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Do atheists understand religion and spirituality?

After reading some questions on here, I was wondering, do atheists understand that religions are myths that are not supposed to be taken literally word for word? Do they realize when one accepts certain spiritual metaphysical aspects to reality, that does not mean they believe in some supernatural being who lives in the sky watching over and judging mankind.

When someone accepts the idea of god, it means that person has seen their self in the whole. A spiritual person no longer believes in ego, their self and the rest of nature are the same thing. Which is probably why the bible says the most important thing is to love god (the whole of nature) and your fellow man as yourself. This is where the concept of sin comes from. All sin stems from the ego. Sins are certain actions and mind states that impede us from creating a more heavenly existence and reducing suffering for all people and creatures. Basically, the seven deadly sins are at the root of most of the worlds problems. It is our own fear and greed to blame for things like world hunger, the collapse of the eco system, and the mass amounts of violence and weapons in the world.

The point of religion is to express these ideas and concepts using stories and archetypal myths. The problem with religion is that much of the spiritual connection has been lost in our materialistic society and all we are left with is dogma and the insitutions. We have to keep in mind that religion is not meant to be a 100% account of truth that is set in stone. I just do not see what is wrong in bealiving that faith in peace, love, compassion, understanding, and atrusim can lead to a better existence.

17 Comments

  • Most of us understand religion and spirituality completely because most of us used to be religious. I was a theist for years.

    Unfortunately, your vision of belief does not match that of the average theist and certainly not the average Christian. The average Christian does believe there is a supernatural being who watches over and judges mankind. They believe this being cares more about the status of people’s gentiles than the suffering of millions of children in third world countries. At least it would seem this way considering their actions. The average Christian does not seem concerned about love and compassion or altruism as they are willing to fight to keep condoms out of HIV infested Africa or will fight stem cell research – things that could save lives and ease suffering all in the name of what they think their god wants.

    I understand religion. I understand that religion makes otherwise rational people fight against compassion – the very thing they claim their faith bestows upon them.

  • i was once a christian but i just grew out of it, yes i understand what you are saying but you do not stand for every religious person out there.

  • Problems arise when the religous or spritual person buys into the notion that their religion and God is the one “true” path.

  • You need to understand most atheists were raised in religious homes and/or attended parochial schools. We understand the mythology very well indeed, thank you. That’s why we don’t believe any of it.

    Peace, love, compassion, understanding and altruism are all just fine. If religion actually reflected any of those values, we’d all be better off.

  • Hi Keira,

    Yes, I understand what you’re saying (though it doesn’t apply to some of the fundamentalists here).

    However, I still have very reasonable reasons for not believing in anything supernatural:

    1) Supernatural explanations are ALWAYS replaced by natural explanations:
    All of these things were once attributed to god(s) or spirits: floods, hurricanes, the existence and movement of the Sun, Moon and stars, the tides, earthquakes, disease and health, success or failure of crops, rain or drought, tidal waves, eclipses, why children look like their parents, the diversity of life. ALL of them have since been explained as our understanding of the natural world has improved.

    Number of natural explanations replaced by supernatural explanations: zero.

    2) Inconsistency of world religions:
    If God is so important and ever-present in our lives, why can’t anybody agree on anything about God? If God is not important or ever-present, why does God matter?

    3) Arguments for God are always weak:
    The arguments presented by religious people fall into the same categories: argument from authority (God exists because the Bible says so), argument from personal experience (I just KNOW God exists), and special pleading (God is above being questioned). None of these are based on logic or evidence.

    4) God keeps shrinking:
    In the Old Testament, God parted seas and made worlds. Now God seems to only give comfort to a few individuals, magically craft the occasional bacterial flagellum, and put his image on toast or tree bark.

    5) Religion comes from parents:
    Children may learn more about subjects than their parents, may have differing views about so many things (politics, social issues, etc.). But religion is almost always chosen, not by the individual, but by the individual’s parents.

    6) All components of the “soul” are affected by physical things:
    Consciousness, identity, personality, character, emotions – these can all be affected by drugs, brain injuries, etc. So all appear to be based on physical mechanisms. No supernatural component is required. No supernatural soul means no afterlife.

    7) Nothing supernatural has EVER withstood testing:
    When someone claiming paranormal powers or a paranormal event agrees to have it tested, they ALWAYS fail and almost always claim the test was unfair. If gods are supernatural, and if no claim of supernatural has EVER survived testing, why should I believe in gods?
    http://www.csicop.org/si/online.html
    http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html

    8) Most claims of an all-powerful god are untestable or unfalsifiable
    Reality can be tested. A reality-based idea can be proved true or false. But a divine being with no physical form whose actions are indistinguisable from random natural phenomena cannot be tested or falsified. Knowledge or worship of God provides no useful predictions. A small coastal town full of simple, religious villagers is just as likely to get wiped off the map by a tsunami as a big city full of atheists. And if the divine being’s actions are indistinguishable from random nature, why bother to worship him/her/it/them?

    9) Our understanding of God never improves:
    2000 years ago we had a bunch of different religious factions, all bickering or warring over their different interpretations of their gods. That is exactly what we have today. Our understanding of God never improves because there’s nothing to understand. But over the same time period, our understanding of the natural world has grown:
    – from huddling around a wood fire to harnessing the power of the atom;
    – from witch doctors to eradicating smallpox and polio;
    – from astrology to the Hubble Telescope;
    – from mud huts to skyscrapers;
    – from camels to Airbus;
    – etc…

    10) Complete lack of evidence
    If a powerful god wishes our worship, he/she/it need only part a sea, write in the sky or do SOMETHING sufficiently grand and inexplicable, and all religions would unite, all bickering would cease, and all atheists would pray. If a giant voice boomed across the Earth and said “You must protect the planet, must never have more than 2 children, must help a person in need every day, and must stop burning coal and oil within 5 years or I will smite you all”, the entire planet would unite in common purpose.

    I don’t believe that one needs faith in the supernatural to achieve peace, love, compassion, understanding and altruism.

    Please refer to the Center for Inquiry to learn the definition of Secular Humanism.

  • I can’t think of anything
    really, how could I possibly figure out anyone’s motives let alone this diverse group of people who are as divergent as any other group?

    You can poll them in three minutes and get entirely different answers.

  • I’m sorry, I must have missed the question. I’m sure it’s hidden somewhere in that rant.

  • Then we do not have any disagreement whatsoever.

    There are two aspects of religion: the propositional aspect and the spiritual aspect.

    The propositional aspect forms the majority of the religion. It is the propositional aspect that I, as an irreligious person, am having a problem with.

    You are using the spiritual aspect to defend the propostional aspect.

  • Do you understand that’s your own interpretation of your own religion, and you could have been put to death in the middle ages by a christian government and can still be put to death under shariah law for even stating that?

    If your religion were truly spiritual it wouldn’t have a book that divides the world into believers and unbelievers with physical threats for exercising one’s own reason.

  • You wrote: I just do not see what is wrong in bealiving that faith in peace, love, compassion, understanding, and atrusim can lead to a better existence.

    Do you think that atheists are not in support of peace, love, combpassion, understanding, and altruism? Oh, my…. Along with these, many atheists support tolerance, acceptance, education, health care, and aversion to violent approaches to differences of opinion… Oh, my…. What an unthinking slap in the face you tried to deliver.

  • You obviously have never met a fundamentalist Christian or a fundmentalist Muslim for that matter.

    Let me tell you — what you say is good and accurate about most of the spirit-religions out there.

    It’s completely off the mark for the Abrahamic trio.

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