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8653Re: [Death To Religion] spirituality

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  • Maurice Temples
    Sep 6, 2003
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      Hello Melody,

      That was a very nice introductory letter. I hope
      you get some other responses to it, as each can really
      only speak for himself. You have some exposure to
      atheists in both your church and your work, and I'm
      sure you can see a wide range of attitudes in them.
      Like everyone else, atheists are growing and their
      attitudes will change as they grow. I am fifty-two
      and have been atheist since late adolescence, so my
      views may be different from an atheist in his twenties
      or thirties.

      One thing I have noticed is that, as a general
      rule, athiests tend to behave more morally than
      believers. I don't know if this is what you mean when
      you say the atheists in your church are very
      spiritual. I think atheists behave more morally
      because they know they must take personal
      responsibility for their morality, whereas Christians
      can just go to confession or get baptized.

      You mentioned atheism in the same breath with
      belief systems. I want to point out that atheism is
      not a belief system. Believers like to characterize
      it as such, but that is not the case. There is no
      atheist creed to which atheists must subscribe; no
      dogmas, no rituals, no articles of faith. Atheism is
      the freedom from such things, and freedom from
      supernaturalism and superstition. But individual
      atheists vary widely in what they find intellectually
      acceptable. One on this group finds the idea of moral
      absolutes acceptable, which astonishes me.

      Christians like to think that atheists will
      "repent" on their deathbeds, and they like to recite
      the worn-out platitude that there are no atheists in
      foxholes. They are as wrong about these things as
      they are about their other supernatualisms. I doubt
      that the number of atheists who become deathbed
      believers is any greater than the number of Christians
      who become deathbed atheists. And as for foxholes, a
      fair number of atheists were *created* in foxholes,
      just as some found religion there. I used to know
      some WWII vets before they died who were atheists due
      to their experiences; but they were gentlemen of a
      bygone era and didn't advertise their atheism. My own
      father was one of these. He was also a very spiritual
      man. He read the Bible, the Tao te Ching, and other
      religious texts, and took his family to church. That
      didn't stop him from his private atheism, nor did he
      (as my ultra-religious sister would like to believe)
      repent on his deathbed.

      You certainly didn't write a diatribe. A
      diatribe is an angry rebuttal, and you were neither
      angry or rebutting. Do atheists feel spirituality.
      Some do, perhaps all do. I am moved by beauty, by
      belief in ideals, and by the agonistic struggle. You
      find it difficult to explain what you mean by "God."
      That's not surprising. When you were very young, you
      found it difficult to know what the word "far" meant,
      even though you had a much clearer idea of what "near"
      meant. We gain knowledge (in one way), by the
      juxtaposition of opposing things, with one of those
      poles being relatively clear while the other is
      murkier but in a sense defined by the clearer pole.
      The idea of God is no more than that unmarked pole
      juxtasposed against all that we know of the world.
      It's no wonder we continually try to define him, but
      his definition is always unclear. I suppose some
      atheists might claim to be entirely rational, but I
      doubt it. We are all humans, creatures of emotion as
      well as reason. Who is not moved by fine art, by
      pity, by love?

      Have you read the Tao, or Chuang Tzu, or
      Confucius, or the Dhammapada? I personally don't
      recommend the Buddha: he walked out on his wife and
      family for a selfish pursuit of religion, but you
      might find some meaning in his sayings. Lao Tzu, and
      his student Chuang Tzu, were nothing more than ancient
      Chinese Deists (even though Deism itself was a much
      later European creation). The Tao can be very
      enlightening, and the Old Boy begins with your same
      sentiment of not being clear about God by saying the
      Tao that can be talked about is not the true Tao.
      These are very spiritual writings, but not in the
      western religious sense. They can be considered
      humanistic, and even atheistic, but again not in the
      senses we are used to. Second only to that tale of
      terror that is the Bible, the Tao te Ching is the most
      widely translated book in the world, and it has none
      of the blood, slavery, and guilt of that other book.
      Check 'em out if you haven't already.

      If by spirituality you mean something
      supernatural, then your work friend is right.
      Atheists have no supernaturalism. If you mean,
      however, the sense of wonder we all have, then yes,
      atheists can be as spiritual as anyone. There is no
      "supernatural:" it's a self-defeating concept, which
      is why atheists have no truck with it. However, all
      people share a similar psychology and atheists are as
      capable of the "religious feeling" as anyone -- it's
      just that we recognize it for what it is: psychology.

      The phrase "higher power" means to me belief in
      God and the supernatural. It's no more than mere
      superstition. Either that, or it describes a really
      good stereo system :-).

      > In a country that, unfortunately, seems to be
      > governed by "God bless
      > America," how do you justify and maintain, and
      > explain to the
      > ignorant masses, that "God" is an aberration?

      It's OK in this country -- and even condoned --
      to be prejudiced against atheists and middle-aged
      white men. There are areas of the country where it is
      physically dangerous to speak one's atheism too
      loudly. I live in one such area. Atheists tend not
      preach publicly, but if our numbers were much greater,
      perhaps we would. When the subject comes up in
      conversation, I will talk about it, and the usual
      reaction is like a south sea islander encountering
      snow for the first time -- shock and disbelief. For
      instance, people like to say this country was founded
      on Christian principles and the ten commandments.
      When I point out the real facts to them, that the
      country was founded by Deists who didn't believe in
      the Christian God and many of whom (including Madison,
      the Father of the Constitution) were anti-religious,
      and that the first treaty this country signed
      explicitly stated we were not founded on Christian
      principles, they have a hard time believing it. When
      I point out that E Pluribus Unum was the national
      motto, only usurped by religionists about fifty years
      ago, and that since then all the social ills they like
      to complain about have arisen, they don't know what to
      say. When I say that not just the phrase "under God,"
      but the entire Pledge should be scrapped because it
      was written by a socialist for socialist purposes, I
      can see the smoke coming out of their ears. I will
      occasionally reply to religionist letters to the
      editor in the local paper, and once in a while one
      gets published. But I can't be too blatantly
      atheistic in these, as there are rednecks here who get
      drunk and stupid. And, on occasion, a believer will
      engage me in the existence argument, but they're never
      very sophisticated in theology and so it's too easy to
      wrap them up -- I have to be careful not to cause them
      too much affront.

      > What is atheism?
      > Is it just another label?
      > I see Life as "God."
      > What can I learn from you and what can I teach the
      > children of the
      > new world?
      > (As a teaser: To me, the statement "I don't believe
      > in "God" is
      > admiting that there is a god to not believe in.
      > Strange...)

      Your "teaser" is one of the oft-repeated things
      believers like to say. It is an extremely weak
      argument. Saying "I don't believe the sun rises in
      the west" is admitting that there is a western sunrise
      to believe in. See what I mean?

      What is Atheism? It is simply a state of
      non-belief in a God or gods. It is freedom from
      supernaturalism and superstition. When I do enage
      Christians in debate, I like to call them atheists.
      Of course they protest. But then I ask them if they
      believe in Zeus. They say no, and I call them an
      atheist again. Then I point out what "atheist" means,
      and tell them I just believe in one less god than they
      do. It is practically impossible to get a believer to
      undestand that atheism is *not* a belief system. They
      continually ask, "Well, if you don't believe in God,
      what *do* you believe in?" But atheism has no creeds,
      no articles of faith, no system of bondage -- after
      all, the very word "religion" means to bind and bind
      again. But atheism doesn't mean we're bound to some
      other credo; it simply means we have rejected god
      beliefs. We encounter the world just like everyone
      else, and just like everyone else we muddle our way
      through it. We just don't suppose we have answers
      where we don't, so there's no way we can bind
      ourselves to answers we don't even have. Beyond that,
      those who do pretend to have those supernatural
      answers are wrong.

      Teach the children as many facts as possible.
      Don't inoctrinate them with opinion masquerading as
      fact. Teach them not to accept answers purely on
      authoritarian grounds. And teach them the art and
      science of critical thinking. These things are the
      base from which they can build a fulfilling life.
      Within these things, teach morality. Not that
      morality is handed down from some super-being, but how
      it arises from social interaction and how it should be
      applied by them in their own lives. Don't teach them
      guilt for the bad, but desire for the good. That
      desire will teach them all the guilt they will ever
      need; don't add to it. Teach them to fly, not just to
      walk. Never put them down for being childish or
      child-like, but build them up for being exactly that,
      with the firm belief that they will grow better and
      better at whatever they are doing. And teach them
      about art; that art is the uplifting of the beautiful
      so that all may see, not the vulgar expressions we see
      in the public media today. If you can do all these
      things, they will grow up as best they can to be
      happy, fulfilled adults who are awake to both sides of
      life: the rational *and* the spiritual.


      --- uuchild73034 <uuchild73034@...> wrote:
      > Hello All!
      > I have just joined this group and am interested in
      > some feedback
      > here.
      > First, let me tell a little about myself. I am a
      > member of a
      > Unitarian Universalist congregation. I was raised in
      > the Lutheran
      > tradition, but always found that path to be, more or
      > less, just mere
      > mythology. I recently, within the last three years,
      > felt that I
      > needed some type of spirituality in my, and my
      > daughter's, life and
      > started loking around at churches within my area.
      > I discovered the Unitarians.
      > I liked what they had to say about "the
      > interdependent web of all
      > existence," and "the free and responsible search for
      > truth and
      > meaning." I sensed logic in the humanist teachings
      > and, yes, even
      > the Christian/Judaic roots that UU's draw from.
      > Personally, I consider myself, if one has to have a
      > label, to be
      > pagan. Mainly because, if categorizing, I am not a
      > follower of any
      > of the Abrahamic religions. Yet, I do feel a sense
      > of divinity.
      > Not "God" in the preconceived definition of the
      > word, but "God" in
      > the process and connection of Life.
      > (The word "God" is very difficult for me to
      > comprehend or convey
      > since the word "God" has so many traditional
      > attachments to it.)
      > Anyway, to me, Life itself is "God." Life itself is
      > divine.
      > I have struggled, and continue to do so, with the
      > notion of "God".
      > Part of me "feels the spirit." I feel the spirit
      > when I look at a
      > child. I feel the spirit when I see a hawk flying
      > with a snake
      > writhing in its' talons. I feel the spirit when I
      > make love. I feel
      > the spirit when I am overwhelmed with laughter. I
      > feel the spirit
      > when I am among devout Christians, or Judeans, or
      > Muslims, or
      > Buddhists, or Taoists, or Wiccans, or Yorubans, or
      > Atheists or any
      > other belief system. I feel the spirit in the trees,
      > and rocks, and
      > stars, and clouds, and ...
      > Okay, enough of this diatribe. My question to you
      > is:
      > Does someone who labels themselves as "atheist" have
      > a type of
      > spirituality to them? (Bear in mind that I see a
      > distinct difference
      > between spirituality and religion.)
      > At the church, for lack of a better word, that I
      > attend there are
      > quite a few professed atheists. These are some of
      > the most
      > spitritual people I know.
      > They are loving and connected and happy. They seem
      > to worship beyond
      > what any Christian is capable of. And, FYI, they
      > embody the
      > principles of Jesus far beyond ANY holy roller,
      > evagelical, bible
      > thumping, right-wing, fanatical, warrior for Christ,
      > flag waving,
      > anti-abortionist, homo-phobic idiot that I can think
      > of.
      > So,...what's the deal?
      > What started this train of thought in my head was a
      > conversation I
      > had with a fellow worker who says he is "atheist."
      > He, who perhaps is on his own journey of discovery,
      > says that as an
      > atheist he can not recognize or accept a
      > spirituality. From what I
      > can gather with conversation with him, "atheists"
      > have no
      > spirituality.
      > This, to me, seems pretty bleak.
      > Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just my Lutheran
      > upbringing that still
      > has a hold on me. Maybe Life is just a wondrous,
      > endless chance for
      > experience and change. But, isn't there SOMEHING?
      > Okay, I'll end now.
      > (By the way, I do the children's R.E, religious
      > education, at the
      > UU "church." I try to teach through stories. And I
      > believe that ALL
      > paths have a lesson to be learned. Atheism is a
      > lesson that I have
      > not touched on, yet. But, if it exisits, then it
      > must be relevant
      > and necessary.)
      > Without thinking of belief, or creed, or faith, or
      > religion...
      > What is spirituality to you? Is there spritualtity?
      > When you hear the phrase "higher power" what does
      > that mean, if
      > anything?
      > In a country that, unfortunately, seems to be
      > governed by "God bless
      > America," how do you justify and maintain, and
      > explain to the
      > ignorant masses, that "God" is an abberation?
      > In this same country, that insists on
      > misinterpreting our fore-
      > fathers and mothers, how do you manage to impart the
      > goodness
      > (spirituality) and connection (spirituality) and
      > love (spirituality)
      > that is, in my mind, divinity?
      > What is atheism?
      > Is it just another label?
      > I see Life as "God."
      > What can I learn from you and what can I teach the
      > children of the
      > new world?
      > (As a teaser: To me, the statement "I don't believe
      > in "God" is
      > admiting that there is a god to not believe in.
      > Strange...)
      > Please don't think that I am trying to convert or
      > preach. I am
      > merely curious and hungry for growth and
      > understanding. I write a
      > lot of children's stories and am always trying to
      > expand on the
      > wealth of life that exisits.
      > With or without...Life goes on. And Life ALWAYS goes
      > on. That, to
      > me, is "God."
      > Sincerely,
      > Melody

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