Senate Atheism 4.0 - Now Discussing: Religiosity and intelligence

Discussion in 'Community' started by Lowbacca_1977, May 18, 2010.

  1. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    No I'm not making any judgements I'm just pointing out that many religious 'converts' I come across usually found their faith following some kind of personal crisis. The more hardcore the faith, the more hardcore the personal crisis. It's just an observation. In relation to the second point, what I was getting at is more along the lines that the 'personal experience' of god can be a product of confirmation bias, particularly for people who are brought up to believe in god and live within a religious community. They often get to that point in their lives when they feel they need 'confirmation' of their beliefs and so they get it in the form of a 'personal experience' which then validates the belief which caused the experience. So in that scenario, the belief in god causes the interpretation of an 'experience' to be an experience of god.

    On the other matter, I think the concept of atheist churches are stupid. If you want to bond with other atheists go join a skeptics society or something but forming an atheist 'church' is just silly and kind of militant.
    Last edited by LostOnHoth, Nov 28, 2013
  2. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    What rarely seems to get mentioned, and it's this that Rogue is attempting to get across I think, is these sort experiences tend to be, for the person either inexplicable or not. If the latter, it'll probably be deemed brain chemistry out of whack, if the former - then something weird happened. Asking for a rational account of the former misses the point that, for the person concerned, there was nothing rational about it, yet it happened.
    Last edited by Jedi Ben, Nov 28, 2013
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  3. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I see absolutely no use in judging Rogue's spirituality. If there's one poster boy for a decent version of religion, he's it. It's impossible to convince everyone who's had a religious experience that they're jumping to the wrong conclusion; it makes more sense to demand the open, honest, undogmatic attitude that Rogue has from a Christian.

    I'm not that interested anymore in bonding with other atheists, it so rapidly becomes an anti club. What I like about atheism is the jokes. For atheists in the West, the Christian god and the Bible are just great resources for good jokes.
  4. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    Atheists need churches like straight-edgers need head shops.
  5. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 8
    A couple more comments and then you can have your thread back. ;)

    @Lord Vivec: I'd just direct you to your very first post in response to me. "How on Earth does this make any sense? Really think about what you just said here." It's hard to hear those sentences said in a thoughtful, contemplative or respectful manner. Contrast with timmo's post in response to mine: "I have a simple question, Rogue." And you did say that, when I was speaking of my own personal experience, that I was literally incorrect: "There is literally no need for steps 3 & 4 in your method." Thus intimating that you know better than me what my personal spiritual journey was, but well, okay. I'm not trying to pick a fight with you. It's quite probable that you didn't mean to be offensive or argumentative, but simply didn't consider how you were coming across. Or maybe you were trying to be argumentative; this is the Senate, after all, but if so, there's no call for you to deny it. As to why I would choose to believe when I found no evidence . . . because of my personal experience of God. I cannot prove that God hears me when I pray or speaks to me in my heart, but I know that He does. So, yes, I choose to continue to believe without stressing over the fact that I can't objectively prove that God exists. I leave that to the insecure Christians and the militant atheists.

    @timmoishere: I'm more than happy to tell about my initial experience. I was in a church and someone was talking to me about Jesus. I knew the story, of course, in the particulars. But this time as I heard the man talk specifically about how Jesus gave His life for me, I felt an overwhelming sensation of love and of responsibility. I felt the presence of God speaking to me of how much He loved me; and I felt a responsibility of a sort - I felt that it would be the right thing to give my life back to the One that had given His life for me, before I even knew about Him. I felt that Jesus was actually present in the room as a spiritual being and that He was speaking to me of how much He wanted me to be a part of His family. I was so overwhelmed with these feelings that I cried and then said a very simple prayer. I had no idea then of the journey I'd be taking; I knew so little then, but I knew that God loved me and I wanted to love Him in return. The reason it was filed under "experience of God," rather than "unknown experience," was because I was in a Christian church talking about Jesus when the experience happened. Not that I thought in those terms at the moment. At the moment it happened, I freely admit that I was beyond real rationality; I wasn't really thinking about what was happening to me - I suppose I simply "knew" that it was God. If you want to characterize that as lazy, at least in an intellectual sense, I suppose that would be fair. I wasn't thinking things through in the moment, no. The thoughtfulness that I hopefully bring to my faith now didn't develop until much later.

    @LostOnHoth: Yes, I see what you mean. You're right. Those things happen a lot. I don't necessarily see the backgrounds to these experiences as reasons to dismiss the experiences out of hand. But I'm a believer. You're not explicitly saying that those backgrounds invalidate those experiences, but I can see why someone who wasn't a believer would see that this could be the case. That's a fair point to make. And it just comes back to differing perspectives, I guess.

    @SuperWatto: That is literally one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me. It genuinely touches me that you would say such a wonderful thing about me. That's definitely what I strive for, but God knows (ha ha oops wrong thread! :p ) that I often fall short of what I strive for. Thanks for the kind words.

    And I have no issue with jokes about religion or faith or God. Atheists definitely have some good ones. But I say there are certain things that are so huge and intense that we kind of have to joke about them or we'd go nuts. If we really tried to take death or God or sex seriously, we'd go crazy I think; they're just so . . . weighty and powerful. You just gotta joke. But then I'm one of those "nothing's off limits for comedy" guys. A lot of religious people are much more uptight. Me and some Christian friends were on a hike recently and found a dead squirrel. Cue lengthy riff on "squirrel heaven" vs. "squirrel hell" with the ultimate fate of the squirrel coming down to whether or not he believed in "squirrel Jesus." Cue much hilarity about the personality & deeds of "squirrel Jesus" and the ultimate death he must have died. Then things got deep; what if this was "squirrel Jesus?" If we'd waited around for three days, who knows what we might have seen? All totally inappropriate, of course, but I think the Almighty Lord Jesus Christ can take a little spoofing. I always kid the ones I love, you know. I sure hope He gets it anyway. On the off chance, He doesn't see the humor . . . well, I guess I'll be seeing you guys on the other side. :p

    *That last bit's a joke, just in case anyone doesn't yet know that I personally never tell anyone they're going to hell. Not even that squirrel. But seriously I don't send anybody to hell in my rhetoric. God makes the calls about what happens after this life and frankly I have exactly zero interest in the job.
  6. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    Missed something.
    I agree, but that's exactly why I am so confused by this move. As you point out above, non-religious people already congregate on a regular basis. They unite over their clear passions and interests, which provide them with sensible and religion-free agenda for activities. They are in chorals, bands, martial arts dojos, historical re-enactment groups, book clubs, and bridge teams.

    So what actual purpose does this new activity serve? Their only common unifying point is a negative belief, which doesn't really need to be affirmed or reinforced dogmatically. They get no avenue for interaction they didn't already have. It's an extremely weird adoption of the religious practices they claim to disdain.
  7. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    If we tear down monotheism, the institution of the church will be replaced with something secular that fills the same purpose and the prophets and figures will be replaced with men who don't profess divine power. The reason therefore that atheists are forming these 'churches' seems to speak to some form of psychological dependency on institutions that bring people together in a comforting fashion.

    So I think you need to stop seeing a Church as a place of dogma and start seeing it as a place of communion; of common interest and shared purpose.

    Same way we see a cult of personality emerging for Dawkins and Krauss.
    Last edited by Ender Sai, Dec 1, 2013
  8. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    I think that view leaves out a lot of the real issues here.

    Principally, you assert that a new secular institution will and must provide the societal function currently offered by religious assemblies. However, your post never quite gets around to spelling out what that purpose is. Exactly what "dependency" exists that it is supposed to address?

    You referenced a "place of [. . .] common interest and shared purpose." This returns to the earlier ideas that none of the benefits or desirable attributes of religious meetings have anything to do with their religious content. But I think this leads down the same dead end I raised in my last post. All sorts of secular activities already foster environments that create a sense of "common interest and shared purpose." So why do we need a new institution to do the same thing all over again? What's novel about this, or what's beneficial beyond just having a pick-up basketball team? And if pick-up basketball were enough, then why does this new trend exist?

    Your remark is both a bit confusing and troubling. I'd agree that personality cults are as much noticeable here as everywhere else, but you seem to concede pretty readily to them. Should we? In many cases, they are outright bad. Rush Limbaugh has done conservative political philosophy no favors, nor did Christopher Hitchens's racism really recommend atheism to anyone. Even when they start out well-meaning, they almost never end up being a positive development. As with the broader topic of "atheist churches" we should move beyond mere acknowledgment that they exist to some sort of consideration of what there effects and purpose actually are, and whether that's a direction we as individuals think it's worthwhile to go in, shy away from, or be indifferent to.
  9. timmoishere Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2007
    star 6
    I don't like the concept of atheist churches either. It just seems to defeat the purpose. However, online communities seem to me to be a much better venue for atheists to bond together. There are a number of atheist groups on Facebook, and while many of their posts are in the "LOL religion is stupid" variety, they also do offer many Senate-quality discussions about science, cosmology and the way religion is harmful to people.
  10. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    By the same token, is the historical racism of the American South a great advertisement for Christianity?
    Last edited by Arawn_Fenn, Dec 2, 2013
  11. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    Of course it isn't. But what does that have to do with anything at all? You just got insecure at the notion that someone would dare to criticize a person who happens to be atheist for any reason at all?

    This is exactly the sort of danger that things like personality cults create. People acquire a mindless, knee-jerk defensiveness instead of considering what has actually been said. A considerable factor in the modern crimes of most religious institutions is their choice to value closing ranks in response to potential criticism over doing the right thing. You're in serious trouble if you think we atheists aren't just as susceptible to the same danger.

    I made a passing criticism of one guy. An accurate criticism. There's no cause to have "defended" him, attacked anyone else in response, or even responded to that particular remark at all. If we want to tout one benefit of atheism as the ability to admit we are fallible, we'd be able to admit when people fail.
  12. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Vivec, you seem to think I'm endorsing atheist churches. I am not; I get why they appear. I'm not making a judgement call on whether this is right or wrong. I'm also taking away communion from religion since it's hardly theirs to the exclusion of all others.

    Also I thoroughly reject any notion that Hitchens was racist.
  13. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
  14. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    No, I'm questioning why atheism should be considered in need of "recommendations" in the first place, such that if an atheist is labeled a racist, it somehow reflects on the validity of atheism as a philosophy. The point was that by that standard all philosophies fare just as poorly. The idea that one can escape the content of a message by simply attacking the character of the messenger is becoming increasingly popular around here.
  15. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9

    What is your view on atheist conventions or forums?
  16. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    I get that you are doing that. What I'm saying is that you don't seem to have thought through all the consequences. Or at least you aren't explaining your thought process. You say that plenty of other secular institutions already do communion. Then you say the real purpose behind religion is communion. Then, lastly, you say that atheist churches are arising to meet some need. How is that possible? You said there only real function was something that secular institutions already do. If that was the case, you should just see expanded use of said secular institutions, not the creation of a new one. If "communion" is already covered but atheist churches are meeting some other need, then logically religion must be about something more than just communion. Or, if you religion is only about communion, and atheist churches are needed to fulfill that role, then other secular institutions must not have been doing a good job of that, and atheist churches are needed instead. All three of your assertions can't simultaneously be true. What piece of this puzzle am I missing?
    I'd say he threw invective a bit too eagerly at Islam as compared to religions dominant among Caucasians for that too be true. Same with his cheerleading for military action. There's more direct stuff, too, like this.
    To, for instance, lament slavery is hardly an "empty" complaint. It also gives a sense of inevitability to the whole affair, doing a tremendous disservice to the many voices from the time that saw and argued for alternative routes of economic development. It is fact that good and bad things happen together in history. It is disgusting and unnecessary apologetics to pretend that any particular bad thing had to have happened or have been as bad as it was. I could go into this at greater depth, but this is a tangent, so suffice it to say we'll agree to disagree.
    This, again, is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. If you had read my post, you would note I never made the argument you worked so strenuously to rebut. If you were even dimly aware of my widely known religious views, you would realize how stupid it was for you to have thought I might say that in the first place.

    My point was not that Hitchens makes atheism "invalid." My point is that Hitchens, who developed something of a personality cult around himself, wasn't really that strong of a representative for atheism. Thus, it would be better to avoid personality cults than to elevate people and magnify all the different negative traits that they have. You, though, got so flustered that you jumped into some wild, railing response that doesn't even have to do with the topic under discussion. I somehow doubt that would've happened so readily if I'd been discussing a lesser known atheist.
    Last edited by Lord Vivec, Dec 3, 2013
  17. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Actually I suggest the dominant purpose of religion was NOT communion but rather, the whole congregating under a banner thing was simply the result of a psychological need in the species. People were always going to want to get together on common ground; so I'm simply suggesting religion provided a common and effective banner under which this could occur.

    You seem to forget that only pages ago you and I were rallying against scienism and the way in which atheism was becoming a de facto religion for people, or at least supplanting religion as a belief structure. So when an institution like an "atheist church" pops up and validates our concerns about the direction the movement is taking - think of it as much in the same way the Communists in China or Russia became as elitist and corrupt as the Guomindang or Czarists they replaced - and I get why it occurs without saying it's good, why do you think I need to account for it?

    Regarding Hitchens - the claim he attacked Islam too often is just frankly BS. It's purely a liberal whinging technique. They are mad that a leftist could end up in the same position as a neocon (and I can't accuse them of forgetting a history they purposefully never knew, but all first gen neocons came from the left!). Hitchens was scathing in his attack on Christianity which is ok, because lots of whites are Christian. Attack Islam for its illiberal treatment of a number of issues and white man's guilt kicks in, hands are wrung with the best intentions and we call racism. Idiocy. It's pure idiocy, seasoned to perfection with indignant petulance. I suggest you watch Hitchens on the Australian program "Q&A" where he lambasts an Iranian woman from the audience for betraying her sisters in Tehran. It'll give you the insight sulky liberal commentators won't.

    And sorry, but you need to try not to fall into the trap of the cultural mindset you've grown up in - namely that American values are normative values and American concerns are normative concerns. Slavery is a big deal for Americans. For non-Americans it's not, so please don't assume we're as conflicted about it as you are. Britain was a late and reluctant party to slavery in its colonies and the first to abolish it. It's therefore not cause for long and reflective glaces into the distance worrying about it. Hitchens is engaging in what Dan Carlin would call mild historical revisionism, trying to assert that the human cost of something is justified by the net gains it brings. Factoring in the shocking revelation that only Americans think about American issues as human-wide issues, you can understand his context. I too have zero interest in apologising for European imperialism. Am I therefore racist?
  18. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    Again - who cares? Why does atheism need representatives? I know, I know: now comes the part where you tell me you never argued that it did. So of what significance is the assertion that any given person either is or is not a "strong representative", if it doesn't affect the validity of the belief system in the slightest? Why is it "better" when those who are dubbed "strong representatives" are "elevated"? This is a serious question, but I suspect there's no serious answer forthcoming, since you're so busy distancing yourself from the implications of your posts. And as far as "flustered", "wild", and "railing" are concerned, which one of us is engaging in petty ad hominem name-calling?

    Maybe that considerable skill at doubt should one day be applied toward your own misguided knee-jerk speculations.
  19. epic Ex Mod / RSA

    Member Since:
    Jul 4, 1999
    star 7
    to me this is partly the point. firstly, i think you can have these types of experiences and they not necessarily be in the spirit of god (a beautiful sunrise; a true understanding of the universe; your first ecstacy pill (--half joking)) -- similarly, just because it did occur in a church needn't mean it was a purely religious/god thing, either. having been brought up in church and having experienced many passionate sermons and many powerful praise and worship sessions where i was at times quite moved (having hands laid upon me at the front of the auditorium; going down under the power of god, and so on), i feel i can speak from experience, and i can see (now) how the church environment plays on these very psychological and emotive themes. that isn't to say i think they're doing this cynically -- pastors and worship leaders, usually being rather charismatic individuals themselves, just know how human beings work -- people respond to emotion and passion; it's a timeless human trait.
  20. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I used to dream of founding my own atheist cult, but what I was really missing from my childhood was the community services that a neighborhood church provided: a meeting place, youth programs, efforts to support the poor, the elderly, the sick, the dying, the bereaved.

    But since then my neighborhood hit on the perfect 20th century solution for community support: a block email list. So simple, and yet incredibly powerful. We organize block parties and get-togethers for children. We get notices when someone has found someone's car keys or lost a cat, or needs emergency babysitting, or has been diagnosed with cancer, or has died or had a parent or other loved-one die. We do block-wide garage sales and donate proceeds to charity, we coordinate volunteer efforts at the local elementary school and food bank. We compost. We look out for each other, and it is the most satisfying community I've ever been a part of other than being a swim team family. In short, it's the secular doomsday cult I've always dreamed of launching, except without the doomsday, and I didn't found it, nor am I its charismatic and autocratic high priest.
  21. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    It doesn't, which is why I'm arguing against personality cults. They have downsides and no real upsides. Do you want to stop having a panic attack about your impression that I'm somehow attacking atheism?

    Sorry if it made it look like I was implying you supported it. I was just trying to get more clarity on what your thoughts were. In particular, I was stumbling over your use of the word "communion." You seem to just being referred to the tribalist impulse in human nature. If that's the case, I'd say we more or less agree.
    You ought to understand his context better. I don't remember bison being hunted to near-extinction in the other British colonial holdings. Nor were the indigenous populations of African and Asian colonies killed in droves by diseases they had no immunity to. Look at the first sentence of the quote. The American frame of reference is not appropriate because the whole world should think like them. The American frame of reference is appropriate because his quote was specifically discussing the United States of America, where all those things that were mentioned did happen.
    These statements reframe his point to make them more acceptable in two ways. First, I took issue with his calling complaints about the colonial experience "empty." That's not asking you, he, or anyone else to apologize. It's asking that people not be dismissive or demeaning about the very real harm that others experienced. It is not "empty" to lament the Lost Generation of Aborigines. It is appropriate, as what happened was awful. It is not "empty" for a black South African to think that apartheid seriously disadvantaged them and their families. The effects of British opium policy on China in the 19th century were not "empty" either. This sort of talk is not, as you have proposed, an estimation that events were net positive in spite of negative elements. It is literally zeroing out any negatives, and implying those to whom they happened have no worth or significance to be accounted for.

    You'll also note that you reversed the relevant viewpoints here. You assert that the crimes of colonialism shouldn't be the major focus for a person of British descent. I'll not argue that with you. But that's not what Hitchens said. He implied it was inappropriate as a focus for anyone. That's insane. Take your earlier example of slavery. The British Empire may well have been late to the party and early to leave. But it is undeniable that, for instance, Jamaica was profoundly influenced by the British policies on this issue. Just as you admonished Americans not to expect that everyone sees the world from their perspective, I hope you'd agree it would be foolish for a British person to suggest slavery wasn't important in Jamaican history simply because it wasn't so important in their own. That's exactly what Hitchens did.

    These things aren't really "mild" and there's no positive spin to put on them. The remarks were inappropriate.
  22. Rogue_Ten Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 18, 2002
    star 7
    crosspostin' up in this piece. maybe slightly off the specific topic

    for me and my brand of atheism its very much a matter of not seeing the point. ive listened to the arguments. ive flirted with all sorts of religions, from catholocism and evangelical christianity which were the biggest influence on my view of the spiritual in my early childhood (catholic family, evangelical nanny), to flirting with buddhism in my teens to dating and living with a practicing muslim in my 20s. and ive never found myself able to truly believe in any of these systems. and over the years ive come to realize its because i dont feel that i need any of them. my life feels perfectly fulfilled and happy with the answers (and questions) that the natural and social sciences and philosophy are able to provide to me. that's my atheism

    i think a large component of belief is the conversion experience. if you're a child raised in a religion then maybe it imprints on you young (though honestly in my memories of being a child and my observations of children i find it hard to call it "belief" or "religion" in any meaningful sense before a certain point of development), but i think in people who find religion later on they have to have a need for it. religion has to be there at a time when some system in their life is failing them badly and pick up the slack

    to bring this back to the topic of intelligence, i think that conversion experience thing explains it in some ways. "intelligence" (which is a really hard to measure thing to begin with) doesnt cease to make one vulnerable (indeed, if you look at people who are considered truly brilliant in history and in your life, a lot of them are profoundly vulnerable, tangled knots of neuroses) so i think intelligence doesnt have a ton of bearing on one's susceptability to religious belief
    Lowbacca_1977 likes this.
  23. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Relocating my post over here...

    That's along the lines of my take on it, I've also speculated that I think people that feel like they've invested years into it seem to be a bit more hostile to the time they feel they've lost to it. So, while someone that was never very religious seems to be fairly calm about it, the more hostile, confrontational, and emotional atheism seems to come from, more often, people that feel like they've had a personal toll between time spent focused on religion, and damage they felt they were done (such as being in a very religious family and facing trouble over sexuality, for example).

    Not to say that the reasons that they're more emotional about it are not valid, but it does seem like it's more of a nonissue than a stance when religion was never a big deal.

    Definitely also agree that I don't think intelligence determines religious belief on the broadest sense. I do think there's reasonable correlations with education, however, and particular sorts religious views, but even then I don't think it's an absolute situation like people want to believe. I mean, there's a whole cadre of crazy physicists out there with various conspiracy theories that show intelligence and education can still lead to some fairly strange beliefs.
  24. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    Atheism of itself doesn't prescribe any kind of aspirational values or ethics, which is why it is kind of ridicilous to try and talk about athiesm as a belief in something. I think the closest you get is secular humanism which does purport to provide aspirational values and ethics based upon a 'manifesto' which rejects the religious axiomatic paradigm. So yeah, humanism is a belief but atheism is not.
    Lowbacca_1977 likes this.
  25. Rogue_Ten Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 18, 2002
    star 7
    and its still not a belief in the same way a religion is. humanism is an ideology, like liberalism or conservatism or fascism or socialism or conservationism

    id also add to my post above that i dont think of myself as agnostic and never have, because im pretty sure that there isnt a god and i live my life as if there isnt one and i dont live my life seeking out one. agnostic sounds too much like im wishy-washy about it and honestly im quite settled at this point in my life. i appreciate religion and spirituality and i experience some connection with the latter (hitchens would call this the "numinuous" aspect of existence) but i am functionally an atheist and im quite happy with that
    Last edited by Rogue_Ten, Jan 12, 2014