My Atheism

God Is dead, but faith never will be

God Is dead, but faith never will be

I have never made peace with the atheist label.

Perhaps the word has become too vilified and tainted in misconception. Perhaps its reputation for zealous rudeness doesn’t fit my style of patient, rational persuasion. Perhaps I’m not okay with completely casting off my appreciation for the numinous.

I struggle to wholeheartedly take on “atheist” without qualifying it, so until a better term presents itself, I call myself a “spiritual atheist.”

Like a regular atheist, I don’t believe in God. And I’m comfortable saying that.

And like most atheists, I’m in strongly favor of relying on rules of logic and evidence. These are the most accurate methods to determine objective truth.

And like vocal atheists, I’m happy to criticize religion. I wrote 343 pages of harsh, well-researched criticism of the religion I was born into: Mormonism. My analysis applies to many other faiths. Religions continue to manipulate, mislead, abuse, extort, and destroy lives the world over. I will make no excuses for this brand of behavior in the name of gods; it is far too prevalent and nothing can justify it.

But here’s where I part ways with atheism: I cannot ignore the intrinsic human need to find meaning in subjective and symbolic interpretations of the world.

The prominent atheist voices want to eliminate religion from the face of the earth. I can’t get behind that plan. Not only is this impossible, but it flies in the face of logic. Moreover, vocal atheists seem too quick to judge the faithful as “stupid,” “misled,” and “irrational.” This way of thinking is deeply flawed. Not only does it make atheist reasoning less persuasive, it also ignores prevailing science about the nature of the human mind.

Human beings need spirituality. And not for the usual reasons: Of course we don’t need religion to be moral. Or to keep society from descending into a chaotic orgy pit of doom. Humanity has outgrown the need for myth to control minds and hearts.

There is more to spirituality than these needs. Deeper needs.

My explanation is hobbled by a lack of useful language. I’m forced to use loaded words like “religion” and “spirituality.” Words shape how we think, and these terms certainly carry baggage; it’s baggage that leads our thinking in problematic directions. But they’re the only words I have, so it’s baggage I hope to shed.

What I’m driving at, is that the human mind is more than the sum of its parts. As much as we’d like to, we can’t just put on Spock ears and pretend our brains function like computers. Because they don’t. No one is fallacy-free, and no one can completely distance themselves from intuition, emotion, or symbolic thinking. No amount of education or training can change the basic structure of the human creature. Nor would such a thing be desirable.

As we’re discovering through neuroscience and psychology, the mind is composed of more than just perception and conscious reasoning. Decisions come from instinct; what we think of as our “rational mind” is simply there to justify gut-reactions.

We’re also learning that the brain may be merely one of many thinking organs. The entire nervous system may be involved, and in fact, “gut reaction” is more literally true than we once thought. Our digestive system has enough neurons to make up a cat’s brain, and it operates independently of the brain. It can send messages to the brain (like “eat now” and “am sick”), but the brain can’t send signals back. There is speculation that the gut may be passing along decision-making pressures that could influence or even override the brain’s logic.

See context of illustration here.

See context of illustration here.

Then there’s our emotional system, a complex series of nerves and biochemicals running throughout the whole body. Emotion gives us perceptual feedback about how to interpret the world, and ought to be counted as one of the five (six!) senses. Feelings are a powerful internal force.

We’ve known since Freud that the mind has many aspects; that idea that I am “one self” is just an illusion. Ego vs id, conscious vs unconscious/subconscious, right-brain vs left-brain. Even these dualities are oversimplified categorizations of many levers and pulleys, pressures and influences. Psychologists attempt to describe these mental functions in simplistic conceptual models, and now neuroscientists are beginning to understand their fundamental complexities.

The act of thinking is much more complicated than, “I decided because reasons.” Reason may be the least significant factor in human behavior. Most of our choices come from dark internal corners that cannot be observed. This person I call “I” isn’t me at all.

We try to sculpt and craft the results of our minds into the shape of reason, but these are merely attempts. Good attempts. Worthy attempts. Admirable. Nonetheless, crude.

Facing this truth can be incredibly uncomfortable, but if we respect the science, we have to. Logic must be tolerant of illogic, because illogic makes up the most significant portion of human thought.

Accepting this reality means acknowledging our need for illogical modes of thinking. Art can fulfill some of this need. Paintings, music, and stories are certainly healthy. But we also crave something deeper, and it’s plunging these depths that I call “spirituality.” When we do so with other people, I call this “religion.” Because for now there are no better words for it.

Most people desire an exploration of subjective meaning. There are age-old questions that science cannot answer: What is my purpose? How do I cope with life’s hardships? How do I define morality and ethics? What is it all about?

And just like art, the answers are a matter of taste.

People have a need to find joy in subjective interpretation of objective perception, and this is a form of spirituality. I’m looking out my window at the pine trees in my backyard, and they’re beautiful. If I think about it long enough, I feel the beauty and the greenness. Nature itself can put me into a state of transcendence. There is nothing rational about that. But there is something spiritual. I don’t have to rely on fraudulent scripture, or deny reason, to tap into it. This form of spirituality is not mutually exclusive to atheism or science.

There are psychological benefits to spirituality. Religion is useful for creating metaphors that help us explore subjective meaning in ways that our irrational, unordered, subconscious minds can understand. The source of the symbols don’t matter. They can come from scriptures, Greek mythology, tarot cards, science magazines, or Harry Potter novels. Each of these forms of metaphor can help us, as individuals, understand our inner selves, can help us relate to the world, and can drive us accomplish our dreams.

The literal truthfulness of metaphor is irrelevant for this purpose. Our irrational side doesn’t care. Meaning matters for its own sake. Meaning is a highly-individualized, subjective experience. One person finds it in holy water, and another in crystals, another in his therapist’s office, and another through the lens of a microscope.

When it comes to subjective meaning, the “whys” don’t need to withstand the same rigor of the objective “hows.” What they need to withstand is the personal rigor of the subjective filter: “Does this work for me? Does it help me? Does it bring me satisfaction and fulfillment? Does it make me a better person?”

As I mentioned above, the field of psychology has gone a long way to model the “self.” The concept of the “inner child” is a good example. It describes a child persona in our minds who reacts to stress the way we did when we were children. There are therapeutic practices to re-parent this inner child to change present behavior and thought patterns.

There’s some science behind this. The synaptic pathways that were wired when we were children still exist. They’re not erased just because we grow up. And these old pathways still influence behavior; they fire up when a present situation reminds us of a situation from our past.

Science notwithstanding, it’s still just a model, and almost as flimsy as ages-old religious models, like the concept of a “soul” or “spirit.” The psychological metaphor works for the modern mind, but for some people, the idea of having a soul provides just as much meaning, comfort, and assistance in changing behavior. Truly, how different is it from the idea of having a subconscious or an id?

Some models work better than others, but no model is objectively better. It’s a personal decision. As individuals, the model we use must “feel right” if we’re to gain personal understanding of subjective meaning.

Here’s an example a religious concept I retained:

Mormons believe that people are gods in training, eternally progressing and learning. Even though I no longer believe this as literal truth, it’s still there operating in my subconscious. I’m not actively trying to destroy it because it benefits me. It has transformed into an idea of self-acceptance, that who I am, the presence of “me,” is powerful and I have a purpose. Even without the belief in an afterlife, the idea that I have the potential of a goddess motivates me to constantly improve myself and the lives of others. Why would I want to rid myself of that, just because it’s irrational? Doing so would itself be irrational.

I also find spirituality within science itself. I consider Carl Sagan to have been a spiritual man. I have only to listen to The Pale Blue Dot or any episode of Cosmos to recognize it – the awe and wonder he found in the observable universe.

Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason was one of the first philosophic works I read after leaving Mormonism. After denouncing the Bible, he praised science in one of the most spiritually uplifting passages I’ve ever read:

It is only in the CREATION that all our ideas and conceptions of a word of God can unite. The Creation speaketh an universal language, independently of human speech or human language, multiplied and various as they be. It is an ever existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be lost; it cannot be altered; it cannot be suppressed. It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not; it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other. It preaches to all nations and to all worlds; and this word of God reveals to man all that is necessary for man to know of God.

Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of the creation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible Whole is governed. Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful. In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search not the book called the scripture, which any human hand might make, but the scripture called the Creation.

Paine was a deist, so he believed in God, but in the most remote and irreligious way possible. Replace the word “God” with “reality” or “the universe,” and the passage loses no meaning. He reflects here the same spiritual-scientific passion I see in Sagan’s work. If we want to understand “god” (or reality), we should study the universe. But not with a cold, detached eye of a robot. With a sense of wonder in the mystery and beauty of it all.

There is nothing irrational about that.

The quest for meaning, ie “spirituality,” takes many forms. Spiritual choice should be respected and celebrated.

At least, until it crosses a very clear line: Abuse.

When spirituality is used to control the lives of followers, to extract excess money (more than the cost of a therapy session or Harry Potter novel), to sexually exploit, and to manipulate and direct people towards an externally-defined, rigidly imposed system of meaning, it is abusive.

When religious organizations cover for abusers, it is systematic abuse. When “personal meaning” is turned from subjective claims (“This worked for me”) to objective claims (“This will work for everyone”), it becomes fraud. When beliefs are proselytized in ways that seek to deny others their own beliefs, it is manipulation.

These practices are spiritual abuse, and ought to be fought with every pitchfork and torch in the village.

Atheism does humanity a disservice by fighting all faith. When we ignore these intrinsic human needs, we enable spiritual abusers. If we rob people of meaning, and don’t explore healthy ways to fill the void, there will be a God-shaped hole, and someone will be there to fill it. You can bet that person will be a manipulator or abuser ready to sell name-brand meaning to reap material rewards.

The tools of religion are just tools. Yes, they are used to abuse. They are also used to heal. The focus on destroying religion will never succeed. The drive and need for symbolic meaning is too powerful in too many people.

It is better to focus effort on removing abusive tendencies from religion. In this, we have religious allies who are tolerant of atheists and those who hold other beliefs. They wish to root out evil from their midst. We share common cause.

But how can we remove harmful tendencies from spirituality?

Through metabeliefs: beliefs about belief.

We should ask, what kind of metabeliefs can allow people to mindfully, proactively build their own harmless belief systems that will help them accomplish preconceived end-goals for themselves and for their world?

After I left Mormonism, in the void and confusion of losing my entire worldview, I had to do just that.

Here’s an example metabelief: the concept of a “pseudobelief.” This is a tentative belief in something without taking it too seriously, using the belief as a means to an end, but not taking it farther than that.

For instance, I sometimes use tarot cards when I’m confused about a decision, especially when there’s not enough real information to go on. I don’t know (or care) if there are really unseen forces guiding the cards. That doesn’t matter. The symbols on the cards, no matter which cards are drawn, help me process and recognize my own deeper thoughts and feelings on the issue. All for the cost of a $15 tarot deck and a few minutes of my time.

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I sometimes temporarily believe in Asphaltia, the goddess of parking, and I say a funny little rhyming prayer asking her to help me get a good spot. Does it actually work? Probably not. But it does help me relax when I’m dodging cars downtown. And that’s good enough for me. It doesn’t hurt anyone for me to pray to Asphaltia, nor for me to share my belief in ways that don’t stomp all over someone else’s beliefs in their own parking gods (or lack thereof).

And lest tarot and parking gods all seem trivial, I’ve had deeper, unexplained sp[iritual experiences that gave me guidance and comfort when I needed it most. I’m won’t try to prove that these experiences were “real,” nor do they imply anything about the objective existence of gods, ghosts, angels, or fairies.

But neither am I going to debunk, dismiss, or explain them away. To do so would be to deny a beneficial and significant aspect of my life. An aspect, quite frankly, of being human. Because it is a human skill to have spiritual experiences, even if they are just hallucinations, biochemical explosions, wishful thinking. That, in and of itself, is important.

This is what I mean by “spiritual atheist.” There’s no need to throw the baby out with the disgusting, dirty bathwater of abusive religion. If we’re striving for a mature version of humanity, one that doesn’t need to follow Priests and Imams, perhaps we should encourage independent spiritual thinking. With that comes personal autonomy. Let people believe in their woo, just give them the tools to do so without being taken in by charlatans.

Let’s not end faith. Let’s instead think about ending spiritual abuse, and give people the means to think about their spirituality in a rational way.

Luna Lindsey was born into the Mormon Church and left the faith in 2001, at age 26. She now lives in Seattle, WA and writes about topics of interest to her, including psychology, culture, and autism. She also writes science fiction and fantasy. When she’s not busy traveling to improbable worlds, or thinking hard about this improbable world, she’s enjoying life with her improbable family. Her new book, Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control is available in ebook and print.

17 responses to “God Is dead, but faith never will be”

  1. I don’t think we need to worry about religion disappearing overnight. But who’s job is it to reform religion? I see many people working within their faiths to change it. And atheists created the clergy project. People like Luna should find a place in the already changing landscape instead of just complaining about what a few atheists say.

  2. Joel says:

    Beautifully written, Luna. I especially like your closing remarks and share your desire for an atheistic spiritualism (for lack of a better term) that isn’t mired in superstition or wish thinking. This is the right place to take the conversation. Thank you.

  3. Luna Lindsey says:

    John, I’m a writer. Complaining is my job. 🙂 In all seriousness, I am working on a list of cognitions one can choose for oneself that leverage dissonance to work for you, to help your beliefs (or lack thereof) to remain in line with reality. Some of those are beliefs about how to relate to spirituality, including the pseudobelief suggestion I list in this article. That list may or may not turn into a book someday. Personally, I feel that writing is “doing something,” and as it’s my best talent, I go with it, rather than trying to be active via organization and social activity, which I’m horrible at.

    Joel, thank you. 🙂 I like that word, atheistic spiritualism. I’ll try it on.

  4. Laurance says:

    Hello, Luna! I’m delighted to both agree and disagree with you. I suspect that our disagreements will be over semantics, definitions and such, while we are fundamentally in agreement.

    “God is dead, but faith never will be?”

    What are you talking about? To me, “faith” means blind and obstinate belief in the absence of evidence. I do not have “faith. “Faith” is as dead to me as god is. Or do you mean something else by that word? Definition, please.

    I’m not put off by the term “atheist”, which is what I am. I’ve been one all my life, and for me it’s a rich term with lots of good things included.

    But as for “spiritual atheist”, well, I think I get what you’re saying, and I won’t be surprised if we are actually in agreement here. It’s that word, “spiritual” that gives me the heebie-jeebies, the jim-jams and the screaming meemies.

    Yes, I know Sam Harris uses it, and Christopher Hitchens was in favor of it, but for me it’s a cult buzzword. I heard it in Alcoholics Anonymous. That word is a thought-stopper, a generator of emotions and irrationality, and a weasel word used to conceal the fact that we’re being threatened and having dogmatic religion shoved down our throats along with stupendous dishonesty that is supposed to blind us to that fact. I have no use for that word. “It’s not religion, it’s spirituality!” What a lie!

    You wrote, “But we also crave something deeper, and it’s plunging these depths that I call “spirituality.” When we do so with other people, I call this “religion.” Because for now there are no better words for it.”

    No, I don’t have a word, either noun to replace “spirituality” or an adjective to replace “spiritual”. Nor is “religion” a word that addresses community of any sort I would want to be associated with. But I suspect that you and I are in agreement here. Still I am not willing to speak of “spirituality” and “religion” because we will not be understood if we use weasel words like “spirituality”. If there are “no better words for it”, then we’d better find or create some better words because we will be misunderstood until we do.

    I realized years and years ago that if I’m in a room with 20 people and I say “spirituality”, those twenty different people will have twenty different definitions, and I will not have conveyed any real information. So I have dumped that word.

    I speak of “Monday Morning Consciousness” to mean our day to day lives. Monday Morning Consciousness is necessary. I need to pay my bills, wash my dishes, get to appointments on time, all that mundane stuff that is necessary to keep the organism functioning.

    But Monday Morning Consciousness isn’t enough! I think we agree on that. I think we disagree with that “spirituality” word, but I think we agree that we need more, far more, than the dish-washing mentality.

    Absent the word “spirituality” I agree with the things you’re saying. And Sam Harris’ book about “Waking Up” has come out now, and I hope it will stimulate further thought and discussion in the Atheosphere about consciousness and mind states beyond ordinary Monday Morning Consciousness.

    But I have the feeling that this “spirituality” word gets in the way of looking at what is going on.

    And there’s a lot going on.

    I was particularly delighted, tickled pink, when you said this: “Here’s an example metabelief: the concept of a “pseudobelief.” This is a tentative belief in something without taking it too seriously, using the belief as a means to an end, but not taking it farther than that.”

    Whoop-de-doo! I do that! That’s what Chaos Magicians do! It warms my heart! And hey! I, too, have Tarot Cards and have the same attitude as you do to them!

    Say what? Asphaltia? Oooh, you’re praying to a false god! It’s Squat who is the One True God of Parking. Here’s the real deal:

    “Hail Squat, full of grace!
    Please find me a Parking Space!”

    When you get that parking space you say,

    “Gratitude to you, O Squat!
    Thank you for the Parking Spot!”

    And if you’re particularly grateful, you see if there’s a car nearby whose time on the meter is just about to run out, and you put in a coin to keep the car owner from getting a parking ticket.

    You write, “Let’s not end faith. Let’s instead think about ending spiritual abuse, and give people the means to think about their spirituality in a rational way.”

    What’s happening here? Are we in agreement and only quibbling about definitions of words? What do you mean by “faith”? To me, faith is something I most seriously do NOT want to have. I don’t want to believe blindly and irrationally and stubbornly in things for which there is no evidence. To me, faith is a very undesirable attitude to have.

    Would you give us your definition of “faith”? Is it blind belief, or do you mean something else?

  5. Luna Lindsey says:

    Great post, Barry! Yes, I went down the same process of trying to choose a better word. As a commenter noted, “transcendence” is too specific in the wrong ways, and too ambiguous in other ways. It’s a term I use for a specific part of my own spirituality, i.e. it’s a subset. It excludes other important aspects, like personal growth, learning to be more compassionate, and developing relationships.

    I also like the word “numinous” and similar words, but again, it’s a specific subset, which to me talks about things which are difficult to define, and that which is unprovable. It includes symbolic thinking, as well as subjective experiences which defy easy explanation (religious hallucinations or visions, group euphoria, and so on).

    One thing I like about the word “spirit” is its origins. It comes from the Latin word for “breath,” which also lends us words like “inspire.” I don’t believe I have a literal spirit, but figuratively, I have an inner spark, a breath, a thing that makes me alive. Therefore, this connotation does not bother me.

  6. Luna Lindsey says:

    Hey Laurence! Nice reply. Yes, I think we are struggling mostly with semantics. Especially since your parking prayer is almost identical to mine, only you’re worshipping a false parking god!

    I included “faith” in the title because it sounded good. (Titles are the hardest part of writing.) Faith is another squishy word, and I think it’s used abusively far more often that it’s used well. i.e. it’s used to disable critical thinking skills more than “spirituality” is. When hard questions are asked, “Just have faith,” is the thought-terminating cliché. So I’m not heavily reliant on that word. But here is part of why I picked it for the title:

    I had two arguments in this post. The first is the need for individuals to have something I’m calling “spirituality.” The second was a broader argument about what is possible for society. In that, my title is arguing that some form of faith, religion, spirituality, etc., will always exist in broader society, because the need for individual spirituality is so strong. In that sense, the greater society will always believe (have faith in) the unobservable.

    Faith is far too dirty a word to apply to myself, though. I only have firm beliefs in things that I have evidence for, so I don’t need faith to believe them. For other beliefs, there’s that pseudofaith/pseudobelief, which doesn’t count as true “faith.”

    i.e. I’m not arguing that the concept of faith is a beneficial concept. I’m arguing that it’s a concept that will never go away, so the least we can do is try to alter what that concept means to people, so they’ll practice it in less “blind” ways. Turn it into something more like reason-based faith. Introduce concepts like pseudobelief, and others, so that people can keep their epiphanies and eat them, too.

    I realize the term “spirituality” is loaded, and even triggery for some people. I’d rather clean it up it than create a new word. In my book, I address “loaded language” as a mind control technique. I don’t advise that exmormons stop using the terms that were loaded in Mormon culture… I instead encourage them to look up the definitions, read about how other groups and mainstream society uses the words, and to really reassess the meaning.

    I suppose that’s also my point here. I think the word “spirituality” can be reclaimed. In thinking about thought reform and mind control, I often think about what is the opposite of mind control. In that sense, causing people to think hard about the meaning of words gets people to be more aware of their world and to critically examine things they might otherwise take for granted. Spirituality is one of those words. Its current definition is loaded to be thought-limiting, and I want to shift that towards it becoming a thought-increasing term.

    Other than that, I think you and I are in agreement. 🙂

  7. Appreciate the response Luna. Writing is doing, no problem. And, most of the article is well written and informative. Where you lost me is when you started talking about people who want to “end all faith”. I read and listen to a lot of atheist material, and can’t think of anyone saying that. They might say that churches should be held to the same standards as non-profits, or that they should get out of the science class, but atheists I know of are very aware of the feelings and psychology that lead to religion. IMHO, atheist leaders are very focused on removing abusive tendencies, as you suggest.

    If you are going to develop ideas like this, you should be specific about what you are speaking to and have your logic support your theme. You start jumping around from “religion is used to abuse” to “the need for symbolic meaning” without showing how religion fulfills a need for meaning. I think it takes advantage of people’s need for meaning by providing pre-packaged answers.

    We can study Greek mythology and its meaning because we don’t accept those gods as true, then we can turn to Yeats and study that. But a believing Christian can’t do that with scripture. They might get some meaning from a parable, but then they have to try to fit it into the overall meaning of the purpose of life that God is trying to give them. It is no longer “symbolic meaning” at that point. Atheists don’t want to dispose of meaning, they just don’t need God to find it.

  8. dennis says:

    as a long time atheist,who despises spirit, faith, and terms of religion Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens scared me with this spirit talk . i had flash backs to my early years in southern baptist sunday school. Ms Luna scared me again . its facts, its love, its humanity, its friends, its family its EDUCATION that make our species able to understand gravity and beyond. we dont need spiritual this or that . i understand your need to build meeting places for Atheist but the web is mine. the terms are Agnostic and Atheist.

  9. Jess says:

    Hi Luna,

    An interesting, and thoughtfully written article.

    A couple of things caught my attention, and the second of them was this paragraph:

    “My explanation is hobbled by a lack of useful language. I’m forced to use loaded words like “religion” and “spirituality.” Words shape how we think, and these terms certainly carry baggage; it’s baggage that leads our thinking in problematic directions. But they’re the only words I have, so it’s baggage I hope to shed.”

    The first thing that caught my attention was this sentence:

    “Like a regular atheist, I don’t believe in God.”

    For many years after I ditched the religion I was born into (Catholicism, but what’s the difference?) I continued to use, without realising it, some of the language conventions I’d grown up with, including the use of the word God with a capital G.

    Probably not a big deal in itself, but it’s an example of how religious language conventions have a hold over language in general. It took some effort, but I have trained myself to say “I don’t think there are any gods to believe in” rather than “I don’t believe in God”. The latter is too easily interpreted to mean “I know that God exists but I don’t believe in Him”, the “don’t believe in Him” being interpreted to mean “I think He is wrong”. Something similar to the way that if I say I don’t believe in hitting children, it means I think it is wrong rather than it doesn’t happen. If I do want to refer to the Christian god (or any other) then the way I just did it is how I have trained myself to do it.

    I like your paragraph about the baggage carried by words and how it influences our thinking. It was that paragraph which prompted me to emerge from my normal torporous* state and bash a few keys. Thanks!

    * torpent, torpedinous, torporific, or torpid if you prefer 😉

  10. Canada Dave says:

    “Paine was a deist, so he believed in God,”

    I often wonder if people like Paine, Jefferson and others would be outright atheists if they had been born after Darwin’s work and all those after him.

    These men had already given up on biblical theology but not on the idea of creation.

    Given all that Darwin has spawned plus the multitude of advancements in science and technology since 1860 …..Could their rational minds tolerate the cognitive dissonance required to remain believers in creation.

  11. Canada Dave says:

    @ Jess

    Why do you “capitalize the word god, he and him if you do not believe he/she/it actually exists?
    If gods is suitable for multiple deities then ….”god” …should suffice for a single one.
    Giving prominence to this word makes it stand out much farther from the text than it should….god is just another word.
    May be we should consider adding the letter “a” in front of god. It may go a long way in lessening the perceived importance of the word.

  12. Adam Tjaavk says:

    I think recalling some time ago with a Freethinker reply
    using G-d several times. Got the impression an atheist
    still wearing his yarmulke! – eeyuck!

    _ _ _

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just
    believe in one fewer god than you do. When you
    understand why you dismiss all the other possible
    gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
    Stephen Roberts

    _____

  13. EJ says:

    With a big thank-you to AgentCormac, I give you this link…

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2009/07/09/mouth/

    And, madam, should you ever aspire to writing, as it seems you do here, may I suggest you avoid using words like “impossible” for things that are not, in fact, impossible at all.
    Religion and, yes, even your schizophrenic death-grip on the word “spiritual”, can be completely eradicated from the Earth. It would not be impossible at all. The rules of physics obtain throughout the continuum, I do assure you, and physics does indeed explain all the stuff you don’t quite understand about how our brains work.
    You are borderline schizo, as near as I can tell, and seem unable to shake your belief in MAGIC.
    NEWSFLASH: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC
    Get a fucking clue already.

  14. Brian says:

    Thanks for this article. I think the pressure atheists feel at times to invalidate subjective experience is they experience people taking those subjective experiences as applicable to the objective world. What distinguishes scientific reasoning (based, as you said in intuition and unconscious processes) from subjectivity is not how it comes about, but whether it’s inter-subjectively verifiable.

    A mistake non-believers make is to pretend that reasoning is the ground of our experience rather than the collation of those experiences.

    A reason words like “spirituality” or “illogical” squick me is that they are all too frequently grounds for irrational actions in the public sphere. Because spiritual or irrational experiences are the exclusive property of the experiencer they are not suitable as grounds for action, unless, as with your use of the Tarot, they are heuristics only, with actions taken only after engaging reasoning.

    In connection with the Tarot, you use the word “process”. For you is the practice of “processing” what the cards suggest in whole or even in part a process of reasoning?

  15. Jess says:

    @Canada Dave

    It seems I did not express myself as clearly as I thought I had. If you read my comment carefully you will likely see that the capitalisations were between quote marks representing what believers perceive and think. I thought my comment was advocating the dropping of capitalisations.
    🙂

  16. I think atheism should be faith and can be comforting. For example, you can accept death as a means of leaving a space for somebody else to enjoy life. After all, if nobody ever died life on earth would be hell.

    I do not like the term spiritual. It seems to imply a ghost in the machine. And philosophically spirit means an immaterial reality. Spirit in Mormonism means a physical substance that is not like anything we can test in a lab or examine. There are sects such as the Christadelphians and Jehovah’s Witnesses that hold that you are your body and there is no soul and nothing to survive death – so they would agree with the atheists there. Suppose they would use the word spiritual but not in the way most people would understand it.

    People often enjoy the escapism provided by religion and religious worship. It makes them feel magic instead of the mundane. They fear the hardness of life and the horrible realities of life in this world. Religion and worship help these evils seem far away and somehow unreal. People fear that reason might prove there is no God and no afterlife and that their loved ones suffer for nothing along the lines of a divine purpose. So religion and worship allows them to escape from reason. If reality and the rational world are scary and seem omnipotent, you will wish that there was some magic that subverts and conquers them. If you are dying, you can get enormous relief by doing magic spells for you feel that something magical will happen to save your life. You want a miracle and you hope for one. Television and cinema and different things provide escapism. People enjoy watching the suffering of characters in movies for it triggers the sense that bad things are fine if they happen to others but not me and so they won’t happen to me. If bad things are happening to them, they can feel they are not and that other people thankfully are doing the suffering not them. Religion is evil precisely because it teases out and develops our faculties for escapism and not only that but wants to turn us into escapists all the time.