sense of I

ex-minister
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sense of I

My favorite cat of all time, PeeWee, we had to put down yesterday. He and I were very bonded, the closest thing to an wonderful human connection. We had him since a kitten and so he was 15 or 16 years old. My father died just over one year ago. My mother isn't in the best of health. So I am moving up that ladder and frankly don't care one bit for it. But I am still alive and that is better, right? This stuff has gotten me into thinking about my own death naturally. Christianity hasn't helped me in this area. In fact it generally made it worse. I have a disposition that the worst will always happen. So, I hoped I was accepted by Jesus but generally felt since the broad path was statistically more likely I would not and be rejected. He rejects far more than he accepts of his creation. We can say Jesus has a very negative view of life as well. Quite the bad designer but I digress. 

The oddest thing in life for me is the "sense of I". How is it I feel separate and unique from the rest of the world? I assume you feel the same way. How does that not feel like a divine thing? (Does evolution have any explanation for it?) Buddhism has helped me or who knows, just colored my thinking. When I was holding my cat as he slipped into death I just said without thinking, "PeeWee where did you go?". I assume this is the base feeling that started religions. I find it so hard to understand how we are alive and then how we are not.  Since I am fairly new to atheism/evolution I don't understand how or if it even addresses it. I am really not looking for an intellectual understanding but a emotional understanding. Perhaps there is no answer ( yet ).

Examples - intellectual

- Adam/Eve ate a forbidden piece of fruit after being deceived. They and all their children must die. Jesus , the sacrifice of blood, died on a cross and if I believe in him I will "not die" but live with him in eternity.

- abiogenesis happened somehow. After millions of years of evolution I was born and then I will die and there will be nothing.

 

Example - emotional

- All living things are in the river of life which is one and undivided. At some point the river passes over precipice and becomes a waterfall. The individual droplets are like birth and life which becomes separate. That is only an illusion. At death we go back into the river and become one again. All we have is the current moment embrace it and especially when in pain don't fret on the whys of life.

 

I am trying to emotionally embrace life & death and how it is I have thoughts and I have this sense of being separate from all other living things. I assume it is not my dream but every animal feels like I do including my cat.  Do all living things with a face have the same sense of I?

I would appreciate any atheist who have been where I am and processed it chime in. How do you explain that we have this sense of self? How does it feel to you? How do you emotionally deal with death and dying? Are there any books/movies that were particularly helpful? Perhaps there are no satisfying answers to this. I just feel the pain and move on.

 

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


cj
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I would say no, not all

I would say no, not all living beings feel like we do.  Some come closer, but we can not and should not attempt to read another beings mind - heck, we can't read each others' minds.  We can feel empathy and sympathy, and perhaps some animals do as well.  But we can't know for sure.

It really is true that no one gets out of here alive.  I can't remember before I was 3 or 4 let alone before I was born and I won't remember after I am dead.

For each death of family, friends, or pets, I have had varying responses.  We all do.  Some deaths are just more important to us than others.  That is okay.  The grieving process takes as long as it takes.  When I die, I do not anticipate knowing anything, rejoining anyone, or even crossing the rainbow bridge to be with the very best dog in the world.  They are all comforting stories - but it is just stories.  The pain of loss will subside as the days go on.  One foot in front of the other - until we can no longer put a foot forward.

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


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Life is NOT 'one'.There is a

Life is NOT 'one'.

There is a spectrum from the simplest replicating structures such as viruses, which are little more than packaged DNA or RNA molecules, to the higher mammals.

As you go back down the scale, self-awareness, intelligences fades, disappearing in any meaningful sense before we get to the bottom.

Human life is a river stretching from the earliest primates toward an indefinite future. It has branched into countless channels, which rejoin and split again, and will probably end soaking into a swamp, or merging with some other stream. If we don't unleash some disaster on the eco-sytem.

Consciousness IS.

It is neither remarkable or ordinary - those are emotional, subjective judgments, of consciousness trying to assess itself.

Individually, it grows from some point around birth, and fades away at the end, sometimes abruptly, sometimes gradually.

I lost a good friend in school. I have lost pets. I have lost my parents. My sister, younger, was in a life-threatening situation last year. She survived.

I have had a reasonable life so far. In some parts, wonderful.

Cherish the highlights. Try to set the low points to rest and move on.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


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ex-minister wrote:My

ex-minister wrote:

My favorite cat of all time, PeeWee, we had to put down yesterday. He and I were very bonded, the closest thing to an wonderful human connection. We had him since a kitten and so he was 15 or 16 years old. My father died just over one year ago. My mother isn't in the best of health. So I am moving up that ladder and frankly don't care one bit for it. But I am still alive and that is better, right?

Sorry to hear about the loss of your cat. I lost an Alaskan Malamute dog a few years ago and have more fonder memories of that dog than I do alot of people

 

ex-minister wrote:

The oddest thing in life for me is the "sense of I". How is it I feel separate and unique from the rest of the world? I assume you feel the same way. How does that not feel like a divine thing? (Does evolution have any explanation for it?) Buddhism has helped me or who knows, just colored my thinking. When I was holding my cat as he slipped into death I just said without thinking, "PeeWee where did you go?". I assume this is the base feeling that started religions. I find it so hard to understand how we are alive and then how we are not.  Since I am fairly new to atheism/evolution I don't understand how or if it even addresses it. I am really not looking for an intellectual understanding but a emotional understanding. Perhaps there is no answer ( yet ).

I understand exactly what you mean on that one. Feelings of being alone and cut off from everyone else has come to me often. Sometimes, I can be surrounded by an entire crowd of people and feel that same aloneness that you are talking about. But it is in moments of grief and sorrow that I believe that I have felt that the most. 

I don't know about the emotional aspects of it. It has been something that has been with me all of my life, particularly during my religious years.  Some of that aloneness I think is a byproduct of religious thinking. Everytime I ever spoke with a priest or a person in my church, I was told that I WAS alone and that everyone was alone because we are separate from god and that the feeling can never go away until we are with god again. Religion seemed to encourage that feeling for me.

I think that humankind is one of the first known living organisms that actually gained an innate understanding of self-identification or self-awareness. The ability to recognize our own reflections, the ability to look at ourselves and wonder why we are here and where we came from. I think those feelings are largely the contributing factor to that isolated feeling of separation.

 

ex-minister wrote:
 

I am trying to emotionally embrace life & death and how it is I have thoughts and I have this sense of being separate from all other living things. I assume it is not my dream but every animal feels like I do including my cat.  Do all living things with a face have the same sense of I?

I would appreciate any atheist who have been where I am and processed it chime in. How do you explain that we have this sense of self? How does it feel to you? How do you emotionally deal with death and dying? Are there any books/movies that were particularly helpful? Perhaps there are no satisfying answers to this. I just feel the pain and move on.

I can't really say for sure what cats and dogs actually feel or how they perceive. I like to believe that they have greater intelligence than alot of people say, but that could just be wishful thinking on my part.

I have lost many friends and close family over the years. There is an old saying among my biker bros : When we bury one of our friends, we bury a part of them with us. When we ride, we carry a part of them with us.

That is personally the way that I look at everyone or every animal that has been important in my life. The fact that they were there and I got the opportunity to know them, is how I personally deal with it. The death of my father was probably the hardest, due to the fact that we had not spoken in years and there were forever unresolved issues there, but time and understanding eventually lessened the pain even if it did not fully alleviate it.

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


Atheistextremist
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Hey Ex-min

 

Sorry to hear about your kitty. Always tough to lose a pet you care for.

This is a challenging area. I think it's a mistake to wonder whether or not atheism offers you any explanation of death. As we know, atheism is about insufficient proof for gods. There is no theology behind it - no explanation for the meaning of life. I think you have to come to an understanding and an acceptance of the impermanence of things all by yourself and this is difficult and takes time. Life really is about today, about now, about extracting the meaning from things as they happen and feeling priveleged to be here at all. It's about being close to your people and about putting back in - today. 

It's normal that your sense of self is the oldest and strongest sense you have. 'I' is your inner voice, it's the template of consciousness thrown up by the limbic system to allow you to concentrate on things that are important enough to be considered by the prefrontal cortex. Not everything is that important and most stimuli detected by human sense organs are ignored. If you think about it, Ex-min, you are not 'I' all the time. Self is an occassional experience.

It is challenging to find your sense of you is a product of the brain, a function provided by evolution as a tool - but that is what it is. I can never think about this stuff without bearing in mind my body is a colony of one hundred trillion cells, almost none of which have a sense of who and what I am. They just go about their business of surviving in the colony of me. Like all the other specialised cells in the body, the brain serves the whole and allows my colony of self to stay out of trouble, plan and react to threats.

I think you need to spend some time reading about this, Ex-min. I recommend The Ego Tunnel, The Illusion of Concious Will, The Crucible of Consciousness, The Evolution of Self, as well as Carl Zimmer's Soul Made Flesh. Perhaps a more oblique read, but one that has helped me understand my mental shortcuts and foibles better was Susan Gelman's The Essential Child. While I'm wanking on about it, if anyone is struggling to feel a sense of meaning in life beyond themselves as an atheist, I highly recommend Sagan's wonderful little book, Cosmos. It's like a realist's Desiderata and you cannot read it without realigning what it means to be human in this space.

 

 

 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


ex-minister
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The grieving process takes as long as it takes

cj wrote:

I would say no, not all living beings feel like we do.  Some come closer, but we can not and should not attempt to read another beings mind - heck, we can't read each others' minds.  We can feel empathy and sympathy, and perhaps some animals do as well.  But we can't know for sure.

It really is true that no one gets out of here alive.  I can't remember before I was 3 or 4 let alone before I was born and I won't remember after I am dead.

For each death of family, friends, or pets, I have had varying responses.  We all do.  Some deaths are just more important to us than others.  That is okay.  The grieving process takes as long as it takes.  When I die, I do not anticipate knowing anything, rejoining anyone, or even crossing the rainbow bridge to be with the very best dog in the world.  They are all comforting stories - but it is just stories.  The pain of loss will subside as the days go on.  One foot in front of the other - until we can no longer put a foot forward.

 

Right. Anthropomorphism/Solipsism is a big temptation. I watched a debate between Atheist Michael Sizer vs. Messianic Jew Mariano Grinbank on the source of morality. (March 18, 2010). Sizer presented the trolley dilemma and discussed how different parts of the brain light up (fmri) under certain scenarios. A part of the brain is for cost/benefit analysis and another part is related to social emotions. Some part of the human population can be born with those part of the brains reduced. There was research done with psychopaths and the emotional part of their brain was reduced. Shows how the brain affects our world view.

This is part 2 and 3 where Sizer discusses it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hekAiJlN8H8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XtHqreicEQ&NR=1

 

I had to retire my mind reading abilities after I got married.

 

Quote:

The grieving process takes as long as it takes.

How true. I have found though going through loss and feeling it for all it was worth has certainly helped me. I am feeling better now. I miss the little guy but my wife and I have recited how much pleasure he brought to our life and am grateful we were lucky enough to have him. I buried him under a special tree and marked it quite clearly. It is in a place on our property I frequently go by. I am sure I will call out to him "L-i-t-t-le B-u-d-d-y" and remember how his tail would go straight up and he would walk over to me and I would hold him and pet him and he would droll all over me. I don't believe I will ever be rejoined with him but I can enjoy my memories while alive. It has a way of making the other people/animals in my life more precious.

 

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


ex-minister
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BobSpence1

BobSpence1 wrote:

 

Consciousness IS.

It is neither remarkable or ordinary - those are emotional, subjective judgments, of consciousness trying to assess itself.

Individually, it grows from some point around birth, and fades away at the end, sometimes abruptly, sometimes gradually.

I lost a good friend in school. I have lost pets. I have lost my parents. My sister, younger, was in a life-threatening situation last year. She survived.

I have had a reasonable life so far. In some parts, wonderful.

Cherish the highlights. Try to set the low points to rest and move on.

 

I have thought about this all day, especially "Consciousness IS", "It is neither remarkable or ordinary". Thank you. So much packed into just a few words. Life is a gift. 

 

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


ex-minister
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Keep the shiny side up

harleysportster wrote:

 

I don't know about the emotional aspects of it. It has been something that has been with me all of my life, particularly during my religious years.  Some of that aloneness I think is a byproduct of religious thinking. Everytime I ever spoke with a priest or a person in my church, I was told that I WAS alone and that everyone was alone because we are separate from god and that the feeling can never go away until we are with god again. Religion seemed to encourage that feeling for me.

I think that humankind is one of the first known living organisms that actually gained an innate understanding of self-identification or self-awareness. The ability to recognize our own reflections, the ability to look at ourselves and wonder why we are here and where we came from. I think those feelings are largely the contributing factor to that isolated feeling of separation.

 

100% with you here. I think religion is (ab)using a natural feeling and twisting it into a god-whole. I am far more secure as a person now that I have fired Jesus. 

They have done studies with apes and they have face recognition. Hell, a bonobo can play pac-man

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLLFSUaQsp4&feature=player_embedded

 Here is one on apes recognizing themselves in the mirror

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJFo3trMuD8&feature=player_embedded

I love these videos. It shows were are not as unique as we like to think. It clearly stands as evidence for evolution for me. My wife and I went to a bed and breakfast years ago. My wife was vegan and said she didn't want any meat. The woman of the house argued with her saying she can eat meat because animals have no soul. My wife retorted but haven't you seen how animals respond to language and feel pain and can be happy or sad. The woman said that is because the human soul is touching them and gives them those powers. My wife and I like to laugh about that every now and again.

 

harleysportster wrote:

 

I have lost many friends and close family over the years. There is an old saying among my biker bros : When we bury one of our friends, we bury a part of them with us. When we ride, we carry a part of them with us.

 

I am a fellow rider. I have 5 bikes in my stable right now. A sporster, 3 Moto Guzzis (ambo, EV, Griso) and an airhead. I heartily agree with your saying. I fantisized that when I die I would be cremated and my ashes would be put in small bottles and strapped to my buddies bikes so I could continue to ride. Smiling

 

harleysportster wrote:

That is personally the way that I look at everyone or every animal that has been important in my life. The fact that they were there and I got the opportunity to know them, is how I personally deal with it. The death of my father was probably the hardest, due to the fact that we had not spoken in years and there were forever unresolved issues there, but time and understanding eventually lessened the pain even if it did not fully alleviate it.

I was fortunate with my father. While we had issues over the years and we didn't speak for about a year we were friends when he died. As he was dying I thought I would have all these things to say to him but really didn't. I think we just accepted each other. I really thinking believing this is it and there is no afterlife to make up with people makes me a better person, appreciating that this is it.

 

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


BobSpence
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I value the memory of one of

I value the memory of one of the few deep hugs I had from my father, a final one while visiting him in the palliative care hospital, waiting to die, in which he basically said a wordless goodbye...

I am sad that I never had the chance for any such farewell to my mother, who died suddenly from a heart attack while I was at work.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


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Never got the man hug from dad

BobSpence1 wrote:

I value the memory of one of the few deep hugs I had from my father, a final one while visiting him in the palliative care hospital, waiting to die, in which he basically said a wordless goodbye...

I am sad that I never had the chance for any such farewell to my mother, who died suddenly from a heart attack while I was at work.

 

But I treasure a handhold I got from him in the nursing home once at Manly West towards the end. His Parkinson's was well advanced and he could not longer speak but that five minute long hand squeeze meant it all to me.

If there's a lesson I learned from my failure to be around enough when dad was fading (we lived in different states) it's never to hesitate to use the love word to the people you care about.

I never said those words to my old man despite the fact they were true. Maybe it was the generational thing. He was born in 1922 had his family late and was a hard man to know. 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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Atheistextremist

Atheistextremist wrote:

 

Sorry to hear about your kitty. Always tough to lose a pet you care for.

This is a challenging area. I think it's a mistake to wonder whether or not atheism offers you any explanation of death. As we know, atheism is about insufficient proof for gods. There is no theology behind it - no explanation for the meaning of life. I think you have to come to an understanding and an acceptance of the impermanence of things all by yourself and this is difficult and takes time. Life really is about today, about now, about extracting the meaning from things as they happen and feeling priveleged to be here at all. It's about being close to your people and about putting back in - today. 

It's normal that your sense of self is the oldest and strongest sense you have. 'I' is your inner voice, it's the template of consciousness thrown up by the limbic system to allow you to concentrate on things that are important enough to be considered by the prefrontal cortex. Not everything is that important and most stimuli detected by human sense organs are ignored. If you think about it, Ex-min, you are not 'I' all the time. Self is an occassional experience.

It is challenging to find your sense of you is a product of the brain, a function provided by evolution as a tool - but that is what it is. I can never think about this stuff without bearing in mind my body is a colony of one hundred trillion cells, almost none of which have a sense of who and what I am. They just go about their business of surviving in the colony of me. Like all the other specialised cells in the body, the brain serves the whole and allows my colony of self to stay out of trouble, plan and react to threats.

I think you need to spend some time reading about this, Ex-min. I recommend The Ego Tunnel, The Illusion of Concious Will, The Crucible of Consciousness, The Evolution of Self, as well as Carl Zimmer's Soul Made Flesh. Perhaps a more oblique read, but one that has helped me understand my mental shortcuts and foibles better was Susan Gelman's The Essential Child. While I'm wanking on about it, if anyone is struggling to feel a sense of meaning in life beyond themselves as an atheist, I highly recommend Sagan's wonderful little book, Cosmos. It's like a realist's Desiderata and you cannot read it without realigning what it means to be human in this space.

 

  

I am going through your list of recommended books and putting them on my Amazon wish list for review. Would love to read them all but time of course is limited. I have ordered The Ego Tunnel and *really* I must have a copy of Cosmos being a card carrying member Smiling. I got lost in Amazon and bought a few other books like The God Virus and Does God Get Diarrhea? which looks like fun.

 

Here is its opening line.

"In the beginning, it (religion) was a primitive method of controlling people. In the middle, it provided consolation for our greatest fears and sorrow. In the end it will kill us all."

 

Amazon could not find "The Evolution of Self".  Did you mean "The Evolving Self"?

 

You have given me lots to think about. Yes, atheism is a "small" target and I can fall for the religious trap of making it into something it is not. I am not a stamp collector. Good point about the sense of self being my oldest & strongest feeling. I cannot NOT feel that. I went off to youtube and found some videos on the limbic system. Interesting stuff. I think this is what I need to understand that is how the brain works. I sense it will clear up a lot, but for now it looks like it will be hard for me to sort out fact from opinion, but that is ok. Not sure what you mean that I am not "I" all the time and self is an occasional experience. Could you expand on that? I recall a book, Parasite Rex, you and CJ discussed about the gazillion parasites that are a part of our body and now you mentioning there are trillions of non-thinking cells. So there is a lot of me that doesn't "think" of itself as me. It is all in my brain and very small piece of it. What ever that is, it always feels switched on to me. I feel always self aware, self conscious if you will. So how can you say I am not "I" all the time?

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


harleysportster
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Ex-minister

Ex-minister this was one articulate viewpoint that summed up quite alot of my feelings on the idea of grief and death :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEFlmuQwp8Y

 

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


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 Hi, Ex-minister.  We all

 

Hi, Ex-minister.  We all think about the good questions you've raised, and it seems to me that consciousness, or "I," is just a name we've given to our macro-sensation of being a human organism -- i.e., all our micro sensory input, neural transmissions, our memory, emotions, calculations, motor skills, add up to "consciousness" being the sum total experience of how we process existence moment to moment.  It's what it feels like to be a living human.  Metaphorically speaking, our consciousness is "The River," and our physical body is "all the river's separate water molecules."  In this sense, all living things, animals and even plants have a means by which they navigate survival, and so possess some level of what could be called a consciousness.  As for dying, death after my life will be the same as death before my life -- i.e., we've all been in a state of non-existence before being born.

I've had cancer, presently in remission . . . again -- but every six months I go for the blood test that can signal its return . . . again.  So I live with a reminder of mortality that's somewhat more tangible.  I just figure that I'm not going to be around forever and I'm not going to worry about it -- does no good to worry, and I don't think of it as a battle either.  So, every day I am reminded to savor the privilege of living, to inhale the precious honor of life, and I try to spread love and intelligence and creativity and not sweat the stuff that in the end doesn't really matter so much.  That's all we can do whether we are an atheist or not.  I don't think very many theists really "believe" in the afterlife they claim, either -- eternal life is more like an advertising slogan for them, so I don't think when it comes to contemplating mortality, their belief system provides any advantage or relief.  Basically, for living organisms, the idea of not living sucks -- and theists are just as deeply concerned about avoiding not living as are atheists.  If they truly believed with certainty in their afterlife slogan, they wouldn't be every bit as careful as atheists when walking near the edges of cliffs.

I'm most interested, though, in how you changed from believer to non-believer.  That's rare, in my experience -- I think people have a tendency, something science doesn't really understand, to become intractable in their adult systems of thought -- whether it be religion, politics, social attitudes, prejudices.  Logical argument does not seem to be very persuasive in getting grown humans to change their mind about subjects for which they've established a pattern of belief earlier in life.  So, I find your EX-minister experience to be impressive, and I'm proud of you for what I imagine was a very independent-minded life decision.  I think you are unique -- can you tell us about it?  What changed you?

roseweed

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Everything that happens, happens somehow.


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Hey Roseweed, read "Mistakes

Hey Roseweed, read "Mistakes Were Made, but Not by Me".

 

This is a book about the very thing you ask about in your past paragraph.  Everyone here that has read it seems to find a good deal of insight.

 

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


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Hey Ex, that sucks about

Hey Ex, that sucks about your cat, and the painful pontification isn't much fun either.

Atheist Extremist said everything I wanted to say, only better, but I'll expound on the life and death bit a bit from my own experience.

 

When I went from theist to atheist (well, agnostic first, but that is the point I dealt with these issues) I was in my late teens after being a fundamentalist protestant, an evangelical.  Earlier I was a theist terrified of hell, after I abandoned the idea of hell I was terrified of non-existence.

I did find some comfort in thoughts like, matter is never destroyed, so in some way you're never really gone, and I think you could find some comfort in the idea that 'we' are just an emergent property of the same matter that forms the rest of the universe.  'We are stardust' and the like.

Honestly though, that's just a crutch and none of it is real.  I found the more I thought about it the more comfortable I became with the idea that 'I' would cease to exist.  I think part of the problem with religion is you're never really forced to look at those ideas.  Not really.  Once you hit a certain point you can take some solace in eternal life or whatever your religion promises and push the issue back.  Many people die with the idea so firmly entrenched that they are blissfully looking forward to meeting the angels.

As atheists we don't have that luxury, but I am honestly of the opinion that the only reason we have so much existential dread about the issue is because we've put it off so long.  Once the idea is familiar it loses its intimidation.

 

So, Tl;dr: Atheists, especially atheists like us that convert from theism after our adult lives have started, often have an un-avoidable reconciliation with the idea of death and it usually hurts...but it is fear of an idea we aren't familiar with more than anything else, maybe because we've trained our minds to *expect* immortality.  We deal with a shock as adults that many atheists deal with when they are children.  But it passes with thought and introspection.

I can honestly say that I'm not afraid of death anymore, and I have not been for a long time.  I'm afraid of dying, because that usually sucks, and I'm sad in a distant way that I won't be around forever, but the concept of cessation doesn't bother me at all anymore.

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


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roseweeed wrote: I'm most

roseweeed wrote:

 

I'm most interested, though, in how you changed from believer to non-believer.  That's rare, in my experience -- I think people have a tendency, something science doesn't really understand, to become intractable in their adult systems of thought -- whether it be religion, politics, social attitudes, prejudices.  Logical argument does not seem to be very persuasive in getting grown humans to change their mind about subjects for which they've established a pattern of belief earlier in life.  So, I find your EX-minister experience to be impressive, and I'm proud of you for what I imagine was a very independent-minded life decision.  I think you are unique -- can you tell us about it?  What changed you?

Everyone's story is undoubtedly different. I am sure the ex-minister's would be quite different from mine.

Without going into my whole history (as I have touched upon in other threads) it was a very long and very difficult process to deconvert from borderline fanatic Catholic, to semi-New Age feel good energy nonsense, to total Atheist.

For me, there was a great turmoil involving separation of immediate family that can not tolerate my non-belief, to loss of belonging to a group, to loss of fake friends, to feelings of being alone , to doubting my very sanity, but I feel that it was a trip well worth it.

At one point towards the ending of my original faith, I remember telling a fellow church member that I was afraid that the whole god thing could be a lie. When the church member told me that it could very well be all a lie, but it was probably the best lie that I could ever hope for in life, I knew that I could no longer hold on to my faith. That was not the final deciding factor, (there were too many to name) but you could very well say that my faith began to die that day.

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


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my life

roseweeed wrote:

 

Hi, Ex-minister.  We all think about the good questions you've raised, and it seems to me that consciousness, or "I," is just a name we've given to our macro-sensation of being a human organism -- i.e., all our micro sensory input, neural transmissions, our memory, emotions, calculations, motor skills, add up to "consciousness" being the sum total experience of how we process existence moment to moment.  It's what it feels like to be a living human.  Metaphorically speaking, our consciousness is "The River," and our physical body is "all the river's separate water molecules."  In this sense, all living things, animals and even plants have a means by which they navigate survival, and so possess some level of what could be called a consciousness.  As for dying, death after my life will be the same as death before my life -- i.e., we've all been in a state of non-existence before being born.

I've had cancer, presently in remission . . . again -- but every six months I go for the blood test that can signal its return . . . again.  So I live with a reminder of mortality that's somewhat more tangible.  I just figure that I'm not going to be around forever and I'm not going to worry about it -- does no good to worry, and I don't think of it as a battle either.  So, every day I am reminded to savor the privilege of living, to inhale the precious honor of life, and I try to spread love and intelligence and creativity and not sweat the stuff that in the end doesn't really matter so much.  That's all we can do whether we are an atheist or not.  I don't think very many theists really "believe" in the afterlife they claim, either -- eternal life is more like an advertising slogan for them, so I don't think when it comes to contemplating mortality, their belief system provides any advantage or relief.  Basically, for living organisms, the idea of not living sucks -- and theists are just as deeply concerned about avoiding not living as are atheists.  If they truly believed with certainty in their afterlife slogan, they wouldn't be every bit as careful as atheists when walking near the edges of cliffs.

I'm most interested, though, in how you changed from believer to non-believer.  That's rare, in my experience -- I think people have a tendency, something science doesn't really understand, to become intractable in their adult systems of thought -- whether it be religion, politics, social attitudes, prejudices.  Logical argument does not seem to be very persuasive in getting grown humans to change their mind about subjects for which they've established a pattern of belief earlier in life.  So, I find your EX-minister experience to be impressive, and I'm proud of you for what I imagine was a very independent-minded life decision.  I think you are unique -- can you tell us about it?  What changed you?

I have been away obviously and hate to reply to these late but so be it.

first as an aside. I too had cancer, NHL. Been in remission for 10 years. It does affect the way you think and view life. I didn't think I would be here today and thankful to science (and not a god) that it had a cure.

Hopefully, I will make this somewhat short. I do have a blog as noted in my signature. Perhaps I will blog about the entire thing someday.

I grew up with my mother's mother being a devout fundamentalist. She became this as my mother entered her teenage years. My mother resisted and later got married, had me, etc. My grandmother insisted to my mother to bring me to church as a young child. My mother tends to believe in what I would call fairy tales. She believed in Santa Claus until she was like 11 or 12 until one of her older brothers had had it with her and took her to their parents closet and showed the gifts she was going to get from Santa. She didn't believe him until Christmas day. Anyway my g'mother took me to church a lot and kept telling me to tell my mother she has to go to church as well. Of course I did that. I remember my g'mother standing in church during testimonial time crying and wailing about her wayward children. Time progress. When I was in high school I wasn't going to church with my g'mother much if at all. But my mother and father were getting into lots of fights and my mother in particular had a drinking problem. My mother's health had always been iffy. She had lots of back problems. Eventually to them their lives were getting bad and they turned to the church, god, etc. They joined the church. I still resisted. At one point my mother asked me why she was having severe back problems and was even in traction. I replied why? She said it was because I hadn't joined the church and Satan was causing this. You can only imagine how distressful that was for me and what a mind f*ck that was. I started going here and there and picking up some *truth*. At high school I had befriended a Mormon who was trying to convert me. I listened to him and went to his church, etc, but guess what I was believed more the church I essentially grew up. We would go back and forth swapping texts and I became more locked into *my* church. Our church got a fairly young pastor (maybe in his late 20's or early 30's) who I really liked. My church is in the south and this was in the late 60's early 70s. There was a black church and a white church in the same town. The church went through this controversy and I was against this separation, feeling it was entirely biblical. The young pastor was onboard with that as well and he got major sh*t in requesting a black man be a deacon. It almost split the church. It was hostile. Whoops I sidetracked myself.

So, I started freaking out about I could devote myself and still miss the mark and go to hell. The young pastor and I had many conversations about this. I had doubts and I felt I wasn't doing it right. I was quite self-critical and had low-esteem. Reading the Bible was not much comfort because there is so much in their about how worthless and evil humans are. I would have been better not reading it so much. But I wanted to ensure that I had done it right, that Jesus had accepted me worts and all. I occassionally had that feeling, but it would disappear. Frankly being a young man my sex drive was starting to come on strong and the church is against masturbation. The prophet says it destroys the kidneys and is a sin against God. I talked to the pastor and I started questioning him about becoming a minister. He didn't encourage or discourage me. But one question he agreed to was "don't you think if I become a minister I will think more about God and devote myself to Him more? If I stay a lay person I might drift away." It was with that I decided to become a minister to the DELIGHT of my grandmother and my parents. Spent the 4 years there at fundy college going through many ups and downs in my spiritual path. Feeling close and not feeling close. My roommate was studying history and was a die in the wool conservative. We would have arguments, but from the religious point of view he seemed more right than wrong. But my gut was telling me otherwise. I guess at heart I was liberal. There was a time in this church that the gospel message was strong and I related to that and felt that is what I should focus on. Eventually I graduated and had a number of offers and picked the strongest which also happened to be near my parents. I went off preaching. I got high praise for my preaching. I was the junior pastor and really respect the senior pastor who was also relatively young. The church definitley had a division between young and old. The church wanted me to be the youth pastor but that is something I couldn't stomach and did a poor job. I lived behind the church and of course people could see me. I was working on my car one day and one of the church biddies criticized me and said I should be about the Lord's work instead. I give that to you as an example. There are many more. The conflicts inside me kept growing. The more I read the Bible the more problems I saw. I started to fear I had chosen a profession that I wasn't comfortable with. People are really hard to deal with, especially fundamentalist. You can never measure up. I did get to vent to the senior pastor about this. I started to say I didn't know what to do. I was not longer worried about hell because I was in it. I breached the subject with my wife and she wasn't happy. Our relationship was not going well. On the outside few, very few, knew this. My wife and I knew how to say the right stuff and keep a happy face. On the Q-T the church sent me to another pastor who was a psychologist. It went on for many months. My wife and I both were there. I kept asking him you see the conflicts inside of me would you keep me as a minister. He never answered directly but said the conflicts would be difficult fo rme to overcome. 

At some point I decided to leave. They sent me to another church for about a year and I supported that church. I was feeling better because of the decision, but now horrible guilt plagued me. That is all for now. Not sure it reveals anything but thanks for asking. It has taken me years to understand the transition and I continue to work on it.

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


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May not be common, but not

May not be common, but not that unique. Both Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Matt Dillahunty, president of the Atheist Community of Austin, were once preachers.

I find it encouraging in the broad view that children do not necessarily inherit a brain as strongly inclined to belief as their parents. It means that even if some religion out-breeds the rest of us, they can still produce some non-believers, rebels, etc.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

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Yep, sorry ex-min

 

ex-minister wrote:

 

Amazon could not find "The Evolution of Self".  Did you mean "The Evolving Self"?

 

 

It was the The Evolving Self. The reading definitely helps. I've also enjoyed working on improving the way I think and there are plenty of good books - Nonsense on Stilts and others mentioned here. Bertrand Russell is good and quite accessible. I made the mistake of diving into Popper and Heidegger without doing any introductory reading and I spent a while reading things I could not comprehend. Now have invested in a few good books including introductions to philosophy and so on. One of my favourite philosophers is kiwi Alan Musgrave who disposes of the epistemological warriors nicely. Musgrave is a nominalist rationalist and his Common Sense, Science and Scepticism is a good place to start thinking about epistemology. He's currently my favourite defender of the faithless. 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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Atheistextremist

Atheistextremist wrote:

 

ex-minister wrote:

 

Amazon could not find "The Evolution of Self".  Did you mean "The Evolving Self"?

 

 

It was the The Evolving Self. The reading definitely helps. I've also enjoyed working on improving the way I think and there are plenty of good books - Nonsense on Stilts and others mentioned here. Bertrand Russell is good and quite accessible. I made the mistake of diving into Popper and Heidegger without doing any introductory reading and I spent a while reading things I could not comprehend. Now have invested in a few good books including introductions to philosophy and so on. One of my favourite philosophers is kiwi Alan Musgrave who disposes of the epistemological warriors nicely. Musgrave is a nominalist rationalist and his Common Sense, Science and Scepticism is a good place to start thinking about epistemology. He's currently my favourite defender of the faithless. 

 

 

Thanks. Ordered Evolving Self & Common Sense. Look forward to reading them.

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


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RE: to my post above about my becoming a minister and then leaving.

Sorry if this is a bit self-indulgent.

I ain't all there yet. I had a dream (a vision from God LOL) last night that I was back in the church and going about preaching meanwhile feeling *all* the cognitive dissonance (which in those real times I buried).  in one part of the dream I leading the group in prayer and how I struggled to say the words, almost choking on them, which I could not believe but needed to for reassurance to the flock. Was glad to wake up from that one. But my subconscious is obviously working on this past. 

Back then, I was told I was a sinner and these doubts were part of my sinful nature. I had to do battle with them in order to be saved. While I don't and can never get saved by the law I must get saved by believing in Jesus. How is that not work? I think Christian theology just did a shell game. Trying to live the law - didn't kill anyone today-check, didn't rape anyone today-check, didn't worship any idols-check. That is relatively easy. Trying to believe in Jesus - mind control. I must not even entertain a doubt. My brain pops up ideas all the time. I can say I don't have real control over that. It is ok to doubt here and there a Christian might say. However, they are big on pointing out give it an inch and it will take a mile.  This doubt is ok, but it might lead to the next doubt which is bad. Therefore I need to cloister myself from the evil world to prevent seeing anything that might cause me to stumble and that way I can live in eternal bliss by stroking His all-powerful ego (see there I go again).  

I think the constant nicking away at how imperfect religion is just kept me unbalanced. The tiny flaws and depressing words in sacred text. The god who wanted us to behave better than he did. The fact I could never measure up on any yardstick. The strange logic of salvation, blood sacrifice and all. AND primarily the fact that my life really wasn't any better and in fact had more "unnecessary" conflict.  The fact I saw the people around me didn't seem any better and were petty.   These just mounted up to the final straw. I needed to just say it doesn't WORK FOR ME and get on with living.

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


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ex-minister wrote:RE: to my

ex-minister wrote:

RE: to my post above about my becoming a minister and then leaving.

Sorry if this is a bit self-indulgent.

Not self indulgent at all. It's good to hear of experiences like yours to be honest. At times, having religion so inextricably mixed up in my background, I  too wondered if it were ever going to be possible to overcome that thinking. Your story is much different than mine, but it proves that there are many of us out there that made it to deconversion and can overcome things that have been deeply ingrained in us. I like hearing from the people that deconverted from strong religious backgrounds, I identify with them because of my own background. 

ex-minister wrote:
 

I ain't all there yet. I had a dream (a vision from God LOL) last night that I was back in the church and going about preaching meanwhile feeling *all* the cognitive dissonance (which in those real times I buried).  in one part of the dream I leading the group in prayer and how I struggled to say the words, almost choking on them, which I could not believe but needed to for reassurance to the flock. Was glad to wake up from that one. But my subconscious is obviously working on this past. 

Not much in the way of dreams these days. But I SO know what you mean there.

Even now, when I see stained glass windows or hear Gregorian chants, I can sometimes feel a peculiar longing.

This is one of the reasons why I think I became so interested in where religion comes from and why it seems to be a byproduct of all cultures.

The surface explanations of "fear of mortality" and "needing to make sense of life" that alot of books touch upon did not fully satisfy me.

Religion Explained by Pascal Boyle shed a whole lot of light on the subject for me.  A bit detailed, but an easy and fascinating read, it takes the whole evolution of culture and memes and really breaks down all of the components in place for why religion has persisted.

I started out with Why God Won't Go Away by Newberg. I've got some major criticisms of that one. It starts out excellently demonstrating all of the neurological workings of our brain during such things as prayer and meditation. It also points out the need that humans often feel to seek patterns and to establish rituals. The whole thing was well worth the read for the first few chapters, but then it veers off into an obvious piece of theistic agenda and tries to argue that even though there are neurological reasons for "feeling spiritual" and even though it provides absolutely no evidence of any sort of deity, the author seems to somehow belief that people who feed the delusional part of their brain are better off with it. I wholly disagree. My life could not have gotten any easier until I threw the god belief out the window along with all the other dogmatic absolutes that came with it.

Understanding the cultural and scientific theories for why people seem to seek theism helped alleviate a whole lot of those very feelings that your talking about ex-minister. I feel like I understand where your coming from.

 

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


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Even as  someone who never

Even as  someone who never really 'bought into' the faith thing, I realized there was some trace in my head of respect for the meme, maybe absorbed from the prevailing social attitude to religion, as recently as 2000.

I was on a great holiday, SCUBA diving in Vanuatu in the South Pacific. A friendly conversation with another member of our tour group about religion triggered some mild internal concern, which bugged me slightly for the rest of the holiday, and obviously my sub-conscious was wrestling with it.

Then, after landing back in my home city after the holiday, something finally got resolved in my mind, while on the taxi ride home. I had what probably is best described as an 'epiphany', and had the wonderful feeling of having finally purged my world-view of any last vestige of lingering regard for the 'God' idea.

So, you are not alone in having these difficulties really 'letting go' - just 'hang in there'. It is a powerful 'meme', as Dawkins would say.

EDIT: I occasionally wonder what effect  all the wonderful positive experiences of the holiday had had on my attitude, maybe they gave me such a 'high' that it helped me see how petty and nonsensical and unnecessary the religious 'memes' were.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


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ex-minister wrote:I think

ex-minister wrote:

I think the constant nicking away at how imperfect religion is just kept me unbalanced. The tiny flaws and depressing words in sacred text. The god who wanted us to behave better than he did. The fact I could never measure up on any yardstick. The strange logic of salvation, blood sacrifice and all. AND primarily the fact that my life really wasn't any better and in fact had more "unnecessary" conflict.  The fact I saw the people around me didn't seem any better and were petty.   These just mounted up to the final straw. I needed to just say it doesn't WORK FOR ME and get on with living.

 

I kept trying to be religious -- I am oldest child and oldest daughter, a double whammy for being a "good girl".  All those things you mention here are some of what finally drove me away.  I really do feel so much better since I just stopped trying to believe.  Less picking away at every thought, no more trying to attain an impossible perfection and less stress. 

Hang in there.

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


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Yup

 

take care ex-min. You're not in this on your own by any means.

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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harleysportster

harleysportster wrote:

Religion Explained by Pascal Boyle shed a whole lot of light on the subject for me.  A bit detailed, but an easy and fascinating read, it takes the whole evolution of culture and memes and really breaks down all of the components in place for why religion has persisted.

I started out with Why God Won't Go Away by Newberg. I've got some major criticisms of that one. It starts out excellently demonstrating all of the neurological workings of our brain during such things as prayer and meditation. It also points out the need that humans often feel to seek patterns and to establish rituals. The whole thing was well worth the read for the first few chapters, but then it veers off into an obvious piece of theistic agenda and tries to argue that even though there are neurological reasons for "feeling spiritual" and even though it provides absolutely no evidence of any sort of deity, the author seems to somehow belief that people who feed the delusional part of their brain are better off with it. I wholly disagree. My life could not have gotten any easier until I threw the god belief out the window along with all the other dogmatic absolutes that came with it.

Understanding the cultural and scientific theories for why people seem to seek theism helped alleviate a whole lot of those very feelings that your talking about ex-minister. I feel like I understand where your coming from.

 

Thank you for the recommendations. I ordered Pascal Boyer's Religion Explained book. Wish Listed Newberg's book.

Amazon recommended Justin L. Barrett's book "Why Would Anyone Believe in God?" Have you read that? Looks good. The comments are interesting.

Don't know if I ever will overcome my religious thinking/emotions but I can say dealing with it on this side of the god spectrum is far easier than dealing with it on the other side. That cognitive dissonance of trying to believe was literally and spiritually killing me. I believe that all fundies are dealing with the same, except they label it sin and therefore must do battle with it which is an insane battle because it is simply being a human being.

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


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thanks

Bob Spence,

Such a wonderful event - to know when you moved on and in such an absolutely beautiful place, dare I say "heavenly"  

 

CJ

"I really do feel so much better since I just stopped trying to believe."  I have always appreciated your signature and so identify with it. Why put on something? I might have written this elsewhere, but this thought came to me years ago. "Religion is the thing you put on. In spirituality you are the thing". Religion taught me I was not good enough and I had to change the way I think, the way I talk, the clothes I wear, the food I ate, who I hung out with, what I read, on and on. I had put on so many facades I really forgot who I was. When I starting cutting through those layers throwing out everything I had been forced  and forced myself to believe the weight on my shoulders just kept getting lighter and lighter. Spirituality for me is my spirit, my life force, my view of the world. It had become quite darkened by Christianity. I started being more me, more honest. It originally started with "I will let god be god and let me be me". He apparently should know where I live if he is all that they say he is and he can straighten me out at any time. I used to pray simply  "well Jesus here I am" meaning I am not going to listen to anyone else or some outdated book. Never heard anything back. I live in the country and let my dogs at in the dark am. I think that would be the best time for him to straighten me out, but nada. So I moved on in many ways and feel so much better. Those are the things I think of when I read your signature. Thanks for putting it there.

 

AtheistExtremist

Thanks. Glad I found this website and guys like you.

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

http://jesus-needs-money.blogspot.com/


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Ex- minister

 

 

 

                       In 3 days you will celebrate your 1st anniversery with us. Be sure and let Brian S. know (Not Brian37-- he drinks)  -- did  I say that or did that DC NFL fan think it. --- nawh!!!!!!!    I said it.  Brian S. will throw a big party with wine champagne and door prizes [ I think]  keep up the good work!!!!!!!

 

 

              Rationally yours

 

               Jeffrick

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VEGETARIAN: Ancient Hindu word for "lousy hunter"

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Ex-minister

Ex-minister, if you get a moment perhaps you could lend some of your expertise on a particular thread with a poster who is dealing with the same issues that you and I, and others like us have dealt with :

http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/28680

So many of us have been there.

 

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


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ex-minister wrote: Thanks

ex-minister wrote:

 

Thanks for putting it there.

 

 

You are most welcome.

 


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ex-minister wrote:The oddest

ex-minister wrote:

The oddest thing in life for me is the "sense of I". How is it I feel separate and unique from the rest of the world? I assume you feel the same way. How does that not feel like a divine thing? (Does evolution have any explanation for it?)

I would suspect it has to do with survival. Without this 'sense of I' we'd kind of be like zombies or robots that don't care about our personal survival. A robot doesn't seem to care that it may get blown up when it removes a bomb. It seem like creatures without this strong 'sense of I' would have not been able to survive as well as those with it.

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca