Debate 019: Cary and Blair debate belief & spirituality

Cary Rebuttal #001:

“Lacking a belief in a deity” is a semantic, mental masturbation, depending on your definition of the word “belief.” It would seem to me that Atheists(capitalized to show the adherancy to that “belief”) are just as eager to justify their “lack of belief” as religious fanatics are to justify THEIR beliefs. Perhaps it is an effort to deflect the prejudice in the world against non-adherants to a particular religion.

I do agree that there is a BIG difference between spiritualism and religion. I did not see on your website where you named the 3 major religions that adopt spirtualism but not theism. Also, as much as Christians, Jews, Muslims and others use their “holy scriptures” to justify their beliefs in a God, it seems that Atheists use their “gods” of science and logical intellect to justify their(lack of) belief. As arrogant and consescending as many theists are in their religious beliefs, I have noticed even more of those qualities in many self-proclaimed atheists. If all you have to justify your “belief” that there is no god(s)(because that’s all it really is…a belief) is your education, intellect, and rationalizations, perhaps the arrogance and haughty sense of humor concerning other “less-enlightened” theists comes from using your brain more than your heart, in dealing with non-Atheists.

Perhaps Atheists, in their arrogance and self-aggrandisement, consider themselves as “super-humans” that have eventually evolved from us lowly, bottom-feeding, spiritually-centered humans. At least agnosics are not as arrogant when they claim they don’t “know.”

One last question, concerning the “needs of all humans.” Would you classify Viktor Frankl as some meaningless therapist, because of his conception and use of spiritual logos in the treatment of psychological disorders? Or was he an atheist too? It seems that Atheists are very proud of pointing out all the horrors and “sins” commited by theists, but have all atheists throughout history contributed positively to the world and society? Have they never harmed anyone or brutalized anyone in their lack of faith in a god?

 

Response to Cary #001:

Allow me to break your email down into manageable parts and address the issues individually.

CARY: “”Lacking a belief in a deity” is a semantic, mental masturbation, depending on your definition of the word “belief.””

I fail to see how this is semantic. The only people that are upset at the definition are the theists because they can’t say “atheism is a religion” unless the word “belief” is a positive word or, at the very least, an action verb. Atheism comes from atheos, which means “without god”. It doesn’t come from “disbelief in god” or “doesn’t believe in a god.” The definition is simple; without god. Lacking a belief in god is a simple expansion of that. If you prefer to define atheism as “without god”, in order to avoid your perceived semantic issue, then we’re just fine with that.

CARY: “It would seem to me that Atheists (capitalized to show the adherancy to that “belief”) are just as eager to justify their “lack of belief” as religious fanatics are to justify THEIR beliefs. Perhaps it is an effort to deflect the prejudice in the world against non-adherants to a particular religion.”

If you are going to insist that atheism is a belief system, then you must define the beliefs in that system. What are the central tenets that all adherents believe in your view of this so-called atheism belief system?

You’ll find that the majority of atheists that speak out are doing so not to be braggart, but to defend their position. I had no intention of ever starting an atheist group or starting a web page until I was constantly barraged by ridicule and harassment, including several cases of physical threats and one case of work-related discrimination. It was in reaction to this theistic-based discrimination and harassment that caused me to take the offensive. Even then, my offensive was not to disestablish religion or to be anti-theist, but to address the issues of that harassment and the ignorance and misinformation that I believe caused such actions by the theistic community.

That was the purpose of the Q&A section; to address the question posed by theists to me in the hopes of helping them understand my position (I don’t speak for all atheists) and perhaps, through that discussion, eliminate some of the myths, misinformation and misconceptions people had about atheists.

So, your statement that eagerness you perceive is an effort to deflect the prejudice against us is not that far from reality. Most atheists that I know would love to sit in their homes and do nothing in the realm of religion or irreligion. Unfortunately, the social atmosphere does not lead in that direction. It is my hope that one day I can eliminate Atheism Awareness and the other groups that I run because the discrimination, harassment and bigotry are removed. I don’t think I’ll see that in my lifetime.

CARY: “I do agree that there is a BIG difference between spiritualism and religion.”

Yes, it is unfortunate that organized religion has hijacked the word spirituality, making so many people afraid to use it or at least recognize their own spirituality. I was unable to recognize mine for a long time because of that. Even after I did recognize it, I had a hard time acknowledging it because of the affiliation to organized religion. I’m glad to see a rise in spirituality away from religion; that is a sign that the word spirituality has been rescued from its religious hijackers.

CARY: “I did not see on your website where you named the 3 major religions that adopt spirtualism but not theism.”

Taoism, Buddhism and New Age. There are others, but those are the three that have the most adherents.

CARY: “Also, as much as Christians, Jews, Muslims and others use their “holy scriptures” to justify their beliefs in a God, it seems that Atheists use their “gods” of science and logical intellect to justify their (lack of) belief.”

Funny thing now that Fundamentalists have turned to science to justify their beliefs now. They spoke out against the sciences for the longest time and now they are using the terms of science to sell their product.

If you want to call the use of science and logical intellect “gods”, then I’m happy with that. After all, the word god has lost its definition over the years. Most dictionaries have five different definitions for “god”, one of which being an object of admiration. Since I admire the scientific process and the use of logical intellect, then I accept you calling them “gods” under that definition.

CARY: “If all you have to justify your “belief” that there is no god(s) (because that’s all it really is… a belief) is your education, intellect, and rationalizations, perhaps the arrogance and haughty sense of humor concerning other “less-enlightened” theists comes from using your brain more than your heart, in dealing with non-Atheists.”

I will grant you that there are some atheists that are anti-theist. I’m not one of them. I see no problem in people believing what they want to believe. My goal is to eradicate discrimination, harassment and prejudice against atheists; to defend the civil rights of atheist.

When I answer questions I try to be tactful about it, but I’m also not going to lie or water down my answers, either. If you ask me why I’m an atheist then I’ll give you an answer. If you ask me what I think about the Bible then I’ll give you an answer. In the workplace there are certain people that it is okay to have religiously-orientated discussions with and others that you know to avoid the subject. I take great care to avoid the subject with those people that are sensitive to the subject or are offended. Of course the fact that people are offended by my atheism is what Atheism Awareness is all about in the first place. That does not mean that I push the issue with anyone. I don’t proselytize, but I will talk back to someone that proselytizes to me. It never ceases to amaze me how a Christian will proselytize to me and then get offended when I defend myself or speak critically of his proselytizing. I guess that’s just weak faith.

CARY: “Perhaps Atheists, in their arrogance and self-aggrandisement, consider themselves as “super-humans” that have eventually evolved from us lowly, bottom-feeding, spiritually-centered humans.”

There is no conclusive evidence that religious belief or lack thereof is evolutionary in nature, but the research is certainly intriguing. It’ll be interesting to see where neurotheological studies go in the next decade or so. It’s also interesting to note, that in a tracking of world religions, the fastest growth was in non-religion, at 125% over the last 25 years.

As a spiritually-centered person myself, I can’t speak to your “lowly, bottom-feeding” comment, as I don’t consider myself to be either.

CARY: “At least agnosics are not as arrogant when they claim they don’t “know.””

You are misusing the term agnosticism. A claim of “not knowing” is a positive claim. The agnostic claims that sufficient knowledge is not available or cannot be available, so they suspend judgment on the issue. The agnostic’s claim is not “I don’t know”, but “There is not enough information to make a claim to either “a” or “b””. Of course an agnostic still lacks a belief in gods and is therefore, by definition, an atheist. I would recommend that you read my page that addresses atheism & agnosticism at What Is Agnosticism?

CARY: “Would you classify Viktor Frankl as some meaningless therapist, because of his conception and use of spiritual logos in the treatment of psychological disorders?”

Recognizing the psychological needs of one’s patients does not make someone meaningless. While in my personal view it is nothing more than a psychological crutch, it does not mean one should kick the crutch out from underneath the one it is supporting.

CARY: “It seems that Atheists are very proud of pointing out all the horrors and “sins” commited by theists, but have all atheists throughout history contributed positively to the world and society? Have they never harmed anyone or brutalized anyone in their lack of faith in a god?”

Yes, many atheists have contributed to society. Yes, there have been a few atheists that have done horrible things, too. That is why I don’t like the “guilty by association” card that is played because each of us, if using that card, has someone that stinks on our own side. The only time that I throw out the “atrocities argument” is when it is attempted to be used against me. My common statement is, “So-and-so attempted to tie atheists to Stalin, but has so-and-so checked their own side?” Then I mention some of the many that were committed. I end my statement to the effect that before we throw the “guilty by association” card out into the table we should ensure that we are not just as guilty as the one we are accusing.

Fundamentalism is dangerous; irregardless of who the fundamentalist is; theist or atheist.

The point is to end discrimination, harassment and prejudice through the defense of atheist’s civil rights. I may not respect your beliefs, but I respect your right to have those beliefs; whatever they are.

Cary Rebuttal #002:

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my mostly emotion-motivated, last email. When I perceive that someone or some organization(be it a recognized, “organized religion” or a fraternity of atheism) is attacking “me” for acknowledging and acting on my spirituality, because I am not as “evolved” and their intellectual inferior, I get defensive. Sometimes in my reacting to “defend” my SELF, I temporarily move off of my spiritual center in the process and I do not communicate as well as I should.

I will attempt to communicate my personal truths better, in an attempt to gain greater understanding between us, and perhaps through a ripple effect, create a greater understanding of the spiritual differences between atheists and theists. There seems to be a tendency for both camps to lump the other all together.

My perception is that there is a challenge of semantic interpretation as well as dogma. So, putting dogma aside(be it communicated in “holy scrolls”, the bible, the Vedic scriptures, or in physics and psychology textbooks), I will address the semantic issue so we can both view my perceptions better, if only temporarily.

That which we do not “know”(as opposed to “cannot” know), but act upon, as a universal truth, within our own perceptions of reality, is what I define as a “belief”; within the context of the theist vs atheist intellectual debate. As arrogant as it is for any lock-step adherant to a theist religion to act upon his “belief” in a dogmatic-associated deity, and to proselytize to others, so to is is it just as arrogant for atheists to proclaim their intellectual and moral superiority over those humans that proclaim that there is a God.

It is my perception that atheists will not consciously admit that they do not “know” that there is no deity, rather they BELIEVE that there is not one; just as many devout theists insist that they “know” there is a god(at least one), even though THEY TOO are only acting upon a “belief.” Devout theists “know” there is a god, in the same way that atheists “know” there is no god. Both are simply “beliefs” in opposition.

Acting on one’s beliefs is what “faith” is all about. Faith is simply belief in action. Theists have faith that there is a god(at least one) and atheists have faith that there is no god. When shared faith takes on dogmatic structure within a paradigm, a “religion”(by my definition) is born.

My definition(and perception) of Atheism(as a religion defined above) is: a loose fraternity or association of people without faith in any god, who perceive themselves as an accident and/or consequence of “nature” without any divine intervention involved. Within that paradigm of non-spiritual gnosis, they view themselves as intellectually and logically superior to theists, who, in their Atheistic dogma, are inferior beings for allowing themselves to be “led around by the nose” by some priest or any “dogma” that is NOT atheistic in nature.

My perceptions of the tenants of Atheism as a religion are: that those who believe in a deity are intellectually inferior; that Atheists should gather together in loose fraternities to further the mutual self-admiration of their superior nature and to consolidate their power; that their “human”(as well as civil) rights are being violated when the word “God” appears in any government building, asset, or document; that their intellectual superiority over theists is offended and that their consequential authority by intellect is unacknowledged when the word “God” appears in government print(hence their own use of other symbols to represent that silly deity concept) or is mentioned by a political leader in their presence.

My theistic tenant is that “God” is the source of all that is “spiritual”: God is Unconditional Love. God is Absolute Truth. God is the Divine source of all Energy. My faith derived from those beliefs is that we all exist here under Divine Purpose; which is to celebrate, honor, and share our own unique expression of that Spiritual Divinity within us; the realization of the Dao in humanity, the balance of Chi within us; the Word-made-flesh that we all are.

 

Response to Cary #002:

CARY: “It is my perception that atheists will not consciously admit that they do not “know” that there is no deity, rather they BELIEVE that there is not one…”

Actually, I’ve found just the opposite to be true. Most atheists that I’ve talked to acknowledge that they don’t “know” that there is no deity. Most say they know that the Christian god is bunk and so are the other defined gods, but they admit they can’t rule out the possibility that a deity exists. The majority of atheists are also agnostics. It is the confusion between the terms that gets people in trouble – not their lack of belief or convictions.

Of course an atheist will also admit that pink unicorns are possible, too – but that doesn’t mean we should run out and start a Church of the Holy Pink Unicorn.

CARY: “Devout theists “know” there is a god, in the same way that atheists “know” there is no god. Both are simply “beliefs” in opposition.”

You are wrong. Most atheists don’t state that they “know there is no god.” Of all the atheists I’ve met online and in person I’ve never met a single one that has made that declaration. What I hear is that they lack a belief in gods because they have not seen any proof that there is, but they acknowledge that a god may possibly exist. Atheists are not going to attend a church or believe in something because of possibility. As I said above, pink unicorns are possible – so are Leprechauns and Bigfoot for that matter.

CARY: “Acting on one’s beliefs is what “faith” is all about. Faith is simply belief in action.”

You are re-defining faith to suit your needs.

CARY: “Theists have faith that there is a god (at least one) and atheists have faith that there is no god.”

Again, you are re-defining faith to suit your needs. Atheists have a conclusion, based on the available evidence, that a god is not probable, but perhaps possible. They arrive at a lack of belief in god(s) – not a belief in no gods.

CARY: “My definition (and perception) of Atheism (as a religion defined above) is: a loose fraternity or association of people without faith in any god…”

A loose fraternity or association? Every atheist organization that I know of formed for one or two reasons; to provide a means for friendship (because people like to hang out with like-minded people), as a means to counter discrimination, or as a means to fight unconstitutional activities. You make hanging out with like-minded individuals out to be like some kind of conspiracy. Atheists get together so they can talk freely without fear of repercussions.

CARY: “…who perceive themselves as an accident and/or consequence of “nature” without any divine intervention involved.”

You are adding definitions to atheism to suit your need again. Atheism is nothing more than the lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings. Not all atheists consider themselves “accidents” – I’ve met a few who swear they are the offspring of intelligent aliens. ;-)

The conclusion of cosmology and evolutionary biology is not an atheistic monopoly. An evolutionists or cosmologist is not by default an atheist and an atheist is not by default an evolutionist or cosmologist.

CARY: “Within that paradigm of non-spiritual gnosis, they view themselves as intellectually and logically superior to theists…”

Sure, some do, but not all atheists consider themselves superior, as you state. I know a lot of smart theists. It is their ability to compartmentalize that befuddles me.

CARY: “My perceptions of the tenants of Atheism as a religion are…”

The entire idea of yours that atheism is a religion is flawed from the get-go by one simple and basic thing – what atheism is in the first place. You are attaching definitions and ideals to a word that aren’t there. Atheism is the lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings; that’s it. Personal philosophies or ideologies that individual atheists have will vary from individual to individual. The closest thing you could contribute to almost all atheists is materialism. Atheism is not a religion – but there are religious atheists. Atheism is not a religion – but there are religions that are atheistic.

CARY: “…that their “human” (as well as civil) rights are being violated when the word “God” appears in any government building, asset, or document…”

That would be our constitutional rights. It would also be your constitutional rights. What’s really odd is that the majority of cases brought before the Supreme Court for constitutional violations like this are not from atheists. The majority have been from Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarian Universalists, Methodists and Buddhists. I can only think of a couple that were started by atheists. It is usually the theist that is upset that someone else’s version of God, instead of their version of God, is being forced on them. That is who starts most of the lawsuits. Of course the atheists aren’t complaining when the theists do this. I think atheists should be more involved in the constitutional issues – America needs to recognize its pluralistic nature. Christianity will not be the majority religion in the US for much longer.

CARY: “My theistic tenant is that “God” is the source of all that is “spiritual”: God is Unconditional Love. God is Absolute Truth. God is the Divine source of all Energy.”

You sound like a strong deist.

Your arguments are funny and a great conversation piece, but they do not provide for the primary meaning of the word atheism; the lack of belief in gods. You have attached a philosophy where there is none. You have attached ideology and doctrine where there is none.

NOTE: Cary has not responded.

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