Am I an Atheist or a Theist?

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Am I an Atheist or a Theist?

 There seems to be some disagreement as to whether I'm a theist or an atheist. At least by implication I have been called both. I use neither term to describe myself, preferring to call myself simply a free-thinker.

Where the issue has come up is in reaction to a book I've written called How to Be Free by Joe Blow. Joe Blow is my pseudonym. I showed this book to an atheist friend of mine and he expressed disgust that I had fallen to "theism". More recently the book has angered a couple of Christians who commented (on U.S. I-Tunes - where the book currently has received 61 five star ratings) :

"Disgusting--somebody told me it was the most amazing book-ebooked it--now I'm trashing it--then taking a shower...screwball Go find the Real God."

O.K., I suppose that one doesn't say that I'm an atheist, necessarily, but certainly that I'm not a believer in the same God as the reviewer.

"If you are a Christian, do not waste your time! I'm a Christian woman and this book says that God is not real! He is very much real! I am writing this review so that other Christians will be warned of this upfront so they will not have to waste their time by downloading and find out for themselves! As soon as I submit this review I am deleting this book!"

The problem when it comes to whether one believes in God it seems to me is that we first have to define what we mean by God. Clearly I don't believe in the same God as these two individuals. But is what I do believe in God or something else? In some ways it might be easier to avoid the term because of all of its baggage, but when I read many statements about God especially from a writer like William Blake or in sayings attributed to Jesus, they often resonate with what I do believe in on a deeper level than superficial literal interpretation.

Here are some passages from my book which indicate why there is some confusion :

 


What is God?

 

We often have a tendency to personify the impersonal. We talk of Mother Nature or Father Time. Of course there is no actual Mother Nature, but the earth’s ecosystem on which we may put this human face, does exist. 

This is the case with the concept of God. There is no God, anymore than there is a Mother Nature, but the creative principle of the universal system is an observable reality. There are laws to the way the universe operates that allow for orderly phenomena and for the evolution of more basic forms into more complex and capable forms such as ourselves. And onto this reality, for our own comfort, we put a human face.

This may sound very cold. But we should remember that all the wonders of our world and the rest of the universe and ourselves are a product of the operation of these laws. 

And when we realise that these laws operate within human society in the form of love then we can see that the identification of this mythical figure with a healing or comforting social phenomena is not inappropriate.

But what of the concept of an angry God who asks us to subjugate ourselves to him. This is where the concept of the love of perfection as the root of all evil can best be understood.

By the time the Judaeo-Christian concept of God (differing greatly from those deities of earlier times which often represented only certain aspects of nature or the human psyche) came into being, our society was profoundly neurotic. Civilisation (i.e. repression) had been going on for a long time. A neurotic society is generally controlled by its most neurotic members as long as they are still capable of functioning, because their insecurity makes the control of those less neurotic than themselves an imperative. When we are neurotic, we live in fear of the disowned part of our own nature, and, if unchecked, this fear can manifest itself as the desire to control those who express it or represent it in the external world. For reasons which will be explained later, the human neurosis first appeared in males. It quickly spread to women, but, in general, men tended to be more neurotic. And thus, as we and our society became more neurotic, men felt the need to take control and impose their will to an ever greater degree. Our societies, which in the distant past had been matriarchal because of the primacy of the reproductive role, became patriarchal. This is why God was conceived as not only a man, but an angry, neurotic, intolerant man. Because of the phenomenon known as projection, we create our Gods in our own image, just as we see in the world around us a projection of ourselves.

Paranoia is an important symptom of neurosis. We have a tendency to project the disowned part of ourselves, which we fear, onto others. For example, during the Cold War, capitalists saw in communism a projection of their own conscience which told them that it was wrong to be greedy, and communists saw in capitalists a projection of their own unacknowledged awareness of the futility of trying to repress their greed through discipline.

In a practical sense, fear of God was a way of maintaining the neurotic order of society. One might feel that a sick, miserable, evil society was better than no society at all, a collapse into unstructured barbarism. After all some kind of structure was needed if we were to co-operate enough to develop science and learn to understand ourselves and our world better.

But the major problem was that the root of the sickness was lack of self-acceptance, and by holding God up as an ideal of perfection and preaching that humans needed to abase themselves before “him”, the churches were making the sickness much much worse.

The view of God expressed depends on the individual. Since Jesus was clearly relatively free of neurosis, his concept of a loving, forgiving and tolerant God was more in keeping with an accurate understanding of the functioning of a healthy system.

 

***

What is Consciousness?

 

 We have a body. We have a mind. We have an ego structure or personality. These give structure to our experience. They are media through which we experience.

We experience our lives. We think our thoughts. We have our feelings. But what or who is the “we” that experiences these things? We might think of these aspects of ourselves as a musical instrument. But what is the nature of the music itself?

Thinking is the construction and manipulation of patterns of information. But, we can stop thinking (i.e. stop processing or manipulating information) and still be conscious. This is what the discipline of meditation is all about.

Nor are the five senses necessary to consciousness. Even if we were to remove our ability to see, hear, taste, feel or smell, we would still be aware of the fact that we existed. We might know we existed because of our thought processes, but, once again, we could cease to think and still be aware of raw, unstructured, unmediated consciousness.

So what is this consciousness?

Thought takes place through the communication of information through the synapses in our brain. And physical awareness is possible because of the transmission of information through the nervous system generally. These are the conduits for our consciousness - they give it its shape - but what is it that is travelling through these conduits?

The answer is energy - the raw stuff of the universe.

Now we have to take a massive, seemingly insane leap and ask “What if energy itself is conscious? What if our consciousness, our awareness, the raw stuff of our experience, is nothing more than energy’s awareness of its own existence?”

This may seem like madness, but if we take some time to consider it, we will find that :

a. We can’t disprove it. We can’t prove that unstructured energy or inanimate objects have no awareness. We can observe that these things do not act like living organisms. But that proves nothing. Even with living beings, behaviour can give us clues about the experience or awareness of the being, but we don’t know what consciousness looks like, even if it looks like anything at all. So we have no reliable way of detecting it.

b. If we accept the concept that consciousness is energy’s self-awareness as a provisional hypothesis we can see that some otherwise inexplicable phenomena actually begin to make some kind of sense.

First it is important to understand what is not being suggested here, which is that energy or inanimate objects have thoughts or feelings. Thoughts and feelings are structured forms of consciousness which are most likely restricted to living things, as they are dependent on some kind of nervous system. But what flows through these structures is energy.

 We have emotions. The word contains the word “motion” because emotions are characterised by flow. When we feel an emotion it is the sensation of energy moving through the structure of our ego in some way. In anger, the energy explodes through cracks in the armour of the ego structure or threatens to do so. We feel it simmering. In sorrow we feel emotion flowing through us perhaps expressed through sobs and tears. We feel pain when the free flow of energy in our body is hampered by damage of some kind.

The phenomenon of orgasm is a good way of looking at the nature of our consciousness. While, for the male, the ejaculation of seminal fluid is not always accompanied by the ecstatic experience we think of as characterising the orgasm, nevertheless, we know what we mean by the orgasmic experience. How does this happen? What makes this bodily experience so appealing to us. It is not simply the expelling of a bodily substance. That happens when we sneeze or take a shit. We might be relieved but we do not have a heavenly experience.

Wilhelm Reich, who developed the concepts of body armour and character armour, found that these forms of armouring may be temporarily broken down by the bodily experience of orgasm. This allows energy to flow far more freely in the body for a brief period of time.

So we see that the emotional or bodily experience which allows for our most intense experiences of bliss is one in which energy flows freely through our body, and that pain accompanies the hindering of that flow, by disease or injury or armouring.

Remember when you were a young child and you felt blissfully happy running through an open field? Why? You were just running. It was just a field. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that you felt free. You weren’t hemmed in or frustrated. You were energy expressing the nature of energy.

But this doesn’t mean that we want freedom from structure altogether. We want to feel energy flow freely through our bodies, but we don’t want to spontaneously combust. Creativity occurs when the free flow of information or energy finds a form which makes possible something which didn’t previously exist. So the healthy growth of individuals and societies is what feels best to them. The system of organisation of the individual or society is not oppressive in itself, but only becomes so if it is faulty in some way.

When we feel motivated or creative we say that we are filled with enthusiasm. What do we mean by “enthusiasm”? The literal meaning of the term is “the god within”. Since our concept of God is a personification that we place upon the creative principle of the universe - energy and its intrinsic potential for orderly creative organisation - then we can see that the enthusiasm or spirit or soul which lives within us and is the very substance of our experience - is “God” operating through us. And this “God” is essentially self-aware energy. We are “God”.

 

***

 

I don't believe in the supernatural. I don't believe in Heaven or Hell. I don't believe that there is a deity with a human personality to hear our prayers or to reek vengeance on sinners. But I do believe that there is a unifying creative tendency, which may have its own consciousness, which is expressed in the scientific laws we can see in operation in the universe, and that this creative tendency expresses itself in the human sphere in the form of love. None of this involves anything coming in from outside the physical world of energy and matter and beyond the evidence that evolution leads from something as simple as a single-celled organism up to something as complex and capable as us, the evidence for me is that, deep down inside myself I can feel that I am that creative principle.

 So what am I? An atheist because i don't believe in the supernatural? A theist because I believe in a universal creative force? Or maybe a gnostic? But then, deeply felt and held as they are, can my beliefs really be considered more than beliefs. To call them knowledge seems presumptuous.

 

"Dogma is a defence against the brain’s capacity for free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place."

Joe Blow - How to Be Free


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You're a pantheist....and

You're a pantheist.

...and you probably smoke weed.


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^lol. Welcome! I think

^lol.

Welcome!

I think you looked at the qualifiers wrong. Instead of god, consciousness, supernatural, etc.; you should simply look at the terminology.

Theist is a very well defined term. Its definition species that in order to be a theist, you must believe in a god, one and only one god. Generally a creator or absolute power of some kind.

If you believe in no god, or actively disbelieve in gods, then you are an atheist.

Regardless, I recommend a brief search of the following terms through wikipedia, or another linguistic authority not connected in any way to any religious organisation (because the first thing religions do is redefine words to create communication problems with anyone outside their religion):

Agnosticism - Apatheism - Atheism - Deism - Henotheism · Monolatrism - Monotheism - Panentheism - Pantheism - Polytheism - Theism - Transtheism

Along the way, you'll likely encounter a bunch of other 'isms that you'll want to look up.

After doing so, you can figure out what you are.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


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Welcome

 

 

"In panentheism, God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe." Wiki

 

Is this more what you believe - god as energy?

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


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Aussiescribbler wrote:

 There seems to be some disagreement as to whether I'm a theist or an atheist. At least by implication I have been called both. I use neither term to describe myself, preferring to call myself simply a free-thinker.

If you feel compelled to define a god out of your imagination then you are indistinguishable from a theist.


If you were really creative you would not stop at just one simply because just one is in vogue in the west.

 

Jews stole the land. The owners want it back. That is all anyone needs to know about Israel. That is all there is to know about Israel.

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Watcher wrote:You're a

Watcher wrote:

You're a pantheist.

...and you probably smoke weed.

 

Yes, in reading the Wikipedia post on Pantheism that seems to be the right term. In reading something about Einstein's beliefs about God I did notice mention of Spinoza's God and I see that that refers to pantheism.

I've never smoked weed except passively. It is one of the great advantages of being bipolar that you don't need chemicals to experience expanded consciousness, but you may need them to stop. LOL.

"Dogma is a defence against the brain’s capacity for free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place."

Joe Blow - How to Be Free


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Vastet wrote:^lol.

Vastet wrote:
^lol. Welcome! I think you looked at the qualifiers wrong. Instead of god, consciousness, supernatural, etc.; you should simply look at the terminology. Theist is a very well defined term. Its definition species that in order to be a theist, you must believe in a god, one and only one god. Generally a creator or absolute power of some kind. If you believe in no god, or actively disbelieve in gods, then you are an atheist. Regardless, I recommend a brief search of the following terms through wikipedia, or another linguistic authority not connected in any way to any religious organisation (because the first thing religions do is redefine words to create communication problems with anyone outside their religion): Agnosticism - Apatheism - Atheism - Deism - Henotheism · Monolatrism - Monotheism - Panentheism - Pantheism - Polytheism - Theism - Transtheism Along the way, you'll likely encounter a bunch of other 'isms that you'll want to look up. After doing so, you can figure out what you are.

But is there any limitation on what can be considered a God? If one person believes that the universe is God and another person believes there is no God, that doesn't mean that the two do not share a belief in the existence of the universe. They only differ on whether or not it should be given the name of God. For some nature is God. For some love is God. But an atheist can believe in the existence of nature and/or love. He just doesn't define these things as God. I suppose what you are saying is that, if someone defines some thing (and only one thing) as God, that makes them a theist.

But my main concern is not with putting a name on what I believe (though I am interested in the issue of what others call me) so much as interpreting or demystifying what others believe. The problem arises for two reasons. People whose words are full of what to me seems to be rare insight, such as Jesus, William Blake, Teilhard de Chardin, etc., use the term "God" a lot. So therefore it becomes a question of how to interpret this aspect of a worldview which in some way rings true to me. And on the other hand the term "God" is used by deeply neurotic individuals to justify all sorts of oppression and abuse. So if I believe, as I do, that the philosophy of Jesus, when stripped of all the magical nonsense and anti-sex neurosis with which damaged frightened people contaminate it, is one of the most truthful and helpful philosophies we have, and I want to acknowledge that, while disassociating myself from the sickness that is organised religion, then distinguishing one definition of God from another becomes crucial. (A number of writers have expressed a similar view of Jesus significance, most notably for me Wilhelm Reich in his book The Murder of Christ.)

Some of the terms you mention, such as Agnosticism, Atheism, Monotheism and Polytheism are ones I think I understand reasonably well, in the case of agnosticism and atheism, much better than I did before as a result of a posting on this site. The others I'll check into.

"Dogma is a defence against the brain’s capacity for free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place."

Joe Blow - How to Be Free


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Atheistextremist wrote: "In

Atheistextremist wrote:

 

"In panentheism, God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe." Wiki

Is this more what you believe - god as energy?

 

Yes, but, in a sense, to put it that way is to put it backwards. "God" is a human concept while energy existed, clearly, before there were humans. So it would be more correct to say that energy is the thing which some people call God and is the thing which has many of the qualities which humans who use the term "God" associate with that mythological figure.

"Dogma is a defence against the brain’s capacity for free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place."

Joe Blow - How to Be Free


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Yes

 

Aussiescribbler wrote:

Yes, but, in a sense, to put it that way is to put it backwards. "God" is a human concept while energy existed, clearly, before there were humans. So it would be more correct to say that energy is the thing which some people call God and is the thing which has many of the qualities which humans who use the term "God" associate with that mythological figure.

 

Energy obviously did come first so that makes more sense than the anthro heavenly father. Where are you in Oz, btw? Sydney boy over this way. 

 

 

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


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A_Nony_Mouse

A_Nony_Mouse wrote:

Aussiescribbler wrote:

 There seems to be some disagreement as to whether I'm a theist or an atheist. At least by implication I have been called both. I use neither term to describe myself, preferring to call myself simply a free-thinker.

If you feel compelled to define a god out of your imagination then you are indistinguishable from a theist.

 

If you were really creative you would not stop at just one simply because just one is in vogue in the west.

 

 

Do you mean that the god is a product of my imagination or that I am trying to use my imagination to find a definition of the god? Or both?

God is clearly an important human myth. I didn't create that myth. And if I want to understand my fellow humans then understanding what they mean by "God" is crucial. To me it is a myth which, like most things of human creation, has both a positive and negative aspect. It is in the defining, I think, that we have some hope of separating the two. Some might say, "Well, just dismiss it all as a lie." But myths are far too important to simply throw away, because they are not just lies but symbolic representations of important truths. This is not just some dry theory or feel good philosophy for me. I have experienced severe psychosis. And I learned an important lesson from that experience. Everything the imagination throws up is trying to tell us something. The fool takes it literally. The wise man tries to unravel its meaning. When I was crazy my mind said, "Go naked!" A long time later I realised that it was trying to tell me to be honest and open about myself, that that was the path toward being a whole person and that, in so doing, I could make a positive out of my experience of mental illness by showing others that they were not alone in their own experiences of such things. But at the time I took the advice literally and got locked up in a mental hospital.

So it seems to me that to tell a religious person that they would be better off without religion would be like telling an insane person, "Just put those silly thoughts out of your head." First, it would be impossible for them to achieve and secondly it would be a waste of one of the most precious resources they have, their intuitive ability to connect with some kind of deeper wisdom, albeit in a symbolic form. Surely the best way to help a person whose life is blighted by an unhelpful form of religion is to better draw out and make clear the wisdom and help them to distinguish it from the literal interpretation which is the real source of the problem.

Don't we all know atheists who came to atheism from a negative experience of religion and who can't really let go? I think that, often, we can tell by how aggressively and defiantly someone pursues the cause of atheism just how deeply religion still has its claws sunk into their psyche. We never fight so savagely as when we are fighting ourselves. As a child of free-thinkers who was never indoctrinated in any religion I can't really know what that must be like. But, it seems to me, to dissect religion and find in what aspects it gives symbolic representation to the actualities of the human condition and in what aspects it has been turned into a dogmatic reification of our neurotic sickness, is something which holds the key to liberating both believers and atheists from the gnawing source of their discontent.

As for inventing more gods with my imagination, I may well do that for my own amusement sometime. My other hobby is writing erotica and one of my recent stories was about an atheist who is most disconcerted when the ancient Greek gods decide to use his house as the location of their once in a hundred year orgy with mortals. 

"Dogma is a defence against the brain’s capacity for free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place."

Joe Blow - How to Be Free


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 Energy obviously did come

 Energy obviously did come first so that makes more sense than the anthro heavenly father. Where are you in Oz, btw? Sydney boy over this way. 

 

I'm in Adelaide, but will be in Sydney soon for the Sydney Film Festival. 

"Dogma is a defence against the brain’s capacity for free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place."

Joe Blow - How to Be Free


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Aussiescribbler

Aussiescribbler wrote:

 

 

Don't we all know atheists who came to atheism from a negative experience of religion and who can't really let go? I think that, often, we can tell by how aggressively and defiantly someone pursues the cause of atheism just how deeply religion still has its claws sunk into their psyche. We never fight so savagely as when we are fighting ourselves. As a child of free-thinkers who was never indoctrinated in any religion I can't really know what that must be like. But, it seems to me, to dissect religion and find in what aspects it gives symbolic representation to the actualities of the human condition and in what aspects it has been turned into a dogmatic reification of our neurotic sickness, is something which holds the key to liberating both believers and atheists from the gnawing source of their discontent.

 

Not necessarily. While coming from an indoctrinated background lead me into Atheism and your point in my case. I can't say that would be true of all the Atheist community. Writers like Hitchens and Dawkins, who are some of the most outspoken Atheists, did not come from religious backgrounds, nor did they have negative experiences with religion. 

Some Atheists are like me, from strict religious backgrounds and others are not. Reasons for Atheism may vary. 

“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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Not necessarily. While

Not necessarily. While coming from an indoctrinated background lead me into Atheism and your point in my case. I can't say that would be true of all the Atheist community. Writers like Hitchens and Dawkins, who are some of the most outspoken Atheists, did not come from religious backgrounds, nor did they have negative experiences with religion. 

Some Atheists are like me, from strict religious backgrounds and others are not. Reasons for Atheism may vary. 

True. There is too much variation in individual human psyches for similar kinds of behaviour to always have the same roots.

I know only a little of Hitchens and Dawkins. I read something Hitchens wrote about the Ten Commandments that was posted on-line and it struck me as pompous and spectacularly poorly reasoned and expressed. I take it that it was not representative, as it gave no indication of having been written by someone worth taking seriously.

My feeling is that Hitchens was and Dawkins is driven by some kind of gnawing canker of the psyche, but what its nature or origin might be I don't know.

I believe that when we chose an enemy that enemy is always a reflection of the part of our own psyche which we wish to disown. This is why religious people whose hold on faith is most precarious are the ones who most frenziedly attack atheists. The bitterest of conflicts generally come down to people divided against themselves fighting their mirror images. This is why Jesus advised us to love our enemies. Because only by learning to love the unloved part of ourselves can we be whole.

"Dogma is a defence against the brain’s capacity for free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place."

Joe Blow - How to Be Free


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Aussiescribbler wrote:
A_Nony_Mouse wrote:
Aussiescribbler wrote:

 There seems to be some disagreement as to whether I'm a theist or an atheist. At least by implication I have been called both. I use neither term to describe myself, preferring to call myself simply a free-thinker.

If you feel compelled to define a god out of your imagination then you are indistinguishable from a theist.

If you were really creative you would not stop at just one simply because just one is in vogue in the west.

Do you mean that the god is a product of my imagination or that I am trying to use my imagination to find a definition of the god? Or both?

You say you do not like the usual god so you define your own god. Why define a god you can like unless you want a god in the first place? It should be obvious a god you define has no bearing upon whatever reality might be. So you are believing in what you imagine. Narsisism? Solipcism?

Jews stole the land. The owners want it back. That is all anyone needs to know about Israel. That is all there is to know about Israel.

www.ussliberty.org

www.giwersworld.org/made-in-alexandria/index.html

www.giwersworld.org/00_files/zion-hit-points.phtml


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A_Nony_Mouse

A_Nony_Mouse wrote:

Aussiescribbler wrote:
A_Nony_Mouse wrote:
Aussiescribbler wrote:

 There seems to be some disagreement as to whether I'm a theist or an atheist. At least by implication I have been called both. I use neither term to describe myself, preferring to call myself simply a free-thinker.

If you feel compelled to define a god out of your imagination then you are indistinguishable from a theist.

If you were really creative you would not stop at just one simply because just one is in vogue in the west.

Do you mean that the god is a product of my imagination or that I am trying to use my imagination to find a definition of the god? Or both?

You say you do not like the usual god so you define your own god. Why define a god you can like unless you want a god in the first place? It should be obvious a god you define has no bearing upon whatever reality might be. So you are believing in what you imagine. Narsisism? Solipcism?

Not at all. I neither need nor desire a god. I seek to better understand others' belief in a god and I seek to give expression to my own experience of life and to find a rational conceptual framework which explains that experience in a way which is consistent with what science has revealed to us about the workings of the universe and ourselves. If I tentatively make a connection between what reason suggests about my personal experience and the way that it might be explained in the light of scientific knowledge with a particular concept of god (a pantheistic one) it is not because I want a god but because I am a person who always seeks to find common ground with others where it may exist.

When it comes to assessing reality, wants don't really come into it. I want to live in a world where Emily Blunt wants to make love to me and there is no such thing as rap music. Wanting those things is not going to make me believe that I do live in that world. I begin with my experience and then seek to explain it, that is all. I have experienced belief simply in what I imagined. I was suffering from psychosis at that time.

One of the tests of how rational and accountable in terms of the real world one's beliefs about that world are is how smoothly and effectively one can live in that world and interact with people of vastly differing belief systems. In that area my own perception is that I do very well. I get on well with atheists, born again Christians, people of various different political persuasions. I like to discuss ideas and beliefs and sometimes get into arguments, but more often than not I take people as I find them and am not troubled if they believe differently than I do. I feel, and this may well be an illusion, that the reason I can so smoothly interact with people of differing belief systems is that my own beliefs are so accountable to my own experience and so compatible with external reality that I don't need another's belief to reassure me about my own and I have no need to defend myself against beliefs which are less accountable than my own.

"Dogma is a defence against the brain’s capacity for free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place."

Joe Blow - How to Be Free