Radona Rebuttal #001:
I am doing some research for a Sunday School class I’m teaching in November…good ol Methodists…and I came across your site. I read the Q & A section and was intriqued by the statement that all humans are born atheist. Would you be willing to share your documented research? I’m interested in knowing how many newborns were interviewed and the demographics of the study. Were the responses recorded or did the subjects merely complete a questionaire at the time of their births?
Sarcasm aside, I really have been doing some soul-searching lately (no pun intended), and I do have some sincere questions in need of sincere answers.
1. The word “spirituality” is not defined in the Study Hall section of the site and yet you make the statement “everyone needs a form of spirituality.” I know what my definition is and I’ve read Mr. Webster’s. How would you define spirituality?
2. Why do you celebrate Christmas?
3. Is the concious act of deceit immoral? If a future son-in-law were to deceive you in a manner similar to your deceit, would you be able to accept the fact that he had fun doing it?
4. Why does anti-social behavior exist in social beings?
5. If tragedy strikes and you are suddenly rendered inable of movement or speech, will your children know you love them? How will they know? Actually, how do they know now? You can say you love them. You can do things to show that you love them. But you’ve also proven yourself to be a master of deceit. You can’t see love…or touch it…or hear it…or taste it…or smell it. Love is intangible. How do they know you love them? How do you know they love you? Does love even exist? Prove it.
6. How are we here?
If you can give me your thoughts on some or all of these I would greatly appreciate it.
Response to Radona #001:
Thank you for the humorous beginning. It’s always good to hear from someone with a sense of humor that can laugh at the whole thing. Thank you.
Now, let’s get down to business and answer your questions:
RADONA: “1. The word “spirituality” is not defined in the Study Hall section of the site and yet you make the statement “everyone needs a form of spirituality.” I know what my definition is and I’ve read Mr. Webster’s. How would you define spirituality?”
Spirituality itself is the state or act of being spiritual, so I guess we should define spiritual. Spiritual, in its most basic definition, is anything to do that “affects the soul.” Of course the definition of soul for you and me are probably significantly different. My view of spirituality is the everyday enjoyment of life, the recognition of that which awes us and makes us smile, the realization of the beauty of the world, especially when that beauty is dissected and made more beautiful.
An example of my spirituality would be my two-weekend visit to Yosemite in California where I walked roughly 20 miles by myself in the woods and encountered nature (bears, deer, etc) and marveled at the wonderful beauty of nature. The knowledge I had of nature and how things work and the science behind it made that experience even more awe-inspiring, thus, spiritual.
Unfortunately, theistic religion has hijacked the word spiritual, so many non-religious people are afraid to use it (spirit of God, feeling the spirit, etc). Some of the atheistic religions in the world (Taoism, Buddhism, etc) are very spiritual. New Age religions are spiritual-based, but they have no deity.
I decided that my feelings, my awe, my love of nature and humanity, were spiritual in nature and I wasn’t going to let religion hijack that word from me. So for me, spirituality is the awe we sense whenever we look upon something, or feel something, or we hear something, that inspires us, gives us goose bumps, makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Of course I recognize that all those feelings and the awe are nothing more than chemical reactions, but it is the recognition of the biology behind spirituality that to me makes it even better.
RADONA: “2. Why do you celebrate Christmas?”
I’ve already written a page on Christmas, so I’ll refer you to that answer Do Atheists Celebrate Christmas?
RADONA: “3. Is the concious [sic] act of deceit immoral? If a future son-in-law were to deceive you in a manner similar to your deceit, would you be able to accept the fact that he had fun doing it?”
The conscious act of deceit can be moral or immoral – depending on the context. Situational ethics are a very hazy thing, and often it is the eye of the beholder that views such items as moral or immoral. The decision to actively deceive my in-laws at the time I saw as the moral thing to do in order to help my wife and her sister. They needed someone to rescue them from their persecutors and the only way to do it was to convince the persecutors that I was “one of them.” I would hope that if I were doing the same thing to my children that someone would have the courage to deceive me to rescue them from my grasp.
RADONA: “4. Why does anti-social behavior exist in social beings?”
That depends on who you ask: psychologists or biologists. ;-)
Of course it also depends on the anti-social behavior that one is talking about. What we do know is that memetics play just as an important role in our shaping as do genetics. Lately, our society has been advancing faster socially (memetics) than biologically (genetics). This has put our biology at odds with our society. Just 100 years ago we were marrying our daughters off at 15 and now anyone that thinks of having sexual relations with a 15-year-old is considered “anti-social.” It is society that has changed too quickly for the biology to catch up. For those that can control their biological urges, they are seen as “staples of society.” For those that cannot control their biological urges, they are seen as “the criminal element” or “anti-social.”
Humans are not the only social beings that experience anti-social individuals. Documented cases of anti-social primates indicate that they deal with many of the same biological problems that we do – only a chimpanzee or bonobos will have a much harder time controlling those biological urges. There are also cases of exile among the primates when a single primate does something the troop doesn’t like, the troop may ostracize the individual or expel him or her from the troop.
Are all the single whales from species that normally herd just lost or are they being anti-social? We may never know, but it certainly is an interesting question.
RADONA: “5. If tragedy strikes and you are suddenly rendered inable [sic] of movement or speech, will your children know you love them? How will they know? Actually, how do they know now? You can say you love them. You can do things to show that you love them. But you’ve also proven yourself to be a master of deceit. You can’t see love…or touch it…or hear it…or taste it…or smell it. Love is intangible. How do they know you love them? How do you know they love you? Does love even exist? Prove it.”
That’s more than one question! ;-)
You make it sounds as if my deceit were something that I continue to do. The deceit was not something that was mastered. It’s not hard to pretend that you believe in Santa Claus when you know he doesn’t exist. It’s not like it takes a genius to pretend to believe in God and do the Happy Jesus Dance. The deceit was necessary in order to save two women from an abusive household. In that case of situational ethics, the necessity of saving a life overruled any moral dilemma with lying.
Love is very tangible, actually. We know that love is based on chemicals that are produced in our bodies – chemicals such as dopamine. As we fall in love, we can see those chemicals reacting in our body. When we fall in love, we have become addicted to the chemical makeup of our hormones that a particular person creates in us.
The love we have for family is a bit different – in that it is the “safe and secure” mode of Love – the love we feel when someone provides a sense of security and safety to us (which also occurs in non-familial love). So you can see love, because we can see these chemicals under the microscope. We can touch love, because you can touch these chemicals. We can’t really hear love, so I’ll give you that one. We can taste and smell it, though in human pheromones and chemicals.
RADONA: “6. How are we here?”
You don’t really need a lecture on the “birds and the bees,” do you? Surely you and your mother had that talk? If you want me to walk you through the reproductive process just let me know and I will. ;-)
For a more serious answer, I have it in my Q&A section: Where Did It All Come From?
Radona Rebuttal #002:
Okay, I’ll accept your Christmas diatribe…my husband feels basically the same way and he is a Christian man so what can I say…however; I always find it a little silly that people think Santa doesn’t exist. When my kids found out there was no Santa, I told them they were wrong. If there’s no stinkin’ Santa why am I staying up late at night on Christmas Eve helping to put together all that crap I went out and purchased by myself because Scrooge refused to go with me? Do you ever do the Angel Tree thing? You know, buy for the disadvantaged?…to me, that’s being Santa too. Maybe Santa is symbolic. I believe Santa’s in all of us. Santa is everywhere. Kinda like G…oops…never mind.
Also, if you keep (sic)ing me for my mistakes, bub, I’m gonna do the same for your little website and I’m not the one professing the great love of knowledge and learning so cut it out….
I’m thinking you were a little vague on that love thing. Yes, we can see chemical reactions in the body/brain…but isn’t there research to indicate we can also see chemical reactions taking place during intense religious and spiritual (my definition, not yours) moments? Really, I don’t know much about that research but I know it’s been done by neuroscientists….Andrew Newburg? Is he one? So, if chemical reactions can prove love exists, why can’t they prove God exists?
And obviously, aside from birds and bees, you’re as clueless as the rest of the world on how we got here.
Not all Christians are fundamentalists…or cultists. I think most are just aware that there is a being higher than themselves.
What about miracles. Do you believe in miracles?
Do you believe Jesus (the man) ever lived on earth?
I’m finished for now…have a migraine…there’s chemical reactions for that too…thanks for responding…I’ll be sharing your responses with the SS class in November and I’ll give you feedback on the comments/ responses….
Radona Rebuttal #003:
Before I got a chance to respond to Radona’s last email, she sent me this one. I decided to ignore the last one and continue with her new one because they were questions directly from her Sunday School students. I felt that addressing the student’s questions was more important.
I wrote you a while back with some questions because of a class I’m teaching this month. I spoke with the class today about your views/definitions on atheism. They had some questions for which I had no answers and I told the class I’d e-mail. If you have time to respond, here are the questions:
1. I mentioned to them your research indicating more christians turn to atheism than atheists to christianity; they wanted more info on this: specific resources, documentation…now, I can’t even find that section on the web site…did I dream this up or get it somewhere else? Can you point me in the right direction?
2. What is your educational background? Your wife’s?
3. What is your true relationship with your in-laws?
4. IF you had to pretend there was one God who made the heavens and earth and everything in and on them, which would you choose?
a) A God who controlled every aspect of our lives and never allowed mistakes, wrong choices, bad decisions, sort of “The Stepford Universe” where everything is perfect?
b) A God who gave humans control of the earth and universe to use as our own, along with minds, hearts, and souls to use as we chose?
Response to Radona #003:
RADONA: “1. I mentioned to them your research indicating more Christians turn to atheism than atheists to Christianity; they wanted more info on this: specific resources, documentation… now, I can’t even find that section on the web site… did I dream this up or get it somewhere else? Can you point me in the right direction?”
The research was completed in 2000 and it was done worldwide. Christianity rose less than 1% worldwide and Islam only rose less than 1% worldwide during the 35 years that the research was conducted. Judaism dropped because it is not an active proselytizing religion. The fastest growing “religion” during that time was atheism/non-religion, which rose almost 125% during that same 35-year period. Most of this information comes from Adherents.Com, which showcases religious beliefs and other religious-related topics worldwide. Other sources include the Christian-based Barna Research Organization in San Diego, CA. Of course information comes equally from known sources such as the Census, Gallup, etc.
The issue at stake here is not really the increase, decrease or stagnation of any particular religion or non-religion. The issue is why the increases, decreases and stagnations occurred. That is where the research is now going. I’m personally inclined to think there are two factors playing into the major increase in non-religion worldwide: 1) increase in scientific knowledge, which includes mass media (Internet, cable, satellite) and the subsequent access to that information on a wide scale arena – especially in the middle and upper-lower class, which the churches had previously relied upon as the staple of their masses, and 2) memetic and genetic variations in the evolutionary advances of the species. Socially (memetics) the human species is evolving and religion is, to put it one way, going out of style. As for the genetics, research is currently underway that is looking at the genetic differences between non-religionists and religionists and the results are intriguing. Obviously the research is too premature to make any conclusions, but preliminary results indicate that religious thought may be hardwired in our brains – a biological reaction (evolutionary cause) for religious thought. It will be interesting to see where the filed of neurotheology and neurophilosophy go from here.
RADONA: “2. What is your educational background? Your wife’s?”
I finished high school and joined the Navy in order to get the GI Bill for college. Instead of doing my four years and going to college, I fell in love with the Navy and stayed in. During my time in the Navy I went to tons of schools. I left the Navy with 8 NEC (Naval Education Code), which included electronics, communications and computers (to name the major levels). In addition, I took some vocational schooling from civilian schools, especially in electronics and computers. Mostly I studied on my own and studied with scholars and professors that are friends of mine (my best friends in Mobile are a paleobotanist, anthropologist, archaeologist, radiologist, psychologist, and geologist). The thing that has helped me the most is reading. I read new books all the time (both for and against any topic – to truly learn about something you must learn both sides of the issue – both to know it and to make an educated decision about your views on that issue) and never stop reading. I read science, theology, history and others.
My ex-wife was home-schooled by her radical extremist Christian parents. Being schooled at home by them left her wanting in the realm of education. If her education level from being home-schooled were compared to public schools, her graduation level would have been at about the 8th grade (and I’m being generous). After we got married we studied and I helped her gain a better education. Since then she has gone to vocational school to become a pet groomer and veterinary technician.
RADONA: “3. What is your true relationship with your in-laws?”
I don’t like them and they hate me. They think I’m the devil-incarnate sometimes. They blame me for all their problems with their children. Their children were beginning to rebel against their Bible-based child hatred long before I showed up. The home was physically and mentally abusive. They quoted the Bible to prove their point about their right to beat their children and make the demands that they put on them. My ex-wife and my ex-sister-in-law were both sneaking out of the house at night to have fun with the local Italian boys and when my ex-wife got caught, my ex-father-in-law tried to strangle her with both his hands firmly around her neck and cutting off her air supply. I hated them for the way they treated their children, but I played the role to gain their trust so I could take my ex-wife away and get help for my ex-sister-in-law.
When my daughters were born they made no effort to adhere to our wishes and stabbed us in the back repeatedly. They preferred to be preachers than grandparents. They told my children to lie to me about many things (So much for the Ten Commandments, huh?) and began to teach my children to disrespect me (There goes another Ten Commandment down the drain.). This culminated into a huge fight after I repeatedly tried to give them wiggle room and offer the proverbial olive branch. Ultimately I had no choice but to keep them from seeing my daughters. My ex-wife agreed completely and she setup the rules for visitation.
Since my ex-wife left, my ex-in-laws actually took my side. Apparently atheism is a lesser evil in their eyes than lesbianism (my ex-wife “converted” to lesbianism) – so they were all for me keeping the children (I do have custody of the children).
My ex-sister-in-law now also lives in the area and has severed her ties with her parents as well. The religious nature of my ex-in-laws cost them both of their daughters and many family and friends. There are family members in Florida that are very uncomfortable around them and a few that do not like them, but act respectfully around them (like I did until it got out of control and I had to put my foot down).
My ex-in-laws are a danger to children (I spoke out against their desire to adopt and wrote a letter to the Florida adoption board and I wrote a similar letter to the Foster Care Center in Florida when they were considering foster care at their church/home). My in-laws have started four churches that I know of in the past few years and all of them have failed. My ex-father-in-law is an alcoholic that went through Alcoholics Anonymous many years ago (when my ex-wife was 6-years-old) and replaced his alcohol addiction with a Jesus addiction.
As much as I hate to admit it, I will shed no tear when they die.
RADONA: “4. IF you had to pretend there was one God who made the heavens and earth and everything in and on them, which would you choose? a) A God who controlled every aspect of our lives and never allowed mistakes, wrong choices, bad decisions, sort of “The Stepford Universe” where everything is perfect? b) A God who gave humans control of the earth and universe to use as our own, along with minds, hearts, and souls to use as we chose?”
That’s tougher than it sounds. As a freethinker that enjoys using my mental auspices, I would prefer B. However, if A were the reality, then I wouldn’t know what I was missing. If the conditions were from the onset of my life, then I would prefer A. If the conditions were established after having knowledge of freedom and having tasted it, then I would prefer B. Once freedom is tasted, there’s no going back to shackles: either physical or mental.
Radona Rebuttal #004:
Just wanted to say thank you for your responses….I haven’t checked my mail in a while and wish I’d looked last night so I could have shared your responses today….we’ve moved on from the atheism topic. Some were angered by you, most respected your opinions, none agreed with you…except perhaps where the fanatical in-laws were concerned. I shared with them some web sites of “christians” that made our hair stand on end. Fanaticals are always scary. Again, thank you and if you’re ever in Dallas, e-mail me. I’ll invite you to church.
Response to Radona #004:
Sorry the class didn’t hear my last responses. I’ve enjoyed the correspondence and helping out. Please pass my best wishes to your class – even those that are angry with me. ;-)
If I’m ever in Dallas, you won’t get me in your church, but I’ll email you anyway.