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Compassionate Antitheism (Part I)

RuvDraba
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3/26/2015 10:08:53 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Hi, I'm Ruv, and I'm an atheist.

I also view myself as a creature of conscience and principle opposed to religious abuses, and so I describe myself as a compassionate antitheist.

I mentioned this in another thread, and a member asked me to explain what that was about, so here I am. I thought I'd try and answer three questions:

1) Why atheism and not agnosticism (I've been both);
2) What is morality to an atheist, and what gives it any authority; and finally
3) Why antitheism and not simply live-and-let-live, and what makes it compassionate?

For reasons of length, I'll break this across multiple posts.

1. Why atheism?

I grew up in a family of religiously-respectful nontheists who thought religious education was important. My parents felt you ought to learn about religion so you can make your own mind up, and that in itself seemed sensible (though like many people of the day they viewed religion as a smorgasboard of Christian denominations, because that was the Australia they lived in.)

But at the time, there wasn't religious education; just religious instruction -- so it was indoctrination; advertising -- theological marketing for children. Public schools included religious instruction in those days at the taxpayer's expense, and that's what I went to for a couple of hours each week.

Although I loved learning and delighted in mythology, I regret to say that I found religious instruction boring and estranging. While my siblings both enjoyed religious instruction, to me the Biblical stories seemed tired and silly; the moral lessons -- some pointed lessons about obedience, and some vague ones about love -- seemed either trite or disturbing; and the games inane. But worst of all were the chaplains themselves. Like bad salesmen, all acted too glad to see me, none seemed sincere, and every time they discussed religion it was like a curtain had been drawn between us. They were watching some sort of picture-show on the other side of the curtain; I couldn't see it, but I could hear them talking about it, and while they were watching it, they could no longer see me.

I was a gregarious kid, always interested in people, so I knew the curtain wasn't mine. It was behind their eyelids. Although they were supposed to be teaching me, they were living in their own private world, and they weren't just failing to see me -- they were ignoring anyone who wasn't part of their magical story.

It was dismaying, because I always loved teachers, but it was educational too. From that time on, whenever anyone talked to me about religion, I'd watch to see if the curtain came down behind their eyes, and sure enough, it did.

If that's what religion did to people, I thought, I wanted no part of it, so I argued with my parents, caviled against further religious instruction, and grew up to be a young nontheist -- an agnostic -- among friends who were Baptists and Anglicans and Methodists and Catholics and one Jehova's Witness. They were my friends, so I went to their rites and services sometimes, but always there was that curtain -- even behind their eyes -- and it got stronger as we got older.

Religion, I realised, was putting it there.

But in a society dominated by religion, life as a young agnostic was fairly comfortable as long as you largely avoided faith. As an agnostic, you're not confronting anyone, offending anyone or contesting their beliefs. If you wanted to participate, you could. If you didn't want to, you opted out. Religious people all assume you're seeking answers; they're reasonably patient with you, even with your skepticism; and everyone believes you'll one day adopt their particular sect of their particular faith once the truth becomes known to you. Sometimes the religious get too pushy, thinking you're on the verge of conversion, but all you have to do is politely retreat. Really, if being agreeable is your definition of good, it's hard to go past being agnostic.

But by my mid-twenties, I'd learned more about the world, and had grown uncomfortable with agnosticism. Looking back on it now, I think it had caused me two problems, one of philosophical integrity; and another of moral integrity.

Philosophical integrity: in societies dominated by religion, religion likes to claim that it invented morality. So if you accept (say) Christian morality as a template for your life, why reject Christian metaphysics? This is essentially Pascal's wager at play: you've already accepted the morality, what do you lose if you're wrong? If you live an agnostic life in a largely Christian culture accepting largely Christian values, aren't you just an impious Christian?

Moral integrity: although I had found religiosity psychologically repugnant almost from the outset, I had always assumed that the religious were well-intended and diligent in their observance. After all, aren't their very souls at stake? I suppose I mistook piety for morality. But over time, I discovered more and more things religious people were doing that I felt were bad and wrong, from the way they treated their wives through to the way they favoured church-members, tied charity to homilies, sniped at other denominations, dodged errors, claimed paternalistic authority, and talked down to children. And the more I looked into that, the more I saw they were doing it because of religion, not despite it.

And so I realised two things, namely that:
* Although I lived in a largely Christian culture, I did not share Christian values, or the values of any other faith; and that
* I did not believe religion was ever an excuse for bad behaviour.

And at that point, I realised I was an atheist. It no longer mattered how metaphysics worked or how the universe came about; at that point I wanted no further part of Christianity or its god -- or any other deity.

I hope that may be of interest.

In the next installment I want to talk a bit about atheistic morality from a personal perspective. I've had this discussion in other threads, but always with others (usually the religious) asking pointed 'gotcha' questions. This time I'd like to do it under my own steam.
bornofgod
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3/26/2015 10:24:07 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/26/2015 10:08:53 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Hi, I'm Ruv, and I'm an atheist.

I also view myself as a creature of conscience and principle opposed to religious abuses, and so I describe myself as a compassionate antitheist.

I mentioned this in another thread, and a member asked me to explain what that was about, so here I am. I thought I'd try and answer three questions:

1) Why atheism and not agnosticism (I've been both);
2) What is morality to an atheist, and what gives it any authority; and finally
3) Why antitheism and not simply live-and-let-live, and what makes it compassionate?

For reasons of length, I'll break this across multiple posts.

1. Why atheism?

I grew up in a family of religiously-respectful nontheists who thought religious education was important. My parents felt you ought to learn about religion so you can make your own mind up, and that in itself seemed sensible (though like many people of the day they viewed religion as a smorgasboard of Christian denominations, because that was the Australia they lived in.)

But at the time, there wasn't religious education; just religious instruction -- so it was indoctrination; advertising -- theological marketing for children. Public schools included religious instruction in those days at the taxpayer's expense, and that's what I went to for a couple of hours each week.

Although I loved learning and delighted in mythology, I regret to say that I found religious instruction boring and estranging. While my siblings both enjoyed religious instruction, to me the Biblical stories seemed tired and silly; the moral lessons -- some pointed lessons about obedience, and some vague ones about love -- seemed either trite or disturbing; and the games inane. But worst of all were the chaplains themselves. Like bad salesmen, all acted too glad to see me, none seemed sincere, and every time they discussed religion it was like a curtain had been drawn between us. They were watching some sort of picture-show on the other side of the curtain; I couldn't see it, but I could hear them talking about it, and while they were watching it, they could no longer see me.

I was a gregarious kid, always interested in people, so I knew the curtain wasn't mine. It was behind their eyelids. Although they were supposed to be teaching me, they were living in their own private world, and they weren't just failing to see me -- they were ignoring anyone who wasn't part of their magical story.

It was dismaying, because I always loved teachers, but it was educational too. From that time on, whenever anyone talked to me about religion, I'd watch to see if the curtain came down behind their eyes, and sure enough, it did.

If that's what religion did to people, I thought, I wanted no part of it, so I argued with my parents, caviled against further religious instruction, and grew up to be a young nontheist -- an agnostic -- among friends who were Baptists and Anglicans and Methodists and Catholics and one Jehova's Witness. They were my friends, so I went to their rites and services sometimes, but always there was that curtain -- even behind their eyes -- and it got stronger as we got older.

Religion, I realised, was putting it there.

But in a society dominated by religion, life as a young agnostic was fairly comfortable as long as you largely avoided faith. As an agnostic, you're not confronting anyone, offending anyone or contesting their beliefs. If you wanted to participate, you could. If you didn't want to, you opted out. Religious people all assume you're seeking answers; they're reasonably patient with you, even with your skepticism; and everyone believes you'll one day adopt their particular sect of their particular faith once the truth becomes known to you. Sometimes the religious get too pushy, thinking you're on the verge of conversion, but all you have to do is politely retreat. Really, if being agreeable is your definition of good, it's hard to go past being agnostic.

But by my mid-twenties, I'd learned more about the world, and had grown uncomfortable with agnosticism. Looking back on it now, I think it had caused me two problems, one of philosophical integrity; and another of moral integrity.

Philosophical integrity: in societies dominated by religion, religion likes to claim that it invented morality. So if you accept (say) Christian morality as a template for your life, why reject Christian metaphysics? This is essentially Pascal's wager at play: you've already accepted the morality, what do you lose if you're wrong? If you live an agnostic life in a largely Christian culture accepting largely Christian values, aren't you just an impious Christian?

Moral integrity: although I had found religiosity psychologically repugnant almost from the outset, I had always assumed that the religious were well-intended and diligent in their observance. After all, aren't their very souls at stake? I suppose I mistook piety for morality. But over time, I discovered more and more things religious people were doing that I felt were bad and wrong, from the way they treated their wives through to the way they favoured church-members, tied charity to homilies, sniped at other denominations, dodged errors, claimed paternalistic authority, and talked down to children. And the more I looked into that, the more I saw they were doing it because of religion, not despite it.

And so I realised two things, namely that:
* Although I lived in a largely Christian culture, I did not share Christian values, or the values of any other faith; and that
* I did not believe religion was ever an excuse for bad behaviour.

And at that point, I realised I was an atheist. It no longer mattered how metaphysics worked or how the universe came about; at that point I wanted no further part of Christianity or its god -- or any other deity.

I hope that may be of interest.

In the next installment I want to talk a bit about atheistic morality from a personal perspective. I've had this discussion in other threads, but always with others (usually the religious) asking pointed 'gotcha' questions. This time I'd like to do it under my own steam. : :

God gave you wisdom to realize that religion wasn't the way to find Him. It's okay that you don't believe He exists. At least it's better than being religious and pretending you know Him and looking like hypocrites to people like you and me.
RuvDraba
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3/26/2015 10:32:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/26/2015 10:24:07 PM, bornofgod wrote:
God gave you wisdom to realize that religion wasn't the way to find Him. It's okay that you don't believe He exists. At least it's better than being religious and pretending you know Him and looking like hypocrites to people like you and me.

Thanks, Saint Brad. :)

I have to say, I don't believe I know very much about metaphysics at all -- except the obvious point that the universe, for whatever reason, behaves very consistently. I feel that any talk of metaphysical beings is well above my pay-grade as a human.

But while I'm okay being wrong about metaphysics (really, who can swear they're not ?) I really don't like religion scaring people into acting bad, or stirring up greed and making hollow promises offering big rewards for acting stupid.

More on that later.
bornofgod
Posts: 11,322
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3/26/2015 11:22:44 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/26/2015 10:32:32 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/26/2015 10:24:07 PM, bornofgod wrote:
God gave you wisdom to realize that religion wasn't the way to find Him. It's okay that you don't believe He exists. At least it's better than being religious and pretending you know Him and looking like hypocrites to people like you and me.

Thanks, Saint Brad. :)

I have to say, I don't believe I know very much about metaphysics at all -- except the obvious point that the universe, for whatever reason, behaves very consistently. I feel that any talk of metaphysical beings is well above my pay-grade as a human.

But while I'm okay being wrong about metaphysics (really, who can swear they're not ?) I really don't like religion scaring people into acting bad, or stirring up greed and making hollow promises offering big rewards for acting stupid.

More on that later.

I'm with you on not liking religious people scaring other people in this world to try get them involved with their groups. I saw a lot of crazy things happening in those Christian churches I was participating in during the time I was a Christian from 1984 to 1993. It's amazing how many people fall victim to hypnotic type suggestions and believe everything their leaders tell them.

Once God forced me out of Christianity and let me alone for six years before starting to work with me again, I realized that He only wanted me to see what was really happening behind closed church doors. it took Him until June 16, 2008 to have me start writing and speaking the words He put into my mind to teach me who I really was. This is when it gets into meta-physics and consciousness that no one has ever understood other than the saints who came before me over 1700 years ago.

Meta-physics and consciousness has been a mystery to everyone who wonders where our thoughts come from. Since I started testifying to this consciousness of our Creator, I've learned that everything came from that consciousness, our thoughts and the visible objects we observe. It is a very interesting subject to listen to by physicists, cosmologists, meta-physicists, etc. that are talking about the illusion of time, space and matter. At least it makes me feel like I have company in this world filled with religious people who are totally fearful of anything they don't understand.

It is very difficult to teach anyone who doesn't listen because of their fear of new knowledge. That's why a very open mind is required to listen and learn. No man can open up his own mind, especially when it's filled with thoughts that cause fear. The only way to get rid of those fears is to listen to the knowledge to help them understand where they get their thoughts from and why their visible bodies don't always do what they want them to do. So the only way you can have an open mind for this knowledge is to have been created with it, which is something totally out of our control.

I see you as a chosen believer because you don't totally reject everything that I've shared in this forum. What I do see is a man who learned that religion was not where you belonged. I also see a man who has closed his mind to all religious ideas and their deities, which is actually a good thing to be open minded to the rest of the knowledge that is floating in the minds of men.

I can't tell you to listen to me because I'm right and you're wrong. I've never told anyone that they're wrong and I'm right. I only share the knowledge that I've learned and now possess. I don't have to use any memory to witness for our Creator because I trust every single word that He puts in my mind to write or speak for Him. If you don't trust this information, then it was simply not for you to trust it. But that doesn't mean we can't be friends and enjoy the thoughts we both can trust in each other such as stories about what we have experienced in this world. Our world only grows bigger when we share each other's experiences.

I'm thankful to have met another member in here who is a non-conformist of any particular group.
Skepticalone
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3/27/2015 12:13:58 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/26/2015 10:08:53 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Hi, I'm Ruv, and I'm an atheist.

I also view myself as a creature of conscience and principle opposed to religious abuses, and so I describe myself as a compassionate antitheist.

I mentioned this in another thread, and a member asked me to explain what that was about, so here I am. I thought I'd try and answer three questions:

1) Why atheism and not agnosticism (I've been both);
2) What is morality to an atheist, and what gives it any authority; and finally
3) Why antitheism and not simply live-and-let-live, and what makes it compassionate?

For reasons of length, I'll break this across multiple posts.

1. Why atheism?

I grew up in a family of religiously-respectful nontheists who thought religious education was important. My parents felt you ought to learn about religion so you can make your own mind up, and that in itself seemed sensible (though like many people of the day they viewed religion as a smorgasboard of Christian denominations, because that was the Australia they lived in.)

But at the time, there wasn't religious education; just religious instruction -- so it was indoctrination; advertising -- theological marketing for children. Public schools included religious instruction in those days at the taxpayer's expense, and that's what I went to for a couple of hours each week.

Although I loved learning and delighted in mythology, I regret to say that I found religious instruction boring and estranging. While my siblings both enjoyed religious instruction, to me the Biblical stories seemed tired and silly; the moral lessons -- some pointed lessons about obedience, and some vague ones about love -- seemed either trite or disturbing; and the games inane. But worst of all were the chaplains themselves. Like bad salesmen, all acted too glad to see me, none seemed sincere, and every time they discussed religion it was like a curtain had been drawn between us. They were watching some sort of picture-show on the other side of the curtain; I couldn't see it, but I could hear them talking about it, and while they were watching it, they could no longer see me.

I was a gregarious kid, always interested in people, so I knew the curtain wasn't mine. It was behind their eyelids. Although they were supposed to be teaching me, they were living in their own private world, and they weren't just failing to see me -- they were ignoring anyone who wasn't part of their magical story.

It was dismaying, because I always loved teachers, but it was educational too. From that time on, whenever anyone talked to me about religion, I'd watch to see if the curtain came down behind their eyes, and sure enough, it did.

If that's what religion did to people, I thought, I wanted no part of it, so I argued with my parents, caviled against further religious instruction, and grew up to be a young nontheist -- an agnostic -- among friends who were Baptists and Anglicans and Methodists and Catholics and one Jehova's Witness. They were my friends, so I went to their rites and services sometimes, but always there was that curtain -- even behind their eyes -- and it got stronger as we got older.

Religion, I realised, was putting it there.

But in a society dominated by religion, life as a young agnostic was fairly comfortable as long as you largely avoided faith. As an agnostic, you're not confronting anyone, offending anyone or contesting their beliefs. If you wanted to participate, you could. If you didn't want to, you opted out. Religious people all assume you're seeking answers; they're reasonably patient with you, even with your skepticism; and everyone believes you'll one day adopt their particular sect of their particular faith once the truth becomes known to you. Sometimes the religious get too pushy, thinking you're on the verge of conversion, but all you have to do is politely retreat. Really, if being agreeable is your definition of good, it's hard to go past being agnostic.

But by my mid-twenties, I'd learned more about the world, and had grown uncomfortable with agnosticism. Looking back on it now, I think it had caused me two problems, one of philosophical integrity; and another of moral integrity.

Philosophical integrity: in societies dominated by religion, religion likes to claim that it invented morality. So if you accept (say) Christian morality as a template for your life, why reject Christian metaphysics? This is essentially Pascal's wager at play: you've already accepted the morality, what do you lose if you're wrong? If you live an agnostic life in a largely Christian culture accepting largely Christian values, aren't you just an impious Christian?

Moral integrity: although I had found religiosity psychologically repugnant almost from the outset, I had always assumed that the religious were well-intended and diligent in their observance. After all, aren't their very souls at stake? I suppose I mistook piety for morality. But over time, I discovered more and more things religious people were doing that I felt were bad and wrong, from the way they treated their wives through to the way they favoured church-members, tied charity to homilies, sniped at other denominations, dodged errors, claimed paternalistic authority, and talked down to children. And the more I looked into that, the more I saw they were doing it because of religion, not despite it.

This is an interesting observation. Some of these actions I have seen and agree it is because of religion.

And so I realised two things, namely that:
* Although I lived in a largely Christian culture, I did not share Christian values, or the values of any other faith; and that
* I did not believe religion was ever an excuse for bad behaviour.

And at that point, I realised I was an atheist. It no longer mattered how metaphysics worked or how the universe came about; at that point I wanted no further part of Christianity or its god -- or any other deity.

I hope that may be of interest.

In the next installment I want to talk a bit about atheistic morality from a personal perspective. I've had this discussion in other threads, but always with others (usually the religious) asking pointed 'gotcha' questions. This time I'd like to do it under my own steam.

I look forward to it.
This thread is like eavesdropping on a conversation in a mental asylum. - Bulproof

You can call your invisible friends whatever you like. - Desmac

What the hell kind of coked up sideshow has this thread turned into. - Casten
RuvDraba
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3/27/2015 1:13:29 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
2. Atheism and Morality

I've decided to start this topic sideways, in the hope of keeping it as short and practical as possible.

Has someone ever given you credit for something you didn't do? I realise this may not happen much -- more often we don't get credit for good we actually did. But maybe it was credit for a chore or favour someone else did -- or maybe someone imagined you put more thought into something that was actually quite easy, or made something that you actually bought. But however it is, they praise or thank you more than you feel you deserve.

Have you ever had that?

What did you do about it? Did you point out the mistake, or just take the credit and move on?

If you feel the need to correct the mistake rather than take false credit, then you're a bit like me. And if you understand how regretful it can make you feel to have to correct that mistake and let someone feel less loved than they actually deserve, then whatever your faith, I think you understand entirely how it is that an atheist can have morality.

I realise some religious people get their undershorts knotted about this, but it's simple: everyone, good or bad, wants to be thought well of. But people committed to good want to earn the good opinion of others, while the selfish want it regardless. And it pains good people to have good opinion that isn't earned more than to have earned good opinion they didn't get.

Is that nature or nurture? I don't know. Is that selfish or unselfish? For practical purposes, I don't care. But when you are committed to earning the good opinion of others by doing good for them, then in my books you have bound yourself to honesty, self-examination, generosity, compassion and concern, and the measure of good in us is really how far, how often and how well we cast that net.

There are some philosophical questions here, like what if you earn the good opinion of one group by doing harm to someone else? Or what if the good you thought you did was only perceived? And what about good to unborn generations, or the unexpected side-effects of good?

I'm going to assume you're smart enough to work that out, and generous enough to agree that others can too.

But to keep with my promise of keeping it simple, it seems to me there are three kinds of good:
* Personal good: I do good for you now because it's also good for me right now (this is coincidental good);
* Interpersonal good: I do good for you now because it might do good for me later (this is scratch-my-back-good);
* Transpersonal good: I do good for you now because it just makes a better world (this is pay-it-forward good);

It strikes me that good doesn't need to be rewarded or punished -- and if you do, it degrades the good people do from transpersonal good to interpersonal or personal good. It limits their vision, clouds their motives, stunts their courage and generosity.

I don't particularly want to live in a world supervised by some judgmental deity where people only do personal and interpersonal good because they want to get into heaven or avoid hell, or fear coming back as a cockroach. I think that's a stupid, selfish way to live.

I also realise that despite promises of heaven or hell, some people of faith also believe in transpersonal good.

That's good. I do too, and regardless of your faith, if you believe in that as well, then I count myself and this world blessed to have you in it.

So there you have it. The shortest discussion I know how to have about atheism and morality.
bornofgod
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3/27/2015 2:54:43 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/27/2015 1:13:29 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
2. Atheism and Morality

I've decided to start this topic sideways, in the hope of keeping it as short and practical as possible.

Has someone ever given you credit for something you didn't do? I realise this may not happen much -- more often we don't get credit for good we actually did. But maybe it was credit for a chore or favour someone else did -- or maybe someone imagined you put more thought into something that was actually quite easy, or made something that you actually bought. But however it is, they praise or thank you more than you feel you deserve.

Have you ever had that?

What did you do about it? Did you point out the mistake, or just take the credit and move on?

If you feel the need to correct the mistake rather than take false credit, then you're a bit like me. And if you understand how regretful it can make you feel to have to correct that mistake and let someone feel less loved than they actually deserve, then whatever your faith, I think you understand entirely how it is that an atheist can have morality.

I realise some religious people get their undershorts knotted about this, but it's simple: everyone, good or bad, wants to be thought well of. But people committed to good want to earn the good opinion of others, while the selfish want it regardless. And it pains good people to have good opinion that isn't earned more than to have earned good opinion they didn't get.

Is that nature or nurture? I don't know. Is that selfish or unselfish? For practical purposes, I don't care. But when you are committed to earning the good opinion of others by doing good for them, then in my books you have bound yourself to honesty, self-examination, generosity, compassion and concern, and the measure of good in us is really how far, how often and how well we cast that net.

There are some philosophical questions here, like what if you earn the good opinion of one group by doing harm to someone else? Or what if the good you thought you did was only perceived? And what about good to unborn generations, or the unexpected side-effects of good?

I'm going to assume you're smart enough to work that out, and generous enough to agree that others can too.

But to keep with my promise of keeping it simple, it seems to me there are three kinds of good:
* Personal good: I do good for you now because it's also good for me right now (this is coincidental good);
* Interpersonal good: I do good for you now because it might do good for me later (this is scratch-my-back-good);
* Transpersonal good: I do good for you now because it just makes a better world (this is pay-it-forward good);

It strikes me that good doesn't need to be rewarded or punished -- and if you do, it degrades the good people do from transpersonal good to interpersonal or personal good. It limits their vision, clouds their motives, stunts their courage and generosity.

I don't particularly want to live in a world supervised by some judgmental deity where people only do personal and interpersonal good because they want to get into heaven or avoid hell, or fear coming back as a cockroach. I think that's a stupid, selfish way to live.

I also realise that despite promises of heaven or hell, some people of faith also believe in transpersonal good.

That's good. I do too, and regardless of your faith, if you believe in that as well, then I count myself and this world blessed to have you in it.

So there you have it. The shortest discussion I know how to have about atheism and morality. : :

Does it matter to our Creator if wisdom is spoken through one of His people who calls himself an atheist? I know it makes no difference to me as an observer for our Creator.
Excalibur
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3/27/2015 5:09:37 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/26/2015 10:08:53 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Hi, I'm Ruv, and I'm an atheist.
I grew up in a family of religiously-respectful nontheists who thought religious education was important. My parents felt you ought to learn about religion so you can make your own mind up, and that in itself seemed sensible (though like many people of the day they viewed religion as a smorgasboard of Christian denominations, because that was the Australia they lived in.)

Hello, Ruv. I hope you don't mind that I do this, but I really want to poke at this life of yours for a bit. I don't wish to offend, so you don't have to reply if you feel it was, or because you don't want others to prod too deep into your life.

If it was religious instruction why did your parents believe you would be taught Religious Eduction?

But at the time, there wasn't religious education; just religious instruction -- so it was indoctrination; advertising -- theological marketing for children. Public schools included religious instruction in those days at the taxpayer's expense, and that's what I went to for a couple of hours each week.

How many hours a week? Again, not to offend, but can someone, after a few hours a week, ultimately decide that religion was not for them?

But worst of all were the chaplains themselves. Like bad salesmen, all acted too glad to see me, none seemed sincere, and every time they discussed religion it was like a curtain had been drawn between us. They were watching some sort of picture-show on the other side of the curtain; I couldn't see it, but I could hear them talking about it, and while they were watching it, they could no longer see me.

The chaplains are volunteers, most of whom are given one day's training before signing up to be a volunteer. I assume they did so out of showmanship, as instructing children is not that entertaining; a bit tedious, and somewhat unpleasant. Can you honesty hold it against them for the insincerity? I do not inculpate you if you do, however.

I was a gregarious kid, always interested in people, so I knew the curtain wasn't mine. It was behind their eyelids. Although they were supposed to be teaching me, they were living in their own private world, and they weren't just failing to see me -- they were ignoring anyone who wasn't part of their magical story.

One being sociable does not mean one cannot be apart of a religion.

It was dismaying, because I always loved teachers, but it was educational too. From that time on, whenever anyone talked to me about religion, I'd watch to see if the curtain came down behind their eyes, and sure enough, it did.

To which curtain are you referring to: The curtain you set as you only wanted to see if they had curtains and was not generally interested in the discussion, or the curtain they set when realizing one is not interested about said religion?

If that's what religion did to people, I thought, I wanted no part of it, so I argued with my parents, caviled against further religious instruction, and grew up to be a young nontheist -- an agnostic -- among friends who were Baptists and Anglicans and Methodists and Catholics and one Jehova's Witness. They were my friends, so I went to their rites and services sometimes, but always there was that curtain -- even behind their eyes -- and it got stronger as we got older.

If no education was being put forth, as was their intent to consign you there, why would you need to argue to opt out?

But in a society dominated by religion, life as a young agnostic was fairly comfortable as long as you largely avoided faith. As an agnostic, you're not confronting anyone, offending anyone or contesting their beliefs. If you wanted to participate, you could. If you didn't want to, you opted out. Religious people all assume you're seeking answers; they're reasonably patient with you, even with your skepticism; and everyone believes you'll one day adopt their particular sect of their particular faith once the truth becomes known to you. Sometimes the religious get too pushy, thinking you're on the verge of conversion, but all you have to do is politely retreat. Really, if being agreeable is your definition of good, it's hard to go past being agnostic.

Why you meaning to:

A) Convert them to non-belief
B) Debate them on their beliefs
C) Just wanting to talk in general about religion with no real goal in mind

Either one of these explains the pushiness. Without informing an intent, your skepticism is not known. To use that against them can be a little egocentric.

And so I realised two things, namely that:
* Although I lived in a largely Christian culture, I did not share Christian values, or the values of any other faith; and that
* I did not believe religion was ever an excuse for bad behaviour.

Nothing is an excuse for bad behavior.

And at that point, I realised I was an atheist. It no longer mattered how metaphysics worked or how the universe came about; at that point I wanted no further part of Christianity or its god -- or any other deity.

I am sorry that you feel that way based upon the actions of a few in your community. I am glad; however, that you are generally a good person based on your own ideals, which is not something no one has to do. Again, I do not wish to offend. I'm just trying to further understand your stance and how it came about. If what you provided is something you feel was enough, I'll gladly drop it.
RuvDraba
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3/27/2015 6:39:21 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/27/2015 5:09:37 AM, Excalibur wrote:
Hello, Ruv. I hope you don't mind that I do this, but I really want to poke at this life of yours for a bit.
Hi, Excalibur. I imagined someone would, though that's not why I posted.

If it was religious instruction why did your parents believe you would be taught Religious Eduction?
For most of the twentieth century, in Australia at least, instruction by any authority figure was treated as education. The distinction between empowering a child to make considered decisions and indoctrinating him in what decisions to make wasn't well-defined, nor were the ethics of doing so well-explored. To be frank, I think it's still blurred in some pedagogies: for example, in the motives behind a great deal of religious and home schooling.

can someone, after a few hours a week, ultimately decide that religion was not for them?
It seems that children after a few hours a week can ultimately decide religion is for them -- that's why the religious offer that sort of instruction. It also seems a much greater commitment to commit to a religion than to reject it.

In any case, for better or worse, I'm afraid that I decided otherwise. That didn't mean I lost interest in religion -- I've been fascinated by all manner of human thought all my life. I just didn't want to receive any more instruction in it.

The chaplains are volunteers, most of whom are given one day's training before signing up to be a volunteer.
For clarity and as I intimated above, I was educated under an Australian system. Do your comments and expertise apply there?

To which curtain are you referring to: The curtain you set as you only wanted to see if they had curtains and was not generally interested in the discussion, or the curtain they set when realizing one is not interested about said religion?
I imagine you understand what paternalism is, Excalibur. It means depriving another person of liberty or autonomy, ostensibly for their own good.

When one smiles doing that, it's a false smile. When one affects empathy while doing that, it's feigned empathy. When one teaches while trying to coerce belief instead of invite reasoning, it's intellectual dishonesty.

(Or do you disagree?)

In any case, I didn't realise it at the time, but I've been very sensitive to paternalism all my life. As a child I perceived it as a sort of curtain. Nowadays, as a middle-aged adult I perceive it more as a strong farmyard smell.

If no education was being put forth, as was their intent to consign you there, why would you need to argue to opt out?
I hope my first answer explains that.

in a society dominated by religion, life as a young agnostic was fairly comfortable as long as you largely avoided faith.
Why you meaning to:
A) Convert them to non-belief
B) Debate them on their beliefs
C) Just wanting to talk in general about religion with no real goal in mind
I generally didn't talk to anyone about religion -- rather, I preferred to read, think and keep my own counsel. But many religious groups see teens and young adults as ideal targets for religious conversion, especially if they're quiet, polite and studious as I was. So over perhaps ten years, without inviting any of it with even a peep of interest, I had Catholic friends, Baptist friends, Anglican friends, one Greek Orthodox friend, Evangelical acquaintances, Jehova's Witnesses, Mormons, and even Hare Krishnas try and convert me.

At worst, it was uncomfortable, because I didn't like being rude to people. Sometimes the attention was nice for a while, because people trying to convert you try very hard to seem agreeable and interested in you. But ultimately, I don't like paternalism, and that's really what drives evangelism.

Somewhat ironically though, the only people who didn't try and talk to me about religion were nontheists. I knew a few people who didn't have a faith, but we didn't talk much about why we didn't until my mid 20s. I don't think that affected my decisions, but it does accurately reflect my experience of religious and atheistic agendas.

Without informing an intent, your skepticism is not known. To use that against them can be a little egocentric.
I don't resent them, Excalibur, and in no sense am I complaining. I now feel sorry for people ignorant enough to confuse a posture of paternalism with intellectual or moral authority -- including the very people most inclined to affect that posture. In my experience they're seldom very bright, may not have received much respect in their own lives, and often lack dignity or self-esteem.
dhardage
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3/27/2015 1:18:00 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/27/2015 1:13:29 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
2. Atheism and Morality

I've decided to start this topic sideways, in the hope of keeping it as short and practical as possible.

Has someone ever given you credit for something you didn't do? I realise this may not happen much -- more often we don't get credit for good we actually did. But maybe it was credit for a chore or favour someone else did -- or maybe someone imagined you put more thought into something that was actually quite easy, or made something that you actually bought. But however it is, they praise or thank you more than you feel you deserve.

Have you ever had that?

What did you do about it? Did you point out the mistake, or just take the credit and move on?

If you feel the need to correct the mistake rather than take false credit, then you're a bit like me. And if you understand how regretful it can make you feel to have to correct that mistake and let someone feel less loved than they actually deserve, then whatever your faith, I think you understand entirely how it is that an atheist can have morality.

I realise some religious people get their undershorts knotted about this, but it's simple: everyone, good or bad, wants to be thought well of. But people committed to good want to earn the good opinion of others, while the selfish want it regardless. And it pains good people to have good opinion that isn't earned more than to have earned good opinion they didn't get.

Is that nature or nurture? I don't know. Is that selfish or unselfish? For practical purposes, I don't care. But when you are committed to earning the good opinion of others by doing good for them, then in my books you have bound yourself to honesty, self-examination, generosity, compassion and concern, and the measure of good in us is really how far, how often and how well we cast that net.

There are some philosophical questions here, like what if you earn the good opinion of one group by doing harm to someone else? Or what if the good you thought you did was only perceived? And what about good to unborn generations, or the unexpected side-effects of good?

I'm going to assume you're smart enough to work that out, and generous enough to agree that others can too.

But to keep with my promise of keeping it simple, it seems to me there are three kinds of good:
* Personal good: I do good for you now because it's also good for me right now (this is coincidental good);
* Interpersonal good: I do good for you now because it might do good for me later (this is scratch-my-back-good);
* Transpersonal good: I do good for you now because it just makes a better world (this is pay-it-forward good);

It strikes me that good doesn't need to be rewarded or punished -- and if you do, it degrades the good people do from transpersonal good to interpersonal or personal good. It limits their vision, clouds their motives, stunts their courage and generosity.

I don't particularly want to live in a world supervised by some judgmental deity where people only do personal and interpersonal good because they want to get into heaven or avoid hell, or fear coming back as a cockroach. I think that's a stupid, selfish way to live.

I also realise that despite promises of heaven or hell, some people of faith also believe in transpersonal good.

That's good. I do too, and regardless of your faith, if you believe in that as well, then I count myself and this world blessed to have you in it.

So there you have it. The shortest discussion I know how to have about atheism and morality.

Just a quick comment here, if you don't mind. I was once asked by an evangelical Christian why I helped people, why I wanted to make people happy or otherwise improve their day, since I was not a believer. I had to think for a moment and the answer was simple. Because it made me feel good to help. I think a sense of empathy is one of the strongest drivers of what I consider good. We reflect the emotions of those around us and most people don't want to reflect unpleasant feelings. I can't say this is scientific, objective, or profound, it's how I have tried to live my life and treat others as I would like them to treat me.
RuvDraba
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3/27/2015 1:33:45 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/27/2015 1:18:00 PM, dhardage wrote:
I think a sense of empathy is one of the strongest drivers of what I consider good.

I agree, DHardage, and don't at all mind that you said this. I've had several religious colleagues on DDO tell me that since I'm an atheist, my life must be meaningless, purposeless void, bereft of moral values and devoted entirely to either pleasure and self satisfaction, or the worship of evolution (they're not sure which.)

That's not my experience of my life at all. :)

If I had to characterise my life I'd find that difficult. But Mrs Draba says my life is about the exploration of ideas, using insight to help people, and using kindness and honesty to help grow peoples' courage, compassion and dignity. That seems a very kind thing to say about anyone, but she knows me better than most, and I'd be quite happy for that to be true.
RuvDraba
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3/27/2015 3:24:00 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
3. Why not Live and let Live? Moral foundations of Antitheism
Part (i): The psychology of evil.

This is the first of several parts. I want to frame it properly, so let's dive right in and talk about evil.

For a long time, as an agnostic and then as a young atheist, I thought evil didn't exist. I knew there were good deeds -- acts that helped people; and bad deeds -- acts that hurt, harmed or killed people. But if you'd asked me what evil was, I'd have said I thought it was a socially constructed fiction: evil is bad stuff we've surrounded with a ring of taboo, or superstitious fear. So we take bad which is avoidable, and anxiety and taboo demonise it into evil.

And at some level, I still think that's half right. Most of the bad we do isn't evil, and it certainly shouldn't be demonised. If a child leaves a skateboard on a staircase that's dangerous, but most likely neglectful. Someone might be killed from it, but the kid is hardly a murderer. We can do a great deal of harm with negligence and morally we ought to deal with that, but demonising it seems excessive.

I might well have kept those views all my life, but what changed for me were the responsibilities of leadership. In my various careers, I've been a researcher, teacher, a manager, an executive, an employer, and an advisor of managers and executives, including organisations like police and defence-forces who put themselves in arm's way to protect others. We sometimes say that cream rises, but it's also true that scum floats to the top, and it's fair to say that in my career I've had to deal with more than my share of liars, charlatans, frauds, careerists, narcissists, sadists and workplace psychopaths in situations where sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake. And I've met some very inspirational and remarkable people too.

And here's what I've learned from that.

When people accidentally ignorantly do harm, that's always regrettable. But you can fix it as best you can, and learn to do better next time.

But when power is used deliberately to hurt, harm or kill others then that's an entirely different order of bad. It doesn't just do bad; it rewards bad, and seeds more bad to come.

In other words, bad leaders create bad ideas; and bad ideas create bad communities.

When bad becomes an ecology constructed by authority for its own benefit, the bad becomes systematic, and contaminates communities unbeknown. Almost unconsciously, people adapt to power, however it's used, and immoral uses of power create immorality in others.

Ideally, it ought not to be that way. We all ought to be autonomous and individually responsible for our actions. But the reality is that we cue normality from the people around us, and especially from our authority figures: the better they act, the better we act. The worse they act, the harder it is to act good -- especially when bad is rewarded, and contesting bad is punished.

Even more disturbingly, we may not know it's happening.

Psychologist Phil Zimbardo was the architect of the notorious 1971 Stanford University Prison experiment (SPE), investigating the psychological effects of being a prisoner or a guard. In this experiment, Zimbardo set up a multi-day simulated prison in which volunteer graduates were divided into prisoners and guards. The job of guards was to be authoritarian and subject prisoners to psychological torture; the job of prisons was to be prisoners. He wanted to measure changes, and the US Navy and Marine Corps were interested in the results.

Although originally planned to run for two weeks, over the course of only a few days, the experiment turned into a near-prophetic creation of Abu Ghraib, with escalating sadism creating near-suicidal anguish in its prisoners. Zimbardo himself was drawn into the sadism; two volunteers quit early, and the experiment had to be abandoned after only six days. [http://www.prisonexp.org...]

Zimbardo himself now speaks of evil as the systematic use of power to hurt, harm or destroy. He describes how it entrances people and draws them in. He talks about how sometimes, it takes very little to overturn the evil -- just one voice in the right place and time to call it for what it is.

Anyway, that's my experience too. When evil is entrenched in power, you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution; there's no middle ground. As philosopher Edmund Burke pointed out, for evil to triumph, it's sufficient for good people to do nothing.

And given half a chance, I think we're nearly all good people.

So this is the framing for my next parts -- why I'm not just atheistic, but consider myself compassionately antitheistic. I won't be telling you that religious faith itself is evil, or that the religious are. I want to explain why, however innocently conceived, I think religious doctrine rapidly becomes a sort of Abu Ghraib of the mind and spirit, in which adherents become both guards and prisoners -- victims and perpetrators of harm -- and what I think falls to concerned people (atheists and believers) to do about that.

I realise it's provocative, but that's what we're here for. I hope it may interest.
dhardage
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3/27/2015 3:55:51 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/27/2015 1:33:45 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/27/2015 1:18:00 PM, dhardage wrote:
I think a sense of empathy is one of the strongest drivers of what I consider good.

I agree, DHardage, and don't at all mind that you said this. I've had several religious colleagues on DDO tell me that since I'm an atheist, my life must be meaningless, purposeless void, bereft of moral values and devoted entirely to either pleasure and self satisfaction, or the worship of evolution (they're not sure which.)

That's not my experience of my life at all. :)

If I had to characterise my life I'd find that difficult. But Mrs Draba says my life is about the exploration of ideas, using insight to help people, and using kindness and honesty to help grow peoples' courage, compassion and dignity. That seems a very kind thing to say about anyone, but she knows me better than most, and I'd be quite happy for that to be true.

Just for the record, I have found your interaction with everyone here to be thoughtful and considerate. You have never gone to personal insult or denigrated any other poster. In that very limited time and in those respects, I would have to agree with the Mrs.
ThinkFirst
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3/27/2015 5:54:29 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/26/2015 10:24:07 PM, bornofgod wrote:
At 3/26/2015 10:08:53 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Hi, I'm Ruv, and I'm an atheist.

I also view myself as a creature of conscience and principle opposed to religious abuses, and so I describe myself as a compassionate antitheist.

I mentioned this in another thread, and a member asked me to explain what that was about, so here I am. I thought I'd try and answer three questions:

1) Why atheism and not agnosticism (I've been both);
2) What is morality to an atheist, and what gives it any authority; and finally
3) Why antitheism and not simply live-and-let-live, and what makes it compassionate?

For reasons of length, I'll break this across multiple posts.

1. Why atheism?

I grew up in a family of religiously-respectful nontheists who thought religious education was important. My parents felt you ought to learn about religion so you can make your own mind up, and that in itself seemed sensible (though like many people of the day they viewed religion as a smorgasboard of Christian denominations, because that was the Australia they lived in.)

But at the time, there wasn't religious education; just religious instruction -- so it was indoctrination; advertising -- theological marketing for children. Public schools included religious instruction in those days at the taxpayer's expense, and that's what I went to for a couple of hours each week.

Although I loved learning and delighted in mythology, I regret to say that I found religious instruction boring and estranging. While my siblings both enjoyed religious instruction, to me the Biblical stories seemed tired and silly; the moral lessons -- some pointed lessons about obedience, and some vague ones about love -- seemed either trite or disturbing; and the games inane. But worst of all were the chaplains themselves. Like bad salesmen, all acted too glad to see me, none seemed sincere, and every time they discussed religion it was like a curtain had been drawn between us. They were watching some sort of picture-show on the other side of the curtain; I couldn't see it, but I could hear them talking about it, and while they were watching it, they could no longer see me.

I was a gregarious kid, always interested in people, so I knew the curtain wasn't mine. It was behind their eyelids. Although they were supposed to be teaching me, they were living in their own private world, and they weren't just failing to see me -- they were ignoring anyone who wasn't part of their magical story.

It was dismaying, because I always loved teachers, but it was educational too. From that time on, whenever anyone talked to me about religion, I'd watch to see if the curtain came down behind their eyes, and sure enough, it did.

If that's what religion did to people, I thought, I wanted no part of it, so I argued with my parents, caviled against further religious instruction, and grew up to be a young nontheist -- an agnostic -- among friends who were Baptists and Anglicans and Methodists and Catholics and one Jehova's Witness. They were my friends, so I went to their rites and services sometimes, but always there was that curtain -- even behind their eyes -- and it got stronger as we got older.

Religion, I realised, was putting it there.

But in a society dominated by religion, life as a young agnostic was fairly comfortable as long as you largely avoided faith. As an agnostic, you're not confronting anyone, offending anyone or contesting their beliefs. If you wanted to participate, you could. If you didn't want to, you opted out. Religious people all assume you're seeking answers; they're reasonably patient with you, even with your skepticism; and everyone believes you'll one day adopt their particular sect of their particular faith once the truth becomes known to you. Sometimes the religious get too pushy, thinking you're on the verge of conversion, but all you have to do is politely retreat. Really, if being agreeable is your definition of good, it's hard to go past being agnostic.

But by my mid-twenties, I'd learned more about the world, and had grown uncomfortable with agnosticism. Looking back on it now, I think it had caused me two problems, one of philosophical integrity; and another of moral integrity.

Philosophical integrity: in societies dominated by religion, religion likes to claim that it invented morality. So if you accept (say) Christian morality as a template for your life, why reject Christian metaphysics? This is essentially Pascal's wager at play: you've already accepted the morality, what do you lose if you're wrong? If you live an agnostic life in a largely Christian culture accepting largely Christian values, aren't you just an impious Christian?

Moral integrity: although I had found religiosity psychologically repugnant almost from the outset, I had always assumed that the religious were well-intended and diligent in their observance. After all, aren't their very souls at stake? I suppose I mistook piety for morality. But over time, I discovered more and more things religious people were doing that I felt were bad and wrong, from the way they treated their wives through to the way they favoured church-members, tied charity to homilies, sniped at other denominations, dodged errors, claimed paternalistic authority, and talked down to children. And the more I looked into that, the more I saw they were doing it because of religion, not despite it.

And so I realised two things, namely that:
* Although I lived in a largely Christian culture, I did not share Christian values, or the values of any other faith; and that
* I did not believe religion was ever an excuse for bad behaviour.

And at that point, I realised I was an atheist. It no longer mattered how metaphysics worked or how the universe came about; at that point I wanted no further part of Christianity or its god -- or any other deity.

I hope that may be of interest.

In the next installment I want to talk a bit about atheistic morality from a personal perspective. I've had this discussion in other threads, but always with others (usually the religious) asking pointed 'gotcha' questions. This time I'd like to do it under my own steam. : :

God gave you wisdom to realize that religion wasn't the way to find Him. It's okay that you don't believe He exists. At least it's better than being religious and pretending you know Him and looking like hypocrites to people like you and me.

You need to learn that your proselytizing has no place in an intelligent discussion, bog...
"Never attribute to villainy that which can be adequately explained by stupidity"
-----
"Men rarely if ever dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child. "

-- Robert A Heinlein
bornofgod
Posts: 11,322
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3/27/2015 6:03:04 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/27/2015 5:54:29 PM, ThinkFirst wrote:
At 3/26/2015 10:24:07 PM, bornofgod wrote:
At 3/26/2015 10:08:53 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Hi, I'm Ruv, and I'm an atheist.

I also view myself as a creature of conscience and principle opposed to religious abuses, and so I describe myself as a compassionate antitheist.

I mentioned this in another thread, and a member asked me to explain what that was about, so here I am. I thought I'd try and answer three questions:

1) Why atheism and not agnosticism (I've been both);
2) What is morality to an atheist, and what gives it any authority; and finally
3) Why antitheism and not simply live-and-let-live, and what makes it compassionate?

For reasons of length, I'll break this across multiple posts.

1. Why atheism?

I grew up in a family of religiously-respectful nontheists who thought religious education was important. My parents felt you ought to learn about religion so you can make your own mind up, and that in itself seemed sensible (though like many people of the day they viewed religion as a smorgasboard of Christian denominations, because that was the Australia they lived in.)

But at the time, there wasn't religious education; just religious instruction -- so it was indoctrination; advertising -- theological marketing for children. Public schools included religious instruction in those days at the taxpayer's expense, and that's what I went to for a couple of hours each week.

Although I loved learning and delighted in mythology, I regret to say that I found religious instruction boring and estranging. While my siblings both enjoyed religious instruction, to me the Biblical stories seemed tired and silly; the moral lessons -- some pointed lessons about obedience, and some vague ones about love -- seemed either trite or disturbing; and the games inane. But worst of all were the chaplains themselves. Like bad salesmen, all acted too glad to see me, none seemed sincere, and every time they discussed religion it was like a curtain had been drawn between us. They were watching some sort of picture-show on the other side of the curtain; I couldn't see it, but I could hear them talking about it, and while they were watching it, they could no longer see me.

I was a gregarious kid, always interested in people, so I knew the curtain wasn't mine. It was behind their eyelids. Although they were supposed to be teaching me, they were living in their own private world, and they weren't just failing to see me -- they were ignoring anyone who wasn't part of their magical story.

It was dismaying, because I always loved teachers, but it was educational too. From that time on, whenever anyone talked to me about religion, I'd watch to see if the curtain came down behind their eyes, and sure enough, it did.

If that's what religion did to people, I thought, I wanted no part of it, so I argued with my parents, caviled against further religious instruction, and grew up to be a young nontheist -- an agnostic -- among friends who were Baptists and Anglicans and Methodists and Catholics and one Jehova's Witness. They were my friends, so I went to their rites and services sometimes, but always there was that curtain -- even behind their eyes -- and it got stronger as we got older.

Religion, I realised, was putting it there.

But in a society dominated by religion, life as a young agnostic was fairly comfortable as long as you largely avoided faith. As an agnostic, you're not confronting anyone, offending anyone or contesting their beliefs. If you wanted to participate, you could. If you didn't want to, you opted out. Religious people all assume you're seeking answers; they're reasonably patient with you, even with your skepticism; and everyone believes you'll one day adopt their particular sect of their particular faith once the truth becomes known to you. Sometimes the religious get too pushy, thinking you're on the verge of conversion, but all you have to do is politely retreat. Really, if being agreeable is your definition of good, it's hard to go past being agnostic.

But by my mid-twenties, I'd learned more about the world, and had grown uncomfortable with agnosticism. Looking back on it now, I think it had caused me two problems, one of philosophical integrity; and another of moral integrity.

Philosophical integrity: in societies dominated by religion, religion likes to claim that it invented morality. So if you accept (say) Christian morality as a template for your life, why reject Christian metaphysics? This is essentially Pascal's wager at play: you've already accepted the morality, what do you lose if you're wrong? If you live an agnostic life in a largely Christian culture accepting largely Christian values, aren't you just an impious Christian?

Moral integrity: although I had found religiosity psychologically repugnant almost from the outset, I had always assumed that the religious were well-intended and diligent in their observance. After all, aren't their very souls at stake? I suppose I mistook piety for morality. But over time, I discovered more and more things religious people were doing that I felt were bad and wrong, from the way they treated their wives through to the way they favoured church-members, tied charity to homilies, sniped at other denominations, dodged errors, claimed paternalistic authority, and talked down to children. And the more I looked into that, the more I saw they were doing it because of religion, not despite it.

And so I realised two things, namely that:
* Although I lived in a largely Christian culture, I did not share Christian values, or the values of any other faith; and that
* I did not believe religion was ever an excuse for bad behaviour.

And at that point, I realised I was an atheist. It no longer mattered how metaphysics worked or how the universe came about; at that point I wanted no further part of Christianity or its god -- or any other deity.

I hope that may be of interest.

In the next installment I want to talk a bit about atheistic morality from a personal perspective. I've had this discussion in other threads, but always with others (usually the religious) asking pointed 'gotcha' questions. This time I'd like to do it under my own steam. : :

God gave you wisdom to realize that religion wasn't the way to find Him. It's okay that you don't believe He exists. At least it's better than being religious and pretending you know Him and looking like hypocrites to people like you and me.

You need to learn that your proselytizing has no place in an intelligent discussion, bog... : :

Who is more intelligent than the one who designed the trees, rocks, water and human beings of this world?

Can you build a tree, rock, water, or human being?

If you can't, then you must not be very intelligent.
ThinkFirst
Posts: 1,391
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3/27/2015 6:06:57 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/27/2015 6:03:04 PM, bornofgod wrote:
At 3/27/2015 5:54:29 PM, ThinkFirst wrote:
At 3/26/2015 10:24:07 PM, bornofgod wrote:
At 3/26/2015 10:08:53 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Hi, I'm Ruv, and I'm an atheist.

I also view myself as a creature of conscience and principle opposed to religious abuses, and so I describe myself as a compassionate antitheist.

I mentioned this in another thread, and a member asked me to explain what that was about, so here I am. I thought I'd try and answer three questions:

1) Why atheism and not agnosticism (I've been both);
2) What is morality to an atheist, and what gives it any authority; and finally
3) Why antitheism and not simply live-and-let-live, and what makes it compassionate?

For reasons of length, I'll break this across multiple posts.

1. Why atheism?

I grew up in a family of religiously-respectful nontheists who thought religious education was important. My parents felt you ought to learn about religion so you can make your own mind up, and that in itself seemed sensible (though like many people of the day they viewed religion as a smorgasboard of Christian denominations, because that was the Australia they lived in.)

But at the time, there wasn't religious education; just religious instruction -- so it was indoctrination; advertising -- theological marketing for children. Public schools included religious instruction in those days at the taxpayer's expense, and that's what I went to for a couple of hours each week.

Although I loved learning and delighted in mythology, I regret to say that I found religious instruction boring and estranging. While my siblings both enjoyed religious instruction, to me the Biblical stories seemed tired and silly; the moral lessons -- some pointed lessons about obedience, and some vague ones about love -- seemed either trite or disturbing; and the games inane. But worst of all were the chaplains themselves. Like bad salesmen, all acted too glad to see me, none seemed sincere, and every time they discussed religion it was like a curtain had been drawn between us. They were watching some sort of picture-show on the other side of the curtain; I couldn't see it, but I could hear them talking about it, and while they were watching it, they could no longer see me.

I was a gregarious kid, always interested in people, so I knew the curtain wasn't mine. It was behind their eyelids. Although they were supposed to be teaching me, they were living in their own private world, and they weren't just failing to see me -- they were ignoring anyone who wasn't part of their magical story.

It was dismaying, because I always loved teachers, but it was educational too. From that time on, whenever anyone talked to me about religion, I'd watch to see if the curtain came down behind their eyes, and sure enough, it did.

If that's what religion did to people, I thought, I wanted no part of it, so I argued with my parents, caviled against further religious instruction, and grew up to be a young nontheist -- an agnostic -- among friends who were Baptists and Anglicans and Methodists and Catholics and one Jehova's Witness. They were my friends, so I went to their rites and services sometimes, but always there was that curtain -- even behind their eyes -- and it got stronger as we got older.

Religion, I realised, was putting it there.

But in a society dominated by religion, life as a young agnostic was fairly comfortable as long as you largely avoided faith. As an agnostic, you're not confronting anyone, offending anyone or contesting their beliefs. If you wanted to participate, you could. If you didn't want to, you opted out. Religious people all assume you're seeking answers; they're reasonably patient with you, even with your skepticism; and everyone believes you'll one day adopt their particular sect of their particular faith once the truth becomes known to you. Sometimes the religious get too pushy, thinking you're on the verge of conversion, but all you have to do is politely retreat. Really, if being agreeable is your definition of good, it's hard to go past being agnostic.

But by my mid-twenties, I'd learned more about the world, and had grown uncomfortable with agnosticism. Looking back on it now, I think it had caused me two problems, one of philosophical integrity; and another of moral integrity.

Philosophical integrity: in societies dominated by religion, religion likes to claim that it invented morality. So if you accept (say) Christian morality as a template for your life, why reject Christian metaphysics? This is essentially Pascal's wager at play: you've already accepted the morality, what do you lose if you're wrong? If you live an agnostic life in a largely Christian culture accepting largely Christian values, aren't you just an impious Christian?

Moral integrity: although I had found religiosity psychologically repugnant almost from the outset, I had always assumed that the religious were well-intended and diligent in their observance. After all, aren't their very souls at stake? I suppose I mistook piety for morality. But over time, I discovered more and more things religious people were doing that I felt were bad and wrong, from the way they treated their wives through to the way they favoured church-members, tied charity to homilies, sniped at other denominations, dodged errors, claimed paternalistic authority, and talked down to children. And the more I looked into that, the more I saw they were doing it because of religion, not despite it.

And so I realised two things, namely that:
* Although I lived in a largely Christian culture, I did not share Christian values, or the values of any other faith; and that
* I did not believe religion was ever an excuse for bad behaviour.

And at that point, I realised I was an atheist. It no longer mattered how metaphysics worked or how the universe came about; at that point I wanted no further part of Christianity or its god -- or any other deity.

I hope that may be of interest.

In the next installment I want to talk a bit about atheistic morality from a personal perspective. I've had this discussion in other threads, but always with others (usually the religious) asking pointed 'gotcha' questions. This time I'd like to do it under my own steam. : :

God gave you wisdom to realize that religion wasn't the way to find Him. It's okay that you don't believe He exists. At least it's better than being religious and pretending you know Him and looking like hypocrites to people like you and me.

You need to learn that your proselytizing has no place in an intelligent discussion, bog... : :

Who is more intelligent than the one who designed the trees, rocks, water and human beings of this world?

My, what a trite, presumptuous little question. Asking "who" actually presumes:
1) They were designed
2) A personage behind it.

Neither are accurate. They were not designed, but naturally formed.

Can you build a tree, rock, water, or human being?

I can contribute to "building an human being." I can plant and nurture a tree. I can use tools that manipulate enough force to bond elements and "create" a rock, yes.

If you can't, then you must not be very intelligent.

Your assessment of my intellect is meaningless, to me.
"Never attribute to villainy that which can be adequately explained by stupidity"
-----
"Men rarely if ever dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child. "

-- Robert A Heinlein
bornofgod
Posts: 11,322
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3/27/2015 6:14:24 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/27/2015 6:06:57 PM, ThinkFirst wrote:
At 3/27/2015 6:03:04 PM, bornofgod wrote:
At 3/27/2015 5:54:29 PM, ThinkFirst wrote:
At 3/26/2015 10:24:07 PM, bornofgod wrote:
At 3/26/2015 10:08:53 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Hi, I'm Ruv, and I'm an atheist.

I also view myself as a creature of conscience and principle opposed to religious abuses, and so I describe myself as a compassionate antitheist.

I mentioned this in another thread, and a member asked me to explain what that was about, so here I am. I thought I'd try and answer three questions:

1) Why atheism and not agnosticism (I've been both);
2) What is morality to an atheist, and what gives it any authority; and finally

And so I realised two things, namely that:
* Although I lived in a largely Christian culture, I did not share Christian values, or the values of any other faith; and that
* I did not believe religion was ever an excuse for bad behaviour.

And at that point, I realised I was an atheist. It no longer mattered how metaphysics worked or how the universe came about; at that point I wanted no further part of Christianity or its god -- or any other deity.

I hope that may be of interest.

In the next installment I want to talk a bit about atheistic morality from a personal perspective. I've had this discussion in other threads, but always with others (usually the religious) asking pointed 'gotcha' questions. This time I'd like to do it under my own steam. : :

God gave you wisdom to realize that religion wasn't the way to find Him. It's okay that you don't believe He exists. At least it's better than being religious and pretending you know Him and looking like hypocrites to people like you and me.

You need to learn that your proselytizing has no place in an intelligent discussion, bog... : :

Who is more intelligent than the one who designed the trees, rocks, water and human beings of this world?

My, what a trite, presumptuous little question. Asking "who" actually presumes:
1) They were designed
2) A personage behind it.

Human beings need information to design and build any visible object in this world. What do you think it takes to build a tree or human body?

If it takes information to build visible objects, there has to be a Creator of this information. A tree simply can't build itself and neither can a skyscraper.

Neither are accurate. They were not designed, but naturally formed.

I'm much more intelligent than you. I know that I can't possibly design and form a tree. A tree can't build itself.

Can you build a tree, rock, water, or human being?

I can contribute to "building an human being." I can plant and nurture a tree. I can use tools that manipulate enough force to bond elements and "create" a rock, yes.

All human beings are liars who are proud of building things with human hands that were designed with very specific attributes to be able to build anything. Can you imagine if human beings weren't designed with fingers?

If you can't, then you must not be very intelligent.

Your assessment of my intellect is meaningless, to me. : :

I know where your thoughts come from and they certainly weren't created by you.
RuvDraba
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3/28/2015 4:39:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
3. Why not Live and let Live? Moral foundations of Antitheism
Part (ii): The paternalism of faith.


Paternalism (from Latin pater, meaning father) is to treat another person like a child. In other words, it's to act, ostensibly for the good of another person without their consent, as parents do for children.

Religion -- especially doctrinal, monotheistic religion -- is highly paternalistic. Christians, for example, use the image of a shepherd with his flock. Ostensibly empowered by superior shepherdly wisdom and motivated by the good of the flock, shepherds will urge the flock to go in way and another, keeping their sheep together, hopefully happy, and hopefully safe.

But sheep are sheep, of course. They might like flocking, but they also have minds of their own.

And when an individual sheep wants to go against the flock, a shepherd will first warn it. If that doesn't work, he'll yell and rebuke it, trusting the sheep's fear of the shepherd and dislike of conflict to pull it into line. And if that doesn't work perhaps he'll block the sheep's movement with his crook, or hook and pull it. And if that doesn't work, perhaps he'll beat the sheep, or the shepherd's dog will nip it, to remind the sheep who's really in charge.

Why? Because, the shepherd argues, a little fear, a bit of humiliation, indignity, coercion or pain, is better for the sheep than whatever inevitably awaits it for exercising its own foolish choice. You sheep can't trust yourselves, says the shepherd. You can't trust what you see or hear, or your own wisdom, conscience or experience. You have to just trust me -- your shepherd. Not because you chose me, but because I chose you.

Doctrinal monotheism is a faith of paternalism. Humans, monotheism tells us, are steeped from birth in corruption, error and unworthiness, through no deed of their individual selves. Born bad and commanded to become good, we cannot do that alone. But more than this: all good is defined by the transcendental deity: provider of everything, judge of everything, the all-powerful, supreme supervisor, the very definition of good.

So doctrinal monotheism tells us that there is no good other than doctrinal good, and doctrinal good is whatever the deity's prophets and scribes have said it is. We can't explore good ourselves, invent it, or even discover it by accident. Because by definition, anything you do that is not doctrinally required cannot be good.

So your personal, individual, autonomous application of conscience and intellect cannot be good -- unless you yourself are a holy shepherd, divinely empowered to know how to interpret doctrine the 'correct' way.

And this applies whether you're a believer or not. Maybe you don't like that faith's idea of good -- maybe you have some other faith, or some other sense of good, or you want to discover good with your eyes, ears and heart.

Too bad! You can't explore good for yourself, and really you shouldn't choose some other faith, because the only good faith is the shepherd's faith, exactly as the shepherd understands it.

And if you disagree with the shepherd, then the shepherd has the right -- no, the duty! -- to pull you back into line because after all, you're just a sheep.

And if you don't do as the shepherd wants then you're stupid and willful, and if you fight the shepherd's right to shepherd you at all, then you're a danger to the whole flock -- what if they all got that idea? So you're evil, and ought to be reviled, ostracised, and feared -- or butchered for lamb chops.

Or maybe you're just a child, trying to learn what good is, trying to grow to take a wise and intelligent place in a broad, pluralistic community.

Too bad! The shepherd knows best. Not just what you need to thrive and survive as a child, but whom you should be as an adult. The shepherd is in fact deciding what you may and may not know, whom and what you ought to loathe and fear, and how you should one day live, and is in fact urging you to spend the rest of your life in unconscious, anxious obedience only to the chosen shepherds.

I suppose that all makes a kind of airless, closed-box sense of logic, as far as it goes. But I find three key problems with it:

1) Most shepherds aren't terribly wise. Vain and self-important, too much in love with their shepherd's smocks and crooks, their shepherd's privilege, shepherd's power and shepherd's pay, they know a lot less than they admit; and never admit ignorance, greed, corruption or error anyway, except when it's safely in the past.

2) I don't know why people don't point this out more, but shepherds farm sheep. A shepherd's wage is to fleece and devour the flock. There's huge hypocrisy in professional shepherding, and even if the shepherding itself is beneficial, its conflicts of interest are still always there, and must be made transparent and accountable to the flock itself -- though they never are. And finally

3) Not everyone is born a sheep. Really and truly, there are people like myself who from childhood would rather make their own mistakes, however bad, and not be shepherded around unless we're hurting someone else. We don't necessarily mind if others want to live like that, but we greatly object to vain, stupid and corrupt shepherds telling us we're sheep.

So this is my take on the paternalism of faith. Not all faith, but certainly, doctrinal monotheism, theocratic polytheism, theocratic Buddhism and so on... All up, that's about 80% of the world's faith -- much more than a majority -- it's the vast preponderance of it.

Here, I want to emphasise that I'm not intrinsically opposed to shepherding people around -- especially when they're clearly vulnerable, or in times of danger. And I'm not saying every shepherd is evil or every member of every flock is stupid. I'm saying that the shepherd/flock relationship itself has inbuilt moral problems. I hope to have shown that the problems are vested in the paternalism of the relationship, and in the next post I'd like to explore in detail what I think some of those problems are, and why they're not just unfortunate but a breeding-ground of evil, and why I think it falls to everyone -- atheists and the faithful -- to challenge those problems when we see them.

I hope that may be of interest.
RuvDraba
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3/30/2015 4:11:10 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/28/2015 4:39:32 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
3. Why not Live and let Live? Moral foundations of Antitheism
Part (iii): The price of paternalism.


In my last post, I argued that doctrinal monotheism was highly paternalistic. It has a supervisory god; a prescription for how to live; it mandates believers telling others what to think and how to act; it frequently discourages challenge, investigation and dissent; can have great difficulty dealing with contending evidence; and elevates clergy into positions of moral and intellectual authority for no other skill than their ability to remember and recite dogma.

I also mentioned that I am not opposed to paternalism in principle or in every case. I understand that paternalism of some kind can be necessary for safety and social order.

But doctrinal monotheism isn't case-by-case paternalism, balancing collective good against personal needs. Doctrinal monotheism is blanket paternalism setting out physics, metaphysics, morality, human development and an entire social order.

What is the cost of that? Socially? Psychologically? Politically? Here are some thoughts:

* Intolerance: paternalistic faiths are inherently opposed to pluralism and intellectual diversity, since they're not comfortable socially or politically until everyone thinks the way they do. Thus they have strong motive (and often feel they have a mandate) to stamp out the intellectual liberty we call freedom of thought. Paternalistic faiths then, may invoke freedom of worship for themselves, but are opposed to it in others. They may invoke freedom of speech to support their own social criticisms, but are opposed to freedom of speech used against their own faith. They would support freedom of association to assist their worship, but are opposed to association with (and therefore providing benefit to) anyone who opposes their faith. They may quote pluralistic slogans like E Pluribus Unum but what they mean by that is: we will forge your diversity into our unity.

* Ignorance: in order to deprive others of liberty and autonomy, you have to believe that what you know is enough. Knowledge is not docile -- smart people have their own ideas. So paternalistic faiths want people to be dumb, to not think to much, to let clergy and other religious leaders do the thinking. Moreover, they will reject new ideas -- scientific, political, moral -- that don't fit conveniently into their mandate of authority.

* Jealousy: Moral or intellectual authority outside the faith is not subject to the authority of faith. Thus paternalistic faiths are jealous of any moral or intellectual authority not their own. Instead of contesting ideas on a level intellectual field -- on evidence, say -- they launch cowardly and mendacious political attacks to undermine any authority not theirs.

* Corruption: The shepherd's biggest fear is to lose his flock -- because without a flock, he has no authority, identity or purpose as a shepherd. Thus, ensuring the flock's obedience to the shepherd is more important than ensuring the shepherd's service to the flock. This is why authorities in paternalistic faiths are never known for admitting error before it is exposed; or confessing fault or corruption at the height of their power. However they are known for power-abuses, for shielding their fellows, for altering their own doctrines to keep adherents, and for demanding high moral integrity from their flock, while showing no great moral or intellectual integrity themselves.

If you accept that paternalistic faiths are inherently vulnerable to intolerance, ignorance, jealousy and corruption, then that explains a lot. In particular, I've noticed that doctrinal monotheism:

* Supports wars that expand its power, while publicly professing peace;
* Supports dictatorships when the dictator is either of the faith, or is an enemy of the faith's enemy;
* Has two faces: a compassionate one for the faithful, and spiteful one for infidels;
* Has two versions of democracy: the one that gets it into power, and the one that keeps it there;
* Is opposed in principle to separation of church and state -- because it believes it is the state;
* Is opposed to liberty because it feels liberty is an enemy of obedience;
* Lies and confects libels against anything it doesn't like or understand;
* Factionalises and divides itself through political jealousies -- and can never heal them;
* Limits accountability to its own adherents, and repudiates accountability to anyone else; and
* Alters its doctrinal interpretations any way it wants in order to gain and maintain adherents; and
* Fights against anything contesting its power, but fights most bitterly against its own rival sects.

And here's my problem with that: I don't see any good thing doctrinal monotheism does that can't be done some other way. But I'm darned if I can see any end-state offered by doctrinal monotheism that reflects a world I want to live in.

And maybe the faithful can't either. Virtually every doctrinally monotheistic faith has some eschatology of End Times -- some cataclysmic destruction of humanity in which their own ideological tyranny is finally asserted.

I can't support a world that thinks this the pinnacle of moral destiny, nor can I respect the moral vision of anyone who supports that. So to me, every step forward for doctrinal monotheism is a step backward for human development.
bornofgod
Posts: 11,322
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3/30/2015 9:01:01 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/28/2015 4:39:32 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
3. Why not Live and let Live? Moral foundations of Antitheism
Part (ii): The paternalism of faith.


Paternalism (from Latin pater, meaning father) is to treat another person like a child. In other words, it's to act, ostensibly for the good of another person without their consent, as parents do for children.

Religion -- especially doctrinal, monotheistic religion -- is highly paternalistic. Christians, for example, use the image of a shepherd with his flock. Ostensibly empowered by superior shepherdly wisdom and motivated by the good of the flock, shepherds will urge the flock to go in way and another, keeping their sheep together, hopefully happy, and hopefully safe.

But sheep are sheep, of course. They might like flocking, but they also have minds of their own.

And when an individual sheep wants to go against the flock, a shepherd will first warn it. If that doesn't work, he'll yell and rebuke it, trusting the sheep's fear of the shepherd and dislike of conflict to pull it into line. And if that doesn't work perhaps he'll block the sheep's movement with his crook, or hook and pull it. And if that doesn't work, perhaps he'll beat the sheep, or the shepherd's dog will nip it, to remind the sheep who's really in charge.

Why? Because, the shepherd argues, a little fear, a bit of humiliation, indignity, coercion or pain, is better for the sheep than whatever inevitably awaits it for exercising its own foolish choice. You sheep can't trust yourselves, says the shepherd. You can't trust what you see or hear, or your own wisdom, conscience or experience. You have to just trust me -- your shepherd. Not because you chose me, but because I chose you.

Doctrinal monotheism is a faith of paternalism. Humans, monotheism tells us, are steeped from birth in corruption, error and unworthiness, through no deed of their individual selves. Born bad and commanded to become good, we cannot do that alone. But more than this: all good is defined by the transcendental deity: provider of everything, judge of everything, the all-powerful, supreme supervisor, the very definition of good.

So doctrinal monotheism tells us that there is no good other than doctrinal good, and doctrinal good is whatever the deity's prophets and scribes have said it is. We can't explore good ourselves, invent it, or even discover it by accident. Because by definition, anything you do that is not doctrinally required cannot be good.

So your personal, individual, autonomous application of conscience and intellect cannot be good -- unless you yourself are a holy shepherd, divinely empowered to know how to interpret doctrine the 'correct' way.

And this applies whether you're a believer or not. Maybe you don't like that faith's idea of good -- maybe you have some other faith, or some other sense of good, or you want to discover good with your eyes, ears and heart.

Too bad! You can't explore good for yourself, and really you shouldn't choose some other faith, because the only good faith is the shepherd's faith, exactly as the shepherd understands it.

And if you disagree with the shepherd, then the shepherd has the right -- no, the duty! -- to pull you back into line because after all, you're just a sheep.

And if you don't do as the shepherd wants then you're stupid and willful, and if you fight the shepherd's right to shepherd you at all, then you're a danger to the whole flock -- what if they all got that idea? So you're evil, and ought to be reviled, ostracised, and feared -- or butchered for lamb chops.

Or maybe you're just a child, trying to learn what good is, trying to grow to take a wise and intelligent place in a broad, pluralistic community.

Too bad! The shepherd knows best. Not just what you need to thrive and survive as a child, but whom you should be as an adult. The shepherd is in fact deciding what you may and may not know, whom and what you ought to loathe and fear, and how you should one day live, and is in fact urging you to spend the rest of your life in unconscious, anxious obedience only to the chosen shepherds.

I suppose that all makes a kind of airless, closed-box sense of logic, as far as it goes. But I find three key problems with it:

1) Most shepherds aren't terribly wise. Vain and self-important, too much in love with their shepherd's smocks and crooks, their shepherd's privilege, shepherd's power and shepherd's pay, they know a lot less than they admit; and never admit ignorance, greed, corruption or error anyway, except when it's safely in the past.

2) I don't know why people don't point this out more, but shepherds farm sheep. A shepherd's wage is to fleece and devour the flock. There's huge hypocrisy in professional shepherding, and even if the shepherding itself is beneficial, its conflicts of interest are still always there, and must be made transparent and accountable to the flock itself -- though they never are. And finally

3) Not everyone is born a sheep. Really and truly, there are people like myself who from childhood would rather make their own mistakes, however bad, and not be shepherded around unless we're hurting someone else. We don't necessarily mind if others want to live like that, but we greatly object to vain, stupid and corrupt shepherds telling us we're sheep.

So this is my take on the paternalism of faith. Not all faith, but certainly, doctrinal monotheism, theocratic polytheism, theocratic Buddhism and so on... All up, that's about 80% of the world's faith -- much more than a majority -- it's the vast preponderance of it.

Here, I want to emphasise that I'm not intrinsically opposed to shepherding people around -- especially when they're clearly vulnerable, or in times of danger. And I'm not saying every shepherd is evil or every member of every flock is stupid. I'm saying that the shepherd/flock relationship itself has inbuilt moral problems. I hope to have shown that the problems are vested in the paternalism of the relationship, and in the next post I'd like to explore in detail what I think some of those problems are, and why they're not just unfortunate but a breeding-ground of evil, and why I think it falls to everyone -- atheists and the faithful -- to challenge those problems when we see them.

I hope that may be of interest. : :

You're a much better shepherd than any Christian I've met but you're still deceived by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil like all God's people are.

God created evil and good to confuse His people during this first age. By using evil in this world, He could draw out us servants ( prophets, saints and believers ) to use to testify to His knowledge and learn that this world is only a temporary one to teach us who we are and how we were created.

Now that I totally understand how God planned, created and formed everything to give us bodies and a world to experience, good and evil are only illusions that won't exist in the new age after this world is destroyed.

This was a very well written thread with lots of wisdom from God. I'm surprised you don't know Him.
bornofgod
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3/30/2015 9:09:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/30/2015 4:11:10 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/28/2015 4:39:32 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
3. Why not Live and let Live? Moral foundations of Antitheism
Part (iii): The price of paternalism.


In my last post, I argued that doctrinal monotheism was highly paternalistic. It has a supervisory god; a prescription for how to live; it mandates believers telling others what to think and how to act; it frequently discourages challenge, investigation and dissent; can have great difficulty dealing with contending evidence; and elevates clergy into positions of moral and intellectual authority for no other skill than their ability to remember and recite dogma.

I also mentioned that I am not opposed to paternalism in principle or in every case. I understand that paternalism of some kind can be necessary for safety and social order.

But doctrinal monotheism isn't case-by-case paternalism, balancing collective good against personal needs. Doctrinal monotheism is blanket paternalism setting out physics, metaphysics, morality, human development and an entire social order.

What is the cost of that? Socially? Psychologically? Politically? Here are some thoughts:

* Intolerance: paternalistic faiths are inherently opposed to pluralism and intellectual diversity, since they're not comfortable socially or politically until everyone thinks the way they do. Thus they have strong motive (and often feel they have a mandate) to stamp out the intellectual liberty we call freedom of thought. Paternalistic faiths then, may invoke freedom of worship for themselves, but are opposed to it in others. They may invoke freedom of speech to support their own social criticisms, but are opposed to freedom of speech used against their own faith. They would support freedom of association to assist their worship, but are opposed to association with (and therefore providing benefit to) anyone who opposes their faith. They may quote pluralistic slogans like E Pluribus Unum but what they mean by that is: we will forge your diversity into our unity.

* Ignorance: in order to deprive others of liberty and autonomy, you have to believe that what you know is enough. Knowledge is not docile -- smart people have their own ideas. So paternalistic faiths want people to be dumb, to not think to much, to let clergy and other religious leaders do the thinking. Moreover, they will reject new ideas -- scientific, political, moral -- that don't fit conveniently into their mandate of authority.

* Jealousy: Moral or intellectual authority outside the faith is not subject to the authority of faith. Thus paternalistic faiths are jealous of any moral or intellectual authority not their own. Instead of contesting ideas on a level intellectual field -- on evidence, say -- they launch cowardly and mendacious political attacks to undermine any authority not theirs.

* Corruption: The shepherd's biggest fear is to lose his flock -- because without a flock, he has no authority, identity or purpose as a shepherd. Thus, ensuring the flock's obedience to the shepherd is more important than ensuring the shepherd's service to the flock. This is why authorities in paternalistic faiths are never known for admitting error before it is exposed; or confessing fault or corruption at the height of their power. However they are known for power-abuses, for shielding their fellows, for altering their own doctrines to keep adherents, and for demanding high moral integrity from their flock, while showing no great moral or intellectual integrity themselves.

If you accept that paternalistic faiths are inherently vulnerable to intolerance, ignorance, jealousy and corruption, then that explains a lot. In particular, I've noticed that doctrinal monotheism:

* Supports wars that expand its power, while publicly professing peace;
* Supports dictatorships when the dictator is either of the faith, or is an enemy of the faith's enemy;
* Has two faces: a compassionate one for the faithful, and spiteful one for infidels;
* Has two versions of democracy: the one that gets it into power, and the one that keeps it there;
* Is opposed in principle to separation of church and state -- because it believes it is the state;
* Is opposed to liberty because it feels liberty is an enemy of obedience;
* Lies and confects libels against anything it doesn't like or understand;
* Factionalises and divides itself through political jealousies -- and can never heal them;
* Limits accountability to its own adherents, and repudiates accountability to anyone else; and
* Alters its doctrinal interpretations any way it wants in order to gain and maintain adherents; and
* Fights against anything contesting its power, but fights most bitterly against its own rival sects.

And here's my problem with that: I don't see any good thing doctrinal monotheism does that can't be done some other way. But I'm darned if I can see any end-state offered by doctrinal monotheism that reflects a world I want to live in.

And maybe the faithful can't either. Virtually every doctrinally monotheistic faith has some eschatology of End Times -- some cataclysmic destruction of humanity in which their own ideological tyranny is finally asserted.

I can't support a world that thinks this the pinnacle of moral destiny, nor can I respect the moral vision of anyone who supports that. So to me, every step forward for doctrinal monotheism is a step backward for human development. : :

Don't worry my friend. God has planned to destroy all the paternalistic religious people and everything else that's visible to man in this world.

We get to start over with new flesh in a New Heaven and Earth without any of them calling themselves Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, agnostics, blacks, whites, yellows, reds, gays, rich, poor, diseased, disabled, etc.

Christians have never interpreted the end of age correctly because they always save themselves from it. They too will be burned up by hot molten lava.
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
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3/30/2015 9:48:11 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
BoG, thank you for your comments and encouragement. From my perspective, if the world is destroyed later on by a supernatural power I can't control, that's not my concern.

But while we share this world, I see it as part of my responsibility to try and look after them. But I don't want to be a shepherd except in emergencies. I'd rather hold up a lamp if I can, so others can see better what's around them, and make better decisions.

I agree that some of those decisions may be deluded and wrong and bad. But if that's true, then there's still a big difference between gathering evidence and exercising a contained intervention, and gathering support so we can take away peoples' autonomy.

One of the cruelest things doctrinal monotheism has said is that people can't ever be trusted. And one of the most cynical and hypocritical things to say after that is: "Trust me -- I'll look after it all for you."
bornofgod
Posts: 11,322
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3/30/2015 10:00:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/30/2015 9:48:11 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
BoG, thank you for your comments and encouragement. From my perspective, if the world is destroyed later on by a supernatural power I can't control, that's not my concern.

You're wisdom from God I admire and you're right, you can't control what God has planned for His people.

But while we share this world, I see it as part of my responsibility to try and look after them. But I don't want to be a shepherd except in emergencies. I'd rather hold up a lamp if I can, so others can see better what's around them, and make better decisions.

You definitely hold up a light my friend, even though you don't quite understand where the light came from.

I agree that some of those decisions may be deluded and wrong and bad. But if that's true, then there's still a big difference between gathering evidence and exercising a contained intervention, and gathering support so we can take away peoples' autonomy.

No decision is deluded, wrong or bad. I'm not against God's people who think they made a decision to follow their gods. I know who planned them.

One of the cruelest things doctrinal monotheism has said is that people can't ever be trusted. And one of the most cynical and hypocritical things to say after that is: "Trust me -- I'll look after it all for you." : :

There's a reason God told His people to listen to His Voice and obey ALL His commandments but most of His people don't know which of His people will be used to speak His thoughts. To meet people like you who speak wisdom without even knowing Him is very humbling even to His last saint who is writing this post.