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Moving Through Clouds

The most profound periods of personal growth for me tend to happen when I'm either alone or transitioning between groups of friends. I think I store a lot of self-observations and things-to-fix for these periods. It's hard to reinvent oneself and let one's social bonds re-sort themselves appropriately, and the habits of existing bonds inhibit personal growth. Ideally, family and very very close friends can come along on that journey, but it's easier for me to shift when people further out are not there.

I've been thinking a lot about what this move is going to mean for me. I've had a lot of frustration with most of the social circles in Pittsburgh; people with annoyingly exclusive circles of friends, problems I've made, times when I've either been too dogged or not dogged enough in keeping friendships alive, etc.

I thought this description of atheist perspectives to be reasonably accurate; it doesn't *quite* describe me.

==About Atheism==I think that Atheism is the most reasonable stance on a single issue, but it is not enough; we should strive to better ourselves, both as individuals and as societies. I believe that there is no evidence to support the notion of gods, and an adequate understanding of human nature tells us how we've created gods and what social/philosophical/other insecurities have led the idea to be created/sustained over so much of our history in so many forms. I recognise that intelligent people can believe in gods, but I believe that various flaws in their thinking, subtle or gross, lead them to belief.

==About God==There are no gods

==About the Trinity==The trinity is a confusing, never-fully-worked-out effort to deal with the conflict between a desire for monotheism and the roles of HaShem and Yeshua in the standard version of the Christian story. Different strands of Christianity disagree over the details of this doctrine (those that have it). I place no stock in it, as I lack both a belief in gods and an impetus to try to reconcile the monotheistic/polytheistic difficulties at the heart of christianity.

==About Jesus==I don't particularly like the teachings, I do recognise a set of possible philosophies from the various (christian, muslim) accounts of the person, and I give a limited respect to Yeshua as some kind of religious philosopher (as I do to other philosophers in general).

==About the (Christian) Bible==It's interesting as an ancient cultural artifact and as a complicated statement on some philosophical matters. In my adult life, I don't draw inspiration from it specifically in any meaningful way.

==About the Afterlife==I don't believe an Afterlife is likely. I have exactly one hedge on my otherwise solid bet that ties to my notions about the nature of intelligence (patterns in data) and the lack of meaningfulness of instantiation of patterns; this perspective is deeply alien to traditional notions of an afterlife.

==About Salvation==I don't believe in sin or salvation. I do claim that people should attempt to live their lives in ways that are compatible with a well-considered (either detailed, or at least good-natured-if-vague) notion of the public good, and I have specific ideas about that notion that I would like to spread. I don't think any of this is worked into the universe itself, which if it can be characterised at all can be said to be indifferent to human concerns, morals, and values.

==Postnote==I am amused by the suggestions on how to talk to someone like me. As a philosopher, I have always been willing to think, at possible cost to reputation and friends. I probably would have (slightly) more friends were I not so far off the beaten path; even for an atheist. Yes, talking about sin is not likely to convince me of everything; likewise with quoting holy books. I don't know if Yeshua was crucified, but I doubt people are going to be able to find evidence to prove a resurrection. Personal testimony that christianity may have changed people's lives is not likely to make a difference to me; I know it has, as I know many other philosophies would. So what? Life philosophies are powerful things.

There's a grab-bag of further arguments designed to prepare people to argue with Atheists. None of them are any more threatening.

I sometimes find it odd that so many science-fiction authors are conservative.


and the habits of existing bonds inhibit personal growth

yeah, i've been noticing this. for me, it leads to a lot of meta-thought ("how am i behaving vs how did i used to behave" all the time), which i'd really rather just leave behind. i think it might be an additional exercise in relaxation/focus to combat that on top of the more primary growth.
I agree that that's a surprisingly good description. I happen to *also* have a humanist moral stance, but this is not necessarily part of atheism, so I don't really mind that they didn't include it. What bothers me most is the line about the Bible--I think very few atheists would state that it is full of lies, as such, or is designed for anything (except in the context of the Vatican deciding which books to include). I think most of the Bible is written by people who honestly believed they were writing the truth, but were just people, you guys.
The further arguments hurt my brain D:
There is one important thing they prompt though: the inadequacy of science alone to provide a full perspective on the nature of things. To me, this is a bright arrow pointing towards philosophy. Science and a philosophy together can constitute a worldview. An acknowledgement that science and philosophy don't use the same methods and are not aiming at quite the same areas of inquiry defuses a lot of their further arguments.

Perhaps they rely on people being reluctant to tread philosophical waters.

Edited at 2011-05-10 10:42 pm (UTC)
I think very few atheists would state that it is full of lies, as such, or is designed for anything

Indeed. I think that most of the Bible is not true and/or bad advice, but I don't really believe it was written in bad faith. Yeah, that blurs a bit in later iterations which were more clearly bids for power, but it's pretty easy to see how large chunks of the Bible could have sounded like good ideas at the time, especially when considered as parables.

I think the "further arguments" page is focusing too strongly on primal causes, to which I'd probably answer, sure, fine, I'll allow for a "supernatural" primal cause (inasmuch as I admit that the origins of the universe are beyond my understanding), but how does that prove a particular anthropomorphized, legalistic, nitpicking deity, exactly?

...and of course his "atheists cause abortions" argument makes me a bit twitchy with anger.
Regarding abortion in Christianity, it's interesting that conservatives have adopted such a strong consensus on conception as the great moral divide. In times past, there was active debate about stages and times of Ensoulment, and while abortion was considered a sin, before a certain point in pregnancy it was not broadly considered a form of murder as a human soul had not yet entered the body.

This can be a fun turf on which to engage the abortion-is-murder crowd.

Edited at 2011-05-10 10:51 pm (UTC)
My specific complaint is his claim that atheists are the root cause of abortion; he uses it as a rebuttal to "Do you know how many people have died because of religion?"

Heck, I consider abortion sub-optimal, and would gladly see a decrease in abortion rates. If nothing else, it can be a major medical procedure, and, yes, it's morally loaded for many people -- even a woman who has decided within her own morality to accept her choice may face shunning from her peers and relatives. But if there's any one thing that contributes above all to abortion rates, it's abstinence-only education and insurance plans that refuse to cover contraceptives. And I don't think those are exactly the fault of the atheists. (And if there's some more things that contribute to abortion rates, it's: sexual coercion, under-education of "traditionally" raised women, and lack of jobs available to many women that are adequate to support children, all founded on outdated gender roles.) [Some] atheists may support abortions, but I'd say Christianity causes a lot more of them than atheism does.