Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

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Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby birchleaf » 13 Apr 2014, 21:28

I read a book recently called The Barcode Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn. It was aimed at kids maybe around twelve years of age so I won’t go deeply into my personal opinions on the writing itself. I feel like it could have been executed better, but my point is, it was a very interesting book.
In the year 2025 barcode tattoos become mandatory, they hold all of your information ;banking, health, social security, etc, etc. I am of the belief that something like this would be an invasion of privacy and degrading to human dignity. I understand the “convenience” aspect, but it’s still something I would not want to see.
This got me thinking.
My closest friend is similar to me in many ways, but she is very, very atheist. She is of the complete belief that there is nothing mystical; there is no sort of other realm. She believes wholly that we are the product of successful evolution and nothing more, and that science can account for everything. I’ve had difficulties with her before because she is a very cynical person, and she has a tendency to look down on religious or spiritual people.
Generally I am the opposite. I can’t believe that creation just “happened”. There has to be some sort of higher being, or energy out there. Whatever it may be, I believe there is something out there that transcends the physical.
Still though, I am strangely comforted by the idea that we don’t matter. That we are just the physical being and when we die we die and that’s the end, and that the universe keeps going. It’s just comforting to think that neither our triumphs nor our mistakes will ultimately affect anything, that everything we have done will be forgotten.
On the other hand, while it is comforting this belief does not bring me joy. What brings me hope and happiness is the idea that my soul is part of a web, and that all energy in the Earth is being constantly exchanged, and that there are mysteries that will never be explained. I want to believe that there is more to creation than a random arrangement of atoms.
I love science, I’m entering a Biology undergrad next year at university and I am so excited. Things I have been learning in high school science classes (especially this year) convince me even more that there has to be something out there. The way that cells work, on the most basic atomic level is just so unfathomably organized that I am in a constant state of wonder.
What are your thoughts?
“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby DJ Droood » 14 Apr 2014, 06:20

What are your thoughts?
That is a twisty one to untie. It is nice to say we are all entitled to our own opinions, and we all follow our own path....personally, I don't really understand the science involved in the Big Bang, nor do I find any of the religious creation myths credible...I don't think about it much...I take a cue from my dog, and try to live in the moment as much as possible....but this is one of those political-religious issues where the winner in the arm wrestle gets to teach their "truth" to our children, so you kind of have to pick a side. So you have a secular, scientific view of the world on the one hand, and a Fundamentalist Christian view on the other (let's be honest..Hindu or Mayan creation myths aren't really considered, nor does a liberal Christian "metaphorical" reading of Genesis come in to play...it is an invented controversy by right wing American Fundamentalist Chrtistians who have a whole quiver full of nice ideas, many which seem to be focused on man on man sex....Scientists don't seem as intent on trying to control my sex life or secure more financial advantage for the rich, so I tend to trust them more, and want their ideas taught to my children. (actually, that isn't true...scientists are just as focused on securing more financial advantage for the rich, so it all comes down to sexual control) I find boredom in Atheism and terror lurking in Spirituality so I try to chart a middle path.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby sylvanica » 14 Apr 2014, 16:11

I actually had a conversation with a friend just recently about this very subject. Like you, I am probably functionally an agnostic, but all of the New Atheists, materialists, and reductionists seem so cold and empty to me. I find wonder in the universe, but like you said, there is no joy. For me, there's no hope or warmth in atheism: just cold plasticine "truth." A lot of atheists also relish in being "right" and turning their nose up at any sort of religious or spiritual experiences.

On the other hand, there are also "fluffy" people who believe the Earth was created by a masculine God 7000 years ago. Or that they can cast spells to curse people who they don't like. Or a myriad of other religious or spiritual beliefs that are actively harmful.

Like DJ Droood I try to chart a middle path between these two extremes:
  • Spiritual but not dogmatic
  • Logical but not to the point of denying spirituality or emotion
  • Fairly open-minded but not to every idea that ever existed
  • Accepting of change but comfortable in my current worldview

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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Whitemane » 14 Apr 2014, 22:23

Well put Sylvanica and Droood, and I'll second both replies.

For me, Druidry is not so much about the gods, but about personal healing, new growth, and revelling in the magic that is the natural world. Relax and let the magic come.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Willowen » 15 Apr 2014, 07:07

Well put Sylvanica and Droood, and I'll second both replies.

For me, Druidry is not so much about the gods, but about personal healing, new growth, and revelling in the magic that is the natural world. Relax and let the magic come.
Well said Whitemane. I thought I had it all figured out a few years ago, then life (as it always does) brought changes I didn't expect. I began to stress about if I was doing things correctly as I struggled to grow in the spiritual sense. I am finally learning to relax and see the magic in all things.
I heard an OBOD member once describe this state as "being comfortable in your own skin." I no longer worry so much about who has the "right" philosophy concerning spiritual life. I just know what works for me.
"The Way itself is a strengthening of spirit, a growing closer to the balance that governs the world. Progress is slow along the Way, but every step of the journey is like a note in the oldest tune of all. When you have the tune complete, you complete yourself." from Moonheart by Charles De Lint

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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby DaRC » 15 Apr 2014, 12:25

:grin: Ahhh I've just been dealing with fundie-atheist tendencies in my teenage son / his friends.
Background - I've kept my pagan/druidic approach as a background, leaving him to determine his own path (and yes he has hugged trees). His mother and grandparents are much more atheistic whilst his schools have always been CofE christian.
One of his friends was brought up very Catholic (father is a Deacon) but this friend's elder brother is going to read philosophy for a degree and is an atheist. His friend is torn between logic / atheism and social / peer pressure to be catholic. He introduced the philosophy of Hard Determinism.

As these teenagers (my son, his friend and his friend's brother) explore their thinking and my son is quite scientific aiming for medical school Hard Determinism appeals to the fundie atheist
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_determinism
particularly one rejecting their Catholic (David Hume influenced) upbringing:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will_in_theology

If you look at the link there are flaws in Hard Determinism (i.e. all mental health problems cannot be dealt with by neuroscience).
The fundie-atheist also struggles with the concept of a humble Science that accepts that we don't know a lot. Science has some proofs, a lot of Theories (which as Scientific Theories which have a lot of detail behind them BUT are still subject to change and/or revision). Just as the fundie christian struggles with the concept that the Bible is not the word of God (but a selection of writings by men predominantly and is also subject to translational error).

However Richard Dawkins does deal with this conflict in his writings.

Personally I like the unknowing space in between - I have had experiences (to an atheist coincidences) that are rationally unexplainable but have provided meaning and lessons / comfort within my existence which means I cannot accept atheism.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby DJ Droood » 15 Apr 2014, 13:01

One odd thing in the last few years is that "atheist" has somehow become conflated with "scientist" and "rational", as if simply not believing in a god somehow makes you a physicist. I think it is quite possible to be an irrational, ignorant person and still not believe in gods. Likewise,being religious doesn't make one a theologian....there are lots of Christians (and I'm sure all other creeds) who have never cracked a Bible and couldn't tell you *why* they are Christians...they just are....their family always has been.

We get so caught up in our own heads, as if what we *believe* about certain things changes what *is*. How the Universe came into existence, whether people evolved from muck or were cut from whole cloth by a god, whether our modern petroleum economy is changing the climate....all these things have their own reality no matter what we understand or believe about them...and really, most of us are too ignorant to grasp any of those questions, so we end up either not thinking about them often, or thinking about them a lot and not getting any further ahead, or accepting the word of someone we trust who thinks about these issues a lot and can explain it to us like children.

Where it (the expression of our collective beliefs) concerns us (or should) is when it starts to become public policy. Should we allow gays to marry or stone them to death? Should we regulate carbon emissions or embrace fracking? Should we allow people suffering from glaucoma and/or boredom to use cannabis or should we give them lengthy prison sentences and pharmacy pills? Should Ms. Kadiddlehopper teach our kids about genetic mutations or a literal 6 day divine creation?
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Sapnanth » 17 Apr 2014, 21:06

I read on face book that 4 out of 10 Americans still believe the Sun orbits the Earth.
As for seeing order in atomic structure, nah, you shouldn't trust atoms they make up everything. :-)

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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Brân Gannaid » 19 Apr 2014, 07:27

I'm comfortable in both domains. I'm very open to living inside questions instead of forcing answers beyond the best hypothesis I may have at the moment.

I think religions that focus on rigid doctrine and social control have coopted practices that we know do work to help us navigate life. They then claim that their belief is essential to access those practices, and many set up a form of intimidation to create fear so people think "I better believe X, just in case Y." And then they come together with people who all agree to say "I believe this," and they feel good because they have agreement, and they can just follow a system and not think much about it.

And some people, like me, have always questioned all of it, and questioned the underlying assumptions. I see that various practices "work" to calm us, to help us overcome obsessive thoughts, to help us focus and be more productive, etc. So I view *some* atheists as tossing the baby out with the bath water in some respects, because if they don't see the benefit of certain practices, they do miss out on what might be called "spiritual".

And I don't view spirituality as having anything to do with "religion." I consider my friends and family who are atheists or non-theists to be some of the most "spiritual" people I know, even if they don't call it that. There are already atheists who practice yoga, meditation, and other practices that some religious groups claim as solely their own.

We are also seeing groups like the Brights and Ethical Culture, as examples, who are actively practicing developing their ethics.

And, as was pointed out by DJ Droood, atheism doesn't necessarily suggest one is involved in science. Very artsy people are atheists, too.

There are a lot of phenomena in the natural world that we are just coming to understand, too. I think the line will become less distinct as we learn more about consciousness and the natural world.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby DJ Droood » 19 Apr 2014, 12:58

So I view *some* atheists as tossing the baby out with the bath water in some respects, because if they don't see the benefit of certain practices, they do miss out on what might be called "spiritual".
I agree with this. Religion appropriates and co-opts everything good.....be nice to your neighbour? You are following God's laws. Help out at the food bank? Honouring God. Sunrise? God did that. Good parking space downtown? Thanks God! Flowers? You know Who. God is love. God is everything (good). If it is bad, it is his archenemy's fault, but still part of the same story.

And some atheists have played into this by abandoning the field and letting religion steal our words and experiences. I don't know why spirit and spirituality and a sense of mystery have to be owned by Iron Age cults. Even atheists feel love and feel awe and mystery and wonder and know the value of supporting and helping one another, which to me is "spirituality". It is a human birth right. It isn't owned or controlled by any one group or creed.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Whitemane » 19 Apr 2014, 14:27

I haven't been able to find a source, but Roger Bacon is supposed to have said that the function of scientific investigation is to expand the mind of man, not to make the universe small enough to fit the mind of man. There is an atheist Taliban out there that thinks the opposite, and I have no time for them.

Science is as much about the scientist as the subject of the investigation. Discovery changes understanding and should engender humility in the investigator. There is a sense of wonder in generating new knowledge and understanding, and that may be what led me here.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby EagleEye » 20 Apr 2014, 02:08

Our universe will definitely go on when we each die, at least until there is no more universe.

I don't think that non-belief in deity necessarily leads to nihilism, a lack of joy or the absence of obligation to care about what we do and what happens. The possibility that one's existence might completely end at death, with no greater reality awaiting nor transmigration into a new life, could be a huge motivation to make every single waking moment count - to help others, to increase one's happiness, to create and experience.

Even if there is no deity or afterlife, what we do matters to the beings/environments affected by our actions here and now and perhaps into the future. They could benefit. They could suffer. The question really is whether or not we care.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Brân Gannaid » 21 Apr 2014, 04:17

Even if there is no deity or afterlife, what we do matters to the beings/environments affected by our actions here and now and perhaps into the future. They could benefit. They could suffer. The question really is whether or not we care.
Yes! And using the concept of deity as a form, a structure, enables us to use it as a tool, metaphorically, allegorically, etc., whether we "believe" it or not.

I haven't experienced the idea of an afterlife myself, and yet I know that our bodies break down into their component parts and become part of the material universe, which could end up in a plant, an animal, or a mineral formation. And whether the soul lives on as an entity or only in our memories doesn't diminish that concept. And I see no reason why thought waves would be different than sound or light waves, and thus, may continue to be sensed after one crosses over.

When I read the book "Dune," I felt it presented an excellent model of how I experience those I have known in a specific human life form. I can still talk to them and see them in my mind's eye, and sometimes I experience them in my dreams. Their viewpoint can help me gain a new perspective on a situation. And just sensing their presence can bring comfort. It doesn't really matter if it's just my imagination and past experience creating it. It's my reality, and it can provide insight and wisdom.

I had a "near-death" experience as a teenager, and it made me even more comfortable with not having answers to the mysteries of life and death. I experienced light, as many say they have, and I experienced comfort and a sense that it was OK. It gave me a stronger sense that death is nothing to fear, and probably reinforced my own "belief" that traditional religion is something humans made up. I started to view the source or Creator as creative energy rather than a specific being or beings. And yet I am comfortable visualizing the gods and goddesses and totems as guides, comforters, and sources of wisdom.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Sciethe » 26 Apr 2014, 19:00

I haven't experienced the idea of an afterlife myself, and yet I know that our bodies break down into their component parts and become part of the material universe, which could end up in a plant, an animal, or a mineral formation. And whether the soul lives on as an entity or only in our memories doesn't diminish that concept. And I see no reason why thought waves would be different than sound or light waves, and thus, may continue to be sensed after one crosses over.
Yes, Peter Redgrove is very good on this subject, the continuation of the consciousness or the soul as a flowing entity that permeates matter and survives transitions. A great example would be the poem "Or Was That When I was Grass?", though his work is shot through with so much allegory and intelligent analysis of animism and what it means to man, to the universe. For those not familiar with him he is (deceased, sadly) author of c30 books, and numerous collections of phenomenal poetry. Also one of the founders of The Fellowship if Isis if rumour holds true.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Brân Gannaid » 27 Apr 2014, 02:09

I haven't experienced the idea of an afterlife myself, and yet I know that our bodies break down into their component parts and become part of the material universe, which could end up in a plant, an animal, or a mineral formation. And whether the soul lives on as an entity or only in our memories doesn't diminish that concept. And I see no reason why thought waves would be different than sound or light waves, and thus, may continue to be sensed after one crosses over.
Yes, Peter Redgrove is very good on this subject, the continuation of the consciousness or the soul as a flowing entity that permeates matter and survives transitions. A great example would be the poem "Or Was That When I was Grass?", though his work is shot through with so much allegory and intelligent analysis of animism and what it means to man, to the universe. For those not familiar with him he is (deceased, sadly) author of c30 books, and numerous collections of phenomenal poetry. Also one of the founders of The Fellowship if Isis if rumour holds true.
S
Thanks for another reference that is new to me. I've had these discussions with authors like Alan Anderson (New Thought, etc.) and Douglas Kinney (Frontiers of Knowledge, etc.) since the 1980s. They believe/d the soul moves from one physical body to another upon physical death, and they use anecdotal and hypothetical material in support of their views.

I've always asserted that Occam's Razor would seem to support my own simpler theory, that thought waves are similar to light waves in some respects, and can be detected later in time. Since we don't have certainty, from a scientific perspective, I'm open to anything, really.

My mom and I spent years investigating the Edgar Cayce material (Association of Research and Enlightenment) when we lived in Virginia, USA. We always ask the question "how is it useful to people to improve our lives and our world?"

With OBOD, I notice we are encouraged to use imagination if we don't take something as an ultimate truth. That's wonderfully open and invites great creativity and inclusiveness.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Dathi » 27 Apr 2014, 03:17

Great thread, Thanks!

I spent much time in the woods yesterday and today as a functionary (assessing fire risk - i.e. science.). Today, I had my young son with me for company. The craic was mighty and he asked me lots of questions that I could not answer. We both came out of the early Summer (late Spring?) woods full of amazement at the early budding / new leaves on trees and the variety of bird calls to be heard. Less fun, but still amazing, was the variety of "wee beasties" we encountered (mozzies, midges etc.).

Science, or Purple Unicorns regardless, it was pure magic.

Go figure!

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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby Brân Gannaid » 27 Apr 2014, 09:03

Less fun, but still amazing, was the variety of "wee beasties" we encountered (mozzies, midges etc.).
Being the Yank that I am, I had to look up mozzies and midges in the dictionary, to learn that we call them mosquitoes and gnats (the tiny ones we call no-see-ums!). LOL! OBOD is indirectly expanding my everyday English language skills.
Science, or Purple Unicorns regardless, it was pure magic.
Nature *is* pure magic! My DH and I walked through the hilly wooded park behind our house just before sunset, and it was downright enchanting. We have a herd of deer that are just birthing their spring fawns and lots of woodpeckers in the ancient trees.
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Re: Comfort in Athiesm vs Joy in Spirituality

Postby DJ Droood » 27 Apr 2014, 14:26

Nature *is* pure magic!
Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?
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