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Old 03-12-2014, 03:25 PM
 
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Here's a question that has been stuck in my head for a really long time, waiting for the right opportunity to ask it. I post it on this forum, because I'm searching for opinions. There are no right or wrong answers here, so feel free to say whatever you want, however you want. Anyway, the question is this: is atheism compatible with venerating ancestors?

Think of it like this: a family prepares a special home altar. On the altar table are foods, money, and incense for the deceased. It's a way of remembering and honoring the dead.
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Old 03-12-2014, 04:57 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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If it is as simple you describe..."It's a way of remembering and honoring the dead" and no deity is introduced, then there is no incapability with atheism.


If no deity is introduced, but there is a claim of spirits or ghosts involved, then those who see god and spirits as separate dynamics will say that there is no incapability with atheism. Others whose atheism is founded on the idea that nothing exists outside of natural law, might think that you have crossed the line.

If a deity is introduced, then obviously there is a primary incompatibility.
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Old 03-12-2014, 06:00 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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A custom for keeping the memory of the dead alive within family members is just that -- a custom. It need not require a belief in the supernatural, much less in gods.

To my western mind, to "venerate" is just a notch below "worship" so I tend to think of venerating ancestors as tantamount to ancestor worship / deification. But as you are describing it, "veneration" is no different in principle than the way I remember and occasionally reflect on the positive aspects and memories of my own deceased family members.
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Old 03-12-2014, 07:23 PM
 
181 posts, read 177,196 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
A custom for keeping the memory of the dead alive within family members is just that -- a custom. It need not require a belief in the supernatural, much less in gods.

To my western mind, to "venerate" is just a notch below "worship" so I tend to think of venerating ancestors as tantamount to ancestor worship / deification. But as you are describing it, "veneration" is no different in principle than the way I remember and occasionally reflect on the positive aspects and memories of my own deceased family members.
Cool. Tell me more how you remember and reflect on the positive aspects and memories of your own deceased family members (i.e. keeping cremation urns; food offerings; burning spirit money; making requests to a spirit, not a god, on behalf of family, performing some sort of ritualistic behavior in remembrance of the deceased person).
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Old 03-12-2014, 07:44 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Originally Posted by McDweller View Post
Cool. Tell me more how you remember and reflect on the positive aspects and memories of your own deceased family members (i.e. keeping cremation urns; food offerings; burning spirit money; making requests to a spirit, not a god, on behalf of family, performing some sort of ritualistic behavior in remembrance of the deceased person).
Strictly in between my ears. I don't ritualize it. Ritual can be useful for many folks, but it doesn't really float my boat.

I think about my late wife, brother, parents, etc., whenever it comes up organically for me, and I typically take a minute or two to remember some positive contribution they made to my life or that of others.
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:03 PM
Status: "Watching America made small." (set 1 day ago)
 
Location: Ontario, Canada
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My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and others who have passed were mostly Christian. When I drive past the church in which my parents were married and I attended as a youth, I make a cross on my forehead with my right thumb - just as my father did whenever he passed any Catholic church, anywhere.

After I form the cross, I think of each deceased loved one in turn and hope their spirits are well.*


*I'm something of an interloper here, as I am neither atheist or agnostic. Not Christian either, though. Might qualify as "neutral."
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:10 PM
 
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The only thing that is compatible with atheism is the suspension of a belief in a deity. Atheism doesn't tell anyone to do anything. So yes, you can 'venerate' your fallen ancestors, believe in the loch ness monster, flying spaghetti monster, and bigfoot and no one can make the claim that you are not being a good atheist!
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:26 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Originally Posted by SteelDragon View Post
The only thing that is compatible with atheism is the suspension of a belief in a deity. Atheism doesn't tell anyone to do anything. So yes, you can 'venerate' your fallen ancestors, believe in the loch ness monster, flying spaghetti monster, and bigfoot and no one can make the claim that you are not being a good atheist!
True, the beliefs you listed would only make someone a bad rationalist or an indiscriminate skeptic.
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Old 03-13-2014, 05:40 AM
 
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Grandstander sums it up. It would only make one a theist if some sort of god-belief was involved in the ancestor reverence. Worship is a little bit too much towards making gods of them in themselves.

Performing some sort of ritual is bad rationalism (I'm not sure what an indiscriminate skeptic is - we should apply skepticism to all subjects without discrimination, I would have thought) but remembering ancestors is fine. In mementos, photos and writings and one can be indulgent about other of the family offering cats to their memory, rewrapping their mummies and daddies and sweeping the graves - or indeed making annual trips to look glumly at a rose bush as though they half expected zombie granny to pop up with the blasted plant stuck on her head.
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Old 03-13-2014, 05:54 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Originally Posted by AREQUIPA View Post
Performing some sort of ritual is bad rationalism...
Not necessarily. Rituals are not necessarily connected to supernatural or superstitious beliefs. Technically all any ritual is, is something repetitive that aids one's mental focus. It is in that sense a valid tool for aiding some people with focus and calmness. It is only when people think the ritual has some sort of inherent power or mojo of its own that it acquires irrational aspects.
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