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Switch to Forum Live View Can Atheists believe in ideas of other religions?
3 years ago  ::  Jul 01, 2011 - 10:33AM #1
serarosa
Posts: 2
Hi Everyone. Please let me tell you a little bit about myself before I ask my question, as I am new to Beliefnet. My first child passed away almost 12 years ago. I was born and raised as a Catholic, so naturally I turned to God to help me through his death. Then not too long after he passed, I started to question the existence of God. Slowly over the years and for many reasons, I have come to the decision that there is no God. I also believe there is also no heaven or hell, and that life comes from evolution. I have no belief in the Catholic Religion any more. However, there is something I can not let go of, and that is angels. I believe that there is an after life, but we don't know what it is. I used to think that spirits would get reborn, as bhuddist believe, but I'm not sure I believe that now. This is because I sometimes feel the presence of my son, and other family members who have passed... if they become reborn, then why is there presence still with me? Any way, I believe those who have passed are our angels, our own personal guardians. That they are there to guide us and be by our side throughout our lives. You know those time when you usually go down Main St to get to work, but today you decided to go the scenic route. Then you learn there was a fatal accident at the time you would have gone down Main St, and you could have been involved. At times it seems that there has to be something "guiding" us to steer away from harm.

So, to get to my question. Is it possible to not believe in gods or dieties, but still believe in some ideas of other religions? Another example is a friend of mine who is Atheist, but she still celebrates the seasons like a Wiccan would, and meditates and follows basic Bhuddist philosophy.

Thank you in advance for you help!
SeraRosa
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3 years ago  ::  Jul 01, 2011 - 5:24PM #2
JCarlin
Posts: 6,797

Please Welcome serarosa



to the atheism  boards.
Thanks for your contributions to the board.


You might also want to check out the Discuss_Atheism board, it is a bit contentious.  But can be fun. 


Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:

However, there is something I can not let go of, and that is angels. I believe that there is an after life, but we don't know what it is. I used to think that spirits would get reborn, as bhuddist believe, but I'm not sure I believe that now. This is because I sometimes feel the presence of my son, and other family members who have passed... if they become reborn, then why is there presence still with me? Any way, I believe those who have passed are our angels, our own personal guardians. That they are there to guide us and be by our side throughout our lives. You know those time when you usually go down Main St to get to work, but today you decided to go the scenic route. Then you learn there was a fatal accident at the time you would have gone down Main St, and you could have been involved. At times it seems that there has to be something "guiding" us to steer away from harm.

So, to get to my question. Is it possible to not believe in gods or dieties, but still believe in some ideas of other religions? Another example is a friend of mine who is Atheist, but she still celebrates the seasons like a Wiccan would, and meditates and follows basic Bhuddist philosophy.

SeraRosa



Religions have been around teaching people how to deal with the difficult issues in life for a long time.  In general they work.  The nice thing about being atheist is that you can reasonably pick and choose those teachings you find useful and throw out the rest with God.


Angels can be used as a focusing mechanism for those things we must remember from our parents and other significant people in our lives.  We get our mores from them, and I see no harm in personifying them as angels.  I can associate people with moral imperatives in my mind. I don't call them angels, but I can clearly remember my late mother's evil looks when I do something I was taught not to do.  Even if in context it is OK. Every time a phone rings at dinner and someone answers it I remember my late father's running commentary on my sister's end of a dinner time phone call.  It may be the boss calling at a business dinner, and I still won't answer it. 


If a guardian angel feels good for you, even though it is just you making good decisions according to us crass rationalists, go for it.  Skeptics will tell you that the day you went the scenic route it was just a memorable coincidence that there was an accident on Main Street.  But the major premise of a book I just finished is the mind finds things to justify our beliefs and rejects things that don't.  (The Believing Mind, by Michael Shermer.)


One last thing, in spite of what some fundies will tell you atheism has no right or wrong answers.  As long God isn't telling you what to do, what works is atheism.  

J'Carlin
If the shoe doesn't fit, don't cram your foot in it and complain.
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3 years ago  ::  Jul 01, 2011 - 11:42PM #3
mountain_man
Posts: 39,703

Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:

...So, to get to my question. Is it possible to not believe in gods or dieties, but still believe in some ideas of other religions?


Why assume those ideas are unique to that religion?


My mother tried to rasie me as an Irish Catholic. It didn't work. I have never believe a god exists. The stories about gods and Jesus they tried to get me to believe I knew, even at a young age, that they were no different than the stories they told me about Santa, the Tooth Faerie, and the Easter Bunny - not real.


Another example is a friend of mine who is Atheist, but she still celebrates the seasons like a Wiccan would, and meditates and follows basic Bhuddist philosophy.


Why not celebrate the seasons? We get four evenly spaced holidays every year. We like to have parties too. But why does every idea have to belong to a religion? None of them actually invented the morals and rituals they go on about. The morals and rituals of the era were incorporated into the religion as it formed. An example; do not murder your fellow humans. That's pretty much universal and doesn't belong exclusively to any culture or religion.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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3 years ago  ::  Jul 02, 2011 - 4:04AM #4
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,207

An atheist is someone who lacks a belief in any god.  That's all there is to being an atheist.  While people speak of "atheism," there may not be much of an -ism to talk about.  The rejection of gods does not compel belief or disbelief in much of anything else.


That said, many atheists are also naturalists, people who believe in the natural world - what we experience through the senses or discover through science - not the supernatural world.  While all naturalists are atheists, being an atheist doesn't force you to be a naturalist.  Conceivably, you could be an "atheist" and believe in practically anything - as long as it's not a deity.  It just so happens that most atheists are naturalists.  Their atheism is a natural extension of their naturalism.  They don't believe in the supernatural; therefore, they don't believe in a god.  But by the same token, they don't believe in magic, angels, demons, the soul, Heaven, Hell or any semblance of an afterlife.


Most people who self-identify as atheists are probably naturalists who did the math.  That does not, however, mean you have to be a naturalist to be an atheist.  You could be an atheist who believes in the supernatural.  The question many atheists would ask is "Why?"  If you believe in things you can't see - things that exist apart from scientific discovery - where do you draw the line?  What source would you use to extract information from or about the world?


There's another term, sometimes use in comparison with "atheist," and that's "agnostic."  An agnostic "doesn't know" whether any gods exist.  That may be a statement of uncertainty but it's often broader than that.  Many agnostics would say that no one has ever proved whether a god exists or not.  Some would go so far as to say that the God Question can't be definitivelly answered because "God" is defined in such a slippery way that if he did exist, there would be no way to detect or discover him.  If you have this invisible friend who can never lose at hide-and-go-seek, how could you ever prove whether or not he's there?


Some have come up with some pretty clever spin-off terms, including igtheist (someone who believes the definition of God is so sloppy that it can't be tested - even by logic) and apatheist (someone who doesn't care whether there's a God or who says it doesn't matter). 


For some time now, I've been searching for a term that focuses on religion.  Is it possible to reject religion without rejecting God or gods?  Some would call this just another form of agnosticism or apatheism, but I see a distinction worth exploring.  It's not that I'm looking for reconciliation with theism.  It's that religion is so much more accessible than "God."  The arguments for and against God are endless.  The science that's brought to bear on the subject is sometimes beyond the comforts or capacity of many.  There are logical arguments that deal with the burden of proof, but not everyone is a logician.


So much more accessible to everyone is religion.  Wherever you are, there is a faith that dominates the field.  Family loyalties often dictate a religious duty or at least a religious tradition.  With that religion come certain experiences.  Young minds accept, at face value, what they are told.  As people grow older, they come to rely on their own experience.  Quite often, experience tests religious faith.  Quite often, religious faith fails the test.  


When surveys are conducted, such as the famous Pew Survey - on religious belief and practice, a high number of Americans say they believe in God.  A relatively high number go to church enough to remember where the building is.  But if America were full of the religious faithful, who's watching all the porn?  Who's committing all the crime?  The courts are clogged, in part because business people - who dress like they're going to church - screw each other all the time.  The othe part is just the exploitational use of the system, like kidnappers demanding a ransom.


Apparently, religion doesn't guarantee much.  Sometimes, it's the "faithful" who have their hands in the cookie jar - or down somebody's pants.  I'm not suggesting that religious people are more likely to do bad things, just that being religious doesn't necessarily stand in anybody's way.  Maybe that's because people pick and choose what to believe.  Or maybe they pick and choose what to continue believing.


Life experience - whether my own or what I see around me - has taught me the value of many things that were part of my religious training.  I believe in the value of honesty.  I believe it's wrong to steal.  I believe that it's wiser not to stare too long at another man's wife.  On the other hand, there's a lot in the "good book" that doesn't sound so good.  Some stories - like Noah packing every land animal into one boat - sound like glorified nonsense.  I don't accept any divine right to genocide.  Unclean animals, as it turns out, are not only delicious; they're nutritious.  


I think it would be fairly easy to evaluate religious truths - and nonsense - by examining them under the antiseptic glare of sunlight.  When we do, the better parts of religion are mere stories resting upon a few universal truths, truths which are just as equally served without religion at all. 


One might then ask whether this isn't just another form of naturalism, to believe what stands up to experience while doubting what doesnt?  I suspect that naturalism is more philosophical.  Experience doesn't necessarily show that supernatural things don't happen.  There may be any number of things that science doesn't explain, at least not in any satisfactory way.  Let's say someone dies and another person knows about it without the least bit of explanation from science.  Naturalism would search for a "scientific" explanation, ususally one that dismisses the supernatural.  One may have an experience that one is reluctant to dismiss on the basis of naturalism.


Religion sometimes tells us comforting things.  Life may produce experiences that fit within one's religious training without proving the absolute truthfulness of that training.  Yet, when one looks to explain what happened, naturalism doesn't necessarily fill the gap very well.  In your case, when you feel the presence of the child you lost, naturalism would tell you that this is impossible, that what you are experiencing is psychological.  Naturalism would tell you that the only way you could "feel" the "presence" of a dead person is to have some external stimuli provoke a response in your memory.  From a naturalist position, you were merely reminded of this person.  You accept this as real because it's more comforting to believe than to face reality.


But this isn't your experience any more than some religious teaching about angels.  Your experience was that you felt a presence.  If so, what happened to you was not natural; it was supernatural.  There is no scientific explanation for what you experienced that doesn't deny the reality of what you experienced (dismissing it as a mental event).


The question worth asking is whether you had this experience or not, and whether it could have been real without dismissing it as a mental phenomenon.  My mother died 13 years ago.  I have not once felt her "presence," though I bawled like a baby at the end of A.I.  If, on the other hand, I had ever felt her "presence," I would accept my own experience over any naturalist dismissal.  


I would do so even if meant questioning naturalism.


It seems most likely to you that what you experienced ties into the idea of guardian spirits, though much of the ideology may come less from what happened to you than with tying into the existing  religious understanding of such.  While your experience falls short of proving the religious dogma, it may stand as personal proof that some truth is being experienced.  


This may explain the religious use of the term, "testimony," especially when believers describe themselves as having received a "personal testimony" of something.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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3 years ago  ::  Jul 05, 2011 - 8:08AM #5
christine3
Posts: 7,358
Is it possible to not believe in gods or dieties, but still believe in some ideas of other religions? Another example is a friend of mine who is Atheist, but she still celebrates the seasons like a Wiccan would, and meditates and follows basic Bhuddist philosophy.

Thank you in advance for you help!
SeraRosa[/quote]



Hi SeraRosa,
Thank you for sharing your story.  I have been the same route as you.  Looking back, I came to understand that the only reason I was raised in the Protestant religion, is because that was going religion in my town.  About age 12, I rebelled against church and got a good smattering of other ideas, i.e., astrology, numerology, esoteric Christianity.  In other words, I was searching.  Then I came to realize the difference between man-made religions and laws of nature.  Later on in life I came to find that I was 3/4 Native American some Irish and other Northern European.  The Native American part was kept secret from me by my parents because it was too difficult to be indigenous in America.  They were trying to assimilate. 

Then I began exploring my Indian heritage.  We believe there was a creator, but don't worship it.  We believe in the laws of nature, we respect all of nature, care for it, and understand that the creator of the universe did put everything inside us that we need.  People can use what was given to them, but are not forced to (free will).  Native Americans don't, for the most part, follow the European JudeoChristian religion that came over to America, unless they were conquered into that religion.  We believe nothing dies, just changes form.  It is the eternal cycles of nature, of which we are a part.  Yes we believe in the spirit world, seen and unseen.  We believe in helpers and guides, those who have gone before us and who will return in this eternal cycle of nature.  In that regard, our beliefs are Eastern, Tibetan.  American Indians did come over from that part of the world, and that is why many understand it that way.  American Indians came from all parts of the world, actually, so you'll find different tribes have a little different understanding, but they don't worship a deity, because that isn't necessary.  The idea of deity, God, was told to us, man-made.  When I talk of the creator, it is not to be understood like a God.  It is just nature and we have everything in us that we need.
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3 years ago  ::  Jul 26, 2011 - 10:31PM #6
NATAS
Posts: 924

Howdy


 


Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:


Hi Everyone. Please let me tell you a little bit about myself before I ask my question, as I am new to Beliefnet. My first child passed away almost 12 years ago. I was born and raised as a Catholic, so naturally I turned to God to help me through his death.



First I would like to offer condolences on the loss of your child.   I think that is one of the worst losses a person can have. 


Second I don't think that people are born believing in a particular religion.  People are however raised in a particular religion the religion of their parents.   I was raised as a Catholic between up until I was sixteen but I can't say that I was a "believer".   


 


Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:


 Then not too long after he passed, I started to question the existence of God. Slowly over the years and for many reasons, I have come to the decision that there is no God. I also believe there is also no heaven or hell, and that life comes from evolution. I have no belief in the Catholic Religion any more.



It has been said that Atheism is not a belief but a conclusion.   


Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:


 However, there is something I can not let go of, and that is angels. I believe that there is an after life, but we don't know what it is. I used to think that spirits would get reborn, as bhuddist believe, but I'm not sure I believe that now.



What leads you to conclude that there are angels? 


What is it that leads you to be skeptical of reincarnation?  


 


It has been said that Atheism is not a belief but a conclusion.   


Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:


This is because I sometimes feel the presence of my son, and other family members who have passed... if they become reborn, then why is there presence still with me?



Are there family members who have passed whose presence you have not felt? 


If they are reborn then you would have to conclude that you are not feeling "them".  


Unless it is the case that when you are feeling their "presence" it is because they have become unicarnated to they bodies they have been born to or because they have not be incarnated, reborn to new bodies.  


I would however "speculate" that when you are feeling their "presences" it is because something has turned on your memories of them so powerfully that you have the feeling you are experiencing their presences.   This would be especially true of your son.  


In a psychological sense your son as well as your family members who have passed are still alive in your memories. 


 


It has been said that Atheism is not a belief but a conclusion.   


Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:


Any way, I believe those who have passed are our angels, our own personal guardians. That they are there to guide us and be by our side throughout our lives.



Having a belief in guaridan angels is similar to have a belief in God.  It is comforting to believe they exist but comfort is not sufficent to conclude they do exist.  


 


It has been said that Atheism is not a belief but a conclusion.   


Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:


 You know those time when you usually go down Main St to get to work, but today you decided to go the scenic route. Then you learn there was a fatal accident at the time you would have gone down Main St, and you could have been involved. At times it seems that there has to be something "guiding" us to steer away from harm.



But what about the "other side" of the coin.  Last winter I read about a mother of five who was driving in a blizzard.  Just as she passed under a tree a branch laden with snow snapped, crashed through her windsheild and killed.  Where was her guardian angel.   


You hear stories of people who were too late to catch a plane that later crashed and killed all the passengers.  Could it be concluded that God or a Guardian Angel was involved? 


But what about the person who was "lucky(?)" enough to get on that plane because the other person was late and died as a result? 


 


 


It has been said that Atheism is not a belief but a conclusion.   


Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:



So, to get to my question. Is it possible to not believe in gods or dieties, but still believe in some ideas of other religions? Another example is a friend of mine who is Atheist, but she still celebrates the seasons like a Wiccan would, and meditates and follows basic Bhuddist philosophy.



I am an atheist but I still "celebrate" Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family.  On spring and winter soltices me and other atheists get together and celebrate.   


I also enage in meditation. 


So yes it certainly is possible to not believe in gods or deities but still enage in activites that religous people enage in.  But for different reasons than they do. 

Thank you in advance for you help!
SeraRosa




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3 years ago  ::  Jul 30, 2011 - 1:06AM #7
Wiscidea
Posts: 2,319

Jul 1, 2011 -- 10:33AM, serarosa wrote:

Is it possible to not believe in gods or dieties, but still believe in some ideas of other religions?



Absolutely.


I'm essentially a Buddhist without the supernatural baggage. I'm a pagan without gods and goddesses. I'm a deist without a Creator. It would be foolish to reject a valuable idea just because one or another religion laid claim to it as their own ... and chances are that someone else, long forgotten, thought of it long before one or another religion embraced it.


J

"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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3 years ago  ::  Aug 21, 2011 - 12:17PM #8
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,207

As we live our lives, we grasp a great many truths, but we can't share them without a language.  In every age, in every culture, people attempt to relate their insights by using the cultural flotsam accessible to them.


To me, this is like the dicta in court opinions, where judges attempt to frame or justify a ruling by using arguments and ideas that may, in the end, be expendable.  A generation later, the law may go the other way, either because the facts have changed or because they seem so less applicable to the question at hand.  


A lot of religious language and practice can be boiled down to human experience placed within the cultural framework that was available or preferred.  When it comes to Christmas, for example, they say that "Jesus is the reason for the season," but so much of Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus - from the Christmas tree to Frosty the Snowman to Santa and all that gift-giving.  Even the nativity story, with its hot-chocolate chorus of "Silent Light," hits a common chord - not because it really matters how Jesus was born but because there are universals that resonate.


It could be anybody's birth.  There's something about birth and infancy, with the warmth of motherly love and the coziness of the cradle contrasted against the cold, wintry darkness of the world "out there," that reminds us of the wonder of love.  Infants, because of their helplessness and presumed innocence ("original sin" notwithstanding) are the perfect objects of love - both in terms of their cuteness as well as their need.


There's a great line in the movie, "One Hour Photo," where the sad-and-damaged Sey waxes rhapsodic about what it means to have someone take your picture, to basically stop time and record that you were here, that you were young, et cetera.  The same can be said of receiving a gift, even if that gift meant less to the giver (social obligation) than it did to the recipient.


When I look back at all those Christmases, and all those gifts, what strikes me is not the religious "truth" that God sent his son into the world (so believe in him or burn).  All of that religious nonsense seems like a masturbatory priestly indulgence - or an episode of Shalom in the Home, with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach droning on in his insipid, self-important, often-irrelevant Woody-Allen-meets-Mel-Gibson schtick.  Yuck.  (It's funny how all ideologues - from Catholics to Commies - are so utterly boorish.)  Christmas was never about Jesus.  It was always about innocence and wonder, gift-giving, lights, time off from school, family and love.


Easter was never quite as big, maybe because painted eggs and chocolate bunnies just don't compare with Christmas trees and presents, but true to its pre-Christian roots, this Spring holiday was always about renewal.  Thanksgiving always meant more to me, in terms of all that spirituality a holiday is meant to evoke.  I like the simplicity of Thanksgiving - simple gratitude, a sense of counted blessings, celebrated amidst one's family - and with no special churchy or gift-giving obligations.


It's funny how so many holidays end up not being about their stated ideological purpose.  While Veterans Day retains some of its stated purpose (even while burying Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I and the sacrifices of its soldiers), Memorial Day is about camping and barbecues, as is Independence Day.  Presidents' Day is about sales while Martin Luther King's Birthday is just another day off.  Cinco de Mayo isn't really a Mexican holiday (a minor victory at Puebla was turned into a "Mexican day" by American Hispanics in blissful ignorance and disregard of the real Mexican Independence Day in September).  Then again, St. Patrick's day is a bigger deal in America than it has ever been in Ireland, and usually among people who aren't Irish but were looking for a good reason to drink.  Halloween is hot on its way to rivaling Christmas as the "funnest" holiday of the year, but it does so by ignoring its original (and boring) roots in favor of celebrating the heebie jeebies.


My daughter, Mary, was born on Groundhogs Day, which was Candlemas in Europe, a candle-lighting festival to the Virgin Mary, though she was named after my grandmother, who was raised religious but who was as unreligious as any person I have ever met.  Her home was devoid of crosses or religious pictures.  She never led a prayer I could ever remember, never spoke of God or Jesus, never quoted a Bible verse and never attended church during any of the years I knew her.  Yet she was the most honorable and honest, staight-dealing, morally-strict person I have ever met.  Every holiday memory I have involving Grandma also involved food, family and fun.  Every worthy moral I have ever embraced was taught to me by my grandmother, not so much by sermon as by example.


 

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