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6 years ago  ::  Dec 17, 2008 - 7:26PM #1
Wiscidea
Posts: 2,319
I was thinking about a couple threads that have appeared recently and not so recently.

Bertrand Russell suggested that each person's religious background, even if they are one or two generations removed from indoctrination, affects the expression of their atheism. (I'm writing from memory, so I'm bound to mess this up. I'll try anyway.) He points out that this is just a tendency and that there are exceptions. Basically... he suggests Protestants become libertarian atheists... they carry over the independent thinking, self-reliance, and rejection of authority. Catholics become socialist atheists... they crave community, structure, and leadership. He actually suggested that this was one reason communism could take hold in Catholic countries more readily than in Protestant countries. It was relatively -- relatively -- easy for one authority to replace another. This could very well be a load of ... well, you know. But I wonder what others think about this.

Do you find your particular expression of atheism a reflection of your or your ancestors' belief systems?

I find myself falling somewhere in between, perhaps because I was raised without religious indoctrination. I've got the independent thinking and I don't necessarily trust authority, but I sometimes crave community and I often think there are some very important roles for government. When I find a community, however, I quickly lose interest... the slightest move toward a list of common principles scares me away.

Anyway... I notice there is a [COLOR="Blue"]spectrum[/COLOR] of folks posting here. It appears to range from the very independent, self-reliant atheists (who might like to see faith-based religion go away, but ultimately just want to be left alone) to a few people who want to create new secular "religions" that will provide people with whatever they crave from faith-based religion (I'd call it "domesticating" faith-based belief systems). I realize I'm simplifying this; the "spectrum" might have several dimensions.

What y'all think? Rubbish? A kernel of truth?

Final question...

If faith-based religion disappeared, would it have to be replaced by a secular "religion"? Would it create a vacuum that folks could not resist filling with some new authority?

(I won't be defending my remarks. I really don't where I stand on the issue. I'm not even confident this post makes any sense. Moderator: please delete it if it doesn't belong here.)
"Some people claim that there's a woman to blame. But I know it's my own damn fault."

Jimmy Buffet (Margaritaville)
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 17, 2008 - 7:26PM #2
Wiscidea
Posts: 2,319
I was thinking about a couple threads that have appeared recently and not so recently.

Bertrand Russell suggested that each person's religious background, even if they are one or two generations removed from indoctrination, affects the expression of their atheism. (I'm writing from memory, so I'm bound to mess this up. I'll try anyway.) He points out that this is just a tendency and that there are exceptions. Basically... he suggests Protestants become libertarian atheists... they carry over the independent thinking, self-reliance, and rejection of authority. Catholics become socialist atheists... they crave community, structure, and leadership. He actually suggested that this was one reason communism could take hold in Catholic countries more readily than in Protestant countries. It was relatively -- relatively -- easy for one authority to replace another. This could very well be a load of ... well, you know. But I wonder what others think about this.

Do you find your particular expression of atheism a reflection of your or your ancestors' belief systems?

I find myself falling somewhere in between, perhaps because I was raised without religious indoctrination. I've got the independent thinking and I don't necessarily trust authority, but I sometimes crave community and I often think there are some very important roles for government. When I find a community, however, I quickly lose interest... the slightest move toward a list of common principles scares me away.

Anyway... I notice there is a [COLOR="Blue"]spectrum[/COLOR] of folks posting here. It appears to range from the very independent, self-reliant atheists (who might like to see faith-based religion go away, but ultimately just want to be left alone) to a few people who want to create new secular "religions" that will provide people with whatever they crave from faith-based religion (I'd call it "domesticating" faith-based belief systems). I realize I'm simplifying this; the "spectrum" might have several dimensions.

What y'all think? Rubbish? A kernel of truth?

Final question...

If faith-based religion disappeared, would it have to be replaced by a secular "religion"? Would it create a vacuum that folks could not resist filling with some new authority?

(I won't be defending my remarks. I really don't where I stand on the issue. I'm not even confident this post makes any sense. Moderator: please delete it if it doesn't belong here.)
"Some people claim that there's a woman to blame. But I know it's my own damn fault."

Jimmy Buffet (Margaritaville)
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 17, 2008 - 9:45PM #3
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,201
I was an unwitting atheist from infancy to the age of seven, when I got my first indoctrination into the world of God.  Life without God was still life, and as exciting and wonderful and fulfilling as anything that has happened ever since.

My first indoctrination was into Catholicism, though I never joined.  It was strange and new and cartoonish and slightly creepy as well.  My father married a Catholic and lived with this woman, whose home could have passed for a shrine.  There were pictures and statues everywhere.

But when that marriage broke up, my father became a baptist - which meant that my brother and I became baptists.  I took to the new faith, admired Martin Luther for his courage in standing up to the injustices of his time and came to value the freedom of thought I found in Protestantism.

I exercised that freedom of thought when I broke with the baptists, at age 17, to join the LDS Church.  As a Mormon, I got a chance to take the bull by the horns, so to speak.  Most faiths have a clear distinction between the clergy and the laiety.  People expect the professional to handle certain things.  Mormons, by comparison, have created a structure where each worthy male of appropriate age is allowed to share in the priesthood.  It becomes normal to give talks, organize groups and proselyte as a missionary.  I served a two-year mission where I gave probably 100 sermons over a two-year period.  While Mormonism dampens a person's sense of independence, calling for the individual to think and act like a member of a larger community, one that doesn't just provide Sunday services but also plays an active part in evaluating his or her behavior, I also acquired a certain expectation: That I could call myself a priest, even as a husband, father and member of the community.

I don't doubt my approach toward atheism is infuenced by my own life history, but I think the appeal of atheism is that it doesn't ask me to accept, on faith, something that isn't proven or strongly suggested by objective facts.

That said, I think that every faith tradition can be an atheist faith tradition.  It is unnecessary to disassemble the various churches, synagogues, mosques and other organizational structures.  The goal is to foster a spirit of tolerance that allows people to see what they see and talk frankly about it.  Eventually the old beliefs become a combination of early truths assimiliated, as well as jumping off point for discussions about where the tradition missed the mark.  Baptists, for example, got their name for their refusal to accept the nonsensical idea of infant baptism.  As baptists tend to look upon ecclesiastical authority with jaundiced eyes, the baptist tradition can be very helpful to an atheist who comes to rely upon his or her own convictions, rather than the authority of some creed.
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 18, 2008 - 7:24AM #4
Eudaimonist
Posts: 2,036
[QUOTE=wiscidea;963715]He points out that this is just a tendency and that there are exceptions. Basically... he suggests Protestants become libertarian atheists... they carry over the independent thinking, self-reliance, and rejection of authority. Catholics become socialist atheists... they crave community, structure, and leadership.



I'm an ex-Catholic atheist.  I'm also a libertarian (in the American sense) who values independent thinking, self-reliance, and a rejection of authority. So, yes, one's religious background is at most a tendency.

I think the fact that I'm an American who grew up in the "American" meltingpot culture that values life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness had more of a role in influencing me than my religious upbringing.

Do you find your particular expression of atheism a reflection of your or your ancestors' belief systems?



No, mine is a radical departure.  The only sense mine might be the same is that Catholics are often more philosophical than Protestants are, and I'm a philosophical person.

If faith-based religion disappeared, would it have to be replaced by a secular "religion"? Would it create a vacuum that folks could not resist filling with some new authority?



I see no reason why secularism would have to create an authority.  In fact, I think it would find great difficulty doing so.  Getting secular people to accept an authority is like trying to herd cats.

I do believe that secular ethical communities similar to church groups could arise (I'm a member of one right now), but I don't think they would be as authoritarian as faith-based ethical communities.  They would be more likely to help people find their own path rather than to mandate one that is one-size-fits-all.


eudaimonia,

Mark

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6 years ago  ::  Jan 02, 2009 - 3:26AM #5
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,201
[QUOTE=Philosopher Plebian;970560]Hmmm...I smell the old "Catholics can't think for themselves" stereotype held by the northern European protestants re-manifesting itself here.[/QUOTE]

As a Southern Baptist, I never thought that Catholics couldn't think for themselves, nor has my later experience supported that idea.  But I have noticed that Catholicism is a lot more about good deeds than many strains of Protestantism.  A great many Protestants - especially Baptists and Evangelicals - have reduced Christianity to some kind of profession of faith.  Salvation is the immediate outcome from "accepting Jesus as your personal savior."  They snicker at Catholics for going to confession (and ridding themselves of sin through the expert application of prayer and the rosary) but their faith requires less than a signature on a sign-up sheet. 

It's to be expected that Protestantism, which based itself on theological differences, would produce a tradition that favored Bible study and debate - as one might be called upon to justify one's decision to choose one sect over another.  But this doesn't mean Catholicism was devoid of any intellectual basis.  In fact, the connection between the Catholic Church and education is quite impressive.  It's just that Catholicism is obviously about more than being right.  Look at all of the ministries sponsored by Catholicism - the orphanages, the soup kitchens, the social services, et cetera.  When I was a Baptist, this was all sneered at.  We were told that Catholics were trying to "work their way into Heaven." 

By age 14, I had stopped attending with the Baptists.  I saw no future in what they were selling.  To me, it seemed like their quick-sale view of salvation produced complacency.  At age 17, I would join the Mormons, in part because I was impressed by the Mormon emphasis on action rather than faith alone.  Ironically, Mormonism is closer to Catholicism in this emphasis on community than what I'd known as a Baptist. 

In the end, Russell's observation may be a bit facile.  I'll give him this much: Subcultures differ and what we bring to atheism can readily inform our specific expression of it.  Even so, it's a point that can easily be overstated, leading one to lazily conclude that atheists ought to be grouped by where they came from.

Which reminds me of the old joke about the visitor to Ireland who gets stopped at a checkpoint and asked whether he's Protestant or Catholic.

"I'm an atheist," he replies.

A moment goes by.

"Protestant atheist or Catholic atheist?"
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 02, 2009 - 11:34AM #6
Wiscidea
Posts: 2,319
Hello.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply, including your very personal story.

[QUOTE=BillThinks4Himself;963926]That said, I think that every faith tradition can be an atheist faith tradition. It is unnecessary to disassemble the various churches, synagogues, mosques and other organizational structures. The goal is to foster a spirit of tolerance that allows people to see what they see and talk frankly about it.  Eventually the old beliefs become a combination of early truths assimiliated, as well as jumping off point for discussions about where the tradition missed the mark.[/QUOTE]

I should give more consideration to this. I'm still fighting the wave of cynicism -- modern definition -- that washed over me following 9/11. It will take a long time to recover, assuming I decide I want to recover. Fortunately, though the book I'm currently reading presents numerous examples of faith-based religion attempting to eradicate doubt, it also presents numerous examples of religious people (pagans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and more, both clergy and laity) attempting to "purify" their religious tradition and discard the awful baggage that can divide people... unfortunately, someone usually killed them.:(

[QUOTE=BillThinks4Himself;963926]Baptists, for example, got their name for their refusal to accept the nonsensical idea of infant baptism. As baptists tend to look upon ecclesiastical authority with jaundiced eyes, the baptist tradition can be very helpful to an atheist who comes to rely upon his or her own convictions, rather than the authority of some creed.[/QUOTE]

It is funny -- or would be if it was not so tragic -- that most modern religious traditions emerged from rejection of earlier dogma.
"Some people claim that there's a woman to blame. But I know it's my own damn fault."

Jimmy Buffet (Margaritaville)
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 02, 2009 - 11:57AM #7
Wiscidea
Posts: 2,319
[QUOTE=BillThinks4Himself;991309]A great many Protestants - especially Baptists and Evangelicals - have reduced Christianity to some kind of profession of faith.  Salvation is the immediate outcome from "accepting Jesus as your personal savior."  They snicker at Catholics for going to confession (and ridding themselves of sin through the expert application of prayer and the rosary) but their faith requires less than a signature on a sign-up sheet.[/QUOTE]

This will forever confuse me. It seems Protestants are most concerned about the necessity of religion for controlling human impulses... without the promise of heaven or threat of hell, there would be no morality. But they're also the ones who place more emphasis on faith over action! Accept Jesus, and the mass murderer is forgiven... deny Jesus, and the most compassionate person goes to Hell.

[QUOTE=BillThinks4Himself;991309]... the connection between the Catholic Church and education is quite impressive.  It's just that Catholicism is obviously about more than being right.  Look at all of the ministries sponsored by Catholicism - the orphanages, the soup kitchens, the social services, et cetera.  When I was a Baptist, this was all sneered at.  We were told that Catholics were trying to "work their way into Heaven."[/QUOTE]

Again... words over actions? What's with that? Believing in Jesus over acting like Jesus? What's with that?

[QUOTE=BillThinks4Himself;991309]... I would join the Mormons, in part because I was impressed by the Mormon emphasis on action rather than faith alone. Ironically, Mormonism is closer to Catholicism in this emphasis on community than what I'd known as a Baptist.[/QUOTE]

Note to theists... it is far more difficult to criticize faith-based religious organizations that actually reach out to help people live in the current world vs. those who tell us to not worry about the current world. Much of my personal hostility toward religion is due to a view -- perhaps wrong -- that some very vocal religious people are also opposed to conserving natural resources or caring about other species.

[QUOTE=BillThinks4Himself;991309]In the end, Russell's observation may be a bit facile.  I'll give him this much: Subcultures differ and what we bring to atheism can readily inform our specific expression of it.  Even so, it's a point that can easily be overstated, leading one to lazily conclude that atheists ought to be grouped by where they came from.[/QUOTE]

I was at first glance impressed by Russell's observation, but there are sooooo many exceptions, that it really doesn't communicate much. Perhaps it was more significant at a certain time or only in Europe. I don't know. It is really a silly generalization.

[QUOTE=BillThinks4Himself;991309]Which reminds me of the old joke about the visitor to Ireland who gets stopped at a checkpoint and asked whether he's Protestant or Catholic.

"I'm an atheist," he replies.

A moment goes by.

"Protestant atheist or Catholic atheist?"[/QUOTE]

Yes... I think this is former Evangelical preacher, now atheist, Dan Barker's favorite joke.
"Some people claim that there's a woman to blame. But I know it's my own damn fault."

Jimmy Buffet (Margaritaville)
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