The instinct to understand our world can be traced to the Stone Age, when people told stories about natural events they did not understand. Evolution of the mind indicates we no longer need made-up-stories and can rely on science and critical thinking for our sense of wonder. Although science often fails to feed our need of community, that, too, can be dealt with through thought and action.
The wonder of it all
Mr. M. your comment rings so very true for me. I found it virtually impossible to carry on conversations with many who relied on some mystical power to solve their problems and from my experience, critical thought and non-traditional action works far better for me. I had to consciously and deliberately build a community with common aspirations.
Did you find it easy or difficult to find people with whom you could identify? What process did you use?
When I left the church, it wasn't because I lost faith in a god, it was because religious people, preachers, teachers, and support groups abandoned me. If I wanted to be healthy I had to make some fundamental changes in my thinking. Buying into the dogma of the "Passive Gospel": "yield, pray, obey, turn the other cheek, crucify myself daily and rejoice in my crucifixion" I was caught.
People, such as Whitworth University president Ed Lindaman taught me by looking to my female ancestors for guidance I repeated the victim role of battered wife. His imagery was visceral: imagine driving down a steep mountain road with a raging river far in the bottom of a canyon. He advised to stop looking in the rear view mirror and start looking out the windshield. Stop looking for instruction from the past because I will repeat it. Look to my preferred future and drive accordingly.
Michael Shermer helped me rethink ancient beliefs. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain is a belief engine. Sensory data flows in through the senses which naturally begin to search for and find patterns, and then charges those patterns with meaning. Human brains connect the dots of our experiences into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen; these patterns become beliefs. Once the brain forms beliefs, it looks for confirmation in support of those beliefs. The process reinforces beliefs, accelerates, and creates a a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. This process works in politics, economics, and religion. Science is a tool to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.
Science is not enough; one needs community, people who share and build upon ideas and experiences. Finding a community of non-believers in an economic, political, and religious culture can be difficult and requires thought plus action, praxis.
"Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, practised, embodied, or realised. "Praxis" may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realising, or practising ideas. This has been a recurrent topic in the field of philosophy, discussed in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Paulo Freire, and many others. It has meaning in political, educational, and spiritual realms."
Wikipedia: Praxis (process).
You left out the most important praxeologist in modern times; Ludwig Von Mises. While his treatise "Human Action" is mainly a exposition of economics, the first third of that book is an eyeopener about how people actually act (implying a process) when making those economic decisions. You don't have to be an "Austrian-school economist" to enjoy this book. On my first read there were several 'goose-pimple' moments. He nails down much of our economic behavior.
I am not familiar with Mises' name and book. Thanks for the recommendation. I first heard of praxis from Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed." He had a powerful influence on my work.
The issue of community will be different for different people. Some need the connection, and feel starved without it. Others need solitude, and feel oppressed with too much interaction. I know I am somewhere in between. I strongly feel the need for community, and I also need some sort of boundaries. A number of the "communities" that I have experienced were oppressive. I don't have any living close relatives, and I am happily away from the town where I grew up, filled as it was with small minded bigots and ignoramuses.
In reality, I don't know anyone, in person, who I can discuss a lot of the things that are important to me, in an intelligent fashion, without judgement and with confidence that there is commonality and mutual respect even in disagreement. In my area, there is a once-monthly meeting that a former Nexus member organizes and another Nexus sometimes-member hosts. Im so grateful for that meetup, I can't describe it. After every meeting, I start looking forward to the next one within days. The people who attend are as different from each other, and from me, as night and day, but that makes it more like a family, or a community, than if we were all clones. And the discussions are open and respectful, friendly, good spirited, even when there is disagreement. Which actually there isn't a lot of.
I work hard, with long hours, high stress, and interact with many people - dozens every day in person, and several times that remotely. Afterwards, there are many hours of computer work to do. I have a well-defined role, and when the day is done, I often don't want to deal with another human being. Sometimes I come home and sit on the couch for an hour without taking my coat off, and skip eating because I just need to veg. So I can't always be in a group of people. But there are many times that I strongly feel the need to say what's on my mind without self censoring and not worrying about judgement. Often that would mean cussing up a blue streak, but often it might mean talking about current events, social ills, progress, or cool stuff. Nexus serves some of that role, and often is my only outlet. It would be nice to have more in person, but I doubt that it will happen.
As usual, Sentient Biped, your responses ring true for me. Obviously, I have a "retired little old school marm" bias and assume everyone has all the time in the world to think and read and think and read. Thanks for the reality check.
Hear, hear. I only recently started visiting this site and let me tell you it has quickly become a central part of my surfing activities. In no small way it helps me tremendously knowing that there are lots of people who feel the same as I do concerning science and religion. I sense, from all the theocratically based nonsense that I see daily in the media, the need for the secularists, non-theists, etc to join together to let our leaders know that we vote too. Think about the math: Approx. 20% (and growing) of Americans identify themselves as atheist. The Population of the US is approx. 300 Million. That leaves an atheist voting block of approx. 60 million. That's enough to swing any election at any time. Politicians should be advised that this demographic will no longer be ignored. Vote. And if you really want to make a difference, run for office, no matter how small or local it seemsthis will all add up to make a more secular society.
Ficking Chucken ... oh my goodness, how hard your name is to type! Yes, I agree, having a good, thorough discussion with someone who isn't going to condemn me to eternal damnation is refreshing. When I first started with Atheist Nexus there were a few, maybe 3 or 4 notices of new members each day; now it is not uncommon to see 20 or 30. I had so many misperceptions of what it meant to be an "atheist" and very quickly read definitions and experiences that not only clarified my confusions, but added to the depth of my understanding. Now, some of us are beginning to have some fun and appreciation of being a non-believer; at first it was all disagreements and debates ... although I love a good debate. I enjoy your comments and open them when I see your name.
I ought to call myself an agnostic; but, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not think the existence of the Christian God any more probable than the existence of the Gods of Olympus or Valhalla. To take another illustration: nobody can prove that there is not between the Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptical orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely."
Bertram Russell Via Aaron R.
It is nice to be part of a community where such conversation can take place without a pronouncement of burning in eternal damnation's fire.
OK, first off-I love that picture. Thanks for sharing! It is good to be reminded to see the wonder of the world, and very liberating to not have to thank a stage-shy god for what has happened all on its own.
I have to admit, I've dropped out of going to the local atheist meet-ups. I'm crazy busy for half of the year, which means a couple months in the middle of snowy winter to truck out and meet some people I don't really know just didn't have much appeal. Part of the problem was that there wasn't much of a meeting aspect to it and I guess I wished for a bit more of an agenda, rather than just sitting around awkwardly-but perhaps that is just the nature of the group. I'm sure there are other groups that are different. Most of my friends are agnostic/atheist/new age types anyway, so I don't get much religiousity thrown at me except occasionally one woman at work and from my family, who either doesn't know where I stand (because I haven't told them and it's none of their business anyway) or who knows and doesn't care (because I told them, knowing that they wouldn't care-yes, I am a chicken!). My fiance is atheist, so there's not dissent in the house. His daughter is also atheist, and keeps managing to find the other atheists at school and brings them home with her like lost little atheist puppies. They know they can speak their mind at our house!
I find when I'm having problems and things seem to be overwhelming, I do not turn to fairy tale stories full of rules and regulations that someone long ago thought I should follow. I turn to a picture taken by the Hubble telescope of deep space, in which you can see hundreds of galaxies. And I realize how tiny and inconsequential my little problems are in the scheme of the universe. This doesn't scare me. It frees me. And this is how I think of science in general. It has freed us from ignorance, from diseases, from limitations, from toil (go washing machine go!).
Regina, I missed your message and just now read it. Fortunately, your fiance and you seem to agree on not believing god exists and I am especially happy to know his daughter has an accepting home where she can bring her friends.
Seeing Hubble photos gives me goose bumps, too, and realizing we are made of the same stuff as the universe makes me feel I am part of a much larger story, not better or worse than, or deserving or not deserving, not entitled to everything and not denied seeing and feeling, I belong right where I am and I am so deeply grateful to be alive and conscious.