When people ask me about my beliefs, I generally say that I non-religious, rather than saying that I'm an atheist.  I don't do this in an effort to avoid controversy, rather, it's a more accurate statement of the situation.  I just don't have any religiously-held beliefs.  Let me explain what I mean.

While organized religions generally tend to favor a particular god or gods, some, such as Jainism and certain varieties of Buddhism, manage to exist as non-theistic religions.  So, just for the purpose of discussion, let me define 'religion' non-theistially as any set of beliefs, adhered to in toto, that exist either without, or in opposition to, any supporting evidence or logical basis.

For example, I have an acquaintance, let's call her Sandy, who is not conventionally religious.  If you asked her, she probably would say that she doesn't believe in God. However, she does believe, quite fervently, in ghosts, psychic phenomena, fortune telling, reiki, auras, and the idea that extraterrestrial aliens are constantly whizzing about our planet in flying saucers and abducting farmers in swamps.   

We once got into a discussion about this, and she attempted to demonstrate that her various beliefs were correct, by citing people that agreed with her. When I finally pointed out that that wasn't any sort of evidence, and that in any case many of them contradicted each other, she burst out that you didn't need evidence, you just had to BELIEVE.

Now, I submit that Sandy's viewpoint, despite it's lack of a supreme being, is just as much a religion as any sort of fundamentalist Christianity.  It has a dogma, and its adherents cling to it tightly, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.  They defend it vigorously, and decry as heretics any that fail to believe; indeed, many of them even look towards a sort of salvation, undoubtedly waiting to be scooped up one day by the mother ship.

Now, the area I live in seems to have quite a bit of this sort of thing, whether it applies to fundamentalism, UFOism, vegetarianism, fascism, anti-establishmentarianism, liberalism or any other sort of "-ism"... people who are utterly fanatical about their particular beliefs, and want to convert others.  The local atheist society seems overrun with this; they may not believe in God, but most of them certainly believe in plenty of other things, with equally religious fervor.  And I find that they are just as obnoxious and difficult to get along with, as any doorbell-ringing cultist I've ever met.

So where would one go to avoid this sort of thing?  Where best to find people that that are not only deism-free, but are also rational, and dogma-free?

Views: 62

Replies to This Discussion

I dunno, my own group is just about all full of skeptics. We don't believe in diddly squat that isn't demonstrable.

That could also be a better word than 'non-religious', too. The problem you're likely run into into with describing yourself as 'non-religious' is that it's a fuzzy, over-used term. I've heard many people say, "I'm non-religious. I have a personal relationship with God." See the issue here? People will often assume you're the non-denominational sort of Christian who just watches Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen, if you say that. Have I horrified you sufficiently, yet? :-D

So, basically, if you want to differentiate yourself from the woo-filled atheists, maybe go with 'skeptical atheist' or something? Also, see if your area has a skeptics meet-up or something. They should mostly be atheists, too.
I would say I fit into this category and I'm a scientist. I had a very easy time finding people just like this in my major of study while at college. We had one class in particular, which I loved, where we were to research a controversial issue and draw scientific conclusions based on very loose and quick research. My favorite discussions were ball lightning and acupuncture.
How interesting! What topic did you pick, and what were your conclusions about it?
The best discussion was ball lightning. We have the world's leading expert on lightning at our university and he led the discussion. It seems that it could be a number of different things: a ball of electricity, a hallucination, etc. We really reached no conclusion because there just isn't enough evidence. Scientists have tried to create it in a lab, but even that wasn't right. It's really interesting to research.
I saw ball lightning one time. Utterly amazing, I'll never forget it. It was in Nevada, during a thunderstorm. A bright flash of heat lightning, then there was what looked like a giant string of pearls across the sky. It started falling, and, as it fell, it broke apart - the individual balls "fell" at different speeds. Some hit the ground and exploded sort of soundlessly. Others bounced - some bounced along power lines. One or two hit buildings, and went right through, emerging on the other side, none the worse for wear. Eventually, sooner or later, all of them disappeared, popping like soap bubbles. The whole experience covered maybe a minute.
I say, don't be afraid to be who you are. Who cares if it causes controversy? If you're an atheist, you're an atheist. You don't have to be some outspoken firebrand (like me =P) to be open about your beliefs, but you should be comfortable enough in what you believe to not have to sugarcoat it. On the question of what is or is not a religion, atheism is by definition NOT a religion, because a religion requires you to have a belief in an all-powerful supernatural being or group of beings whose existence is querulous at best and requires an overwhelming leap of faith, whereas atheism is a lack of belief in that being or group of beings. Any religious person has no right to tell you what you believe or how that belief is defined, any more than you have the right to tell them the same.
In addition, I'd say your friend isn't religious, but merely superstitious. A religious person is probably also superstitious, but superstition doesn't require religion.
I picked the term "religious" over superstitious, because superstitions don't usually induce you to try and convert others. But either way, it's an example of what I don't like; someone who constantly harangues you, trying to get you to agree with them about their beliefs.

P.S. She really isn't a friend... just someone I've run into a few times. If that was the best I could do in the way of friends, I'd rather be alone.
My original point was that one can be religious about almost any topic, whether god(s) is/are involved or not.

Philosophically, your last point is correct, and no one has (or more properly, should not have) the right to tell you what to do.

Realistically, however, being around a bunch of people who seem to just want to pick fights with you all the time gets pretty tiresome, regardless of how skillful you may be at defending your position. I'm really not interested in endlessly debating any set of beliefs, or lack thereof, either conventionally religious or otherwise.

So what I'm asking for is suggestions on where to find a group of people that are more tolerant and less interested in prosthelytizing, irrespective of the subject matter. Obviously the local atheist groups aren't a good choice.
I think you've found the right place. We are the group you're looking for. Unfortunately, we're spread out around the nation and the world, so the experience isn't as satisfying as getting together in person. Maybe in a few years, with better technology, we'll be able to "skype" or somehow talk through our monitors in a group as if we're sitting around in a bar having a few drinks. (Sorry, that's the best I've got. I've been looking for a similar group locally, like you're describing, with no luck.)
I've been "out" as an atheist for my entire adult life, and for the most part I've been left alone about it.  Certain people I've come across (such as one who's a 7th Day Adventist and always thinks he's right, and one guy I worked with who told me "it's impossible to not believe in god") can be exasperating, but overall I usually don't get into debates unless I seek them out myself.  Local atheist groups are actually a great choice.  I'm part of one in Omaha and we're not about "proselytizing," which I put in quotes because it's not proselytizing to have intelligent debates with someone (v., to convert or attempt to convert as a proselyte; recruit - dictionary.com).  My atheist group is a group of like-minded people who enjoy each other's company.  Sure, we talk about how silly religion is sometimes - to each other.  And sometimes we engage in debate, usually in a structured setting that is voluntary for all participants, though it's a fact of life that sometimes when you tell someone what you believe, they're going to argue against it.  But mostly we just hang out with people who think like we do, and we have fun.
On the question of what is or is not a religion, atheism is by definition NOT a religion, because a religion requires you to have a belief in an all-powerful supernatural being or group of beings whose existence is querulous at best and requires an overwhelming leap of faith

Buddhism is a religion. It has none of those beings.


Support Atheist Nexus

Supporting Membership

Nexus on Social Media:

Latest Activity

© 2015   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: Richard Haynes.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service