Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Atheistic Stand (by Warren)

Following the previous “Declare Thyself” post on Sabio’s blog, Triangulations, Sabio has put up another self-review table: Atheist: declare thyself! So once again, let me define my stand in detail, this time on my atheistic views.

Level of Certainty Moderate & Agnostic (maintains that all god(s) are too statistically and scientifically improbable to exist, but doesn’t claim to know)
Level of Affirmation Strong
Stance toward Religion Categorically Against Dogmatic Religions, Sympathetic towards Progressive Religions
Openness Open, but cautious
Degree of Action Affirm only (Public), Debater (Friends), Activist (Blogosphere)
Religious Participation Occasional
Degree of Enchantment Neutral
Mystical Inclination Non-Mystical (such things just never happens to me!)
Belief History Former Believer (only on paper, actually)
Sect History Buddhism (the corrupted, superstitious version)
Theory of Religion Religion was created through stories of ancient guys, which were then passed on as memes, warped, then turned into organized religion like a successful meme, or may have been used for political reasons.
Non-theistic Leanings I am supportive of Buddhism teachings, and I do think I should try upholding more (I don’t accept Buddhism as a religion, though - Why I am Not a Buddhist).

Degree of  Secular
Superstitious Thinking

I do have some superstitions – I’m scared of ghosts (which reason tells me can’t exist); and I frequently think of reincarnation as fact before slamming myself back to reality etc.
View of Reason Emotive-Rationalist, as man is still bound to emotion, and complete rationalism is impossible.
Faith Items I believe that claims without evidence are false by default, but I don’t have empirical evidence to support my view.


Sabio Lantz said...

You are an amazing, cogent, profound writer. I refuse to believe you are less than 18 years old !! :-)
Fantastic, thanks.

Can't you see why an atheist who has had mystical experiences (but interprets them naturalistically) would be even more inclined to be sympathetic to some sorts of believers. Just as being a former believer sometimes improves empathy. Just as, as an ex-chewer of both tobacco and Betel Nut (common in your country, no?), I get their craving !

godlizard (aka dotlizard) said...

Fantastic list, very clear and well-thought out. I started to make my own, but it might be easier just to point at yours and say, "what he said, but substitute Presbyterian for Buddhist in prior religion, and 'occasionally buy a lottery ticket' for 'scared of ghosts'. My theory of religion's origin is slightly different, and complicated enough not to fit neatly in a box (I've done a lot of thinking about that :).

Darren Wong said...

Sabio: You should know that faith doesn't disprove anything, eh? ;-)

And I simply cannot get mystical experiences. I've heard of those experiences in my large family, where my relatives went to courses and had what we could call "supernatural" experiences. But, such things seem to never happen on me.

Godlizard: Thanks! I look forward to seeing your hypothesis (to prevent confusion over the word "theory")!

Sabio Lantz said...


Yeah, the mystical stuff is just perception. What we think of it is a whole other thing. We can feel a blurring of self and interpret it as:
a) Union with God
b) Union with the Universe
c) Union with the Buddha Mind
d) or just plain Union

I vote for the later.

Darren Wong said...

Erm.... the word "Union" sounds a little vague to me. :-)

Infidel753 said...

We can feel a blurring of self and interpret it as:

e) overdid it with the beer again

The problem with subjective perceptions, and with mental and emotional states, is that they're much too dependent on brain chemistry. Think how easily alcohol or marijuana can alter one's emotional balance, and how more exotic substances can have even more profound effects. To say that it's anything more than chemicals altering how one's synapses fire, independently-verifiable evidence is needed.

Interesting list. Are there any "progressive religions"?

Reason and emotion shouldn't be thought of as being in opposition. They just have completely different functions. Life without feelings wouldn't be worth living, but it gives us no guidance about what is true or false. Reason, based on evidence, is the tool by which we can find out what is true, but it doesn't tell you what you want out of life.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Darren: Yeah, it is vague, but then describing altered or even normal emotional/perceptual states is tough. Describe the taste of broccoli, for example.

@ Infidel -- LOL. I have never had that on beer.

I agree, it probably all comes down to brain chemistry. I am not saying different. But I think some folks are more inclined to altered experiences than others, and these inclinations influence their philosophy/theology.

Indeed,reason-emotion is one thing. All thoughts have feelings. But not all feelings have thoughts.

Darren Wong said...

Infidel753: So far, I can think of one progressive religion - Western/Zen/Modern Buddhism. The list stops there.

And when you said that emotions give our life meaning, I only regard it as an evolutionary product, meant for split-second decisions in hostile environment, but not for long-term planning. That's my (oversimplified) view, anyway.

Sabio: Broccoli tastes green. That's my best answer. :-)

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Darren:
Synesthesia can be such a curse !

"Progressive" ? Can't approach the question without a definition. That is everyone's favorite or hated word. It is used in so many ways by very different people as to become meaningless. People who embrace it, embrace it for its emotional content, not for its informative content.

Darren Wong said...

Sabio: And roses smell pink. :-)

I define "progressive" here as willing to review teachings in response to evidence, and continuously adapting to meet new challenges. Some Buddhism sects do work this way.

I've met one open-minded Buddhist Sangha in Malaysia, and I can only praise them. While most Buddhist schools focus on prayers, burning incenses, and rituals, this one doesn't. Instead, they view Buddhism as a philosophy of life, and never preaches superstition. Why can't we have more of these?

Sabio Lantz said...

I totally agree !

Unfortunately, the Zen temple near my home does all the chanting and prayer stuff. Also, they try way too hard to BE Japanese and don't even know it.

I think many pluralist mystic groups can be progressive, by your definition. But then, for atheists to participate, we have to be comfortable with all the jargon. Oh well ....
(Hope your senses don't overload with all those cross-over signals -- sniff away ! :-) )

Darren Wong said...

As long as they don't promote superstitious and pseudo-scientific thinking, and also teaches us to do good, I consider them progressive.

Sabio Lantz said...

I like that definition !!

godlizard (aka dotlizard) said...

Aha! The "brain chemistry" thing, which explains so many aspects of the religious experience. As I said in my post on "fundamental illness", there is a great deal of psychological/psychiatric pathology going on amongst the various fanatical sects. Speaking in tongues, for instance - and any other form of religious ecstasy.

People who ingest psychoactive substances get high because they've ingested something. People who get high without ingesting anything are manufacturing those psychoactive substances in their own brains.

Out of the two, I find the second group more frightening.

And I agree with regard to the progressive religions, they do exist. Many Unitarian Universalist congregations offer a positive environment for those who wish to find a spiritual path without allegiance to a deity.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ lizard

The feeling of love , the feeling of happiness and all the rest can be brought about by "ingesting" chemicals too. Are you afraid of those who can "get high" on these feeling without ingesting anything.

Do you see the problem?

Infidel753 said...

The Lizard and I were speaking of hallucinations and abnormal mental states (such as the aformentioned "blurring of the self"), not normal emotions.

Darren Wong said...

For me, hallunications are deadly, whether you got it through drugs or blind faith. The first corrupts society, the second threatens our safety and our future.

Infidel753 said...

We can feel a blurring of self and interpret it as:

Maybe it's just brain damage.