Are atheists "religious"?

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Are atheists "religious"?

Do atheists have a "spiritual" or "religious" life? Does the vocabulary of religion -- words like contemplation, prayer, sacred, holy, etc. -- have relevance for atheists?

 

Some thinkers who take it for granted that God(s) does not exist and that the supernatural is a nonsensical concept still find "spiritual" experience crucial for atheists, or at least for them, as atheists.

 

Such thinkers include (at least to some extent) D. Midbar, Don Cupitt, J. Krishnamurti, Paul Tillich, Rudolph Otto, Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, Nietzsche and others. Midbar (www.atheistprayer.blogspot.com) and Cupitt ( www.doncupitt.com ) are our contemporaries. The others are 19th and 20th century figures.

 

Buddhism is often referred to as an "atheistic religion". Is that an oxymoron?

 

I would like to discuss this without the usual polemics of theist/atheist belief. I have been an atheist all my life, and have no interest in debating theists.

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Wonderment wrote: Do

Wonderment wrote:

Do atheists have a "spiritual" or "religious" life? Does the vocabulary of religion -- words like contemplation, prayer, sacred, holy, etc. -- have relevance for atheists?

speaking strictly for myself, no. none, whatsoever.

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Well, as a theological

Well, as a theological noncognitivist, I consider terms (as traditionally used) like "God" "Spirit" or "supernatural" to have no meaning. However, with regards to what you are referring to, I may consider myself quasi-spiritual (like Carl Sagan or Albert Einstein). They were metaphysical naturalists, yet they would often describe the scientific wonders they studied with an air of sacroscant wonder, the way that Stephen Hawking refers to the "Mind of God" as the complete set of laws that make up physical reality. I am also a scientist, a molecular biologist, so I suppose I could say that I feel the same way about life and biology. The evolutionary biologist EO Wilson calls this biophilia, the sort of feeling that one may get when watching this video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_H1S9d5h-Ps

 Many scientists have a habit of doing this, and employing this kind of spiritual language, which makes theists sieze these illustrious thinkers as their own (for instance, the way they often quote Einstein on God). In reality, nothing could be further than the truth. 

Of this Shermer said: "What can be more soul shaking than peering through a 100-inch telescope at a distant galaxy, holding a 100-million-year-old fossil or a 500,000-year-old stone in one's hand, standing before the immense chasm of space and time that is the Grand Canyon, or listening to a scientist who gazed upon the face of the universe's creation and did not blink? That is deep and sacred science."
— Michael Shermer
 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

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NO!

NO!


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Quote: Do atheists have a

Quote:
Do atheists have a "spiritual" or "religious" life? Does the vocabulary of religion -- words like contemplation, prayer, sacred, holy, etc. -- have relevance for atheists?

That depends. Atheism is, very simply, the answer "No" to the question "Do you believe in god?"

Some atheists probably do believe in things like spirits, or higher purpose, or some such stuff...

Atheism does not rule out the supernatural... just "god."

Personally, I believe that anything that exists does so within what we call "nature" and therefore, anything that supposedly exists outside of it is necessarily incoherent, and therefore, nonexistent.

Quote:
Some thinkers who take it for granted that God(s) does not exist and that the supernatural is a nonsensical concept still find "spiritual" experience crucial for atheists, or at least for them, as atheists.

Sure... I really wish we could come up with some other word, though. I believe that it is very important to stay in touch with your emotional, um... geez, there just isn't a word... ok... "spiritual" needs... but it's purely natural, and is explained by science, evolution, whatever. I just really hate the word spirit because it encourages people to believe in nonsense.

Quote:

Buddhism is often referred to as an "atheistic religion". Is that an oxymoron?

Nope. There are others, too, but Buddhism is the main one. It is a religion, but there is no "god."

Quote:
I would like to discuss this without the usual polemics of theist/atheist belief. I have been an atheist all my life, and have no interest in debating theists.

I hope my answers help Smiling

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Wonderment
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Hambydammit wrote: Nope.

Hambydammit wrote:

Nope. There are others, too, but Buddhism is the main one. It is a religion, but there is no "god."

Quote:
I would like to discuss this without the usual polemics of theist/atheist belief. I have been an atheist all my life, and have no interest in debating theists.

I hope my answers help Smiling

Your answers DO help, Hamby. Thanks for the gentle reply. If Buddhism is a atheist religion, what's the "religion" part?

 I think it is fair to say that atheism is a "spiritual path," and that atheist enlightenment or self-realization is a sacred experience. I don't worry about using religious language. In fact, why let theists expropriate the resources of human psychological expression? Midbar talks about worship and devotion in a context of anti- or non-theism. S/he talks about a new post-theism paradigm of atheist spirituality.


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Quote: If Buddhism is a

Quote:
If Buddhism is a atheist religion, what's the "religion" part?

Well, there are a lot of ideas in Buddhism that just don't correspond to anything scientific. They just have to be accepted if you're going to believe. To me, that's the great divide that keeps religion and science forever separate.

If something is completely founded in science, we call it "Science." If it is founded in logic and critical thought, we call it "Philosophy." Both of these have built in self-corrections, and adjust based on the reliability of their theories.

Religion, then, is left with the stuff outside of verification. It's necessarily that way, if you think about it. If it was verified, we wouldn't call it religion.. we'd call it science.

Quote:
I think it is fair to say that atheism is a "spiritual path," and that atheist enlightenment or self-realization is a sacred experience. I don't worry about using religious language. In fact, why let theists expropriate the resources of human psychological expression? Midbar talks about worship and devotion in a context of anti- or non-theism. S/he talks about a new post-theism paradigm of atheist spirituality.

This is a very compelling argument, but I think what you're missing is that words do have power. If you don't think so, ask yourself this: If President Bush, thinking he had his microphone off, dropped the dreaded "N" bomb backstage at an NAACP convention, and the whole country heard it, how long do you think his political career would last?

The words, spiritual, sacred, holy, etc, have thousands of years of power behind them. They mean what they mean, and so long as the majority of people on the planet believe they relate to god, then they do, regardless of the enlightenment of a few individuals who use them differently.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit wrote: This is

Hambydammit wrote:

This is a very compelling argument, but I think what you're missing is that words do have power. If you don't think so, ask yourself this: If President Bush, thinking he had his microphone off, dropped the dreaded "N" bomb backstage at an NAACP convention, and the whole country heard it, how long do you think his political career would last?

 

That's actually a good analogy! The N word would depend on the context, the speaker's intentions, the evolution of the semantics, and other factors. For example, if Bush said, "Boy, I'm sick of talking to those f-ing N's. They'll never vote Republican anyway," I agree he'd be in trouble. And perhaps Bush, as a white power broker, could find NO context in which the N word wouldn't offend.

 

But African American rappers certainly have that context. They use the N word with each other in ways that would be taboo for Bush. Academics also can discuss the word in other contexts -- sociologists, linguists, psychologists, etc. In fact, the rappers (poets) take the N word (our equivalent of the G-o-d word) and use it in artistic ways which they may find revelatory or liberating. 

If atheists use "soul" or "prayer" in ways that further their creative path, their esthetic, whom do they have to fear of offending?  In our analogy, "white" people are the theists who abuse the language (and their power), while atheists are the "black" people who are free to poetically reclaim the language. 


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Atheism isn't a religion,

Atheism isn't a religion, it's merely a term to denote a lack of belief in a god or gods. That's it.  No window dressing, no frills, nothing, nada, zilch.

 If some people who happen to be atheists choose to believe in supernatural phenomena then that's their call, it's a completely separate issue with no bearing on their lack of belief in god.

Freedom of religious belief is an inalienable right. Stuffing that belief down other people's throats is not.


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One of the best ways I've

One of the best ways I've heard of explaining it is saying that calling atheism a religion is like calling off a tv channel or bald a hair color.

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MattShizzle wrote: One of

MattShizzle wrote:

One of the best ways I've heard of explaining it is saying that calling atheism a religion is like calling off a tv channel or bald a hair color.

Agreed.  As a "religion", atheism would lose it essence.  It's a disbelief in all the religious mumbo-jumbo, not a partial acceptance of it.  As I've said before, Wonderment, we're not here to waste our time with religion.  That's why, in essence, we are atheists. 

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.


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Imagine if your doctor

Imagine if your doctor recommended you exercise, and you told him "I do. My exercise is being sedentary." Get the idea?

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It seems to me that people

It seems to me that people often confuse spirituality with wisdom.

Buddhism for example is a mechanism to gain wisdom through the use of philosophy, spirituality, experience, and knowledge. Spiritualty is not a necassary component in Buddhism but is an optional resource.

This assumes agreement that wisdom is the practice in best use of knowledge.

Eienstein faced a moral delima in his contribution to the atom bomb, such great knowledge that can bring such disaster. Wisdom is the mechanism to face this challenge not spirtuality, philosophy, knowledge or experience alone.

So is spirituality a necessary component in wisdom? Theist seem to think so, while Atheist and Buddhist don't. At least that's my perspective...

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. - William S. Burroughs


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    Buddhism is both a

    Buddhism is both a philosophy and a religion, how one decides to use it is a different matter. The religious side deals with traditional karmic, spiritual and reincarnation side of it, the philosophical side deals with questions regarding suffering, the overcoming of suffering and compassion and love. An atheist can follow the buddhist philosophy, without adhering to it's religious ideas, but the there is no religious component regarding atheism, it is merely the absence of a belief in any deity. That's it, no religious or spiritual side to it.


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I think that the only

I think that the only "spiritualism" I ever feel is the hope for human altruism and goodness to triumph over selfishness and cruelty. Even then, that's got absolutely nothing to do with anything spiritual, I strictly contain that to reality.

 Atheism opens your mind to the realization that our time on this planet is unspeakably finite and that this is the only shot we've got to get it right. There was nothing before, there will be nothing after; we are merely gifted with the most fortunate of circumstances: we exist with an intelligent conscience. To not take advantage of that is the greatest loss of any opportunity, but to exploit it to its greatest stretch in the name of care, peace, and greater understanding of the world around us is the most noble and virtuous way to live.


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deludedgod wrote:  The

deludedgod wrote:

 The evolutionary biologist EO Wilson calls this biophilia, the sort of feeling that one may get when watching this video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_H1S9d5h-Ps

Deluded, I am sure you have read Wilson's Consilience.  He stayed with a friend of mine while speaking at a university on the matter.  He actually ended up decrying his own work during dinner when sufficiently pressed on certain matters therein.  My point is the EO Wilson does not even believe what EO Wilson says.

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I am aware that the man can

I am aware that the man can be all over the place at times, however, I was simply giving credit to him for adding the word to the lexicon, not endorsing EO Wilson's personal philosophy.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Well, let's take a look at

Well, let's take a look at the word.

 

"re·li·gion     

 Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[ri-lij-uhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

–noun
1.a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2.a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion."

 

Number one point to a belief in superhuman agencies in the cosmology of the individual.  I think that is necessarily right out by the term "atheist"

Number two calls for some agreement by the group as to a set of beliefs.  Good luck trying to find two atheists who agree on any two points, much less a group of them who agree on many points. 

So, no, I would argue there is no religious nature to atheism.  I am religiously devoted to pie and beautiful women though, if that counts.

"Tis better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven." -Lucifer


Nero
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deludedgod wrote: I am

deludedgod wrote:
I am aware that the man can be all over the place at times, however, I was simply giving credit to him for adding the word to the lexicon, not endorsing EO Wilson's personal philosophy.

 

Alright, Alright.  I just wanted to make sure you were aware of his unsteady nature when it comes to his philosophy.  Smile

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Are atheists "religious"?

Are atheists "religious"? yes  they are and most of theme are ex-thiests.


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Sir Loin wrote: Are

Sir Loin wrote:
Are atheists "religious"? yes  they are and most of theme are ex-thiests.

Evidence?

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MattShizzle wrote: Sir

MattShizzle wrote:

Sir Loin wrote:
Are atheists "religious"? yes they are and most of theme are ex-thiests.

Evidence? you are my Evidence

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Sir Loin,  I was raised

Sir Loin,

 I was raised without any religious beliefs and now hold them stronger than I ever did when I was young because I have never felt that religion had adequate backing to convert me. Thought about it once or twice, looked into it, was very disappointed. 

But your point is self-evident. In order to deny a belief, the belief has to exist in the first place. Since religion is so widespread, it's no big shock that there are "defectors," if you will. The majority of the world is religious, therefore a large number of atheists fall out of that pool. 


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exempli gratia  et alii 

exempli gratia  et alii  et alii


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Yo dude! get a haircut.

Yo dude! get a haircut.


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Sir Loin wrote: Are

Sir Loin wrote:
Are atheists "religious"? yes they are and most of theme are ex-thiests.

I'm not religious in the least bit (see Nero's definition) nor am I an ex-theist.  I grew up in a completely non-religious household.  

Please provide evidence/links to your assertions.

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Sir Loin wrote: Yo dude!

Sir Loin wrote:
Yo dude! get a haircut.

This has nothing to do with the topic, please stick with the topics at hand and refrain from any sort of personal attack.  

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Sir Loin is a troll.

Sir Loin is a troll.


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MattShizzle wrote: Sir

MattShizzle wrote:

Sir Loin is a troll.

This has nothing to do with the topic, please stick with the topics at hand and refrain from any sort of personal attack. 

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What's the difference

What's the difference between praying and pretending to pray?


vexed
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Bornright wrote: What's

Bornright wrote:

What's the difference between praying and pretending to pray?

Depends on how good one is at acting I would suppose. However I can say that both are equally effective.

"I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."--Stephen F. Roberts