Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Morality, Religion, The Conscious Disbeliever

Atheist Spirituality??

That no wise the nature of all things

For us was fashioned by power divine

So great the faults it stand encumbered with.

Titus Lucretius Carus

Lucretius
Lucretius (Photo credit: Ancient Commentators)

I just finished reading  L’Espirit de l’athéisme – Introduction à une spiritualité sans Dieu  by André Comte-Sponville. This book’s title has been translated (??) into English as The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. Why didn’t they use  “The Spirit of Atheism – An Introduction to Spirituality Without God”?

The book has three chapters:

I) Can We Do Without Religion?

II) Does God Exist?

III) Can There Be an Atheist Spirituality?

In the first chapter Comte-Sponville says that we can do without religion but wants to hold on to certain aspects of religion. Get rid of faith but keep fidelity, keep communion and love. He also thinks that secular rites such as funerals are bad copies of their religious counterparts. He worries that Nihilism is a danger in this new era and proposes Humanism to counter this threat.

The second chapter goes through many examples of the lack of evidence and strong arguments for the belief in a god. Comte-Sponville writes of the mediocrity of mankind, the problem of evil, the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, amongst others. If you are already an atheist you have been there many times before, if not, it will be new territory.

The third and last chapter touches on spirituality. But what is spirit?

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“The human spirit…is our noblest part, or rather our highest function, the thing that makes us not only different from other animals…but greater than and superior to them” 

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“Whatever it is, we can use it to think, to want, or to imagine…. It is the power to think, insofar as it gives us access to truth, universality, or laughter. It is likely that without the brain, this ability would be able to do nothing at all or would not even exist” 

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“The spirit is not a substance. Rather, it is a function, a capacity, an act (the act of thinking, willing, imagining, making wisecracks)”

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In the end he says that it does not matter if this “thing” is the brain. He talks of the capacity to live in the present and give no importance to the past and the future, as they do not exist. He is highly influenced by eastern religion, delving deeply into personal experience as he  goes into an explanation of immanence and  letting go of one’s ego, being part of everything or having what he calls an  “oceanic feeling”.

If by spirit he means the human ability for empathy, awe, ethics and curiosity, that is fine. Give it another name. I am not sure, but “Ethos” would work better for me and remove the possible supernatural connotation.

Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism

See you next time.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Coffee, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Religion, The Conscious Disbeliever

Here again

I have been delinquent in my posting, so sorry. A long needed vacation got in the way.

Beach (1)

Just before leaving for my vacation, I had some nice interaction with some family members about my atheism. I am very sure that most of you have already gone through this:

Why do you have to be so vocal about your atheism? Why don’t you just keep it to yourself?

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No offense, I love you and my intention is not to offend you…I like many have my doubts, and sometimes I believe and sometimes I doubt.I respect that you’re an atheist and you are absolutely sure of your belief. But what I criticize and I see as even a little ridiculous is making atheism a religion, with lectures and symposia. All you need now is to start having Masses to Saint Atheist.

 

How do you like them cookies?

Nice double standard. I have to – and do – tolerate people wearing crosses, a star of David, an Om symbol or whatever symbol of religiosity, but I can’t wear my atheist bands or t-shirts without somebody bothering me. Good thing my Happy Humanist pins don’t cause any trouble. I must tolerate constant references to a deity, but one word of disbelief and I am being militant.

And well, I am loved and respected but I am ridiculous. But enough of that, on to the vacation.

By no means was I only lying on the beach and sipping on a nice cool drink.

I got a chance to read Testament: Memoir of the Thoughts and Sentiments of Jean Meslier and to start reading  L’ Esprit De  L‘Atheisme (The soul of atheism) by André Comte-Sponville. The first book I bought on my own accord and the second was a gift from a friend.

Meslier’s book is an interesting impeachment of religion with a dash of anti-monarchism, a pinch of animal rights and a touch of communism. It is probably the first book on atheism. A very interesting read although a bit repetitive. Meslier really wanted to get his message across.

I will get back to you on my thought of Comte-Sponville’s book when I finish it.

At lunch the very first day I came back to work, I got into an enjoyable discussion  on some well-known topics:

You can’t have morality if you don’t have religion.

Hitler was an atheist.

Homeopathy works.

I already have a previous post on the first one: Borrowed Morality and never have given the second much of a thought, although what I read in Mein Kampf depicts a Christian, but now I will have to read Ian Kershaw‘s books on Hitler. The third point is defenseless, homeopathy has no scientific backing. You might enjoy this 2009 article in Forbes or this one in The Lancet called Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy and allopathy .

Things got back to speed very soon after vacation time and that is just fine. How was your week?

See you next time.

P.S.  The Hotel had a nice Nespresso bar so I was never without my daily dose of caffeine.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Politics, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Youth: you are the hope of the world

A recent poll by YouGov / The Sun Survey Results has reported results that give hope for the future.

The poll was taken from June the 14th to the 19th and involved young adults aged 18 to 24.

The questions related to their feelings about the future, jobs, relationships, buying a home, etc.

The poll demonstrated, contrary to popular belief, that parents have a great deal of influence upon this group. Much more than politicians, celebrities and a great deal more than religious leaders.

What was most striking were the results of the questions related to religion.

According to the results 56% of this age group have no religion. Only 25% believe in a god and 19% believe in a spiritual greater power. That means that 56% of young adults are non believers, a big difference when compared to the 2011 census. Atheists accounted for 38% and Agnostics 18% which is higher than earlier reports  I have commented before.

Belief in god graph
Click on graph to enlarge

For a link to the complete survey click here.

See you next time.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Religion, The Conscious Disbeliever

What flipped your switch?

English: Dead Sea Scroll - part of Isaiah Scro...
English: Dead Sea Scroll – part of Isaiah Scroll (Isa 57:17 – 59:9), 1QIsa b (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The road to non-belief is not straightforward, it is in most cases a slow journey. It is the lowly drop of water and not the majestic wave that slowly erodes the stone and in this way our belief in the supernatural is whittled down until one day we realize that what was once incontrovertible, now is an argument that holds no water.

It seems to me that although non-belief is the result of a long list of things that make us question the validity of that which we hold true, many times there is a first question a first doubt. In my case, I think that the first question was something that I would later learn is called the problem of evil.

When I was a kid, I would always think that nobody could ever go to Hell because God being an all-knowing, all-caring and all-powerful being would not allow it. How could he? He knew everything before it happened. He loved everybody so he did not wish bad things to happen and of course he could do anything.

He could do anything and did everything. So where did bad things come from?

What?! You mean God created evil? No way! Well, yes way.

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I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am the LORD, that doeth all these things.

Jewish Publication Society Bible    YISHEYAH (Book of Isaiah) Chapter 45

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I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

 Isaiah 45:7

 King James Bible “Authorized Version”, Pure Cambridge Edition

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Evil exists and God created it. How can that be?  Well this leads us into the problem of evil.

The existence of evil is a contradiction in logical terms to a god that is omniscient, benevolent and omnipotent.

  1. God exists.

  2. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.

  3. A perfectly good being would want to prevent all evils.

  4. An omniscient being knows every way in which evils can come into existence.

  5. An omnipotent being, who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, has the power to prevent that evil from coming into existence.

  6. A being who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, who is able to prevent that evil from coming into existence, and who wants to do so, would prevent the existence of that evil.

  7. If there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then no evil exists.

  8. Evil exists (logical contradiction).

So following that logic. God is a logical contradiction.

And of course we also have the problem of Hell, but that is another question.

There are many defences and theodicies that theists use to get around this problem. One way that they defend this problem is through the free will argument: It is a very good thing that God has created persons with free will. God cannot eliminate evil, because in doing so he would remove the possibility of free will and making correct moral choices. 

Ok we have free will and can choose good or evil.  We are imperfect and at least one time, if not many, we will choose wrong. God being perfect and endowed with omniscience knows this before we do it, in fact even before we come into existence. Or maybe he cannot know this, but that would strip him of omniscience. Of course this would resolve the problem of evil, but would render God imperfect.

And talking of free will. The concept of free will beyond the constraints of the physical universe is childish, downright stupid. Free will must be understood within the constraints of a physical universe as we are physical beings. To think that we could have absolute free will would make us supernatural, would make us in fact gods. The matter at question is: do we have the ability to make free choices within the constraints of a physical universe? That is the true question of free will.

We do not have conscious free will as has been stated elsewhere, and that seems to destroy the free will theodicy, but we are agents capable of decisions, albeit these decisions are made in a subconscious manner.

And I never even got to the question of natural evil, that is a whole new ball-game.

So what got you started? What flipped your switch?

Portrait of Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean...
Portrait of Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean school. Roman copy after a lost Hellenistic original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”
Epicurus

See you next time.

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Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Politics, Religion, The Conscious Disbeliever

Pope Benedict resigns after being handed report into corruption,gay sex and blackmail in Vatican.

Vatican City
Vatican City (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

 

There has been much speculation about the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. According to a report in the February 21 edition of The Reppublica “Sesso e carriera, i ricatti in Vaticano dietro la rinuncia di Benedetto XVI – Repubblica.it ” it appears that the cause was learning of a web of corruption, sex scandals and blackmail within the Catholic Church.

Having deconverted from Catholicism and been witness to a few priests with their “nieces” and “godchildren” and watching how they were changed from one parish to another and some minor corruption, it comes as no surprise.

The report was done by a  three-man commission that investigated the Vatileaks affair. Spearheaded by a Spanish cardinal, Julián Herranz. Assisted by Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, a former archbishop of Palermo, and the Slovak cardinal Jozef Tomko, who was once in charge of the Vatican’s department for missionaries.

It seems that the information contained in the almost 300 page volume was too much for the octogenarian pope to handle. And though his resignation is being purported to be an act of strength and not of weakness, I believe that he is only trying to save face and has more interest in the institution he presides than in the welfare of the members. The pope’s position on human rights and the sexual molestation by the clergy has been lacking. The systematic cover-up makes all those involved just as guilty as the rapists themselves. The Catholic Church has not handed the culprits over to the justice system and the stories of priest-shuffling are myriad. There is no justifiable excuse for not taking an open stance against these criminals. Once detected , they should be immediately removed from their parish, handed over to the police and if found guilty defrocked and have anathema imposed upon them. The problem with the anathema bit is that it would have to include much of the hierarchy including a number of popes.

Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive (Name) himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.

Laurens_excomunication_1875_orsay

The article also mentions that the next pope should be strong, young and “saintly” enough to handle this situation. As I can not get my wish to have them all resign and have the institution disbanded and its assets sold with the proceeds put to use in some charitable fashion, I would hope for an ethical pope with a high degree of respect for human rights.

The report mentioned in the article is for the pope’s eyes only and will be handed to the next pope only, so unless there comes a new Vatileaks style butler, don’t expect to be privy to the details.

See you next time.