i know it's been often discussed, but this article is worth the read.  Atheists lose their faith in a variety of ways.  20+ years ago the path to enlightenment was, well, darker.  thoughtful and nimble minds were only able to swallow religious mantra for so long before vomiting it back up.  but much of that ability depended on just how religious your parents were.  should you have found yourself in a fundy household, it's likely that the pressure and indoctrination you experienced were just too much to break away from.  resources were limited.  like-minded people were too scarce.  information was too elusive. 

no longer.  the internet has aided and abetted countless freethinkers to break free.  and it's only going to get better.  i'm so very pleased that many more people are able to leave their dusty old religions behind.  thank you, internet. 

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The YouTube vlogger Thunderf00t has long opined that the internet is where religions go to die.  I am not inclined to argue.

My brain read your last word as "agree".  Glad I read it again.

Outstanding article Matthew. I found a few useful links as well.


"The  Dalai Lama, who has lead interspiritual dialogue for many years made waves recently by saying as much: “All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.” "


So true but considering the source I'm afraid he's not envisioning a secular future, free of fantasy. I appreciate most of the sentiment though and hope this thinking can carry us forward together as a species.

Before reading the article I was inclined to think it would not be the internet per se that will kill religion, but information. As the writer has shown, it is information and community offered by the internet that will end the nightmare. Isolation and the idea that god works in mysterious ways are challenged when you can discuss science or social issues with someone located anywhere in the world.

We live in interesting times. I hope we survive to tell our great grandkids about them. We're headed in the right direction but we've got some obstacles to overcome first before we have smooth sailing.

Yes thank you Internet:) it's great when you use it to your advantage. And also be skeptical about some web pages or things you read. But I'm sure to the religious of the world the Internet is an enemy! The most beautiful thing about the Internet for me is there is nothing I can't find the answer to. A word definition, a famous books premise, etc. I only wish my kids used it more wisely..:)

Someone once commented that the internet is the "collective unconscious" made conscious taking the term from Jung. The meme-generating engine, collection of memes new and old on every topic, and perhaps one day we will download ourselves into the internet or some kind of VR.

I'm not sure I entirely agree that the internet is where religion comes to "die." I can definitely see it's a place where people can enlighten themselves and maybe it's a place where things like religion and atheism are put into a clearer perspective, because without religion, then atheism wouldn't make sense either. I could see a scenario where ignosticism takes the spotlight here, and maybe theism and atheism are shown for what they're truly worth. Alan Watts made a comment once that atheism is the kind of a contemporary intellectual fad that took hold during the time when classic scientists were curious about nature and the universe, guys like Newton and Galileo. Perhaps religion will die, perhaps atheism will die, and maybe we might be left with a vision that gives us a clearer reflection of the multiverse.

without religion, then atheism wouldn't make sense either

I wouldn't say that.  It makes sense to believe that there is no such things as (insert previously undiscovered idea for anything that doesn't currently exist - like a new primary color that is only found inside an undiscovered nut on a tree in the middle of some remote jungle), it's just not very practical to have a word for that belief.  To me, atheism makes sense even if the concept of gods had never been invented.  It will always make sense and be a practical word, since the idea of religion has been let out of the bag, even if all religions were to go away entirely some day.

I don't understand how it could still make sense. After all, the concept of God is a derivative of religion, and without it, then there could be no atheism. Atheism is a reactionary position to theism. The only thing I could imagine that could work in the absence of all religion is a kind of apatheistic pragmatism or something like that.

 Atheism is a reactionary position to theism.

By sticking to the narrow meanings that is correct. But an idea is usually much more than its strict meanings. Infact meanings of an idea depends on how it is practiced. Atheist studies show that Atheism is much more than just rejection of gods to atheists, it is rather way of thinking in logical and scientific way. It is rejection of anything that is illogical.

We are stuck with a lexical (or, more correectly, a morphemic) problem, caused by the fact that religious belief came first.  So anything that came after had to be defined with respect to what came first.

Rabbi Sherwin Wine pointed out that he didn't want to be on the negative side of anything, so he avoided "atheism" where possible, substuting "(secular) humanism."  He noted that religion could as well be described as "ahumanistic."

He noted that religion could as well be described as "ahumanistic."

In definition it may be debateable but in practice it is. When one thinks and acts in a way as it was done in Barbarion times, it is liable to become ahumanistic in modren terms. 

If logical thinking -- not compartmentalized by religious memeplexes' "immune systems" -- became ubiquitous, and theism strictly a phenomenon of the past, we'd all be atheists. But there would be no need to use the label to distinguish ourselves from the majority, to find like-minded people and organize for change, just as we don't need to call ourselves aleprechaunists or atoothfairyists.

However, that time is not now, and I see the label as still very useful.

(modified from a photo by James Cridland)

"the concept of God is a derivative of religion, and without it, then there could be no atheism."

Atheism is refuting the existence of god. Nothing more or less. A sense of being, working, belonging, thinking, and sense of wonder does not require religion. It requires thought. A cave family in the Stone Age thought about survival, just as any sentient creature does. From those thoughts rose stories, myths, fables, and beliefs that later evolved from speaking to written accounts. Thinking preceded religion. Religion served as the curricula for surviving threats, real and imagined. 
Many times throughout human history, there have been those who refuted the existence of god and they were burned, stoned, drowned, beheaded, and other such atrocities that kept people in line. No amount of punishment and pain can stop thinking. Curiosity brought us out of the Stone Age through other developmental stages into the 21st century and quantum physics and all the other sciences that do not seek to hold on to old understanding, but seek to find errors in thinking and make changes as new knowledge becomes available. 

Atheism is not a reactionary position to theism, it is participation in natural forces that keep the Earth moving around the sun, the sun in the Milky Way, the Milky Way in the ever expanding universe. 

Theism is too small to take in all the newly available knowledge. 




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