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Post-atheism


Celsus
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I watched the BBC special called "Disbelief - A History of Atheism" and something that was discussed in this really spoke to me and touched on something I have been thinking about. An Irish philosopher living in New York was interviewed and the topic was about the various labels of religions disbelief. Basically, it was pointed out that disbelievers are surrounded my religious stuff, no matter what part of the world you are in. As a disbeliever, at least in the west, where you are not killed for not believing, there seems to be some distinct levels or phases that deconverts/disbelievers go through.

 

From my own experience, I can see how I walked this path. When the reality that all I had been taught and led to believe was shown to be false, I was angry. Initially I was angry and devastated and in many ways, I was lost with my world view collapsed at my feet. I began to search for what was true, not realizing that while my Christian faith was in rubble, and I still carried with me the baggage and paradigms of that basic belief system. While I had rejected Christianity, I still wanted to believe in the existence of God.....heck, I still do want to believe. My next stop was to hold to a deistic belief. Deism is the belief in an undefined higher being, but not revelation, sometimes called "Atheism Lite".

 

However, regardless of how I personally believed, the hurt and anger from the realization that Christianity was not true, came out. I became a very angry and aggressive anti-Christian and anti-theist. Anger and the desire to demolish the superstitious beliefs of others was my goal. I declared a personal jihad on the Abrahamic religions and the people who believe in them. I may not be at the level of Dan Barker or Frank Price, but I was a pretty decent debater and logical thinker. In a weird twist, my arguments against the God of Abraham led me to realize that me belief as a deist was also without foundation and an emotional position, not backed up by valid reasons.

 

At this point, I would give my left arm if I could live my life with no concern for religion. However, living where I do (Southern USA) and with my family (preachers, missionaries, religious professors), I doubt that will ever happen. Religion surrounds me, in small ways I have to deal with it. For instance last Saturday, I was working a Search & Rescue mission and after I gave the briefing, a deputy asked if they could "take it to the Lord". Everyone obediently bowed their heads and prayed, I was respectful, but the whole thing just amused me.

 

On a personal level now, I think I am at a "post-atheist" point in my life. When the deputy and all the other people wanted to pray, I did not get angry. I simply accepted that they believe what they do, and I believe what I do. Hell, I don't even like being called an atheist now, although it does describe my lack of belief in a deity. A point was made in the special that people who do not believe in leprechauns are not known as “aleprechuanists”, people that have no belief in UFO’s are not known as “aufologists”. Why should I be defined by what I don’t believe? Why should I give the theists the benefit of defining myself based upon their world-view?

 

Michael Shermer and others have addressed this, with labels such as the “Bright Movement”, but this again does not really address who I am or my beliefs. I like to think of myself as simply a realist, a person who believes in that which is real. What is real can be objectively demonstrated to exist. If it is real, I believe in it. If something lacks empirical proof, then I withhold belief in it. I cannot prove something that can be defined as being gods exists somewhere in the universe. I do not have to, I don’t state that I know gods do not exist, I simply state that there is no proof to substantiate the existence of gods, or leprechauns either.

 

So, for me, I proclaim reality. Hail the real!

 

 

Bruce

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Excellent post Bruce.

I have been growing weary of the atheist label myself. So darn weary. I like "realist". Or, perhaps, I am just a human being.

Ya know, I guess we really do not have to claim anything. If someone asks us what our beliefs are concerning god...we should just turn silently and walk away.

"Imagine".

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On a personal level now, I think I am at a "post-atheist" point in my life. When the deputy and all the other people wanted to pray, I did not get angry. I simply accepted that they believe what they do, and I believe what I do. Hell, I don't even like being called an atheist now, although it does describe my lack of belief in a deity. A point was made in the special that people who do not believe in leprechauns are not known as “aleprechuanists”, people that have no belief in UFO’s are not known as “aufologists”. Why should I be defined by what I don’t believe? Why should I give the theists the benefit of defining myself based upon their world-view?

This rather succinctly describes where I am at also. I went through an angry phase, but it never occured to me at that time to call myself an atheist. Now that I am past the angry phase, I don't particular feel that the term "atheist" feels right, for much the same reasons as you have described above.

 

I also don't get all bowed up over people praying around me. I might once have been screaming bullshit! inside, but now I am merely amused. I can perhaps see the utilty of trying to express or give voice to one's thoughts and emotions, but it seems a little silly to think that these things need to be offered up as prayer to what amounts to a construction of the imagination.

 

I enjoyed this post Bruce. Thanks.

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I am more recently deconverted, but I was an athiest before I was a Christian, so that's pretty much the position I've come back to. I don't think I'd call myself an athiest, though, as it's one of those labels that people think defines who you are, rather than just giving information about yourself. I'm an accountant, a father, and a lot of other things, but once the "athiest" label is slapped on that's all people see. I think it's a lot like "homosexual." I wouldn't think that label would define who a person is, but once that label has been applied, that's all that a lot of people see.

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I like to think of myself as simply a realist, a person who believes in that which is real. What is real can be objectively demonstrated to exist.

 

That was a good post, Bruce. I like the realist label.

 

I too am a great fan of reality.

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I often vacillate between a confrontational atheist to a post-atheist. While I do find it amusing the beliefs that Christians hold (and perplexing and bewildering at times), what I do find beyond the pale are those Christians of the dominion that seek to convert this country and our public schools to institutions of their religion. Those people I seek out to demolish and show them as what they are - theocrats, and those Christians that guilt perfectly natural human things like homosexuality, or just sex in general.

 

One of my best friends (who've I've written about before on this site) is a Christian where I need to straddle both sides here. He believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, yet is a pretty liberal person that has no issues with homosexuality and would not be in favor of banning abortion, even though he doesn't agree with it. (But he can't stand the Catholics, and neither can his Pastor.) I have to be patiently and diplomatically confrontational with him with his ridiculous beliefs and I gotta tell you, I snicker at him too. I feel kinda bad at that, but then again, he doesn't hold back and neither will I. Its just that Christians are so much more irrational on the whole when pushed into a corner because they can not admit ignorance when they think they have literal instruction behind them.

 

Great post Bruce.

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