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Roger Ebert On God, Religion


Andy
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http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/04/ho...lieve_in_g.html

 

I really like this. The man is a great writer and I think a lot of his thoughts are really close to my own. Especially these quotes:

 

Did I start calling myself an agnostic or an atheist? No, and I still don't. I avoid that because I don't want to provide a category for people to apply to me. I would not want my convictions reduced to a word.
If I don't believe God exists, that doesn't mean I believe God doesn't exist. Nor does it mean I don't know, which implies that I could know.
I am not a believer, not an atheist, not an agnostic. I am still awake at night, asking how? I am more content with the question than I would be with an answer.
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The problem I have is that people nowadays all run from...(dare I say it?)...labels <gasp>!

 

I'm not an agnostic but I'm on the fence about this whole "god" thing. I just don't know.

 

I'm not an atheist but I don't believe in a "god."

 

I'm not a xian but I believe that Yeshua was the Son of YHWH, was born of a virgin, did miracles, died on a cross (for our "sins" which is a whole other topic), came back to life and flew up into the sky (which we will all do before the new heaven and new earth thing happens) and there is no hell (again, a whole other topic). But even though I hold to nearly all the xian teachings I repeat I am not a xian. I'm basically an atheist that worships a God named YHWH and his Son Yeshua. Except when I'm at church where we basically call ourself xians (it's so my family members don't get upset...really).

 

Seriously. This is getting old. Own the fucking label. Pussies.

 

mwc

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At the risk of sounding wishy-washy *please don't hurt me mwc* :grin: I get both of these posts. On one hand, I think people need to own labels in order to help us identify each other, but on the other hand it is sometimes hard to make labels fit just right.

 

For example, I want to own the label atheist because I do not believe there is a God. If I water the atheist label down and call myself something else, I will not be helping our numbers. There is strength in numbers.

 

On the other hand, I hate to call myself an atheist because many people do not really understand what it means. A lot of Christians, including my family, think atheist means someone who has purposefully rejected God (as opposed to simply not believing in him, which you can't help) or they think it means Satanist or they think it means that the atheist would not accept God even if he showed himself physically and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he exists. Well, atheist means none of these things to me. I certainly would change my mind about his existence if he popped up in front of me right now. LOL. So, maybe my family would understand the term agnostic better, even though that's not really what I am.

 

If I had a third hand (or maybe I should move on to feet?) this would take me back to the importance of owning the label. Folks will never understand the term atheist unless we own and explain it. Sigh. My little brain can't handle all these conflicting opinions inside itself.

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The problem I have is that people nowadays all run from...(dare I say it?)...labels <gasp>!

 

+1

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I'll chime in, too. I was actually thinking about starting a topic on the atheist label, but since this one's already here I'll add to it...

 

Nearly four years after deconverting from xianity, I still have problems with the term "atheist." I know that I believe in no gods, moreover I also believe that there are no gods (which I guess makes me a strong atheist, but atheism doesn't necessarily imply the belief that there are no gods). Yet I still hesitate to apply that label to myself despite knowing full well that my beliefs qualify as "atheist."

 

The problem, as I see it, is one of principle. Atheist is a religious term. It's a term that wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the fact that so many people do believe in one or more deities. It says absolutely nothing about what I actually believe, and as such it just seems silly for me to apply a religious label to myself to identify myself as an outsider to that religious group. Does that make sense?

 

I have a facebook account, and for a while I had posted as my religious views "atheist." I took that down, though, because who the hell cares if I don't believe in a god? It's not how I define myself. Rather, if I were to apply a label to myself I would use a positive term, not a negative one.

 

Thoughts?

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Guest QuidEstCaritas?
The problem I have is that people nowadays all run from...(dare I say it?)...labels <gasp>!

 

I'm not an agnostic but I'm on the fence about this whole "god" thing. I just don't know.

 

I'm not an atheist but I don't believe in a "god."

 

I'm not a xian but I believe that Yeshua was the Son of YHWH, was born of a virgin, did miracles, died on a cross (for our "sins" which is a whole other topic), came back to life and flew up into the sky (which we will all do before the new heaven and new earth thing happens) and there is no hell (again, a whole other topic). But even though I hold to nearly all the xian teachings I repeat I am not a xian. I'm basically an atheist that worships a God named YHWH and his Son Yeshua. Except when I'm at church where we basically call ourself xians (it's so my family members don't get upset...really).

 

Seriously. This is getting old. Own the fucking label. Pussies.

 

mwc

 

 

The problem is that "Atheist" is only a position on something: i.e you don't believe in a certain version of "God". The label "Agnostic" is the same way to a certain extent. I wouldn't say I don't believe in "Tree" would I? I wouldn't say I don't believe in "Flower". I also wouldn't say I don't believe in "Shed" or "Chair", as it's incoherent. Atheism doesn't really tell me what a person believes, it just tells me a sort of general attitude that person has to other peoples' assorted invisible friends/claims about the universe and spiritual entities. Naturalism tells me something, Secular Humanism tells me something, and so does Transhumanism. All those things tell me what I am, the label of Atheist is a societal pidgeon-hole that attempts to redirect focus on what I am not. Rather than discussing what I don't stand for, I prefer to discuss what I DO stand for. As an example, Feral Children are atheists too, but that doesn't mean they stand for anything other than the next meal with the animals that are raising them.

 

I stand for something and Atheism is merely positioning for me, Atheism only addresses what I don't stand for not what I do stand for.

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On the one hand, in an ideal world, I don't think labels should matter. On the other hand, it's because we don't live in an ideal world and they do matter in society that I agree with MWC that we shouldn't run away from them and embrace labels. I can see the point behind identifying yourself by what you believe rather than what you don't believe in and that atheism wouldn't exist if theism didn't, but because theism exists, perhaps that's one reason to use the label atheist to show that theism doesn't have to exist? Some people who live in places like in the bible belt might not even know that there are other ways of thinking, and for that, I think it's important to use a label that says "Yes, people who don't believe in God do exist, and no we're not all evil baby-eaters that are bitter and angry at everyone." Also, I just prefer to use the label atheist because it's the one people are most familiar with. Most people at least get some idea of what you mean that you're completely godless when you tell them you're an atheist. But most xtians don't seem to be as familiar with labels like secular humanists or freethinker and I'm too lazy to go into a long explanation about what it is.

 

If I had to use an alternative label, I like the label naturalist because it shows you believe the natural world is all there is and I like Julia Sweeney's explanation that using the label naturalist will make religious believers a-naturalists. But I still don't feel comfortable with it because it sounds too sciencey. It just feels more like a label a scientist would use and while I like reading about science, I don't think I'm smart enough in the subject to use a sciencey sounding label, if that makes sense and Brights is too cheesy sounding to me. Ultimately, it's all a matter of what you feel most comfortable with, but I agree with MWC that's there's nothing wrong with embracing labels.

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At the risk of sounding wishy-washy *please don't hurt me mwc* :grin: I get both of these posts. On one hand, I think people need to own labels in order to help us identify each other, but on the other hand it is sometimes hard to make labels fit just right.

Well, now I'll have to hurt you. ;)

 

Okay. I won't hurt you. I'll explain myself a little more.

 

Read the thing from Roger Ebert. Not bad, right? What does he basically say? "I'm an atheist." I don't know about you but I'm a nobody. I imagine most people here are "nobodies." Maybe I'm wrong and I'm the only one but I'm pretty sure, like most groups, we're just a cross section of regular anonymous folks. And that's perfectly alright.

 

Then you have someone like Ebert. Not a superstar but well known. What does he do? He doesn't say "atheist" but rambles on about this and that. He dances around the issue. Why? No good reason other than he doesn't want to get a "label?" The "fat guy" as opposed to the "skinny one" doesn't want a label? What? Whatever.

 

How many athiests are in this country? 6%? Maybe. But people like Ebert don't want the label. So how would he respond to that question? Would the poll taker accept his essay? Doubtful. So he's "other" or "undecided" or maybe even "xian" if the poll taker likes their own bias that much. Does Ebert help anyone by his little spiel? No. No one knows what "undecided" means. Why? There's no "label" for it. Christian is a label. Atheist is a label. We use them so we can identify things quickly and easily. All of us here know than xians come in tens of thousands of varieties. But we still look for that xian label. It matters. If he would have said "Atheist" it would have mattered. He didn't. He said everything but. He basically would not "own" the label. He would not "associate" with us. He's an atheist that doesn't want to be with us. He didn't offer any alternative. Another label for the rest of us to join with him. So what's left? Nothing. It was ultimately empty in every way.

 

So I am an atheist. I am without god(s). It's quite simple. Whatever else I am is in addition to the term atheist. It is simply one word to define one thing. Ebert could have owned the term but he failed.

 

mwc

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The problem is that "Atheist" is only a position on something: i.e you don't believe in a certain version of "God".

It might be in relation to a single "god" or any gods. It really depends. In common usage it means any/all gods.

 

I wouldn't say I don't believe in "Tree" would I? I wouldn't say I don't believe in "Flower". I also wouldn't say I don't believe in "Shed" or "Chair", as it's incoherent.

No it's not. It's a little silly since we know these items to all exist. But if you truly did not believe in any/all of these then you could say you did not believe in "tree" and it would be perfectly acceptable. There are people that say "I do not believe in moon landings." This is similar to what you've stated and it makes sense (I personally think they are wrong but it makes sense).

 

Atheism doesn't really tell me what a person believes, it just tells me a sort of general attitude that person has to other peoples' assorted invisible friends/claims about the universe and spiritual entities.

Correct. If I ask you "Do you believe in god(s)?" or something similar (ie. "Do you know 'jesus?'") you answer "No. I'm an atheist." It is the answer to the question. It even addresses questions like "What church do you attend?" Since "None. I'm an atheist" covers it. You are without a god. What more is there?

 

Naturalism tells me something, Secular Humanism tells me something, and so does Transhumanism. All those things tell me what I am, the label of Atheist is a societal pidgeon-hole that attempts to redirect focus on what I am not.

Only Secular Humanism seems to be pretty much entirely atheist. The others lean heavily in that direction but not really. But saying you're one of these means you must explain to to most folks. I guess if you're in the mood to evangelize then this is perfect otherwise atheist generally sums it up pretty quickly (I have no god as opposed to the other person having a god). I generally have no desire to stand there and explain to them that even though I have no god(s) that I am reasonable and moral and on and on. How I think and reason through life. They have a god. I do not. Explaining my "belief system" is not something I'm going to bother with. They accept I'm equal sans a god or they can suck it.

 

Rather than discussing what I don't stand for, I prefer to discuss what I DO stand for. As an example, Feral Children are atheists too, but that doesn't mean they stand for anything other than the next meal with the animals that are raising them.

 

I stand for something and Atheism is merely positioning for me, Atheism only addresses what I don't stand for not what I do stand for.

Feral children? Nice. Why not equate me to a turd next time since I think they're atheists too (or maybe they're xians)? ;) Anyhow, they may not believe in a god but they're not aware they believe one way or another. It's not a conscience choice so it's not a label they take for themselves. I took the label so that if someone asked my position on the matter I could answer them with something that was understood and I wouldn't have to sit there and ramble on for 20 minutes explaining every nuance of my beliefs on this and that. Like, I'm white, but not absolutely pale like some people but a little darker than my sister who is totally pale even though she sits in the sun she simply cannot tan and... You see? Egads. I'm a white guy. Good enough.

 

I'm atheist. Just because it has the "a" in the front means nothing and yet people focus on it all day long. It means "without" (as I've said). Here's news for you...xians love things that are "without." Ready? "Sinless." They get wet dreams off being "sinless" or "without sin." It's a goal for them. Jesus was what? Without sin. What the fuck? He's described using a negative but as if it is a positive. Nooooo! How can that be? Because that's how it works. Relative to having sin being without it is a great thing. Relative to having a god being without any is fan-fucking-tastic. It's a positive thing even though it uses a negative to describe it.

 

mwc

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Seriously. This is getting old. Own the fucking label. Pussies.

 

mwc

 

:lmao:

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On the other hand, I hate to call myself an atheist because many people do not really understand what it means. A lot of Christians, including my family, think atheist means someone who has purposefully rejected God (as opposed to simply not believing in him, which you can't help) or they think it means Satanist or they think it means that the atheist would not accept God even if he showed himself physically and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he exists. Well, atheist means none of these things to me. I certainly would change my mind about his existence if he popped up in front of me right now. LOL. So, maybe my family would understand the term agnostic better, even though that's not really what I am.

 

If I had a third hand (or maybe I should move on to feet?) this would take me back to the importance of owning the label. Folks will never understand the term atheist unless we own and explain it. Sigh. My little brain can't handle all these conflicting opinions inside itself.

 

The human mind and emotions is a complicated thing. Labels tend to limit the flexibility of one's image, into a basket of ideals and opinions. Christianity is the same in a sense, with different denominations. Just trying to fit the emotional, social opinion, within one's self and belief.

 

As you stated, the Atheist concept is also in starting to evolve into different areas of labeling. Maybe there should be an orthodox atheist, and liberal atheist. :HaHa: I'm sure I will get heat for that one. :nono:

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I think it's important to use a label that says "Yes, people who don't believe in God do exist, and no we're not all evil baby-eaters that are bitter and angry at everyone." Also, I just prefer to use the label atheist because it's the one people are most familiar with. Most people at least get some idea of what you mean that you're completely godless when you tell them you're an atheist. But most xtians don't seem to be as familiar with labels like secular humanists or freethinker and I'm too lazy to go into a long explanation about what it is.

 

Everybody is different though, opinionated. An atheist to a conservative Christian may imply, baby-eater. Whereas, to someone just not religious, it may mean nothing, and they could care less. To an atheist, it is whatever view of the other atheist, going on and on, until compatibility is mixed. Same to a Christian toward Atheist. Some Christians may be Bible beating, bigots to Atheist. A non-religious person may still, just not really care. To the other Christian, a Christian in the melting pot of Christianity, still being held to compatibility and beliefs.

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So I am an atheist. I am without god(s). It's quite simple. Whatever else I am is in addition to the term atheist. It is simply one word to define one thing.

 

mwc

 

I agree here. It's the base. Just as Christianity basis is a Christian. I call myself a Christian, but by opinions, some may classify me in certain sect, whichever. I don't adhere to any denominations because, as MWC said in regard to atheist; it would be an extension to the original definition of Christian, adding different flavors.

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Seriously. This is getting old. Own the fucking label. Pussies.

 

I agree!

 

This phenomenon must have come about because people these days were raised all their lives being told they were "unique" and "special." Horse shit!!!

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As you stated, the Atheist concept is also in starting to evolve into different areas of labeling. Maybe there should be an orthodox atheist, and liberal atheist. :HaHa: I'm sure I will get heat for that one. :nono:

 

Actually, I think you're onto something there. Ebert is a "liberal atheist" as opposed to "fundamentalist atheist." :lmao:

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As you stated, the Atheist concept is also in starting to evolve into different areas of labeling. Maybe there should be an orthodox atheist, and liberal atheist. :HaHa: I'm sure I will get heat for that one. :nono:

 

Actually, I think you're onto something there. Ebert is a "liberal atheist" as opposed to "fundamentalist atheist." :lmao:

 

Well, he's going to hell whatever he is. Damn pinko!

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Everybody is different though, opinionated. An atheist to a conservative Christian may imply, baby-eater. Whereas, to someone just not religious, it may mean nothing, and they could care less. To an atheist, it is whatever view of the other atheist, going on and on, until compatibility is mixed. Same to a Christian toward Atheist. Some Christians may be Bible beating, bigots to Atheist. A non-religious person may still, just not really care. To the other Christian, a Christian in the melting pot of Christianity, still being held to compatibility and beliefs.
And? What's your point? I never said that all Christians were the same. If a Christian knows that not all atheists are baby eaters, then I think that's a good thing. My point still stands that the majority of Christians have negative views of atheists and because of these negative views, I think it's important for us to come out as atheists for those that are able to come out to show people how false their views are. That atheists are people like everybody else and there are good and bad ones but that atheist does not = baby eater.

 

I have no interest in megachurches with jocular millionaire pastors. I think what happens in them is socio-political, not spiritual.
How does he know that fundamentalists don't experience anything spiritual in their lives? Who defines what counts as spiritual and what counts as being solely socio-political? I might think fundies are batshit insane and that most of them are closed minded bigots, but nor will I slight their experiences by saying they aren't as spiritual as liberals just because I don't agree with them and think they're crazy. Which is funny since fundies would use the same argument against Ebert's Catholic church, that they're not experiencing true spirituality and they're just a political church.

 

If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, we must regard their beliefs with the same respect that our own deserve.
Why should I respect the beliefs of a man who believes that condoms cause AIDs and tries to actively cover up sex scandals? Why should any religious beliefs deserve special respect over other differences in opinions? Would Ebert respect somebody's belief that there are fairies in their garden? And it's funny he says this right after bashing fundies for not being truly spiritual. And yes, if I was doing something incredibly stupid that might cause harm to others, I would want them to tell me before I make a major mistake. Why would I not want them to? To not let people know when they're doing something foolish and potentially dangerous I think is what's truly disrespectful.

 

I am not a believer, not an atheist, not an agnostic. I am still awake at night, asking how? I am more content with the question than I would be with an answer.
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but is he somehow implying that believers, atheists, and agnostics, do not care about the question? That believers, atheists, and agnostics are not sitting awake at night asking how? And why shouldn't the answer be just as important as the question? If you don't care about the answer, why bother asking the question in the first place? Why can't you care about both the question and finding the answer to it at the same time? Why must the two be mutually exclusive? And what does that have to do with labels?
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Here's my question: "I don't want to be labeled for what I don't believe in." "I don't want to be defined by what I'm not." "Calling yourself an atheist is just telling people what you don't believe, not what you do."

 

Why are these valid arguments?

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Here's my question: "I don't want to be labeled for what I don't believe in." "I don't want to be defined by what I'm not." "Calling yourself an atheist is just telling people what you don't believe, not what you do."

 

Why are these valid arguments?

 

I don't necessarily see them as arguments. This is just his view of himself. It's not wrong, and those who do embrace the label aren't wrong. I consider myself an atheist, but I also consider myself a secular humanist. I agree with what Phanta said about Quid's post. It's a step towards the positive. The label "atheist" is considered to be a negative label, and I think it's considered to be negative mostly because of the stereotypes about atheists. We're seen as bitter, angry people a lot of the time, particularly by xians. That's why someone can say, "I don't believe in god, but I don't consider myself to be an atheist." People think it's this radical position, like you have to hate god and everything about religion in order to be an atheist. It's a view that's based mostly in ignorance of what atheism actually is and it's perpetuated by those who choose not to understand it.

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  • 2 weeks later...
At the risk of sounding wishy-washy *please don't hurt me mwc* :grin: I get both of these posts. On one hand, I think people need to own labels in order to help us identify each other, but on the other hand it is sometimes hard to make labels fit just right.

 

For example, I want to own the label atheist because I do not believe there is a God. If I water the atheist label down and call myself something else, I will not be helping our numbers. There is strength in numbers.

 

On the other hand, I hate to call myself an atheist because many people do not really understand what it means. A lot of Christians, including my family, think atheist means someone who has purposefully rejected God (as opposed to simply not believing in him, which you can't help) or they think it means Satanist or they think it means that the atheist would not accept God even if he showed himself physically and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he exists. Well, atheist means none of these things to me. I certainly would change my mind about his existence if he popped up in front of me right now. LOL. So, maybe my family would understand the term agnostic better, even though that's not really what I am.

 

If I had a third hand (or maybe I should move on to feet?) this would take me back to the importance of owning the label. Folks will never understand the term atheist unless we own and explain it. Sigh. My little brain can't handle all these conflicting opinions inside itself.

 

 

Sounds to me like your family's right you have rejected belief in Him.

But your family still loves you. So they propably are driving you sorta crazy trying to wittness to you.

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Thanks Mr. Cowboy for finding the core truth in this whole matter. The only reason people become non-believers, ex-Xtians, naturalists, or whatever you want to call it is because they have rejected your imaginary, undetectable, thoroughly useless invisible friend. Have you really been paying attention to what people have been saying?

 

Back on the main subject, i can see why people want to avoid being labeled atheist, especially when there are many other terms that carry less negative connotations and at least imply the same thing. And that was a good point about its connection to religion. That's why people avoid certain labels. Personally, i used to think gay meant a timid, effeminate man who loves musicals and Judy Garland, but as i've gotten older and wiser i have found that they cover the full range of human characteristics, i.e. many do not love musicals, walk funny or work in a hair salon. So for me, i prefer the term secular humanist. I would rather avoid religious confrontations when possible, but i admire those who will cop to the label of atheist and suffer whatever consequences result.

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