Atheist & Agnostics-Hi there!
I’ve been cleaning out the garage and garage saling “stuff”... To keep me company, I’ve been listening to some interesting interviews (One can either listen online or download) from Speaking of Faith. I would be interested in hearing y’alls feedback on the views expressed in the interviews.
- Pagans Ancient and Modern self-explanatory.
- Exploring a New Humanism “an atheist identity that is not driven by a stance against religion but by positive ethical beliefs and actions.”
I also listened to
- The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Hershel I had never heard of him (not that I’m all that “knowledgeable”)... Herschel had some interesting ideas about Judaism and religion in general. He also marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.
- And partway through Liberating the Founders “hijacked Americans’ understanding of the country’s founders and of the meaning of religious liberty”... a non-sugared coated lesson in what really happened and why around the framing of separation of church and state.
Except for some hurt’n paws and a few blisters… a good day. :) Part deux tomorrow.
“How a set of beliefs (or non-beliefs) gets started is immaterial as to wether or not someone can be pushy when expressing those beliefs.
Contrary to popular opinion Atheism is a belief system. When someone makes either overtly demeaning comments, or passive expressions of superiority over someone who holds a different perspective from, â€œThere is no God.â€….that could easily be defined as pushy.”
But atheism isn’t a belief; it’s a statement in response to others’ beliefs. I wouldn’t even have to state or have ocassion to state that I’m an atheist had others not decided to believe in something supernatural and state that it somehow exists. Which is why I do point out the ridiculousness of it all.
To use words that are correct, such as “supernatural,” “superstition,” “imaginary” is not sugar-coating for the Christians, which many people do; but they are the correct expressions – go look them up in the dictionary – so if you define “pushy” as being truthful, open, honest, and frank, then okay, I guess using a word is pushy and defining oneself as atheist is “pushy” TO YOU. Maybe you can look into why you’re so offended that someone would state that they dcn’t[ believe in imaginary things? For example, if you told me a dinosaur was in my room and I said that you were imagining things, is that being pushy? Being honest is being pushy? I’m glad my world isn’t comprised of lying to sooth others’ whims.
Do I also need to point out to the members that this IS the atheist thread? If you want to read pro-religious stuff, there’s a thread for that as well, and I’m sure you can make a thread for something in-between, too, if you don’t appreciate someone being positive about who they are and stating so in a thread specifically for that (and nowhere else).
SUPERFOOD I agree completely with you that atheism is not a “belief system.” I would by default use the terms as you did. However, it is a belief and in all fairness, Philo’s use of the term is not incorrect.
On another note, I understood his use of the word “pushy” as someone who tries to force their beliefs on others out of a sense of superiority. I think the context in how someone expresses or explains their belief makes all the difference. If I were immediately repulsed by the mere fact that I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that someone did not share my beliefs, I would be no different than the religious bigots I encounter so regularly.
Philo brings up a good point that some atheist can be intolerant of others’ beliefs. I encountered one person like that myself and there have been numerous posts here, including mine, expressing, hurt, anger, and frustration over that type of behavior from christians. He just pointed out that isn’t a one-way street. If he had done so with a negative agenda, that would be different.
Finally, there was nothing in Philo’s post that indicated his religious beliefs. He could possibly be atheist. pagan, jewish. etc. What difference does it make? He isn’t here spewing his intolerance or superiority. Actually, his final comment expressed a wish for more tolerance.
I don’t think there is or should be a limitation that only atheists can visit or participate in this thread. I am not 100% raw but I regularly read threads regarding being 100% raw and often post. I have no reason to feel I am not allowed or my participation is unappreciated as long as I do so either to obtain information, ask appropriate questions, or point out something I think was incorrect or problematic. Everyone benefits from that.
Pushy atheists are just as obnoxious as pushy evangelicals.
I do agree very much with Philo’s statement here, and it does not matter for the fact if Atheists see themselves as a belief or non-belief group. It is not really all about this. It is our ‘trained’ behaivor of needing to put everything and anything and anyone into a box with a little tag on which describes who we are and to which group we belong to.
Then of course we (society) need to top this all in stating which group is the best group to follow and why, some dont even need to state a reason for that… (I just read in the news that 5 women, some of them still teenagers, were beaten, shot, and then still alive… buried. This happened in Pakistan at a tribe with thousand year old traditions, and it happened a month ago and just got public.
These women’s only fault was that they wanted to choose their husband themselves.
It is not about what one believes but about our society constnatly pushing their believes onto others, and we do this in small things and in big things, each and every day.
It does not matter what one believes, nothing is wrong or right, each has some truth to it and in the end we should rather embrace what we have in common and realize that we are all connected in one way or the other.
Just looking at what the universe is actually made off… this formula is in each and every one of us, in every stone, in every plant, in everything. We have much more in common then we think…
And I like to go finish here with a comment from Albert Einstein who found out what we are all made of, a wonderful starting point… Light, and Light is Colour, and Life itself. He said, “As more as I know, as more I believe.”
Well, and it does not matter how you name it in the end at all, just be, experience and enjoy, everything, and dont name it good or bad, as this is already categorizing and labeling… We dont even know sometimes if something is good or bad… Something that might look bad in the beginning might turn out to be something really good in the end. We dont know, we just dont know… Experience and let be :))
Oh, and to take this a bit further… if anyone is interested… this is a very interesting documentation and it shows what you dont hear in churches and other institutions, but what the important leaders really think… and it is there to bring us together and not to tear us apart. I just wish it would arrive a bit faster to the crowds…
This of course is only there to make one think and not to push anything on anyone…
Hey, Meditating. I wanted to respond to a couple things. I feel I’ve already discussed many things here, and I’m not sure why “pushiness” was even brought up, considering we are not communicating with religious folks in a religious thread, so I don’t want to go over that once again.
Finally, there was nothing in Philoâ€™s post that indicated his religious beliefs. He could possibly be atheist. pagan, jewish. etc. What difference does it make? He isnâ€™t here spewing his intolerance or superiority. Actually, his final comment expressed a wish for more tolerance.
I didn’t indicate Philo’s religious beliefs, if any, either.
I donâ€™t think there is or should be a limitation that only atheists can visit or participate in this thread.
I don’t think so, either, but if someone gets offended, maybe they can choose to not read it instead of trying to pick apart how one uses words.
Fascinating conversation… I appreciate the struggle to shift away from the “normal” (my poop doesn’t stink because I know the truth) way of communicating. Most times when people are complaining about other people, they are doing the same thing they are complaining about.
I also appreciate the link to onetheproject where people are creating a way of being that Karen Armstrong calls for “compassion and appreciation” for others. Personally, I fail miserably at it more times than not. The links to Speaking of Faith, ted.com, and Tolle’s work (in addition to others) bring viewpoints from different perspectives exploring our commonalities and how to create a world that works for everyone. I guess, to think of it, this is the same thing… presenting something for the purpose of creating a shift in a particular direction… hm…
I have read many of Superfood’s recent posts on different threads and what occurs to me is that something is unsettled… there is an energy around those posts that is kind of lashing out… some undercurrent not specifically the subject being discussed… maybe it is because I “listen” from my unsettled world… don’t know…
Superfood~ Is there something unsettled in your world?
Back to the telling kids about heaven issue – I wouldn’t consider it lying to tell a young child in need of comfort that a friend has gone to heaven or as my sister puts it “has become a star in the sky.” Is telling children about Santa or the Tooth Fairy considered lying? Children don’t always need the whole explanation about something they won’t understand anyway – they need answers that are comforting in times of need. If my Mom told a child that someone was starting to be reborn I wouldn’t consider it lying. It’s one of the vast universe of possibilities and there’s time to fully explain one’s belief or disbeliefs.
You implied that people of faith, â€…do something ignorantâ€. That is offensive.
Have you looked up the word “ignorant” yet? Just curious.
Bluedolphin, no, I am very happy, but thanks. :)
I was thinking again about this thread (probably the last time, considering what it’s become), and I think it’s kind of comical that certain people were complaining about atheists or agnostics who they thought felt they were “superior” to others, yet those same people are judgmental to others on a message board based on a few posts, and try to make judgments and statements/conclusions about a person as if they were here to evaluate said person or people. It’s interesting, funny, and, I find, quite telling.
It seems that some people have become defensive as well, and I sit here and think, “Wow, I sure am not so vested in what another person has to say; I wonder why they are.” Is it frightening that a person thinks differently or uses words differently in a thread on a message board? Does it cause person X to make a judgment against person Y? It’s like we were on this thread telling others what we thought about our own lives and about “beliefs” and being around “beliefs” (I’m using the word not defined as a circular definition, like some dictionaries will do), and then it became a criticism of an actual person or people somehow. How is that productive or relevant? Maybe if someone has personal issues, they can personal message or email.
Philo, I haven’t responded to much of what you said not out of disrespect or because I didn’t read what you had to say; I just disagree with you and am comfortable enough wtih myself (and am positive about who I am, as I said earlier) that I don’t feel the need to continue to discuss who you are versus who I am. I hope you are comfortable in who you are, too, and especially enough to not judge others personally on a message board.
- have read many of Superfoodâ€™s recent posts on different threads and what occurs to me is that something is unsettledâ€¦ there is an energy around those posts that is kind of lashing outâ€¦*
I think you’re reading things into my posts. Just take them as they are. There’s no hidden meaning, no hidden agenda, just pure thoughts, expressed in writing. It’s beautiful – I love being so frank and honest, but some people don’t take to bluntness well. I don’t lie or sugarcoat my feelings, and that’s what we’re here for – to express feelings/thoughts/experiences. Many people either take or leave bluntness; some people love it and take to me right away. Others think I’m rude or assume I mean X when I actually said Y. Doesn’t bother me one bit.
But you can put yourself at ease as far as my world is concerned. My career is excellent, health is excellent, relationships great, cats wonderful, etc.
I’ve been seeig this post pop up quite often and every once and a while I will read it but today something jumped in me to add.
The word “belief” is a whole lot different than the word “fact”. I say this because, although I was raised in a semi religious house, when a person starts to study history and use a little common sense you understand that those who are a part of certain religious groups obviously did not do their homework! So with this respect, I can see where Superfood is coming from with the straight forward,”it is what it is”, attitude.
I’ve done my fair share of studying as I’m sure some of you when it comes to religions and spiritual beliefs, and I have also studied the patterns of the actions of people with certain beliefs. The reason is because sometimes you have to gauge the actions of a group against the history of it to come to an “intelligent” conclusion of what that “group” or “belief system” stands for. Traditional habits, rituals, and patterns can be very deep routed! Although, there is always an exception to the rules, example, there may be a person who is involved in a violent, drug dealing gang, but chooses to go to school, not do or sell drugs, and be very kind and non violent. Their reason for being in the gang may be different from the average gang members, maybe they only found “friends” within that circle or maybe they where raised into it, whatever the case their “attitude” differs from what the basis of that club is about.
I said that to say, (I’m going to speak on christianity only, to get into others I’ve studied this post would be to long) the basic teachings of christianity, amongst a few others, is being holy and close to god, being saved from hell, and spreading the word. Now even though there is obviously more, these 3 things alone is going to drive a person into “believing” they are superior, and must save the rest of the world from hell. Even inside of most churches it is a simple to see system set up in the order of who god loves and blesses the most to the least. Just observe something as simple as the seating arrangements! So it is no wonder that when someone ask me, “Do you go to church”, or, “Have you given your life to Jesus”, it sparks huge debate that starts with the need to express the fact that god loves them and i need to be saved from hell. And, really I’m not mad at them because i know they are taught this and they have a blind devotion to it, so it does not shock me when you talk to them and their entire conversation is about Jesus. I think the problem that allot of straight forward “freethinkers” have is the ignorance of the person who believes so whole heartedly, willing to die for and is trying to indoctrinate them into a “religion” that they themselves have not done any research at all on. I collect and study the Holy Bible, and I read it literally, not with a belief system that has been taught to me by a preacher. And I appreciate the messages its trying to put forth. But I have had 100’s of debates with preachers (the leaders of the flock) that do not read the entire book themselves or use it to fit their message! So, when a religious person approaches me with, “Did you give your life to Jesus?” And I attempt to share some FACTS with them and they don’t want to hear it, Im not going to lie to you, there ignorance frustrates me! Because they are not taught to think (if anyone disagrees, please do the research) they are taught to “believe”, so they want you to listen all day, but do not want to listen themselves. So I have found that most “freethinkers” I encounter try to avoid the conversation because of hurt feelings or confrontation, but that doesnt stop “religious groups” from expressing to you that you need their god. I have never seen any freethinker go door to door and express their position. Now..like I said earlier, there is always an exception, what I am talking about is the majority of a “group”.
Now..When someone ask me about religion and what I believe, Im not starting another “belief system” I’m only denouncing that I do not believe what that person believes. Its kinda hard to say, “I’m nothing”, so most freethinkers would say, “I don’t believe in _”. Frankly because there is’nt another way to put it really. So denouncing the belief in christianity or another religion is not a belief, it sounds to me like most folks on this thread are anti belief.
A “fact” is not a “belief”. But when I talk to christians (and others) about “facts” they quickly tell me, “well, I don’t believe that, I believe _”. Just like I talk to people about the “facts” of why vegan raw food is healthy and they say, “I truly “believe” that you must maintain a meat diet, because our bodies need protien”. But again, these people have not studied at all and are willing to argue and “get sick” because of their “belief”, instead of just researching the facts!
I can appreciate Superfood’s bluntness.
Maybe, the world would be better off if there wasnt such an importance on hurt feelings and making someone feel uncomfortable and everybody just told the truth with no sugar coatings, now this is just my “belief”.
Has anyone read the first post that winona started this with??
Winona writes, Jul 30, 2008: (1002 posts)
Giving a shout out to all my fellow atheists and agnostics. Do you have friends who share similar beliefs?
Do you feel pressured by folks who believe differently than you? How did you arrive at your decision, how were you raised?
Do you have any websites to read? Can you give any support/ideas to a new atheist?
Yes this has turned into a rant but considering the first post no one needs to DEFEND their rant. PLEASE stop bitching and just let us air out our feelings. I do not post often because I feel others are stating my point for me and better than I can express for myself. But then I get so upset when some decided to critize them for doing so. This should be where we can say how we feel and why without having to defend to others that do not share our thoughts and experiences.
I really hope I didnt stray far away. I was just talking about my research and feelings, In the hopes that someone could relate.
P.S. I would imagine that when you have several people talking (or typing) it would get to the point where it seems like debate, because we are all different. I thought that was the wonderful thing about this thread because it triggers thoughts, research and sharing.
I saw the Winona’s first post and I shared my thoughts on pressure from “religious groups”, why I thought that was and other things.
I also see that everyone hear is very kind and makes a very good attempt at not offending others, and I just want to say thanks to everyone for that.
DREASRAW Thank you for your post. I certainly appreciate that you can make your point without a hostile tone, which is something we all need to guard against. Since it is difficult to impart one’s attitude in writing, and unfortunately misunderstandings can be had, we all need to be thoughtful of what we write.
I too am frustrated whenever someone tries to proselytize me; however, it is not because I am amazed by how gullible I think they are but rather because they are so invested in their sense of superiority they haven’t bothered to consider how rude and invasive their behavior is. Just imagine thinking it was acceptable to approach someone on the street about something so personal it is deemed sacred and give them your advice. It would be like me walking up to a complete stranger and asking if they ever considered performing a certain sex act and requesting if I could I please tell or show them how it works.
Religious teachings, like many moral guidelines, are generally interpreted by the individual only to the degree that they are willing to tolerate the message. An example that comes to mind is the position of an anti-abortionist who wants an exception for rape or incest. When you talk to most people who adopt the position that abortion is the murder of an innocent “child” (which is necessarily combined with the belief that the value of a “person” only having the potential to be born necessarily exceeds the value and rights of a woman who has acquired personhood – although that part of the analysis is usually left untouched), they do so based on their religious beliefs. However, many if not most make an exception for the circumstances where they or an “innocent” (meaning without the traditional blame attached to women who choose to have sex) person might find themselves. If abortion actually were the murder of an innocent “child,” what difference could the circumstances of conception have on the issue?
I mention this because I recall reading christian scripture that indicates christians are not to adopt a sense of superiority over others as we are each equally children of god and so on. In my opinion, it is mandated that being in the service of christ requires one to follow that rule as much as the rule to bring others to christ, which can be accomplished (better I think) by deed than proselytizing. Deed requires one to be genuine and proselytizing seems to be more a product of ego (I know what is right). I think proselytizing is another example of interpreting/altering the message to the extent one is willing to tolerate or accept it. I don’t think those who approach others and ask “have you given your life to Jesus” have bothered to stop and consider how disrespectful their approach is.
On technical notes, while I understand your assertion that a “fact” cannot be a “belief,” there are numerous instances, even in the scientific community, where opposing theories carry enough evidence to be argued factual by their supporters when clearly only one can be correct. In these instances, it is the belief of others that allows them to identify the perceived evidence as a “fact.” One man’s fact can be another man’s fiction.
While I do not believe in gods and think there exists sufficient evidence to my satisfaction that I would call my belief a fact, it is very difficult to conclusively, beyond all possibility, prove a negative concept like this one given our limited scientific understanding of the universe. Is there a cat in this shoebox? Yes, I could prove or disprove that. Is there a god in the sky? I would think common sense should dispel that myth but there is no conclusive physical evidence to prove or disprove it yet. Does Frosty the Snowman live in the North or South Pole? I don’t believe so, but I can’t prove that either.
I too find it offensive when someone approaches me with, “Have you given your life to Jesus?” because of the underlining superiority factor that the statement holds, but the fact that allot of “religious” people that I have spoken with, did surveys on, or spoke about the bible with, just do not have any knowledge on the “religion” itself or the bible itself frustrates me. And the reason I say this is frustrating to me is because it’s almost offensive to have someone try to get me to join a “religious” type group that is dealing with my “spiritual energy” or “soul” or whatever you want to call it, and not have any true understanding for it themselves. It’s almost like…Since they are lead to believe blindly, I should be to.
As far as the facts vs. belief your points are well noted. But, understand that when a christian approaches a non christian they speak about their religion as if it is facts without considering the “historical facts” that exist that counter their “beliefs” , and this is what I mean by facts. I have had plenty of people and preachers alike tell me, “If it’s not in the bible, it’s not true!”, and I think we can all see that this statement in itself is not true.
Superfood: I understand what you said about not lying to children and just tell them how you feel. I don’t want to lie to my children. I guess I am on the fence and not sure what I believe. Also my children are young and their comprehension is minimal. As they get older, I will have to explain myself better. This is the one area that I am hesitant to make decisions for my children. It probably is not logical. Thank you for your insight.
Carmentina: I have changed my view on Santa and the Easter Bunny. Before kids I was very against lying about these. But when my daughter was born I thought about social norms. I don’t like it but I don’t want my kids to be social outcasts. This goes way beyond Santa. We have made many decisions with this in mind. Both my children also are on the autism spectrum so this has become a bigger issue with social dysfunction as a problem. Many of my views already put them in an outsider position. So we do Christmas even though we are not religious. I tell them it is a holiday about family and giving. When my daughter finds out there is no Santa I will tell her it was about the magic of the holiday. I do expect her to be upset about lying to her. Also since she is a very literal child, she never seemed to believe there is a Tooth Fairy but other fairies are make believe.
Dreasraw – You’re provided excellent insight. I agree that it’s the underlining superiority factor that bothers me. I was told by a relative, for example, that lightning would strike me down because I wasn’t going to participate in an important religious activity. This person didn’t realize that I quit the religion, but I still feel that it’s rude to make that assumption. For other folks to assume that it’s okay to visit my house to insist on their religion… well that’s just not alright. I am totally fine with all religions, and with everyone having their own belief – whatever type of belief it is. I just don’t want their beliefs imposed on me.
It’s unfortunate that religion bleeds into government sometimes… for example, the women’s right to choose. I feel very strongly that women should have the right. I feel really violated when my right to choose is threatened by folks, not based on science, but on the basis of their religion convictions.
Meditating – I totally agree with your view on proselytizing!! Just imagine thinking it was acceptable to approach someone on the street about something so personal it is deemed sacred and give them your advice. Wow. Well said!
Rawcure – Remember that sometimes the most difficult path, is the one where you refrain from sharing your beliefs with others. I think it’s admirable that you chose to cultivate a tradition of santa and easter bunny in order to smooth over social situations for your children. I know that it is easier to say whatever you want, whenever – but that’s not always the right choice! For example, I have to refrain from telling folks my very strong opinions on animal rights, environmental protection, politics, personal health, and so on. It’s easier to blurt out my opinion – sometimes I turn red from holding my tongue. I just wanted you to know that it takes a strong person to make a decision like yours. Good for you, and good luck with everything!
Well despite some of the disagreements, this thread has finally taken on a nice tone and it’s very wonderful to see folks sharing. Let’s continue to keep this environment friendly… and I’ll remind anyone who’s just joining us that our thread isn’t here to bash religion. I am very accepting of all people of all beliefs and backgrounds, I created this thread to be a place for folks who are atheist/agnostic to share insight and ideas. Thanks again for joining the thread to provide information!
WINONA While I consider myself a feminist, I have always seen woman’s right to choose as a religious freedom issue; however, I have never heard a single politician address it that way. While there seems to be a consensus among religions and those without religious beliefs that murder of a person is wrong, there is no consensus on when personage is established and the anti-abortion argument doesn’t even acknowledge the autonomy of women in reaching that decision. As long as there is a right to abortion, contrary religious beliefs are not forced on anyone as each woman retains the right to choose based on her beliefs and circumstances. If abortion is outlawed and criminalized, then I would be forced to comply with a religious doctrine I do not subscribe to.
America better wake up to this issue. Women and homosexuals (men deemed to be similar to women by their opponents, which is not my personal opinion) have always been the first to be assaulted by fundamentalist religions that eventually established themselves as governments. I see fundamentalist christians (evangelicals) to be the same thing as the radical, fundamentalist religions that have taken over middle-eastern countries and which the US finds so dangerous. If religious tyranny is something we are concerned about, the only real difference between the two is the degree to which they have been successful. The rise of evangelicals in controlling the republican party should be a wake-up call to everyone. I don’t think McCain picked Palin to lure disgruntled Hillary Clinton voters, but instead to appease and energize the right-wing fundamentalists and that is exactly what it did. If Americans don’t stop the tide, those among us who don’t share fundamentalist christian beliefs will be forced to live by them. Rest assured, we women will bear the brunt of the damage.
“Rest assured, we women will bear the brunt of the damage.”
Well put. We ALWAYS bear the brunt. When has it ever been different? Or where?
And what’s worse is that legislation “meant to protect us” often simply limits our freedom and gives no protection. Like an oyster that protects a pearl.
Wow.. this has taken me 3 days on and off to go through the whole thread….it certainly has character. I wanted to share a quote I loved. It was regarding the whole scandal in which schools wanted to teach the creation story instead of evolution. At a metting of representatives of the Board of Education (or such and such), the exasperated head spokesperson finally asked “Can’t we all just agree that God created Darwin?!?”
I find it interesting that so many athiests seem to have had a strong religious upbringing. I was purposely sheilded from all religious dogma (my parents had enough from their strict catholic upbringings) and so I grew up thinking God was the equilvalent of Santa Claus. In school I took Philosophy and Religious Studies and found it intruiging when studied from an unbiased viewpoint. I suppose I never felt the need to define my position as I never had one to assert myself for or against to begin with! As an outsider, I found religious texts thought-provoking, but was put off religon (really Christianity, as I have little familiarity of any others) becuase of the myths that I feel are taken literally and the absolutist subjective beliefs that are held as if they were objective.
My boyfriend and I discuss how we would raise our children. Personally, as I plan on briging them up in the countryside and without media, I would rather never mention religion, even as a subject that simply “exists” (except maybe in passing). My boyfriend is assertive that he would want to teach them about all the known different beliefs (including athiesm, etc) and leave it up to them to decide. I was against this, until I came across an phrase in The Idiot (by Doestoevsky – a fantastic read by the way) in which the protagonist stated that children should not be shielded from anything, they are much cleverer than we believe and we do them a disservice by hiding things from them. I liked it very much and am now dubious as to what I think. I still don’t feel comfortable teaching about something that I feel was irrelevant to me, and still is to a large part. I would love to hear anyones thoughts or suggestions on this topic.
Lastly,I remember someone mentioned the loss or emptyness in ‘losing’ or giving up their faith. As I never ‘believed’, I cannot relate fully, although it did ring a bell. A couple of years back I started to feel a gnawing, growing fear…a fear of death, the limited time on this earth, and the likely pointlessness of it all. Anyone else felt something similar at some point? I only got past these fears recently, after some experiences allowed me a glimpse of what it actually feels like to ‘be’ a part of everything..similar things have been mentioned in earlier posts. I am almost sure there is something greater than meets the eye now, and that death is not the end, but another transformation -into what I do not know.
â€What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterflyâ€
I only just thought maybe a religious perspective could understand the ‘master’ part as referring to a god, but I see just as a greater wisdom.
Look forward to hearing any thoughts.
Im reading The Idiot right now and loved that whole story Prince Myshkinn told about the girl he kissed but wasnt in love with, wherein he stated your quote that the children should not be shielded from anything.
Im not finished yet though so dont give the ending away!
Anyways. There was a point in my life, about 5-6 years ago, I really struggled with the afterlife, and if there isnt one, what life is all about. I was agnostic around that time, not fully athiest.
I started getting scared of hell, brimstone, etc etc. So I started reading the Bible for answers, read religious texts, listend to the music, but found no answers. I was more lonely then than ever.
For I remember it being drilled into my head that heaven was paradise. A place where if you had nothing here on earth and led a life of struggle (poor, not many friends, etc etc) but you led life spiritually, you would be awared ten fold in paradise!
I then realized that the theory of an afterlife is made to keep people in control. Why would you want to fight for whats right here on Earth, and probably breaking some laws while doing it, if you just bide you time, because heaven will reward you!? Why do you think all governments have been made or usually made around a religion? They are both systems of control that lull the populace into a false sense of liberty and happiness.
I realized this by just sitting there for hours and thinking about life, and everything I knew about how corrupt “systems” in general are. And thus, I no longer felt so hopeless or alone, and felt amazing! Hell/Heaven didnt scare me anymore. Having no afterlife at all seems wonderful and beautiful in its finalness!
The main turning point though, was realizing that the Bible’s description of heaven, a place where you praise God 24/7, didnt seem too enlightened to me. Talk about slavery and control! Its like he is saying, “I will give you all the riches you want, as long as you worship me as your leader and superior.” In fact, Satan was cast down from heaven because he questioned God’s leadership/power. What silliness!
Also, Nietzsche helped me a bit. I dont believe in his view of afterlife, I dont think he did either, but its something to think about:
He said that think of afterlife like a exact year to year, minute to minute copy of your current life. So all the decisions you make now in this life, you have to relive them forever. All the regrets, pain, sorrow, joy, love, beauty you experienced would happen all over again, from birth to death.
He said that if you think of it this way, that means your going to choose those things in life that make you happy so you can have a happy afterlife :)
That’s awesome you’re reading The Idiot! I would distribute Doesteovsky’s books for free if I could. His and Tolstoy’s. Interesting as they are both in a sense Christian writers!
Love the Nietzsche paragraph….such a wonderful approach to take in your own life. I think I might start repeating that.
It’s funny, I wan’t scared of the afterlife, but the non-afterlife (if there was a gauranteed afterlife I think would have felt better). It’s the finality that stikes me! Now I’m coping with the impossible-to-understand understanding that we are a part of a great unknowable universe and letting my dear ego lose its importance. (Death still sporadically terrifies me, when I realize all that I know will someday go…then I have to work at remembering what I know but have forgotten. Hope that makes some sense!
I’m reading this book “The Abundance of the Tao” now… I like it so far. Relates to all these issue while not being part of any religious belief, just a philosophy of life.
jkd – your comment really resonates with me! “The main turning point though, was realizing that the Bibleâ€™s description of heaven, a place where you praise God 24/7, didnt seem too enlightened to me. Talk about slavery and control! Its like he is saying, â€œI will give you all the riches you want, as long as you worship me as your leader and superior.â€ In fact, Satan was cast down from heaven because he questioned Godâ€™s leadership/power. What silliness!“
I realized that I’m scared of three things. Death, in all it’s finality. Losing my health. Losing people I love. I simply don’t know how to face these fears. I’ve watched my grandad lose his mind, then return to it several times over the past year… lose control over his body and temporarily regain some. He knows what’s happening to him. Strokes, bleeding in the brain, etc. It’s terrifying that I may experience such a thing, and it’s scary that I will lose him – and soon. And forever. There is no religion, no g-d to console me – nor do i want one. But I want to stand up to my fear, experience it, and go on living in the moment. I don’t yet know how to put those ideas into action.
Winona: Have you ever read the Dhali Lama’s “Art of Happines”?
He touches on the death subject immensly. He is of the mind that in order to enjoy life to the fullest without fear of anything, you are going to have to face it, and truly realize it in your heart that you are going to die, whether there is an afterlife or not. He goes on to say that once you do this, the world and its joys open up to you fully. Those who never realize this, live in fear of death, and thus live in fear of their life, because death is just another part of our life cycle.
I know its hard to grasp, because I still have to remind myself almost every day that yes, I am going to die. I struggle with it, but keeping it in mind I have seen an increase of joy and vitality that I have never had before.
Kerry: The Idiot is one of the books I know I am going to have to read again, just to grasp his writing style and what he says about life. Its so full and rich of wonderful characters, sometimes I get lost in it all!
jkd – I also have to remind myself that I’m going to die. I haven’t accepted it yet, though. Every day, my walk home from work takes me through a cemetary. It is an excellent place of quiet reflection. Gravestones from the 1800s, of names long forgotten.
I am interested in Dhali Lama’s book, that seems to be another book along the same lines as Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart; Heart Advice for Difficult Times
She talks a lot about facing fear, and living with uncertainty. This is the only way to live in the moment. This is the only way to stop running from fear. People are afraid of death, so they go to their addictions to distract them. Gambling, eating SAD, drinking, pop culture. Destructive lifestyles often stem from addictions. If we don’t accept death, live in the present moment, meditate,... we cannot really relate to humans.
I typed up a quote from Pema Chodron’s book, this is copyrighted by her.
“Instructions on mindfulness or emptiness or working with energy all point
to the same thing: being right on the spot nails us. It nails us right to
the point of time and space that we are in. When we stop there and don’t
act out, don’t repress, don’t blame it on anyone else, and also don’t
blame it on ourselves, then we meet with an ope-ended question that has no
conceptual answer. We also encounter our heart. As one student so
eloquently put it, “Buddha nature, cleverly disguised as fear, kicks our
ass into being receptive.”
I once attended a lecture about a man’s spiritual experiences in Indian in
the 1960s. He said he was determined to get rid of his negative emotions.
He struggled against anger and lust; he struggled against laziness and
pride. But mostly he wanted to get rid of his fear. His meditation teacher
kept telling him to stop struggling, but he took that as another way of
explaining how to overcome his obstacles.
Finally the teacher sent him off to meditate in a tiny hut in the
foothills. He shut the door and settled down to practice, and when it got
dark he heard a noise in the corner of the room, and in the darkness he
ssaw a very large snake. It looked to him like a king cobra. It was right
in front of him, swaying. All night he stayed totally alert, keeping his
eyes on the snake. He was so afraid that he couldn’t move. There was just
the snake and himself and fear. Just before dawn the last candle went out,
and he began to cry. He cried not in despair but from tenderness. He felt
the longing of all the animals and all the people in the world; he knew
their alienation and their struggle. All his meditation had been nothing
but further separation and struggle. He accepted—really aceepted
wholeheartedly – that he was angry and jealous, that he resisted and
struggled, and that he was afraid. He accepted that he was also precious
beyond measure—wise and foolish, rich and poor, and totally unfathomable.
He felt so much gratitude that in the total darkness he stood up, walked
toward the snake, and bowed. Then he fell sound asleep on the floor. When
he awoke, the snake was gone. He never knew if it was his imagination or
if it had really been there, and it didn’t seem to matter. As with fear
caused his drams to collapse, and the world around him finally got
No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear… We habitually spin
off and freak out when there’s even the merest hint of fear… The most
heartbreaking thing of all is how we cheat ourselves of the present
moment…So the next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky.
This is where the courage comes in. Usually we think that brave people
have no fear. The truth is that they are intimate with fear. When I was
first married, my husband said I was one of the bravest people he knew.
When I asked him why, he said because I was a complete coward but went
ahead and did things anyhow.
The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out
that something is not what we though. That’s what we’re going to discover
again and again and again. Nothing is what we thought. I can say that with
great confidence. Emptiness is not what we thought. Neither is mindfulness
or fear. Compassion – not what we thought. Love. Buddha nature. Courage.
These are code words for things we don’t know in our minds, but any of us
could experience them. These are words that point to what life really is
when we let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present
Wow, that story was beautiful! Truly!
It reminds me that so many people turn to television or drugs or alchohol to escape their problems, instead of confronting them and dealing with them.
I havent talked about this a lot to many people, but I had a friend/acquaintance die about two weeks ago. We were never close, but he was a life time friend of my best friend, so it all hit us kinda hard.
And not to forget the good memories of him, but he spent most his waking life drunk. That was how they believe he died also.
Its amazing how fear and despair can turn your thoughts to escape instead of courage, and that you can actually die from it…
I agree, Chodron has an amazing way of illustrating ideas. I think we all have our own snakes, poised, waiting to strike. We have to look directly at him. She tells another story of a boy who was raised with monks. He was raised – and lived- the principles of facing his fears. When he was fleeing Tibet due to chinese occupation, this little boy was accompanied by caregivers. When they were traveling one day, they came across a big dog who was snarling at them and running toward them. The caregivers ran from the dog. The little boy turned and started running – straight at the dog! The dog was so surprised that it hightailed it away from the boy.
It is tragic to hear about your friend’s death, and worse to hear that he spent much of his time escaping the present moment. I understand that it is often impossible to intervene and assist people unless they are looking for this help. I only hope that those close to him find peace.
Tragic loss can be an awakening… when I went through all these difficult situations with my grandfather’s illness, it changed me. I was determined to live my life with abandon, because of how things can end up. The reason it has been such a sad year is that my grandad was so active before this stroke.. i have to stop, i’m tearing up i’ll talk more later.