Time to introduce myself. I've been prowling around this site for a few months and have finally added a pic. He is Colonel Thomas Blood, a supposedly distant relative of mine and 1st class scoundrel. I use his name, as mine is sufficiently unusual to show up on a Google search. I am a nurse, and health care is rampant with xians. I am also an ordained clergy person and - well things are just a bit complicated right now. Folks who I don't want in the know, will not come snooping here on their own.

Enough intro: Here is the morsel for you to chew on. I have heard it expressed explicitly at least once, and implied by several of you that if one is an atheist, the is NO WAY that you could ever become sufficiently delusional to believe in a god. Well I was. Or did.

I grew up with a believing mother and an atheist father. We never went to church and my religious training was minimal (one year of a generic protestant Sunday school). I was atheist by age 15. I was always fascinated by xians however, especially the really confident kind. Long story short; over several years I developed and pursued the hypothesis that the only way I could be sure that there was no god was to diligently seek him. This led me on multiple pathways until I wound up in a fundamentalist country church one night where I was invited to "come to Jesus" Multiple threads in my life had brought me to the place where I was able to suspend my skepticism enough to accept the possibility of this being real. When I stood up, the world changed. The event and my theories about would take another blog.

The result of this "encounter " was that I became a fundamentalist xian .  My lack of religious upbringing actually worked against me as I had no framework for my new life, only that "reason" had failed as method for finding the TRUTH.  Over the course of decades my inquiring mind kept pushing me into ever more "liberal" understandings of God until I finally realized that my theology had become "Jesus as metaphor" and that I no longer needed the metaphor.

So here I am, full circle again. The experience has not been a complete waste of my life (Thank GOD!!!). I have a very full, hands on type of understanding of religious faith and have first hand knowledge of many of the different flavors of belief. I find many of you off-putting. You can be so bloody sanctimonious sometimes, as if all people of faith were idiots. I am sure I actually had more IQ points when I was religious than I do how. But I DO understand how you feel. I sometimes have to stop myself from thinking "How can anyone BELIEVE that crap?" when it was not so long ago that I did in fact believe it myself.

I've rattled on long enough. Have at it!

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Actually, I find your comments quite level headed. Absolutely agree that hope and faith are different attitudes (if that's the right word). For an example of sanctimony, I refer you to page 5 (I think it was) @Jack Pathwhaes. Don't know it he didn't bother to actually read the entire post, didn't understand it or if the font is too small. (The answer is trifocals. Just put aside your pride and do it.)  I have seen his poorly considered comments on other forums as well. I have to say that I am dumbfounded that this conversation has taken off the way it has and I have been generally very pleased with the thoughtful and intelligent responses. Makes me proud to be an atheist.

SANCTIMONY:  N

Feigned piety or righteousness; hypocritical devoutness or high-mindedness.

I've never claimed to be pious OR righteous, just SANE.  I don't believe that 2 + 2 = 5, and it's not "high-minded" to suggest that those who DO believe that 2 + 2 = 5 are insane or ignorant.  It's simply TRUE.

In fact, I'm modeling myself on Dawkins, who said:

Mock them. Ridicule them. In public. Don't fall for the convention that we're all too polite to talk about religion. Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated and need to be challenged and, if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt.

...Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated and need to be challenged and, if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt.

That's Dawkins. He's quite intelligent, but he has not yet dealt with the hurt he experienced.

It's likely been said, but it's not so much that every person of faith is an idiot as it is the faith is fundamentally idiotic-- but, seed, apple.

I'm reminded of C.S. Lewis. I have to assume there are a plethora of other important factors here.

Faith has a meaning "believing something without evidence" which is not shared by hope.  Sometimes they mean the same thing, sometimes they don't. 

Sometimes they [faith and hope] mean the same thing, sometimes they don't.

My native language, English, has two excellent uses: poetry and fraud.

 

"The more we empathize with the plight of others, the more ethical and moral we behave towards them".
http://cultureofempathy.com/

@Strega - "What do you think will inspire these apparently non-empathic people to want to change?"

Thats tricky because empathy can be lost for different reasons - if a woman has lost her empathy due to post natal depression - she will notice the change in herself. Maybe she has become hateful and angry at her children and hates herself fo it. Someone like her can remember her previous self - that can be a good motivator. But if someone has had the empathy beaten out of them to a point where its lost forever - then maybe there is no inspiring them. Mostly people who are low on empathy - usually dont know it. They think they're normal.

 

and also re: "What do you think will inspire these apparently non-empathic people to want to change?"

 -A very succesfull career criminal will not be inspired to change because his lack of empathy works very well for him. Criminals thrive on their lack of empathy. They think they're fearless and superior because of it.

When they stomp on a persons face, they dont ask themselves 'why can I do that and not feel anything for the person" they say to themselves 'I am Superman - I'm better than them"

I agree, Stole.

I see a similar, though less severe, lack of empathy in the disregard/antipathy for poor people expressed by today's evangelical Republicans.

I also agree, AS<J.  I think an empathic attitude has to be part of a larger package, which overall is beneficial for a person to follow.  Because as we've been discussing, empathy doesn't happen in a vacuum, it's part of a larger package of mutual benefits. 

I believe it's a mistake to tie empathy to the practice of compassion too exclusively, because that's other-centred.  We want to emphasize "what's in it for me?".  Unfortunately this is not a nice neat world with nice neat solutions.  The impulse towards violence and destruction is stronger than the desire for peaceful happiness in some people.  However, at the same time, the social selection against violence and destruction is strong also, and pushes in the direction of peaceful happiness. 

But if someone has had the empathy beaten out of them to a point where its lost forever - then maybe there is no inspiring them.

My experience tells me there may be a remedy, but no academic board of ethics will allow it to be studied.

I was 17 when, after an especially noisy scene of verbal violence between my older sister and my dad, I stormed out of the house and walked nearby vacant streets. I was angry and shouted every curse word I knew. With nowhere else to go, I returned, after resolving to not allow stuff at home to affect me. Thus began what 25 years later I called my zombie years. In shutting out unhappiness I had also shut out happiness.

Two experiences, both of which followed a six-year-long marriage ended by divorce, ended those years.

The first was meeting a divorced woman with four kids ranging from about seven to about 14. When she told me of their family council meetings, I realized that family life could be non-tyrannical. I was not yet capable of love but I learned the meaning of It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

No academic board of ethics will allow research on the efficacy of the second experience: keeping a human subject in fear of his life for an extended period.

One day during my early teens I wanted to beat up on my dad, but he was stronger and I knew I would lose. My fear of him became anger, which I suppressed. A quarter century later, during four years in a political effort (for convenience, call it environmental politics), I was able to express lawfully that long-suppressed anger.

For a few moments after an attempt to get me fired, I was frightened. My anger surfaced and so dominated my life for four years that I ignored the several SUGGESTIONS I heard that my life was in danger. (BTW, a shrink I was seeing had me tested for paranoia, told me I wasn't, and he got scared. He had empathy.) A woman who'd been active in politics much longer than I told me, "They're afraid of you. Their threats are compliments." I was stunned, and saw truth in the words, People aren't known by the stature of their friends, but by the stature of their enemies.

About three years later I saw my aged and frail dad. I remembered my years-earlier desire to beat him up and suddenly realized I no longer needed to do that. I did more therapy and did some volunteer work that required training in interpersonal skills I lacked, but I knew those zombie years had ended.

I'm now as happy as a clam, if clams are really happy.

 

@Tom

Thank you for sharing that story Tom and I understand your experience very well.

"My experience tells me there may be a remedy",

Yes I think so too but the work for that remedy is too hard for the mainstream I think.

 "but I knew those zombie years had ended."

 'thats why I advocate church for those 'zombie years - walking dead'  phase of the illness. Because what are people who cant get to therapy or who are very uneduacated supposed to do? The peace and quiet of church offers a remedy for that. Cemetaries do it for me too - they still do. Because your right - that 'zombie' phase lasts for years, but its an incredibly insightful time too dont you think?.

"I'm now as happy as a clam, if clams are really happy."

Thats brilliant Tom Sarbeck - you got through it. Your a survivor. : )

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