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Message 10 of 31 (790029)
08-24-2016 1:20 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Riggamortis
08-23-2016 12:54 AM

I've been an atheist for over half a century, ever since I started reading the Bible and quickly realized that I just couldn't believe that stuff. Then came the "Jesus Freak Movement" of circa 1970 when all the drug-dulled hippies "got hooked on Jesus", causing a near-exponential explosion of fundamentalist Christian church membership (I am also a software engineer with an additional degree in applied math, so I know that an actual exponential explosion is something quite different) Anyway, several family members of a friend converted and I became something of a "fellow traveller" during which time I learned a lot about their theology and about their mind-set but without ever believing the same stuff -- for that part, the more I learned the more I just could not believe that stuff.
Lately, I've been hearing all kinds of different definitions for all kinds of different kinds of atheism -- strong, weak, whatever. I am an atheist in that I do not believe in the gods and I am agnostic in that I do not believe that we can actually know anything about the supernatural, since it lies outside our ability to know. Do the gods exist? Yes, they all exist, all the myriads upon myriads that we have ever dreamed of. By the same token, so does Gandalf, and Frodo of the Nine Fingers, and Captain America (I personally grew up on DC comics, but Captain America!!!). We created them all, we gave them all their stories, and their stories are all vitally important!
Do supernatural beings actually exist? Who knows? Does the supernatural itself even exist? Who knows? Does a supernatural being that we would identify as being "God" exist? Who knows? Nobody knows! That's the agnostic aspect; nobody can possibly know! Nobody could ever possibly wrap his head around The Infinite, which is "God". All anyone could ever possibly do is come up with an analogy, with a Man-made symbol that he chooses to call "God". Nothing that any Man calls "God" can be anything more than a pale symbolic representation.
So then, as an agnostic, I look at the gods that other people try to offer me and I recognize them for what they are, so, as an atheist, I realize that I cannot believe in any of the gods that they try to convince me of.
Spirituality and spiritual experiences are a different matter. We are all human and we are all neurally wired the same. We share the same emotions. We are all equally capable of being awe-struck regardless of individual theology. We are all capable of the same spiritual experiences, though fundamentalist Christians have expressed complete bewilderment at any atheist being able to experience that, just from their own definitions.
At the same time, an atheist may be tempted to rationally analyze an experience instead of just experiencing it. One of my friends had been taught to go to the front row of the theater and immerse herself in the experience of the movie. I was a German major, which meant I was the same thing as an English major but with much more logical material (just joking! Especially when you look at the Romantic Period). My training is in story structure and development, foreshadowing and why they are telling the story in just that manner. My movie experience will be different from hers. Which is better? Why should it be?
Sex with someone with whom you share a deep emotional connection is as spiritually fulfilling, probably more so, than loving any deity.
We appear to share an attitude here. But that is ignoring a rather wide range of attitudes and experiences. Not that you could understand them, nor most certainly could I, but they do still exist. Have you ever read "Der Steppenwolf"? Do so. Not for everyone; only for the crazy (when you've read it, you will appreciate that).
So then, we've all heard this argument before. So many different religions, but only one of them can be right. Really? How's about none of them? Or all of them? Or both?
Every religion gets something wrong. Especially when they get down into the details. "Be excellent to each other." That is something for all of them to get right. "Hate the ones who use the wrong number of fingers to do a blessing and do not suffer them to live!" Yeah, that one's not a keeper. Someone once published a parody of the evolutionary Tree of Life, only it was an evolutionary tree of Christianity which had ended up so terminally splintered so as to conclude that it could not have possibly sprung from an original "Christ event".
So all Christian theologies get some things right (eg, "Be excellent to each other.") while they get a lot of things wrong (too numerous to list). So, all theologies get lots of things wrong, so they are all wrong. And yet against all odds most theologies get some things right (eg, "Be excellent to each other."), so most all of them are also right.
There's something I've been seeing of late. I'm a normal. Opposed to that we have the fundamentalists and the conservative Christians and the evangelicals, etc. But all that group that we normals clump together are protesting. I had one woman protest vehemently against being classified as "evangelical". And another lodge a similar protest.
The point here is that they all have their own individual "God" ideas that require them to splinter even further apart.
While we can't agree that prayer and fasting will help the impoverished, surely we can agree that sending resources and engineers to build infrastructure will. It may not have all the answers to our problems, but putting aside our differences and coming together to get behind the things we can agree on is surely the first step toward a better future.
I had associated with a Unitarian-Universalist church. Our call to prayer resolved down to : "Knowing that prayer does not change things, but prayer changes us and we are the agents of change." In my Boy Scouts of American experience (a helluva story of religious discrimination!!!!!!!!!!!), in our last sons' Scout Troop when the parents had their meeting which began with a prayer, I led a Unitarian prayer, that one. It was the very last Unitarian prayer ever allowed.
Now consider this anecdote. A man had grown a very beautiful garden, most extraordinary. A clergyman passing by complimented him on what he and God had done with that garden. The man, most modestly, said, you should have seen what a mess it was when only God was taking care of it.
The feeling I got when my wife wanted to give up during child birth and I encouraged her over the line, I can only describe as spiritual.
She didn't want to, but rather she had no other choice. A co-worker talked about his wife's giving birth. She was finally fed up with the whole thing so she demanded that he call her a taxi. "OK, you're a taxi." Really, where could she have expected to go?
I was at school when I got the call for our first. Her water had broken, but the contractions were still very mild. On base, we lived right across from the base hospital, so I brought her some magazines to read. A few hours later, the nurse came in and saw the magazines and decided, "Hell no!" So they administered pitosin to induce. She freaked out since those were the pre-menstrual cramps she had experienced years before.
I was in the delivery room with my wife all the way. And all the way I was always concentrated on her and on her needs. They practically had to drag me away in order to pay any attention to my new, my first son.
I don't know that I could have described that as spiritual. All my concentration was on my wife's well-being.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Riggamortis, posted 08-23-2016 12:54 AM Riggamortis has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by Phat, posted 08-24-2016 8:20 AM dwise1 has not replied
 Message 14 by Riggamortis, posted 08-24-2016 9:55 PM dwise1 has not replied

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