A Conversation for Atheism

Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 1

weegie

Dear Colonel,

I've hit a bit of crisis. I need some help. I've been a comitted atheist ... well pretty much since forever. but i'm having a crisis of faith.

bit of background. studied theology at university - wasn't what i expected it to be. it confirmed what i believed most of my life about the hypocricy of christianity and individual christians. you should have seen these trainee ministers shagging about!

anyway sailed through university without any crises (sp? this thing really needs to get a spell checker)anyway, to cut a long story quite short, i'm starting to think "what do they have, that i don't"

this could take a while and i don't know if this is thing kind of thing you fancy talking about, i've got all these drug-induced thoughts and no one to really talk to them about (all tied up with my fictional PhD - you know the one i would love to write) god, woops, i sound really pathetic... its not a real crisis, but i'm getting curious

I don't think i can talk to a traditionally religious person, but an atheist with a sense of humour might just help.

oh just a word of warning though, i talk b*****ks alot!


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 2

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

What do they have that you don't? As a recovered Christian, I have intimate knowledge of both sides:

- A delusional idea about their own self-importance.
- A convenient excuse for life, the universe, and everything, which requires absolutely no effort.
- An excuse for all the bad things that happen in their life (god's will).
- Permission to do all the shagging they want, without considering the consequences (their god forgives).

But they also have some other stuff:

- A misguided and historically dangerous lack of appreciation for life, their own as well as others.
- A mind snapped shut against new ideas and objective evidence.
- Undeserved guilt.
- Unfounded fear.
- Hopeless ignorance.
- Susceptibility to manipulation (why do you think so many preachers get away with so many sex crimes for so long?).


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 3

weegie

oh i'm detecting some bitterness here. i don't think i'm talking about christianity in particular, i don't think, no i know that wouldn't be my preferred route to god. no i talking about religious people or to put it another way, people with god in their lives, regardless of the outward signs.

and here comes my mythical phd topic. i'm absolutely fascinated with the idea of sacrifice. in the book the last temptation, jesus and judas are talking about what's going to happen. judas says he doesn't think he can do it, its too hard, its asking too much of jesus - it'll kill him fgs. jesus says, look judas i've got the easy bit, all i have to do is die, you, you have to give up your eternal soul by betraying me. its all part of god's plan. (i'm bit heretical in thinking that judas plays a more pivotal role in salvation than jesus - jesus knew what the deal was, he was part of the plan... god gave us free will to choose to love him, judas had to make the conscious choice to turn away [although you could say he could not have chosen otherwise because it was part of the plan, but if jesus is god, and god created us with free will to choose to love him (one up on us from the angels) he did have to make the choice.] and betray jesus and be damned forever - making a much greater sacrafice than jesus)what was i talking about.

yeah, i think in order to have true faith, you must give up a small part of yourself to god. you must sacrifice maybe that rational part of yourself that tells you its a lot of b******s. but i'm too selfish to do that. i was listening to U2's all you can't leave behind and there's a line in there "you're packing as suitcase for a place we've never been/ a place that has to be seen to be believed" and suddenly i understood that phrase, maybe you have to believe it, whole heartedly, with all your being, sacrifice that rational bit in order to see it and feel it to make it real. does that make any sense? don't think i'm saying anything that hasn't been said before, just a personal ephiphany.

okay so you give that part of yoursel, you sacrifice yourself in much the same way jesus (or in my view judas) sacrificed himself. you must get something back in return?, it must be worth more than you gave up, surely? i look at people with true faith (and these aren't necessarily the high heid-yins of the church, any church) but people with true faith, who get comfort on a daily basis, who can take all the shite life throws at them, so safe in the knowledge that someone/thing loves them unconditionally, how many of us in our lives can say that? that must be the return you get for the sacrafice you make.

despite all think, i'm still too selfish to do anything about it, to make that leap of faith, to make that sacrifice.


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 4

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

Sorry. When you start talking about seminary students and all of that, I have a reaction. I suppose being kidnapped by Southern Baptists and receiving an attempted brainwash doesn't do much for one's respect for religious students.

I know a lot of the people you describe, people who don't buy into the whole Christianity gig, but take a couple of little pieces from it, make up the rest, and enjoy themselves with it. Others at the Freedom From Faith Foundation have their own particular beliefs without Christianity becoming involved. They're happy people, and relatively harmless. They respect my beliefs, so I respect theirs.

I don't follow their example, though, because I just *can't*. My mind doesn't work that way. I can make up all sorts of nonsense, and I can make myself believe in it... almost. Then I start to realize that it was entirely fictional, has no basis in reality, and it disappears. I joke about various mythological occurances (and lately I've been trying to convince my girlfriend that I can hear her thoughts, but she's not buying it smiley - winkeye), but I can't convince myself of any of it. My mind has been trained in logic, and I've learned to rely on it, since it has demonstrated itself as so reliable. The better at logic I've grown, the less often I sound like an idiot. I guess that's why very religious people annoy me... they sound like idiots all the time, and they're doing it on purpose.

I don't think that sacrifice is solely the province of religion. People can sacrifice themselves for whatever they believe in. Take the movie 'Braveheart' (but take it with a grain of salt... it *is* just a touch melodramatic), when Mel Gibson sacrifices himself for freedom, declining the swift death and the pain-killer.


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 5

weegie

oh i'm religious. i didn't go to a seminary, it was university, so it was supposed to have been taught academically. haven't had to use my degree for 5 years so i'm really rusty.

I'm not entirely convinced if these people from the freedom of faith foundation or any other humanist group (i'm hoping they're humanists) have god in their lives.... it just doesn't sound complete. maybe they do and they've got it right ... i just don't know.

i can tell you what's missing in my life (that makes me sound quite pathetic doesn't it) i like you have that little bit inside me that says 'b****x' to it all. its all just myth. its like theres a little gate in front of, its probably about shoulder height, and i know that if i can just get over it, i'll get something better and bigger in return, i'm convinced of that. but i just don't know how to get over it. i don't know how to do it on my own. if its dependant on joining a church then i'm f****d. i'm deeply suspicous of organised religion and all the points you made in the last post are valid.

You said: "I can make up all sorts of nonsense, and I can make myself believe in it... almost. Then I start to realize that it was entirely fictional, has no basis in reality, and it disappears"

maybe thats the point - you have to have faith first, a true and complete faith then you see it. but i don't want all the nonsense and cermemony in my life, i just want god and that's what i'm really struggling with. don't think i can pick or choose bits from any religion. i live my life the way i see fit and i don't care if it fits into anyone elses moral code.

if it all sounds a bit confused thats because i am. i can't follow a particular religion (i can't even follow a recipe far a less any entire doctrine) so how do you find god?

is it god you've got the downer on or just his so-called representatives on earth?

you're right, sacrifice is not the preserve of religion, although william wallace got caught by the english, the only real CHOICE he had was in the manner of his death - he didn't choose to die at that particular time and place for someone else, it just happened. but it's the same difference. sacrifice still involves giving up something, be that your life, your money, that little bit of anima, something, but i cant do it.


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 6

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

I don't know... it sounds like you're asking me to help you make that leap of faith. As an avowed atheist, I can't tell you how to do it, because I can't do it myself. You do seem to be operating under an assumption that there are great rewards to be had through faith... an assumption that I do not share. I've found the absence of faith to be so incredibly liberating that I'd like to share that with others. I don't have to fear some exterior entity "judging" me, and so the only judges I have to face are my peers and my sternest judge, myself. I don't have any unreasonable guilt for my behavior. My girlfriend was in the process of breaking away from a very strict religion when she met me, and she is indulging in all sorts of perfectly normal, healthy things that she was forbidden in her church. So she has found it liberating, too.

Maybe the question you should be asking is "what do I really think I can get from faith?" You've said you're convinced that there is something better in store for you, but I've seen nothing to support that. Believers are no happier than nonbelievers.


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 7

Martin Harper

This probably won't help W****E, but let's go for it anyway. It can only confuse the issue.

The way to get belief in something is to act like you believe it. Do it long enough and cognitive dissonance will kick in, and you'll actually believe it. Takes a while, of course. You don't need to have faith in your deities, and you don't need to have faith in me. Just have faith in the abilities of the human brain that Evolution provided you with, and Science has discovered and documented.

So - if you want to believe in Lady Luck, just worship Her. Pray to Her when you need help of some kind; at the beginning and end of each day kneel and thank Her for the new experiences She has provided; carry around Her religious symbols: dice, coins and the like; create a shrine to Her greatness in your room. Belief will follow, sure as night follows day.

Or pick some other deity or deities or belief systems, or make up your own. I'd recommend steering clear of ones with organised religions attached, for obvious reasons, and I'd recommend steering clear of those which are evil - not because they are real, but because they're likely to screw over your mind. The most important thing is to make sure your deity has a short and memorable name, whatever it might be. You cannot believe in what you cannot name.

Of course, if you believe in The Lady, then you'll have the added bonus of believing in something that's actually true... smiley - winkeye

Be Lucky,
Xanthia


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 8

weakpun

Re: your search for a belief system W****E, ever thought of trying astrology through the medium of the tabloid press? If you buy all the papers that carry a column every day, you're bound to find something somewhere that almost chimes with your life. It might make you late for work though.

On a more serious note, I have to say that I also don't have the *ability* to believe in a religion. There have been times where I have thought it might be nice to have someone to blame or some kind of supernatural comfort when someone dies, but it's JUST NOT THERE. It's a nice idea, but it's very obviously MADE UP...


Dramatis personae: Cavekid, Cavedad, assorted non-gender-specific Cavepersons (non-speaking).
The scene is a primeval fireplace.

Cavekid: Dad, where did the world come from? What's it all about?

Cavedad: Oh, crap, I haven't the foggiest. Better not look like I don't know everything though, else I won't be chief for long. Best make something up... Well, son, and all ye gathered here, In the beginning....

Several thousand years later, three different religions who all worship THE SAME GOD (note this part- all three, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are fundamentally the SAME religion, with the only disagreements being essentially ones of definition) spend centuries hacking lumps out of each other, not to mention what they do to anyone else who happens to live in other parts of the world. As yet no end in sight.

ta-DAH. The history of religion in fourteen lines (well, it was when I wrote it. Change the size of your browser window to see it in the original format).

Uh, where was I? Oh yeah. To be honest, for me it's not about whether having a religion (I won't say faith, I've just been trying to read the argument about that in another thread and now my eyes hurt) is more liberating than not, or if there's something to be gained from being in a church (I'm sure there is, socially etc.) - I'm not even aware of there being a choice. I didn't "choose" or "decide" to stop being christian at 13(ish), I just did. It makes me feel a bit of a prat singing along at funerals (to be nice, that's why. Besides, people normally pick the ones with good tunes), but that's the only effect it's had on my life.

Anyway, enough self-justification for now. Just a quick footnote on religious education - a friend of mine (who recently became a fellow at Cambridge Uni) spent most of his uni career studying theological topics. His sister (a practising christian - catholic, I think) said that she didn't understand how he could study theology and not go to church. His view was that he couldn't understand how anyone who had studied theology could believe any of it. The point being that to both of us, the more we learn about religion (the entity/virus/wonderful-life-enhancing-method-of-social-regulation/revelation-of-gods'-truths/whatever as a whole rather than any particular belief system), the less sense it makes that anyone should actually be gullible enough to fall for this rubbish. I mean come on, guys, some of you can even dress yourselves and tie your own shoelaces! Surely it can't be that hard to see through the fairy stories?

Sorry, I try soo hard to not be insulting, but then it just goes...

Strange as it may seem, I don't have anything against religion per se. To my mind, it's been the cause for just as much "good" as "evil" (the good parts tend to be less noisy though, so don't get as much press), I just don't/can't believe it.

Um, not sure if that helps any. But at least I got it off my chest. By the way, nice one for asking an atheist how to find God...


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 9

weegie

Fank you weakpun, it was intentional, but i really couldn't handle asking a religious person about it - remember i studied divinity with those kinds of people for four years - if they said 'smile for jesus' to me one more time ....

as a confirmed atheist (but someone who thinks that on a personal level, having a faith helps some people) i was hoping an atheist would help me find a way out of the almost inevitable path towards a religion.

i guess i'm asking too much, i was hoping to be saved from a life of 'hands down for coffee', if you know what i mean. really what i'm looking for is an ephiphany, i suppose only the big man or woman upstairs is the only one who can give me that. i do think there must be a benefit to be had from having faith. i know people with, what i'd call true faith, and man, they seem to have something. there's a poem by harding that kinda sums up what i'm feeling, but for the life of me i can't remember what it is (read it in school a long, long time ago) its about a thrush (i think that's what its called) and it about the 'why can't i do it?' factor. what's wrong with me. still don't know. i'm just going to hang around and hope, but possibly not pray.


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 10

Seven of Nine [(1x52)-2-8]x1=42!

There are two types of humans who inhabit this world.
The worshippers and the worshipped.
smiley - flyhi


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 11

weegie

Oh I'm destined for great things then!


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 12

Seven of Nine [(1x52)-2-8]x1=42!

You think so?
Why?


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 13

weegie

I'm not a natural worshipper - so, in time, when I and the rest of the world recognise my grateness (sic) I'll be worshipped! QED smiley - smiley


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 14

Clarke The Cynic -Keeper of all things darned (socks/souls).

He's right. I'm having an epiphany!
All hail W****E!


Help me, Colonel Sellers, you're my only hope

Post 15

weegie

Fankyouverymuch


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