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Ouranos Ouroboros
05 Jul 2013, 04:02
When I was growing up - knowing I was pagan but stuck in a Christian system - I used to be relieved when I heard someone was atheist. It usually meant we had a good deal in common.


I still have several atheist friends, and we're cool with each other. But lately it seems I'm seeing more and more atheists who are hostile to all theists. I've heard a lot of claims that theists' faith and experiences can be disproved because we can find parts of the brain that activate when we're having spiritual experiences.


Here's the way I see it: we can make fact-based claims about the physical world. We cannot make fact-based claims about the otherworld. Those experiences are personal and subjective. My relationship with Osiris is beautiful, but trying to prove that he physically existed would be against the very non-corporeal nature of his being.


I also feel we cannot disprove subjective experiences, such as those that occur in the otherworld. Yes, certain neural pathways light up when we have spiritual experiences. But why should the experiences not be genuine and valid just because we can see parts of the brain responding? Maybe we're seeing certain parts of the brain light up when a deity is present. I wouldn't try to prove that, but I don't see how anyone can disprove it.


Have other people noticed divisions between atheists and pagans in the last few years? If so, did they have anything to do with this debate about neural activity and attempting to disprove spiritual experiences?

Aeran
05 Jul 2013, 04:45
Claiming that spiritual experiences are somehow not real because a certain part of the brain becomes more active as they take place is nonsense. They're making a huge logical leap 'x part of the brain is associated with y phenomenon, therefor X part of the brain must be entirely responsible for it' with absolutely no basis in fact, it's a complete misinterpretation of the science. Which is the irony of the anti-theist crowd, they claim that all they support is the scientific method, but the reality is that they have their own set of biases and dogmas and assumptions about the world that they defend viciously, often with just as little hard evidence or logic behind them as the worst of religious assumptions.

If you cut through the disingenuous semantics ("atheism isn't a worldview, just the lack of belief in divinity!"), the reality of the modern atheist movement which grew out of the thought of Dawkins, Hitchens, Randi etc. is that it's a highly dogmatic materialist philosophy which is in many ways comparable to a religion and which indulges in many of the tactics of organized religion they claim to fight against (dogmatism, selective evidence, appeals to authority, logical inconsistency, refusal to engage threatening ideas, bigotry etc.). I used to ascribe to this worldview before I found (irony) that it just doesn't hold up under the evidence, and I've been incredibly disappointed to watch it become more and more like the organized fundamentalist religion it claims to be trying to counter since then.

Of course not all of them are like this, there are a lot of people who really do just lack a belief in god because they don't see the evidence for it (passive atheists - although far less of them claim the label), but the current strain of the new atheist movement (activist atheists) is mostly an aggressive backlash against the influence of organized religion which should have listened to what Nietzsche said about fighting monsters...

Hopefully they'll realize that the dogmatic posturing is counterproductive and take a turn towards the spirit of rational inquiry and freedom of thought on which the movement claims to have been founded, we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I put them in the same catagory as religious fundamentalists: their ideas aren't open to change on exposure to new arguments or evidence, so it's easier to just not bother engaging them on the subject.

Here are a few interesting articles I came across the other day about the brain scan issue and the ridiculous extrapolations people draw from them:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/jun/30/brain-mind-behaviour-neuroscience-neuroimaging

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/02/brain-scans-innermost-thoughts

Quetzal
05 Jul 2013, 04:55
I was an atheist and anti-theist. A few years ago I was on some forum or another, arguing against religion. It was by no means an intelligent argument. I was essentially calling theists crazy. A pagan girl responded simply by stating her beliefs in a calm and well reasoned manner. She didn't seem crazy at all. In fact, her beliefs made sense, and she'd been so calm in responding to my cruel accusations, it made me feel small and childish in comparison. At that point, I decided to stop arguing against faith. It wasn't my place to rant against something so subjective. After that, I studied pagan beliefs in more depth and recently began calling myself a pagan.

I still struggle with some of the things the people on this forum have experienced, experiences I can't imagine having myself, but I no longer believe that those experiences aren't real for those that experience them. I actually find myself resentful of my inability to feel what many of you feel. As I'm sure is the case with many (but not all) atheists, there's always been an emptiness inside of me where spirituality should be. If you try to understand that when speaking to atheists, maybe you'll get somewhere with it.

I feel I may have rambled a bit there, sorry. Just my personal journey.

B. de Corbin
05 Jul 2013, 07:30
Have other people noticed divisions between atheists and pagans in the last few years? If so, did they have anything to do with this debate about neural activity and attempting to disprove spiritual experiences?

Actually, there are quite a few of us who identify as pagan atheists right here, on this very forum.

If one wants to know what we think about these things, one has only to ask - it will save you a lot of time speculating.

The neural activity thing is irrelevant to determine whether deities exist or not. ALL experience - LITERALLY ALL experience can traced to neural activity. It is the way we experience EVERYTHING, the things we all agree are real (like this pink unicorn on my lap), and the things we imagine (like Bea Arthur naked).

If the claim is made that "if it happens in the brain, it's not real" the end conclusion would have to be that "nothing is real."

- - - Updated - - -


As I'm sure is the case with many (but not all) atheists, there's always been an emptiness inside of me where spirituality should be. If you try to understand that when speaking to atheists, maybe you'll get somewhere with it.


When speaking to THIS atheist, do not take this advice!

If you treat me as if I am in some way defective (filled with emptiness? B.S. My imagination is rich and full beyond what I imagine most people can imagine), I will consider it an insult, and treat it like one.

Quetzal
05 Jul 2013, 07:35
When speaking to THIS atheist, do not take this advice!

If you treat me as if I am in some way defective (filled with emptiness? B.S. My imagination is rich and full beyond what I imagine most people can imagine), I will consider it an insult, and treat it like one.

Chill out, I specifically said NOT all. I was just running on my own experience and speaking under the assumption that SOME atheists must have felt the same way I have. And I didn't say filled with emptiness, nor did I link that emptiness to a lack of imagination. Don't put words into my mouth.

thalassa
05 Jul 2013, 07:51
Chill out, I specifically said NOT all. I was just running on my own experience and speaking under the assumption that SOME atheists must have felt the same way I have. And I didn't say filled with emptiness, nor did I link that emptiness to a lack of imagination. Don't put words into my mouth.

The second quoted comment by Corbin is from the OP. I think you are taking his comment, about not applying how Ouranos feels to him, a bit too seriously yourself. Perhaps you should also chill out and not put words in his mouth. ;)

B. de Corbin
05 Jul 2013, 08:04
Chill out, I specifically said NOT all. I was just running on my own experience and speaking under the assumption that SOME atheists must have felt the same way I have. And I didn't say filled with emptiness, nor did I link that emptiness to a lack of imagination. Don't put words into my mouth.

No need to chill. Not angry, except in the sense that (although you qualified it with "but not all") you've implied that atheism produces some sort of flaw. I wanted to correct some very bad advice by making it clear that, if you treat those who have different ideas from you as if there is some defect in them, you will eventually get swatted, and you will deserve it.

Quetzal
05 Jul 2013, 08:08
Eh, I don't know that atheism produces a flaw. I think more perhaps, I'm flawed and therefore atheist. Don't take that last sentence to mean all atheists are similarly flawed, I really really just include myself in that.

Perhaps I shouldn't have offered advice, just my own perspective...

Hawkfeathers
05 Jul 2013, 08:15
I'm sure in some cases atheism produces, or perhaps exacerbates a flaw, just like religion can. Some people use these things as crutches, or weapons. Some simply have a belief system of some sort.

B. de Corbin
05 Jul 2013, 08:24
Eh, I don't know that atheism produces a flaw. I think more perhaps, I'm flawed and therefore atheist. Don't take that last sentence to mean all atheists are similarly flawed, I really really just include myself in that.

Perhaps I shouldn't have offered advice, just my own perspective...


On a personal note, then, Quetzal, try this:

Somewhere in your head there is a switched labeled (metaphorically labeled) Believe/Disbelieve. It can be hard to locate, but, once you have, it's easy to flick it back and forth. Locate the switch, and flick it to "believe." If you feel better, leave yourself tuned to "believe."

;)

Jembru
05 Jul 2013, 08:58
Although they don't really say much that hasn't already been said many times on this forum, I thought some people might be interested enough to give this a quick watch:

Who knows, it might even spark your interest enough to make you watch more of their videos, gamers especially should find a lot of thought-provoking discussions on their channel.


http://youtu.be/h2Vx9qoLzFs

B. de Corbin
05 Jul 2013, 10:29
That was a good video, Jembru!

Thanks for posting it.

Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, by the way, is actually fairly easy to understand if it's translated from symbolic logic into standard English. The idea is that every logical system contains true information which CAN NOT be proven true by using that logical system. The evidence is this sentence:

This sentence can not be proven to be true.

(Before anybody wastes any time trying to prove the sentence is true, let me point out that there is a trick involved - if you prove the sentence is true, then you've proved it is false. If you prove the sentence is false, then you have proved it is true.

The upshot of this is that the sentence can not be proven to be true, yet indisputably is.)

WinterTraditions
05 Jul 2013, 14:10
Alright, I'm going to say something that is through my experience and my opinion. I'm not trying to offend anyone, or start an argument:

Through my experience of atheists, nearly all of the ones I have interacted with found that atheism was about being anti-theistic; that they needed to hate religion and/or prove that religion is "false".

Never have a met an atheist who actually holds the beliefs that atheism represents: That they simply do not belief in a God or the supernatural.

It's like a Christian having to be anti-Pagan.

It happens where there is a Christian that is anti-Pagan wholeheartedly... But it does not mean that every Christian has to be. The faith is not about being against another faith. Just like how atheism is not about being against religion.

Medusa
05 Jul 2013, 20:39
An atheist who is anti theist, really isn't an atheist to me. They are butt hurt because whatever deity they believed in failed them miserably in some way.

Yeah, I'm so standing by my words up there.

An atheist who is just an atheist simply has no belief in deity.
The mother effen end.
tada!

B. de Corbin
05 Jul 2013, 22:17
Alright, I'm going to say something that is through my experience and my opinion.

One of the truly wonderful things about PF is that people can express their ideas, which are based on their experience, and balance those experiences against the experiences of others, in order to create a more true picture of reality than can be provided through one individual's experience alon

Don't apologize for having an opinion :o


Through my experience of atheists, nearly all of the ones I have interacted with found that atheism was about being anti-theistic; that they needed to hate religion and/or prove that religion is "false".

Never have a met an atheist who actually holds the beliefs that atheism represents: That they simply do not belief in a God or the supernatural.

Here, hopefully, you will find that things are different. We're a bunch of smarty pants, and somewhat more open minded than you may be used to :cool:

WinterTraditions
06 Jul 2013, 01:54
One of the truly wonderful things about PF is that people can express their ideas, which are based on their experience, and balance those experiences against the experiences of others, in order to create a more true picture of reality than can be provided through one individual's experience alon

Don't apologize for having an opinion :o



Here, hopefully, you will find that things are different. We're a bunch of smarty pants, and somewhat more open minded than you may be used to :cool:

Absolutely no offense, but seeing how some people reacted to some other opinions of mine was not pretty. I insist, an apology is better made before I peeve someone off with my words. Making someone mad is not my goal xD Ever. Though I must admit this place is quite friendly compared to other forums.

Thothur
07 Jul 2013, 11:46
I think many people who eventually consider themselves an Atheist tend to typically come from a Christian background, and in that background many people are traumatized in some form or another. Thus they throw off religion altogether. This has been my experience at least.

I personally know many people who grew up Christian, but definitely aren't Christian today. In fact, amongst my own siblings, ONE is Christian, and at the totally opposite end of the spectrum and a bit of an extremist in my own opinion. The rest of us in the family are not .

They then tend to see anything involving any form of religion as, well... crap. (At least to them.)

It falls under the category of unproven and unprovable. There are people who will believe things without proof, and that's perfectly fine. There are others who will not, and that's perfectly fine too.

People just need to find something that works for them and that they can find enlightenment and solace with. That may be a religion, or it may be the absence of one. But all in all I think that folks should be judged by the content of their character on an individual level, and by what religion they do or do not ascribe to.

Ouranos Ouroboros
15 Jul 2013, 21:39
Aeran, thanks for the articles.


Jembru, thanks for the awesome video. I've also shared it with a couple of friends who agree (and one who is abstaining from agreeing while not disagreeing). I even made an account to respond to some of the other videos on their site, even though most of the games I play are on a SNES emulator or DOSBox and I hardly recognize any of the new games they're talking about.


It's funny that some of you place anti-theists with religious fundamentalists. I've occasionally called individual anti-theists "mono-atheists" to illustrate their similarity to many of the very Christians they dislike.


To the folks who were upset with each other: I prefer a no-censorship (or almost-no-censorship) environment. I think you have the right to say whatever you want - although, in this particular exchange, I'm not very interested. But I would like to point out that a quote was mis-attributed to me. Please look back over the original post and subsequent quotes if you're interested in who said what. If any of the confusion is because you see my text as grey on black, I apologize. I believe that's been fixed, but I don't know for sure because things have always looked ok to me; I didn't know there was a problem until someone sent me a private message about it.


I don't think anyone needs to be (or believe they are) of any particular faith or non-faith to feel the kinds of things I feel and call "spiritual". I've found theists I found totally apathetic and disconnected from spirit. I've found atheists that are - to me - intensely spiritual in all but name. I think people sometimes worry too much about whether their inspiration comes from inside or outside or both.


I do appreciate the conversation from everyone, though. It's nice to get some points of view on this topic outside the few atheists currently in my life who still tolerate me (who are, almost exclusively, Humanists or existentialists).

Astrayus
20 Jul 2013, 17:51
In fact, her beliefs made sense, and she'd been so calm in responding to my cruel accusations, it made me feel small and childish in comparison. At that point, I decided to stop arguing against faith. It wasn't my place to rant against something so subjective. After that, I studied pagan beliefs in more depth and recently began calling myself a pagan.

I can relate to this. I went through a horrid phase of really bad temperament and felt like a complete douche when I "woke up" and realized what I was saying to people and how it was, in a way, illogical. The anger and resentment that people have towards religion is strong and in some ways just as scary as a mob with pitchforks. People get militant with their views and they are not totally unjustified to do so.


I still struggle with some of the things the people on this forum have experienced, experiences I can't imagine having myself, but I no longer believe that those experiences aren't real for those that experience them. I actually find myself resentful of my inability to feel what many of you feel. As I'm sure is the case with many (but not all) atheists, there's always been an emptiness inside of me where spirituality should be. If you try to understand that when speaking to atheists, maybe you'll get somewhere with it.

I have this same problem. My inner skeptic makes it hard for me to experience things. (Also, it likes to point fingers and cry out "BS!" on people it doesn't believe, but we keep that to ourselves...) Fortunately for me, I have had those experiences before I went all gung-ho atheist/anti-theist. Which in reflection is really stupid on my part! I have these experiences that I knew were real and I just shoved them into a corner like they weren't evidence. Sometimes I'm not as smart as I would like to think I am...

Anywho, I think I kinda "broke" my spiritual side. I'm still a weak atheist. I don't believe in deity like a lot of people do: as some all powerful being that exists outside of humanity as the creator, protector, etc. But I do have a spiritual life and I do feel connected to what I feel "binds us all". I haven't sorted it all out yet and I couldn't tell you if it fits one path or not, but I'm working on it and I hope you get to experience things in your own way.

My tip: open yourself to experience without preconception. Experiment with whatever appeals to you and once something does happen, see what your intuition has to say ALONG with your inner skeptic. After these experiences stack up, evaluate them again and again. (Keep a journal and record everything!) Don't try to see what others have to say about before you've feel like you have got a solid idea and even then, keep an open mind about their opinions. All they can offer you is their own perspective on what you have experienced.

Doc_Holliday
20 Jul 2013, 18:00
I knew a guy who was a strong and outspoken atheist (And anti-theist) and he used to piss me off so much.

He used to say things like "Religion is just for people who realize their life is so shitty they want to die to have a better one."

"Religion is just to escape the reality that people fucked up for themselves."

"Religion is most commonly practiced by people on welfare." (Um, sure.)

"God isn't walking around on clouds blessing people and curing diseases, people are so dumb."

So yeah we don't talk anymore.

Ouranos Ouroboros
24 Jul 2013, 02:34
Astrayus, I think - if I were being quite technical - I would technically be a pagan-agnostic or pagan existentialist; but try launching into that conversation when people ask what religion you are! So I keep it simple and call myself pagan or eclectic pagan.


I will say, though I can't speak for others, that I don't experience the otherworld in the same way I experience the physical world. I "see" things in the otherworld with an analogue of vision or "hear" with an analogue of sound, etc. The act of evocation, for me, isn't unlike lending my willing suspension of disbelief to a theatre production. I'm not so much concerned with whether Ariel or Blanch DuBois or Dr. Dysart is real; my acceptance of them makes them real for me, and - so long as I don't try to impose these experiences on others or use them to interpret the physical world - I don't see a problem with that.


Doc_Holiday, yep, those are some of the kinds of things I've been hearing from the anti-atheists I know (well, knew, as we're no longer in contact).

Threshold
22 Sep 2013, 06:48
here is a video recently shared with me by an atheist that explains what atheism is. Of course some will disagree, but I think it's worth watching.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNDZb0KtJDk

My understanding is an atheist is someone who doesn't believe in gods.

An anti-theist is one who is against any belief in gods, says there are NO gods and has a tendency to try to convince others of the same.

An anti-religionist is against religion in any form, even non theistic ones.

I participate in a non-theistic religion. I believe that other people have valid reasons to believe in their deities. I've had no experiences with a deity so I don't honor any, but I also have no reason to believe that others are all delusional.