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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@Simon

Its Australian slang

Grouse: Rhymes with "house" - means outstanding, tremendous. Can be applied
universally to all things
social ... "grouse birds (women), grouse band, in fact, grouse bloody party (great party!)"

Ward, Gallup - I'm not being funny, but 

Amen, brother Bob

I have no idea what message you are trying to send here. All I see is this text: "Ward, Gallup - I'm not being funny, but"

Then a huge blank area. If I try to highlight it I find a grey rectangle in the bottom 2/3rds of the blank area.

This has no meaning for me.

AS<J :  from 8000 miles away, it seems to me you're a very empathic person.  I'm not particularly empathic - I'm too full of myself - but I am learning.  Could you analyze for me, what does being empathic entail?  I'm talking about perspective-taking and reading people; not compassion.  (Empathy and compassion don't necessarily go together.)  I believe there are some relatively simple steps involved.  As a newbie, I'll try to do the same.  Perhaps there are exercises that people can do to boost their empathic ability. 

I think trial and error are involved, with the emphasis on the try

Simon, the easiest way to start is to try to consciously make yourself think about the information that others supply about themselves in conversation and how that information must make them feel.  If you are not sure how they feel about it, the most empathic thing to do is ask.

The more you try to be genuinely concerned about others and make the conversation or other interaction about the other person, the better.

Listen more, talk less.  Especially about yourself.

BTW, I am like you, so this is information I gleaned by taking the same journey.  It is not meant to be critical.

@Mo - this is good advice I think.  I also believe in "psyching people out" or in less extreme situations, just trying to read their reactions and affect as well as the words that come out of their mouth.  Sometimes I think asking someone for straight-out information doesn't get you anywhere - they are often reticent to say what's really on their mind.  So some digging and reading can work wonders. 

Hum..

Consider first that any evaluations of other persons and situations might be false.

Remember your own situations when others might not have given you proper consideration, devalued your ideas, cruelly abused you, because they did not really know you or your situation.

Examples might be a pan handler, a 'welfare' mother, a theist/religious 'worker', a tax collector, etc.

Look at your own evaluations, what is the underlying content of these evaluations? What do you 'believe' about 'pan handlers'? What do your 'believe' about 'theists'?

Could your 'belief' be false or needing qualifications? Are all 'pan handlers' really lazy, manipulative, drug users, etc? Are 'theists, as a group, really not interested in 'truth', scientific knowledge, or an honest acounting of history?

A good example for me. (In the early 80's, while I was a student at the PSU Philosophy depart) I was getting out of my car one morning and a black fellow walked up to me and asked the point blank question, 'would you like to buy some pot?' 

'No' I said, 'Not at all, but would you like a coffee?' He said 'yes'. We walked over to a local student dive, ordered our coffees and sad down at a dirty table. We started to talk about our lives. He told me that he was from Texas, and had been looking for work for weeks. He was growing desperate, and then fell into this option. I asked him about the choice he had made, about the risks involved, and if he could see other less risky options? He seemed to understand, and showed some general understanding of what his choice entailed. We sat quietly for a few moments, then left each other's company.

What would happen, if I were in a similar situation? Would I hold to my own underlying values, or compromise them? If he were me, to some degree, would he hold steady to a core sense of virtue, even in the face of desperation? Like me, would he move heaven and earth to find other options that would not compromise value(s) worth keeping? Since we are not the same person, can I or another really expect a similar result of choices?

These questions can yield understanding, and a growing empathy. Getting to a state of compassion, for another, and ourselves, might yet involve a deeper state...      

 

  

@James - yes, with empathy, we might decide "this person is an idiot / feckless loser".  However it would still be compassionate to try to educate them. 

Many people don't see anything wrong with selling pot.  It's just risky and precarious.  Poor guy, he must have been starving.  It was good of you to listen to his story.  This is a gift in itself I believe (from you to him).  A good example of empathy - taking someone's perspective and trying to work out where they're at. 

A Buddhist I know says that mindfulness consists of morality, stillness and wisdom.  He says that the stillness and wisdom are not possible without the morality.  This makes sense to me, if wisdom = "what is the most compassionate thing to do?" and stillness = dealing with reality.  That's the essence of morality after all, or one way of expressing it. 

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