My Complicated Relationship with Religion


Certainly, I have a complicated relationship with religion. Currently, I am a non-religious atheist, or as I’m better described, a devout skeptic. (See the menu on the left for an article I wrote on that term.) I have been this way for years. Now, when I say I have a complicated relationship with atheism, that doesn’t mean I’m going to run to church today and go get “saved.” It’s much more “complicated” than that.

Basically, I find world religions to be truly fascinating! I’ve even invested a good amount of time and money studying them. I enjoy understanding them both from an academic prospective and from the subjective experience of their followers. This, of course, means I occasionally, once or twice a year, go to different religious services to experience what it is like to be a member of a particular religion, but I never officially join.

Although I hate what religions can do in some instances to a society, I don’t hate religions or religious people. In fact in some ways, I enjoy them, but what on earth do I mean by this? Religions are the closest things we have to actually living out a fantasy book or movie.

There is an idea in religions that there is something beyond this realm, and people can somehow harness it’s power. This is practically the plot to every fantasy book, and while I don’t believe that this religious notion is true, it is fascinating and fun to play with and study once in a while.

So, I warned my readers. My “relationship” with religion is a complicated one, but at the end of the day, I am not a theist. I don’t know if anyone can relate, and I suppose that’s okay.

As always, feel free to comment, even if you don’t like what I wrote!

 

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Shaking Things Up: Atheism and Buddhism


Now some time ago, I wrote in a post that I would be studying up on Eastern religions and their concept of God; because, typical arguments against God in the West only really work towards the monotheistic Western deity of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Now, I have been reading up quite a bit between my studies at university. I can’t say that I’m finished studying up on these interesting and highly complex religions, but I will go over where I am, personally, at the moment.

Let me start out by saying, I was always leaning more towards existential nihilism to begin with and less towards humanism. Humanism sounds great, but for various reasons I found it problematic. Maybe I just don’t share Humanism’s optimism, but I digress.

So let’s talk about Buddhism. Buddhism, unlike many religions doesn’t require an all powerful, all good, and all knowing creator. Now, this doesn’t mean Buddhism is naturalistic. To assume this, would be far from the truth.

There is no “soul” and the “self” is an illusion, but the mind is not materialistic in nature. It is eternal, and we have all been through an infinite amount of deaths and rebirths due to bad karma. (Karma here being the law of cause and effect.) The earth is not the only place one can be reborn. Minds can be reborn in the lower realms, “hells,” or higher realms, “heavens.” Neither of the former are places people go for eternity.  However, the aim of Buddhism is to reach enlightenment, “nirvana,” and the end of the cycle of death and rebirth NOT to end up in heaven or hell.

Now, this is where the Buddha comes into play. The Buddha was someone who reached enlightenment, and then proceeded to teach others how to do so themselves. The idea is that we can all become buddhas.

Now perhaps interestingly, I, a materialistic nihilist, went to a Buddhist Sangha, a gathering of Buddhists. Why? Well, for one there is no better and easier way to learn about a religion than to go to their religious service. Secondly, I seek to meditate properly, as mediation has many beneficial effects. Thirdly, and most importantly, I am an open minded person.

I am starting to realize that the Buddhist view of human nature seems to be quite accurate. Human beings are not “fallen.” Still, every  intentional action has moral significance, and we would all be happier if we learn to control our mind. In a nutshell, it’s not the situation that’s the problem, it’s what we think about a given situation that’s a problem. If you think a situation is horrible, terrible, or unlivable it is. If you think the situation isn’t that bad after all you won’t suffer as much. Now, if you don’t believe me about the thinking part, consider asking any psychologist. I have. However, their supernatural claims are another story.

The Western monotheistic deity I, certainly, see as false. (See many of my other posts.) Still, I am playing around and toying with different ideas. I am not saying I am converting to Buddhism, but so far, it’s been fun!

 

 

Is God Evil?


“Killing must feel good to God, too. He does it all the time, and are we not created in his image?” -Hannibal Lecter from Hannibal

The above quote is from the short-lived show Hannibal, but it is very similar to quote from Lecter in the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.

Anyways, I’ve been reading the Hannibal Lecter series, and I’m well aware, as far as books go, the Lecter series is mostly just “junk” entertainment. Still, Hannibal’s view on God did make think. The God I usually consider is the western monotheistic concept of God. That is to say, he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. He’s also self existing and eternal. So, most of my arguments of God do not consider that western philosophy of religion and theology are patently wrong about the properties of the deity, but what if a deity that is evil or just simply not omnibenevolent existed?

Well, there would still be the problem of omniscience paired with omnipotence. However, the problem of evil would completely dissipate. I find this interesting.

Now, I know the Hindu deity Shiva is said to be both a destroyer and benevolent entity. It would be interesting to debunk Shiva or Shiva like conceptions of deities, but of course, I’m from the west. So, I haven’t had much need to do this.

I’m NOT saying I just converted to Hinduism. I still doubt there is a deity. What I am saying is that it is interesting, and it leads me to think that I haven’t paid enough attention to Hinduism as far their argument for a deity.

I think at base. We could manipulate any characteristics of God into anything we want, and we could call this entity a deity.Still, it would be a created entity and not a God.

I guess I’m rambling now, but I thought it was interesting. And, I thought I would share my thoughts with my readers. Please feel free to comment!

Who Created God?


Many atheists think positing God as the cause of the universe is a bad idea. This is due to the inevitable question: Who created God? In many atheists’ minds, using God as the cause of the universe just adds more problems.I am a devout skeptic. Still, I think this a bad line of reasoning. I do not think one has to research every theological argument from early Christendom onwards, but I think understanding basic concepts of the western monotheistic deity is somewhat necessary. This is especially true if one is arguing with any believer who has some level of sophistication about their religious beliefs.

The deity is considered eternal and self-existing. In other words, God does not have a beginning, and thus, he doesn’t need a creator. (The main arguments for God’s existence take for granted these ideas.) Now, some may say this is a cop out, but at the same time, this is part of the definition of God, if we are talking about western monotheism. If an atheist chooses to ask the question, then the theists may turn the argument around. They might say, for example, that the atheist is caricaturing their God.

Now, I’m not posting in order to tell people how to argue. That’s really none of my business. Still, I hear this question posed over and over again by atheists to theists, and this includes some outspoken famous atheists. I would, however, like my fellow atheists to be aware of the problems involved in asking this question. It makes debates on YouTube more interesting to watch when the previous ideas are taken into account by the deity. (Okay, I guess I’m selfish. Sue me.)

You Don’t Choose What You Believe


I’m not going to address free will here; although, I could add that to this equation. However, I won’t. My concern is this: you cannot change your beliefs like you change your clothes. I’m not saying people don’t change their beliefs; because, they obviously do. However, people can’t just change their minds without good reason. People cannot just simply choose a belief system in order to make someone else happy, or because, it would be really nice for a belief to be true.

Some people truly believe in a deity, but they have their reasons. Deep down they feel that their belief is correct. Their faith makes sense to them, and they have experiences that confirm their beliefs to them. (Of course, I’m not claiming their experiences are good evidence for a deity.) They may have been indoctrinated as well. Unless something happens to them whether internal or external, they will maintain their belief.  In order for disbelief to occur, faith in a deity has to stop making sense, and their has to be a realization that maybe their experiences are not what they thought they were. Likewise,  an atheist cannot believe in a deity , even if they wanted to. Until a deity makes more sense, an atheist cannot  truly believe.

Doubt is real. It’s a voice deep in the mind, that is echoing what makes sense to an individual. In some cases, people use a double think to stick with their belief in a deity. People will tell themselves they are going through a phase. People seek pastoral counseling, in order to be further indoctrinated. Some people accept the doubt as a part of faith, which has never made much sense to me. (I don’t believe in God right now, but hey, I’m Christian.) A person’s doubt might be telling them that they’re unsure about a deity or that they are an atheist. However if people aren’t exploring their doubt and revaluating what make sense to them , then they are just lying to themselves. A person can confess that they believe in a deity all they want, but that doesn’t make it true. Deep down no matter what a person tries to do to themselves, they know the what their true convictions really are.

My point is this: no more self deception. There is nothing reprehensible about being unsure  about a current belief, or even deciding it’s not true. However, we all need to ask questions on our own, in our own good time. Look at both sides and decide. Don’t be ashamed of doubt. Don’t attempt to self-deceive. It won’t work. The doubt will not go away, if the belief doesn’t make sense anymore. Forced belief isn’t true belief. It’s time to stop playing pretend.