It's all about being verifiable. The definition of supernatural is its unverifiability. Some people prefer to live in an unverifiable world, because it seems more romantic, or it gives greater value to the imaginary. Work on tribes which have adopted colonial ways shows a concordance of 'valueing the imaginary'. But anthropological work on isolated tribes, who've not had contact with us shows that there is simply no place for imaginary in people who live off the land. A plant does what a plant does, the animal feeds so many people. Our First Nations have been in contact with whites for so long that our ways have rubbed off on them, and they come to use words such as spirituality, in the way white people use them, and this is a great loss to human kind. Although all my schooling is in science, I am more of a contemplator than a knowledge seeker/modifier. I see that humans have had only catastrophic influences on this planet, and I directly associate that with our obsession with the imaginary, the possible, the dream. In this sense, atheists in general have failed to distance themselves from their religious origins. Humanism is centered on the very same principals as all other religions, advancing humans... as if it was some sort of competition, some ultimate meaning of life. I have never felt that urge to modify/destroy my environment. Most knowledge, based on valueing the imaginary and possibles, has overall been good for the victory of humans over nature, but it's been bad for the ecosystem.
In the end, it's not entirely how we get knowledge, but what we do with it. If knowledge served respect instead of destruction, I'd be less wary of it. Knowledge existed way before modern science came about, and also before humans developed religions. At this point in my life, any knowledge that increases the gap between humans and the natural world, I consider to be wasteful knowledge. In this way, my favourite scientist is the naturalist, because they're focused on knowing without destroying.
I sense a deviation! Hehe. I think I forgot where this discussion was going. Still interesting though!
All of what you said is interesting. I have to wonder what your stance is? Do you have a touch of First Nation spiritualism perhaps? Or do you consider yourself a naturalist?
You placed a lot of importance upon the ecosystem, why? Why is lessening the gap between humans and the natural world important? I'm awfully curious about that, what your reasons are for it.
That's where I'm in general disagreement with most atheists you'll meet online. Most atheists I've met see "removing oneself from nature" as the ultimate human aspiration, to me that is religious, I see it as a general loss. As a biologist, there is no 'happy ending' to never ending growth, dynamic balance is the way to go. The reason I went into that description was in trying to answer your question about epistemology. I am on the fence about knowledge. Without modern style knowledge we'd have no pollution, no human overpopulation, no Wall Street theft, no WMDs, better biological diversity for all species and a generally healthier life (though albeit probably shorter). The uneducated people working on manufacturing chains are not the ones causing the ecosystem's demise, it is "knowledgeable" people.
Why do I care about the ecosystem so? Because I don't believe in "humanity" or individualism, I see myself as simply another biological being, I do not aspire to surpass all around me. That is a religious outlook, the sempiternal "enlightenment" quest. I grew up in a family that valued nature and food integrity, and the world is not that way. Am I a naturalist? We must bear in mind that there's a philosophical naturalist, and a biological naturalist, they are different, but I am mostly both. What I am for sure not is a Humanist! In the entire atheist community, I've only met a half dozen who think along these lines, and they are also biologists.
If someone asks me, I'm absolutely open about it. I was timid at first, but I've realized that because Atheism is not the dominant view in my society, it is actually a form of oppression when I don't feel comfortable stating my views during religiously oriented discussions. Since that realization, I've always been open about it. As you can see, I don't release by name on here or my blog, the reason is simple, I really don't know what kind of impact it may have on my career. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that, but it could have a very serious financial impact for me, since I live in a rather religious community. I hope that some day this will change, I'm just not ready to put it out there on the internet yet. But as I said before, if someone asks me in person, I don't hide it. In fact one of my bosses tried to give a rough time about being Atheist not that long ago. I wrote about the whole issue on my blog, and I think I made some good ground with the interaction I had with him.
Hey Physician, I think we can all sympathize with your feelings. To that extent, some of us. So I hope I'm not intruding by commenting. I found your thoughts fairly interesting, and we can all relate to that fear of those above us taking our lack of belief difficultly. I know for years I was terrified of being expelled from my college because of my Atheism.
I'd like to encourage you, if I may though. There are organizations in place that are working towards getting rights for Atheists such as yourself. I assume from your profile that you do indeed live in America, correct? Well, we're lucky to be here and not in a more third-world country. If I may encourage you, you cannot be fired because of your atheism. And if you are? Fight it, cause an uproar! Get behind organizations such as American Atheists. You can't be fired for Atheism anymore than a Jew or Christian can be. Especially not in a hospital. A little family run place, sure.
I know that doesn't help with the fear too much, but I hope it can give you a little more encouragement. Even being in a religious community, you can not legally be harassed like that because of your lack of belief. Look into it and find some support, it will help!
Hi Sarah, you are correct, I am in America. Michigan to be specific. It's true that I cannot "legally," be discriminated against, but the reality is that the discrimination is all too common. I'm just avoiding painting a big red X on my back. Like I said, I'm not afraid to be open to those that I work with or to my patients if they ask, I'm just concerned that too many patients would be turned off without ever giving me a chance if I advertise my lack of belief too much.
Should discrimination ever occur, I absolutely will fight it. I'm just trying to avoid a fight, if at all possible.
Same here. I'm open about being atheist to real people I meet, in the real world. But on the internet, there is so much potential for abuse of identity (not speaking of theft here). For all of human evolution, our behaviours have been honed to assess danger, risk, value, opportunity, based on one-on-one interactions face to face. We as biological organisms have no evolutionary experience with handling anonymous online activity. This lack of experience leaves the door wide open for abuse of evolutionary human instincts. Now corporations are asking that potential hires give full access to online activity. This would have been unacceptable in the good old snail mail days. There is no way that a corporation could ask to see my personal correspondence with friends as a requirement for being hired/promoted. My interactions on the internet are PERSONAL. I limit responding to friend requests to people I actually have a relationship in real life, on on forums such as these, to people who have demonstrated through multiple postings that they are decent humans which I could enjoy meeting in the real world. And I like to keep my circle of real friends pretty small. To this end, I don't even post my geo-location in my profile, although anyone here truly interested can find out by back-reading my 3 years of posts :)
Atheist Physician, You are wise to not reveal your identity. I did so, deliberately, knowing I would face some problems from overly excited believers. I am retired, have an independent source of income, do not have to rely on others for my support. My grown children have families to support and don't have the freedom I have. The need for people able and willing to take the guff is real. If some start speaking up, others will have an idea there are choices one can make, that culture dominates even though it does not stand up to critical standards necessary in this age. Using Bronze Age instructions and examples for 21st century challenges makes no sense to me whatsoever.
I have had two bad experiences, both were from people who disagreed with what I say and used old fashioned bullying techniques to quiet me. At first I was afraid; that soon dissipated and I have no more fear. One threatened me with rape and sodomy. His bullying shut me down for a relatively short period, but I believe in what I have to say and write as honestly as I can. I no longer feel fear; I do feel disgust, revulsion, determination to speak my mind.
The time will come when you will have fewer responsibilities to consider. When that time comes, and it will come, you will stand up to superstition, dislogic (an invented word) and foolishness. Please don't be hard on yourself in the meantime. Your first obligation is to your family and your profession. We elders are able and willing to carry the banner ... we've been through tough times and know how to survive and thrive. In fact, some of us old war horses kind of like the challenge.
Yeah I have suspected such. I have no issues telling people I know, but that is because they know me and won't have the chance to judge me on my lack of belief. I'm afraid with the general public, they just won't give me a chance, and I cannot take that risk, unfortunately.
You are exactly right, and like you said it is tricky. Striking that right balance is tough. Maybe some day I'll find it.
I'm mostly out with my atheism, even when I shouldn't be. I've told my friends & family even though I probably should have waited until my Mother died like I did with my Dad. The chance of them changing at their age is and was so remote that I spared my Dad the anguish he would have went through, and should have spared my Mother. It was just that I had become so disgusted and stressed with religious bullshit coming out of their mouths (mostly from my sister) constantly, that I thought it had to end.
I've told my church leaders and had my name removed from their records with no overt repercussions so far.
I've always been an honest person, so I tend to blurt-out what I think even when I shouldn't. I'm mainly thinking of my doctors. If one of them was a religious fanatic and I told him I was an atheist, he could cause me a lot of pain. I blurted it out to my Urologist but he still seems to be the same happy nice guy around me that he was before, so no worries there. I haven't told my GP and I'm going to try to keep my mouth shut because he started talking about God one day and worried me. However, I did tell his nurse when she saw me reading "Under the Banner of Heaven" and started talking about it. She said she goes to church (non-Mormon), but didn't seem to get upset about my atheism. She's still just as friendly as ever, however, I think I shouldn't have told her because it might get back to my GP.
If I still worked for someone, I probably wouldn't tell my boss or co-workers as bosses are usually hard to please under the best of circumstances.
Having been raised by religious nuts, I use to keep quite. However raising my children as atheist and realizing they had no fear in telling anyone what they thought soon changed me. Thanks to them I soon became very out spoken. I have a few relatives who no longer talk to me but I find I don't care. Isn't it funny when we are able to learn from the kids?