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Old 04-30-2009, 05:33 PM
Location: Nashville, Tn
7,916 posts, read 16,760,580 times
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When I consider my point of view as an atheist and what has finally led me to hold the position that God (I'm referring to the Christian faith) does not exist and that I live in a universe in which there are no supernatural beings I see a couple of things that seem to stand out.
The most obvious problem I can see with the Christian faith is that it's been two thousand years since Jesus was supposed to have been resurrected and he was supposed to have come back to earth but he never did. After such a huge expanse of time I see that as a reason to believe he's never going to.
The creation stories of Genesis with God creating the universe in six days, the obvious mythology of the story of Adam and Eve, the impossible saga of Noah's ark and the countless contradictory passages in the Bible combined with the manic depressive behavior attributed to God appear to me to be overwhelming evidence that the Bible is not based on reality.
No one has ever presented any credible evidence of a miracle, the existence of the soul, life after death, and the list goes on. All of these factors have persuaded me to be an atheist.
I'm interested in hearing what other atheists as well as Christians feel are the most powerful influences that have shaped their belief or lack of belief. I have no doubt of the sincerity of Christians and I know that most of them must have some personal experiences that have led them to hold a point of view that is completely different than mine. So without insulting each other and in the spirit of friendly and constructive debate, what has shaped your beliefs?
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Old 04-30-2009, 05:56 PM
15,764 posts, read 9,505,726 times
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Well isn't it just your dumb luck that you get the new Jewish girl as your first responder?

For me, I don't need proof and I don't need to be right or to disprove someone else's beliefs. As a child, I was exposed to lots of different religions and thought they all were about fables/allegories, rituals, and community - a group to identify with and find meaning together. I thought God was a symbol or totem and never realized we were supposed to believe in his existence any more than we were to believe in Santa. However, I don't deny the existence of God or the possibility of other entities, spirit, or whatever you wish to call it. Nor do I begrudge anyone their faith - quite the opposite, I see value in organized religion for some people. Unfortunately, much harm has been done in the world in the name of religion. Judaism doesn't teach about heaven and hell so that promise/fear wasn't an issue for me. I understand what I believe is "right" or "wrong" and try to live accordingly. So, I expect I will always identify myself as a Jew because of the cultural significance, but I don't participate in the religious rituals. Religious practices, art, history, storytelling - all are fascinating to me and do have value and positive teachings - it's just not something I care to subscribe to. Instead I choose to "take the best and leave the rest."

Interested to read other responses - I hope this thread stays kind xo

ps. you ask about powerful influences - for me it's probably watching and learning - seeing how my parents (mostly) and also family, and people in the world or in literature conduct themselves.
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Old 04-30-2009, 06:24 PM
Location: An absurd world.
5,165 posts, read 8,249,849 times
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There is no evidence of the claims made by any religion.

Simple as that.
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Old 04-30-2009, 07:12 PM
Location: Western NC
651 posts, read 1,274,156 times
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That's a tough, but fascinating, question, MontanaGuy; personally, a myriad of experiences shaped my beliefs.

My religious upbringing was fundamental baptist. My father, who died when I was a baby, was a pastor. Although I never knew my father, I knew his beliefs because they were shared and passed down by my mother. The version of Christianity I learned was not kind and loving. It was more about control, punishment of sins, and isolation from those that did not share our beliefs. We were right, the rest of the world was wrong and evil for being wrong. Even as a child, I questioned why God was so cruel to his creations. Many of God's rules didn't make sense and the punishment for breaking those rules seemed out of proportion to the sin. I did not know this loving and just God so many people talk about.

I later understood that some, but not all, of these rules might exist to help people live a better life but they weren't presented that way by the church. I was taught not to question and even fear doubt as the road to hell. So, for awhile I 'believed', out of fear, but deep down I knew I was going to hell because I really didn't believe. I lacked faith and I couldn't force myself to accept mythological tales and obvious contradictions as truth. But, I could try to pretend and hope God wouldn't know the difference.

I was also taught creationism as science at a Christian school. I really didn't believe that either. The concept that God made the earth 'appear' old just didn't make any sense. Why would God want to trick his creations? Fortunately, my mother took me to the library once a week. I was able to sneak real science books into the house and read them with fascination. A universe that is billions of years old and not fully explained is much more wondrous to me than God. Also, my BS meter wasn't set off by these science books. However, I feared to believe these theories because, again, I would go to hell for doubting the Bible.

Another factor that shaped my beliefs was that mother was abusive. I've talked a bit about the abuse in the A&A Spanking thread so I won't bore you guys with the details. I learned from my brother that my father was also very abusive, to the point where he tried to bash him in the head with a cue ball. Part of me is still very angry about the abuse and,maybe, that played a part in rejecting religion. By rejecting my mother's core beliefs, I reject her. Perhaps,that's not logical but humans aren't always logical. At any rate, the abuse is not the only reason I reject religion.

After finishing college, I moved to a new state and was exposed to new ideas. I remember debating my conservative religious, scientific and political beliefs with friends. The more I listened to their side, the more they made sense and, for awhile, I fought even harder to justify my narrow world view. But, I was curious about their ideas and began reading books that challenged my beliefs. I read about evolution, consciousness, origins of the Bible, history, and also read a few lefty books and magazines. Slowly, and sometimes fearfully, I began to accept these new ideas. The reasoning was logical and it just 'felt' true.

A few years later, I began to think I might be agnostic. But, I still thought about joining a church for the community. I even posted a thread, last year, on CD about it. During this past year, I've read and learned more and realize I'm really an atheist. I feel free. I'm able to accept people with different lifestyles and am open to new ideas. My fear of hell, although I logically know it doesn't exist, sometimes rears its ugly head. Childhood beliefs, especially those as powerful and fearsome as hell, are hard to shake. But, for the most part, I live free of fear and hatred. That, to me, is really living.

ETA: I forgot my most powerful reason for non-belief; I like Star Trek. I just know that one day ST nerds will rule the world. :P
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Old 04-30-2009, 07:20 PM
Location: Blankity-blank!
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The most powerful would be my conscience; if I accepted things without question that some claim to be true I would be fooling myself. Being honest with the self is extremely important. So far, none of the arguments I've heard from believers have impacted me enough to change my stand.
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Old 04-30-2009, 08:57 PM
Location: Manhattan, Ks
1,280 posts, read 6,130,256 times
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I am deeply sorry for the way you've been treated in the name of God. Hearing stories like yours always breaks my heart. It happens all too often.

I have such a difficult time putting the reasons for my belief into words. I guess I'm going to have to get better at that if I'm going to seminary! I wish we were telepaths or empaths so I could directly communicate the overwhelming sense of peace and joy that I experience as a result of my faith. And it's not just all about me. I've been able to help people in ways I never dreamed because various church organizations. And I hope to continue to do so throughout my life.

So I suppose my strongest reason for belief is my personal experience. Not great fodder for discussion or debate. Sorry!
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Old 05-01-2009, 03:39 AM
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Dunno about just one argument... but a short list of strong arguments in my mind include;

1. Even if we accept that something created the universe, why does it have to be (X) god (insert god of choice)?
Why not go further and remove the creation power from a sentient creator entity (who is rather complex and improbable in and of itself) to a non-sentient creator entity... and if we do that, why not move it to the universe itself? i.e. the universe was spontaneously brought into existence... by chance. Surely more simple than necessitating a complex entity to be brought spontaneously into existence.

2. Why would a god that asks us to use our talents to the best of our ability (i.e. our talent for rationality and logic and abstract thinking sets us aside from the other animals of the world), also ask us to submit those qualities to the irrationality of faith... which would no doubt be understood by any decently smart person, let alone an omniscient entity, as something that leaves us wide open to corruptibility (I mean, do you think Scientologists could rationally hold their beliefs without an immense amount of faith?).

3. If our eternal souls are to be judged on the expression of our actions, then surely it must be a reflection of the nature of our souls. And yet, it is proven through many brain studies that not just the abilities but the personality and thus actions of people can be dramatically altered with corresponding damage to the brain. Famously, phineas gage, a mild mannered soft spoken man became a violent wreck of a man after suffering a spike to the head in his cerebellum.
As such, one can only really conclude that the mind and matter is tied innately to one another; you cannot affect the mind (or what colloquially people refer to parts of as the soul or spirit, etc) without affecting the matter, because they are the same thing. Thus its only rational to conclude once the matter that holds the mind together begins to decay, the mind is loss; that the spirit or soul cannot persist beyond the death of the person.
No soul, spirit, no afterlife, no heaven, no hell, no reason to believe in god if he chooses not to affect the events of this world, and has no ability to affect us after death.

4. The more I learn about the world focused on rationality and logic, the more sense it makes; the more it fits together cleanly. In the past, when I tried to have faith, the world made little sense and I constantly made excuses to protect the cognitive dissonance that is surely in any right minded person that can percieve the massive disjunct between the literature of the faithful and the reality of our world.

5. And because I'm more informed, I have better rationality and logic backing my judgements, opinions and attitudes. I am no longer bound by the forced and twisted interpretations of people trying to take the words of the past, however wise they might've been then, and trying to apply them to the social dynamics of todays reality.
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:01 AM
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Great post, Zaptruder...

First of all, if you put God through the same rigorous scientific scrutiny that has brought us electricity, medicine, and space travel; God wouldn't survive. God was a tool used to understand the world by primitive people with primitive understandings of their surroundings. We have evolved past that period and science has completely replaced it. The only reason religion survives today is because it is a coping device. Religion helps people cope with hardship and the futility and mortality of life. Religion has been misused as instruments of power and plunder, too. (Pharaohs, the Divine Right of Kings, the Pope)
It's impossible to read the Bible and not laugh. Jesus' story follows almost identically the formats of countless other deities or religious figures that predated Christianity. All of the stories follow an astrological phenomenom involving constellations, the movement of the sun to a low point for three days and its sudden ascent from that point on the third day. The Book of Revelations, written by St. John while on exile in a cave, was a symbolic ode to Rome that promised the Christians suffering under Roman rule a vindictive end to their persecution. Remember: Jesus was going to sweep down from heaven on a white horse and save the Jews, kill the Romans and Pagans, and erect God's kingdom on earth for all of eternity. The only thing its missing is "...and the Jews lived happily ever after." All of the signs of the end times were present or imminent in that time, and are actually very common throughout many societies and eras, which is why every century seems to have the same forboding characteristics of what was predicted in the Bible.
Think about what Martin Luther did for Christianity. He removed power from a corrupt papacy by opening the divine experience to any individual. Under the newly founded Protestantism, people could communicate directly with God and didn't have to pay sacraments for a mitigated sentence in Purgatory. But before he came along, Christianity was a tool for control where the law couldn't see you. Catholicism was the belief, as well as one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever seen. That is how Christianity should be seen...not what Martin Luther and his common sense did to it relatively recently.

There were also the Gnostic Gospels, which are a great read. It shows how much information pertaining to Jesus was considered heresy and condemned to be burned. Luckily, someone hid them and they were discovered in Nag Hamadi, Egypt in the 1940's. They have shed a lot of light on things that could have happened and consistently portray Jesus as a religious, yet human figure.

Another thing is the superimposition of Paganism. Look at Easter! Actually called Ostara and celebrated by Pagans millennia before Christ, it is on the vernal equinox, a day that marks the return of 12 hours of light. This time of year, when 12 hours of sun light are hitting their retinas, chickens are producing far more eggs than at any other time. This time of year is also mating season and it is common to see rabbits galore. That's why Easter, a Christian holiday, is celebrated so close to the vernal equinox, and is symbolized by a bunny with eggs.

Lastly, I find myself in somewhat of a rational dilemma. So let me get this straight: God, an omniscient, omnipotent, incorporeal, ever-present entity decided at one instant to make a universe and set it into motion. He focused all of his efforts on a special place, basically a drop of water and dust in one galaxy out of billions in one of hundreds of billions of planetary systems revolving around their stars, and created Life. Most important of this creation, out of billions of creatures, he created Humans. Why did he do it? He did it to be worshipped. This is evident when you consider the idea that there are two ultimate destinations (I don't count Purgatory) we will arrive at when we die. Each destination is a reflection not of how we lived our lives, but of whether or not we believed he existed. And that doesn't seem fair because this notion defaultly condemns most of the 6.3 billion people on this planet to Hell because most people are not Christian.
So anyway, he makes this spec of dust and water and puts billions of creatures on it and then infects it with humans. Its like God screwed Mother Nature and gave her an STD...He makes all these things and then tells every group of us a completely different story of how he did it. Now we have one world that has been created a thousand different ways. And they're all wrong!!!
And the last thing I want to hear from anyone is, "Well this is just part of His plan..." Where in God's great plan do the moribund, famished, destitute Sudanese families being ravaged by vultures belong? Is this punishment for not believing? How 'bout that cute girl in Cote D' Ivoire who lost all her limbs? What about those millions of starving children in India? Are they all part of the plan?

Open your eyes,

Last edited by martinsway11; 05-01-2009 at 08:27 AM.. Reason: addition
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:08 AM
4,512 posts, read 6,716,790 times
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was there anything to learn?

before some counteractive behaviour started me on ing .... it over again..

good question and good posts, however, kudos.
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:14 AM
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I'm not arrogant enough to say that there is no God. It's only logical that for every thing that exists, there had to have been a cause.
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