turn towards the spirit of rational inquiry and freedom of thought on which the movement claims to have been founded, we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I put them in the same catagory as religious fundamentalists: their ideas aren't open to change on exposure to new arguments or evidence, so it's easier to just not bother engaging them on the subject.

    Here are a few interesting articles I came across the other day about the brain scan issue and the ridiculous extrapolations people draw from them:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/20...e-neuroimaging

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...rmost-thoughts

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    Re: Atheists and anti-theists

    I was an atheist and anti-theist. A few years ago I was on some forum or another, arguing against religion. It was by no means an intelligent argument. I was essentially calling theists crazy. A pagan girl responded simply by stating her beliefs in a calm and well reasoned manner. She didn't seem crazy at all. In fact, her beliefs made sense, and she'd been so calm in responding to my cruel accusations, it made me feel small and childish in comparison. At that point, I decided to stop arguing against faith. It wasn't my place to rant against something so subjective. After that, I studied pagan beliefs in more depth and recently began calling myself a pagan.

    I still struggle with some of the things the people on this forum have experienced, experiences I can't imagine having myself, but I no longer believe that those experiences aren't real for those that experience them. I actually find myself resentful of my inability to feel what many of you feel. As I'm sure is the case with many (but not all) atheists, there's always been an emptiness inside of me where spirituality should be. If you try to understand that when speaking to atheists, maybe you'll get somewhere with it.

    I feel I may have rambled a bit there, sorry. Just my personal journey.

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Atheists and anti-theists

    Quote Originally Posted by Ouranos Ouroboros View Post
    Have other people noticed divisions between atheists and pagans in the last few years? If so, did they have anything to do with this debate about neural activity and attempting to disprove spiritual experiences?
    Actually, there are quite a few of us who identify as pagan atheists right here, on this very forum.

    If one wants to know what we think about these things, one has only to ask - it will save you a lot of time speculating.

    The neural activity thing is irrelevant to determine whether deities exist or not. ALL experience - LITERALLY ALL experience can traced to neural activity. It is the way we experience EVERYTHING, the things we all agree are real (like this pink unicorn on my lap), and the things we imagine (like Bea Arthur naked).

    If the claim is made that "if it happens in the brain, it's not real" the end conclusion would have to be that "nothing is real."

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Quetzal View Post
    As I'm sure is the case with many (but not all) atheists, there's always been an emptiness inside of me where spirituality should be. If you try to understand that when speaking to atheists, maybe you'll get somewhere with it.
    When speaking to THIS atheist, do not take this advice!

    If you treat me as if I am in some way defective (filled with emptiness? B.S. My imagination is rich and full beyond what I imagine most people can imagine), I will consider it an insult, and treat it like one.
    Every moment of a life is a horrible tragedy, a slapstick comedy, dark nihilism, golden illumination, or nothing at all; depending on how we write the story we tell ourselves.

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    Re: Atheists and anti-theists

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    When speaking to THIS atheist, do not take this advice!

    If you treat me as if I am in some way defective (filled with emptiness? B.S. My imagination is rich and full beyond what I imagine most people can imagine), I will consider it an insult, and treat it like one.
    Chill out, I specifically said NOT all. I was just running on my own experience and speaking under the assumption that SOME atheists must have felt the same way I have. And I didn't say filled with emptiness, nor did I link that emptiness to a lack of imagination. Don't put words into my mouth.

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    Re: Atheists and anti-theists

    Quote Originally Posted by Quetzal View Post
    Chill out, I specifically said NOT all. I was just running on my own experience and speaking under the assumption that SOME atheists must have felt the same way I have. And I didn't say filled with emptiness, nor did I link that emptiness to a lack of imagination. Don't put words into my mouth.
    The second quoted comment by Corbin is from the OP. I think you are taking his comment, about not applying how Ouranos feels to him, a bit too seriously yourself. Perhaps you should also chill out and not put words in his mouth.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Atheists and anti-theists

    Quote Originally Posted by Quetzal View Post
    Chill out, I specifically said NOT all. I was just running on my own experience and speaking under the assumption that SOME atheists must have felt the same way I have. And I didn't say filled with emptiness, nor did I link that emptiness to a lack of imagination. Don't put words into my mouth.
    No need to chill. Not angry, except in the sense that (although you qualified it with "but not all") you've implied that atheism produces some sort of flaw. I wanted to correct some very bad advice by making it clear that, if you treat those who have different ideas from you as if there is some defect in them, you will eventually get swatted, and you will deserve it.
    Every moment of a life is a horrible tragedy, a slapstick comedy, dark nihilism, golden illumination, or nothing at all; depending on how we write the story we tell ourselves.

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    Re: Atheists and anti-theists

    Eh, I don't know that atheism produces a flaw. I think more perhaps, I'm flawed and therefore atheist. Don't take that last sentence to mean all atheists are similarly flawed, I really really just include myself in that.

    Perhaps I shouldn't have offered advice, just my own perspective...

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    Supporter Hawkfeathers's Avatar
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    Re: Atheists and anti-theists

    I'm sure in some cases atheism produces, or perhaps exacerbates a flaw, just like religion can. Some people use these things as crutches, or weapons. Some simply have a belief system of some sort.

    Can you hear me, Major Tom? I think I love you.

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Atheists and anti-theists

    Quote Originally Posted by Quetzal View Post
    Eh, I don't know that atheism produces a flaw. I think more perhaps, I'm flawed and therefore atheist. Don't take that last sentence to mean all atheists are similarly flawed, I really really just include myself in that.

    Perhaps I shouldn't have offered advice, just my own perspective...

    On a personal note, then, Quetzal, try this:

    Somewhere in your head there is a switched labeled (metaphorically labeled) Believe/Disbelieve. It can be hard to locate, but, once you have, it's easy to flick it back and forth. Locate the switch, and flick it to "believe." If you feel better, leave yourself tuned to "believe."

    Every moment of a life is a horrible tragedy, a slapstick comedy, dark nihilism, golden illumination, or nothing at all; depending on how we write the story we tell ourselves.

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