Atheism

kesavaross

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I tend to think animism and other early belief structures arose as a folkloric means for explain phenomena, create lore to pass on to newer generations, and attempt magical influence on the environment. The concept of other beings that influenced or controlled things dates all the way back to this phase. I'm not confident the sort of individual existential questions we associate with religion today (and you quoted) were significant motivators in this folkloric era.

I'm pretty sure what we know now as "organized religion" arose later as a power structure to codify and enforce social order as settled populations grew larger and the hierarchical levels of authority grew more prominent. The concept of only one or a few "Master God(s)" to whom one owed allegiance emerged during this later phase. "Atheism" arose as a pejorative concept formulated by stakeholders in organized religion that could be used to smear those who weren't "with the program".

In other words, I believe some measure of belief in supernatural or paranormal forces / entities / etc. pre-dated organized religion.
The problem as I see it with atheism is it's not based on anything. Instead of a person simply stating that if there is a God then I'm not interested or I don't want to even think about it or even that I couldn't careless, or even that science hasn't proved it so it can't be. Many people instead try to justify themselves as atheists with 'there is no God' as if that is some type of logic.

Others speculate on how religion may have come about but that is again based around 'there is no God'. So it's back to square one. We can't go back in time and experience whether religion did in fact evolve for this reason or that reason no matter how qualified the expert in history, etc, may be.

The argument that religion causes wars, caused and causes oppression and is a means to control the masses, that may be true but that is not caused by religion per say but by corrupt and unscrupulous people doing that in the name of religion and many confuse the two.

One other problem with atheism is that most western people only have knowledge of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, all of which come from the same source. To take Christianity as an example, the Bible is rather hazy on even the simplest of questions. Jesus taught to love God. How does a person love someone they don't actually know anything about? Most atheists think on what they know of the Bible and conclude it doesn't have any substance and it's all based around faith and sentiment and then apply that to every religion, even the ones they know nothing of.

Most atheists know nothing about the actual science of coming to know and have an understanding of God along with knowledge simply because they have never tried. There is an actual process. All atheist have never tried or began to follow that process and only it's very beginnings are found in the three main religions.

I'm not trying to convert anyone to any religion or set of beliefs. That is for each person to decide. It all happens according to what's in the heart and what desires lay there. For me I wanted way, way more than what all the major religions offered and I found it but that is not my point though. My point is that proper atheism is based on no desire to know if there is a God or not. It doesn't need any explanation or theorising. It just is.

Also, Buddhism isn't a religion. Buddhists don't accept there is a God as a person.
 
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charliebrown

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When I was young they would say if you are sick, it was 10% medicine and 90% belief in the fact the doctor told to you that you were going to be fine.

I would say if you have a religious belief, that this was probably influenced by your parents.

I personally would like to think there is a god, but then I make the mistake and watch the TV news and see what horrible things are happening in the world.

But people should do what they want to do.
 

flannel

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Is there a term to cover the belief for 'god' being the collective unconscious, ultimate reality etc. as experienced under psychedelics or do we have to use philosophical terms i.e. Panpsychism and Idealism?
 

AmStramGram

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Also, Buddhism isn't a religion. Buddhists don't accept there is a God as a person.

First, defining a religion as the belief in a (single) personal God is incorrect. There are several equally valid definitions of the religious phenomenon, and one of the original meanings of the word "religion" in latin is "what links people together", which is very relevant to the way ancient Greeks and Romans practiced their religion.

Of course, they had "personal gods", but what was important for them was not as much the individual faith than the collective / social role of their rituals. That's why the Romans at first did not understand Christians. They wanted them to sacrifice to the emperor, because, that was the standard ritual practice, and they believed this "piety" was what was required to stabilize society. But the Christians acted like "integrists" in their view. they wouldn't comply because they followed a different paradigm. For them, religion was a matter of personal faith in one god, and this god was certainly not the emperor. So both had a religion. And both could be very sensitive and intolerant about it (just think about how Socrates was executed by the Athenians because of his so-called "impety"). So, defining religion just on the basis of a personal god is likely too restrictive. There are religions which were based much more on collective rituals, ancestor cult and so on.


Second, it is wrong to deny the presence of gods in Buddhism. In both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, "gods" are given as one of the 6 categories of beings. To this very day, tantric buddhist start their path to enlightment through "preliminary practices" (Ngondro in Tibetan) that emphasize meditation on impermanence. To develop the feeling of impermanence, practicioners are encouraged to think that for times immemorial, they have endlessly transmigrated through all 6 realms : hells, animals, preta, humans, asura and ...gods !

In the story of Gautama Sakya, the Buddha, it is told by all the Buddhist schools, that before coming down to Earth, prince Siddharta had been staying in the "paradise of Tusita", aka, the paradise of the 33 Gods. And when he reached enlightment under the bodhi tree, he was visited by the king of the Gods who requested him to teach other humans.

Last but not least, in most schools of buddhism, people admit and worship "gods" as "protectors of the teachings" or protectors of sacred places.

So it is not right to deny the presence of gods in Buddhism, although I can understand where this idea came from (the same debate exists in Taoism, opposing "philosophical" and "religious" taoism). It is true that according to the higher buddhist teachings, all phenomena are transient delusions obscuring the essential nature of the world. According to this "final" buddhist vision of the world, gods may not really exist as independant essences, but neither do we ...
 
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kesavaross

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First, defining a religion as the belief in a (single) personal God is incorrect. There are several equally valid definitions of the religious phenomenon, and one of the original meanings of the word "religion" in latin is "what links people together", which is very relevant to the way ancient Greeks and Romans practiced their religion.

Of course, they had "personal gods", but what was important for them was not as much the individual faith than the collective / social role of their rituals. That's why the Romans at first did not understand Christians. They wanted them to sacrifice to the emperor, because, that was the standard ritual practice, and they believed this "piety" was what was required to stabilize society. But the Christians acted like "integrists" in their view. they wouldn't comply because they followed a different paradigm. For them, religion was a matter of personal faith in one god, and this god was certainly not the emperor. So both had a religion. And both could be very sensitive and intolerant about it (just think about how Socrates was executed by the Athenians because of his so-called "impety"). So, defining religion just on the basis of a personal god is likely too restrictive. There are religions which were based much more on collective rituals, ancestor cult and so on.


Second, it is wrong to deny the presence of gods in Buddhism. In both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, "gods" are given as one of the 6 categories of beings. To this very day, tantric buddhist start their path to enlightment through "preliminary practices" (Ngondro in Tibetan) that emphasize meditation on impermanence. To develop the feeling of impermanence, practicioners are encouraged to think that for times immemorial, they have endlessly transmigrated through all 6 realms : hells, animals, preta, humans, asura and ...gods !

In the story of Gautama Sakya, the Buddha, it is told by all the Buddhist schools, that before coming down to Earth, prince Siddharta had been staying in the "paradise of Tusita", aka, the paradise of the 33 Gods. And when he reached enlightment under the bodhi tree, he was visited by the king of the Gods who requested him to teach other humans.

Last but not least, in most schools of buddhism, people admit and worship "gods" as "protectors of the teachings" or protectors of sacred places.

So it is not right to deny the presence of gods in Buddhism, although I can understand where this idea came from (the same debate exists in Taoism, opposing "philosophical" and "religious" taoism). It is true that according to the higher buddhist teachings, all phenomena are transient delusions obscuring the essential nature of the world. According to this "final" buddhist vision of the world, gods may not really exist has independant essences, but neither do we ...
Thanks for the interesting post. However, I said the Buddhism doesn't accept there is a God as a person, i.e. with a form and personality. By God I mean the supreme controller of everything who is eternal and infinite. By religion I mean religion as it's generally understood now and not the roots of the word.
 
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Mikefule

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Thanks for the interesting post. However, I said the Buddhism doesn't accept there is a God as a person, i.e. with a form and personality. By God I mean the supreme controller of everything who is eternal and infinite. By religion I mean religion as it's generally understood now and not the roots of the word. ...

Atheism: you quite correctly state that the "roots of the word" religion are of limited relevance when considering whether or not gods exist.

Recourse to etymology or dictionaries in any philosophical discussion immediately changes the nature of the discussion to "mere" semantics rather than, for example, ontology or epistemology.

However, you undercut yourself by then offering your own rather selective definition of God, and supporting this with the expression "as it's generally understood now."

There are many well-established religions that involve one or more gods. Based on 2015 figures, just under 1/3 of the world's population is Christian, just under 1/4 are Muslim, just over 1/7 are Hindu, and about 1/6 claim "no religion". There are other major religions such as Judaism, Sikhism, and Rastafari, as well as innumerable belief systems that might loosely be defined as "pagan" or "traditional" religions. Each of these has a different concept of God or gods.

Of course, any one of those religions further subdivides into denominations and sects, and branches. A Roman Catholic, an Orthodox Christian, and Anglican, a Methodist, and a Baptist would all have different views of the nature of God. Islam is divided into two main religious traditions. Some Hindus have a literal belief in their gods, but some other Hindus consider them to represent principles rather than beings.

Similarly, not all people who consider themselves to be atheists have the same reasons, or are even rejecting the same definition of god.


Logically it is easier to dismiss (rather than disprove) the existence of an all powerful, all knowing, omnipresent, interventionist god than it is to dismiss the idea of a lesser god with more limited powers.

A God who is everywhere, and can do absolutely anything, without limit, and who's motives are inherently unknowable can be used to explain absolutely any possible or conceivable set of circumstances or events.

If "God" is a potential explanation of absolutely everything or anything, then there is no possible way of proving or disproving that he exists.

Imagine the experiment with the two possible outcomes: X = God exists, and Y = God does not exist. There are no possible circumstances that fit into category Y.

Therefore, you cannot use the "God hypothesis" to either explain or predict anything. You may as well just say, "That is how it is."

Why was there a tsunami? Because of God. Why did this baby survive the tsunami? Because of God. Why did this other baby die in the same tsunami? Also because of God. Why did one baby die and not the other? Because God willed it. Why did he will it? We cannot know the mind of God. Will this third baby survive his injuries from the same tsunami? If God wills it. How will we know if God wills it? By whether the baby survives or dies. And so on ad infintum et nauseam.


On this line of argument, the question of whether God exists is not answered with a "Yes" or "No" but with "That's a pointless question."


Now consider a lesser god with limited powers. The above line of argument does not work. The lesser god is believed to have limits on what he can achieve and if we know those limits we can devise an experiment in which there is at least one value for Y = the god does not exist.


We then have to approach the existence or otherwise of that lesser god by a rational comparison of hypotheses. Put simply: is thunder and lightning caused by (a) Thor banging the clouds with his hammer when he is angry, or (b) by electrostatic discharges in the atmosphere?

Hypothesis (b) electrostatic discharges, enables us to make reasonably accurate predictions about when lightning will occur, and we can observe and describe the mechanism that causes it. Therefore we can reasonably conclude that "electrostatic discharge" is a better hypothesis than "angry Thor."
 
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