I'm new here and just checking it out! What kind of people are here?

I read a quite a few of the posts and am curious as to what kind of people are here and what kind of discussions can be created. I have a lot of questions and things I find crazy that I would love to discuss with some intelligent people...

Personally I range between a disinterest (in religion) atheist to a strongly anti religious individual depending on my mood and circumstances and how many beers I have had :).

I can see the positive side of religion though; I live in Utah and would note that it is one of the safest and low crime areas and am constantly amazed at how well the kids are looked after, due mainly to the LDS influence.

Why can't the kind of effort put into bringing up children (as the LDS do) be a solid and actualized value system without religious influence?

I am also amazed at the degree to which the U.S. is generally religious, much much more so than England (my native country) and Australia (where I have spent a fair bit of time). A younger acquaintance of mine (based in Cincinnati) observed that one of the problems she has is that most Americans social lives seem to revolve around the Church. Are Americans particularly gullible for some reason? A lot of the Showbiz preachers are particularly successful here? What gives?

Atheism is to me kinda a non-statement in that it's like saying I'm an aGolfer if I don't play golf. Which would make me an an aSquash Player, an aJogger, well I guess the list could be endless if not very interesting. Now if people were to say that they are actually Anti-Religious (against Religious beliefs) then that's a statement... Anyone here Anti-Religious? Or am I missing the point, does the 'a' in 'atheist' really stand for Anti?

Any thoughts?

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Well, we have over 8,000 members so you'll find all kinds of people here with all kinds of attitudes towards religion, atheism and politics.

The best way to find your own niche is to post about things you feel are interesting, funny, outrageous, or infuriating and see who agrees with you and who doesn't.

For many of us here (at least those who are most active) our problem is not so much with religion but with its intrusion into politics. Frankly, it doesn't make much difference to me if someone wants to worship Mickey Mouse, as long as they don't lobby the government to legislate against mouse traps.

Now, as you say, being an atheist may be a bit like being an a-squash player. But, if the squash players of the world started to gain political muscle and demanded that your children should recite the rules of squash at morning assembly, that balls other than squash balls were offensive to them and should therefore be banned, and that shops, bars and restaurants should be prohibited from operating during the World Squash Championships, then I think that the a-Squash Players of the world may well begin to unite in common cause.

Finally, while it is true that the only requirement for atheism is a lack of belief in deities, it is not true that atheists (generally) have nothing in common. Our own AN member, Prof Tom Arcaro, is studying this at the moment. Many atheists tend to be well educated and politically liberal. Having rejected religion, many have well-developed critical thinking skills and are highly skeptical about things other than deities, including astrology, life after death, psychics, etc. It tends to follow then that atheists are often direct, down-to-earth, no bullshit kind of people. As their 'beliefs' are based on evidence, they tend to like reading and learning and many are very interested in science and politics. They are also the kind of people you don't have to 'tip toe' around for fear of offending them with a stray swear word of sexual reference. As atheists believe they have only one life to live, you'll often find them making the most of it and trying to make the world a more equitable and peaceful place. This is certainly my experience of the atheists I've met here and in person. I think that there is actually a great deal more uniting atheists than just a disbelief in God.
Hey Kristy, good points! Thanks for your reply.

Based on your comments above I think it would be fair to say that atheists (including myself) are actually not just a case of people simply not believing in deities but more they are usually against religious beliefs generally?

The religious, "faith based" thought process is fundamentally founded on accepting things as true without or even in spite of evidence. Continuing to believe in these instances is often considered a virtue. To believe that something is true because that’s what they were told. A CORE VALUE of the system is in fact to take things on faith and NOT question them. Some I know believe simply because it "feels" right to them.

Generally most atheist arguments and thought processes I have seen are based on almost the complete opposite. That of a CORE VALUE of skepticism or critical thinking. Accepting things as real or true only through evidence, data and testing just as per your points above articulate. Questioning the truth of something and requiring proof is considered a virtue in the atheist mindset.

So I think there is something more fundamental going on here than just a movement of people who don't happen to believe in a deity?

It's maybe a battle of value systems?

Superstitiousness against rationality, faith against critical thinking, evidence against what simply feels right, personal bias against objectivity.

I think the politics spin is a red herring unless you are using the word politics in the most generic sense.

Everything affects politics; if you have people in positions of power whose value system is based on superstition or “faith” where things are mentally accepted as true without evidence being required then you have a problem. This is true at any level, from schools to clubs, to business to political office. It is not enough to ask for religious views to be kept out of politics, as the whole faith based religious mind set or value system is at fundamental odds with the atheist point of view. Anyone with the “faith” based value system will inevitably reason based on that mind set i.e. not consistently practice critical thinking when making decisions that affect others.

I for one want decisions to be made that affect me (either directly or indirectly) based on critical thinking and hard evidence and not justified based on some superstitious belief.

Personally I think atheists should come out of the closet and openly attack the religious mind set as dumb, stupid and sometimes dangerous.

However I also think that the problem with this is it does not serve the human emotional need to feel reassured. The religious person who can perform the mental trick of believing that everything will be okay because there is a God and that there is a plan for them and that they are being looked after and who can also connect with others of similar beliefs through their churches will often reduce stress and do better as a result. Not to mention the benefits of lots of local and personal connections.

The problem is that although religions are just superstitions they work… They work at the level of producing real benefits for the believers and they feel good.

It may therefore be the case that before religious belief can be effectively countered something needs to replace them. Something that addresses this core emotional human need to feel reassured, safe, loved and which formalizes a mechanism of local connections.

One thing is for sure, it’s not atheism… :)
You say that religion makes you "feel good". Yet children around the world grow up victims of mythological terror, that of Hell and of eternal damnation (Rejection). This stunts them for the rest of their lives.

Having a genuine connection with "people" is what makes me feel good. The church provides this but only because of the structure of the church not that of the Christian faith. The Church gives a sense of community but we can certainly have this without God or Zeuss for that matter.
Hey Gregory, thanks for your thoughts.

To clarify, my comments regarding the positive effect of religion, is a generalization of the effect it often has on the majority of its followers, particularly in America and or the industrialized world generally. Clearly there are exceptions and it obviously does not apply to you or me for that matter.

However as I talk to religious people generally, I would observe that in the majority of cases they find their "faith" profoundly re-assuring.

Also I agree it is the structure of the Church that creates a formalized mechanism for making social connections in a safe and non-threatening environment. And I agree that in theory this COULD be achieved without the "God" factor. However I would observe that generally this does NOT happen, at least it does not happen to anything like the same degree without a unifying mechanism such as religion.

And to some extent that is my point. Atheism can not typically replace the institutionalized, repetitive and pervasive mechanism for personal connections and reassurance that, like it or not, the church does provide (to those who need it).

I also agree with your point regarding children and mythological terror, that of their being threatened with hell and eternal damnation. I am not attempting to justify religion, simply recognize how it works and what it provides and why people get caught up in it.

I think that maybe only through educating children when they are very young to think critically and reject superstition (all forms of superstition) can the negative religious influence on the majority of people’s ability to reason be significantly addressed. It is a big challenge though as the Church has for hundreds of years systematically and knowingly gone after the youngest children and fed them it’s dogma as it knows that children are the most easily influenced.

It seems to me though that today atheism has little to offer at an emotional and comforting level to those who get the most out of their religious beliefs. At the end of the day people believe in their religion because they want to, not because it makes sense, they simply find a way to rationalize their beliefs. And they do this because they get a lot of emotional support out of their beliefs.

If there is one thing atheism is not, it’s not an emotional support system.

And their lies the problem, when atheists argue the existence of god they are attacking the religious persons emotional support system AND not offering an alternative (emotional support system). Those that don’t need an emotional support system or have found religion lacking in this respect aside. The vast majority of religious followers do need it or at least believe they do and therefore they will hang on to their belief system not matter what the atheist says.
You raise a valid point, however I am not convinced that people need this emotional re-assurance. Take, for instance, the fear of death which is quite possibly the driving motive behind religion and the concept of the after-life. Now the fear of death is probably a product of self-awareness. It is not merely the pain of death but the loss of the self (id) which scares us the most. Case in point, a soldier will risk a painful and brutal death because he or she is convinced that the self will live on after the body dies.

Anyway, the point I am getting to is that while people may find comfort in the idea of an afterlife it becomes a mute issue if after you are dead there is nothing following it. As I like to tell people, the best part about being dead is that you are too fucking dead to care.

I stress the fear of death because, as I see it, this is really why people cling to their faith. Once the fear of death is removed they will be able to move on boldly.

I'm not sure what you mean by an emotional support system. It is true that believers may seek their god in times of distress. But don't we usually seek familiar comfort in times of distress? And if your comfort is your religion then it is only coincidental that it is your faith to which you turn. Another person may seek comfort in their family, their partner, their loving dog, etc....

Would you at least agree that it is the fear of death that motivates people to an irrational belief in God and the afterlife? I want an outside opinion on this.
Thanks Gregory, interesting reply and comments.

You are being logical but unfortunately that is not the way most religious people think.

I agree that for some, fear of death may be a factor. In my experience however most people have a fear of life, fear of what may or may not happen tomorrow. Fear of things going wrong, fear of not finding a partner, fear of losing a partner, fear of being poor, fear of getting ill, fear ones children may mess up or get ill, fear of being embarrassed, fear of being talked about, fear of losing one’s job, well the list is endless… These day to day fears are what drive most people. At least in the industrialized world where simply surviving day to day is usually not the issue.

Now this may not be the case for you. You sound like a confident person but it’s important to realize that a lot of people, probably the vast majority are extremely fearful and lack self-confidence. Most (the majority but clearly not everyone) people need support, emotional support, that’s why religion is so prolific.

In addition, something I would observe about fear or worry is that they expand to fill the space available. That is to say that those people who allow themselves to worry, (it typically does not matter whether something major in life is on the horizon to worry about or not) will find something to worry about. I know a lot of people who have this mind set. It is possible to simply DECIDE not to worry, but that takes a disciplined mind. Most people do not have that kind of mental self-discipline.

Religion provides a way to avoid feeling responsible for everything that happens to oneself. What happens becomes ordained, fate, “ not my fault”, part of god’s plan etc.. Conversely, if one has religion then one can (and are usually encouraged to) surrender to god’s plan, have faith that everything will work out that there is a plan a reason for what happens. It helps most people make sense of the world and feel comforted even though it makes no sense at all to a critical thinker.

I’m guessing that this is crazy talk to you but trust me, for a lot of people believing that they are part of god’s plan is extremely comforting.

In re-reading your comments I realize that I need to add that the question as to whether (some) people NEED this emotional re-assurance is interesting. They certainly believe they do. They certainly feel better when they have it. I’m also sure (my opinion) that if they were brought up to think critically, by parents who themselves were not fearful then they probably would not need it. But then that’s the real trick yes?
Crazy talk? no not really. Actually it makes sense since my own parents are very religious or at least have become so in their golden years. My mother has often said that only good things happen when she "gives up" and lets God take over. But, this fosters the notion that everything is out of ones control, even personal or financial matters. People like her go through life without taking any real responsibility because of an overconfidence in the mythological God.

Thanks for your thoughts on the death question.
I know what you mean. My mother is just a depressive, sees the worst in everything. She can't understand where I get all my optimism and positive outlook on life. To me it's just a decision.


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