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August 31 2008

Joss Whedon vs. The Sky Bully. Celebrity Atheist List collects some pretty intelligent and catchy quotes from Joss on the subject of atheism and faith.

I just realized how ironic it is when we call Joss god (and I'll use the non-capitalized g here so I won't offend anyone - I hope), or when we say 'In Joss we trust' or other things with that same effect.

I'm not sure if I believe in the Sky Bully or not. But I do believe in what Joss's saying here: I believe the only reality is how we treat each other.
This is a cool collection. While my beliefs aren't the exact same as Joss's, I listened to the commentary for Objects in Space, and was shocked at what he said. It was as though he was explaining my beliefs to me, so that I understood them. I had been been questioning the universe at the time,and was thinking similar thoughts, but hadn't been able to make sense of them until he explained them so eloquently. It was a very singular moment in my existence, to realize I wasn't the only person to think this way.

That Angel quote is probably my favorite from the show, just because it sums it up so beautifully. When people ask what I believe, I just say that to them.
Wow, it would have made much more sense if our discussion on religion, atheÔsm and the like would've taken place in this thread ;). (Also, yikes, it seems like I've some messages to read up on there)

"The morality comes from the absense of any grander scheme, not from the presense of any grander scheme." Have I ever mentioned how much I like this Joss guy? ;). And yes, like I've said before (on the thread I linked to above, for instance) the Angel quote from Epiphany was almost shocking at that time: I'd never heard something that close to my personal life philosophy on an American television show. I still very often use it, when discussing morality without religion, because it perfectly sums up how we can be moral without a God or without religion, when quite a few religious people (wrongly) feel that without religion, one lacks direction and/or a moral code.
I was just watching Charmed a few minutes ago actually and I was wondering about the effect religion has on creativity. I wonder how many supernatural/fantasy writers are non-believers and how many are believers. The bible is very explicit when talking about witches and demons. I always thought about the character of Willow as well, a gay, jewish, witch...I wonder how the church would feel about that, lol.

I personally identify strongly with Whedon's beliefs. However, I cannot claim to have had the same result when watching his television episodes as the above posters had. I had those moments when reading existentialist/absurdist writers such as Sartre and Camus. I remember reading Camus and having the sort of "epiphany" feeling.

"It was a very singular moment in my existence, to realize I wasn't the only person to think this way."

I consider this to be one of the greatest feelings we can experience.

One of the reasons I enjoy Whedon's storytelling so much is because he explores hope, purpose, meaning, something that is often times difficult for humans to find. In a way, we can find it through his stories.

"The morality comes from the absense of any grander scheme, not from the presense of any grander scheme."

Could not agree more.
I always find it weird that atheists profess having no faith or belief, when "there is no God" is as much a matter of faith or belief as "there is a God".

That weird is probably why I consider myself an agnostic. (I'm also a misanthrope, but that's a whole other discussion.)

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-08-31 04:24 ]
Ha, yeah, I laughed when I saw this on the front page GVH. If we'd just waited a few days, we could've had that conversation AND been on-topic! Perhaps then it wouldn't have ended in tea-ku, sacred cheese, and ritual suicide.

Ah well. I'm all godded out.
Huh, never thought about posting that link myself, and I've wasted hours of my life on that site. Good times.

The problem with Athesim is there isn't a weekly gathering of life minded sorts to discuss issues. All we have are websites & the occasional Wired article. Reading those quotes gives an odd, yet somehow satisfying sense of fellowship.
"I always find it weird that atheists profess having no faith or belief, when "there is no God" is as much a matter of faith or belief as "there is a God"."

And not believing in vampires, space monsters who live among us, unicorns, etc. takes as much faith right? Please answer that question.

Just out of curiosity why do you think it takes faith not to believe?
EX, it isn't a difficult proposition: One can neither prove God's existence nor His lack thereof. Therefore, "there is no God" is as much a profession of faith/belief as is "there is a God".
Onetruebix, I don't know if we can prove that ghosts or Bigfoot don't exist either, as it's hard though not impossible to prove a negative, but I think it is more reasonable to disbelieve in them than to be agnostic.
TheOne: I'm sure you are aware of the shifting the burden fallacy. It is on those that put forth to prove.

A great quote: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"

So in essence anything that can't be disproved we must have faith does not exist? That's essentially what you're saying right?
Re: the final quote on the link-page - it's from a Q & A recorded in Sydney, Australia after a showing of Serenity - it appears to be included on the Ozian DVD - and there are a couple of pieces excised that matter, I think - to me, anyway. One is after "but I don't and that's just how that works" [...] and is:

"So Mal generally speaking in that would be my voice but I donít think you can discount Book and what he has to say. I think he is an extraordinary compassionate and wise and descent man - or wise and decent corpse."

and the missing piece [...] at the end, after "not from the presense of any grander scheme..." is:

"but then the next thing that somebody says to him is well you know 'You burst into my apartment, without being invited which a vampire canít do, which is like a little miracle' and I just sort of let that hang. I said the thing I believe in most, then I contradicted it right away because ultimately itís the confluence or the conflict of those ideas thatís actually really interesting.

So the answer [to the original question] is: Nothing unless youíve got something against me.

(applause)

But I hate Buddhists.

(laughter)

Just hate em - no, no."



Another related Joss quote I like:

'í'I'm a very hard-line, angry atheist,'' Whedon says. ''Yet I am fascinated by the concept of devotion. And I want to explore that.' " Ė Joss Whedon, in Emily Nussbaumís Must-See Metaphysics, NYTimes, 09/22/02
I was going to write a lot, but I'll boil it down to this: I can agree with a great many things Joss says and I'm very much religious. I don't know whether that says something about my religious beliefs or about his way with words. (Probably something about both.)
I was reading some of the other sections on Atheists, and I came up across Lance Armstrong. When I read the except on belief from his book, all I could think of is Serenity.

Anyways, for me I don't know whether there is a God(s)/Goddess(es) or not. I haven't really thought and cared about it until recently when I had to interview a pastor/coach for an article I was writing. I kind of identified myself as a lapsed Christian until then, but after that experience I found myself being turned off by Christianity and organized religion altogether. So, now, I would identify myself as a lazy agnostic.

[ edited by crazygolfa on 2008-08-31 05:15 ]
As to vampires, unicorns, and space aliens, it's apples and oranges. The reality is that the expanse of human experience of our world allows one to say with far more than a fair chance of being correct that there are no vampires, unicorns, or space aliens running around the planet.

If you do really want to get down and dirty technical, the last mile on that count is still a kind of belief (in the sense that none of us personally has explored every nook and cranny of the world), but the mass of observational evidence falls pretty hard on the "they don't exist" side of the scales. Hard enough, and massively enough, to shove it out of a question of belief and into a question of the preponderance of evidence.

The same, like it or not, cannot be said on the question of God, precisely because of what God is purported to be. There's simply no preponderance of evidence in either direction.

Belief is the "assent to a proposition or affirmation, or the acceptance of a fact, opinion, or assertion as real or true, without immediate personal knowledge."

The statement "there is no God" is aptly described as a belief. Why so many atheists rankle at that escapes me.
It's only apples and oranges because one is widely believed to be real and the other is widely dismissed. The truth is, there is just as much evidence for and against the existence of God as there is for Unicorns. And if you want to base it on what is being purported, replace Unicorn with any other possible being (Apollo, Zeus, a taxi driver on Saturn's rings). It's Bertrand Russell's teacup. I choose to believe in neither while you choose to not believe in one but sit on the fence of the other.

Edit: I'm just going to add a more sound point on the "what is being purported" part. What "God" are we even talking about? Is Yahweh? Allah? Jesus? There isn't even an absolute idea of what God is. We have all different sorts of people providing "evidence" for all different sorts of beings. My question is how do you decided what Gods to be agnostic about and which ones to simply not believe in?

[ edited by EX on 2008-08-31 06:02 ]
I'm going to add a request that members be extra-considerate of one another's beliefs (something that was done very well on that other thread mentioned above) in this discussion. Whether you personally think something is obvious or demonstrable, or what have you, doesn't alter your responsibility here to be respectful of others. Ta.
...a taxi driver on Saturn's rings...

See, this is part of what makes is next to impossible to have a reasonable discussion of the issue. Someone always throws in something more than a little nonsensical to muddy the waters in their favor.

The long history of the intellectual evolution of scientific understanding of the world creates a clear preponderance of evidence that to look for or believe in a taxi driver on Saturn's rings is ludicrous. That same long history has created nothing when it comes to a preponderance of evidence on the God question (although it has had a clear impact upon specific beliefs).

Am I being disrespectful of others here if what I actually disrespect is the introduction of nonsense into a question that could be debated more seriously and, well, respectfully?

Doesn't matter. The above is my last word on the matter here. Carry on.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-08-31 06:46 ]
Whedon was asked: "What do you have against being a Christian?" He answered: "Nothing, unless you've got something against me."

I can appreciate that. I don't share Mr. Whedon's views on faith; I'm a committed Christian. I do appreciate that, for the most part, he respects sincere, uncorrupted faith, even though it isn't something he buys into. That's why I can be an enthusiastic fan without worrying that my core beliefs are going to be shredded when I watch anything Jossian.

Respect is so important when dealing with one another. Mr. Whedon noted: I've actually taken a huge amount of flak for that. People who have faith tend to think that people who don't don't have a belief system and they don't care if they make fun of them. I think everyone of a belief or non-belief system takes a huge amount of flak. Certainly, it seems many television shows thrive on portraying Christians in a terrible light. As soon as a character is depicted as a Christian, it's a no brainer who the murderer, molester, or psycho of the story will turn out to be. I can't say that I've ever seen atheists treated in the same manner, but I may not be as sensitive to that sort of bias.
theone: I guess it has to be my last word as well, considering you didn't decide on answering my questions.

Edit: OK, honestly, last word..right here. I intentionally include a ludicrous entity to demonstrate that you, as I would assume and probably correctly, don't believe in a taxi cab driver on Saturn's rings. You do however sit on the fence when it comes to a God (which one I'm still not sure). My overall question and reason for using unicorns and taxi drivers isn't to "muddy the waters" it's to find out where and why you draw the line between non-belief and agnosticism. That is all.

[ edited by EX on 2008-08-31 07:19 ]
I liked this one:
Redemption, hope, purpose, santa, these all are important to me.
So very Joss.

btw: GVH, thanks for linking that other thread. A great read! (Said it there, but thought maybe I should repeat it here.)
I love that Joss used the quote from "Epiphany." It is one of my all time fave quotes to this day. I remember when I first heard it how struck I was by it.

Unlike Joss, however, I would not consider myself an athiest, more an agnostic really I guess. Anyways, I can certainly appreciate that Joss is respectful and tolerable of other's beliefs, and that is the way it should be. Everyone should be free to believe as they will , without fear of persecution or condemnation.
I'm one of those folks who is "on the fence" regarding God. But, for some reason, when I think that there is no God, I hear the lyrics from the song by Blood, Sweat and Tears:
Well, I swear there ain't no heaven,
But I pray there ain't no hell."

The conception of a God who is controlling, giving and punishing as he wishes, as described for example in the book of Job, is a very dangerous thing to individuals and society as a whole. This kind of "god" resembles to an abusive patriarch. Still exactly this notion of god seems to me to be in the heart of many people's belief. This scares me.

This belief has consequences which you can see everywhere. On example: Christian churches, f.e the catholic one, harbouring and protecting child abusing priests instead of stopping them and protecting the children. This is the abuse of power and the praise of submission to power in its most viel and evil way.

So much to established religion.
Well, I swear there ain't no heaven,
But I pray there ain't no hell."


Yeah, I mean, i'm not superstitious but fingers crossed, right ? ;)

The same, like it or not, cannot be said on the question of God, precisely because of what God is purported to be. There's simply no preponderance of evidence in either direction.

I think the point is that with God the fact that there's no evidence for or against is used as proof that "he" might exist whereas with everything else (like unicorns or even taxi drivers on Saturn's rings ;), if we don't have evidence for or against it the default position is to assume it doesn't exist. "Things" in general are not assumed to exist until proven otherwise, precisely the reverse in fact, but somehow that general rule doesn't apply to God. Atheists see that as inconsistent or as special pleading, as, basically, not "playing fair" and so it "rankles".

But it's certainly true I think that you can't empirically show that God doesn't exist anymore than you can empirically show that all Ravens are black - you can't empirically prove a negative (especially with something like a god - I bet "he" would be frikkin' killer at hide and seek for instance ;) because science doesn't deal in 100% certainty, just in the balance of evidence (for some things it's overwhelming, for others it's sketchier).

Course, we claim to know things with certainty all the time when in fact we don't even know the Sun will rise tomorrow (because, in principle, we only assume it will based on experience) - what we mean is we believe it beyond a shadow of a doubt. So in that sense of faith everyone has it about everything they think exists outside of them (and a fair bit inside) not just atheists about God. To me, because it applies so widely it's not a reason for agnosticism anymore than we should be "agnostic" about the sun rising (reserve a doubt sure - aliens could blow it up f'rinstance ;) - but to view the default position we all take as somehow requiring faith in any meaningful way doesn't really make sense to me). Clearly mileage varies though ;).

And yeah, by the time I saw 'Reprise'/'Epiphany' my world-view was fairly well developed but the "nothing we do matters" phrase really struck a chord with me too, it's like Joss very pithily summed up my exact way of seeing the world but without in any way losing the essence of it. Don't have much time for Camus and haven't read any Sartre but if that's existentialism in a nutshell then I guess i'm an existentialist ;).

(bloody hell, I actually started this thinking, "Just a quick response to that one point because i'm 'godded out' too". Arse - still, it is Sunday, i've got a bit of time ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2008-08-31 10:09 ]
One can neither prove God's existence nor His lack thereof. Therefore, "there is no God" is as much a profession of faith/belief as is "there is a God".

I know what you're saying, bix, but I think you've got the definition of atheism wrong. Yours (and the widely held) is "belief that there is no god". But taken literally, theism is "belief in the existence of a god or gods." The prefix a means lack of, without, or no. So an atheist is really just someone without "belief in the existence of a god or gods." Theists believe something positively. Atheists don't believe one way or the other, because like you've said, there is no way to prove or disprove god's existence anymore than you could prove or disprove the existence of faeries.

I considered myself agnostic until I read George Smith's definition of atheism in The Case Against God. He's smarter and explains better.

if we don't have evidence for or against it the default position is to assume it doesn't exist. "Things" in general are not assumed to exist until proven otherwise, precisely the reverse in fact, but somehow that general rule doesn't apply to God.

Well said.
Saje: "But it's certainly true I think that you can't empirically show that God doesn't exist anymore than you can empirically show that all Ravens are black - you can't empirically prove a negative (especially with something like a god - I bet "he" would be frikkin' killer at hide and seek for instance ;) because science doesn't deal in 100% certainty, just in the balance of evidence (for some things it's overwhelming, for others it's sketchier)."

Thanks for this - you had said essentially the same thing elsewhere on one of the many other God-threads, and I even spent a fair few minutes looking for it to quote, because it stated one of my tenets so eloquently - but I should have known you could do the same again at will.

We were twittering on this topic earlier, as Twits are wont to do. One of my newly atheist friends gets so upset when I say words to this effect. I think the need to have positive faith in a certainty - as well as our wish to (finally) be right and cling to a something concrete we can call "the truth" - makes it hard for some people to accept the uncertainty on which this particular belief system is based - we can no more have faith in "No God" than we can in "A God."

My inclination and my experience has tipped me much closer to the "No God" side, on balance, but closing my mind to new thoughts and experiences has never worked very well for me in the past, and the logic that the very nature of the concept of God (as with much) makes it unprovable renders my uncertainty inevitable, for me.

And in my experience, the newly-atheistic tend to more attached to the "No God" faith than those who have been grappling with it for longer, as if the habit of faith has stuck, while only the object has shifted.

This is, of course, my conclusion - but I don't think I ever had any religious faith to speak of, despite my upbringing and the preponderance of believers around me. I believe in a lot of things, but one of them is the inevitability of uncertainty.
I think for many agnostic types, the issue is that the God(s) of most traditions (particularly the God of the Abrahamic religions) is presented as the omnipotent creator and ruler of every aspect of the universe; He can thus present the universe in any manner He chooses, including as a universe in which God appears not to exist. There is no way an entity with that kind of power can be ruled out of existence.

So, I describe myself as an atheistic agnostic. I don't believe there's a god, but I can't know.

[ edited by jlp on 2008-08-31 11:20 ]
I've pretty much always been an atheist. Not because I was "brought up" atheist. My father was an atheist and my mother was brought up Christian and ended up some sort of wishy-washy agnostic, so they decided to let me decide for myself what to believe. I was exposed to Christianity by various adults. It all sounded ridiculous to me. So at the age of probably five or six, I asked my dad if there is a god. He said something along the lines of "Some people believe in the Abrahimic God, some people believe in other gods, some believe in many gods. There's no conclusive agreement. It's probably best you figure it out for yourself". "It sounds like fairytale to me", I said. I am now 21 years old and nothing I've heard, seen or experienced since has made me doubt my lack of faith. Why? Because the very definition of God is contradictory, on several accounts, and thus logically impossible. First of all, magic isn't real - we have a much better understanding of the laws of physics today than the people who wrote the major religions did. God (or any given complete collect-em-all set of gods) is also supposedly omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and omni-everything else all at the same time (or collectively). One of many examples of why that's impossible: If you know everything including the future, are you really capable of changing it without it negating the concept of knowing the future? And if not, are you really all-powerful? Also, if there was a god and he wanted people to believe in him, why would he hide? And if he's hiding, how come there's people who believe he exists? Isn't that a sign of being bad at hiding? How can you be so bad at hiding if you're number one at absolutely everything? And if he showed himself at some point to give religion to people, how come all the religions are so different? Where did all the other religions come from? Did people just make those up? Because if so, I think we can pretty safely assume that people just made the so-called "one true religion" (your religion, reader of this, whichever that may be) up as well.
So with this in mind, I read or hear Joss speak of his lack of faith and I smile because that's one more person who gets it.
He can thus present the universe in any manner He chooses, including as a universe in which God appears not to exist. There is no way an entity with that kind of power can be ruled out of existence.

That's true jlp. But then why rule "him" into existence in the first place then ? As I say, it's literally true that everything requires an act of "faith" to believe in, we could all be brains in vats being fed impulses by some mad scientist (or demon as Descartes might have it, or God), none of you might exist except in my mind and my mind might be the only thing that does exist, up could be down, oranges might actually be the only fruit and one day Scotland might get past the group stage of the World Cup, anything's possible (even the last one ;) and everything's essentially unknowable without making basic assumptions about the world purely as an act of faith (my old mantra: that the external world exists, is consistent in its behaviour and we can know it by our senses).

But then why treat God any differently to anything else in the universe ? Why not say you're agnostic about the existence of other people (because, in exactly the same way, their existence is fundamentally unknowable) or gravity or light or beer (infidel ! ;) ?

And in my experience, the newly-atheistic tend to more attached to the "No God" faith than those who have been grappling with it for longer, as if the habit of faith has stuck, while only the object has shifted.

Yeah, not many are quite as zealous as the newly "converted" I think QuoterGal, just look at new ex-smokers, they often give the most grief to those still "afflicted" (I was lucky that way, it took me so many attempts to give-up that I still don't quite believe it now and certainly not enough to get on my high horse, my mates would never stop taking the piss if I fell off the wagon ;). And I went through an angry "You just don't get it" stage with believers too but, as it turned out, it was me that didn't get it in some ways, maybe hadn't looked into the abyss for long enough (or at least didn't know enough to wink ;).

But yeah, I think it's the uncertainty people don't like and I completely get that, I don't like it either, would much rather have some "rock" to tie onto but the universe doesn't owe us comfort unfortunately, c'est la vie ;).
Heh, I wanted to "just reply to a couple of points" too, but then Saje came and did it for me ;). Ta.

To make two more points, though:

But then why treat God any differently to anything else in the universe?


Well, the answer I've heard people give when asking that same question (and I think Bix was alluding to that point upthread), is that God is different from a cultural perspective. There's just a whole load of people who are religious, so it's a pretty pervasive idea, which means we even get to have discussions such as this.

What I then do not think is that this cultural tradition gives extra evidence for the existence of God. Religions contradict each other, most current religions only came into being long after human kind came to be and older religions who have no believers left, are now mostly considered "myth". If anything, I'd say the cultural and historical argument tends to prove nothing, but if it did, it'd certainly be the opposite of "this God is a special case (and therefore needs to be disproven rather than proven)".

And if you take a closer look at personal beliefs, you'll see that many people believe in many different versions of God (further muddling the issue), which can't all be true...

.... unless they can. Which is where my main point from the other thread comes back into play: the main problem with these types of discussions is that every person in them is (consciously or unconsciously) working from a set of predefined philosophical concepts and definitions. Most atheÔsts are materialists and think there is one reality (not many) and that said reality is knowable by using observation and logic. But, really, that's "only" an instinctive assumption (although one that seems to be supported to a certain degree by science, well, working so far). Truth is not relative, as is knowledge, etcetera. But really, that's not the only perspective to have, and all others are equally valid a priori.

I do however, feel, that once you subscribe to a materialist world-view, atheÔsm is the only logically acceptable outcome for reasons we've discussed more extensively in that other thread, and which I've hinted at here.

jcs: wow you actually read the entire other thread? That must've taken some time :). But thanks for your kind words over there. And hey, feel free to join the book club instead of just listening to the pod-casts. You could enjoy Saje's elementer-tea. I highly recommend it.

ETA: heh, it seems catherine is the only one sticking to the actual "all Godded out" statement so far. Now we wait for zeitgeist to show up ;)

[ edited by GVH on 2008-08-31 12:44 ]
Yeah that catherine with her "actually knowing her own mind"-ness, what's that about ? ;)

There's just a whole load of people who are religious, so it's a pretty pervasive idea, which means we even get to have discussions such as this.

Fair enough GVH but, to use my own example, the idea of other people existing is pretty pervasive too, maybe even moreso ;). Though I guess in some ways it's the cultural impetus which puts God somewhere in-between unicorns (which almost no-one believes in) and the existence of people (which, presumably, most of us believe in ;) and it could be this in-between-ness that "allows" folk to single "him" out. Other people are so apparent that it seems less rational, not more, to consider their existence unknowable, unicorns are so unapparent that the opposite's true. But God, like good porridge, is "just right" ;).

Still seems like a pretty arbitrary way to decide what's uniquely unknowable and what's just precisely as unknowable as everything else though, to me.
Yeah, to me too, Saje. But that's probably also a reason why we're atheÔsts and others are, well, not (the silly buggers ;)).

ETA: in fact, like I said above, I think the cultural argument - if anything - leads to the opposite outcome. Current thinking on God is no more special than, say, the belief in Zeus or Hera, which most people dismiss out of hand today (apart from possibly some really hardcore BSG fans ;)).

[ edited by GVH on 2008-08-31 13:35 ]
Yeah, the apparent lack of historical perspective among believers sometimes puzzles me a bit, especially given how much history (of varying accuracy, some of it pretty close) is included in the Bible. Surely it makes sense to think "Well, they thought theirs was the One True God(s) too, maybe ours is just the same" ? Maybe not, I dunno, that could be part of that "feeling of presence" we talked about before.
Ironically, my puppet got a couple of emails on pretty much this subject and stated his case on the matter.
Holy crap greatmuppetyodin! That was actually very disturbing on a hangover! That monobrow... :)

Well, the answer I've heard people give when asking that same question (and I think Bix was alluding to that point upthread), is that God is different from a cultural perspective. There's just a whole load of people who are religious, so it's a pretty pervasive idea, which means we even get to have discussions such as this.

What I then do not think is that this cultural tradition gives extra evidence for the existence of God. Religions contradict each other, most current religions only came into being long after human kind came to be and older religions who have no believers left, are now mostly considered "myth". If anything, I'd say the cultural and historical argument tends to prove nothing, but if it did, it'd certainly be the opposite of "this God is a special case (and therefore needs to be disproven rather than proven)".


Beautifully put as usual GVH. (See! You've converted me! A little bit...). And I've never been accused of knowing my own mind before--actually I was sleeping in. Hangover and all, will leap back in.

Re. the "apparent lack of historical perspective among believers," I know I keep saying the same thing over and over again (god I'm boring) but I think you're talking about a kind of religious person, who, like many atheists, is maybe not terribly informed or terribly logical and so approaches their faith in a particular somewhat close-minded way. A lack of historical perspective or a conviction in One True God Just As The Bible Describes "Him" is obviously not at all necessary to religious faith. One might well see one's own religious tradition as a kind of "myth" similar to the Greek Gods, but in any case, a means of expressing the same feeling, the same certainty that the divine does exist in the world. The feeling and that certainty is the point, and what makes a person religious. We choose the religious community that works best for us, where we feel most comfortable. That doesn't mean sitting around thinking heh heh heh, "my" god is the only real one and the other ones are big fakers.

I'm noticing that usually atheists have a lot more to say about all this than believers, and since a few religious whedonesquers have popped on to say, very simply, "I am religious and I like Joss Whedon" or something to that effect before disappearing again, I'm wondering why that is. Somehow on the last thread, I as an atheist ended up being the defender of religion as consistent with a rational world-view. And I did a shitty job!

So is that because religious people prefer not to discuss their faith in depth on the internet? Or because nobody who believes in god wants to enter into an "argument" with an atheist who's going to (albeit very nicely cuz you are some very nice atheists) turn their logical arsenal on a personal belief system? Or is the nature of faith just something that is difficult to articulate in a logical and convincing way and so what's the point of leaping into the discussion? And do you guys ... not sure how to put this... think there can be in value in something that can't be logically explained? Or is it just non-sense?

As I said before, I think it's part of the human make-up (many people's) to feel a divine presence in the universe, because it doesn't make sense to me otherwise (if it weren't something innate) that so many people would believe in god in some form or another. But that is one reason I find agnosticism actually more difficult to understand than faith. It seems to me that if you don't feel that presence... well, why would you think that there might be a god? (That's not meant as a critique--there are obviously a lot of people who identify as agnostic, I'm just sort of interested in it because my own imagination, which has no trouble at all grasping faith, sort of fails me there).

Congrats on the quitting smoking Saje.
Love this, btw:
Fair enough GVH but, to use my own example, the idea of other people existing is pretty pervasive too, maybe even moreso ;). Though I guess in some ways it's the cultural impetus which puts God somewhere in-between unicorns (which almost no-one believes in) and the existence of people (which, presumably, most of us believe in ;) and it could be this in-between-ness that "allows" folk to single "him" out. Other people are so apparent that it seems less rational, not more, to consider their existence unknowable, unicorns are so unapparent that the opposite's true. But God, like good porridge, is "just right" ;).

First big laugh of the day. Well, second really, after seeing the you two turning up for a second round. And now you've prob'ly all gone home and it's just me here with my cup of tea. I wish I had some porridge...
Well, GVH, I'd like to join in the discussion, but I'm afraid everything I say would just be a less articulate version of what Saje already said. (Darn that guy!:) [double-purpose parenthesis]
My reason for choosing the word "atheist" over the much more (to many people) reasonable-sounding "agnostic," is that any God I could accept the existence of would have to be defined in a way that is meaningless to me. Many people I know say they believe in "something," or God is "everything," or God is "love" or similar things that are meaningless to me. I'm not saying they're inherently meaningless--I know that many people have deep beyond-words feelings about this--that sense of "presence" that the formerly-late-but-recently-resurrected Catherine was talking about in the other thread. My brain chemistry just doesn't seem to work that way for some reason.

But that uninvolved God isn't what most people (at least the ones that I know) mean when they say they believe. They believe in something much more along the lines of the traditional western God--it responds to human action and prayer, it allows us to keep existing after we die. For me, the unlikeliness of that is so clear that calling myself an agnostic would be very much akin to calling myself an agnostic about existence of other people (you know, what Saje said up there).

Hey, Catherine's back! Well, I'm going to post this before I read hers & decide I should probably just erase mine. :)
[I]s that because religious people prefer not to discuss their faith in depth on the internet? Or because nobody who believes in god wants to enter into an "argument" with an atheist who's going to (albeit very nicely cuz you are some very nice atheists) turn their logical arsenal on a personal belief system? Or is the nature of faith just something that is difficult to articulate in a logical and convincing way and so what's the point of leaping into the discussion?


(c). (All of the above). No, I can't speak for anyone else but, yes, for me it is not a subject I want to discuss in public with people I don't know who largely, I suspect, want to debate points that I'm not at all interested in debating. Since you asked. :-) But I enjoy reading the thoughts of those that do, so as you were.
catherine said:
I find agnosticism actually more difficult to understand than faith. It seems to me that if you don't feel that presence... well, why would you think that there might be a god? (That's not meant as a critique--there are obviously a lot of people who identify as agnostic, I'm just sort of interested in it because my own imagination, which has no trouble at all grasping faith, sort of fails me there).


I'd say that depends on your definition of agnosticism, and since agnostics can't seem to agree on it, we'll meet a lot of different positions.

In spite of how people these days seem to define it, I don't see agnosticism as "inbetween" atheism and theism. Atheism and theism are about belief, agnosticism is about claim of knowledge -- in terms of absolute truth. You can certainly reject the notion of knowledge of a god's existence (personally or universally) and yet decide (not) to believe in him/her/it.

There are plenty of varieties to go around:
- You may simply say, "I don't know" (personal)
- You may say, "It's impossible to know" (universal and permanent)
- You may say, "We don't know yet" (universal and temporary)

Actually, a large percentage of atheists and theists belong to one of those schools of thought, even if they don't call themselves an agnostic (which may or may not be due to the varied definitions, some of which they don't want to be connected with). But in the end, for an agnostic, whether you're an atheist or a theist comes down to choice.

Any rational atheist would mostly accept that you can't empirically prove a negative (as Saje said) -- and the definition of most gods being really vague in the first place certainly doesn't help. Which would make any rational atheist an agnostic atheist, since he can't ever claim to know with absolute certainty -- although, he might believe that it's possible the god-creature's existence could be proved, it won't be disproved.

But there are plenty of theists who don't claim to have proof or absolute truth either -- agnostic theists. Catholic doctrines embrace this very idea: That you shouldn't know, but rather take it on faith. The lack of knowledge, to some catholics, is universal and permanent. That's the very point of faith.

So, the only defense for the existence of the term "agnosticism" is that there are atheists -- even rational, science-minded ones -- and theists who claim to know in an absolute sense. Today. That's the ones talking about "proof" for or against.

When I have to label myself, I mostly put "apathetic agnostic atheist", which certainly doesn't mean I "haven't decided", like the current use of the word seems to indicate. Now we're back to the part about not wanting to be connected with certain uses of the word. Rather, "agnostic" indicates I don't claim to know. It indicates I don't think anyone can know, ever. Which doesn't mean I think there "might" be a god. Atheism takes care of that part: I don't think there is.

So to split it up, in my case and opinion, the notion of a god's existence is unproven and permanently universally unknowable (one version of "agnostic") -- plus, I find the question and its answer totally irrelevant to my existence ("apathetic"). Oh, and I chose not to believe ("atheist").

Well, actually, the "atheist" part came first =o) And the "agnostic" part is certainly the one that tells the less about me. As jcs said, it's more "reasonable-sounding", which means I'm more likely to avoid heavyhanded arguments about something I find irrelevant. =oP
That's very good, Serge. But it's so long!! (the moniker, I mean, not your post)
I think I would be more apathetic about the whole question if I lived in a different place. Because I live in a country (the US) where I'm always hearing about religion (like from the leaders of my government and the people I work with) and where I fear that religion is actually interfering with truth (like teaching ID to school children), I guess I feel more of a need to "push back" than I would in another place.
That makes sense, Serge. I guess I have tended to see agnosticism as just meaning "ehhh, not sure" but the above is very nicely put. These kinds of discussions always seem to wind up with the struggle to define the terms. It's tricky, this whole using-language-to-talk-about-things business. Also, hee hee re. "the god-creature."

And I getcha, SNT. (Can I call you SNT like everybody else does? I still feel like a newbie and it feels a bit presumptuous to get all nick-namey with your screen name :)). I've loved talking faith with people who've got it, and I'm enjoying talking about it with people who don't, but it's hard to imagine the two conversations merging.

ETA oh I so sympathize with that, jcs. But I do think a small part of the tragedy of fundamentalism here is how it comes to dominate the idea of what "religion" is, whereas most religious people are ... well, not crazy :). It seems almost pointless to discuss that kind of ignorant and prejudiced crap, and it is far from the mainstream, even here.

E(again)TA I guess you're not just talking about fundamentalism but the way, for example, a politician would never get elected to office if they admitted to being an atheist. Yes, that's depressing.

[ edited by catherine on 2008-08-31 18:08 ]

[ edited by catherine on 2008-08-31 18:10 ]
jcs: Thanks =o) And yes, I do live in a place where there's less mixing of government and church.

Although I have to add, that the "apathetic" part is more pointed towards god than towards religion or the discussion of it. In essence it says, "even if a god exists, since he/she/it seems to be unconcerned about the universe these days, and since I see no personal evidence of his/her/its existence, that existence doesn't matter one bit to me".

In other words, the only reason I'd care would be due to curiosity, but my curiosity just isn't big enough. Enough people, nature and culture to be curious about =o)

catherine: Oops, thought I had been so neutral in that post. God-creature slipped out, largely because I rarely write neutral or precise comments after university. Hardly even considered the pun. ;o)
Well, my neighbors certainly aren't crazy, and they're very nice people. And they're not particularly fundamentalist, either. But they think kids should be taught creationism as an alternative to evolution--you know, two "theories" side by side. That scares me.

And yeah, Kennedy broke the Catholic barrier & when Lieberman was on the ticket there was much talk about whether being Jewish would hurt his chances. But I really can't imagine an atheist on the ticket anytime my lifetime.
I am atheist, but I do follow the arguments here that atheism is in itself a faith, just as belief in the existence of anything is a kind of faith (albeit a mostly unconscious one, even for those who have thought about it). I'm with Serge here - I'm not an agnostic in the sense of being personally uncertain about the existence of God, but I am agnostic in the technical sense that I understand it is impossible to conclusively prove or disprove God's existence (just as it is impossible to absolutely prove or disprove the existence of anything, although one has to draw practical conclusions, if only to function on a daily basis).

I think a lot of the disagreement here regarding atheism's status as faith is because we haven't been specific enough about our definition of God, at least for the purposes of this discussion. I do believe much evidence has emerged against the more literal interpretations of the world's organized religions, so it is possible to be atheist against organized beliefs about an interventionist God without necessarily calling atheism a faith. The insistence on the part of atheists that their views are not beliefs follow, in my interpretation, the insistence that natural phenomena can be explained scientifically, without the requirement of supernatural forces. However, to assert God's absolute non-existence as a matter beyond faith is to seriously question the personal perspective of every believer, to the extent of implying delusion on their part.

I can't personally take such a stand because I've never personally experienced belief in the divine, so I can't say with certainty that I'd even know what I'm trying to disprove. Certainly I'm aware that many people have a deeply resonant feeling of connectedness with the universe on a spiritual level, and define that as a belief in God. But without being able to directly identify what that feeling is, I couldn't begin to say that it's a belief in something nonexistent. That would be akin to me saying, "Your feelings are imaginary."

*whew* I'm really impressed with the level of discussion here, and especially of Saje's and Serge's lines of thinking. This is such a great fanbase!
Fair enough jcs. I'm pretty sheltered from the nuttier side of religion in the US. I hear about this stuff in the news but I don't know anybody who thinks creationism should be taught in school. I grew up on the west coast of Canada and had a very loose, open kind of religious upbringing. I guess that's why my attitude towards religion in general is more positive, but it saddens me when religiosity (new word!) is condemned or disregarded or condescended to because of the way some people approach it.

All kinds of people may feel the religious impulse, and the more messed up and confused these people are, the more messed up and confused their way of engaging that impulse will be. But that's because of their messed-up-confusedness, not because of the religious impulse itself. Methinks.
And do you guys ... not sure how to put this... think there can be in value in something that can't be logically explained? Or is it just non-sense?

Aaargh, don't put it like that ! (kidding ;) I value a lot of things I can't logically explain catherine (yet anyway) and in abstract terms think there's value in others even if they do nothing for me (including personal faith and even organised religion, with wholesale changes in the case of most of them but still ...). Gotta say, i'm kind of with Joss on this, I genuinely don't mind what people believe, even actively celebrate all the myriad things we as a species come up with - I only mind when they take irrationality and make it a virtue and when they make public policy from (or treat people badly because of) what's in an old book instead of what's in the world. Do unto others and all that (not Jesus' idea but he was right to preach it I reckon, it's a corker ;).

I think a lot of the disagreement here regarding atheism's status as faith is because we haven't been specific enough about our definition of God, at least for the purposes of this discussion.

I agree zoinkers but unfortunately it's hard to specifically define a god without a) a theist OKaying it and b) then proceeding to probably deeply offend all the people that believe in that specific version of god. It's almost never the case IMO but this time I reckon vagueness is the friend of civility ;).

And yeah, that's well put Serge, that's broadly the sort of atheist I am (now, wasn't always) with a few caveats in that I really do think that some definitions of god (maybe even some that some Christians might adhere to) are logically inconsistent and so can actually be, if not disproved, at least called into doubt.

SNT: No, I can't speak for anyone else but, yes, for me it is not a subject I want to discuss in public with people I don't know who largely, I suspect, want to debate points that I'm not at all interested in debating.

Heh, you can take the man out of England but you can't take ... well, you know the rest ;).

That's a fair perspective of course, many religious people don't think reason applies to religion at all. It's not one I subscribe to because my world-view's about applying it to pretty much everything but I certainly appreciate the dangers of examining things too closely (even if it's sometimes only in retrospect ;).
Aaargh, don't put it like that !

hee hee hee :). That cheered me up. Ready to go back to cleaning my filthy house.
Catherine: "It seems almost pointless to discuss that kind of ignorant and prejudiced crap, and it is far from the mainstream, even here."

We should be so lucky. As long as the "one true perspective" religious folk continue to influence the laws that control me & mine, it's far from pointless to discuss it. Fringe can't be dismissed - can't even really be considered "fringe" - if these squeaky wheels are impacting the government I live under and culture I live within to the extent that they emphatically are in here the U.S.

GVH: "Most atheÔsts are materialists and think there is one reality (not many) and that said reality is knowable by using observation and logic. But, really, that's "only" an instinctive assumption (although one that seems to be supported to a certain degree by science, well, working so far). Truth is not relative, as is knowledge, etcetera. But really, that's not the only perspective to have, and all others are equally valid a priori."

I think there are as many "realities" as there are people - since even those folks who think they don't have a belief system actually do, regardless of what it does or does not contain, and since belief systems are tailor/custom-made from each person's physical reality and experience, and since a belief system impacts these myriad realities, it follows that there are all these many, many realities. One per person.

Catherine: "As I said before, I think it's part of the human make-up (many people's) to feel a divine presence in the universe, because it doesn't make sense to me otherwise (if it weren't something innate) that so many people would believe in god in some form or another. But that is one reason I find agnosticism actually more difficult to understand than faith. It seems to me that if you don't feel that presence... well, why would you think that there might be a god?"

I'm not sure it makes sense to extrapolate that it's somehow an innate part of the human wiring to feel a divine presence because it seems nonsensical to you otherwise - who admittedly feels it - that so many of you feel it as evidenced by by religious belief. I think you can say that you feel it, but that you are drawing too many conclusions about 1) what pushes people to religious belief - you can't claim that they all feel a divine presence, because you cannot know that and 2) you are drawing too many conclusions about what is innate by the number of folks who do feel it.

To draw a perilous analogy - it is not necessarily innate for humans to be heterosexual, even if it appears that the vast majority of them are, simply because it doesn't make sense to a heterosexual that so many folks are heterosexual without it being so... unless by "innate" you simply mean that "a capacity for such can exist" instead of "must exist as a definition of human."

That said, I have meditated for many years, and I have frequently had an experience of "other" or "presence" or "sensation of more than myself." The difference, I think, between my reaction to this sensation, and that of a religious person is that 1) I don't define it as "God" - I don't really attempt to finally define it at all - it may be "other" or myself, I really don't know or care 2) I don't feel drawn to worship this perception/experience/whateveritis. And if no one else in the universe has this experience of "other" while meditating, it doesn't matter to me at all.
Yikes! Quotergal making sense, while I have a house full of empty bottles and a headache! OK...

We should be so lucky. As long as the "one true perspective" religious folk continue to influence the laws that control me & mine, it's far from pointless to discuss it. Fringe can't be dismissed - can't even really be considered "fringe" - if these squeaky wheels are impacting the government I live under and culture I live within to the extent that they emphatically are in here the U.S.


Yah, you're right. I guess I meant pointless to discuss it here because I assume we'd all just agree and say how awful it is. (Like my backpedal? It's a lot better than my fore-pedal, truth be told).

I'm not sure it makes sense to extrapolate that it's somehow an innate part of the human wiring to feel a divine presence because it seems nonsensical to you otherwise - who admittedly feels it - that so many of you feel it as evidenced by by religious belief. I think you can say that you feel it, but that you are drawing too many conclusions about 1) what pushes people to religious belief - you can't claim that they all feel a divine presence, because you cannot know that and 2) you are drawing too many conclusions about what is innate by the number of folks who do feel it.


Me putting badly (too briefly?) what I'd tried expressing (too lengthily?) in the other thread. I'm actually not religious myself, and have never felt what I'm clumsily calling the "religious impulse," but yeah, I'm absolutely drawing on a very small pool of "people I know" when I describe the sense of presence in the universe, or even faith being something you have or don't in many cases (my parents being two people who each from early on felt the opposite of what they were raised with, so my ferociously-Catholic-raised father is an atheist and my ferociously-Atheist-raised mother is a Christian). Of course I don't know what most or even many religious people feel, and there are a lot of other reasons why certain people might be a part of a religion that may have nothing at all to do with feeling there is a god. "Innate" perhaps not the right word here, but I mean that having that "sense of presence" (for those who do) seems to be... just a thing that you have, or don't have. And if you don't, you probably aren't going to be able to instill it in yourself, and if you do, you probably aren't going to be able to talk yourself out of it. But I have no evidence for this guess, of course ;).

Anyway, I'm fascinated by this sense of presence (which I have never felt, though I sort of tried meditating for a while), and with what people do with it and how they incorporate it, or don't, into their lives. And I do see the appeal of the ritual and so on of organized religion, though it comes with a lot of ugly baggage too.

I'll come back later and see if this is still going!

ETA re. the empty bottles and the headache--we had people over, I'm not just a sad lush, 'kay?

[ edited by catherine on 2008-08-31 20:29 ]
This thread makes me proud to be a part of the fanbase. If there's any other TV site with discussion as well thought out and spoken as this, I haven't seen it.
I describe myself as an agnostic, but perhaps come to that label from a different set of experiences than many of the people that have posted here thus far. I grew up fairly religious. Not necessarily the church-going variety, but with a robust belief in a god nonetheless.

I'm not sure exactly what happened. Whether I changed in some fundamental way, or was influenced by others (unlikely since I don't tend to be influenced by others, ever), or if my forays into science had caused me to think more critically about the world in general, but around the age of 23 or so, I began to have doubts. This was quite troubling to me for many years as I struggled to decide what I believed or did not believe. At some point, I determined to put my anguished thoughts aside and decided that whether or not there was a god, it didn't change my values or the way I believed I should conduct my life.

Over the years, I still continued to have feelings of a presence, or connectedness to what felt like a god, but those have steadily become less frequent until they are now virtually non-existent. So, I am at the cusp of calling myself an atheist. I'm about 99.9% sure in my feelings that there is no such omnipotent being, but that slightest sliver of doubt (or perhaps holdover?) causes me to describe myself as an agnostic, because I don't actually know (as in knowing the other things that I believe).
(@Catherine - hope the headachey-ness goes away soon... you lush. ; >)

And sometimes I think the sense of "other" presence may come from "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato."


[ edited by Tonya J on 2008-09-01 16:22 ]
Well, I'm theistic, so I guess I'd better step up and explain myself.

Note that I did not say I was religious. Religions in this world's history have caused no end of trouble. I was raised unprogrammed Quaker, which began as a Christian sect and partially still is, but is adamant about accepting God/Spirit/Divine/whatever in everyone, so we try very hard not to go around beating people over the head with our beliefs, and instead try very hard to listen to everyone. A lot of us don't like organized religion and instead fall back on the loose and rarely judgmental structures of Quakerism.

We're also very into feeling "that of God within ourselves" -- some nudging, prompting, or to use the classic phrase, "the still small voice."

I've felt that voice, that Presence; I've felt it strongly. It inspires me, it terrifies me, it exhilarates me, and it exhausts me. So that's what you might call personal evidence, useful to me but nobody else except those who already believe. And it really is a matter of belief, not proof: as I like to say, a theist will see evidence for God everywhere and an atheist will see evidence nowhere, because you find what you look for; your bias will prevail. That's also too often true in science, by the way.

So I believe in God because I've talked with God. Either that or I'm what the experts might call "bats*** insane." I prefer to operate on the assumption that the former is correct while trying to remember that it might actually be the latter.
you find what you look for; your bias will prevail. That's also too often true in science, by the way

More accurately, it's true when science is poorly or improperly conducted. The entire point of there being a scientific method (as opposed to a "belief method", of which there isn't one) is to enforce the ability to weed out mere bias. (Arguably, poorly or improperly conducted science shouldn't even be called science, by definition.)
Nice contribution, METAI. I'm glad you spoke up. (Wrote up?)
ManEnoughToAdmitIt: "So that's what you might call personal evidence, useful to me but nobody else except those who already believe."

Not really - I don't "believe" - that is, I'm not a "theist" - but I don't find your perceptions un-useful. (Well, that was a little pretzel-y, but you get me.) Anecdotal evidence is, at the very least, interesting to me.

ManEnoughToAdmitIt: "So I believe in God because I've talked with God. Either that or I'm what the experts might call "bats*** insane." I prefer to operate on the assumption that the former is correct while trying to remember that it might actually be the latter."

Those are, in fact, just two options out of a bundle of possibilities. You might be talking with a more developed portion of yourself, you might be being contacted by alien beings, you might be psychic and in contact with other humans, it might be an amalgam of non-physical beings - any or all of which you might be calling God. That might be what "God" is to a number of other people. To me, it's no more likely to be one than another...

I'm not trying to poke holes or poke fun - I genuinely see a number of other possibilities for yours - or my - experiences with this experience of "other" Presence, and don't understand why it has to be defined as one or the other. I guess an important factor would be if the presence is loving or benign, or if it is hateful or hurtful. This would make a huge difference in how we define it, and to our relationship to it.

Honestly? Mine often comes up with great ideas for artwork and crafts, so I guess I could imagine it as the God of Fine and Domestic Art - but that seems a little limiting, too...
Well, second really, after seeing the you two turning up for a second round. And now you've prob'ly all gone home and it's just me here with my cup of tea. I wish I had some porridge...


Nah, we're still here (and I for one am still highly concious of the big joke that we just had that huge discussion and then this thread turned up ;)). And also: talk about re-entering the debate, catherine, wow :). Round two has certainly begun, only this time with added bonus people contributing. Which, well, fun :).

Well, GVH, I'd like to join in the discussion, but I'm afraid everything I say would just be a less articulate version of what Saje already said. (Darn that guy!:) [double-purpose parenthesis]


Yeah, I know, the guy's annoying that way. Although I think I do remember not agreeing with him once. So it is possible. But seeing as most evidence (in the other thread) points to the fact that we're exactly the same type of atheist, any slight disagreements would probably just follow from the fact that one of us (probably usually me ;)) was expressing something unclearly :). So, yeah, I get what you're saying. But as it isn't stopping me, jcs, it shouldn't stop you either ;).

Serge, nicely put. I would agree with your point of view, with - like Saje said - the added mention that I do believe some "types" of Gods can be disproven (or at least, be shown to be highly unlikely) logically. Of course, whether that means anything to someone depends on whether that person thinks logic has anything to do with God to begin with.

The reason I'd not type myself as agnostic is for two reasons:

1) In some definitions, an agnostic subcribes to the theory that we can never prove or disprove the existence of God. And while we cannot prove a negative in the strictest sense, we can certainly prove a negative in the practical sense. This is what I mean when I talk about proving the non-existence of God.

Now, whether one can prove or disprove God depends on ones definition of said God. And when defining that God as "unknowable" (or, in the lingo preferred by religious philosophers: transcendent), well, then the question is unanswerable because we've defined it as such. But while many people would define God as unknowable, they would then also ascribe properties to Him/Her/It that are in logical contradiction to the proposed transcendence (like influence on our knowable physical reality).

So, the outcome for this type of agnosticism, given my personal philosophical preferences (one knowable reality, revealed by logic and observations), is that I would be a true agnostic in the case of a transcendent God, but not in the case of a non-transcendent God or a transcendent God sneakily influencing our reality on the side, while no one's looking ;).

2) Because agnosticism largely ignores the sliding-scale of knowledge. This is why science pratically "proves" a negative more often than not: we are able to talk about probabilities. And, again, depending on the definition of a God (we need a concrete "God hypothesis" before we can prove or disprove it), we can certainly talk about the probability of a God existing. And, in line with the way scientific facts come to be, I would say that for some versions of the God hypothesis (again, not for all, just take a look at your friendly neighbourhood transcendent God ;)) - especially the more traditional christian ones - you can disprove them in the strictest sense (i.e. they have a high probability of being untrue). Saying that you then still have to be agnostic because you can't know - beyond a shadow of a doubt - seems overly cautious to me.

Again, agnosticism means different things to different people, but for the above reasons I would not call myself agnostic. I would type myself as an agnostic on some God definitions, but I'd call myself an atheist on all of them.

Finally, QuoterGal wrote:

I think there are as many "realities" as there are people - since even those folks who think they don't have a belief system actually do, regardless of what it does or does not contain, and since belief systems are tailor/custom-made from each person's physical reality and experience, and since a belief system impacts these myriad realities, it follows that there are all these many, many realities. One per person.


Well, I'm glad someone subscribes to that particular viewpoint here, as I was wondering whether it would turn up at all. I'm glad it did :). I have a very good friend who feels exactly the same way, and I can certainly see why someone would subscribe to that particular theory. To me, it's instantly "disproven" (not completely, but in a highly probable sense) to be untrue, because science sort-of "proves" that we share one reality, since we're able to define it in impersonal, unvarying terms.

But, of course, if you don't believe that to be true, because you don't share my philosophical "starting point", that is no argument at all. Maybe what we're describing with our "impartial science" is what we're choosing to see as scientists. Maybe all of us share a filter, which means we can't know all of reality anyway. Maybe we only share one reality because of common sense (we all expect an apple to fall down, and because of that: it always does. This may also be why increasingly certain scientific theories get more "support" by others expecting them to be true ;)) or maybe what we observe and think of as reality, is really only "feeded" to us (helloooo there 'The Matrix'). Maybe God only exists for people who believe in Him/Her/It (hello there Neil Gaiman, I loved your book American Gods ;)) and as such all religions and all of us atheÔsts are right (which means we're cheating ourselves out of Heaven, sucks to be us ;)), etcetera.

There's - and I've said this before on the other thread - really no a priori reason to be a materialist, rational atheist. It's just that all these other possibilities, to me, instinctually, feel less probable (or they at the very least invoke Occam's Razor, which, of course, is not "law", just a nice rule-of-thumb). But this is why I choose to not believe them, while also being conscious of the fact that it is a choice, whichever way you put it.

ETA: yikes, this post is of scary length :)

ETA-the-sequel: still waiting for zeitgeist to show up ;)

[ edited by GVH on 2008-09-01 01:15 ]
GVH: ...because science sort-of 'proves' that we share one reality, since we're able to define it in impersonal, unvarying terms."

This is the portion of the "individual realities" theory I would call the "shared" reality. It's where I think the Venn diagrams of, let's say me, and someone else overlap, but because each of us is unique in our combo of DNA, nurture, experience, etc. - identical twins, same parenting/upbringing included - there is always a portion of the circle that doesn't overlap, no matter how infinitesimally small it is. This, then, is where the personal & varying tones enter in.

Of course, I have no idea if actual math or logic bears this out, but it's how I choose to think about it. And in that word "choice" indeed, lies a world of meaning.
QuoterGal, given what you've written above, I wonder why, when you do feel that we have a "shared" reality (but - because people are all different - also a part unique to the individual), you chose this particular viewpoint and not - let's say - the nearly equal (but radically different in its implications) viewpoint that our shared reality is the "one" reality, but that small parts of said reality may be experienced differently by different people because of who they are.

And, if, given our "shared reality", if that shared reality - etched out by science - would then be fixed in an overlapping place of all our Venn diagrams? And does that make that part a representation of the reality or just something us humans share because of our similarities but which is not necessarily representative of any "true" reality (if that even exists)? And, given the advance of science, could our "shared reality" increase in percentual size? Because if it could, then it might conceivably become as big as the whole (complete overlap). And if it did, would that then be reality, or still one reflection of reality particular to us humans?

Again, all answers to that are equally valid, they just tend to show where you are on the scale of "there is one reality". I find it very interesting that - depending on what your answers would be to the above questions - you seem to subscribe to a sort of mid-way theory (if I understand you correctly, which is of course not a given, so feel free to corrent me :)), which I've never seen anyone mention before. The friend that I mentioned in the previous post is firmly in the "there is no one reality and any shared reality characteristics you think you're seeing is because you expect to see them (because of common sense or by concensus)".

(Hilariously (if you're me :)), this person actually practices science (because, according to her, you can just be "pragmatic" about it and get nice results from being able to understand our percieved reality ;)). If I had shared her particular beliefs, I'm not sure science would hold much attraction for me :)).

[ edited by GVH on 2008-09-01 02:00 ]
I remember from an old-school type of philosphy teacher I had in high school the concept of truth versus absolute truth. Truth is what each person believes to be the truth (i.e., their reality) and the absolute truth is the actual reality of the thing (or the universe) that is independent of our beliefs.

For a simplistic example: in pre-Columbus days, the truth of those living in Europe was that the world was flat, whereas the absolute truth was that it was actually spherical. This was the absolute truth because it was independent of whatever anyone chose to believe.

In the context of the above discussion, I think that QuoterGal's supposition of a multitude of realities makes definite sense to me on this level. Every individual's 'reality' is their 'truth'.
The only answer I can give you that adequately expresses it is:

After fairly massive amounts of hallucinogens and frequent meditation in my youth, I discovered that this is how I saw the world. It wasn't a particularly intellectual choice, nor a conscious decision - it simply became apparent to me that I was viewing the world and the beings in it in this way.

Sorry that I can't be more analytical about it - it's simply how it happened for me, and its implications I leave to others whom it interests. It works for me, in terms of a framework for daily life, as well as an overarching lifetime structure, and it holds up to the dings and dents of philosophical wear-and-tear, and still leaves room for expansion where necessary.

Does that make sense to you? Beyond that, I have no explanation for who/what/when/where/why.
JossIzBoss, yep, that's a classic philosophical viewpoint I've also heard before. In fact, it's what I was alluding to when I asked: "[what about the] viewpoint that our shared reality is the "one" reality, but that small parts of said reality may be experienced differently by different people because of who they are."

The difference there being that "because of who they are" is more restrictive than the reasons for a seperation of the "absolute truth" and "truth" needs to a priori be. I subscribe completely to the idea of there being "absolute truths". In fact, usually when entering a discussion such as this, I talk about there being "one reality", which would then consist of a complete set of "absolute truth"'s, spanning reality.

But, fact is, that not everyone subscribes to that theory. Like I mentioned, erm, two posts back ;), there are people who do not think there is one reality at all, so that no absolute truths exist (or possibly, a half-way theory where some absolute truths exists inside a "shared reality", but the overarching "absolute" reality doesn't). That's a very alien concept to most of us who've never come into contact with it before, but a very deeply held philosphy by many.

QuoterGal: it does not make sense to me, in the sense that I don't understand why you would see the world as such, but I do (almost ;)) understand what you believe, although I'm still not exactly clear on where you are on the "there is one reality"-scale. But this being the "best answer you can give me" (not trying to sound like that's in any way not good enough), I obviously respect that and am gratefull for you throwing your world-view out there, because (like SNT mentioned upthread) that's certainly no easy thing to do. Especially not when people like me immediately follow that with an analisys ;). So, again: thanks :).

ETA: and now: off to sleep. I wonder if this thread'll have grown substantially when I wake up again :).

[ edited by GVH on 2008-09-01 02:46 ]
Speaking of probabilities, is anyone here familiar with this argument?
http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html
I haven't read it in depth. From what I've skimmed so far, it does seems related to the discussion here regarding the definitions of agnosticism, atheism, and God. (What if God is running a computer simulation?)
GVH, I completely agree that the way a person is/who they are totally shapes how they perceive "reality" or their "truth". And I understand that QuoterGal probably wasn't a proponent of various realities in the same vein as my truth vs. absolute truth discussion before. I just meant that multiple realities make sense to me from that viewpoint.

But like Joss, I have absolutely no problem with people having different viewpoints from my own (all too often the case ;)- as long as they let me be as well.
And sometimes I think the sense of "other" presence may come from "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato."


You see! We're back at sacred cheese. And Ex brought up tea early on:

It's Bertrand Russell's teacup.


So there we have it.
I describe myself often as "A Godless Heathen", but in reality I think I fall into the Deist camp, which puts me in some elite company: Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin, George Washington, Voltaire, et al.

The thought of the Creator as an "absentee landlord" leaving us to our own devices is, in it's way, a comfort. Personally, I don't believe in Heaven, and we make our own Hell... right here. Deists lean more toward the word "Creator" than they do "God", btw. :)
I always find it weird that atheists profess having no faith or belief, when "there is no God" is as much a matter of faith or belief as "there is a God".


No, it isn't.
I'm coming in late again, and I'll admit that I've been distracted and irritable lately. Going with the more forward- looking part of that, I'm just going to post about what's irritated me here.

GVH, on the last thread, that you helpfully linked to, you said that you've read Kant, but didn't say what that might have meant concerning any of your points. Then you cited two wikipedia articles that you can't have read very carefully.

In religion, transcendence is a condition or state of being that surpasses physical existence, and in one form is also independent of it. It is affirmed in the concept of the divine in the major religious traditions, and contrasts with the notion of God, or the Absolute existing exclusively in the physical order (immanentism), or indistinguishable from it (pantheism). Transcendence can be attributed to the divine not only in its being, but also in its knowability. Thus, God transcends the universe, but also transcends knowledge (is beyond the grasp of the human mind). Although transcendence is defined as the opposite of immanence, the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Some theologians and metaphysicians of the great religious traditions affirm that God, or Brahman, is both within and beyond the universe (panentheism); in it, but not of it; simultaneously pervading it and surpassing it.

That one on "transcendence" indicated that it's typically (though not necessarily) the opposite of "immanence." You reduced "transcendent" to "unknowable", which isn't correct. Both forms of the divine are generally considered unknowable, more than this article indicates, in that style of theology. Immanence is certainly not the same as materialism. Then you went on to one of my pet peeves, the misuse of Occam's Razor to implicitly replace "simple" or "parsimonious" with "plausible." Occam's recommends the least number of assumptions. Plausibility is often a vast cluster of culturally-based assumptions, that if separated out and counted (if possible) would probably swamp the rule of thumb, which is intended for informal logic, which isn't as informal as "what I think makes sense."

I don't seem to have come from as classy a place, culturally, as most of you (materially, I was raised pretty well off). I'm more worried about the fundamentalist Christians' influence in our country than QG is. I was taught in Sunday school not to argue with unbelievers, because they would confuse me, and try to lead me away from my faith. I think this was based on the (really well-meaning) Sunday school teachers' own experience, and their inability to teach us any skills, such as critical thinking, that would help us do any better than they did. In high school, my biology teacher had to rush past the chapter on evolution, with disclaimers that it was just a theory, even though most of us in that class had already been taught evolution, at least the process of it, in junior high biology. I guess what I'm trying to say is - don't count on incoherence to stymie them. They don't acknowledge it, and may not apprehend it.
Then you cited two wikipedia articles that you can't have read very carefully.


Well, dreamlogic, I don't think I quite deserved that implied tone. I'm going to run with the assumption you didn't mean it that way, and answer your points:

I'm pointing towards trancendence as the philosophical concept, but I'm not following that completely (there's no law that requires me to completely agree or use a philosophical concept after I've introduced it ;)). There's modern religious thinkers, who, like me, feel that a completely transcendent, unknowable God, is the only type of God which could work with a materialist, rational, logical world-view (again, I'm not sure if those terms are quite the correct words, philosophically speaking, but I tend to remember the concepts, and not so much the names in the philosophy I've read).

If you'll take a look at my post again, you'll see that I also mention that there's other possibilities: "But while many people would define God as unknowable, they would then also ascribe properties to Him/Her/It that are in logical contradiction to the proposed transcendence", I wrote. This is the regime where people either think that God is also a part of reality (the immanentism mentioned in that wikipedia article), or where God is completely outside of reality, but his actions can influence said reality. Both are logical contradictions to me, because I'm using the assumption that our reality is knowable to us (and you can't have something unknowable as a part of a knowable whole). If, on the other hand, you don't think our reality is knowable to us (because our human minds are too small to contain the essence of the devine in reality, for instance), then there's no problem with any of that.

So, like with everything, it again comes down to one's own philosophical starting point. As a result, to me, "knowability" is a nice (and more conceptually clear for a thread such as this) short-hand for transcendence. It's not a 100% valid translation (although in philosophy, almost nothing ever is, it would seem), but it works for the purposes of a discussion such as this, as long as we choose our language carefully. What's more, when I'm writing "unknowable" in my posts, that's exactly what I mean: an unknowable God outside of reality (which is a subset of the philosophy of transcendence).

As for Occam's razor, you wrote:

Then you went on to one of my pet peeves, the misuse of Occam's Razor to implicitly replace "simple" or "parsimonious" with "plausible." Occam's recommends the least number of assumptions. Plausibility is often a vast cluster of culturally-based assumptions, that if separated out and counted (if possible) would probably swamp the rule of thumb, which is intended for informal logic, which isn't as informal as "what I think makes sense."


I'm sorry, but I don't quite see what you think I did "wrong" (but, obviously, that could be me misunderstanding either Occam's razor, your post, or a combination of those ;)). As a scientist, I've been taught to care about simple/elegant ways in which to describe nature. In fact, something which is "simple" or "parsimonious" being better than a more "complex" theory, requiring more "assumptions", is what drives the scientific method. And like I pointed out in my own post, that's something I still subscribe to when choosing my philosophical "ground state", so to speak. I'll quote myself for clarity:

But, of course, if you don't believe that to be true, because you don't share my philosophical "starting point", that is no argument at all. Maybe what we're describing with our "impartial science" is what we're choosing to see as scientists. Maybe all of us share a filter, which means we can't know all of reality anyway. Maybe we only share one reality because of common sense (we all expect an apple to fall down, and because of that: it always does. This may also be why increasingly certain scientific theories get more "support" by others expecting them to be true ;)) or maybe what we observe and think of as reality, is really only "feeded" to us (helloooo there 'The Matrix'). Maybe God only exists for people who believe in Him/Her/It (hello there Neil Gaiman, I loved your book American Gods ;)) and as such all religions and all of us atheÔsts are right (which means we're cheating ourselves out of Heaven, sucks to be us ;)), etcetera.

There's - and I've said this before on the other thread - really no a priori reason to be a materialist, rational atheist. It's just that all these other possibilities, to me, instinctually, feel less probable (or they at the very least invoke Occam's Razor, which, of course, is not "law", just a nice rule-of-thumb). But this is why I choose to not believe them, while also being conscious of the fact that it is a choice, whichever way you put it.


These are things which - as far as I'm concerned - invoke Occam's razor. They make more assumptions and are more complex than the more simple/elegant solution offered by a rational, materialist, scientific, atheist world view, which is what I subscribe to. I don't quite see where I'm doing an implicit transition from "simple" to "plausible". Yes, I also think these things are less plausible, but I think that because they are less simple.

Of course, all this is no proof whatsoever that my world view is the right choice. It's no proof because Occam's razor is no law to begin with, but only a rule-of-thumb and - more importantly - because Occam's razor uses the same world view (it's based primarily on the assumption that logic can lead us to discover "true statements" about reality) as the one I'm trying to explain with Occam's razor, which is just a big old logical mess :). I was simply using it as an example why I'm making the choice for my world view.

ETA:

QuoterGal, that's pretty :). And yes, it does answer a couple of my questions, and I'm now running with the assumption you're closer to the "there is no one reality" statement then I thought before, just like my friend (who's, trust me, a very cool person, so you're in good company ;))

[ edited by GVH on 2008-09-01 12:10 ]
Fmeh! I hate it when I take a nap and suddenly have lots of homework to catch up on! And most especially when a discussion thread I wanted to be part of goes all posty before I can get there. :: Pout ::

Well, anyway...

I don't collect stamps. I don't define myself as a non-stamp-collector (or even a non-stamp collector) because I have other things to do (and collect) and there's a lot more to existence and being a good person than whether or not they collect stamps. Nevertheless, I respect that there are those who collect stamps and I'm sometimes fascinated by the history and development of stamp collecting, but I find that even of the people I know who do collect stamps, there's often quite a variety of reasons behind it, sometimes several in a single individual. Some do because they think stamps are beautiful and historic and precious. Some do because there are really valuable stamps out there and they do it as an investment. Some do it just because their parent(s) did it and they inherited the collection or they're trying to show that they can collect as well or better than their parents or maybe are just continuing the tradition because they want to honor or remember their parents, and the act of doing it makes them feel closer to them. Some do it because they feel they could become an expert at it and it's important to them to be expert at something. Some think that it's necessary that there be as complete a collection of stamps as possible somewhere in the world. Some do it because it's a way to become part of a social network, and join with other stamp collectors as a sort of replacement or augmentation of a family structure. Some see stamps everywhere they look and think that collecting them is merely the formality of putting brackets around a collection that's already there. And there's the occasional person who says the stamps told them to, which is ...really creepy.

On the other hand, some people who don't collect stamps don't do it because they just don't want to be associated with those who do, or because they may have been forced to at one time or felt betrayed by a stamp collector or who think it's stupid or futile or some other reason which avoids facing the issue of stamp collecting altogether, and the hard questions, which are:

Do you want to collect stamps? And if you feel that need, are you merely responding as an addict would to that need? Are you collecting because it keeps you from thinking about things that otherwise would overwhelm you? If so, then where's the authenticity, the purity as it were, in your collecting of stamps? And when you think about it and really examine your feelings, do you think that stamp collecting is about you, or about the stamps?

You see, I can envision and accept a world in which there is stamp collecting, and I can envision and accept one in which there is not. I can be comfortable with either paradigm. But as disturbing as it seems, some people cannot imagine or abide a world without stamp collecting. For myself, I was raised in a stamp collecting house and in my youth I did it, but after really examining my feelings and studying stamp collecting and collectors, I came to a sort of epiphany, if one could use that term: Call it hubris but you could show me absolute proof of stamps and collecting, the one true path of stamp collecting and that everyone else does it and I will still feel no personal inclination to collect stamps.

[ edited by Grotesk on 2008-09-01 13:05 ]

[ edited by Grotesk on 2008-09-01 13:09 ]
Certainly I'm aware that many people have a deeply resonant feeling of connectedness with the universe on a spiritual level, and define that as a belief in God.
zoinkers | August 31, 18:49 CET


For a different perspective: There are also many people who have that "deeply resonant feeling of connectedness with the universe on a spiritual level", who do not define it as a belief in "God".
Some of whom are not even me :)
My point being, something that seems to be consistently overlooked in all this discussion is that, there is a huge difference in believing in "God", and believing in the existence of a spiritual dimension and spiritual "entities", of some sort. The belief in a greater reality, not beyond our own, but containing the realities we are able to perceive, as well as myriad other realities that we are unable to perceive, except occasionally and imperfectly, is not religion, per se.
I suppose the closest you can come to defining it is "spirituality", which is, when you remove it from the context of a specific religion, a very different animal from "religion".

BTW zoinkers, I loved that post, I'm just using that quote as a convenient jumping off point for something I wanted to express.
I'm more worried about the fundamentalist Christians' influence in our country than QG is.


I think you probably mean me, dreamlogic--Quotergal was taking me to task for the same thing. In defense of my blase-ness, I didn't actually mean that it wasn't a threat or a danger in the US, only that I didn't think there was much to say about it here, where I assume we'd all just go "yes, isn't it terrible."

"I'm the dip!" as our Cordy might say. But I really am godded out this time. You go, GVH!
it's based primarily on the assumption that logic can lead us to discover "true statements" about reality

Eh, sorry to be the grinch again, but no. The best logic can do is valid arguments. That's part of why it's always trying to cut down on assumptions. Truth is in the premises, plucked from the universe, carefully, we hope.

Of course, us old fashioned types assume the truth is the whole.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2008-09-01 13:50 ]
But I really am godded out this time.
catherine | September 01, 13:32 CET

If this thread keeps going, I bet you'll be back. ;-)
Yep, dreamlogic, that was certainly an unclear shorthand, I agree. I was just using it to point out that logic, in this case, is part of the "problem solving kit" leading us to "knowlegde" (which is another dangerous statement, given that we can fight over the definition of knowledge, truth and reality all day if we'd so choose, but still ;)), and that as such using it like I did (because Occam's Razor is based on logic) to "prove" (wrong term here, but I'll use it anyway) that logic is part of our toolbag to get knowlegde, which some - if not possibly even many - (religious) philosophies would disagree with, was me walking along very shaky ground, whistling an unconcerned tune, pretending it was solid :)

I'd restate (and as such agree to a certain extent) that logic can lead to "true statements" about reality, given that we apply it to observations of that "reality" which we've shaped into premises. And although I do think that "just logic", given a basic framework (for instance: our current scienctific knowlegde) can lead to "true statements" (like in theoretical physics, for instance), we can't be sure they are true statements untill we've been able to - in the words of Giles - "test that theory" ;). And, of course, I'm using "true statement" as our approximation of reality which we hope is very close - if not equal to - the actual reality.

And to form "true statements" from nothing with just logic is - I think, just like you do - impossible, though some pure rationalists from days long gone might disagree with us there ;).

catherine, I'm starting to near the point of being "godded out" as well. These discussions are fun, but we've been going at this for more than a week now in some shape or form. Also, I'm running a fever, so I might just drop from the black for a couple of days to be flu-ish, and the chance of this thread still breathing when I get back, probably isn't too big. Although I'd certainly call myself an agnostic on the final outcome of that statement ;).

(and, of course, then there's always the chance I'm not too feverish or just plain bored, and keep posting here on a daily basis after all, possibly making less and less sense as the fever increases ;))
Cure for a fever:

Go to bed, drink lots of juice and chamomile tea (or get Saje to brew you something better), and alternate between sleeping and watching Firefly. If you've seen Firefly too recently, watch Buffy Season 1 (not the best season necessarily but the best season for a fever, because they're all just so CUTE and ickle!). DO NOT watch BSG with a fever.

Feel better soon!
have faith in certain things...that usually happen to be fairly nonabstract - me, family, friends, chocolate.
events in life have left me wondering if there could be more...but i read a lot as a child, and learning about the christian god while reading about the greek gods, irish gods and goddesses, and variations on a theme kinda made me hard to convince that there was only one way to be a decent person.

kinda more worried about the state of me now, more than the state of me then...
drneevil: please use standard punctuation in your comments as per site rules. Cheers. Oh, and welcome to the site. :-)
Shall do.

And cheers!
You can trust chocolate, it's a good choice for a solid foundation (so long as it doesn't get too hot of course, it's kind of a winter only belief system).

(or get Saje to brew you something better)

Some things even tea struggles to accomplish, it has to be a hot toddy for a fever*. Probably entirely ineffective but you won't mind as much GVH - hope you feel better soon BTW ;).

Jossizboss: Over the years, I still continued to have feelings of a presence, or connectedness to what felt like a god, but those have steadily become less frequent until they are now virtually non-existent.

I find that pretty interesting Jossizboss. So you can sort of talk yourself out of the sense of presence or maybe it just withers if unfed ? Does that mean it's something that needs "nurturing" rather than an innate property of some people ?

ETA: actually, as has been pointed out above, sometimes innate properties need nurturing too - innate doesn't mean immutable by any stretch.

* not actual medical advice ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2008-09-01 22:42 ]
Oh my gods/goddesses and assorted deities...

You have opened my eyes so much. T'is a glorious world. Full of sweet beverage-y goodness, and I have so much yet to learn.

What is this bottle labelled baileys? :)

On a more serious note, as 'the man' said there is no 'end of story'. The search goes on. To be more obvious and trite sometimes the journey matters more than the destination.

(And it's now officially the time to put *away* the wine)
I missed this from Jossizboss the first time round (not missed as in didn't read it but missed as in didn't think about it):
Over the years, I still continued to have feelings of a presence, or connectedness to what felt like a god, but those have steadily become less frequent until they are now virtually non-existent.

That IS interesting (and thanks to ManEnoughToAdmitIt for his perspective above as well...that name just cracks me up, especially in contexts like this!). But what I really wanted to say is that I don't know what that catherine person is on about with the whole "innate" you-have-faith-or-you-don't thing. Lots of people have not-quite-but-almost faith, lots of people lose their once-very-clear faith, and a lot of people undergo dramatic "conversions" like that Paul guy on his way to Damascus. I don't want to be rude, but I think that maybe she should think things through a little more before posting. The lesson here? Your parents are not everybody.

Yeah, so, I also tried making what should have been a really nice supper tonight, and it... wasn't. Some days I'm just not "on." Luckily, this day is almost over ;). And I see we've abandoned Tea-As-Overarching-Theme for hot toddies (sometimes I just pretend to have a cold) and bailey's... time for a night-cap? Cheers, gang.

And welcome to the black drneevil!
Sorry, I was away from my computer for the past 15 hours or so. The reason I posted about my experiences was because most of the previous posters had seemed to be either religious, or had never been religious and couldn't quite understand this "feeling" we've all been discussing.

I'll try to explain the following statement more fully: "Over the years, I still continued to have feelings of a presence, or connectedness to what felt like a god, but those have steadily become less frequent until they are now virtually non-existent."

These moments usually occurred at very emotional times. For instance, my friend was in the hospital dying and I felt like there was a god at that moment. Or at least I wanted there to be one. And I wanted my prayers to be answered. Most of the times that I felt a sort of "connectedness" to a god came at such stressful or emotional events in my life. I now feel that I was merely hoping. Sort of how one replays things over in their head after a tragic event (illustrated so perfectly in the Buffy episode "The Body") and almost convinces oneself that it didn't really happen. It's an emotional response not really rooted in reality (except one's own reality as has been discussed previously ;).

I don't find myself praying under any circumstances now though, so I'm leaning about as far the other ways as I possibly can.
DO NOT watch BSG with a fever.
catherine | September 01, 15:39 CET

;=)

Adding my "get well soon", GVH
Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee
ETA-the-sequel: still waiting for zeitgeist to show up ;)


Sorry to disappoint, its been a hectic few weeks and my downtime has been spent catching up on some reading rather than expounding endlessly on eternal questions :) Its probably too late to contribute meaningfully as I haven't read everything (did some skimming). Good discussion, all, a few tone issues aside.

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