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What I Want...and What I Don't


RunawayBride
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As I sift through my beliefs, examining each element, deciding what I DO belief and what I DON'T I've come to one conclusion: love.

 

Christianity is clearly in my "Don't Believe" box. I simply can't conjure up faith and suspend logic in order to genuinely believe it. HOWEVER, I have no desire to become an Ex-Christian Missionary. I have no desire to belittle my Christian friends and try to dismantle their faith. I have no desire to prosthelytize my newly found truths and insights in hopes that others will follow my lead.

 

Outside of Christian rhetoric, which assigned an agenda to loving others, I've actually found it easier to love/tolerate/accept the vast diversity of beliefs. I have no agenda aside from sheer fascination with the life journey of other people.

 

I don't want to grow bitter against Christianity - or religion in general - because I feel like this closes my mind. Hatred and pride, whether inside of religion or outside of it, grows ugly and sinister, creating a more hostile world. Bitterness is limiting, and I want to live unlimited. I don't want to be burdened with dark, heavy emotions that come from being wounded and I choose NOT to allow my past experiences with Christianity to impede my future exploration of life.

 

I don't want to convince myself that I have it all figured out...in fact, I LIKE the mystery of life and the possibility that there are things unexplainable and beyond myself. I'm growing more comfortable in the "I Don't Know's". As I get to know myself better, and trust my abilities to reason, I feel I can approach life with a new clarity and understanding.

 

I wrote all this before having coffee. And now.....I need to bow to the alter of Espresso. Pardon me.

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My intuition here seems to mostly resonate with you RB. I don't want to rail against Christianity. I want to be constructive. I'd rather cultivate understanding than battle ignorance. I think that's a subtle but important distinction to make.

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That was a beautiful post RunawayBride, thank you. I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through. When I first left religion behind, I still had the same mindset. I found myself wanting to ‘share’ my new message. It took me years to recognize that my way is not the only way and that allowing others to live their life as they please is not only less stressful, but much more satisfying. I don’t have to be ‘right’ anymore.

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I thought that was very wise, runawaybride. I congratulate you on your insight. It took me awhile to abandon the bitterness. Its hard for me to be around Christianity much, but I see some people who apparently get comfort and inspiration from it. It isn't my place to bring them down. I say live and let live unless someone insists on forcing it on me.

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I don't want to convince myself that I have it all figured out...in fact, I LIKE the mystery of life and the possibility that there are things unexplainable and beyond myself. I'm growing more comfortable in the "I Don't Know's".

I pretty much agree with you. I currently live in NW Indiana, at the southern edge of the Chicago metro area, and I have an account on Meetup.com largely for the purpose of maintaining some business contacts. There is a meetup for atheists not far from here, but if I joined that group, I would be "outed" to several colleagues and, potentially, family members, who would probably be creeped out about it. Here in the Midwest, most folks are just not able to handle freethinking. They will tolerate it, more or less, on the general theory that people are entitled to their (un)beliefs, but it's far too challenging for them to actually be personally acquainted with a known Godless Bastard. So I treat this kind of thing as Too Much Information -- I am not comfortable "coming out" publicly as an atheist as it would just not be the kind and thoughtful thing to do, nor would it be practical.

 

My stepson doesn't get this, he is a bit of a radical, and he feels that if other people have a problem with his atheism, it is their problem. Technically he's right, and technically I don't really care what, for example, my Catholic employee or the rather conservative CEO of my primary client thinks of my religious beliefs, but I know it will probably impact their comfort levels with me and therefore our ability to do business together.

 

And true, I suppose I see no percentage in being judged by others about personal convictions that are basically none of their business in the first place. The fact of the matter is that we live in a world that is mostly given over to some form of religiosity or other, and we have to function in it. After weighing all these pros and cons, I can understand now why some gays just say, the hell with it and become very vocal and public about their sexual orientation, and some do not, or choose some middle ground. The life of an activist is not for everyone.

 

So if I elect to explore that atheist group I'll open up a new gmail account and a new meetup account under a pseudonym and join it that way.

 

Apropos of your point, I don't want to destabilize people in their faith if it works for them for all the above reasons, but I recognize that there are people here who are passionate about religion being a pox on the house of humanity and that it is abusive, gross, immoral and fattening and needs to be Stamped Out. They would feel that if I don't confront it for the perfidy that it is, I'm just enabling it. I get that. I just don't feel like I'm in a place to shoulder that kind of personal burden and pay that kind of personal price -- and to what end? It seems that such an approach tends to generate more heat than light. People will naturally drift away from dogma as part of their personal journeys -- when they are ready to do so. I don't know how crucial it is for me to be a gadfly and poke them about it all the time. It seems to me that life itself points the way and if they can't or won't see that, nothing I say or do will help them, but may very well harm me a great deal.

 

Maybe it all comes back down to what you said -- love. Maybe love is the way. And it seems to me that the loving way to approach life is to live out your convictions with integrity, not to make a point or promote a cause, but just to do the right thing by yourself and others. If you believe that then you have to give Christians the space to do the same, as best they know how, too. And if a Christian happens to know you are an unbeliever and yet also that you are as loving and caring and kind as any believer they know, that will do more than anything else to get them thinking about their stereotypes of atheists as angry, bitter, self-absorbed hedonists.

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Proselytizing gets a bad rap.

I thought of making a thread a few days ago about proselytizing after seeing this video where Penn Jillette makes an excellent point on the subject:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FonO45D7x3Y

 

Now I see this thread ... obviously I disagree with the latter, as much as I can appreciate the sentiments of both.

 

"Live and let live" doesn't wash with me primarily because most proselytizing happens to children. Most of us know how strong that is. In my case I was proselytized to by family, clergy, teachers, friends, everyone I knew. The few people I ever ran into that might not have been Christians didn't want to talk about the subject. The unwritten rule in my family concerning religious indoctrination was to shower the kids with it, then leave them alone once they were ostensibly ready to think for themselves. So I think most people in my family ended up never going to church yet taking most of the bible literally. I had a bit of a different story through being the only one to go to a Christian school, so my religious instruction remained regular and compulsory until I graduated. After that, I'd have been just fine following along with the rest of my family and never questioning my faith. But a friend I'd met at that school had some overzealous convictions bordering on fanatacism, and we'd sometimes get into some heated debates. The things he said were nuttier than a squirrel's cheeks in October, but I never let it interfere with what I did value in him.

 

Eventually, I left Christianity, and as has been said here, I drifted away in my own time. But his conversion to Calvinism forced me to step back and look at the whole religion honestly and dispassionately. Later I started listening to Richard Dawkins, who had taken it upon himself to proselytize what he believed. If it hadn't been for that, I'd probably still be a Christian or a theist of some kind. Would deism or pantheism have made me happier than atheism? It's possible. Would someone else with my history have been happier as a Christian? Sure. But the point is, I'm glad I was proselytized to ... as an adult. I'm glad someone took the time to try to convince me to believe what they believed at an age where I could consent to it and truly draw my own conclusions with experience and reasoning. It may not have produced the desired result, but it made me think.

 

I think it's a misconception/red herring to say that proselytizing entails that you're cocksure of yourself and think that what's right for you is right for everyone else. I don't see that in simply being passionate about something and advocating that others at least consider what you have to say. I don't even think ridicule crosses the line, if it's carefully used to call attention to the absurdity of an idea, not to belittle the person or obfuscate not having an actual argument.

 

One of the most important lessons I think many of us took from deconverting is to admit that we might be wrong. There's nothing to proselytizing that says you can't still admit that. It should be a learning process for everyone. And it saddens me that in our culture now that's being stifled in the name of not hurting people's feelings because they've chosen to identify themselves with their beliefs and take any dissent personally. Sadder still because that begins with childhood indoctrination. Only when one is old enough to think for oneself are they protected from indoctrination ... when they no longer need the protection. Why is it okay to tell a defenseless child they're going to hell for not accepting Jesus if it's wrong and "just as bad as the fundies" to question a grown adult on it? That's not right.

 

DesertBob is right that activism isn't for everybody, in every situation. But it's a matter of knowing how to pick your battles. And we know there are perfectly valid reasons to pick them.

 

I'm just saying there's a place for proselytizing as well as a place for letting things be. It doesn't have to be either extreme.

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I think it's a misconception/red herring to say that proselytizing entails that you're cocksure of yourself and think that what's right for you is right for everyone else. I don't see that in simply being passionate about something and advocating that others at least consider what you have to say. I don't even think ridicule crosses the line, if it's carefully used to call attention to the absurdity of an idea, not to belittle the person or obfuscate not having an actual argument.

 

 

 

It's an interesting point you bring up, but I think there is a fine line between prosthelytizing and passionately sharing ideas. What draws that fine line is motive. Are you intentionally trying to convert someone from their way of thinking to yours? Or are you simply sharing ideas, however passionately, and opening a door of discussion without agenda?

 

I think prosthelytizing DOES say you're "cocksure" of yourself. It is stating that your way of thinking is better than someone else's and therefore, they should abandon theirs and subscribe to yours. That sounds pretty sure to me.

 

Personally, I'm all for sharing ideas, debating, discussion, ALWAYS with willing participants, as you addressed. The outcome might even be a changed mind. But to intentionally provoke people, and to shred their faith, in order to convert them: I'm not cool with that. So, on my own journey, I'm not interested in adopting an agenda of conversion. Trust me, I'm passionate and unashamed to share my discoveries with people, but not with the motive of convincing them to embrace my ideas.

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I think it's a misconception/red herring to say that proselytizing entails that you're cocksure of yourself and think that what's right for you is right for everyone else. I don't see that in simply being passionate about something and advocating that others at least consider what you have to say. I don't even think ridicule crosses the line, if it's carefully used to call attention to the absurdity of an idea, not to belittle the person or obfuscate not having an actual argument.

 

 

 

It's an interesting point you bring up, but I think there is a fine line between prosthelytizing and passionately sharing ideas. What draws that fine line is motive. Are you intentionally trying to convert someone from their way of thinking to yours? Or are you simply sharing ideas, however passionately, and opening a door of discussion without agenda?

 

I think prosthelytizing DOES say you're "cocksure" of yourself. It is stating that your way of thinking is better than someone else's and therefore, they should abandon theirs and subscribe to yours. That sounds pretty sure to me.

 

Personally, I'm all for sharing ideas, debating, discussion, ALWAYS with willing participants, as you addressed. The outcome might even be a changed mind. But to intentionally provoke people, and to shred their faith, in order to convert them: I'm not cool with that. So, on my own journey, I'm not interested in adopting an agenda of conversion. Trust me, I'm passionate and unashamed to share my discoveries with people, but not with the motive of convincing them to embrace my ideas.

 

My motive, within the confines of a mutually consented discussion, would be satisfied if the other person listened to what I had to say and took it into consideration. I could only do my best to return the favor, as could the other person, because debate unfortunately tends to make people just want to score a victory and not learn anything. But awareness and understanding of other views should be a mutual goal. However, I don't think this is inconsistent with proselytizing because ...

 

The question is, if it's your way of thinking to begin with, does that not mean you think it's the best way, even if only marginally so? However tenuously you hold that view, however open minded you are, the fact remains that you're holding it as the best view, and until something else turns up enough evidence, good arguments, etc, that's the view you function with. I might agree with what you're saying if you defined it as thinking your ideas are the best simply because they're yours or for poorly constructed reasons; that would be arrogant. But in terms of pitting one idea vs. another in the arenas of logic, evidence, etc., then I support people trying to convince each other. I consider that a beneficial form of proselytizing. But again, unfortunately it doesn't work out that way very often.

 

In addition to sharing my views, would I want someone to say, stop believing in god because I argued them out of the idea? Yes I would, in some cases. But there are others who aren't ready for that or simply would be worse off, and aren't hurting anyone through their beliefs, so it would be arrogant to think everyone needs to be an atheist. And to that I say, if you're a theist, make sure you're prepared to have your beliefs challenged before you agree to debate me, because that's what I'll be going for.

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Do I hound my friends with my atheism? No. In saying that though, my atheism changes my views on things obviously. I'm not going to sit idly by and continue to have religious beliefs shape our laws, especially in regards to same sex marriage. I see much harm in religion but it does have positive aspects I guess. I'm willing to let it alone so long as someone else's religion doesn't try and tell ME what to do.

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"Live and let live" doesn't wash with me primarily because most proselytizing happens to children. Most of us know how strong that is. In my case I was proselytized to by family, clergy, teachers, friends, everyone I knew.

 

So was I. I was deeply conditioned from the age of four to believe in Christ. I still say "Live and let live" UNLESS someone is trying to actively force it on you, then you may decide to pursue debate, argument, and trying to reason with them. At least you can make your position clear and decide whether or not you want to see that person again. Naturally, children are not in a position to do this yet.

 

As far as this question of children being raised in the religion goes, I believe that my parents did what they thought was right. It was absolutely wrong for me, but they raised me in what they believed was the truth and what was best in their view. Naturally I wish it had been different, and i certainly wish their views were different now, but they are unchanged. I can't argue that Christianity hasn't worked for them. They are married for over 50 years, always were financially able to support their children, and they seem happy now, even after one of their children died at a relatively early age (52).

 

How are you going to remedy this situation of families raising their children as they see fit, with their values, their religion or their world view? Should religion be suppressed by the government? I mean, what would you do? Just complaining about it is not going to help matters, as you look around and become more and more embittered.

 

I am not an activist. I don't like the self-righteous approach that I have seen in some activists I have known and I don't want to be that way.

 

Its true that there may come a time when the government or others try to force it on you (it has happened in history before) but, fortunately we don't have that yet. I see nothing wrong with voting for people who at least seem to not be in favor of making this country a Christian theocracy.

 

Just my personal opinion of course, but I am not terribly impressed by Dawkins, either. It is just a bit embarrassing somehow to listen to him and some of the other "new atheists". I admit that perhaps its because I am not an atheist, but he should stick to writing books about evolution.

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I just lost all respect for Peirs Morgan. Penn didn't do himself any favors either. That was a shitty response to really rather easily answered questions.

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I just lost all respect for Peirs Morgan. Penn didn't do himself any favors either. That was a shitty response to really rather easily answered questions.

 

Yes, I just watched the video. It is just embarrassing from both sides. I didn't like it either, although I suspect we have different reasons for thinking it wasn't great.

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I don't want to convince myself that I have it all figured out...in fact, I LIKE the mystery of life and the possibility that there are things unexplainable and beyond myself. I'm growing more comfortable in the "I Don't Know's". As I get to know myself better, and trust my abilities to reason, I feel I can approach life with a new clarity and understanding.

 

I can recall making some semblance of the same conclusion after growing weary of "winning the world over to my version of a higher consciousness."

 

The "savior complex" proved to be unbearable the day I started to listen to what my misery was telling me!

 

As I sought relief from my burden to "save the world," I began to understand how, the role I had been assigned (and had accepted) by the authorities of my family of origin, my culture , my "family of faith" etc, was only a substitute and one that met needs other than my own, and of which I had outgrown. My misery became the impetus for growth.

 

Three or four months ago I called a guy I had worked with some 12 years ago. He now owns the company of which we were both working back then. After the customary "how have you been," he began rattling off how much our conversations had meant to him, how much what we had talked about "opened up" his thinking. I was totally taken back, astonished. At the moment he was speaking I experienced "genuine innocents." I had no clue that the things we had discussed even mattered to him!

 

We were to people trying to find our way, "spilling our gut" over a sack lunch.What we talked about mattered. His life and demeanor influenced the way I wanted to see myself. and my notions mattered to him!

 

"Genuine innocents" caught me by surprise!

 

I'm completely surprised how freeing it is to trust life "with a new clarity and understanding." I'm totally taken back at how utterly transforming it is to go "beyond" my egoic self.

 

Thanks Runaway!

 

saner

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"Live and let live" doesn't wash with me primarily because most proselytizing happens to children. Most of us know how strong that is. In my case I was proselytized to by family, clergy, teachers, friends, everyone I knew.

 

So was I. I was deeply conditioned from the age of four to believe in Christ. I still say "Live and let live" UNLESS someone is trying to actively force it on you, then you may decide to pursue debate, argument, and trying to reason with them. At least you can make your position clear and decide whether or not you want to see that person again. Naturally, children are not in a position to do this yet.

 

As far as this question of children being raised in the religion goes, I believe that my parents did what they thought was right. It was absolutely wrong for me, but they raised me in what they believed was the truth and what was best in their view. Naturally I wish it had been different, and i certainly wish their views were different now, but they are unchanged. I can't argue that Christianity hasn't worked for them. They are married for over 50 years, always were financially able to support their children, and they seem happy now, even after one of their children died at a relatively early age (52).

 

How are you going to remedy this situation of families raising their children as they see fit, with their values, their religion or their world view? Should religion be suppressed by the government? I mean, what would you do? Just complaining about it is not going to help matters, as you look around and become more and more embittered.

 

I am not an activist. I don't like the self-righteous approach that I have seen in some activists I have known and I don't want to be that way.

 

Its true that there may come a time when the government or others try to force it on you (it has happened in history before) but, fortunately we don't have that yet. I see nothing wrong with voting for people who at least seem to not be in favor of making this country a Christian theocracy.

 

Just my personal opinion of course, but I am not terribly impressed by Dawkins, either. It is just a bit embarrassing somehow to listen to him and some of the other "new atheists". I admit that perhaps its because I am not an atheist, but he should stick to writing books about evolution.

 

There's really not much here I disagree with, but my whole point in bringing up childhood indoctrination wasn't that anyone should intervene, but that it's part of an imbalance. Our culture is allowing a situation where we preach to children and protect the sensibilities of adults. The majority opinion gets passed down during the formative years, and nobody says "hands off" until after independant thinking takes place. We can hardly do anything about the first half of that process, but that doesn't mean nothing should done with the other half.

 

All I'm trying to say is for that reason, ideally no one should be discouraged from opening up and saying, "I'd like to talk with you about Jesus/Buddha/Allah/Bhrama/atheism/the collective consciousness/whatever. If the reply is "okay," you should feel free to pitch your ideas as long as you respect personal space and common courtesy. If it's "no thanks," you just go about your business. That should be perfectly okay. But I feel stupid just typing that, because prevailing opinion says you're not allowed to look at it that way. Am I naive to question why something as important to the human experience is so tightly surrounded by social taboos to mind the feelings of grown people?

 

I complain about this stuff and joke about it at a moderate level because it's fun. Once in a while I see a rant here or on youtube or in a book that gets me fired up, but I'm not the "bitter and miserable inside" atheist that's supposed to make me into.

 

I get that Dawkins is a biologist going out of his element to talk about religion. But it's only understandable for him to speak against an institution that gives children and the public bad, unsupported information about something he's devoted himself to teaching and replacing it with a story that involves threats of hellfire.

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I just lost all respect for Peirs Morgan. Penn didn't do himself any favors either. That was a shitty response to really rather easily answered questions.

 

If you mean that Penn should have pointed out that atheists not having answers doesn't mean the answer is his god, it looked like he was going in that direction but just not hitting the mark. I just liked what he said about proselytizing.

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