Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Gimme that New-Time Religion

By residentofearth in Culture
Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 04:29:10 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

By Dale Short (Birmingham Weekly) Posted with permission.

It may be no coincidence that every explosion we see in an action movie nowadays looks the same. Destruction is no longer a loud bang and a flash of light; it's become a stylized slow-motion ballet of jagged fragments that tumble and ricochet outward from the explosion's exact center toward the viewer and beyond, an artists perspective-drawing turned nightmare.

The destroyed object is no more, this surreal display seems to tell us, but the ramifications of the blast have only begun. Its chain of events reaches further into the future than we can imagine, consequences as relentless as they are unforeseeable, but already stirring in us some primal memory of doom.


Welcome to the American psyche, post-9/11. Of all the events large and small that were set into motion by the flaming collapse of New York City's Twin Towers that morning, perhaps the least predictable has been the creation of a new religion, headquartered, of all places, in Birmingham.

It's called "Universism," and for its founder, Ford Vox, the new movement is far more than an academic exercise. Vox says in an essay that Universist principles "offer a clear and present alternative to the religions that threaten to destroy our world. There is a connection between faith-driven mass murder and faith-driven public policy in the United States. They differ in degree only."

A Meetup movement

The Universist movement -- headquartered online at www.universist.org -- has already gained a membership of more than 4,000 throughout North America and in locales as far-flung as Paris, Cairo, Melbourne and the Philippines. Universism's listing on Meetup.com, the grassroots internet phenomenon that famously fueled a zillion in-person meetings of Howard Dean supporters, is the 10th largest group in the nation under Meetup's "Religion" category. The week of July 4, the number of Universists who meet face-to-face at local venues such as coffee shops topped 1,000 for the first time.

Slowly but surely, the mainstream is taking notice. A Universist member in Great Britan was recently profiled on the BBC. And in the U.S., the Christian-right organization "Focus on the Family" has just targeted Universism's growing popularity as "the sign of a decaying culture," and is asking its college students to monitor the group's online discussions so they can "learn to counter these (Universist) forces that are vying for people's minds and hearts."

At the time of the 9/11 attacks, Vox, a UAB medical student, had been thinking long and hard about religion. He was active in a philosophical movement known as Deism, which had gotten encouragement from such scientific luminaries as Edward O. Wilson and Steven Pinker. In a nutshell, deists believe that the personal search for God should proceed from reason and intellect, not from blind faith. While God may well have created the universe, they maintain, He doesn't micro-manage its daily affairs and He certainly doesn't reveal Himself supernaturally to a handful of His favorite human beings.

But the religious motivation of the 9/11 hijackers (whose instructions ordered them to shout "God is great!" just before the moment of death) sent Vox's mind spinning off in a new direction. What the world needs desperately, he decided, is a non-toxic form of religion that is incapable, by its nature, of turning its faithful into hit-men for the Almighty.

He wrote an essay proposing the outlines of such a religion, and posted it on the Web under a photograph of the Twin Towers aflame and the headline "Behold The Power of Faith." In it, Vox declared: "As Tuesday's events in NYC and DC demonstrate, the power of revealed religion to viscerally threaten freedom stands unequalled..." Hits to the page kept accumulating far past the number he'd expected, and the tone of the positive responses told him he was onto something.

Freethinking & the culture clash

One crux of the cultural clash that followed 9/11 was the dispute between President Bush, who insisted that the Islamic hijackers were "cowards," and those who argued that while the hijackers were dangerously misguided fanatics, cowardice was not among their sins because they were willing to die for their beliefs. (In the explosive political atmosphere of those weeks, comedian Bill Maher was fired from network TV for raising exactly that point. Maher now says of the incident, "There's something terribly wrong in this country when the only person who loses his job over 9/11 is a comedian.")

"At the time, people such as evangelist Jerry Falwell were preaching that some kind of `moral weakness' was responsible for the attacks," Vox says, "But it's blatantly obvious that the people who flew those planes into the Trade Center had more faith in their pinky fingers than Falwell could ever dream of having in his entire body. Sacrificing your life for what you believe in is a very powerful emotion.

"But Universism is about realizing that faith's great power is also its great danger. In those circumstances, there are fundamental ways that the human mind may not be capable of controlling itself."

What do you get when you subtract traditional faith from the notion of worship and religion? The United Universist website describes the group's beliefs as "A progressive natural philosophy uniting freethinkers. It focuses on faith in reason, inspiration in nature, and hope in progress."

If "freethinkers" sounds familiar, it's because the freethought philosophy has been around for at least a century. Freethoughtist Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) wrote, "Real religion means the doing of justice, the giving to others of every right you claim for yourself. Real religion consists of the duties of man to man, in feeding the hungry, in clothing the naked, defending the innocent, and saying what you believe to be true."

In general, freethinkers have also been atheists, a group that makes up about one percent of the U.S. population. But Vox sees the United Universists membership as a theological tent that's inclusive enough to bring in atheists, agnostics, deists, transcendentalists and the 13.5 percent of Americans who describe themselves as "non-religious" but nonetheless have many unanswered questions about the nature and meaning of existence.

It's a sad irony, Vox says, that religion came into being as a way for humans to evaluate their place in the universe, but today most religions stand in the way of such evaluation: "Mainstream religion is about relying on a holy text from centuries ago, taking the word of the person who wrote it, and setting aside your own experiences as an individual in the world. We're told that the questions are all answered, and there's nothing to discuss.

"With Universism, a holy text can be the book you're reading tonight or the movie you saw last week," Vox says. "We're open to all ideas, but we try to evaluate them by reason and not by the supposed authority of the person who argues for those ideas. A typical response we get from people who find us online is not, `Wow, you've revealed to me something totally new,' but `I'm thrilled to find out there are other people who have the same questions that I do.' We want to give them the ability to get into local Universist groups and talk about these questions."

No leaders, only seekers

One of the people who came across Vox's ideas and liked what he heard is Todd Stricker. Stricker, part of a growing group who meets the first Thursday evening of each month at various city coffeehouses chosen through Meetup.com, describes himself as "a recent import to Birmgingham from Chicago," who was "suffering from culture shock, and the effects of an overburden of fundamentalist faith."

"My big complaint with present-day churches is that the rigidity implied by their structure allows them no change at all, though they have to change in order to cope with, and understand, the problems in society," Stricker says. "As a result, they've lost credibility. What I like about Universism is that it's a very democratic institution. If it makes sense to incorporate something new, and the majority of Universists understand and agree, we can do so. If that understanding changes in the future, we can handle that, too."

Stricker, who says he was fortunate to grow up in "a religion-neutral household," is production manager of a wood-working business and comes into contact with a wide range of individuals on a given day. Their responses to his religious path "range all over the board," he says, "from, `You can't be serious' to what seems like genuine interest. In fact, the range of those attitudes actually reinforces, for me, the importance of the concept. We don't want to pigeonhole anybody. The best thing that can happen from a personal exchange about religion is when both people come away with a new perspective."

Vox says up front that he's not a preacher, and he prefers to be called a facilitator for the group, rather than its leader. "It's a totally grassroots movement, with people doing their own things," he says. "I just correspond via e-mail wherever I am, and our local meetings are once a month, so that's manageable for me."

He emphasizes that he's comfortable with a wide variety of expression among individual members.

"Some might want to have aspects of a church system, with symbols and rituals and traditions, and that's fine," Vox says. "Ritual is an important part of human culture. Other people may want to have just an informal discussion group. The only thing we need to be united in is our desire for progress."

Growing beliefs

In fairness, many religions have done the world a lot of good," Vox says. "But you have to calculate the balance sheet, and one of the ways religion has fallen down is by not encouraging people to behave with respect towards one another. I believe that all the positive human values can be taught outside of systems that claim absolute truth and that divide the world into `us' and `them.'"

A recurring criticism of freethought philosophies, says Stricker, centers around the notion that such ideas represent a breakdown in moral authority, as in the phrase attributed to Dostoyevsky, "If there is no God, then everything is permitted." Stricker disagrees. "The whole concept of the Golden Rule is not so much a religious construct as a societal one. To exist in any kind of social unit, you have to respect the rights of others, or you get booted out. That's not a product of some stone tablet; it's a universal human truth. And anybody who's ever participated in a family unit or a community knows that."

When Vox checks each day's e-mail, he encounters new twists in the road for the young philosophy. One development has been the surprising number of musicians who say they've been inspired to write songs about Universism. (The first of the finished products, from an alternative rock band in Pennsylvania named Sacred Theory, is on the United Universists "Links" page.) Vox has also arranged an online discussion and debate, scheduled for August 15, 8 p.m. CDT, with the director of the Focus on the Family Institute, Chris Leland, Ph.D. According to Vox, Leland has been "very cordial" in their exchanges so far.

Stricker believes that however the popularity of Universism might spread in coming years, its most important influence will be long-term.

"I've noticed that the most stalwart and bitter fundamentalists I come across are at least two generations older than me," he says. "I think that such extremists are a dying breed. Call it morbid, but I really believe that as these generations leave the earth, we grow wiser and hopefully a little more aware of the predicament that we're all in together.

"A shift needs to occur in the religious world," Vox adds, "from the whole paradigm of `Do you believe in God?' to `How do you behave, based on what you believe?'"

It's no accident, Vox says, that the Universist logo is the stylized image of a galaxy:

"What I believe is that we're all on this blue dot floating in space, and that the wonder of the natural world is so complex that it gives us the potential for enormous progress, if only we can manage to work on that future together."

This piece is the cover story of the Birmingham Weekly for July 22-29, 2004.

View Cover Story


United Universists

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
What's your religious worldview?
o Christian 19%
o Islam 1%
o Judaism 1%
o Other Major World Religion 3%
o New Age (including wicca and paganism) 4%
o Universism (non-faiths like atheism, deism, agnosticism, pantheism) 44%
o Universalism (faith unity movements like Baha'i and Unitarians) 3%
o Other 21%

Votes: 154
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o www.univer sist.org
o View Cover Story
o United Universists
o Also by residentofearth


Display: Sort:
Gimme that New-Time Religion | 155 comments (113 topical, 42 editorial, 0 hidden)
In the same vein (2.80 / 10) (#5)
by localroger on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 04:30:51 PM EST

The Church of Virus is a similarly intended synthetic religion with rationalist tendencies. CoV's direction tends to be more focused on the Singularity and transhumanism. (I found out about them because they invited me to do a chat about my book.)

Unitarian Universalism is another much older movement to turn a deist-oriented Christianity into a kinder and gentler religion. Back when I was deeply involved with the New Age thing in the 80's many of my customers were Unitarians, their beliefs actually encouraging them to experiment with strange and different things.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min

Church of Virus (none / 0) (#104)
by drivers on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 02:01:48 PM EST

I remember getting interested in CoV and participating in the mailing list in 1995. (I can actually find my posts to it in google, embarassingly.) What have they done besides redesign their website once in the last 10 years? (Now the About pages says "Darwin's dangerous idea out of control", which used to be links to two books that comprise that phrase... without that it's just nonsense). The mailing list archive stops in 2002. Ok, they have a BBS and a Wiki (with 4 changes in 90 days). It was barely cool in 1995 when the idea of a "meme" was a neat idea. Then people realized that not everything is analogous to evolution and meme is just jargon for "idea." That and they never did get around to actually creating a memetically engineered religion.

[ Parent ]
Why I'm voting -1. (1.57 / 7) (#15)
by waxmop on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 08:17:56 PM EST

Tonight I watched an interesting 60 Minutes story on viral marketing, and then I log on here and see an article posted by a new member that's never participated in any discussions before. Hmm.

Like globalroger pointed out, people have been trying to create one religion to rule them all for a really long time. I bet a piece that argues why this soup du jour will succeed when all previous attempts have failed might do Ok here, but I think you should create a new account because this one has the astroturf stink on it bad now.
--
The threat of losing all of your shiny possessions is what keeps us slaves to the machine. --

A few points. (2.83 / 12) (#16)
by Kasreyn on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 08:50:04 PM EST

+1, even though it's astroturfing... I think it should be suffered because it seems to be generating some interesting discussion.

My only editorial comment is a request: could you include a link to the original page, or mirror thereof, with the photo of the twin towers with the caption "Behold the Power of Faith"? Your title could also stand some work.

As to universism - there are some problems here. For one thing, how does this differ from existing movements like the Freethinkers and the Humanists? It says it can bring in other groups, but I think they may find that many agnostics, and a great deal of atheists, will look askance at this sort of starry-eyed, mush-mouthed new-ageism, a la Kucinich. Some of us find all this "you can do anything you want to!" happy crappy to be as unrealistic as the Garden of Eden and the Flood.

As to "moral weakness" vs "faith" - I personally think that anyone who believes in anything blindly enough to harm others due to it, is displaying a shocking amount of mental cowardice. Such a person finds it more comfortable to live with a set of self-righteous blinders, rather than to face up to the moral responsibility for their actions. I believe the 9-11 hijackers were cowards, like all fundamentalists. They lack the courage to face a complex and morally challenging world, so they retreat, trembling, to a comforting black-and-white worldview.

As for religion coming into being to "evaluate" the universe, I think rather it was invented to explain away the gaps in information that were not available to our primitive forebears. As such, its usefulness and relevance fades with every increment in our scientific understanding of the universe. Thus the more and more common retreat into fundamentalism - since gods, goblins, and boogeymen are being relentlessly shown up by the forces of reason, it becomes necessary for people of "faith" to retreat from reason to avoid having their egos damaged.

Having read the Dostoevsky that was quoted, I have to say that I've always disagreed with it. Moral authority has never, in human history, derived from gods or spirits, but *always* from the community, ie. the Golden Rule. Communities merely use "gods" as figureheads for lending their rules legitimacy - it's harder to challenge a rule laid down by someone who is never present. :) If the village chieftain said, "Everyone must sacrifice a kid goat on the summer solstice every year", people could argue with him. "Why? We could raise it and eat it!" If he adds to the start of that sentence, "God says," suddenly it becomes harder to refute. This, IMO, is how "gods" got involved in the rule-making biz. :P

I also lack Vox's optimism about fundamentalism dying out. He must not read the papers very much (not surprising, all things considered). Fundies seem to be taking over *everywhere*. Or is it that being an agnostic, I'm biased and see more fundamentalism than there really is? I'm not sure.

In any case, I really doubt Falwell and the Christian Coalition have anything whatsoever to fear from the "universists". The sort of person who is drawn to group belief systems and organized - or even semiorganized - religion, is the sort of person who needs an authority figure and dogma. I predict universist membership to never hit the 10,000 mark. Freethinkers, atheists, agnostics - these are people who couldn't even agree on ordering a pizza, they're so free-willed. :P There's no way they'll ever all raise the banner of a single viewpoint together. No, I think Vox is missing an important point - there can be no anti-religion religion, because to gain membership it would have to become what it's fighting. If universism wants to gain enough sway to oppose Falwell and his ilk, it will have to adopt dogma and top-down authority, and it will cease to be anything but just another kooky cult.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
My vote to section is now vindicated. (none / 1) (#17)
by localroger on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 09:15:10 PM EST

I'm localroger and I endorse this comment that I'm replying to.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
-1, delusions of grandeur [nt] (none / 3) (#19)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 09:36:04 PM EST



[ Parent ]
umm, ok ^_^; (none / 1) (#22)
by Kasreyn on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 09:47:39 PM EST

assuming this isn't some joke, I'm flattered.

(weird way to put it... IAWTP works too)

Btw roger, totally OT but something I've been meaning to say to you... has to do with A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace. Well, I've come to enjoy it a great deal and it kinda bothers me that comment #1 on the story is my post lambasting it. :P Since I can't go back and post a retraction (comments disabled in the archive), I figured I would just catch you sometime on k5. So, accept my retraction here: I think it's a great story after all. :)


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
ok (none / 1) (#55)
by localroger on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 01:56:15 PM EST

So, accept my retraction here: I think it's a great story after all. :)

Consider it retracted. And I figured it being the political season and all, I'd come up with a form of IAWTP in the mood of the times :-)

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

there is much fodder for discussion here (none / 1) (#20)
by residentofearth on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 09:38:30 PM EST

You're right, we have a lot to talk about. Folks talk every day on the Universist Forum, and there is an open visitor's section on that forum we could converse in if this article is not posted on Kuro5hin.

[ Parent ]
not dying out - you're right (none / 2) (#25)
by residentofearth on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 09:57:51 PM EST

I disagree with that comment in the article too, in fact that is why this Universist movement is necessary - fundamentalists are not dying out, they are increasingly flourishing. That comment doesn't speak to anything in the philosophy though. Check out the mission statement - it describes the urgency: United Universist Mission Statement

[ Parent ]
blind belief (2.75 / 4) (#35)
by m a r c on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 12:42:57 AM EST

if believers choose faith over moral responsibility i don't believe that they are necessarily cowards. They are being consistent within their own framework of belief and choose that faith is more important than morals. Prehaps they have not had the choices that would have enabled them to make more intelligent decisions.

I tend to disagree with your assumption that religion serves to plug the hole between the questions we ask and our scientific understanding of the universe. Science will only find answers to a limited amount of problems. These problems need to be very clearly defined and readily repeatable. There are way too many questions I have about life that just don't fit into this framework. I'm not saying religion offers any better solution, i'm just saying that science can tell us the how but never the why.

With regard to fundamentalism, i believe that it thrives in an evironment where ever present hardship exists. I speculate that the reason western societies do not have large amounts of fundamentalism is due to our easier lifestyle. We don't *need* to believe so much to get us through the day.
I got a dog and named him "Stay". Now, I go "Come here, Stay!". After a while, the dog went insane and wouldn't move at all.
[ Parent ]

Golden Rule (none / 2) (#109)
by haydentech on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 03:47:00 PM EST

Moral authority has never, in human history, derived from gods or spirits, but *always* from the community, ie. the Golden Rule.

I see a lot of stuff I disagree with here on k5, but this is one the most incorrect statements I've seen yet. First of all, I'd say that for all practical purposes, all moral authority comes from God (or at least someone's interpretation of deity). Secondly, perhaps I'm missing something, but your example perfectly contradicts what you are saying. Where do you suppose the Golden Rule came from? The earliest example of this is from the Talmud (circa 1200 BC) and the most famous example is by Jesus.



[ Parent ]
Right. (1.50 / 2) (#110)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 04:11:29 PM EST

Non-Judeo-Christian societies have never heard of anything like the Golden Rule. That's why the Japanese are known for cooking and eating their own children.

:rolls eyes:


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
Yhbt. (none / 0) (#123)
by Plareplane on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 07:13:51 PM EST



[ Parent ]
IHL. (none / 0) (#129)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:37:00 PM EST

D'oh!


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
HAND ^_^ but ty for the support anyway :P -nt (none / 0) (#131)
by Kasreyn on Wed Jul 28, 2004 at 12:33:09 AM EST

nt
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Which is why (none / 1) (#151)
by rho on Thu Aug 05, 2004 at 09:35:33 AM EST

Moral authority has never, in human history, derived from gods or spirits, but *always* from the community, ie. the Golden Rule.

Which is why the Golden Rule is so popular and so often practiced. What's that? The Golden Rule is about as popular as a plug of Skoal in your Rice Krispies? That lazy community, always slacking off enforcing its moral authority.

Moral authority is always dictated by the Greater Stick theory. He who has the Greater Stick can authorize whatever morality he wants. See Nazi Germany, Sudan or Hollywood for examples. Homegrown morality that doesn't ultimately benefit a single or small group of men out of proportion is as rare as hens teeth.
"The thought of two thousand people munching celery at the same time [horrifies] me." --G.B. Shaw
[ Parent ]

i only voted +1 because it's bizarre enough (2.20 / 5) (#37)
by toliman on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 04:30:04 AM EST

im sure that it's not good, it's certainly unique. i've never heard of this religion, but if it was up to me, i would prefer a critical piece, rather than a fluff piece describing it with the use of 'fervent' religious anathema.

in my opinion though, and the rest of the goddamn world can safely and surely say, 9/11 is a potent sign of moral decay. i agree with that on the surface. if morals can 'decay', from that ignorant rigid purity and obedience to principles like the '10 commandments', then sure, it's decaying. they were never practical moral standards  in the bible or the koran, the definition wavers depending on your interpretative stance of a book long dead. if we do need a new religion to cover an era where we can change the nature of humanity, we also need new standards of behaviour to apply to everyone. but the likelihood of the world population betraying their faths to convert to a universal declaration of principles and morality ... it's a tough sell. religion is the cause and the effect of such terrible things, it is not the cure to terrorism, fear, or doubt. it's just another form of warfare for a new generation.

in short, it's a crappy article, that doesn't suit critical evaluation. religion rarely does. and in that spirit, i voted for it, only to see the inevitable crushing and bitter controversy that will crush it in its wake.

Nice. 1st deism, them universism, but (none / 1) (#38)
by Highlander on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 07:41:43 AM EST

Nice topic.
A bit long for k5, it would fare better as an MLP.
I'm sure there is a gist to it.

I guess Ill find it when i finish reading it ..

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

-1, Fails to mention Mercerism (none / 3) (#39)
by outis on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 07:49:29 AM EST



maybe you should (3.00 / 4) (#54)
by xutopia on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 01:40:41 PM EST

and provide some links or something. That's what the comments are for. If you'll mention something you deem worthy you should at least provide a link or some material. That is the difference between ranting and critizing constructively. ;)

[ Parent ]
Classic blunder! (none / 1) (#137)
by Eviction on Wed Jul 28, 2004 at 02:03:13 PM EST

Now that you've proven that you haven't read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick, we can all begin making fun of you.

EVICTION HAS BEEN BITCH-SLAPPED BY THE K5 EDITORS. IF YOU CAN FIGURE OUT WHY, PLEASE LET HIM KNOW. That's right. Due to editorial misconduct, his serial suspense story will never be finished.
[ Parent ]
+1FP, why not? (none / 2) (#42)
by codejack on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 08:34:54 AM EST

I really didn't get anything from this as in my own worldview, reason is not only the only way to discover anything, but it is a personal issue, not something that should be arbitrated by others (if the "rational" membership of universism votes to chop off their left ears or something equally silly, am I supposed to follow suit?). I trust my own reason, not that of anyone else.


Please read before posting.

Funny, notice the ads on meetup page (2.75 / 4) (#45)
by wynlyndd on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 09:59:10 AM EST

The Google Ad-words are all Scientology links. I guess the L. Ron Hubberists can't sit by and let a new religion appear on their turf. :)
"Droplets of Yes and No in an Ocean of Maybe" -- Faith No More
you're right (none / 1) (#67)
by residentofearth on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 05:41:13 PM EST

You're correct wynlyndd -

Check out this thread in the Universist Forum: "Scientology ads - annoying"

[ Parent ]
Food for some kind of thought (none / 3) (#46)
by omiKron on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 10:32:51 AM EST

Why do we need so many non-religious/anti-religious/pseudo-religious religions? This sounds more like a nation-wide network of discussion groups, and although there's nothing wrong with that... why is it news-worthy? And it has been stated - how is this different from Humanism for example? and other "religions that aren't religions"...

Voted up nonetheless cuz I think some interesting discussion could come out of it...
MUTATE & SURVIVE

The Demonization Treadmill... (none / 3) (#49)
by DLWormwood on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 11:44:42 AM EST

how is this different from Humanism for example? and other "religions that aren't religions".

Because every time a group like the Humanists or Agnostics starts to gain political or popular traction, the Relentless Defenders Of OrthodoxyTM come out of the woodwork to re-marginalize them. The constantly changing monikers is a survival strategy against the pig-headedness of the blindly faithful, nothing more.
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled
[ Parent ]

For once a rational religion! +1FP (2.50 / 4) (#48)
by xutopia on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 11:28:02 AM EST

At least this religion doesn't force dogmas down your throat. It doesn't tell you to go to mass every sunday because {insert stupid rethoric here or silent moment}.

Everything can and should be questionned. As a former believer who turned atheist I'm glad to see people organizing such efforts behind a common front! I don't need a religious group to feel good about myself but I'm glad some are finding what they need with something rational rather than irrational.

+1FP

Okay, once again.. (none / 3) (#62)
by Skywise on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 04:10:55 PM EST

ALL belief systems (even AtheisM) force Dogmas down your throat.

Like:  "Everything can and should be questionned."

Trading off one stock belief system for another isn't a trade off.  Might as well be saying "I don't eat the wafers anymore, I drink the kool-aid!"

[ Parent ]

Catch-22 (none / 1) (#106)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 02:42:13 PM EST

If "Everything can and should be questioned" is a dogmatic statement, then how can you question that statement without adhering to dogma?


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
I can question the statement fine... (none / 2) (#107)
by Skywise on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 02:58:28 PM EST

The key words are "Everything" and "should".

Free thought is... free thought.  If I want the ability to mix and match things taken on faith along with hard rationality, then I should.

Basically my entire thesis is that any structured social system is inherently bad.  Because you're going to have to come up with a set of rules to delineate behavior and belief systems and then you'll be saying stuff like this is "good" and this is "bad".  (IE Secondhand smoking is BAD, McDonalds is BAD).  Everyone likes to point to religion as the whipping boy, but ignore the hypocrisy of the indoctrinated belief systems incurred by normal society.

I'm an individualist.  (and yeah, that's inherently dogmatic as well)

[ Parent ]

I think you missed the point (none / 0) (#105)
by haydentech on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 02:19:12 PM EST

I don't need a religious group to feel good about myself

If feeling good about yourself was why you were "in church" before, then that would explain what you didn't "get it". It's not that you were a believer before, you were never a believer but didn't know that you weren't. You're definitely not alone either.



[ Parent ]
Atheist (2.66 / 9) (#50)
by evil rabbit on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 11:46:32 AM EST

I'm an atheist and wouldn't be seen dead consorting with a bunch of wooly minded compromise led 'freethinkers' like Universists. Anyone who can seriously think that a diest belief is acceptable to atheist belief needs to seriously consider their use of logic.

I am an atheist, not a humanist, universist or any other terndy phrase. In short I do not believe in any supernatural power, souls, ghosts, the afterlife or any other frippery. I believe firmly that we're biological machines programmed to attempt to survive. Nothing mystical.
--
Animals are there to be experimented on.

you just plain suck (1.05 / 20) (#51)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 01:00:03 PM EST

i hate fundamentalists, their blind adherence to a simplistic creed makes the world an ugly place

but i hate you too

you have no humility in you, you have no humbleness when you place your existence before the infininty of time and space

you're just a haughty arrogant machine

cold, dead, lifeless, without spirit

you're as bad as a fundamentalist

you can't be a blind sheep in a stupid creed in this world

nor can you be an automaton

you have to be spiritual, you really do

it really has to have a meaning, this life

that feeling is more intrinsic to the definition of human existence than whatever an atheist or a fundamentalist can possibly say otherwise

a fundamentalist or an atheist has to learn something: they have to stop trying to simplify things that shouldn't be simplified

life is complex and beautiful, stop trying to simplify it and purge it of the very mystery that makes it worth living you stupid cold fuck

atheists and fundamentalists

two fucking stupid oversimplifiying assholes in this world


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Argument through emulation? :-) (none / 3) (#78)
by losthalo on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 11:09:13 PM EST

For your next trick are you going to emulate a Symbolics Lisp Machine Front End Processor saving the World? ;-)

[ Parent ]
one assertion vs. another (none / 2) (#116)
by Nursie on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 05:18:03 PM EST

He asserts that atheism is incompatible with a spiritual dimension, you accuse him of oversimplifying, thereby implying you believe the situation to be more complicated.

That doesn't necessarily make you right or him wrong.

Also, WTF?? Atheism is not denail of the complex, or lack of wonder at the way the world and the universe at large are. If anything it invokes greater wonder, and greater awe, at how everything came to be, without the subversion of will to some greater power or supernatural force.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
spirituality... (none / 0) (#128)
by circletimessquare on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:16:29 PM EST

is simply awe at your insignificance in time and space

i find most atheists to have lost that simple humility and awe, in a a sort of haughty elevation of the self over the universe

there are certainly atheists out there who have that awe

i assert to you then that they are very spritual people, not hardboiled atheists per se

at which point, like most arguments of this sort, it boils down to an argument over semantics, not meaning


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

hmm... (3.00 / 5) (#130)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:47:04 PM EST

it boils down to an argument over semantics, not meaning

The mind reels.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Sigged! (none / 0) (#142)
by astatine on Fri Jul 30, 2004 at 10:38:55 PM EST

While I apprehend that you're trying to draw a distinction between significance-in-life and words-mincing, this sentence both strikes a dissonant cognitive chord and neatly sums up an inherent weakness of blog debates.

Society, they say, exists to safeguard the rights of the individual. If this is so, the primary right of a human being is evidently to live unrealistically.Celia Green
[ Parent ]
Spirituality (none / 1) (#147)
by epepke on Mon Aug 02, 2004 at 11:19:42 AM EST

is simply awe at your insignificance in time and space i find most atheists to have lost that simple humility

That's your definition of the term. I don't think you own the copyright. When I hear a random person say "spirituality," I don't know what they mean. Sometimes it's a god or a ghost. Sometimes it's Descartian dualism. I don't know, because the word doesn't have any general meaning. I don't see any problem with saying "awe" when you mean awe, and I'm not sure why it's so difficult.

If anything, however, the notion of "insignificance" and your description of atheists is quite opposite from the way I perceive things. Way back when, Carl Sagan made a series called Cosmos, in which he said that we are circling around a planet of an unexceptional star in a corner of the Milky Way. Pat Robertson devoted an entire episode of The 700 Club as a countertext. It was Robertson's claim that humanity was somehow exhalted and special, unlike what that evil atheist Sagan said. But from my point of view, that evil atheist Sagan had a better grasp of a sense of awe and insignificance than Robertson did.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
well I'm convinced (none / 1) (#136)
by Cazzi Salati on Wed Jul 28, 2004 at 12:51:55 PM EST

I was an atheist until I read your incredibly articulate and compelling list of arguments including such iron-clad reasoning as "you have to be spiritual, you really do" and "you're just a haughty arrogant machine"

Why didn't I think of those before? Thank you for opening my mind.

Cazzi

-- My cat's breath smells like cat food - ralph wiggum
[ Parent ]

your post= (none / 1) (#138)
by circletimessquare on Wed Jul 28, 2004 at 03:35:55 PM EST

haughty

arrogant

were you trying to prove my words wrong or something?

:-/

ps: you somehow got the impression that my post was an earnest tearfelt appeal to you to change your ways

sorry bitch, i just wanted to slap the likes of you in the face for being such a royal tool

a'ight?

a'ight!


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Skeptic ? (none / 1) (#64)
by bugmaster on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 04:33:30 PM EST

Wouldn't you be a skeptic, then ? I think that, technically, it's possible to be an atheist ("no god") and still believe in aliens or Bigfoot.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
So then (3.00 / 6) (#83)
by trhurler on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 03:05:51 AM EST

You have faith in the absence of God. How charming. Did something lead you to this curious religion?:)

I don't worship God, but I don't worship NoGod either. What a childish view of the universe; why would you have ANY opinion on the existence of something that, by definition, you cannot determine the existence or non-existence of?

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Sir, (none / 0) (#84)
by spooky wookie on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 06:52:43 AM EST

What can by definition be determined to exist?

IHBT.

[ Parent ]

Lots of things (none / 1) (#133)
by trhurler on Wed Jul 28, 2004 at 03:27:20 AM EST

"Determined" and "proved" are not the same thing. Justified belief is a determination. It isn't certain, but it is a determination. On the other hand, there is no justification for ANY belief about a supernatural being, whether that belief is that this being exists, does not exist, or whatever else.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
How do you determine if something exists? (none / 1) (#139)
by spooky wookie on Thu Jul 29, 2004 at 07:44:58 AM EST

I would say the only criteria is that there is no indication of the oposite. Can there be an God? sure no one can prove/disprove this currently. However there is not a single scientific discovery that points towards this. I would say Atheism is quite a justified belief/idea, and least of all things a childish view of the Universe.

And i dont think you have more wisdom if you conclude that it is a waste of time thinking about, because in the end god must exsist or not.

In short: calling someone elses view of the universe childish is in itself actually rather childish since everyone forms their theory/view/idea of the universe from incomplete data. Everyone just chose to believe whatever floats their boat.

[ Parent ]

False dichotomy (none / 1) (#140)
by trhurler on Thu Jul 29, 2004 at 12:29:13 PM EST

It is not true that if there is no evidence for God, this supports a reasonable belief that there is no God. It supports NO belief whatsoever, in God or against God. The number of people who don't understand that is simply astounding.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Deism & Atheism... (none / 1) (#94)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:43:24 AM EST

...are not necessarily mutually exclusive in a logical sense.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Good point (none / 1) (#146)
by epepke on Mon Aug 02, 2004 at 11:05:40 AM EST

"Theism" is usually understood to be belief in a personal God, the kind who answers prayers, etc. Atheism is just the antithesis of this. Deism, Pantheism, Taoism, and many forms of Buddhism are in a grey area. It isn't clear that they are theist or atheist.

Which is fine, because most of the time we're aware that the words we use are approximate, and we don't have to think about it any more than asking whether a three-legged stool is a chair. It only comes up when some logic geek tries to "prove" something based on ordinary language.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
What I don't get about "athiests" (none / 1) (#108)
by awgsilyari on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 03:19:22 PM EST

For people who proclaim not to believe in God, you sure seem to waste a lot of time thinking and talking about him.

I do not believe in the existence of little pink Brazilian elephants, but I do not sit up at night thinking of new arguments against the existence of little pink Brazilian elephants.

"Hey Ted, check it out, I found a new proof of the non-existence of little pink Brazilian elephants!"

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

Brazilian Elephants (none / 3) (#113)
by bugmaster on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 04:59:41 PM EST

There's a key difference though: little pink Brazilian elephants aren't trying to run our government and make us atheists into second-class citizens.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 2) (#120)
by awgsilyari on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 05:37:22 PM EST

As a de facto atheist, I can't think of a single way I've been made to feel like a second class citizen. Are they getting some government benefits I don't qualify for?

Oh, unless you mean loudmouths who stand on soap boxes and call other people idiots for their beliefs. Yeah, I can see how they might not be looked on too fondly by anyone, including the government.

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

Benefits (none / 2) (#125)
by bugmaster on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 10:31:40 PM EST

Well, there's the benefit of being able to run for office and win, for one. They also (at least, in this administration) get to stop certain avenues of scientific research, donate taxpayer funds to their organizations, and even start wars. It's hard to argue against a cause when your opponent has THE LORD (in Biblical caps) on his side.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
What country do you live in? (2.20 / 5) (#126)
by MorePower on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 10:33:26 PM EST

The one I live in (the United States of America) the official way to pledge your allegiance involves swearing that you are under God. And school children are expected to recite this pledge (or watch an authority figure lead all their friend in reciting it). And people who fall in love with members of the same sex are forbiden to marry (because the bible says its forbidden).

These are just the thing that the Chritians have successfully forced on non-believers. They also want to ban abortions and replace teaching evolution with their creation story. I'm sure they'd like to also ban non-believers for public office (right now they just won't vote for them) and if they had their way I'm sure they would ban non-belief outright.

In the past they've had much more power. Forcing people to swear on bibles, enacting blue laws (some of which are still in effect in some places), making students pray in public schools. The only reason we enjoy such relative freedom today is because we've fought tooth and nail to win a little breathing space for ourselves.



[ Parent ]
Agree (none / 1) (#118)
by Nursie on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 05:21:03 PM EST

It always mystifies me that so many people can wander around deluded about the nature of reality, either duped into belief through upbringing or social pressure, or sincerely believing that spiritual/supernatural events happen to other people all the time.

The worst though are those that believe that these events happen to them all the time. They tend to be truly insane, and often dangerous.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
getting your spirituality from a religion... (1.88 / 18) (#52)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 01:07:26 PM EST

is like trying to get true love in a whorehouse

you get sex in a whorehouse, you don't get love

you get lowest common denominator drivel in a religion, not spirituality

in a religion, any religion, from the ancient dying ones through the middle aged corpulent ones to the newfangled remixed ones, all you are going to get is something akin to cheap sex

when what you thirst for, spirituality, can only be found alone, within yourself

just you and time and space

fuck this stupid trendy cult

fuck christianity, fuck islam, fuck judaism

fuck all the fucking religions of the world

what you need is spirituality

find it in yourself

let no self-appointed yammering fruitcake tell you how to feel about your spirituality

unless you think have sex with a whore equals true love


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

funny you say that (none / 1) (#53)
by xutopia on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 01:37:42 PM EST

it's almost exactly what their web site says.

[ Parent ]
i don't think so (none / 3) (#81)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 11:37:41 PM EST

as i'm not advocating allegiance to a creed or a code, while they are

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
congratulations (none / 2) (#56)
by yoders on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 02:01:21 PM EST

you've just defined gnosticism.

[ Parent ]
So, circle! What about this comment of yours then? (none / 3) (#70)
by sudog on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 08:23:39 PM EST

Here's a funny note from circle

Choice excerpts:
don't want to have a nice pat thread of rational discourse with some wanker
...
i want to reach my hands out of his computer screen and smack his face against the table
...
if kuro5hin were a real, live community, i would get quickly arrested and kicked out for loud, unruly, and violent behavior
...
i am honest: i am a troll
...
i submit that us trolls give life and humanity to a community, in all of the ugliness that is humanity. to deny that ugliness is inherent to humanity and inseparable from it, and to try to extricate that essential human ugliness from online discourse only sucks the life out of it, i say.


And now all he says is, "What you need is spirituality."

Somehow, your words seem to echo hollowly, circle. Have you come about full-circle (pun pun) then and do you honestly renounce your trolly ways? Or are you simply pandering to rusty's new anti-troll sentiments, worried that your precious account history would no longer be something you could contribute to?

Tell me again why you think violence does "good" in a community? I don't think you've ever actually answered that question.

[ Parent ]
my very own stalker (1.14 / 7) (#77)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 10:33:52 PM EST

you go ahead, you follow me around

first rule of pr: there is no such thing as bad press

so go ahead and follow me around and regurgitate my words, i don't mind, you add to my fame ;-)

anyone else reading this can see: wow, whatever this crap circletimessquare says is, he certainly has moved someone, so maybe there really is something to this crap he spews

;-)

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

The hypocrit is revealed... (3.00 / 2) (#141)
by sudog on Thu Jul 29, 2004 at 08:21:49 PM EST

Follow you around? Ha ha.. so, since you participate in nearly every story that's posted (and most that aren't) on Kuro5hin, and since the average number of comments is easily read and digestible, somehow me being in the approximate same place as you through a common interest in K5 and caring enough about the rest of the community to point out your hypocrisy to them--turns me into your own little personal stalker?

So tell you what--you go ahead and make feeble excuses for yourself without actually answering any questions; you go ahead and try to misdirect; you go ahead and pretend you don't have psychotic fantasies on a more expressive level than most people; you go ahead and pretend you're not a troll on the odd chance that Rusty's actually taking the time to read your drivel.

I, and anyone who read my posts about you, will all know the truth.

BTW: Why did you mod my other post about you down, ya goof?


[ Parent ]

Didn't think you'd answer.. (n/t) (none / 0) (#148)
by sudog on Mon Aug 02, 2004 at 02:46:40 PM EST



[ Parent ]
big news, people are joiners (none / 1) (#154)
by misanthrope112 on Sat Aug 07, 2004 at 07:27:50 PM EST

People like to join groups of like-minded individuals. It makes them feel safer, loved, like they belong. Religion, even if the actual tenets (the golden rule, anyone?) aren't followed, acts as social glue.

This is true not just of religion. I recently read the book A Bright Shining Lie, about US involvment in the Vietnam war. Something I got from it was that Ho Chi Minh wanted to overthrow colonialism, but people wouldn't band together unless they had a cause to follow, which ended up being Communism because no one else would help. Only with a cause, with a name, flag, slogans, symbols, etc, can people band together and do anything. We're hard-wired to be lemmings. There are exceptions, but there are the, well, exception.

[ Parent ]

-1, boring (2.36 / 11) (#59)
by trhurler on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 03:30:24 PM EST

Yes, I know there are people out there who want faith and fellowship without having to actually have faith IN anything in particular. No, I don't understand it, and no, I don't find it interesting. Unitarians are not much different, really, and while they're explicitly athiest, the Ethical Society is basically the same deal except they make you pay for the privilege. "Not religious but you don't want to be an outcast? Come join us!"

To me, not being religious(which is not the same as saying there is no god,) is a fact, not a choice, and yet even if I were otherwise, I would not want an organized group with whom to experience it. Want to talk about life's questions? That's what "friends" are for. Get a damned life. It is the "organized" part of organized religion that leads to suicide bombers, inquisitions, and 9/11. If you want to create a religious experience devoid of those things, then DON'T ORGANIZE!

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Hmmm (none / 2) (#61)
by TheMealwormFarm on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 03:59:06 PM EST

I'm not sure either the terrorists or Jerry Falwell have real faith. It seems to me that they've used their religions to justify something else, something false.


------
"Grandpa, didn't you wonder why you were getting paid for doing absolutely nothing?"
"Well, I figured the Demmycrats were in office again."
Faith (3.00 / 5) (#75)
by bugmaster on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 09:56:10 PM EST

Are you kidding ? They're the ones who have the most real faith of all. They are 100% convinced that their side is right, that the infidels need to be purged with a flaming sword, and that nothing shall stand in their way. The reward for success is absolute bliss (or virgin spirit-hookers); the punishment for failure is eternal torment. They know this, with even more certainty than they know that the Sun will rise tomorrow.

You can't get more faithful than that.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

ah, I see now... (none / 1) (#153)
by misanthrope112 on Sat Aug 07, 2004 at 07:21:43 PM EST

Falwell and the terrorists have no real faith, so, if you look at it in a certain way, they're practically atheists, right? By definition anyone who does or says anything bad didn't have faith at that moment, and those without faith are atheists, ergo only atheists do bad things. Murder, bigotry, child molestation--all things we can thank atheists for.

Does that pretty much sum up what you're trying to say?

[ Parent ]

Contradiction (none / 2) (#63)
by bugmaster on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 04:12:17 PM EST

So, the Universists claim that there's "no universal religious truth that exists", and that "the meaning of your existence is yours to determine". Of course, they know that universally with absolute certainty. Hmm. Well, on the plus side, they do have that cool spinny galaxy on their site.
>|<*:=
well, not really (none / 1) (#66)
by residentofearth on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 05:37:20 PM EST

This article in Fleabomb brings that up: http://www.fleabomb.com/Article-133.phtml

The Universist FAQ has a thing or 2 to say as well... see questions like What does Universism mean when it says there is no universal religious truth? Isn't it likely that God exists or doesn't, one or the other is the truth, for example? and Is the statement "There is no absolute Truth" itself an absolute Truth?.

[ Parent ]
Dynamically Constant (2.50 / 4) (#76)
by nymia_g on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 10:07:19 PM EST

"My big complaint with present-day churches is that the rigidity implied by their structure allows them no change at all, though they have to change in order to cope with, and understand, the problems in society," Stricker says. "As a result, they've lost credibility. What I like about Universism is that it's a very democratic institution. If it makes sense to incorporate something new, and the majority of Universists understand and agree, we can do so. If that understanding changes in the future, we can handle that, too."
Rigidity is a perception of a thought pattern that doesn't change over time. Some may see rigidity as a hindrance to progress while some see rigidity as a way of having order in life. The argument about the problems imposed by rigidity stems primarily from the difficulty of understanding order which implies rules, regulations, laws. When all these are present, things become predictable, behaviors or engagement become civil and most importantly there is a sense or feeling of contentment and peace.

Take that all away and replace it with an argument of rigidity and it will turn into anarchy. There is no order in chaos where thinking is forced to deal with low primal instincts. That's terrible.

That reminds me of Sarah (1.12 / 8) (#82)
by Armin Hardwood on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 11:41:35 PM EST

Sarah, my ex-cat of 5 years, firmly believed that fig trees were God's chosen people.  "Whence a fig doth fall, thereapon fall the eyes of God."  Such faith drew poor Sarah to the fig tree every morning, seeking order in the patterns of falling fruit.

One morning, I sat at my window watching Sarah as she played in a sunbeam, seemingly oblivious to the world around her.  But alas, the sunbeam was not oblivious.  All morning it had been focusing its energy on a ripe fig.  As Sarah rolled over to rub her back in the grass, the fig fell, landing squarely on the little cat's head.

The frightened creature bolted beneath the porch, where she was eaten by a hobo.  The pitiful man probably hadn't had a good meal in weeks, so I didn't press charges.  But I really miss Sarah.


[ Parent ]

Rigidity and permanence (none / 0) (#86)
by ToddStricker on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 09:45:57 AM EST

I couldn't agree more, at least about the need for some rigidity. I argue that the rigidity is both illusory and counterproductive in the hands of the church. The rigidity that holds together society is that of the glue of human companionship. Very few people can be counted on to be predictable, or civil in their behavior, because of ancient scripture.

[ Parent ]
Rigidity (2.50 / 4) (#127)
by MorePower on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 10:53:53 PM EST

Are you kidding? Rigidity, predictabilty, and order are the antithesis of happiness. My own life experience has proven this out. When I had a job with regular hours, at the same place every day, same start time, same lunch time, same quitting time; I was nearly suicidal in my depression.

Now I have a job where I can't predict what I will be doing tomorrow. Maybe I'll sit at home (like I did today) or maybe I'll be sent to Alaska to work 12 hour days for a week (like I did last week). Maybe my next assignment will be a day or two fixing up a broken system in Phoenix. Or maybe I'll spend three months installing new systems in Burbank. Maybe I'll spend a month in Hong Kong doing modifications to thier equipment (all of these examples based on real situations I've had in the past). Its totally unpredictable, and never the same. Every customer has a different scedule too, so what time work starts and ends (and how long it lasts) always changes for me. And I've never been so ecstatically happy on my life! I mean its really really blissful to live like this!

I also take exception to you deriding "low primal instincts". That is the core of our humanity. It is only by embracing our "low primal instincts" that we really connect with our true nature and are able to live as the people the we are truely meant to be.



[ Parent ]
This reminds me of how my brother describes ... (none / 0) (#155)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Aug 08, 2004 at 11:30:01 PM EST

... the joy of travel. "You wake up each day and get to think for a moment to remember where you are, the possibilities around you, and just how it is that you are even going to accomplish even the most basic things. Getting from A to B, finding something to eat. Simple things like those no longer have the simple answers that you know by heart, so there is creativity again in just living." (Or something along those lines.)



[ Parent ]

Why is this considered a religion? (2.50 / 6) (#79)
by Armin Hardwood on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 11:16:59 PM EST

Every definition of religion that I can find relates to gods or faith.  This has neither.  Does calling it a religion make it more socially acceptable or something?  Can you really trick the Catholics and Jews into believing that you're a moral, honest person because you practice this religion?  With a name like "Universism", I sincerely doubt it.

redefining religion (2.75 / 4) (#80)
by residentofearth on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 11:34:42 PM EST

It's about redefining religion, or at least expanding the definition of religion to include this faithless religion - thereby progressing religion by making it both safer and hopefully more satisfying by indulging normal human existential angst. The idea is to reintroduce the search into religion, by generating a new religion whose "faith" is that search. The very presense of Universism in lists of world religions will have an enormous impact in propagating the value of uncertainty in all religion.

Does the decision to call it a religion have something to do with societal concepts? You bet. This is a societal movement.

[ Parent ]
it's how you sell your product. (none / 1) (#85)
by Shren on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 07:49:20 AM EST

It's easier to be against "religions where preacher A can (and often does) convince congregation B that people C have sinned against god D and should die" than it is to be against "all religions". The two are functionally equivellant, but any PR guy will tell you which of the two you can easily promote. Getting people to join religions which finger their current beliefs as dangerous heresay is always a hard sell.

Thus, there are many not-religions around. This is far from the first. It's merely a part of the thousand year process of people who are fundamentally athiests using bait-and-switch techniques to destroy all religion.

[ Parent ]

Religion = moral and honest??!? (none / 2) (#99)
by smithmc on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 01:17:09 PM EST


Can you really trick the Catholics and Jews into believing that you're a moral, honest person because you practice this religion?

How does the practice of any religion guarantee that one is moral and honest? Are you really suggesting that Catholics or Jews hold some sort of moral high ground simply because they practice a religion of some sort?

[ Parent ]

Depende on who is comparing (none / 0) (#112)
by bugmaster on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 04:58:15 PM EST

Are you really suggesting that Catholics or Jews hold some sort of moral high ground simply because they practice a religion of some sort?
No, but Catholics and Jews (and other Judeo-Christian adherents) certainly believe that. I think that was his point.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Religions and morality (none / 0) (#145)
by epepke on Mon Aug 02, 2004 at 11:01:37 AM EST

Every definition of religion that I can find relates to gods or faith. This has neither. Does calling it a religion make it more socially acceptable or something?

I agree with questioning the use of the term "religion" to describe this.

Can you really trick the Catholics and Jews into believing that you're a moral, honest person because you practice this religion?

If Catholics, Jews, or whatever believe that I cannot be an honest person because I am not a theist, or if they need to be "tricked," then it says far more about them than it does about me.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Atheist Stats?! (none / 3) (#87)
by roybean on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 10:36:25 AM EST

In general, freethinkers have also been atheists, a group that makes up about one percent of the U.S. population.
I am an atheist and actually I take offense to your stats. Atheists make up (at the very least) 10% of the U.S. population. And that is probably a significant underestimate.

It is partly because of random marginalizing statements such as this one that atheists are sidelined in this country.

Stats on religion: from a US Census Bureau Document

The interesting part to note is chart No 75 on page 62. It indicates that the Religious Preference of None in the year 1999 captured 28% of the population. Moreover, it is the only category which has been dramatically growing throughout the years of the chart.

But, you should also note that that percentage may include respondents who did not designate. Thus my very conservative 10%. In all cases, certainly not a lot more than 1%!

Edit error (none / 0) (#88)
by roybean on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 10:39:30 AM EST

Of course, I meant: In all cases, certainly a lot more than 1%!

[ Parent ]
Nonreligious = 13.2%...Atheist/Agnostic <1% (none / 3) (#90)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:12:31 AM EST

From NYCU's American Religious Identification Survey.

There are a lot of "nonreligious" people, but few are willing to commit to atheism or agnosticism.


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 1) (#92)
by roybean on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:33:10 AM EST

I will buy that. It is difficult for people to use those words. Still, the article should have probably used "non-religious" in its original statement.

The Atheist/Agnostic/Humanist/Secular/Non-Religious issue is largely the tireing issue of nomenclature (as exhibited by countless previous K5 articles).

[ Parent ]

semantics (none / 3) (#95)
by tjw on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:46:14 AM EST

There are a lot of "nonreligious" people, but few are willing to commit to atheism or agnosticism.
I think that a large number of people who answer 'None' probably share many of the same beliefs of a self-professed Atheist. They do so precisely because as you say, declaring yourself an Atheist or an Agnositc requires a "commitment". Committing one's self to anything with no chance of any gain but a chance of harm is pointless.

What possible benefit would there be in declaring myself 'Athiest' and risk retribution? If I were a member of a minority religion, I would be forced to identify myself because failing to do so would likely brand me a traitor to my faith and possibly land me in some firey pergatory. Not to mention that the very success of my religion would depend on brave souls like me standing tall to encourage others to join. As a non-believer, I don't have any fears or supernatural retibution, and I'm not trying to convert anyone to my beliefs, so I answer surveys and censuses with a big fat "No comment". I don't think I'm the only one.

[ Parent ]
I agree. (none / 2) (#97)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:57:38 AM EST

I have an article over on the Universist site called Overcoming the Fear of Hell which is about just that. I think that nonreligious 13.2% would all consider themselves atheist or agnostic if it weren't for their fear of retribution in some form or another.

Maybe they don't want to admit it to themselves. Maybe once they call themselves atheist or agnostic they have to face the prospect of death and no afterlife, but as long as they waffle, they can face it another day.


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
It's called Pascal's Wager... (none / 2) (#119)
by Empedocles on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 05:33:01 PM EST

I'm too lazy to write my own reply to this, so you instead get this from the atheism web common arguments:

This argument is known as Pascal's Wager. It has several flaws.

Firstly, it does not indicate which religion to follow. Indeed, there are many mutually exclusive and contradictory religions out there. This is often described as the "avoiding the wrong hell" problem. If a person is a follower of one religion, he may end up in another religion's version of hell.

Even if we assume that there's a God, that doesn't imply that there's one unique God. Which should we believe in? If we believe in all of them, how will we decide which commandments to follow?

Secondly, the statement that "If you believe in God and turn out to be incorrect, you have lost nothing" is not true. Suppose you're believing in the wrong God -- the true God might punish you for your foolishness. Consider also the deaths that have resulted from people rejecting medicine in favor of prayer.

Another flaw in the argument is that it is based on the assumption that the two possibilities are equally likely -- or at least, that they are of comparable likelihood. If, in fact, the possibility of there being a God is close to zero, the argument becomes much less persuasive. So sadly the argument is only likely to convince those who believe already.

Also, many feel that for intellectually honest people, belief is based on evidence, with some amount of intuition. It is not a matter of will or cost-benefit analysis.

Formally speaking, the argument consists of four statements:

   1. One does not know whether God exists.
   2. Not believing in God is bad for one's eternal soul if God does exist.
   3. Believing in God is of no consequence if God does not exist.
   4. Therefore it is in one's interest to believe in God.

There are two approaches to the argument. The first is to view Statement 1 as an assumption, and Statement 2 as a consequence of it. The problem is that there's really no way to arrive at Statement 2 from Statement 1 via simple logical inference. The statements just don't follow on from each other.

The alternative approach is to claim that Statements 1 and 2 are both assumptions. The problem with this is that Statement 2 is then basically an assumption which states the Christian position, and only a Christian will agree with that assumption. The argument thus collapses to "If you are a Christian, it is in your interests to believe in God" -- a rather vacuous tautology, and not the way Pascal intended the argument to be viewed.

Also, if we don't even know that God exists, why should we take Statement 2 over some similar assumption? Isn't it just as likely that God would be angry at people who chose to believe for personal gain? If God is omniscient, he will certainly know who really believes and who believes as a wager. He will spurn the latter... assuming he actually cares at all whether people truly believe in him.

Some have suggested that the person who chooses to believe based on Pascal's Wager, can then somehow make the transition to truly believing. Unfortunately, most atheists don't find it possible to make that leap.

In addition, this hypothetical God may require more than simple belief; almost all Christians believe that the Christian God requires an element of trust and obedience from his followers. That destroys the assertion that if you believe but are wrong, you lose nothing.

Finally, if this God is a fair and just God, surely he will judge people on their actions in life, not on whether they happen to believe in him. A God who sends good and kind people to hell is not one most atheists would be prepared to consider worshipping.

---
And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]

Whoops. Survey is by CUNY, not NYCU. (none / 0) (#102)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 01:48:59 PM EST

City University of New York.


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
A study that would be cool (none / 1) (#144)
by lazloToth on Sun Aug 01, 2004 at 11:58:52 PM EST

Would find out how many of the church-going only do it for the networking opportunities or 'for the kids', or whatever, all the while knowing the whole thing is a lot of horseshit.

People enjoy professional wrestling, and many of them are aware that's fake, too.

[ Parent ]

You've misread (none / 3) (#100)
by Vaevictis666 on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 01:18:16 PM EST

The interesting part to note is chart No 75 on page 62. It indicates that the Religious Preference of None in the year 1999 captured 28% of the population. Moreover, it is the only category which has been dramatically growing throughout the years of the chart.

The 2 in front of the value is in superscript, which indicates it "Includes those respondents who did not designate."

The actual values for '96 through '99 are 9, 8, 7, 8. Add it up - in 1999, 55+28+6+2+28 != 100.

[ Parent ]

Hey (none / 0) (#101)
by roybean on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 01:45:31 PM EST

How about that, you are right. Who thought of putting a superscript before the value? But, there are more accurate and applicable stats in another reply to my original post. Those stats indicate 14% of people are "non-religious."

[ Parent ]
In defense of Universism (none / 3) (#89)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:08:54 AM EST

I realize that I too am new to kuro5hin, but if you'd like to see some street cred, you can check out my Slashdot user page. I know residentofearth, and can vouch for the fact that he is at least a reader of kuro5hin, and not just some sophisticated spammer.

To address some of the issues posted here:

Why Universism is called a religion:

Because it deals with philosophical subjects that are outside the domain of empirical science. Unlike other religions, Universism makes no claims in contradiction to science. Where a question can be answered by experiment and observation, Universism bows out to science. If science is ever able to determine if there is a god, or how life may best be used, Universism will be no more. I suppose it could be called a philosophical movement, but we're making an effort to have it address what we believe is humanity's religious impulse -- their natural sense of wonder and awe at the world -- and in that sense, I think it fills the same needs as religion.

On the apparent contradiction of "knowing" that there is no religious truth:

What we are saying is that there can be no religious truth -- once we know something with relative certainty, we call it science fact, not religious fact. Everything religious is by definition uncertain.

On why Universists can't just talk about the questions of life with their friends:

That's what we're doing. I don't know if you guys are familiar with bible belt culture, but the fact that this thing sprang up in Birmingham, Alabama is something of a breakthrough. There is no social life for post-college adults here except through church. "What church do you go to?" is not considered a presumptuous question here. Nonreligious people in the Southeastern U.S. feel even more isolated than in other parts of the country. By the way, Universists are not explicitly atheist. They are explicitly faithless.

On fuzzy-minded "freethinking":

I am an atheist, but I have sense enough to know that if I were absolutely certain there were no supreme being, even though I can't prove it, I would not be a "free-thinker." I can see how someone would come to the conclusion that the universe was designed, through an intuitive guess based on the complexity of natural law. I have my own reasons for believing there is no creator, but my view also comes down to an educated hunch.

On Universism vs. Unitarianism:

I think Unitarianism is too inclusive. It accepts all sorts of faith-based ideologies, and people whose worldviews can't provide new perspectives to other members because they are based entirely on personal emotion. Although Universism acknowledges the emotional side of the human condition, it is built on a foundation of reason. You can believe in a creator, but you have to be able to explain why without referring to holy texts, or voices in your head, or anything that can't be adequately explained to someone else.


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
A religion? (none / 1) (#93)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:38:41 AM EST

Because it deals with philosophical subjects that are outside the domain of empirical science.

A metaphysics is not a religion.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
It is if enough people say it is. (none / 2) (#96)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:48:56 AM EST

A metaphysics is not a religion.

For most people, religion implies faith in something without reason or evidence. We're trying to change the meaning of the word.

If politicians can change the meaning of liberal and conservative, I don't think it's impossible for us to broaden the definition of religion. It needs broadening. The classic definition forces people to choose between "spirituality" and common sense.


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
If you insist on beginning... (none / 2) (#103)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 01:55:43 PM EST

...with such a poor definition of religion--that being, faith without reason or evidence--then, yes, it is a trivial exercise in semantic distortion to hollow out a place within the category of religion for Universism.

The trouble is that the term religion, speaking colloquially or as a term of art, is rarely, if ever, used in such a fashion as it may be reasonably inferred to mean "faith without reason or evidence." A religion cannot be reduced to a simple laundry list of propositions, which adherents can be expected to assent to (whether with or without reason and evidence). A religion is always more than mere belief, it is a social phenomenon comprising concrete relations among individuals, a body of praxis, and techniques for cultivating and expressing power. Religions, insofar as they are religions and not just philosophies, can be subjected to analysis as language communities, as ideological apparatuses, and as socio-economic institutions.

Universism, at least as it has been presented here, fails to meet the threshold of what may reasonably be deemed a religion. An humanist club perhaps, a wishy-washy secular metaphysics, even an analog of Dennett's Brights, but not a religion.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Difference ? (none / 1) (#111)
by bugmaster on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 04:56:21 PM EST

How is Universism functionally different from plain old atheism (the "Weak Atheism" kind), then ? Is it just a nice euphemism, so that the Bible Belt freaks don't come after you with a wooden stake ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
It's not a euphemism for atheism. (none / 2) (#115)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 05:14:25 PM EST

It's more like weak agnosticism with room to move. There are a variety of beliefs among Universists, but none of them involve certainty. Universist deists aren't totally certain there is a God, and Universist atheists aren't absolutely certain that there isn't. If we were certain, we'd write a paper for Scientific American.

I think Universism's brand of weak agnosticism would be the natural state of a person who has never been introduced to religion, and is honest about what he does and doesn't know.


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
Weak Atheism (none / 0) (#132)
by bugmaster on Wed Jul 28, 2004 at 02:34:52 AM EST

That sounds exactly like Weak Atheism to me: we don't know anything for certain, but it doesn't look very likely that there's a god, so we won't spend our time worrying about it. Agnosticism is a more neutral position which states that we can't know whether a god exists or not, or how likely it is, at all. I personally don't understand it very well, sorry if I misrepresented any agnostics out there.

Anyway, regardless of the label, what is the functional difference, if any, between Universism and the "god is not very likely to exist" flavor of atheism ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Difference in culture and in degree. (none / 1) (#135)
by Peter Trepan on Wed Jul 28, 2004 at 09:37:52 AM EST

Anyway, regardless of the label, what is the functional difference, if any, between Universism and the "god is not very likely to exist" flavor of atheism ?

For one thing, there are a fairly large number of deists involved. Mind you, these are not people who believe in a chopped-down version of the Christian God, but as one deist on the Universist forum jokingly put it, "We're just like atheists, except we believe in a creator."

That is, while they believe a creator is likely, most often through the argument by design, they don't make any further claims about that creator. They don't follow Biblical law, anticipate Heaven, or fear Hell. In everyday life, they are indistinguishable from atheists.

Universists also differ from strong agnostics in that they don't claim to know if it is impossible ever to know if a creator exists or not.

There is also a cultural difference between the Universist community and most atheist communities, in that they won't get mad at you if you waver in your opinions. There are no atheist "faithful."


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
Great idea... (2.25 / 4) (#91)
by jmzero on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:24:55 AM EST

Robert Ingersoll - Real religion consists of the duties of man to man, in feeding the hungry, in clothing the naked...

James 1:27 - Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction...
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife

Re: the poll (none / 3) (#98)
by X-Nc on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 12:58:50 PM EST

I am not surprised that, as of the writing of this comment, the biggest vote getter is "Universism" as it would seem to be the closest fundimental beliefe system for those who frequent K5. And I give props for the one person who voted for "Islam". Hopefully this is actually someone who is Islamic and not just a fake vote. 19% for "Christian" is a little lower than I would have guessed but still in the ball park. I would have liked to see Buddhism specifically listed rather than it being assumed under "Other Major World Religion". I find it interesting, though, that 25% voted for "Other". I'm thinking that these votes are interesting because what would the "Other" be for them? What other religion is there besides those listed in the poll? It would be of great interest if those who voted "Other" would say what this other is.

For my part, I voted for "Other" because I have a religious perspective that is a mix of Buddhism, Monotheism, Polytheism (no, the previous two are not diametric opposites), Thecnotheism ("I hack, therefore I am") and Pragmatism. I was born and raised a Catholic but in my early 20's I gravitated to what is often termed "Spiritual but not religious". In my 30's I investigated various other religions from those of the Native Americans to Wicca to the old Greek and Roman pantheons and beyond. Now in my early 40's I have also learned a lot about Buddhism. I guess I'm still searching but the one thing I have found to be very true is that when someone has a firm believe in a religion, it doesn't matter which one, and it makes them happy and lifts their quality of life then that is a very good thing and should be admired and encouraged. People who kill and hurt in the name of whatever diety they claim are not real believers of any significent religion. All of the major/real religions have a basic foundation of love and giving. Those who go to war in the name of religion, for example, the Crusades, are doing so for political or material gain. Nothing else.

As a side note... I am a card carrying ordained minister in the Universal Life Church. And you can be, too.

--
Aaahhhh!!!! My K5 subscription expired. Now I can't spell anymore.

This differs from Unitarian Universalism How? [NT] (none / 0) (#114)
by avdi on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 05:14:22 PM EST



--
Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir
From below: (none / 0) (#117)
by Peter Trepan on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 05:18:56 PM EST

On Universism vs. Unitarianism:

I think Unitarianism is too inclusive. It accepts all sorts of faith-based ideologies, and people whose worldviews can't provide new perspectives to other members because they are based entirely on personal emotion. Although Universism acknowledges the emotional side of the human condition, it is built on a foundation of reason. You can believe in a creator, but you have to be able to explain why without referring to holy texts, or voices in your head, or anything that can't be adequately explained to someone else.



Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. -- Mark Twain
[ Parent ]
What about eunuchs? (none / 2) (#121)
by Sen on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 06:05:42 PM EST

Castration makes you more thoughtful and calm. Really an asset if you want to be any of those faiths.

Marriage? (none / 3) (#122)
by Sen on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 06:08:09 PM EST

I couldn't find anything that addresses marriage. Perhaps they lean so technolibertarian they think it would be pointless to address it. If they did, I'm sure it's both hetero and homo. Oh yeah. Libertarian libertarian libertarian.

Libertarian.

Mainstream Religion (2.75 / 4) (#124)
by pk414 on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 10:00:10 PM EST

Mainstream religion is about relying on a holy text from centuries ago, taking the word of the person who wrote it, and setting aside your own experiences as an individual in the world. We're told that the questions are all answered, and there's nothing to discuss.

Most mainstream Christian religions pursue a personal relationship with God. I can say as a once-atheist turned Christian that from the outside, it often appears that those following the Christian faith are blindly obeying ancient rules. In reality, once one possesses a relationship with Christ, the obedience ceases to be blind; instead, it becomes like following a very wise leader that you know and trust.

In this sense, the "experiences as an individual in the world" do not dissapear, but are just given a lower priority than the experiences as an individual in God. It is not a matter of giving up everything one has learned as much as it is applying those things learned from the greatest teacher first.

Leadership (none / 2) (#134)
by justaghost on Wed Jul 28, 2004 at 08:27:51 AM EST

The problem with being led is that it works two ways.  Basically, if you can be led to morality, you can be led away from it too.  One of the great points of non-religion is that because it has no orthodoxy, it does not require any leadership.

-----

Not strong, only aggressive
Not free, only licensed
Not compassioniate, only polite
Not good, but well behaved.

[ Parent ]

da Holy Spirit, (none / 0) (#143)
by kpaul on Fri Jul 30, 2004 at 11:31:10 PM EST

aka Ruach HaKodesh, is a guide, a comforter...

and yes, i've noticed that there still are 'individuals' who follow the narrow path, who follow Yahshua's example. we each have our own path to follow. the lambs and the wolves. the wheat and the tares.

the more you listen to the Holy Spirit, the easier it is to follow the narrow path. at least, that's what i'm finding.

there's a reason why studying this particular ancient text seems 'loony' to most. unfortunately, according to that text, those Holy Words from our creator, trying to explain that to unbelievers is impossible.

i guess, tho, that that takes it back to each of us having a choice. every man must find it for themselves, i.e. we're individuals...


2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]

read Under the Banner of Heaven by Krakauer (none / 1) (#152)
by misanthrope112 on Sat Aug 07, 2004 at 07:15:16 PM EST

In reality, once one possesses a relationship with Christ, the obedience ceases to be blind; instead, it becomes like following a very wise leader that you know and trust.
In reality, we can verify the existence of what you're talking about. Agreed that some words, like love, hope, curiosity, describe emotions or mental constructs, and no one expects them to be physically verifiable. But you're going far beyond that. It's in your head. Your relationship has all the credence (and comfort level) for me of the voices heard by the Son of Sam.

If I came to you and said that I had a relationship with an invisible all-powerful unicorn who orbits Jupiter, and He guides me and gives me comfort, and my actions are guided by Him, not by earthly laws and standards, you would more than likely conclude, accurately, that I'm a nutcase, and possibly dangerous. At best you would say something vaguely nice, and get away from me as quickly as you can without making it obvious--don't want to piss off the crazy man, do you? You'd definitely try to keep your kids away from me.

You may be trying to make people feel more comfortable and safe with you by saying, "No, I'm not religious, I have a relationship with Christ. He talks to me every day," but that actually scares the pants off of a lot of people. I'm left with having to decide whether the person is just trying to avoid admitting that they are religious (because of the stigma the word has been given by nutcases) or that they actually believe what they're saying, in which case they're not, strictly speaking, sane. I can understand having faith that Jesus died for your sins, and that you will go to heaven one day... these tenets of faith make you religious. But the "relationship with Christ" thing is so narcissistic, and there are no checks on your behavior other than the voices in your head, which you, of course, attribute to God.

Krakaeur's book Under the Banner of Heaven was a great investigation of this type of thing. He didn't say (nor do I believe) that all people with faith are dangerous, but a certain type of revelatory faith does give a divinely-sanctioned liberation from societally imposed norms. And I'm not referring to the norms of which fork to use for the salad. I'm talking about trying to impregnate your daughter, kill people, develop bioweapons, etc.

[ Parent ]

Nixon was a Quaker (none / 2) (#149)
by jolly st nick on Wed Aug 04, 2004 at 09:34:33 AM EST

But he didn't mind waging war in the name of anti-communism and "peace with honor".

"Muslim" terrorists take hostages even though Mohammed forbids it, and are targetting Christians in Iraq today despite the fact he mandated Christians be treated with respect.

The Crusaders murdered thousands of men, women and children, stopping to riot against Jews along the way, all in the name of the most pacifist of Jewish prophets.

Jesus said, "By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples." (John 13:35) His followers murdered and oppressed each other over just the kinds of fine points of dogma and practice that he castigates the Pharisees for in Matthew 23.

So, it doesn't matter what a religions forbids, or mandates, much less what it means. People will find a way to do what they want to do, and justify it later. Some of the time, what they want to do is war, murder and atrocity. Anybody who thinks they can forumlate a religion that cannot be perverted to these ends is being naive.

However, it is important to note that religion is not the cause of this, just an ex post facto justification. As far as I can see there has never been a religious war that could not be viewed more accurately on political terms. Religion is inovked to give political actions meaning to the degree that religion has power in a particular society to give everything meaning. In socieities where religious philosophies are less powerful, equal recourse is given to other sources of meaning, such as poltical ideologies, sociolgical, economic or historical theories, or even scientific theories. The Nazis murdered millions in the name of theories of biology and racial hygeine. Lest their fondness for mystical claptrap weaken this argument, note that Stalin may have murdered even more people over his career and communism is a rationalist, anti-secular philosophy.

"But you have to calculate the balance sheet, and one of the ways religion has fallen down is by not encouraging people to behave with respect towards one another. I believe that all the positive human values can be taught outside of systems that claim absolute truth and that divide the world into `us' and `them.'"

To me, what is remarkable is the degree to which the great axial age world religions all do encourage respect for humanity. Compassion, and empathy are a universal theme in great world religions precisely because the opposite qualities are universal. These religions reflect a change from an insular, tribal world view to a vision of universal humanity. However, the world view of "us" and "them" is primitive, atavistic trait that continually reemerges. Mediocrity is the rule of all human endeavors; the problem is that it is impossible to forge a path to superior spiritual attainment without introducing distinctive practices that can be used as the basis of an us/them dichotomy.

Why no Buddhism in the poll? (none / 1) (#150)
by jolly st nick on Wed Aug 04, 2004 at 10:30:09 AM EST

Why does Uinversism get a line in the poll (lumping people who by the way might not want to be lumped together), but Buddhism get no line? Certainly there must be many people here who have been influenced by Buddhism.

I think this is an important omission, not only becuase of the influence and size of the religion, but because it addresses some of the concerns raised by Universism, in particular:

(1) It stresses compassion.

(2) It stresses rationalism and empiricism over received wisdom.

In particular, Buddhism has a very neat solution to this particular problem: it is very hard to create a satisfactory world view without recourse to propositions that cannot be empirically justified one way or the other. An obvious case is the belief or disbelief in a creator god, but this can also be extended to common assumptions about ethics.

For example, Universism apparently stresses respect for others. Why? Why not take an stance of exploiting others for your own gain? You could say it has utility because it creates a better society for the practicioner to live in. However, wouldn't it be even better for the practicioner to encourage others to practice respect and compassion, but to exploit others secretly when there is little chance of getting caught? I should point out that this latter position is to some degree what we all practice; espouse an ideal, but betray that ideal when nobody is looking.

Buddhism takes what, in retrospect, is the obvious position towards these metaphysical propositions: people believe such things because such beliefs have utility. The question is utility towards what? The Buddhist answer is an end to what the Pali texts call "dukkha", which is usually but too narrowly translated as "suffering". Dukkha is also the feeling that you get when you acheive something but it just doesn't satisfy like you expected it would. It is significant that Buddhism emerged in an age like our own, when economic expansion transformed society, but people felt that despite having more than they ever did before, they were not as happy as they thought they should be.

In any case, Buddhism makes a stronger demand than Universism ethically -- it demands not just respect for other people, but compassion for all beings. However, it is unique among religions in that it demands this on a purely emprical basis. Once you have calmed your mind, are less mastered by habit of thought and can look at your life objectively, you can judge for yourself whether compassion or exploitation is a better way.

Gimme that New-Time Religion | 155 comments (113 topical, 42 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!