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Is Belief In God Or A Spiritual Force Always A Bad Thing?


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Many atheists seem to be very angry and outspoken against all forms of religious or spiritual belief. But it strikes me that not all religions are as harmful as the Abrahamic faiths.

 

I don't believe in any God or spiritual force anymore. But it's more of an intellectual position for me. I find Christianity and Islam to be very dangerous belief systems because they teach that all human beings are evil and sinful and that hell awaits all those that do not follow the faith. These are dangerous belief systems that undermine people's confidence in themselves and are antagonistic towards rationality and very negative towards sexuality.

 

But there are some forms of spiritual belief that seem a lot more healthy and positive. There are beliefs that don't have any concept of hell or sin. Some beliefs don't even have a sense of good and evil beyond an aknowledgement that some actions are harmful and negative and should be avoided for that reason.

 

I may not see any evidence for anything beyond what has been revealed by science but I can see that many people derive comfort, focus on positive ways of looking at things, inspiration and purpose from belief systems that are more life affirming and kinder in their views of humanity and the cosmos than the negative cults of Jesus or Mohammed.

 

I have no problem with people following beliefs that are basically positive and healthy, even if I doubt the existence of what they follow. After all, there could be some kind of higher consciousness in the Universe that we just haven't encountered empirically yet. I prefer not to believe in something when there could be a simpler explanation for things (Ocham's razor) - that's why I never believed in the devil even when I was a christian (free will and human beings is all you need to explain the existence of evil). Now I can see that Ocham's razor means there is no reason to believe in God or even a universal consciousness either.

 

But if a religion does not have the horrible notion of hell, does not believe that humans are inherently evil (an ugly and unhelpful way of viewing things), has the wisdom to accept that the point of having free will is to make mistakes so as to learn from them, and has a positive and compassionate (even celebratory) view of human sexuality in all its rich variety - then I have no problem with it. I might not see it as true but I can see how it can be healthy and helpful for some people - so that's fine with me.

 

I'm curious about other atheists on this site. What do people think about hinduism, paganism, 'new age' beliefs etc?

 

We all know that the world would be a better place without the Abrahamic faiths. But what about the other forms of spiritual belief? Is it always bad to have a belief in something spiritual?

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But what about the other forms of spiritual belief?

 

Firstly, could I ask what you mean by "spiritual?" What does a "spiritual belief" entail?

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But what about the other forms of spiritual belief?

 

Firstly, could I ask what you mean by "spiritual?" What does a "spiritual belief" entail?

 

A difficult question to answer. Some people would include Buddhism and Taoism under the definition of 'spiritual belief' and I know what they mean when they say that.

 

But personally I think it is misleading to call ethical philosophies 'spiritual' if they are atheist and thoroughly rooted in material reality (ie. no belief in 'spirits' or 'ghosts' or an afterlife). 'spiritual' contains the word 'spirit' after all.

 

Certainly in the context of this thread I am meaning any belief system that involves belief in God, or a higher power (eg. universal consciousness); something beyond the material. I only differentiated the term from 'religion' because obviously many people can have such beliefs without neccessarily following an organised religion. Some people have 'spirituality' that they arrived at themselves and doesn't neccessarily bare any resemblence to anything else out there.

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I'm curious about other atheists on this site. What do people think about hinduism, paganism, 'new age' beliefs etc?

 

We all know that the world would be a better place without the Abrahamic faiths. But what about the other forms of spiritual belief? Is it always bad to have a belief in something spiritual?

I would say off the top of my head that I see any religion that feels it necessary to turn to pseudo-science as a prop for belief in the supernatural (Christianity and New Age come to mind), that that is unhealthy. I can see the benefit in hero’s tales in mythology as sources of "spiritual" inspiration, but if the system has to bastardize or gloss over reality, rather than incorporating it as it is and building on it in the interest of elevating and enhancing our sense of wonder, purpose, and meaning to life, then they are not fulfilling human needs. Human needs are both rational and "irrational". We respond to notions of beauty and wonder, yet we need to understand the world with our minds.

 

Any system that can do both would earn my respect. Does anyone know of any?

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Spiritual beliefs don't have to be a bad thing at all. Although I have none myself, I have nothing against those who do. However, xianity and islam are belief systems that inherently view unbelievers as "condemned", and therefore open to persecution, enslavement, and death, as those two organized religions have demonstrated conclusively in their histories.

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I abhor fundamentalism in any form, and that includes the religious kind. I don't think that a belief in God or other spiritual beliefs are necessarily harmful if they are non-fundie and they don't motivate the believer to try to force their version of belief or morality on others. I have read the Bhagavad-Gita (a beautiful book), and I have some familiarity with Hindu beliefs. I'm not anti-Hindu necessarily, but I am turned off by the irrationality of their beliefs, though at the same time I have a much higher regard for that religion than I do Christianity. Eastern religious thought appeals to me in some respects, and I have a long-standing curiosity about the possibility of reincarnation, though I currently believe that it is a very remote possibility. I occasionally listen to Krishna Das. I really enjoy some of his music. Back in the late 1990's I was briefly involved in a fundie Hindu cult when I was living in Austin, TX that used yoga classes at a "meditation center" as a front to recruit members. They were located very close to the University of Texas campus. I wonder why? :shrug::rolleyes: We ate vegetarian meals, which was fine with me since I tend toward vegetarianism anyway. I also participated in Kirtan - devotional chanting - that was a LOT of fun! I left the cult though since I began encountering denials of reality similar to what I had encountered in Christianity when I pointed out scientific inaccuracies in the Gita. I was assured that the Gita was right and science was wrong. After all, who are you going to believe - God or man? I'll take the verifiable findings of science any day over the assertions made in an ancient holy book, thank you very much. I left the cult, and I am extremely glad that I did. Glory!

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I believe Jun may have it right EB. I guess a lot hinges on how ones conceptualizes “spirituality”. If one holds that spirituality hinges on the existence of the supernatural then I would not subscribe to it. However if one understands spirituality to be marked by an advanced ability to treat other living things with empathy, compassion, wisdom and love then I would say that spirituality does exist and can be a positive influence in a person’s life.

 

I think nature is richer than any of our current theories. In my view nature surely must be more than just material. What might I call this aspect of nature which is not material? Maybe I could call it relational. And spirituality may be part and parcel with this relational aspect of nature.

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Religion, per-se, is neither a good nor a bad thing. It all depends on the particulars of a religion, for one.

 

Oppressive religions like Xianity and Is-lame, complete with ideas about the evilness of humans and their need to suck up to and placate a tyrannical god, are certainly a bad thing. Religions like that encourage humans to oppress and abuse each others, all in keeping with the spirit of the religion.

 

Religions that value human independence and encourage healthy personal development and growth are hardly in the same boat as the above. LaVeyan Satanism and Buddhism, at least in my opinion, are two fine examples of this. Of course, nothing made by men is perfect and these religions aren't perfect, but they each espouse generally positive philosophies and common-sense ethics, even if you have no particular taste for ritual magic or meditation.

 

Funny, they are also non-theistic religions ;)

 

Many Pagan religions, like Wicca and Asatru, also have similar currents, depending on the particular group advocating each. Though one has to wrap one's mind around Theistic concepts in them, they are also possessed of generally good ethical structures.

 

Man created all religions, but not all religions are created equal :)

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Guest Cathal
Human needs are both rational and "irrational". We respond to notions of beauty and wonder, yet we need to understand the world with our minds.

 

Any system that can do both would earn my respect. Does anyone know of any?

 

I would say that most of the Indo-European branches of Paganism have the ability to allow for the Rational and Irrational mind to co-operate to create a beautiful whole.

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Any system that holds beliefs contrary to reality is, in my opinion, harmful to the person that holds these erroneous beliefs.

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Any system that holds beliefs contrary to reality is, in my opinion, harmful to the person that holds these erroneous beliefs.

It makes sense to me that the clearer picture we have of reality the better we can navigate through reality - encountering fewer hazards. People sometimes get hurt due to ignorance. Not to mention that we have benefited greatly due to a clearer picture of reality.

 

To hinder honest inquiry into what is really real is reprehensible.

 

I am not sure if belief in God in and of itself is harmful...I dunno.

 

...but belief that you "know" things about God certainly is.

 

 

I also sometimes worry that belief in an afterlife somehow cheapens this life.

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Guest Cathal
I also sometimes worry that belief in an afterlife somehow cheapens this life.

How so? And what about belief in Reincarnation?

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I also sometimes worry that belief in an afterlife somehow cheapens this life.

How so? And what about belief in Reincarnation?

Because this life pales in comparison to heaven. If you are going to heaven it is real easy to not care about science or the health of the planet. It is real easy to not care so much of the troubles of this world. The only thing that really matters is what needs to be done to get to heaven.

 

As far as reincarnation goes, I can see folks having a negative view of this world because this world is not as good as nirvana or finely making it to God after having attained "enlightenment" I must admit though that I don't really know that much about the religions that believe in reincarnation.

 

Perhaps you can ease my fears.

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I also sometimes worry that belief in an afterlife somehow cheapens this life.

How so? And what about belief in Reincarnation?

 

The way a belief in a just reincarnation leads people to think the unfortunate deserve their suffering, and indeed need to suffer, is harmful.

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