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Why you became an atheist

 
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Tue 31 Aug, 2010 09:24 pm
Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who lived around 300 BC.

His outlook was this: follow the path that creates the greatest sense of well-being. He had a scientific and egalitarian outlook. He had a beautiful garden and encouraged people to see that whatever gods there may be do not concern themselves with us.

He was opposed to overindulgence because of the unpleasant bloated feeling that follows. He avoided politics or any other pursuit which brings turmoil. He preferred to live in seclusion surrounded by friends.

Superstition brings turmoil. To struggle with faith that God came from heaven to save us by allowing himself to be tortured to death... although he didn't actually die... this is stressful stuff.

Releasing it all and adopting a naturalist perspective brings a sense of peace. Epicurus would approve.

He wouldn't approve of philosophical investigations regarding what we actually know... if those investigations left us with unnerving questions. His view would be that the proper way to handle unanswered questions is to ignore them and embrace the equilibrium of the spirit which comes from knowing that your outlook has freed you from superstitious fear.

Epicurus would be disappointed (but not in a stressful way) with the fact that many people who grow up with naturalist outlooks eventually convert to some religion. I was considering recently how many of my religious friends are examples of this. Why would they choose to embrace superstition? Why would they choose a path of fear and turmoil over the peaceful well-being of the naturalist?

Because they found peace and well-being in religion that didn't exist for them otherwise. I think it's the conversion that brings peace. It doesn't actually matter in which direction you convert... either way, the conversion eliminates something that was stressful. And that relief is what gets the attention.


 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Aug, 2010 10:29 pm
@Arjuna,
I have also heard that drug addicts will cure themselves if they accept religion.

Strange phenom.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 02:57 am
@Arjuna,
Well, the problem with 'a greatest sense of well-being' is that it inevitably finishes. It might be satisfactory when your circumstances are fortunate, and you do indeed have a nice garden, and friends to admire it with.

Regrettably, life is often not the proverbial 'bed of roses'.

I do feel your depiction of Christianity is facile, to put it politely. I would hope that those who believe in Christ would also believe that he was a human being who understood something marvellous about - well - being human. I mean, apart from His crucifixion, which I see, perhaps incorrectly, as an extremely tragic event, He also left many sayings and teachings which have become part of the 'global consciousness' since that time.

Also, I don't really accept that the Christian faith is superstitious, per se. Religious belief and superstition often intermingle, but I hope that the principles of the Christian faith, in common with those of other spiritual teachings, would be rather more than simple superstition. I would hope, and in fact I do believe, even though I don't call myself Christian, that The Christ is a living principle, not simply an idol or a superstitious belief, with which the devotee feels that he or she has a living relationship which is a source of joy.

It is true that the Greek philosophers, Epicurus included, have a great deal to teach, and that the philosophical life is certainly superior to life as it is normally lived in Consumer Land. It is also true that the cultivation of equanimity and indifference to the slings and arrows of fortune denotes an excellent temperament. But I don't know if I would set the Greek wisdom against the teaching of the Gospel. Many have found that they actually complement each other rather well.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 04:31 am
There certainly are lots of atheist threads lately. To answer the thread headline, I think we have no choice in the matter. Either we believe or not, or have eternal doubt, based on who and what we are. I could only change my view if incontrovertable evidence were presented to me. Ain't gonna happen, of course.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 07:48 am
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

There certainly are lots of atheist threads lately. To answer the thread headline, I think we have no choice in the matter. Either we believe or not, or have eternal doubt, based on who and what we are. I could only change my view if incontrovertable evidence were presented to me. Ain't gonna happen, of course.
Did you transition from believer to Atheist?

Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 08:29 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

Well, the problem with 'a greatest sense of well-being' is that it inevitably finishes. It might be satisfactory when your circumstances are fortunate, and you do indeed have a nice garden, and friends to admire it with.
Good point. According to legend, Epicurus had a happy outlook even while suffering from the kidney-stones which killed him. But I've seen how hard times can shake a person's faith.

John Perry wrote a little dialogue about an atheist on her death bed. She begs her friends to convince her that her soul is immortal.

So are you saying that using pleasure, as Epicurus meant it, is a poor criteria for ordering one's life?

jeeprs wrote:

I do feel your depiction of Christianity is facile, to put it politely.
That was the result of my looking through the eyes of a naturalist. The vast ideological complex of religion disappears. There's still a kind of awe in this outlook... I think it's the same kind of fascination I have watching bulldozers at work.. one is watching grand, but impersonal forces at work... destroying and creating simultaneously. But that's the reason there's no fear in naturalism.... my own life and death are the same rising and falling of dirt around the construction site. The naturalist isn't plagued with the notion that all this movement is meaningless (ideally anyway)... he says let your awareness follow the otherwise blind forces of nature. These forces created you by destroying something else... and will destroy you just as blindly on their way to creating something or someone else. Let your heart be at peace about the fact that these forces don't care about you... you aren't separate from them.

jeeprs wrote:

Also, I don't really accept that the Christian faith is superstitious, per se. Religious belief and superstition often intermingle, but I hope that the principles of the Christian faith, in common with those of other spiritual teachings, would be rather more than simple superstition. I would hope, and in fact I do believe, even though I don't call myself Christian, that The Christ is a living principle, not simply an idol or a superstitious belief, with which the devotee feels that he or she has a living relationship which is a source of joy.
I think you and I are in the same position: admiring Christianity from the outside... able to see both its grandeur and folly.

jeeprs wrote:

It is true that the Greek philosophers, Epicurus included, have a great deal to teach, and that the philosophical life is certainly superior to life as it is normally lived in Consumer Land. It is also true that the cultivation of equanimity and indifference to the slings and arrows of fortune denotes an excellent temperament. But I don't know if I would set the Greek wisdom against the teaching of the Gospel. Many have found that they actually complement each other rather well.
Right, Epicurus never met a Christian. An Epicurean in a Christian world is adapting the philosophy to a different world. How different, I don't know.
Khethil
 
  2  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 08:34 am
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:
...Either we believe or not, or have eternal doubt, based on who and what we are. I could only change my view if incontrovertable evidence were presented to me.

This is an extremely good point.

I get the impression many believe that to believe or not is a choice; its not. To the honest person whose in touch with themselves, they either believe or don't. One can remain open to 'input' and new experiences, but the honest soul can't ignore the place their experiences have led them to.

Thanks
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 08:38 am
@Khethil,
As usual on this subject, I agree with EdgarB. I became an athiest (without theism) when I simply didn't believe any more.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 08:40 am
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:

edgarblythe wrote:
...Either we believe or not, or have eternal doubt, based on who and what we are. I could only change my view if incontrovertable evidence were presented to me.

This is an extremely good point.

I get the impression many believe that to believe or not is a choice; its not. To the honest person whose in touch with themselves, they either believe or don't. One can remain open to 'input' and new experiences, but the honest soul can't ignore the place their experiences have led them to.

Thanks
I notice you emphasize honesty and being in touch with yourself. Is this the nature of any conversion?
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 08:42 am
@ossobuco,
ossobuco wrote:

As usual on this subject, I agree with EdgarB. I became an athiest (without theism) when I simply didn't believe any more.
Could you describe how your life changed?
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 08:50 am
@Arjuna,
It didn't change noticeably. I just had more time to be involved and interested in other subjects.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 09:07 am
@ossobuco,
ossobuco wrote:

It didn't change noticeably. I just had more time to be involved and interested in other subjects.
I grew up with a form of Christianity that's time-consuming. When I left it behind, I had more time... but I'm lazy. Lazy Sundays.... aahhhh.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  2  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 09:33 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

Khethil wrote:

edgarblythe wrote:
...Either we believe or not, or have eternal doubt, based on who and what we are. I could only change my view if incontrovertable evidence were presented to me.

This is an extremely good point.

I get the impression many believe that to believe or not is a choice; its not. To the honest person whose in touch with themselves, they either believe or don't. One can remain open to 'input' and new experiences, but the honest soul can't ignore the place their experiences have led them to.

Thanks
I notice you emphasize honesty and being in touch with yourself. Is this the nature of any conversion?

Not really, but on the surface perhaps.

What I mean is that while I was younger, I was brought up in a quasi-christian environment. And while it appeared I was a believer (had been taught to mouth the words, repeat the prayers, etc.), I hadn't ever really thought about it until about 17 or so. And when I did, pow. I was gone.

I stayed theistically-neutral until about age 30 or so when I started getting exposed to different theological philosophies. I realized soon after, there simply wasn't any belief within me (not "anti", just "without" belief). Thus, atheist

Thanks for asking
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 09:34 am
Some A2Kers know my difficult abused early life history. I was raised in a so-called Christian family, including a minister uncle. I attended church, bible school, etc. The more I learned about Christianity, I began challenging Christianity in my teens when I observed the contradictions in people's beliefs and their behaviors toward me and people in general.

I started reading books about the world's religions, and found the strange similarities among them. It took about six years to learn enough to become an agnostic. For about another ten years, I became more certain that "god" did not exist, that the Bible was an interesting history book but was filled with false beliefs with regard to the New Testament and Jesus.

I tried to understand and evaluate the difference between spirituality and dogma. I decided that dogma was a distructive element.

I did more research about cults and how they get started. I recognized the similarity between cults, good and bad, and religions. The more I learned about religions, the more I decided I was an Atheist when I was in my thirties. The older I got and the more I learned, the more I was an Atheist.

BBB
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 09:53 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Ooooops, I misspelled destructive and couldn't edit it.

BBB Embarrassed
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 10:27 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
At a young age, you saw religion objectively. Gandhi is supposed to have said: "I'd become a Christian if I ever met a real one."

You never experienced religion from the inside... with "mature faith" (whatever that may be.) In the end, you saw religion as a source of destructive dogma and hypocrisy.

Your own transition was from agnosticism to atheism... so from withholding judgment to coming down on the side that was less negative.

But your beliefs are based on time spent learning and observing over many years.

Imagine that you could see some positive aspect to religion... this wouldn't affect your beliefs, or your identity as an atheist. What would it mean, if anything?
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 10:42 am
@Arjuna,
Actually, I've known and respected a large number of good religious people throughout my life. I worked with them for a number of important causes.

I was married to a Boston-raised Irish good Catholic man. To honor him, I attended mass with him and my two children were raised as catholics. I discussed religion with a priest.

A remained an atheist silently so I didn't confuse my children. I didn't tell my children I was an atheist until I divorced my good husband after twenty of marriage. My children today are not religious.

BBB

0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 11:58 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

edgarblythe wrote:

There certainly are lots of atheist threads lately. To answer the thread headline, I think we have no choice in the matter. Either we believe or not, or have eternal doubt, based on who and what we are. I could only change my view if incontrovertable evidence were presented to me. Ain't gonna happen, of course.
Did you transition from believer to Atheist?




I was never a believer at all, even in youngest childhood.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Sep, 2010 05:35 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

That was the result of my looking through the eyes of a naturalist. The vast ideological complex of religion disappears. There's still a kind of awe in this outlook... I think it's the same kind of fascination I have watching bulldozers at work.. one is watching grand, but impersonal forces at work... destroying and creating simultaneously. But that's the reason there's no fear in naturalism.... my own life and death are the same rising and falling of dirt around the construction site. The naturalist isn't plagued with the notion that all this movement is meaningless (ideally anyway)... he says let your awareness follow the otherwise blind forces of nature. These forces created you by destroying something else... and will destroy you just as blindly on their way to creating something or someone else.


I suppose there is some nobility in fatalism but the alternatives ought to be considered.

The whole point of the Christian doctrine - and indeed the spiritual faiths generally - is that the force behind it is not blind and the process not meaningless. The universe is intentional and humans have a place in it. How this is not preferable to the naturalist alternative, I will never know. What the teaching is supposed to be about is understanding or realizing the meaning. It has however often amounted to much less than that. (I think this is because the gnostic element of the teaching was suppressed so as to entrench the theocrats of the early church but that is definitely another topic.)

"Letting your awareness follow...." seems rather like the Buddhist mindfulness training in which "things are watched as they arise". But the culmination of this training is also the realization that you are not all of the things that come and go and that in fact all of that which comes and goes has no real being.
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Sep, 2010 12:16 am
@Khethil,
I agree totally we believe or we don't. Some people have a desire to some people don't. I've literally tried to not believe. I work in a field that requires a non-Christian timeline to function, and yet here I am still deeply religious.
 

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