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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But in keeping with the Buddhist saying, "all beings everywhere want to be happy", I'd say that even though people might reject the Church, they're seeking what the Church offers other people. 

Simon, going to hell and back (well said) probably takes people to extremes. My trip to hell and back took me from an extreme idealism to an extreme cynicism. My cynicism didn't last long; I soon saw it as the opposite of the idealism I'd held onto for so long.

The idealism and cynicism I knew were nothing like those spoken of in college. My idealism had me needing the world to be better than it is. My cynicism had me needing the world to be worse than it is. A world that's worse than it is serves a purpose: it conceals a cynic's anti-social behavior.

Whether empathy is inborn or learned, I'm sure it develops best in loving families.

@Tom - "I'm sure it develops best in loving families."  This is interesting.  I'd say it develops best in loving people.  Someone whose needs and anger are to the fore, will find it very difficult to put these aside and think about the needs and POV of the person in front of them, in a dispassionate way. 

"The more we empathize with the plight of others, the more ethical and moral we behave towards them".  - this is why empathy is vitally important in some situations. 

@Simon
Re: faith - "believing something without evidence"
I know thats a definition of faith but I dont think that the average religious person uses it with that definition in mind.
I think that the average religious person uses the word faith in the same way that the average non-religious person uses the word hope.

Its not about the academic version of the difference - I dont think so anyway.

This atheist tells people, "I have faith that the next can of food I open and eat won't poison me."

However, if the can is leaking or its ends are swollen I immediately lose my faith.

 

@Tom - "However, if the can is leaking or its ends are swollen I immediately lose my faith".

I would like to know how the average parishoner thinks about faith. Because its about what it means to them that matters - not how we interpret the word and then attribute our interpretation on to them. Because our interpretation is usually academic or smarmy and theirs isnt.

 

Very interesting. Of my years in Catholic school religion classes, I remember hearing faith described differently.

  • Most nuns spoke of it as an almost physical thing, and to doubt it is a mortal sin. I was in 11th grade when I started protesting (to myself) How can people learn without first doubting?
  • A few nuns spoke of faith as a gift that some receive and others don't. (I now see these nuns as subversive and wonder if they knew what they were giving me.)

Seeing faith as a gift resulted in my reading the history of world religions, and knowing their histories eased my path away from all of them.

In contrast, here on A/N I see people (all of them men) putting much effort into reasoning themselves away from their religions.

@Tom - "Seeing faith as a gift" - I think this is a good description.  It's like saying, you've been switched on.  Some people get it, some people don't.  I have a feeling that organized religion can obscure as much as reveal.  When the nuns spoke of faith, it's faith in a real thing - the "power of Jesus".  This power of Jesus is a thing which exists in nature and having faith means connecting with it. 

You can be so bloody sanctimonious sometimes, as if all people of faith were idiots.

But y'are, Blanche!  Y'are!

@ Thomas Blood.. You said.. 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.
Right on, Same here.

@Ward

"Except I didn't say those things here – you made them up."

You said it here >>>>> "It must be different in Australia (where you say you are) because here in America the disadvantaged come from religious homes" "

I dont make things up Ward. I would like an apology (that'll never happen)

"(your misspellings have been corrected in the quotes)"

Ward thats just really immature - trying to make yourself what - look clever? - That old style of atheist jargon is really out of date. Its so cliche - So i made a couple of typo's  - stiff shit - if typos cause you anxiety - see a shrink but dont lay your neurosis on me.

"I did not see anyone posting their score."

There were scores posted from that test Ward. You would have know if you did one or not - I dont know why you had to go through past threads unless you were insecure about something.

"Be careful with the ad hominem attacks."

Be careful with your over used phrases because they display a lack of origional thought.

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