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Face
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Face
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December 8th, 2011 at 3:41:46 PM permalink
BEAUTIFULLY put Mosca. I've nothing else to say about your post, it says it all on its own.

Quote: FrGamble

It seems as if some atheists are saying yes it would be wonderful to believe my life has meaning and there is some ultimate purpose and I feel in my gut somehow that there is more to life and to me than some cosmic accident, yet I will not believe it. It is as if they say yes there is creation and logically I would imagine there is a creator but NO I will not believe that, nor entertain any thought about it, and even ridicule those who do.



I'll address some of your points, and at least impart understanding on MY beliefs as an athiest. Some of the point I feel is inaccurate. I do "feel" sometimes there might be a purpose to life. That leads to the thought "but why?" I have spent much time on this thought, and entertained many different possible reasons. Maybe it's "just because" and it doesn't matter. It's some weird brain process, some wasteful part of the human psyche that is better off ignored because it has no meaning. This seems close to what you described as a typical athietic veiwpoint, but not a view I hold nor something I would suspect of many people to believe. I believe the other end of this spectrum is religion. There must be some reason, some cosmic pull, some spiritual reason we feel pain, guilt, love, sorrow, ect. A reason we seem to be hardwired to want to do "good", a reason we look to the heavens, a reason every civilization in history has a creation story. I explored that area and likewise felt, in my head and my heart, that it didn't feel "right". The path I eventually landed in conforms to beliefs I have of evolution and "Laws of Nature". Which I hope to explain later.

Quote: FrGamble

What I hear you and many other atheists saying is that your happiness, your goodness, your hope, your peace, your everything is not because you do not believe in God, that is just what you consider a fact and reality, you ground yourself in something else whch brings you joy. What is that in which you are grounded in without God that makes life meaningful, brings you happiness, and encourages you to do good?



I explained in a thread a few days back (in one of the "Is Gambling Bad" threads), that gambling as we know it today is a process I thought to be inherent in humans. I feel the same way about a great number of the things we do today. Basically, that they're holdovers from when humans were more animalistic, in our less evolved forms of the past. Take "doing good". If we were to go back to our monkey days, where our daily ins and outs consisted of nothing but survival, I think you'd still find "good". I believe they would be seen offering foods, sharing shelters, tending each others wounds, because the survival of an individual improves the survivability of the group, whether it be by getting that individual back to being productive, or preventing the individual from getting even sicker and spreading disease among the group. I believe the groups that did not practice these habits would grow weaker faster, died off earlier, and the ones who did practice would eventually be the only ones left.

As time marches on and we evolve, the process remains the same, just the scenery changes. Fast forward to today, and sharing a freshly killed monitor has changed to hosting a soup kitchen. Licking a wound has changed to donating to the Ronald McDonald Foundation. Sharing a cut in a riverbank changed to Habitat for Humanity. It's all "doing good", just the "how" has changed. To me, the "why" seems more of a product of nature than a product of a god.

And it works in reverse. A prehuman monkey might be seen chewing the hell out of a rival. In the wayback, this is an act of dominance, something we still see in animals today. The strong beat up the weak, take all the spoils, and the strong DNA lives on. Today, we see the same behavior, now called "barfights" (lol), and we look at it as "bad", or an evil. Sometimes, members of the wayback group will just outright kill anyone not of their group. This is common competition, those others, by their very existence, can take habitat and resources your group needs to survive, so you eliminate them. Today, we call this "warfare". And then sometimes, they just get sick and lash out at everything with intent to kill. In the wayback, maybe it was hydrophobia, or whatever passed for rabies in prehistory. Nowadays, it's schizophrenia, it's rage, it's dementia.

Again, same process, same basic principles, just the "how" has changed. The "why" remains the same.

That's how I explain human's overall desire to be "good". Acts in the wayback that directly determined a groups survivability have evolved along with it's members into what we now see today. It's simply "nature", both "human nature" and that which I consider the universe to be governed by.

This just skims the grand idea, but hopefully you get the point. I realize and fully admit it does not explain everything, and that the above is some fact mixed in with a good dose of my own opinion. And I often find holes in my own theory and in evolution in general, which I suppose is why I ask so many questions about a lot of weird things. But I've found for a great many of my questions about life, the basic structure above has answered them to my satisfaction. I suppose the same could be said about you and religion. In the end, maybe neither is 100% true but contain bits of truth, which is why I participate in these convo's and have encouraged you, Father, to try to understand athieism. I think that by understanding both veiwpoints, we'd come closer to The Truth.
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Mosca
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December 8th, 2011 at 3:59:06 PM permalink
John Jeremiah Sullivan writes:

Quote:

The rain stopped. It was time to go. Two of the guys had to leave in the morning, and I needed to start walking if I meant to make the overlook in time for the candlelighting. They went with me as far as the place where the main path split off toward the stage. They each embraced me. Jake said to call them if I ever had "a situation that needs clearing up." Darius said God bless me, with meaning eyes. Then he said, "Hey, man, if you write about us, can I just ask one thing?"

"Of course," I said.

"Put in there that we love God," he said. "You can say we're crazy, but say that we love God."

The climb was long and steep. At the top was a thing that looked like a backyard deck. It jutted out over the valley, commanding an unobstructed view. Kids hung all over it like lemurs or something.

I pardoned my way to the edge, where the cliff dropped away. It was dark and then suddenly darker—pitch. They had shut off the lights at the sides of the stage. Little pinpricks appeared, moving along the aisles. We used to do candles like this at church, when I was a kid, on Christmas Eve. You light the edges, and the edges spread inward. The rate of the spread increases exponentially, and the effect is so unexpected, when, at the end, you have half the group lighting the other half's candles, it always seems like somebody flipped a switch. That's how it seemed now.

The clouds had moved off—the bright stars were out again. There were fireflies in the trees all over, and spread before me, far below, was a carpet of burning candles, tiny flames, many ten thousands. I was suspended in a black sphere full of flickering light.

And sure, I thought about Nuremberg. But mostly I thought of Darius, Jake, Josh, Bub, Ritter, and Pee Wee, whom I doubted I'd ever see again, whom I'd come to love, and who loved God—for it's true, I would have said it even if Darius hadn't asked me to, it may be the truest thing I will have written here: They were crazy, and they loved God—and I thought about the unimpeachable dignity of that love, which I never was capable of. Because knowing it isn't true doesn't mean you would be strong enough to believe if it were. Six of those glowing specks in the valley were theirs.

I was shown, in a moment of time, the ring of their faces around the fire, each one separate, each one radiant with what Paul called, strangely, "assurance of hope." It seemed wrong of reality not to reward such souls.

These are lines from a Czeslaw Milosz poem:

And if they all, kneeling with poised palms,

millions, billions of them, ended together with their illusion?

I shall never agree. I will give them the crown.


The human mind is splendid; lips powerful, and the summons so great it must open Paradise.

That's so exquisite. If you could just mean it. If one could only say it and mean it.

They all blew out their candles at the same instant, and the valley—the actual geographical feature—filled with smoke, there were so many.

I left at dawn, while creation slept.



Upon This Rock
NO KILL I
EvenBob
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December 8th, 2011 at 4:11:27 PM permalink
Quote: FrGamble

It would be helpful if someone could explain why they are good, kind, and moral because of thier atheism?



People are good kind, and moral because its the right
way to behave in civilized society. Atheism or religion
has nothing to do with it.

Atheism doesn't help or hinder, its a non issue. There
was a good line on 30 Rock the other night. One of
the characters is thinking of converting to Catholicism,
and Alec Baldwin's character tells him "Be warned,
the hallmark of being Catholic is an overwhelming
sense of constant guilt." He pauses for a second and
says "Good grief, I'm even feeling guilty about telling
you this!" He crosses himself and hurries away..
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal
FrGamble
FrGamble
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December 8th, 2011 at 5:58:57 PM permalink
Thank you very much Face for your thoughtful and good post. It is helpful in trying to understand atheism. I wish it was as obvious to modern man as it was to prehistoric man that being good and helping each other was the best thing for everyone. This trait of inherent goodness may be what is passed down to us and exists somehow in our very nature to be good, however I feel like it is weakening.

I know you were not trying to give a perfect answer or a grand idea with no problems but here are some of my very imperfect ideas inspired from yours. I agree we may be getting closer and closer to The Truth in a gentle exchange of thoughts rather than in spouting hardened doctrine.

You mentioned that every civilization has a creation story, I assume a figure of God of some kind, could it be that this deity is the foundation for the civilization's goodness? Without the strong foundation of a God doesn't it allow a more and more individualistic modern man to see this goodness as purely the remnants of a bygone era, the dredges of evolution, like a useless appendix? Maybe God is like the glue that cements goodness into our nature so that we feel like being "good" even when it no longer is a matter of life or death for me if my neighbor is hungry or if my neighbor gets sick because I've learned to wash my hands. Taking away God seems to make your idea for why people are good into something that we seem to be slowly evolving away from into much more selfish and self-centered human beings, this is not good for our survival.
Face
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Face
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December 8th, 2011 at 6:12:09 PM permalink
Quote: FrGamble

I really would like to try and understand the idea of atheism more. It would be helpful if someone could explain why they are good, kind, and moral because of thier atheism? There are again many reasons why people are all of these things (peaceful, generous, etc.) but specifically how does atheism, that there is no God, actually help you to live your life?



And I realized, after hurrying to end what was already a painfully long post, that I left it up to you to answer this question for yourself (which may be hard if you don't understand). Ooops.

Why do I prefer to be good? Well, part of it, I think, is explained by my very long post. I believe it's how we have naturally evolved in the course of our history. Goodness helped the individual, and as a result the group, survive. I think it is hardwired in the same way sexual urges or desires for sweets are hardwired.

When I do a good deed, it helps those who are in my "group". Maybe it's a guy I work with, or a neighbor, or extended family. In any case, it improves the quality of the lives that surround me, thereby improving my quality of life. It also increases my worth as an individual, which makes me happy. Happiness decreases stress, and decreased stress increases life span and improves overall health. Not to mention doing someone a solid increases the chance they'll do you one back, kind of a "help others to help yourself" type deal. All of this, I think, follows my very long explanation as to how this mentality came to be. Doing this sort of "good" isn't a human thing, it's present in a great many higher functioning social animals, whether it's dogs pack hunting and grooming or porpoises pack hunting and pack defending. A full grown elephant will put itself in danger to protect ALL young elephants, whether sired by them or not. Isn't that "good" and "kind" and "selfless"? I think it is, and I think this trait in humans came to be in the same fashion - naturally.

As for how it helps me to live my life, that's a tougher question. I'm not sure I can fully explain, and further hope I can do so without being offensive, but here goes. The primary thing that bothers me about religion is this idea that life has been figured out. I'm not saying it's all religious persons, but I've seen a number who live in what I would call a very constrictive box. Discussions about discoveries in science or our universe are met by claims of "Umm, that's not true. Try reading Genesis". I view that as somewhat destructive. I also think it robs the person of knowledge, and that goes both ways. You, Father, seem to be able to contemplate science that flies in the face of religion, same as I can discuss religion that flies in the face of my nature-based beliefs. You or I may not necessarily accept these ideas, but we are not ignorant of them. It may even give us understanding that could solidify our belief and love for God or lack thereof. But some see it almost as blaspehemy. They couldn't look at evoution as an idea, it's simply not in the Bible and therefore not allowed to enter their minds.

By having my non-religious stance, I'm free to examine ALL evidence and information on questions I have about life. I can look to science, evolution, Christianity, The Haudenosaunee, Scientology, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, whatever I want, and make an unbiased decision about what I feel is right or wrong. I have freedom to follow certain paths that may be outside of what is allowed by religion.

Second, in my head and with my beliefs, religion would make me MORE like what you describe athiests as - not caring about life. I wouldn't savor the mystery, or behold the beauty, of the life I have. If I knew there was a Heaven, this place would be a cesspit (not THEcesspit) by comparison, a short test I only need to pass to reach Nirvana. I'm not saying it's how you feel, or how a religious person must feel, but it's how I would feel if I could accept religion. Life would be like a bad job, something that has ups and downs, but mostly it sucks and I just try to push through for the vacation ;)

Knowing (believing) this 70some years is all I get makes me appreciate my life all the more. Believing all the things around me, the ants in my yards, the process of metamorphosis, geological structure, our Earth, our solar system, all came to be by random happenstance, fills me with a sense of amazement I cannot describe. Thinking it was made by a being I will not nor could not ever understand I find to be hollow and disappointing. The Sistine Chapel is a wonder. Now imagine a river pounded on some rock, and through random erosion and natural chemical staining, recreated it. Which would be more awe inspiring? That's basically how I feel with God vs Randomness. If the base answer to every question is "God wills it to be so", why would I bother thinking about anything? Why would I care?

I'm starting to bury my point, so I'll give it a rest for now. But there's a few reasons on the "why" and how I feel it's made me a better person. There's more, but I'm not quite sure how to explain and my posts today are already quite long. We shall continue later, if you have follow up questions.
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EvenBob
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December 8th, 2011 at 6:27:56 PM permalink
Quote: FrGamble

something that we seem to be slowly evolving away from into much more selfish and self-centered human beings, this is not good for our survival.



You seem to get so many things completely backwards,
Padre. You really think modern society is less giving
and charitable and more selfish than in the past? You
really need to get into history a little more.

Read some Dickens, for instance. The England he wrote
about really existed, with the wickedly cruel orphanages,
the filthy debtors prisons, the poverty in the streets. In
Europe and the eastern block countries, selfishness was
the norm. Shopkeepers robbed their customers any way
they could, customers would lie and cheat as much as
the shopkeepers. People were very clannish about their
families and didn't welcome strangers at all. If you were
homeless and poor, you resorted to begging in your rags.

How can you compare those horrible times, and the more
horrible times that proceeded them, to today, and say we
are more selfish now. The spirit of giving and of charity is
the highest the worlds ever seen. Even the godless atheists
give their fair share.
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal
zippyboy
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December 8th, 2011 at 6:56:05 PM permalink
I know the difference between right and wrong. I certainly don't need an antiquated book to tell me it's wrong to steal from somebody, or rape or kill. FrGamble: do you really think without this old book, we'd all be out there doing these bad things? And I only speak of the Bible...apparently the Koran leads its believers to think killing is right IF it's against the infidels (?).

EvenBob: there's evidence that mankind is getting LESS violent. Perhaps due to cameras being everywhere these days and getting caught is more likely, or education is at its highest now than in past times when people didn't go to school and worked on the farm instead, but people are nicer to each other than in the old days.
"Poker sure is an easy game to beat if you have the roll to keep rebuying."
Face
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Face
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December 8th, 2011 at 7:35:37 PM permalink
Quote: FrGamble

This trait of inherent goodness may be what is passed down to us and exists somehow in our very nature to be good, however I feel like it is weakening.



I agree. In trying to explain this weakening to myself, my "Natural" explanation works for me here, too. When an animal population reaches unsustainable levels, nature fixes it. Starvation, dehydration, and disease all work naturally to restore balance. In animal populations that aren't being affected by the Big 3 (like most of humanity), you will see a rise in aggression levels. I forgot the technical term for it, but in a population whose territories begin to overlap (even if they consist of several 100 miles), you will see members of said territories become much more hostile and aggressive, with a stronger will to patrol borders and kill encroachers. Nature basically uses murder to fix the numbers. Could todays rising human population be creating this phenomena in people where that switch is flipped, and we're just naturally reacting to feeling "pressured"?

Could be, and I think in part it is, but I also don't think that's anywhere near the whole story. Perhaps it's my natural explanation, perhaps it's the increasing lack of parenting and guidance caused by todays lifestyle where both parents work, perhaps it's the selfishness promoted by those terrible reality shows, perhaps it's less people living by the word of Christ. I suspect the true cause is like Niagara Falls. No one big event, just thousands of little chips changing the fabric of society.

Quote: FrGamble

You mentioned that every civilization has a creation story, I assume a figure of God of some kind, could it be that this deity is the foundation for the civilization's goodness? Without the strong foundation of a God doesn't it allow a more and more individualistic modern man to see this goodness as purely the remnants of a bygone era, the dredges of evolution, like a useless appendix? Maybe God is like the glue that cements goodness into our nature so that we feel like being "good" even when it no longer is a matter of life or death for me if my neighbor is hungry or if my neighbor gets sick because I've learned to wash my hands. Taking away God seems to make your idea for why people are good into something that we seem to be slowly evolving away from into much more selfish and self-centered human beings, this is not good for our survival.



Well, taking away God from the foundation of good, assuming He is the glue that holds it together, by definition, would cause good to crumble. The problem is proving it. That's the wall we run into when discussing such matters. If we assume your God arguement is true, then the removal of God towards my Natural arguement is going to cause civilization to unravel, so we shouldn't do that. By the same token, if we believe in God and continue to populate the Earth as the Bible tells us, and my Natural arguement turns out to be true, well, we just caused civilization to unravel, so we shouldn't do that. Hmm, maybe this opposing view thing is another piece, to ensure no one view overloads the other and causes the ship to tip. Maybe we're dependant on each other. Maybe that's another Natural trait of humans. Or maybe God made us this way? Bah, I've just discovered another branch of ideas I have to mull over now =p

Good talk, Father. I'm sure we'll continue down the road.
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MrV
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December 8th, 2011 at 10:57:38 PM permalink
"What, me worry?"
Mosca
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December 9th, 2011 at 10:51:34 AM permalink
Quote: FrGamble

Mosca thanks for your good post.



You're welcome, FrG. Thanks for yours.

Quote: FrGamble

However why does it make sense to be forgiving, loving, frank and honest if ultimately it doesn't matter? I think one would say because it is the right thing to do, but if you take the idea there is no God to its logical conclusion then ultimately it doesn't matter and good and evil don't make sense. The only purely logical way of living based on the belief that there is no God would seem to me to be - live it up, do whatever is going to make you happy for the longest amount of time, don't waste time thinking about others, lie, cheat, steal, whatever you need to do to make this crazy chance of life pleasurable for you now because there is nothing afterwards except death and nothingness.

It just seems to me that my goodness is based on my belief in God and your goodness (which I do not doubt) is in spite of your idea there is no God.



Let's back up a moment. The flip side of your premise is that belief in God means that people WON'T "lie, cheat, steal, whatever you need to do to make this crazy chance of life pleasurable"? You don't need statistics to know that Christians (and everyone else) throughout history have lied, cheated, stolen, and done whatever they wanted. Belief in God never stopped anyone. Total devotion and a life dedicated to God hasn't stopped some priests from violating their imprimatur to protect the weakest among us! If "belief in God" was all that was needed, then we wouldn't need any criminal or civil laws... or, those laws would only be needed for atheists!

A person's goodness is based on being good. There's no "in spite of" or "because of" that depends on a belief in God, or a love of God, or a fear of punishment. I couldn't conceive of lying, cheating, stealing, and doing whatever else. As I often put it, the only way I could describe my revulsion to that thought is, "If I did that, then I wouldn't be me." I don't spend any time thinking about it. I never have crises of conscience in stores, thinking, "Should I steal this? No one's looking, after all." I don't steal because that's not the way it works. I don't rape because I don't want to. I don't stalk and kill because the thought never crossed my mind. If I did any of those things, or even had the urges but had to control them, then... well, I wouldn't be me.
NO KILL I

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