For the first “x” years of my life I was under the expectation of following a certain religion. I hated it! I wanted freedom of my own conscious, I wanted to explore my own thoughts and be the person I wanted to be. I did not want to conform to the expectation of others.
and so.. I labeled myself an atheist. Recently I have been talking about labels (I am not Vegan) and although I am by definition an Atheist, I just want to be myself. I have found that all atheists do not think alike. Similarly in life, you will find individuals who are good, bad, indifferent, happy and sad. Atheism also gets a bad wrap due to individual preconceived notions. Certainly there are those who are activists for their cause. They are looking for their own elbow room in a country full of religious people who (for example) are trying to change laws and base them on their religious beliefs. Whenever I hear people say religion is being oppressed in this country, I feel they really ought to spend a year in the shoes of someone who is Atheist.
I am not writing this today to pit Atheists against Theists or visa versa but in hopes we can drop some of the labels. Why can’t we all simply be humans and stop being judgmental? Learn about the other persons beliefs and accept that the other person has different beliefs than you. Is it really religious to butt heads with other people?
We brought my son up to be non-religious but along the way we have given him the different religious perspectives. We wanted him to be able to have the freedom of conscious, enable him to figure things out on his own and if he ever decided to pursue religion, that is his choice. The one thing I did want him to have exposure on is the world religions. I learned as an atheist, once someone finds out you are atheist, they attempt to challenge you as to why you do not belief the same thing they do. ( I mean, How could you NOT? ) It comes in handy knowing the background and history of their religion in those debates. Strangely enough, some atheists are more knowledgeable about religion than the people who attempt to debate them!
We are all individuals in our thoughts but we are all the same as human beings. Why not stop using labels and accept that while we have our differences, we are really all the same?
I am, among many other things, atheist, anti-theist, monist, atomist, materialist, and so on. I speak for no other and no other speaks for me. I do not expect you to be like me or speak for me. I in turn will do the same for you. In that we are united.
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I use to be more anti-theism but my long term detox from religion has helped me.. plus I have a friend who makes sure the local school districts don’t cross the line… which I can totally appreciate. Thanks for your response.
it should not be a world where we worry if the local school districts are crossing the line. We should not have to fight for equality. Yet that is what we are called to do… not from some divine purpose but simply to survive. This is now… and I hope that the future is not the same.
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I suspect that many religious people do not know what the theist word means. if you were describe yourself as a spiritual person but not a thiest I imagine you would get some very different reactions.
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I love this blog in so many ways! I posted about almost the exact same thing awhile back…. labels. Although, they are great initial identifiers and have a purpose, we need to be so careful about packing all of our preconceived notions into a tiny little box that was never intended to encompass such an abundance of complexity. And yet, speaking from the other side, as someone who does believe Jesus is who He claimed to be, I can totally relate because I never felt connected to religion or the hollow traditional ceremonies that lacked soul, heart, conviction and passion. It took a LOT to get to the point that I’m at in my faith, but I can honestly say that God grabbed hold of my heart at just the right time when I was humble enough to allow Him to show me who He is. I doubted, I was cynical, I went into bible studies questioning and debating everything! I had arguments with Christians in defense of homosexuality, porn and abortion many, many, many times! And yet, almost 10 years later my viewpoints have changed dramatically mainly because I have begun to understand the deeper complexities that make us human. My connection to God, not religion is what has made all the difference. I don’t hold onto religion, as a matter of fact, I have been to church only a handful of times on the last 6 months. But I hold onto my faith and the truth of the bible whole heartedly without wavering. Truth speaks for itself.
And as for the religious legislating… here’s another viewpoint to consider. As myatheistlife stated his frustration over said legislation, I think we really need to step back and consider something. There are always different agendas and ideologies fighting for power and influence over the people, religious and secular alike. I can understand the frustration of being a minority within a majority rule. It sucks, makes you feel powerless. And I bet you feel that if religion just kept it’s ugly face out of politics, we’d all be better off. But I implore you to digest the history of WHY we even have laws, what principles those basic laws were founded on and what the overthrow of the only stance for morality would actually look like. Our laws are based on CHRISTIAN principles that all life is valuable which is why murder is illegal. The bible states that property is sacred, which is why we punish stealing. In kingdoms where kings ruled the world, laws where based on the king’s will. America was the first country in which the laws were based on God’s will. And I know, religious people can be nuts. I completely feel the pain. It’s like having a dysfunctional sibling you’re embarrassed of. I get it. But maybe we can look at the deeper meaning and intentions for these laws before getting all riled up and pinning political agendas to every single action. The alternative is a completely secular society in which they’re is no standard for morality but what leaders believe is moral. And what about when we begin electing people who believe their own subjective morality is superior? To what do we anchor or principles and values if anything goes? Where are lines drawn? What standard do we dare use to even differentiate between good and evil? And maybe, just maybe the religious people you complain about are the only people keeping our runaway leaders in check. Let that sink in. As corrupt as our government is, it could absolutely get worse. Just remember Stalin and Hitler embraced humanistic materialism. Survival of the fittest. We’ve already been down that road. No thanks.
I look at religions and philosophies like a collection of books. Within it’s pages, one can find information to enrich our lives by and give us inspiration but there is also information in those pages that are unhelpful or ignorant. We assess that information and it helps us build our own worldview. No two of us share the same thoughts, although, we can share similar thoughts.
I like extracting the helpful and tossing the unhelpful.
The origin of laws in our country is an interesting topic. Much of our law comes from English Common Law. Many people point out the Ten Commandments but technically that is Jewish law. (ie. Christian/Judea principles). You touch upon the issue with having religious laws. In colonial days, there were many laws about Blasphemy, going to church EVERY day (and if you didn’t show up, they would bring you to church against your will) there was a great deal of conflict between the different religion sects, the Salem witch trials..etc People were put to death for religion.
You mentioned subjective morality above and as you can see, having a subjective religious morality (like the above) has the same issues.
With the founding of America and the Constitution, many of our founders wanted the Federal Government to steer clear of making religious laws, they did not want the Federal Government to get involved with issues of religion and deferred to the states. Yes, the states had some religious laws including laws that prohibited “Catholics” or people who were not “Protestant” from holding public office. Some of these are still on the books but would likely be tossed if someone challenged it.
Buddhism, has Precepts that also state no killing and not taking what is not yours- Not stating that this is what our laws are based on but just making the point, these are not just Christian principles.
Comparing secular laws to the actions of Hitler or Stalin and then stating it could be that way again… is like saying that if we allow religious laws to come into effect again, I could be put to death for blasphemy, my neighbor could be burned at the stake for being a wiccan, maybe cause another “Spanish Inquisition”.
Sorry if this was jumbled. and hopefully you don’t take any of this the wrong way. I like tossing things back and forth 🙂
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Nope, I totally understand what you’re saying and agree with so much of what you say. Because ultimately, when you take the labels off we DO tend to find common ground. And I agree that religious atrocities/laws have been committed all in the name of God. But when I study the bible, the closer I grow to God, the more He reveals himself to me, I realize that those “religious” laws do NOT conform to biblical teaching and true Christians help fight for religious liberty from those who abused people in the name of religion. So again, we’re back to that anchor. That stable, solid ground from which to even draw our knowledge of good and evil. See, I love many of the principles of Buddhism. But there’s a huge inconsistency within its coherency. How can one distinguish between God and evil? In order to differentiate between the two there needs to be some sort of unseen moral law ingrained inside of us that guides our consciences. For there to be a moral law, there has to be a moral law giver from which these laws are created. But Buddism doesn’t believe in God, only enlightenment. So if there is no God, there is no moral law and if there is no moral law, there is no good or evil just humans acting in tune with its DNA. So, how does the Buddhist reconcile this fallacy? See, the laws of Moses where given to a people who left civilization in search of freedom and God established a new nation. Nations have laws. So yes, our basic laws are based on Common Law from England. But where do you think European laws orginated from? The Romans. The Romans adopted many of the precepts of Christianity. See, the problem is that Christianity is SO engrained into our legal system, that is almost inseparable and has been for a long time. We enjoy the tolerance and value that TRUE Christianity adheres to until more complicated issues become discussed. Then we need to decide whether or not God is just, but that’s a whole other subject. I truly value your insight as you’re not a close minded thinker. That’s important for anyone. Truth needs to be tested and challenged bc that’s the only way to know that what we BELIEVE to be true is ACTUALLY true.
I’ve been reading the “Thomas Jefferson Bible” (The life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth) in which he strips out things he believes were an adulteration of the true Jesus. It makes for an interesting read. This thought process can be applied to all religions and philosophies. In Buddhism there are Five Precepts. I have heard it all about what they actually mean. One is abstaining from “Fermented Drinks”… “That cause Heedlessness” and people will say “As long as it doesn’t effect my judgement” other people will say no alcohol. Then there is the Precept “No Killing” and people will take it as Humans and others will say no animals as well. Another example is Islam, there seems to be varying beliefs. I say, I don’t care what you believe as long as it is put to use for the betterment of man (and women) lol
I think laws evolve. You went back from common law, to roman law to Christian law but shouldn’t it go from common law, to Christian law, to roman law, jewish law (Moses as the law giver)? The earliest known written law is “Khammurabi”. I will admit, I looked it up 🙂 But as I stated earlier, I think laws evolve. Sorry to be elementary but lets say you are there in the time of the caveman/cavewoman… cave person! If you bonk me on the head enough, I get angry, I throw you off a cliff, um.. you are not moving. So we realize we don’t want to throw someone off the cliff, stab them with the stick..etc. You steal my food, I go hungry, I go to get my food back, but you have no food to eat, we battle it out like lions and someone gets the food, someone gets injured. Eventually we learn from this behavior. The entire problem with both of our scenarios is this… We haven’t really learned. We still kill and steal and do horrible things. Even with God’s “Objective” Morality, even those who follow his teachings, still resort to these things.
But is “Thou Shalt Not Kill” subjectively or objectively wrong? It is subjective because someone will always come up with a reason killing is right in certain instances. If God thought it was objectively wrong to kill and we are bound to it, why then would he kill the first born (Passover).
As an aside, I like Buddhism and can craft those Four Noble Truths -> Eightfold Path -> Five Precepts in my own way. I’ve been told by a teacher that the Buddha could make an apple appear. So I said “Figuratively” like you can’t see it because your mind is cloudy and she said, no, that the Buddha could literally make an apple appear in his hands. That turned me off. The thought of a Heaven and Hell (in Buddhism it is heaven and hell realms) and that’s just an area that I disbelieve. On the flip side and you may find it in my blog somewhere but what I do believe is… (finding the quote)…..
“I was recently told I would perish in Hell if I did not believe the same thing someone else believed in. I am not a spiritual person, I don’t believe in a Heaven, I don’t believe in a Hell. I believe when I die, my body becomes the earth, the dirt, the grass, the plants and trees. I will be the water, the rain and the snow. I will be the clouds, the wind and maybe you will find me in the middle of a storm.
You may be in the city, the country, hiking a trail, overlooking a scenic view, Whether it be good times or bad, As long as you have a memory of me, I will always be there.”
Think about it… I know for a fact that… I really become part of the earth. (The other stuff like I am the water…etc is nice to think)
So, when you wrote “How can one distinguish between God and evil?” was that a goof? Did you mean, Good and evil? Either way, I like it! Sounded like a play on words.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that we do not know. That is why it is called a belief. You’re beliefs are equally as important to you as my beliefs are important to me.
Thanks for sharing!
Sorry for the delay, I’m just seeing this comment now. Wow, there was so much discussed I’m not sure where to start! Laws….
I am NOT going to claim to have deep insight on the history of law because quite honestly, that might just bore me to tears. But I like the caveman analogy… allow me to elaborate. I think it is absolutely true that people learn from their mistakes generally speaking (haha) and that laws do evolve. So we’re cave people, we realize we shouldn’t push someone off a cliff because then life becomes hard. But at what point did we realize we shouldn’t kill people because we love them? Or because it’s wrong? See, we treat primitive humans like animals, but when did they flourish into their humanity? What makes us different than animals? I’d like to say most people refrain from murder, not because of practical reasons but because of moral ones. So when exactly did morality come into play within our existence? I don’t have an actual answer, just something to think about. And going back to the laws of America, yes, I completely worded that backwards lol… American law comes from English Common Law, which stems from Christian Influence rooted from Rome and Greece. I forgot about the Greeks. The ancient civilizations were highly influential to our current system of government and our thinking. I guess I didn’t really make a strong point in regards to law, so allow me to rethink this one…. I think the point I’m really trying to make is that our political laws in America stem from moral laws (based on Judeo/Christian values). We (those who follow a religious teaching) generally draw our morality from religious understanding via scriptures, holy books and our relationship with/to God. These holy books should COHESIVELY explain reality in order to be true. Meaning reality should coincide with truth and those truths should be explained completely with all pieces fitting together, within scriptures. We read those scriptures, grow in enlightenment, wisdom and understanding. Fine. Many religions have beautiful philosophies, impart a wealth of wisdom and help us understand life. But only one book offers us a direct relationship with God. And through that relationship, God’s character becomes known. And through that book as we begin to understand God, we begin to understand morality from a deeper standpoint. Do people use the bible to grab what they want out of it for their own personal agendas? Um, yes! Does the bible alone or “religion” make you a moral person? Uh, hell no. I can sit in a garage all day, that doesn’t make me a car. But are our laws based on Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, etc, etc? Why not? They are based on Judeo/Christian values and principles. Why aren’t our laws based on those other religions/philosophies? Is it solely influence or is there a deeper reason? Islam has been around for almost as long as Christianity, most other religions even longer. So why did Christians, of all religious groups, make it to America, survive, thrive and create history? And how divided has the country grown since society has walked away from their faith and torn down every boundary imaginable? For the believer who knows the heart of God, people are free, their free will should be respected. People are worthy of value and love. People have rights. People should strive for justice in all conflict. And justice can be subjective. Yes, you are spot on when you say some moral situations can be subjective, but I add they are only subjective to the outsider….someone who may have observed a situation. But what if I told you true justice is knowing the intentions and motivations within a person’s heart that led to the actions or conflict? Who’s to know that? Who is to know what is in your heart and mind? So, why do we even bother fighting for justice? Why do we even bother having laws if according to some religions or even some atheists, our only purpose is to exist? I believe the answer to that is because intrinsically, we all know we have value and purpose. Where does that value and purpose come from if not something greater than us? Is it just something we created in our own minds or is human life having value an absolute truth just as true as the gravity that keeps you in your chair? Countries, laws, politics are based on the people. A leader can only do what the people allow him or her to do. When you have countries that are being ruled by tyrannical dictators because their religion teaches complete submission and passivism (sp?), they allow themselves to be ruled. When you have a country with dysfunctional leaders because their philosophies tell them that anything goes, we can’t judge, everything is relative, there are no boundaries, definitions or lines to cross… you have Trump and Clinton as your best choices! When you have people fighting for justice in this world to right the wrongs of their people by blowing themselves up, shooting unarmed civilians and plowing people down because their religion values duty to doing “god’s work” over love or forgiveness, you breed Isis. These things go against our very nature. Murder, passifism, relativism…. they don’t agree with reality if it is true that we (humans) are worthy of value and respect. No other religion values people, justice, honor, integrity, loyalty, compassion, healing, truth, wisdom, etc. the way that the bible explains it because they are character traits of God himself. The people who founded this country were Christians who lived their lives based on the bible. Not the Q’uran, not the Torah (alone), not any other holy book. And we are the only country in history to do what we’ve done. We created something completely new. We created a society that has never before existed in history. That is something so special. That’s not to say we haven’t had a tremendous amount of struggle, loss and fighting. We’ve also had a lot of “christians” stand in the way of progress and change. But Christians have lead or helped lead the fight against slavery, women’s suffrage, equality, racism. And those fighting along side them, whether Christian or not were inspired by biblical teachings either directly or indirectly. I think that was more the point I was trying to make. That the Christian Influence is so deep in this country that we enjoy the benefits of it while fighting so hard against it. There may be some holes in my thinking, but that’s my perspective for the moment with the way I know how to explain it. If you can add any information or prespective that I may have missed or confused, I’m more than happy to hearing it.
And yeah the God and evil thing was a typo lol… my auto correct hates me, so I apologize for all those hard to notice typos I keep missing.
Your body when you die….
Yes, it is absolutely true that when we die our bodies become part of the Earth. Question: who are YOU? Are you, right now only the part of you that people can see or is there a part of you that others can’t see (Thoughts, dreams, desires, feelings…)? When you feel things emotionally, is that just a physical response to an emotion or is there more going on in there? What is the mind? What’s the point? Is there purpose to any of this? Is there a reason to live? Why live if there is no point? There are physical things in this life that we can touch, we can see, we can taste. Then, there are those things that we can’t put our fingers on, but we know they exist. Love, beauty, dreams, thoughts, feelings heartache, fear…. we can see these things played out and manifested in life. But we can’t examine the actual entity. The same is true of physical forces… gravity, inertia, push, pull, the wind… we can’t see them, we just experience them. We test them. Therefore we know. And so you think you’re just a body. Just organs, skin, bones, brain. Your thoughts are just a manifestation of your brain and when your brain shuts off that’s the end of you. So why does purpose matter? Why does your life matter? Why does anyone’s life matter? If all we are is what we can see, than we are just dancing to our DNA and so if a woman kills her child, she’s solely appealing to her animal instinct. Why hold her accountable? His life means nothing, he’s just going to die anyway. We’re all just a bunch of animals, no different. You see, this is why i struggle to understand atheism… how do you reconcile these things? How can you explain good and evil if it doesn’t exist? It just becomes another human construct that we made up in our own minds, created to control people. Why not just let the world do what it wants to do? If we’re just like every other animal, why is survival of the fittest the way of the jungle but when Hitler adopts the philosophy, he becomes the most evil man in history? You are more than just a body. You are a soul, WITH a body. And your soul goes somewhere. Just like all energy in this universe is neither created nor destroyed, it is merely transferred from one living thing to the next.
I clearly cannot make a point without writing a friggin book. Imagine how complex my thinking is if my words are this darn long! Lol I’m so sorry! Maybe I should just blog my answers….
There is so much about your response I’d love to reply to but my responses are way too long. I really appreciate you adding those specific laws in there, I didn’t know all that. And I think you’ve inspired me to blog about subjectivity vs. objectivity in scripture. There is so much to be said about those examples you gave but I can’t even begin to approach it now. You make very valid points, so thank you for putting them out there.
I have to admit, I just skimmed through this, very detailed but let me get to a few things first that jumped out… again, I’m no expert but from my understanding……
I contend while the majority of the early settlers were indeed Christian and there were many religious laws on the books. There were laws about Blasphemy, who could hold office, going to church. By the time of our founding, laws such as killing, stealing were common laws. At the time of our founding, there was a push to make the Federal Government more “Secular”, the laws needed to apply to everyone. We could not hold a Jew or a Muslim to Christian based laws so while you may say “Killing” is a Christian law, it was more of a common law that we all need to adhere to. You can’t make a Jew or Muslim go to church on a Sunday. While some states had laws concerning who could hold public office, the secular nature of our laws have made those laws unconstitutional.
To say that today’s issues are due to our country walked away from faith, is curious to me, most often I hear this from people who are Christian and trying to push a faith based agenda. From what I understand, as I think I mentioned earlier, is the Fed did not want to get involved in religious matters (Deferring to the states) so I have to ask Is religion up to the individual or is it up to our Government to decide? If it is up to the government, how do they enforce the rules? Do we return to blasphemy laws? Go back to laws that dictate what sect of Christianity can run for public office? Will we require people of all faith and non-faith to attend church on Sunday?
To varying degrees, the country has always had certain issue. As it has grown and some places get over-crowded, those issues have increased. I honestly think much of our problems stem from the use of pitting one group against another (ie. Politics). As you can probably tell, our country is deeply divided through politics along. How divided would the country be if we Christianize our laws, especially to people of different faiths and non-faiths? My biggest point is, Christian laws and commandments never stopped a Christian from wrong doing….
Thanks so much for that insight about the laws because I never realized how intertwined the laws were. I agree that religious laws forcing people to attend church are ridiculous. You can’t legislate morality. And you’ve left me with some deeper things to think about…. I see the point you’re making is that government should not govern from religion, which I completely agree. We are a pluralistic society, not a theocracy and I don’t believe theocratic governments, such as those in the middle east, work because of the exact reasons you stated. You can’t force people into religion. As I’m reflecting and rethinking my stance, I believe more in the sense that our elected leaders have been influenced, deeply influenced by Christianity and although there have been very terrible laws on the books as we begin to mix the two, so much good has equally been received by the people because of Christianity’s influence…. does that make sense?
It’s also true that society as a whole is a representation of its people. When I say America walked away from it’s faith, I mean the individual people which make up the collective society. Not the legislators. Sorry if I wasn’t clear there.
I guess I believe that what makes Christianity so different from other religions is that personal relationship with God. And a lot of the people who founded this country at least “appeared” to have that. I don’t think the idea of killing (or not killing for that matter) is solely a Christian ideal. I believe it’s truth and the bible corroborates that truth in the sense of arbitrarily taking an innocent life. Yes, there are situations when killing is necessary and deemed appropriate and that’s why the justice system is set up to treat each individual situation accordingly. Because those ideals, although generally speaking are for the benefit of society, may warrant exceptions. When I talk about objective morality vs. subjective morality, it completely coincides with what you are saying. It’s multifaceted and complex. There are general, overarching rules that apply to all as a collective whole for the benefit of society. But ultimately, individually, we alone are accountable for what we do and who we are. No amount of laws can legislate the heart. Which beautifully coincides with Jesus’ mission to write his laws on our hearts. That his spirit lives within us. There is a guiding force within connecting us to the SOURCE of love, peace, compassion. Jesus came to free people FROM religion because religion worked from the outside in. God works from the inside out. So, as some of our lawmakers and presidents connect to God, they are connected to the source and can legislate (and have legislated) from that platform. That’s what I mean when I say this country has benefitted from Christianity. Any religious laws intended to legislate morality is not the true purpose for government. But lawmakers do need to regard their policies as either moral or immoral. By what standard do they differentiate? On an individual level, that is. Is morality solely confined to the religious? I don’t believe so. I know a lot of great hearted people who are not of a faith. Therein lies my point that God resides in all of us to some degree. Some may be more susceptible to His spirit than others. But there is something inherent within us that guides our moral reasoning. Morality comes from somewhere, it’s not just a human construct, but an absolute truth.
Thank you so much for your questions, you’ve got me thinking about an area I never fully considered before. I have some homework to do! Lol
New subject… Objective vs Subjective — It is a topic I have been interested in recently as well.
If God says Killing is wrong, it is Objective. He is said to be the law giver.(?)
But… then there are reasons killing is right, which means it is subjective.
I’ve heard some strange arguments over this topic that tend to confuse more than it helps.
Yes! I love it! I’m going to work on that…. because this is one of the most profound questions that I’ve pondered. There are so many avenues to take with this, but I have a lot of thinking to do.
It’s funny how long our replies are getting. I’m going to make this short… if I can.
Random post about some of the history of Church and State is the Supreme Court Decision in Church of the Holy Trinity vs United States:
Even though it really had nothing to do with the case, the Justice giving the opinion stated “….add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.” which leads people to believe he ruled America is a Christian nation but from my reading of the ruling, he was stating “organic utterances”… this is to say the citizens of the US are Christian and believe the nation is a christian nation. The judge later admitted in his autobiography (?) he wasn’t declaring the US a Christian nation. It’s just something random I thought about if you are interested in the varying discussions on America being a Christian Nation.
I wasn’t 100% happy with my blog on Church and State but you can view it here:
Seriously, anyone can grab hundreds of quotes to make the point America is a Christian nation and anyone can grab hundreds of quotes to say it is not. I wonder if our founders were purposely playing both sides.
If you write about Subjective/Objective, I’d look forward to reading it. I have it on my “list” of things learn more about.
Have a good evening!
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Thanks a bunch for the info, I’ll look into it! And I’ll keep you posted when I post.. lol