101 Reasons Why I Do Not Have A Religion
Posted: 18 May 2006 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]
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"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer God than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible Gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."  Sir Stephen Henry Roberts

A visitor to my wellness website asked, "Don, what is your religion?"  I thought this query a bit of a false dichotomy in that it did not exhaust the possibilities.  Why do some people assume everyone has a religion?  I not only do not embrace any one religion—I have a low regard for all of them.  As a wellness enthusiast, I care very much for the kind of passions that religions seem to obstruct or outright oppose, including but not limited to maximum personal freedoms, democracy, critical thinking, equality of opportunity, tolerance, universal rights, the common decencies and finding your own meaning and purpose. 

I should point out that I am quite aware of a norm in our society that insulates religions from criticisms.  Most who do not embrace faith-based thinking have learned to refrain from questioning the validity, worth or rationality of anything having to do with religious faith or faiths.  While religious critics, at least in this country at present, are not burned at the stake for heresy or stoned as infidels, they don’t usually get promoted, celebrated or elected to high (or low) office, either.  Therefore, criticism of religions, particularly the major religions with significant influence, is rather muted.   

Well, as one who endured 12 years of Roman Catholic education during my formative years, I feel I have earned the right not to be muted.  Besides, as I have noted on many occasions, I think religion, like sex and politics, is too important to be omitted from polite conversation. 

Another visitor to SeekWellness.com asked a related question the other day.  She wanted to know if, given that I seemed to be so skeptical about everything associated with revelation, holy books, miracles and the like, if maybe I was not, in an unbeliever sense of the word, a bit of a fundamentalist myself.  I had to think about that for a while.  After at least five minutes, I decided that there are Ultra Orthodox Jews, Islamic Extremists, Christian Political Ideologues and yes—Fundamentalist Infidels.  I suppose, on matters relating to faith/religion of any kind, I represent a variation on Eric Hoffer’s true believer.  I am a "true unbeliever."  Nothing, it seems, can shake my disdain for religion.  In fact, my new adopted manta is "God, I hate religion." 

Of course this does not mean I hate those who are religious, or even that I have any unkind feelings toward believers.  Instead, it means I don’t share a lot of perspectives with them on matters of faith or religion.  I find discussion about religion with other fundamentalists a bit tiresome. 

Some visitors to SeekWellness.com want me to join their religion, or cult.  Well, I have my own cult, thank you very much.  I don’t really think it’s a cult, but it’s fine with me if someone wants to classify it as such.  Skepticism toward untested claims hardly seems cult-like, but if the faithful want to claim otherwise, thats their prerogative, I suppose. 

Sometimes, a visitor will get frustrated if I do not participate in a continuing discussion of beliefs via a long-running exchange of e-mails.  There are many reasons why I try to limit responses, on any topic, to a post or two.  The main reason is, like lots of people, I have other things to do.  Not that any of them is so important in the grand scheme of things (if there IS any such grand scheme, which I doubt), but other topics and demands of varied kinds do beckon.  In communications, we all have to decide when continuing to address a topic reaches diminishing returns of personal satisfaction.  Who does not, at a certain point, choose to retire from continuous exchanges about anything?  To do otherwise would make one a prisoner to hostile elements who never let up.  Another possibility is I might have a short attention span.

I love the idea of starting if not leading a movement of fundamentalist unbelievers.  However, I don’t want to start another church.  There are too many now.  In my view, two would be too many.  The only church I support is Vonnegut’s imaginary "Church of God the Utterly Indifferent." (See Slaughterhouse-Five)

I don’t know how many reasons I’ve offered for not having a religion, not liking religions or advising others to reassess their religions, but I’m sure it won’t be hard to list at least 101 of them—in future essays.

Whether you are a believer or not, faith-based or given to reason and free inquiry or in some other category of your choice, feedback is always welcomed and appreciated.  Be wellalways look on the bright side of life.

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Donald B. Ardell wrote High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease and produces the ARDELL WELLNESS REPORT.

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Posted: 18 May 2006 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Re. the question as to whether atheism is a religion or “cult”:

I like this response I recall reading awhile back (can’t remember the attribution)—“Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

I don’t really agree that a strong atheist, pro-science naturalist need be considered “fundamentalist”. If you look at the various definitions of “fundamentalist” around, they tend to cluster around a number of crucial things:

(1) Social conservatism,
(2) Religious conservatism,
(3) Adherence to religious creeds as “fundamental”, e.g., to the Bible as literally true.
(4) Unwillingness to consider arguments from evidence or reason against their “fundamental” beliefs.

Number four is just a clarification of what it is for a creed to be believed “fundamentally”.

Any atheist/naturalist worth his or her salt will be entirely open to arguments against atheism or naturalism based on evidence or reason. Of course, we should be skeptical of such arguments, since so many have failed in the past, but that is different from being closed-minded.

The only thing we are closed-minded about is arguments that are not from evidence or reason—arguments from authority, from passion or romance, good storytelling, et cetera. But those aren’t really good arguments at all, by definition.

Neither are atheist/naturalists necessarily conservative about society. Indeed, if you look at the history of the freethought movement (see Susan Jacoby’s marvellous book Freethinkers), in general, atheist/naturalists were almost all social liberals, in their day; for example, many were anti-slavery, pro-women’s rights when these were not generally allowed in polite company.

And atheist/naturalists are of course not religious conservatives.

So we have it that atheist/naturalists are, in general:

(1) Social liberals,
(2) Non religious,
(3) Not reliant on any creed as “fundamental”,
(4) Open to consider any evidence from science or reason that counters their beliefs.

Hence they are not “fundamentalists” in any sense.

If, on the other hand, by “fundamentalist” you mean that we hold our beliefs strongly, then everyone by definition is a fundamentalist about many things. But that’s not an interesting sort of fundamentalism, and it isn’t what people mean when they say “so and so is a fundamentalist”.

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Posted: 26 September 2006 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Doug , so right. And religious liberals and agnostics accuse us of being the mirror image of fundamentalists when religious liberals are themselves creationistic- faith - based ! The religious think we are dogmatic in wanting evidence . Kai Nielsn in “Naturalism and Religion” shows how we operate . Notice his inclusion of the Hook- Demos debate.

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 30 September 2006 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The term “atheist” is only a necessity because there are SOOO many people who are not atheists.  It’s like calling yourself a non-smoker or non-drinker because you are alocohol and tobacco free. But if you look at other examples, then such terminology seems strange.  There are many people who eat chocolate cake.  But if I have an aversion to chocolate cake then no one would call me a non-cake eater or create any other label for that matter which describes that particular thing which I did NOT partake in.  Like Doug said, you are not a “non-stamp collector” because you don’t collect stamps.  It’s just something you don’t do.

So an atheist should not be an atheist. You should just be a person who doesn’t believe in religion.  Sometimes the term helps describe that more succinctly much like saying “I’m a non-smoker”.  I don’t identify myself as a person who doesn’t do things.  However, a religious person DEFINITELY identifies with their religious lifestyle/beliefs.

The only reason I say that I would call myself an atheist is to use the stigma that religious people associate with the term just to piss them off.  Instead of saying that I don’t have religious beliefs, it ticks off religious people much more when you’re like, “I’m and ATHEIST! Take that!”

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Posted: 02 October 2006 02:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I agree with Roger.  It is so useful, when Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on the door, to just say, “I’m not interested because I happen to be an atheist.”  Sometimes that involves you in an impromptu discussion, but even then it’s a lot simpler than beating around the bush!

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Posted: 13 February 2009 02:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Preachers, Paul Tillich and Augustine use the argument from angst that we suffer if we are not, as Augustine puts it, in the bosom of God. This refelcts faith as it has no evidence. Were one in angst, one should get therapy.
  This is part of their non sequitur that if there is no divine purpose, we have no purpose, but as I adumbrate in the thread on purpose, that is not so.
  Lack of evidence is another bane of theists.
  Advocatus, indeed! Planet Wisdom disowns him, me and another atheist. Now TheologyWeb and Theology on Line take on rationalists.

[ Edited: 13 February 2009 02:59 AM by Carneades [ lord griggs1947] ]
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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 13 February 2009 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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do you ever get tired of being asked to defend your atheism in response to dumb things theists say?

“you’re too NICE to be an atheist.”

“but WHY are you atheist?  what are you mad at?”

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Posted: 13 February 2009 08:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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skuld - 13 February 2009 12:50 PM

do you ever get tired of being asked to defend your atheism in response to dumb things theists say?

“you’re too NICE to be an atheist.”

“but WHY are you atheist?  what are you mad at?”

We need to spend more time worrying about what we’re doing and less time focusing on our adversaries. We’re inviting these questions, and the perceptions behind them, by our behavior.

“I not only do not embrace any one religion—I have a low regard for all of them.”

“I am a ‘true unbeliever.’  Nothing, it seems, can shake my disdain for religion.  In fact, my new adopted manta is ‘God, I hate religion.’”

“I love the idea of starting if not leading a movement of fundamentalist unbelievers.”

I understand the intent behind each of these statements, but most people will not. I respectfully suggest that the author read them more carefully. They are excessively categorical, sloppily phrased and not incisive in the manner that I would expect of a rationalist. The first assumes that the listener’s concept of religion will be the same as the speaker’s, even though it probably won’t be; the second commits the secularist sin of accepting the false notion that we are unbelievers; the third, if taken at face value, is rank hypocrisy. Again, I agree with much of what you’re trying to say, but you’re saying it in a way that practically begs people to slap you around. And you’re taking me down with you.

More important, perhaps, these statements are all negative. If you make statements like this, people will continue to make statements like those in the above post. You cannot reject belief wholesale without inviting the community’s ridicule and even contempt. With all due respect to Doug, many of our members are close-minded to anything that goes under the name of religion; once the visceral association is drawn, many minds close.

To draw a parallel, there is a defense lawyer I know who tries cases in the Bronx. He needles his adversaries to provoke a reaction. Quite often his adversary takes the bait and tries his case against the lawyer; and most times when he does that, he loses. If you let your opponent get into your head, he has beaten you. More aptly, he has gotten you to beat yourself, and that’s exactly what we are doing.

When are we going to stop? We cannot succeed until we stop this.

Another example: “Whether you are a believer or not . . .” Whenever one of us makes a statement like this, we all lose ground. Yes, I know this may be getting tiresome, but really, we have to stop saying this; or, if people are going to continue saying that there is even one human being on earth who operates above a vegetative level and doesn’t believe in something, I’d like to see the example. If you cannot show me an example, then I respectfully suggest that you stop saying it. It’s an inexcusable statement for any of us make. We are all believers. We must stop labeling ourselves as intolerant theists wish to label us.

Why are we doing this? All we’re proving is that we are easy pickings for the religious analog of Karl Rove politics: theists mention lipstick on a pig and we insist on arguing every nuance of the analogy, whcih is the worst thing we can do.

A good movement must be built around something positive. The only exceptions I can think of are things I would not wish to be a part of.

[ Edited: 14 February 2009 04:23 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 14 February 2009 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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For strictly practical reasons, I’ve never understood the benefit of taking a directly confrontational position on religion.  I haven’t seen any evidence suggesting that one can direct enough people away from supernatural thought to make it worth the time and effort.
I would suggest a more utilitarian approach of acknowledging that since we have no way of all agreeing on which supernatural beliefs are “right” we should use rational thought and evidence to guide our decision making.  That’s why if I can be fervent about anything it’s that government should be COMPLETELY secular.

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Posted: 17 February 2009 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I say nothing off-line about my atheism. On-line, I can be diffident or inflammatory. I am a new atheist, an anti-thiest.
  However, I prefer the terms naturalist and rationalist for me as I abjurate the paranormal. and these two terms are positive. From Prometheus alone , there are now many atheist books.
  The rationalist’s fallacy is to thind that with the growth of education, there would be less superstition; however, the more educated can have more verbiage for their fantasies. Now, there is some less religiosity.
  Yea, secaularism! The more, the more Billo [ Bill O’Oreilly] will bray!

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 17 February 2009 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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the trouble with a strict rationalist approach is that people engage in religion or superstition for reasons that have nothing to do with rationality.

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Posted: 02 March 2009 09:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I agree with those who espouse a non confrontational discussion of Theism vs Atheism
“Rejectionism” is never productive, on the contrary, it tends to harden positions and make it even more difficult to communicate.

If I may direct readers to a current discussion about this in the link named “God=Potential Potential=God” 
Do not let this title fool you. It is by no means an endorsement of the term God in a religious context. On the contrary,
it seeks to convince the Theist that there is room for interpretation of religious Dogma without threatening to remove long
held tradional beliefs and practises.
Example: an excerpt of one of my posts.
As to the Theists, I was asked once by a religious person, what my position was on the Biblical assertion that the Universe was created in seven days, while Science claims 7 billion years (give or take). I pointed out that his interpretation assumed earth days, and offered the possibility that one of God’s days (using his language) may well be a billion years. I suggested that if God is God of the Universe, it would be arrogant of us to assume that everything in the Universe happens in earth time.
I did not reject the Biblical description of Creation, but offered a modification to the interpretation of the message. I am happy to say that this person acknowledged the logic of my statement and accepted this modification of the traditional Biblical interpretation, without feeling that his basic beliefs were threatened.  A huge step forward, I’d say.
If this is called “gradualism” then yes, but at least there is communication and without it there can be no progress.

[ Edited: 02 March 2009 10:15 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 02 March 2009 09:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Hmm, seven billion years, give or take? The age of the universe is almost fourteen billion years…and counting.

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Posted: 02 March 2009 10:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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ok…Fourteen billion years…..that would have only changed my proposition that one of God’s days (using theist language) might well be two billion years.
It does not change the approach of gentle persuasion in language which a theist can understand and identify with.

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Posted: 03 March 2009 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Comparing the scientific “creation” of the universe to the religious one (well, the Biblical one, there are hundreds of other myths) is probably as useful as comparing the gestation of a child inside a female uterus with the creation of Pinocchio by Geppetto. What do you mean by “creation”? It took about a millionth of a second for the universe to acquire its shape, three seconds for the appearance of the first elements and three hundred million years for the formation of the first stars and galaxies. And the universe is still not done. Your gentle persuasion in language is not only completely unnecessary but also very misleading. Read Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and then go and tell your friend all about it. There is nothing offending about science.

[ Edited: 03 March 2009 07:18 AM by George ]
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Posted: 03 March 2009 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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The 14 billion year span is now open to some significant adjustment due to discoveries in the dark matter arena, as well as the repulsive force investigations.

I have an intellectual attachment to various scientific theories, but I try to be careful not to develop an emotional attachment, or to be too didactic.

Cosmology is one of my favorites, but like quantum theory, it’s always in a state of minor, and sometimes major, flux.

I always assume that the scientific ground will shift beneath my feet somewhat, and I try to retain my intellectual balance.

While it’s always a temptation to antagonize religious fundamentalists, just as a kind of sadistic sport, I really go out of my way to avoid this. I’m not a bit afraid of confrontation, but these folks are, for the most part, beyond rational redemption. Sticking them in their intellectual eye with a sharp verbal stick doesn’t further the cause of rationality one bit and is ultimately counter-productive. I’m not saying to wimp-out, just perhaps to chill-out.

I’m trying to restrain myself along these lines [ and in gerenal ] so this forum is helping a lot. I hope…

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