Any other atheists around?

(309 Posts)
GuybrushThreepwoodMP Fri 01-Nov-13 22:18:39

Is there a group for us atheists to discuss ideas of faith, morality, life, the universe and everything (42!)?
Note: I would not want this to become about dissing people of faith and would truly welcome discussion with anyone. This isn't about ridiculing anyone. I would be particularly interested in sharing ideas and discussing the social, anthropological, philosophical, political and psychological aspects of religion from an atheist point of view. Anyone else? I can provide brew and biscuit and wine .

I don't know if there's a group, but I'm an atheist interested in discussing what you've mentioned. And brew, wine and cake are always welcome smile

LoopaDaLoopa Sat 02-Nov-13 01:27:07

I think most of us are atheists, surely?

curlew Sat 02-Nov-13 01:30:34

I don't think we need a special group, do we? Don't we have as much right to post on the religion/philosophy boards as anyone else?

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 02-Nov-13 13:04:23

Of course you do Curlew, but I think the OP was suggesting a discussion about athiest thinking in much the same way as the Muslim Tearoom threads.

I am a deist OP, but I think the thread that you have described would be really

sashh Wed 06-Nov-13 09:26:16

I'm happy to join. I don't have wine but can bring a cat.

I read a really fascinating book recently called 'Religion for Atheists' by Alain de Botton. It articulated lots of things which really resonated with me about the human needs which led people to invent gods/religion in the first place. It then made various suggestions about ways in which society could fulfil those needs in non-religious ways - how we can satisfy our 'spiritual' (for want of a better word!) side and our need for community, nurture, awe etc through non-religious things. Really interesting book.

CraftyBuddhist Thu 07-Nov-13 16:17:34

Hi. May I join you?
I'm an athiest secular humanist buddhist feminist. My husband despairs.
I don't tend to involve myself in religious/athiest chat but I really liked your post OP.

I tend to regard my buddhism as a philosophical practice rather than a religion. It fills those gaps I always tended to feel in my humanism and atheism (from a very young age).

The buddha was an athiest himself by the way.

I've always liked the idea of Buddhism. I've read quite a bit about it as I'm interested in mindfulness and meditation. A religion without a god seems like a great improvement to me grin.

CraftyBuddhist Thu 07-Nov-13 19:03:14

Hi Holmes. A good start is 'Buddhism pure and simple'. It really boils it down.
As it happens I have a signed copy of religion for atheists! Haven't got far with it yet though.
How are you finding mindfulness meditation? It's something which totally saved my mental health.

It kind of helped save mine too! The problem is that I'm not so good at keeping doing it when things are going well. I know it would benefit me to do it regularly but life gets in the way! The other book which I have found amazing is The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert. I keep recommending it on anxiety/depression threads because I think it would be really life-changingly helpful.

Sorry OP - we seem to have gone off-topic a bit!

CraftyBuddhist Fri 08-Nov-13 08:32:40

I think that's why meditation and mindfulness is great but it's like a doughnut without the jam. The buddhist philosophy helps keep the mindfulness part of everyday life- it's a huge part of buddhism.

Paul Gilbert wrote overcoming depression if I remember- excellent writer.

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Fri 08-Nov-13 08:43:05

Another book recommendation is Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not A Christian- it's a pleasure to read. I find Dawkins so self-important and self-righteous in comparison.

msmiggins Fri 08-Nov-13 17:22:42

Hi, I an an athiest but also a practicing witch. I also practice mindfullness.

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Sat 09-Nov-13 09:55:17

What does 'practising witch' mean? Genuine question- I truly have no idea!

msmiggins Sat 09-Nov-13 15:11:51

I practice magic.

YoniRotten Sat 09-Nov-13 15:16:08

I'm an atheist (or a nothing, if you agree with this post: smile

msmiggins, magic like what?

Weegiemum Sat 09-Nov-13 15:20:21

I'm totally not an atheist but it would be fascinating to read your discussions.

I'm a Christian who also practices mindfulness (need more practice, though!) and was recommended the Paul Gilbert book by my clinical psychologist when being treated for depression, it's excellent.

Have fun <lurks off>

msmiggins Sat 09-Nov-13 15:26:11

Yonirotten- magic as in rituals, spells etc.

Msmiggins - I don't quite know how to respond to that... I imagine that most of us atheists don't actually believe in magic, just like we don't believe in a god. In fact I've never met any adult (atheist or religious, for that matter) who did believe in it. Although I'm a big Harry Potter fan, which sometimes makes me wish it were real!

CraftyBuddhist Sun 10-Nov-13 16:44:48

I agree it's a very interesting angle msmiggins.

It goes to show that atheism is such an eclectic term. It can encompass your garden variety athiest, your pagan, your buddhist, but also 'everyone is someone else's athiest' in that a Christian will reject a Hindu god or two or a Muslim a Greek god etc etc etc.

What has always drawn me, and I suspect you agree op, is rationalist atheism. Evidence based scrutiny.

HettiePetal Sun 10-Nov-13 16:50:03

Sam Harris says a similar thing about the atheism issue, Yoni

It is worth noting that no one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist. Consequently, we do not have words for people who deny the validity of these pseudo-disciplines. Likewise, atheism is a term that should not even exist. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma

I agree with him.

Have also never met an atheist that believes in magic, Msmiggins. Can you tell us more?

CraftyBuddhist Sun 10-Nov-13 17:11:23

I know what you mean Hettie. [i ��sam harris].

But I have a stronger feeling with respect to the phrase 'I dot believe in God' as that presumes there is a god in which not to believe in.

HettiePetal Sun 10-Nov-13 17:16:04

Yes, I know what you mean.

But if I say, "I don't believe in God" I'm referencing the concept that I know lots of other people have. A bit like saying, "I don't believe in Superman".

Although, honestly, I tend to say, "I don't believe your God exists" which pisses people off no end, for some reason.

I like the Sam Harris quote. An atheist can join groups that campaign against religion and so on and that can be a good thing, but that is not required to be an atheist. We are simply those people who do not believe.

I sometimes remind christians that I am atheist for all beliefs not just theirs. I don't believe in Jesus, Allah or Jehovah. I don't believe in crystal healing or that the number 13 is unlucky. And when people say things like:

"if you dream you are falling and don't wake up in time you will die in your sleep"

I think "..and how would you know that? Who has come back to report?" smile

Can't see the point in accepting something as true without at least some evidence.

YoniRotten Sun 10-Nov-13 23:22:28

msmiggins, but do these spells actually make anything happen?

Hettie, that is a good Sam Harris quote. Indeed!

msmiggins Mon 11-Nov-13 06:59:38

Witchcraft doesn't mean I have to "believe" in any deity- therefore I count myself as an athiest.- And yes magic does work for me I have been practicing for 25 years. I respect carl Jung's analysis of the collective subconcious to explain witchcraft - I also like the Ancient Greek schema of archetypal Gods which are metaphors rather than extrinsic deities.

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Mon 11-Nov-13 22:19:27

mrsmiggins I'm intrigued! Is magic something you feel you get direct results from? Can you give examples? I'm always interested in different beliefs and how they manifest. Magic is definitely not something I personally believe in. My own attitudes stem from the rational and empirical but also from a firm confidence in the existence of a confirmation bias relating to all human beliefs. I think we all tend to attach the most meaning to that which confirms what we already believe and ignore that which doesn't. For me this accounts for belief in psychics (cold-reading), horoscopes and religion equally.
Of course the beliefs of skeptics are subject to a confirmation bias as well! Derren Brown's programme Messiah was an interesting view of this kind of thing.
Magic though. It's an interesting one. Magic to me is no more or less believable than the concept of God- it's just a choice to have faith in something else really (although it's a lot more attractive to me than organised religion!). Do you feel that your belief in magic is a 'faith' (is something which by definition cannot be proved empirically) or fact? The faith versus fact idea has always fascinated me. Because religion, by definition, cannot be based in fact can it? That's the point- that the existence of God can't be proven therefore one has to have faith- and yet it does so often seen to be confused with fact.
Which brings me into another topic- secularisation. Religion in schools-yay or nay?
Terribly disorganised and waffly post- sorry! Lots of ideas floating around.

CoteDAzur Mon 11-Nov-13 22:33:04

When you say you practice magic with spells etc, do you mean mixing herbs and feeling better about something? Or do you think you actually make things happen with your incantations?

Joining the party.

Re Bertrand Russell, I really recommend his History of Western Philosophy. It gave me a huge grounding in both the development of religious philosophy and more contemporary secular thinking.

I love pointing out to Mono-theists that they are almost as atheist as me. They don't believe in the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Sikh, Hindu and multitudes of other gods, just like me.

I think the biggest challenge for Atheists and Secularism is to find somewhere for humans to hang a spiritual hat. It's what's lacking from mainstream atheism. All the atheists I know are confident and in a safe place (emotionally). Atheism has little to offer those who are struggling, suffering, mourning. This is the breakthrough that needs to be addressed and no amount of Richard Dawkins or Brian Cox gawping at mountains and stars will deal with grief in the way a priest can.

Atheism and magic are clearly not mutually exclusive. Magic doesn't need a god, it merely need actions not currently explained by science. Plenty of that about as scientific knowledge is finite.

Skeptics and magic are probably mutually exclusive.

It just so happens that many atheists are skeptics.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 07:22:05

I don't agree with you, Muswell - priests aren't necessarily the only game in town when it comes to grief. They probably are if you're of a religious persuasion, true - but I have read some stunningly moving passages about the reality of life from secularists/atheists

Atheism doesn't have much to offer the struggling & mourning, but it is at least true, which means more to me than any empty promises about an afterlife.

Magic doesn't need a god - No, but it needs supernatural woo-hoo, because that's what it means. You could make the argument that, "Well science doesn't know everything and we might find out blah blah blah" but that's backwards logic and we don't use reasoning like that to determine what reality looks like.

Yes, you can be an atheist and believe in ghosts, magic, an afterlife & leprechauns with pots of gold, just not a terribly rational one.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 07:46:40

Hettie- the title of this thread is "Any other athiests around?" are you now trying to set definitions on who may call themselves an athiest?
As Muswell says you can be an athiest and may or not be a skeptic when it comes to other issues.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 07:49:44

Er, no.

I said Yes, you can be an atheist and believe in ghosts, magic, an afterlife & leprechauns with pots of gold, just not a terribly rational one quite clearly, did I not? Or didn't you read that bit?

I gave my opinion on witchcraft. Is that OK with you?


I think you have given quite a robust response, including asking the poster if they read your post. Did you read mine, because I don't think we said much different to each other?

Wasn't this supposed to be a more friendly atheist thread?

I find some atheists very combative in their argument. Whilst that is an entirely valid approach in pursuit of the truth, it is no more persuasive because of it.

Magic is about the paranormal. We consider science in the realm of the normal and magic to be outside of it. Hence my original point. In addition, atheism is specifically about non-belief in Gods. Skepticism is much wider and therefore has the scope to exclude magic (although not absolutely).

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 08:15:53

Yoni- yes the spells work- I wouldn’t do them otherwise.

Guybrush- the results are very tangible, I don’t want to be too specific, but I have influenced health, money, home, travel, and personal development . tI doesn’t require me to “believe” in any external force or god. Magic and ritual trigger our subconscious to bring about changes, as long as these are within our “sphere of availability”.
CoteDAzure I see the results of my practices- my very sceptical OH has come to believe in my works 100% as he has been astounded by the results over the years.
But I don’t want to hi-jack this threat, it is about atheism, not witchcraft.


Perhaps my more substantive point on your post is about the pastoral care that religion provides.

I agree with you that atheists can find refuge and solice, but it seems to be a solitary affair that requires the atheist to find their own emotional salvation. That isn't going to work for many people, only those strong enough.

How do we create a popularised atheist font of pastoral care that those who are feeling demotivated and emotionally weak can access? Asking them to read a book is not going to cut it, in my opinion.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 08:18:43

Hettie- I don't want to sound combative, but perhaps you too need to consider your words- "supernatural woo-hoo", isn't perhaps the language that will encourage someone to be open about their views - especiallyl as this is a "friendly athiest thread".

CoteDAzur Tue 12-Nov-13 08:23:50

Isn't "magic" supernatural woo, though? If not, I'm happy to learn what it really is so please educate us.

So what happens when you stir your pot and chant your incantations?

CoteDAzur Tue 12-Nov-13 08:25:40

"Home, health, etc" - So nothing directly attributable to your incantations, like a carpet flying as you point your wand towards it?

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 08:27:55

"Wasn't this supposed to be a more friendly atheist thread?"

Hettie I am not sure what you mean by "woo" but your attitude is not one likely to engender a patient explanation of my work.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 08:31:28

CoteDAzur, the areas I outlined to you are general. My rituals are very specific.

WaitingForMe Tue 12-Nov-13 08:31:42

I'm an atheist and believe that we have more ability to influence the world around us than many people believe. So I believe in the law of attraction and I suppose magic and prayer in the sense that if we can clearly articulate what we want to achieve, are constantly watching for opportunity and work hard to set everything in place for success then the rewards can be immense.

So DH and I needed some extra money. About £350 per month was needed. Through my work (I run my own business) I saw a very specific advertising opportunity. I reacted fast - I created a stylish ad and DH created a micro business. It cost £80 and he made £410. We just ran it again and he has made £175 so far.

It's a form of mindfulness that works well for us. We make collages of the things we want, we have lots of conversations about our dreams and if course we work bloody hard. I don't think there is anything "out there" helping us but I am regularly surprised at the scale of some of our successes.


Whilst I, for one, would be entirely skeptical about your magic, I hope I would be making polite enquiry, carefully phrased so as not to ridicule. The best skeptical or Socratic methods always make the counterparty feel entirely comfortable with their belief (until the questions undermine them or not).

I am not sure that you will get that here which is a shame as I would like to hear more and question it.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 08:41:15

Waitingforme- that's very interesting. You describe visualtization- another useful tool, some may call it by another name and some may call that too witchcraft but it certainly stirs us into action, and not always in a conscious thinking way.
Ritual is a very ancient form of human activity, whether it's a rite before a hunt or a midnight mass in a Catholic church our minds are influenced in ways we don't always understand.
A hunting ritual will form a cohesion amongst a group of hunters, sharpen the senses, moderate the movements on the hunt and probably will lead to a greater success.
Same goes for witchcraft or spells. Yes I practice magic but I don't think I need to believe in any supernatural force to do that.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 08:44:48

Thankyou Muswell.
I have found very rational and mundane explanations as to how my magic works- which it does to suprising levels.
I would love to discuss more but I see that my views so far have raised some hackles so I won't divulge any more.
Suffice to say that I do consider myself an athiest- which was the original theme of this thread.

WaitingForMe Tue 12-Nov-13 08:47:46

Reading that makes me realise how much I engage in ritual. I work my energy up and down as necessary. I light candles to calm/inspire, listen to different genres of music to influence my mood and so forth.

The scrap booking is even semi-ritualistic and my book looks how old spell books are depicted in films. I'm quite amused by the idea I'm inadvertently practising witchcraft!!!

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 08:56:51

WaitingforMe- I love that idea! This sounds like a lot of the work I do too, although I take things a little further. Ritual is part of many daily tasks- think of the Japanese tea ceremony or even the act of offering a cup of tea to a visitor.
We don't fully understand all the workings of the human mind.

WaitingForMe Tue 12-Nov-13 09:04:24

My mum is buying me a Japanese tea pot for Christmas as I want to start doing a tea ritual as a way to break from being DSs mum and change my mindset when I need to do a project for work!

But I'll PM you now as I fear I'm derailing the thread somewhat!

On the subject of emotional help to those who need it surely the Samaritans are an example of non-religious care? Then there are women's support groups, advice centers of all kinds, marriage counseling and so on. I'd say that a lot of that care is undertaken outside of a religious setting.

I would imagine that most of the time what religion offers essentially duplicates that.

Where religion has a monopoly is that a priest can say "Your suffering doesn't matter because you're going to get a brand new life later" or "God says you are doing the right thing so you don't need to feel guilty"

I personally don't feel that those are positive contributions regardless of how much short term relief they might give.

I think positive thinking and mindfulness (which I now realise is not woo at all) would be of greater help in actually solving the problems now and in coping with them.

If we have created a group of people who can't bear life without the promise of heaven then I think the mistake was in dangling that carrot in the first place. Introducing a reliance on something that can't be delivered and which doesn't solve the problem the person is facing today.

DoctorTwo Tue 12-Nov-13 09:38:30

I'm a bit late to this as I don't often visit this section. Yes, I'm an atheist who thinks Dawkins is a strident tosspot. Hitchens, on the other hand... Is anybody interested in The Sunday Assembly, the so-called "atheist church"? I see it as an opportunity to socialise with like minded people.

Theists attending a temple or celebrating festivals have plenty of "rituals" in a "pret a prayez" format, ready made for use.

Here's what I think atheists are missing that theists get ready made. The question is how to deliver these things to atheists:

1) Atheist community
2) Atheist pastoral care
3) Atheist ritual
4) Atheist spiritual leaders
5) Atheist morals and ethics

Some people are trying to find a way to do just that. I went to a session with a few weeks back. It was rather like a Church service without God.

I didn't like it in the end, because my atheism is solitary. Other than here, anonymously on MN, I don't find connecting with my family and friends around atheism useful or comfortable.

That said, I think I am in the minority and many atheists evidently do find the Sunday Assembly and other congregations like it very appealing.

DoctorTwo X posting on exactly the same thing!!! Spooky!!!

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:08:48

Wasn't this supposed to be a more friendly atheist thread?

I disagreed with you, Muswell. Not quite sure why this is such a problem for you.

msmiggins Magic, by definition, invokes the supernatural. If your brand doesn't, then I don't think it could, or should be called "magic".

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:18:31


Brace yourself - I'm about to disagree with you again!

Do you really, honestly think the average free-thinking atheist needs help to figure out morals & ethics, and needs rituals & spiritual leaders?


Isn't the very point that we can figure such things out for ourselves by reading, talking & thinking? Yes, it's great to find out what the smart people think (like Hume & Russell), and sometimes that can make us see things in a new light - but we don't need it. We don't need our morality patiently explained to us by "spiritual leaders" like religious folk do.

I have no problem with the idea of like minded people coming together, a la the atheist mega "churches". I wouldn't bother, because I'm already part of skeptic groups & I'm uncomfortable with the idea of subtly acknowledging that religious people are right when they say that atheism is a religion (it's not).

You can take the notions of community & togetherness and work with them, without aping religion. So it's not for me, but if others would get something out of it, great.


It's not a problem for me. I'll keep discussing and have done.

It is a shame, though, if the manner of questioning results in people withdrawing from the debate. I don't think MsMiggins is going to be too explicit here anymore (as posted).

Perhaps I am just too sensitive?


You and I may well be perfectly happy to lead the virtuous and enlightened life and be confident enough to achieve that with little outside assistance, or at least have no needs.

However, if we want secularism, atheism, agnostism and skepticism to propagate across wider society then you will find people who need help to get what they would otherwise get from a church. You will find people that want things but don't know how or where to get them. How could it work for them?

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:29:20

Well, people who find their views and beliefs disagreed with do tend to be over sensitive. I actually thought we "atheists" were better than that. Shame.

Hands up. I'm over sensitive. smile

So, what's your plan for latent atheists? Perhaps there doesn't need to be one.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:36:24

I see.

So we are smart enough not to need the bull, the other poor dears....not so much?

I think everyone should be encouraged to think critically, question everything, base their beliefs on sound reasoning and understand the importance of evidence. Having spiritual leaders who'll clue us in on morals & ethics puts a bit of a dent in that, doesn't it?

Churches and religion DO encourage a sense of community, I totally agree and that's something we should all strive for. But I am uncomfortable with the idea that this has to mean "authoritative figures" that we go to for guidance.

Having said that, I don't think that's what these mega "churches" are trying to do - I think they'd be horrified at the suggestion that it involves ritual or ethical instruction. At least, I hope they'd be horrified.

Spiritual leaders? Arghh! no!

Basically what Hettie said.

The alternative to doing what the priest says is not simply 'reading a book'
If people want to join discussions with any number of groups they can, in addition to reading and thinking for themselves.

The last thing we want is "Fed up with the priest telling you what is right or wrong? Come in here and WE will tell you what is right and wrong"

DuckToWater Tue 12-Nov-13 10:37:23

Agnostic disestablishmentarian secularist here. And no I can't say it with my mouth full of biscuits.

DoctorTwo Tue 12-Nov-13 10:53:20

That was serendipitous MHD grin I've not been yet, can't make my mind up as to whether it's worth going or not. I suspect not, I don't see the point in a church for atheists.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 10:58:19

I think you should go, Doctor - and report back. If nothing else, there's free pastries & coffee wink

I went to the Sunday Assembly and saw it working for many atheist, just not for me. I think I am a very "similar atheist" to others here.

I agree that if you can think for yourself and come to rationale conclusions that's great. However, are we assuming that is what happens for the majority of people, because my hypothesis is that it doesn't and that is evidenced by the continuing appeal of religion and spiritual leaders. It's hard to make that point without sounding "lofty" so I'll take that on the chin and you can call me "whatever".

So my question is really about how to create a framework widespread in society that free thinking secular skeptics can thrive.

The narrow answer is "think for yourself" and I wholeheartedly agree, but what about people that don't, without some encouragement.

So if "encouragement" is needed, how do/should they get it?

Here's my list of possibilities, feel free to add and tell me what is effective and not:

1) Parents and family
2) Friends
3) Online communities
4) Congregations and groups
5) Reading and research
6) Mainstream media

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 11:41:26

Ah well, I do agree with you on most of that, Muswell. Will respond properly in a bit.

What did you make of the Sunday Assembly? What kinds of things went on? Interested to know.

Hi, pagan atheist here, glad to see some buddhists too!

YoniRotten Tue 12-Nov-13 11:49:23

msmiggins, what ACTUALLY have you magicked into being/happening? Anything that can be attributed solely to your magic, and not just chance/fluke/normal consequence?

I don't especially feel that I need to be part of an atheist community, receive pastoral care, participate in rituals, need a leader of any sort, or need a guide to morals and ethics. I do feel I'd like to know more atheists and encourage more people away from being religitards so that my child doesn't grow up merely surrounded by senseless people perpetuating nonsense and a lack of critical thinking. I think religion is detrimental to society as a whole, and feel frustrated that my child is growing up with it being so prevalent.

MostlyLovingLurchers Tue 12-Nov-13 11:55:18

It is interesting that witchcraft has been jumped all over here but not Buddhism. Neither require a belief in god or gods, so both are valid in an atheist thread, but there seems to be a perception that witchcraft is irrational and Buddhism not so.

If you were to read many Buddhist texts e.g. the mahayana sutras they are full of descriptions of supernatural magical happenings. These are usually interpreted as metaphors - sound familiar? Buddhism is also firmly based in personal experience - and i've yet to come across a sceptical rational atheist who would accept personal experience as proof of anything.

I'm just curious why this has gone unchallenged, when MrsMiggins was given such short shrift. Many pagans see the gods and goddesses as aspects of ourselves and of nature, not as divine entities, and ritual and magic is often simply about directing and firming your intent. Of course there are plenty out there who do believe there is a supernatural element to their practice, but not all by any stretch.

YoniRotten Tue 12-Nov-13 11:57:46

Cross-posted with you there, muswell.

I agree these:
1) Parents and family
2) Friends
3) Online communities
4) Congregations and groups
5) Reading and research
6) Mainstream media

are good for promoting atheism/free-thinking, and doing away with religion. We watched a Christmas episode of 30 Rock the other day, it was lovely and mocking of religion, a mainstream show, it all helps. I'm signed up to various Facebook groups re atheism/free-thinking, I do feel progress is being made and more and more people, especially young people, are learning that there are other ways to those their parents have indoctrinated them in. It's a shame religion is so heavily featured in school. We homeschool for many reasons, but this being one of them. All the horrible stories I've read on MNO about religion in schools, I definitely wasn't subjecting my child to that.

Mostly I assume because buddhism (as far as I'm aware) doesn't have to involve belief in the supernatural, whereas belief in magic does.

YoniRotten Tue 12-Nov-13 12:08:27

Lurchers, as far as I can see on here! no one has said I'm a Buddhist and I can make things happen by saying/doing some magic words and spells.
How is directing and firming an intent magic? If I psyche myself up for a job interview, make myself a special cup of herbal tea, and I get the job - is that magic?

MostlyLovingLurchers Tue 12-Nov-13 12:14:59

But that is the point - it doesn't have to involve any belief in the supernatural at all, which is i think what MrsMiggins was trying to explain. I think of it as like a form of meditation or visualisation with accessories! It helps you focus on what you want to achieve, and having worked on your intent, you are more confident and focussed in bring that intent into being. It doesn't have to be any more than that. I guess if you call it magic it is going to come loaded with associations, and as i said for many practitioners it does have a supernatural element. For a great number though it really doesn't.

I still think an issue for Atheism etc is that churches have ready made solutions to give and atheists/skeptics feel bound to "think" and not be led. What about people that want to be led?

The most powerful instances where a church "helps" a person is during grief. The person grieving has a set framework of prayer, funeral and finality along with a spiritual shoulder to cry on outside family (the priest). They don't need to manufacture any of those things at a time when they are least able to do so.

I will most likely be a jibbering wreck when one of my parents dies and will have none of that framework there to help. So the answer is that I just have to "man up" a bit? Sounds a bit tough on the recently bereaved.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 12:49:07

In which case, Mostly they should avoid using the term "magic", since that clearly and specifically invokes the supernatural - by definition.

If msmiggins wants us to stick to the definition of atheism (quite rightly), she can't really complain if we stick with the definition of "magic".

clubnail Tue 12-Nov-13 13:11:10

The most peaceful funeral that gave me the most sense of 'closure' for want of a better word, was the funeral of an atheist friend, there was no church service - my friend's father 'led' the service, talked about his son, their loss, how they were coming together as a family. It really didn't feel like there was anything missing at all by having them not mention anything about seeing their son again in an afterlife.

headinhands Tue 12-Nov-13 13:18:40

But Muswell who helps you smudge along through the normal ups and downs now? I think the ways people come to terms with grief are the same for all of us, crying, talking and plenty of time. We may get them via religion but it's not the only way. It's well researched that a good social network does much to shore up our coping abilities and that can be established through all manner of avenues.

YoniRotten Tue 12-Nov-13 13:24:11

MLL, what you describe doesn't sound like magic at all.

HHD, and THAT is exactly why, IMO, people like to believe in religion, because it gives them hope that there is an afterlife where they can see their loved ones again, and that for they themselves death isn't the end either. I don't feel like I am missing out at all on lying to myself thus. I am perfectly happy knowing that this one life is it, and I will lead as good and fun a life I can while I am here, then off I go to the ground (or the sea - haven't decided!). I think it makes us appreciate life all the more, knowing we won't be seeing people once they have died.

In one of the Crocodile Dundee films, Mick is told that someone goes to therapy to talk about her problems/worries. He responds incredulously "Doesn't she have any mates?"

I think that's how I feel about needing a church or a priest for the little stuff.

There are plenty of secular organisations for helping people through serious problems.

If the church were to disappear tomorrow I think people would tend to fill the gap by joining social clubs of various kinds. They need not be a direct replacement of the church.

headinhands Tue 12-Nov-13 13:43:30

Going back to how we can promote a more skeptical outlook. Dh says one of the biggest differences he can see between his and our dc's education is an emphasis on questioning. While I agree, I think his schooling was rather Victorian-esq having gone through the school system in colonial Africa. I work in education and we do promote several 'learning powers' which involves evidence seeking for any assumptions but somehow religion can still fly in under the radar.

Sorry to bang on about this. We (i.e. posters on this forum) can all give our personal account of our atheism and our ways of dealing with life (e.g. grief) with no need for a church. We can all say that's how others should be able to deal with life too. That's not what I'm asking about. Each of us posting here is not the demographic I have in mind and, I suspect, is far outnumbered in the real world.

I am asking about how people who aren't strong and able atheists should deal with stuff when there might be no family to turn to, no friends they feel they can talk to, no support network in place, who can't afford therapy. The church will win that battle more often and that group of people is bigger than we are.

How do we help them or how do they help themselves?

MostlyLovingLurchers Tue 12-Nov-13 13:48:35

Hettie - i don't disagree re using the term magic - most dictionary definitions do use the term supernatural. I think magic (or more often spellworking) is used to differentiate from ritual, as what it really is (the sort i've been describing) is ritual plus practical intent. There are of course people who do believe that they are invoking deities and bringing their will to bear through supernatural processes, but i don't think that is what was being talked about here.

I am still interested as to opinion on the Buddhist belief that you can only gain wisdom and understand the world as it truly is through personal experience, given that personal experience is not generally accepted as proof of anything. There is a belief that someone getting close to enlightenment will develop 'magic powers' through understanding the true nature of reality and so are able to manipulate it. Buddha himself is supposed to have had such powers.

I don't actually mind that you aren't all having a go at Buddhism btw - it is actually very close to my own philosophy, just surprised that everyone seems so prepared to accept these aspects of it.

BWT - I am not talking about our utopia where there are no churches, I am talking about the real world where all these things exist - people can turn to churches if they want to.

TheSporkforeatingkyriarchy Tue 12-Nov-13 13:59:19

headinhand - Questioning and evidence seeking is a good start, I think a programme of examining philosophies and ethic systems could be a good step in the right direction (I'm hoping to work on one soon). Like you said, we do it directly for kids with history and science, but purposefully teaching how to examine a philosophy/ethics system - which underpin so many other things - could promote the expansion of critical thinking into other areas - there are plenty of non-religious ideologies that it would be good to challenge and would give skills for challenging religious things.

Particularly for those like myself who were raised in a very very religious environment and took a while to unravel all the problems and holes even when I was seeking from a young age it took a while to bring the tools from other areas to bear onto my personal philosophies. Actively teaching questioning and critical thinking onto philosophies, ideologies, ethic systems would do a lot of good.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 14:02:13

Yes, there's an awful lot about Buddhism that I don't buy into - the most obvious example being reincarnation, and as you say, the only true path to wisdom being personal experience (I never experienced the Big Bang, but I'm wise enough to know it happened* and so forth).

But Buddhism seems to be an umbrella term for so many different schools of thought, and "cherry picking" the bits you like & the bits that resonate & work for you seems to be positively encouraged. Which is a good thing.

I am all for meditation, for example - mainly because deep relaxation is known to be highly beneficial, but there's so much bullcrap that people try to attach to it (spiritual energies & the like) that the true usefulness can get a bit buried under all the woo-hoo.

But you're right, really. When someone introduces themselves as "Buddhist", I think "Rational, calm kind of person", while if they introduce themselves as a practicing witch, I think...well...I've said what I think.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 14:03:55

* know as in, masses of evidence demonstrating the extreme likelihood. And we can all experience the effects of the BB by looking at an untuned channel on our TVs. For clarity's sake.

TheFabulousIdiot Tue 12-Nov-13 14:05:44

I am without religion. Might be called an Atheist by others. I have no belief in anything other than knowing I am alive (Well I think I am - am I?) and knowing that I will die.

TheSporkforeatingkyriarchy Tue 12-Nov-13 14:07:24

Muswel, creating more secular community support would be beneficial to all, particularly those you're talking about, but getting continual support for it is the problem I think. That's where organized faith groups have us at an advantage, they already have that in place, we'd need to build systems that could give that support, find a way of supporting that work, and make it accessible to vulnerable people.

I know online resources was crucial for me after I left because other than my partner and kids (who are still young), I had no one to talk to and no resources on putting back into my life what I felt had disappeared. Part of my identity felt gone and that was hard particularly for me as it had been a crutch throughout an abusive childhood and difficult transition into adulthood/early family life. Having a support network of people who can help both people who just need an ear and those who desire someone to help them put the pieces in their life together rationally even when going through a difficult time would be of benefit and would allow us to create a lifecycle that doesn't lean on religious rhetoric, rituals, and symbols so much.

TheFabulousIdiot Tue 12-Nov-13 14:09:53

as a person without religion I am a but 'meh' about people who talk about 'spirituality' as an alternative to religion.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 12-Nov-13 14:20:56

Hello, just found this thread - as an atheist for about 3 decades following a youth of Christianity, I do rather miss the Church - the community and the hymn singing! I'd quite like to try one of these Sunday Assemblies but they're very few and far between if you're not in a major city. My DH goes to quite a lot of humanist and sceptics meetings (and for a few years Buddhist things too) but they're not family-friendly - in the evening, mostly a good way from where we live and DD isn't quite old enough to be left alone yet. So I find MN threads such as these a welcome meeting of minds at least.

On the mourning/grief - one of DH's pals is a Humanist celebrant - he gets more requests to do funerals than he can cope with. Apparently there's been a big increase in people wanting them in the last decade or so.

I'd guess that Buddhists may deal with bereavement better than followers of many theistic religions, because of their focus on non-attachment (whether or not they actually believe in reincarnation in any real sense).

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 14:23:24

Well I think I am - am I?

You think - therefore you are.

But what you are....who knows?

Personally, I think I'm a computer simulation created by my great x 10 grandchildren. They watch me on the loo and snigger, I reckon. But that's just me wink

And I agree with everything that Spork just said. Churches do promote a sense of belonging in a unique way. If we can harness that, maybe we should - but without all the voice of authority stuff.

TheFabulousIdiot Tue 12-Nov-13 14:25:14

but churches are empty throughout the land, the faithful still go but most people who call themselves religious don't go at all. A friend of mine - her family chapel (in the town she grew up in) is threatened with closure and she travels back home occasionally to keep it going. her mother plays organ, her brother is involved but that's about it.

people don't want to go to church.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 12-Nov-13 14:30:29

>churches are empty throughout the land
unless they're near an oversubscribed faith school but maybe we don't want to go there on this thread!

TheFabulousIdiot Tue 12-Nov-13 14:34:14

"unless they're near an oversubscribed faith school but maybe we don't want to go there on this thread!" or unless there's a huge amount of people wanting to get married.

Though - do people who do all the faith stuff to get their kids in schools carry on going after they have achieved their goal?

MostlyLovingLurchers Tue 12-Nov-13 14:46:46

But you're right, really. When someone introduces themselves as "Buddhist", I think "Rational, calm kind of person", while if they introduce themselves as a practicing witch, I think...well...I've said what I think.

That is EXACTLY what i was getting at!

But Buddhism seems to be an umbrella term for so many different schools of thought, and "cherry picking" the bits you like & the bits that resonate & work for you seems to be positively encouraged. Which is a good thing.

I'm interested that you said that. I don't think you are wrong, but a criticism often levelled at people of faith on many threads here is that they do cherry pick the bits of their faith that they like and ignore or reinterpret the bits they don't - selecting the bits that show their god as benevolent and ignoring those that show him to be malevolent etc.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 14:49:24

Because you're not supposed to cherry pick with Christianity, but people do anyway (and then deny it or pretend it's "interpretation") - whereas it seems to be encouraged with Buddhism. The difference between a philosophy & a religion, I guess.

I'd love to see Critical Thinking alongside or replacing RE in schools. RE can be taught as part of History so that children understand it's place in society, but separate focus on CT in a separate lesson.

Ooops, slipped into utopia again there.....

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 14:56:36

Critical thinking is being taught in schools, at least in secondary school. My son studies Religious, Moral and Philisophical Studies as a subject and critical thinking is a big part of that. Luckily for us all the staff in that department are athiests.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 14:59:24

Yes, same with my son. He's in the 6th form now, but last year the "RE" lessons were all about ethical & philosophical issues. And the teacher he had was atheist too.

So, we're getting there, Muswell.

MostlyLovingLurchers Tue 12-Nov-13 15:09:21

Yes, but picking and choosing is encouraged in Buddhism because it has to resonate with you, your experience, and if you cannot directly experience something it is to be questioned, not trusted,. This is back to personal experience being the only valid knowledge, which i would have thought would be at odds with much atheist thinking.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 15:21:24

Yes, that's true - and put like that, yes, that is at odds with my atheist thinking.

I suspect the perception has much to do with the fact that most Buddhists I know or communicate with, seem to dismiss the supernatural altogether. Of course this isn't true across the board so if I was in a society more immersed in it, like Tibet or Cambodia, maybe I'd see it differently.

I also think it's a matter of how much harm it does - witchcraft, homeopathy, Christianity & Islam (for example) can and do hurt people. It's hard to see who people on a path to personal enlightenment are going to harm.

It's NOT the fact that people hold separate beliefs to me - it's the potential harm of those beliefs. Maybe msmiggins brand of witchcraft doesn't hurt anyone, but witchcraft in Nigeria most certainly does. And where do we draw the line?

I think the main difference between Buddhism (and Jainism and so on) and the things I mentioned above is that it doesn't involve other people, while they do (or can).

But it's a good point, well made. Thanks.

TheSporkforeatingkyriarchy Tue 12-Nov-13 15:22:16

MLL, only from the commonly shown idea that atheism is a monolith. From the concept that it simply means not believing in a deity or a deities, then it could fit easily.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 15:30:40

How does witchcraft hurt people in Nigeria Hettie? From what I see it's the christians and witchhunters who do the damage there. Not the supposed witches.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Tue 12-Nov-13 15:39:47

Children are accused of witchcraft in Nigeria, and it doesn't end well. There's also a form of witchcraft which involves child sacrifice. Remember Adam?

MostlyLovingLurchers Tue 12-Nov-13 15:45:28

Yes, i realise that Spork. I absolutely think you can be an atheist but believe in all manner of other stuff. I picked on the importance of personal experience in Buddhism as it is often a criticism of those with beliefs that they base them on personal experience that cannot be proven and are therefore not rational. That of course does not mean that you can't be an atheist.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 15:48:45

I agree ML. Athiests are not a cohesive group, there is a large diversity of personal views.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 15:49:15

I phrased that badly.

Believing in witchcraft is harmful - Nigeria being a very prime example. Children wouldn't be being shunned & tortured if people didn't believe in the fact of witchcraft (and yes, often it's linked to fundamental Christianity, but not always).

Whether witchcraft itself is harmful, well it depends on what & how you practice. I'm pretty sure there are examples from all over the world of people who have not survived an encounter with witchcraft.

But it's harmful in the way that homeopathy is. Not because spooky water is anything other than a harmless, inert substance - but the belief that it can do something is frequently harmful.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 16:01:44

So the victims are to blame Hettie?

OLKN be careful with is info regarding witchcraft and accusations of ritual killings. The situation is horrific with a lot of hysteria whipped up by the evangelical church. Much of the "evidence" is scant at best.

Very few of us witches eat babies.

garlicbutter Tue 12-Nov-13 16:04:38

Haven't read this yet, but want it on my active list smile

Dyed-in-the-wool atheist here, with some adopted buddhism-like precepts, some of which sound like woo to woo believers - but aren't!

It's proving strangely hard to specify my (dis)belief ... I do not accept that any non-human force acts intelligently on our lives.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 16:23:58

So the victims are to blame Hettie?

I think the people promoting the idea that witchcraft is an actual, real thing are to blame.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Tue 12-Nov-13 16:25:41

Sorry, msmiggins, I didn't mean to imply that your variety of witchcraft is like what goes on in Nigeria. I've heard of white witches, hedgewitches etc and the belief that anything you "send out" comes back to you threefold, so no point in doing anything bad. But harm is being caused elsewhere, by witches and by their hunters. Horrific, as you say.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 16:28:28

The blame lies squarely at the feet of the church. I thought you as an athiest would accept that. Whether you believe witchcraft to be real or not is it worthy of violent and hysterical attacks by the church?

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 16:31:52

Oldladyknowsnothing- in he case of Nigeria the church uses the whole idea of witchcraft to force and terrify people into its fold. It is ruling by terror. The actual incidences of "real " witchcraft in Nigeria are probably a fraction of what the church there claims. It is a useful tool for the hellfire pastors to scare the shit out of people.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 16:43:55

Christianity didn't introduce the idea of witchcraft, did it? I know the Bible says "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" but it didn't invent the concept - just ran with it.

If no one on earth believed that witchcraft was an actual, real phenomenon, then no one would be harmed by it - no matter WHO the harmers are & what their motivations.

And no one should believe in it, because it's not real. Although I'm mindful of the fact that we have to be careful about looking at somewhere as culturally different as Africa though our own eyes - but that still is the long and the short of it.

Our beliefs inform our actions. Belief that witchcraft is real informs the actions of people who hurt others because of it.

Any other comments directed to me will have to be addressed tomorrow as I have to log off now.

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 16:45:35

It is a useful tool for the hellfire pastors to scare the shit out of people

A tool that wouldn't work if people hadn't been told & taught that witchcraft was real.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Tue 12-Nov-13 16:45:52

Fair enough, you are much better informed than I. And of course your point about the church involvement is very true. Hysteria and fear.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 16:53:51

You raise some interesting points Hettie. I could argue that yes the bible did to a large extent "invent" witchcraft as a way of trying to rid the community of the old pagan ways. Much of the way that many view "witches" is does through christian eyes. The old hag, ugly crone, stirring gizzards in a pot were a deliberate attempt to vilify these old practices, even torturing and burning them at the stake. Even the concept of the white witch is a christian idea, the duality of good and evil has been imposed by the church. The church certainly created Satan and embellished the characters his supposed cohorts. Christianity cannot exist without adversaries
I still find it rather galling that you think the victims are to blame. Even if some of these women in the witchhunting days did believe themselves to be witches- you think it's their own fault they were burned at the stake?
Surely no one deserves such persecution.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 16:55:12

oldladyknowsnothing- sorry I didn't mean to sound rude- sorry if I came across that way.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Tue 12-Nov-13 16:57:43

Not at all. smile I should have thought a little more deeply before posting; isn't that the purpose of this thread?

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 17:01:57

Since none of the children who are tortured in Nigeria ARE witches, or even believe that they are (unless they've been brainwashed) how on earth am I blaming the victims?

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 17:05:35

Yes of course.I have come to see that athiets are a very wide ranging bunch of people- probably far more than any christian group, it;s the lack of agreed belive with unites ( of otherwise) I have a neighbour at the bottom of he road who is a UFOligist. He is an athiest, thinks humans were brought to earth by an alien race and spends evenings in his garden trying to contact distant planets. Some people may see him and I in the same light- but he has as much right to call himself an athiest as anyone.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 17:17:03

Hettie you seem to be suggesting that a belief in witchcraft is responsible for violent crimes.

"If no one on earth believed that witchcraft was an actual, real phenomenon, then no one would be harmed by it".

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Tue 12-Nov-13 17:24:14

I'm just catching up.
I think the idea of just how you define yourself is a very interesting one which has come up on this thread. I (naïvely) have been confusing atheism and scepticism simply because I happen to be both. It's fascinating how different people can be and yet still consider themselves atheists and in that sense like many other belief systems- some Muslim women cover their heads, some don't, some Catholics use contraception, some don't.
My views on religiousness have tended to always be very black and white and favour a marxist viewpoint. I try really hard not to express my views that way because it's reductive simply to write beliefs off. Even if I don't believe in something, surely I believe in the power of belief itself? To deny that would be to deny the existence of religion as well as God- and obviously religion exists. Therefore beliefs are valuable, whether I agree with them or not.
Are there any anthropologists in the group, out of interest?

HettiePetal Tue 12-Nov-13 17:32:12

Well, because it is!

It's not the people who think they are witches that are responsible for the torture of children, is it? (In the instance we're talking about).

It's those people who BELIEVE that witchcraft is real and needs to be defended against.

It's the belief that witchcraft exists (it doesn't) and is being used to hurt others (it's not) that drives these people - often their own parents sad

Have a suspicion that most of our conversation has been at cross purposes this afternoon.

Right, off to brave the rush hour. Have a good evening, msmiggins.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 17:33:32

Your reasoning has a somewhat perverse quality to it Hettie. Enjoy your evening.

CoteDAzur Tue 12-Nov-13 22:55:50

What is a "pagan atheist"?

I thought pagan religions were polytheistic.

msmiggins Tue 12-Nov-13 22:58:34

Who is a pagan athiest?

CoteDAzur Tue 12-Nov-13 23:05:15


Don't worry, we'll surely come back to talking about you again soon wink

ErrolTheDragon Tue 12-Nov-13 23:05:33

MurderOfGoths is a pagan atheist - hopefully she'll pop back and explain what that means for her. smile

ErrolTheDragon Tue 12-Nov-13 23:08:37

Here's a couple of dictionary definitions:
Definition of PAGAN

1: heathen 1; especially : a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome)

2: one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods : an irreligious or hedonistic person

Don't know what MofG means by the term but the second sounds like an average Brit nowadays!

CoteDAzur Tue 12-Nov-13 23:21:10

I guess I was a pagan all along. Who knew? grin

Haha, I like 2! But no, for me Paganism is just being aware that nature is the one powerful force in our universe, that there's no god figure, no good/evil, just nature doing what nature does. Whether it's wonderful like a sunset or awful like a natural disaster. I enjoy the symbolism of polytheistic belief systems (I especially like Greek and Celtic mythology for this) and will use those symbols, it's done knowing they are merely symbols. So for example I have a pendant with Hecate (goddess of witchcraft/one aspect of the triple moon goddess) on it, not because I believe she exists or has power, but because thinking of what she symbolises gives me strength.

So totally atheistic, but I'll use theistic symbols.

garlicbutter Tue 12-Nov-13 23:34:09

From Wikipedia on Hecate: "She also closely parallels the Roman goddess Trivia, with whom she was identified in Rome."

Well, it's the first I've heard of the goddess Trivia, but I feel a mysterious identification with her ... grin

Ooh I'd never heard that either! Did read recently that Hecate is also a possible source for the name Catherine - coincidentally that turns out to be my name. Quite like that!

garlicbutter Tue 12-Nov-13 23:46:03

Ooh, yes! The spanish version is Ecatherine, isn't it, pronounced "Eh-kattereen". Which sounds a lot like Hecate (rine). You're named for an ancient goddess, MOG, how cool!

Me, I'm named after a common-or-garden botanical. I am NOT changing my name to "Trivia", however!

garlictrivia Tue 12-Nov-13 23:47:53

Oops, I just did wink

Love it smile Suits you!

garlictrivia Wed 13-Nov-13 00:26:46


msmiggins Wed 13-Nov-13 06:53:32



Don't worry, we'll surely come back to talking about you again soon"

Is it hard being a tosser or does it just come naturally?

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 07:24:07

Your reasoning has a somewhat perverse quality to it Hettie

And this from someone who reckons she's a witch hmm

CoteDAzur Wed 13-Nov-13 09:18:18

Get over yourself, msmiggins.

That was a lighthearted comment (see the wink after it) I made because it looked like you were thinking "atheist pagan" was about you.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 09:21:36

Good morning all. Well, knowing who Trivia was supposed to be is a perfect piece of trivia. "What is the dog barking at?" - "oh, just Trivia".

I like MoGs Paganism a lot better than either of my dictionary definitions. The second one got me thinking a bit about one of the aspersions that's often cast at atheists - about being materialistic. I just realised that sometimes people conflate the (IMO) very derogatory economic materialism with philosophical Materialism.

CoteDAzur Wed 13-Nov-13 09:26:52

"for me Paganism is just being aware that nature is the one powerful force in our universe, that there's no god figure, no good/evil, just nature doing what nature does. Whether it's wonderful like a sunset or awful like a natural disaster"

But surely that is just how things are. It is not a belief system.

I'm not quite sure how you call yourself "pagan" but don't believe in any of pagan religions' myriad gods.

It's like calling yourself an "atheist Christian" because you love your neighbour, like singing with people in church etc.

"But surely that is just how things are. It is not a belief system.

I'm not quite sure how you call yourself "pagan" but don't believe in any of pagan religions' myriad gods. "

I know that's how things are, it's why I never used the word "believe" in my explanation.

And there are many branches of Paganism, some theistic, some not. While the ancient Pagan religions were all theistic (as far as I'm aware), modern Paganism has changed and evolved.

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 09:45:43

Do you do anything as a Pagan that you wouldn't if you weren't, MoG? Or is it just a way of looking at the world?

I celebrate the 8 Sabbats. But mostly it's a way of looking at the world, and a comfort when times are tough.

I like MurderofGoths explanation (and the rebuttals that show strength of character) as it raises an important question.

Is it acceptable for rational, skeptic, atheists to employ symbolism in their lives?

It strikes me that the answer must be no for the "purist", but what a boring life we would have without art, fiction, theatre, drama and symbolism in general. So for me the answer is yes, I like, want and probably need symbolism, even if I don't believe in the original artists intentions behind the symbol.

I think it is perfectly acceptable to have a medallion that is a symbol of a Sun God worship by ancients because you realise that the Sun and Stars are amazing natural objects and also because you're wearing a great Hawaiian shirt and need a medallion nestled in your hairy chest. smile

"Is it acceptable for rational, skeptic, atheists to employ symbolism in their lives?"

For me personally I think it doesn't contradict being a skeptic unless you believe the symbols have their own power. In which case, obviously, it doesn't make any rational sense.

But for me, being aware of the strange and interesting ways that the human mind works also means being aware of the actual power that we can give symbols.

For example on the magic question. I think spell and ritual can work, but not because of some supernatural force. Best example I can think of is when someone does a luck spell. In that case what actually tends to happen is that the symbolism in the ritual just changes the way the person views the world around them, so whereas before they were maybe walking through life focussing mostly on all the bad things happening, after doing the ritual they will have changed what they are aware of. So they notice the good stuff more than the bad.

So in that case the "magic" has worked, it's just that actually the more accurate name for the magic is psychology.

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 10:18:26

I don't know a lot about Paganism, but it strikes me that MoG's explanation suggests that she celebrates reality - the cyclical nature of life & the cosmos. I find that appealing, personally.

We actually are "at one" with the universe, we're a facet of it. That's the most beautiful thing about us, I think. Worth celebrating, imo.

I think it's perfectly acceptable for anyone to use symbolism - we all do it in loads of different ways, so I agree with you. And, yeah, what a dull world it would be without it.


<buttons up shirt hurriedly>

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 10:32:20

The thing, though, MoG is that the minute we start talking about spells & magic, we are actually saying something that's simply not true - that there's a supernatural agency at work.

It's one thing for someone to want a luck spell to help them gain a job promotion - positive thinking & optimism has known benefits. But what's to stop that same person asking for a spell for something to do with their health, or the health of another person? It's hard to make the case then that it's all just harmless.

Humanity would be infinitely better off without superstition & I honestly think that using words like "magic", even though we might personally know it's just psychology, feeds into the collective belief that such things truly exist.

Tim Minchin said it best in Storm. How can we not see that it's sick in the head to take money from a bereaved mother who thinks she's communing with her dead child? We'll be told that, well, it's comforting, so it works for her - but the very fact that it's depraved, a pack of lies and yes, fucked in the head (as Tim says) really, really does not sit well with me.

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 10:36:02

Is THIS you, Muswell? 'Fess up, now.

MostlyLovingLurchers Wed 13-Nov-13 10:47:03

I'm another pagan atheist MOG smile

I think you have explained it beautifully. I think for me one of the differences between being pagan and not is that it puts us firmly in nature, and helps us to maintain an awareness of the cycles of nature of which we are part, cycles which are reflected in our own lives.

TwoLeftSocks Wed 13-Nov-13 10:56:23

Content aethiest signing in.

MostlyLovingLurchers Wed 13-Nov-13 11:07:42

The word 'pagan' literally means dweller in the countryside, or rustic country person. There isn't much evidence of it being used pre-christianity, but it identified those who generally practised their local traditions. It came to mean anyone with non-christian practices, but really it was a way of separating the more cosmopolitan urbanites from the bumpkins with their strange ways!

I say that as a bumpkin with some strange ways!

Now of course it is an umbrella term for all manner of different beliefs, but mostly nature-based practices. Some of these include beliefs in gods and goddesses as literal entities, some believe in a spiritual dimension but not in any gods, and others in no kind of supernatural stuff at all, simply that nature is awesome. It is perfectly possible to be a pagan atheist.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 11:32:18

>The thing, though, MoG is that the minute we start talking about spells & magic, we are actually saying something that's simply not true - that there's a supernatural agency at work.

Perhaps an analogy is that you see talking about spells rather than just psychological effects is rather like dressing up the placebo effect as homeopathy?

TBH I think the disagreement about what 'witch' or 'spell' does or doesn't mean is mainly down to a different definition of terms - Mrsmuggins has defined what she means in non-supernatural terms, I'm happy to take her word that's what she means by it and not insist that its got anything much to do with other definitions, and absolutely nothing to do with what might be meant by the term in Nigeria. Words can mean different things to different people - on this thread we've already touched on that with 'materialism' and 'pagan'. Does that make any sense?

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 11:53:16

Well, life becomes hard & communication next to impossible if we start making up our own definitions of words.

Magic means the supernatural. If you don't mean the supernatural, then use a different word - then nobody gets confused.

Words shouldn't mean different things to different people. Materialism has one definition and is misused, this doesn't actually mean that it has more than one meaning.

And Pagan, as we've seen, is an umbrella term for many different belief systems. Some Pagan beliefs I would be personally dismissive of, others not.

But, OK, since we're making up our own definitions of words - my definition of atheist is "someone who doesn't believe unsupported, nonsensical twaddle". So msmiggins is not an atheist.

But that would be silly. I don't make up my own definitions of words.

I agree with you Hettie I think talking about magic and talking about spells is daft, and can cause way more harm than good. I posted a little quickly earlier as I had to run out the door, but what I was trying to say (not very well) was that "magic" is nothing more than psychology dressed up, and a bit of a pointless word to use.

I get why people want to use it, I guess it makes the world seem more exciting, but I think the human mind is amazing enough not to need glitzy silly terms to make it exciting!

garlictrivia Wed 13-Nov-13 12:16:38

Can I just come back to this? Muswell asked "Is it acceptable for rational, skeptic, atheists to employ symbolism in their lives?"

I would say YES, because that is exactly how I employ it. I use some Buddhist symbolism, and whatever other symbols I fancy, as psychological tools. I'm perfectly aware of what I'm doing; I choose my symbols as I go along, making them up as often as I borrow from the world around me.

In 12-step programmes, here in Britain at least, it's made clear that the "higher power" represents the sense that one is not alone (addicts tend to feel that their substance/behaviour is their only friend.) Adopting the concept of a higher power allows you to switch out of the mindset that it's you against the world, making it possible to be more open and to accept support. I was one of the millions who swap the word 'god' for 'universe'. Many hardened alcoholics use an empty bottle as their symbol grin

These days, I follow the principles of The Compassionate Mind, an amalgam of neuropsychology and buddhism, with the buddhism providing an appropriate set of ready-made symbols and principles. I have a Young Buddha carving as my "compassionate image" - a reminder - and use a buddhist forgiveness prayer when I'm feeling hateful. This doesn't mean I'm a buddhist, neither do I feel I'm praying to any entity outside myself. They're reflective tools.

I sometimes use the words soul and spirit, to represent the core of a person's psyche, character, and emotions. I don't believe people have some additional, non-physical self; the words are just widely-understood representations of a person's inner psychology. It annoys me when people say I'm 'spiritual' or even 'a good christian', because I'm neither of those things but it sparks the wrong discussion if I say so! A lot of religious followers assume no-one can be Good without following their religion - this is so glaringly untrue, it seems a remarkably unforgiving belief.

SicknSpan Wed 13-Nov-13 12:16:52

I'm coming to this a bit late, and having read the thread I am enjoying the discussion (even if some of the ideas and concepts might take me a while to get my head round as I haven't engaged in any debate or real thinking about this before)

This is a bit off the current direction of thread so apologies for just throwing a random post into the mire.

As someone who does not believe in any god or supreme being or deity or anything other worldly, I find it increasingly hard to share my thankfulness for life with other people. I miss this about church- I had a Christian childhood and the being together bit, acknowledging the good aspects of our lives and hoping collectively for better things for humanity in trying to lead good lives is what's missing for me. We live in an area with a number of well attended churches and I have many friends who are staunch Baptists- whilst I am comfortable and confident that my lack of religion is accurate (for me) I do envy them their beliefs. There just isn't anywhere other than a church to go to when you want to be with other people who feel the same sense of luck and awe at the world. The Sunday Assembly thing seems halfway there but not "me" still- I don't know how to find somewhere that my non-beliefs but strong values fit.

Does anyone else understand what I mean?

garlictrivia Wed 13-Nov-13 12:17:47

Cross-posted with you, MOG smile

"magic" is nothing more than psychology dressed up ... the human mind is amazing enough not to need glitzy silly terms to make it exciting!

Yes, this!!!

Yes Sick that makes sense to me, I feel that way sometimes. I know I've occasionally tried to join Pagan groups looking for that feeling, but I do tend to clash (or at least get annoyed with) the woo-Pagans. So find it's easier just being alone, but it can get lonely.

garlictrivia Wed 13-Nov-13 12:22:24

Sick, I sometimes go to church for that! Very rarely, though. Are you in America? I think it's probably harder to find like-minded people there, although you would certainly find hordes of them sharing online. There are some 'secular church' movements but, as far I've seen (not far), they get derailed by people pushing various agendas.

You could try a buddhist group?

Is THIS you, Muswell? 'Fess up, now.



Lose the 'tache and that's me.

SicknSpan Wed 13-Nov-13 13:50:23

I'm in the UK garlic. A very sparsely populated area which means that there isn't a lot of choice around! Will look up Buddhist groups though, thanks for tip.

Yes MoG it can be a bit lonely- and I think part of what I'm looking for is that sense of togetherness, which only brings into sharp focus the sense of there being nobody else that feels this way. I'm sure however that if I started talking to other folks there would be some like minded people about- just not the sort of conversation that naturally crops up in the office or the school gate... (Well not in rural Herefordshire anyway smile

I don't feel lonely in other aspects of my life thankfully, just in this "spiritual" area - that's the wrong word but can't think of another to describe it! For the foreseeable I will continue being grateful and saying my thank you's to the universe when I'm on my own in the car like I do at the moment smile

garlictrivia Wed 13-Nov-13 14:00:20

I'm in rural Herefordshire grin Not sure I'm up for a gratitude fest atm, but you're not alone! Actually there are loads of pagans round here - you must have seen that green man everywhere? (He's a tree symbol, not an actual green person ...)

garlictrivia Wed 13-Nov-13 14:01:04

You spelt it wrong ... Urrfrdshurr, innit.

DadOnIce Wed 13-Nov-13 14:02:59

I've tried to call myself "rational" rather than "atheist" before, for the exact reasons cited in that site linked to by YoniRotten and in the Sam Harris quote provided by HettiePetal.

I've been given a very hard time for this, both on here (under my old name) and on Facebook. I posted about it using the terms "rational" and "irrational" on Facebook and got a bit of a gentle broadside from Christian friends (which was then passively-aggressively "Liked" by the spouse of one of them).

So what's the answer? They genuinely seem to think believing in God is not irrational. Where do I go from here?

There are so many questions I want to ask Christians, but so many of them involve beating my head against the desk and usually end up with me citing one of these !

SicknSpan Wed 13-Nov-13 14:06:38

Can you not just let them believe whatever they want? For me being an atheist has no requirement to convince others of my non-belief in christianity.

Why is it so important to you to try and convince them that you are right and they are wrong? That's a genuine question by the way, trying to understand.

SicknSpan Wed 13-Nov-13 14:07:32

Garlic you know my manor well

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 14:15:02

>Words shouldn't mean different things to different people. Materialism has one definition and is misused, this doesn't actually mean that it has more than one meaning.


noun 1.
preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.

2. the philosophical theory that regards matter and its motions as constituting the universe, and all phenomena, including those of mind, as due to material agencies.

It has two very distinct meanings. The previous dictionary defs I gave for 'pagan' are quite different. 'Magic' has a conventional non-supernatural definition, ie conjuring as in 'Magic Circle' . I would agree that Mrsmuggins identification as a 'witch' is liable to be misinterpreted and cause confusion but historically it would have been women practising herbology and headology so I personally don't find it too hard to accept a non-supernaturalist identifying as such.

The definition of atheist is more straightforward: 'a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.'... the rejection of unsupported twaddle is perhaps better covered by something like 'rationalist'.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 14:29:26

DOI - I've found that some of the Christians I've encountered (IRL and on MN) accept that faith is by definition not rational, but that they are rational in other aspects of their lives. So setting up a dichotomy of 'rational' versus 'irrational' as a way of labelling people doesn't tend to work out well.

Wouldn't it be irrational to use rational thinking in the rest of your activities if you are absolutely convinced that irrationality is the correct way to handle the most important subject in the universe?

Even if someone found a way to turn their judgement off and on I wouldn't trust them to tell me the time. I mean it would be irrational to use that ability at all.

garlictrivia Wed 13-Nov-13 15:28:40

Eh, Back? confused

Are you saying you don't trust religious people to tell you the time?

I don't see religions as at all unreasoning. Sure, there are plenty of unreasoning people in religions, but they also have brilliant scholars & historians working with them. They base their practice on an assumption I find untenable. It doesn't mean their intellect is faulty. I'm pretty sure some of our greatest scientific geniuses will turn out to have based their conclusions on false assumptions, too - in fact, contemporary science borders very closely on the philosophical. We all know philosophers can rarely agree!

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 15:32:30

BOB - I know what you mean, but the fact is that through some sort of cognitive dissonance or compartmentalisation they do seem to be able to function this way - for instance there are people doing proper science who are also theists.

I think almost everyone has a level of compartmentalisation in their lives, I suffer from mental illness and so some areas I am deeply irrational in, but that doesn't mean that I am irrational in all areas of life.

I think it's best not to completely write someone off based on one viewpoint, if they show other illogical/irrational viewpoints then that's a different matter.

DadOnIce Wed 13-Nov-13 15:56:32

Errol - your response to me is interesting and leads into one of my big Questions For Christians, i.e.:

'How do you decide which events in your life can be attributed to god's will, and which can't? After all, you go about some aspects of your life perfectly logically and rationally, presumably (?) without having to think about supernatural intervention at all. If you had cheese in the fridge yesterday and you don't today, then you assume that someone has eaten it or nicked it, not that the Invisible Cheese Pixies have spirited it away. If you wake up one morning to find £1000 missing from your bank account, you don't say "Oh, £1000 is missing from my bank account. It must be the will of God. He must have taken it, to feed the poor." No, you get on the phone to your bank and kick up a stink, as anyone would. Where do you draw the line?'

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 16:09:04

DOI - ah well I think this is not the best thread to ask that question as we're all atheists of one sort or another here!

But - in the dim and distant past when I was a Christian, I think I'd have said that god created the laws of physics, that the natural world was his creation (from Big Bang via evolution etc) - and so it does work 'rationally' with rare exceptions. I'm not going to defend this position as - obviously - I don't hold it any more!

Is it worth breaking this atheist thread into sub threads? If so what would the titles be?

1) Atheists chat corner thread
2) Secular coping mechanisms
3) Skeptics united against "woo woo"
4) Determinism vs Free will
5) Atheist register (one post each, 10 words max)
6) Favourite philosophers and quotes
7) Help, I nearly went to church!

(some of these I just throw into the mix for fun)

CoteDAzur Wed 13-Nov-13 17:11:40

"Even if someone found a way to turn their judgement off and on I wouldn't trust them to tell me the time. I mean it would be irrational to use that ability at all."

I forgive people their religious beliefs (I know, it's big of me wink) because most have been indoctrinated when very young and never had a chance to engage their rational minds before swallowing the whole story hook, line and sinker.

Silliness like "angel feathers" is just inexcusable, though. Grown women suddenly deciding that everyday bird feathers are personal messages from fairies is a big red flag that they are a few cards short of a full deck imho and I could not trust such people for anything more challenging than telling the time.

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 17:33:08


Having two distinct definitions for a word (not unheard of in English) is not at all the same thing as having our own personal ones. You either use the word correctly, or you don't. If there's two meanings, then there's two correct usages. Doesn't give us all licence to impose our own meanings.

I know what the definition of atheist is - I also know what the definition of magic is. If msmiggins is at such pains to deny there's anything supernatural in what she does, it seems pretty obvious not to use a word that specifically means that.

Believing in witchcraft hurts people. Victoria Climbie for one. I am astonished than anyone thinks it's OK to promote the idea that such rubbish is real....just because it doesn't hurt us personally.

And homeopathy is not dressed up placebo effect. Homeopathy largely doesn't work at all - placebo effect or no. Most trials have shown no effect BEYOND placebo this doesn't mean that every person taking a homeopathic "cure" will get better because of the placebo effect. Most people won't show an effect at all.

No, homeopathy is - in a few, few cases - disguised placebo effect. It's marketed as "therapy" & largely bought on that basis.

msmiggins Wed 13-Nov-13 17:39:14

Witchcraft didn't kill Victoria Climbie, THe christian church did.


Your comment raised an question of me. To extend the example, how do you trust someone that believes in fairies, I wondered how many scientists are theists.

Googling this question doesn't get a uniform answer but the survey below suggests a third of scientists believe in God.

Does that mean that a great deal of science cannot now be trusted? What if the peer reviews done are done by other theists and they are all in cahoots .... I mean, let's face it, the invention of the iPhone is nothing short of a miracle isn't it?

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 17:45:49

Her aunt did - who believed in witchcraft. Supported by a large group of church goers who also did.

Wonder where they got the idea that it was real then? Irresponsible, irrational people who believe rubbish, that's where.

msmiggins Wed 13-Nov-13 17:49:39

Hettie you have a very christian view of witchcraft, all that supernatural woo-woo. It's the christian idea of witchcraft which stirs hysterical thought, not witchcraft or paganism per se.
Maybe if you took off those christian coolured glasses you would see a little better.

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 17:52:12

No, I don't.

I have an intelligent, skeptical view of witchcraft.

It's bullshit.

Sorry about that.

msmiggins Wed 13-Nov-13 17:55:48

I don't really care what you think- I am simply pointing out the limitations of your understanding.

CoteDAzur Wed 13-Nov-13 17:57:18

I don't have a Christian background and still know that "magic" is woo.

Here, I waved my wand and said a few words. Now everything goes my way hmm Err, no it doesn't.

msmiggins Wed 13-Nov-13 17:59:12

One of the reasons I hate religion is that its adherents "know" they are right and have the ultimate "truth".
Turns out some athiests are just as fixed and unyeilding in their thinking.
Very sad.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 17:59:56

Hettie - language evolves, presumably because at some point some individual invents a new term or re-uses an existing one, and it gets adopted. Perhaps it would be easier for us if MrsM could come up with a neologism which would avoid confusion and disassociate her from the totally abhorrent 'witchcraft' (or rather 'christian' crimes resulting from its supposed existence) you've cited, but really it's not too hard to understand what she means.

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 18:01:35

Well, considerably greater than your critical thinking limits, it would seem.

But if you need to try and make yourself sound fascinating by pretending you're a witch, feel free. I stopped doing that when I was about 8, but each to their own, eh?

HettiePetal Wed 13-Nov-13 18:05:33

Thanks so much, but I prefer to stick to the English language definitions we have now. I'm odd like that.

Magic is infantile rubbish, and I don't indulge childish crap like that.

CoteDAzur Wed 13-Nov-13 18:08:03

msmiggins - re "unyielding"

Oh I'd be happy to "yield" but to what? I asked you several times on this thread what exactly the effects of your "magic" is etc and got nada as a reply.

I'm happy to learn and be corrected but it's really hard to do when there is no information coming from the other side.

garlictrivia. well strictly speaking I was saying that 'if someone found a way to turn their judgement off and on I wouldn't trust them to tell me the time'. Imagine having such a switch. Would you ever - under any circumstances - click it?

So the question would be 'is that really what religious people do' because it's what many appear to be claiming to do. As Errol says they they do seem to be able to function this way, but I don't really see how or why they would want to. Why when you are thinking rationally would you decide not to think rationally on a certain list of subjects.

And it certainly is irrational. Religious belief at root means saying "I want that to be true, therefore it is true" which in any other context would indicate a serious problem.

Many religious people will admit eventually that the decision to believe is not a rational one and some will say that it's essential that it be made on faith and not on evidence since evidence would make faith meaningless.

CoteDAzur Wed 13-Nov-13 18:14:03

Musswell - I don't think you read my post properly. I specifically addressed the religion issue.

msmiggins Wed 13-Nov-13 18:15:56

CoteDazur- are you judge and jury over my life? I have no need to prove or outline my actions to you.

CoteDAzur Wed 13-Nov-13 18:18:39

"Why when you are thinking rationally would you decide not to think rationally on a certain list of subjects."

Because they have been indoctrinated at an early age, imho. They start believing before their critical mind develops so they never question it. For most people, it becomes such an integral part of their identity that they can't question it later on, either.

CoteDAzur Wed 13-Nov-13 18:31:16

msmiggins - re "are you judge and jury over my life?"

Huh? I don't give a monkey's about your life hmm

What is happening here is that you say you make "magic". People are interested because this is, well, unusual to say the least. We ask questions. You don't answer, presumably preferring to look mysterious.

And then you call us "fixed & unyielding" although you have presented zero information or argument so far shock

"I have no need to prove or outline my actions to you"

No need, but do you at least have the wish? If not, why are you here? After all, conversing about such subjects of interest is the purpose of this thread.


My bad. Soz

"indoctrinated at an early age"

Yeah, I guess that's a major part of it. Though you'd think once they were adult and someone drew their attention to it they would come to see that.

I can understand people going to church and praying because they always have done, but if their belief is challenged and they try to explain the reasons for their faith I would expect it all to fall apart. It mostly doesn't.

SicknSpan Wed 13-Nov-13 18:36:13

Muswell Hill Dad can I add another sub thread category?
Thread for people who might call themselves atheists if other atheists on different sub threads weren't so argumentative

<Drops cowardly bomb and runs away hoping they don't give chase>

msmiggins Wed 13-Nov-13 18:36:15

CotedAzur, I hardly think your attitude is conducive to me telling you details of my personal life. So no. I don't have the wish. Others have pmed me and I have been happy to talk, but your hostility prevents me from wishing to give out such details.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 18:48:14

BOB - Its probably very hard to understand unless you've been through it - if you start from the position of having faith then it feels real, and its quite hard to get over that subjective view, take a cold look at it and accept that something that was central to your life was delusion. Especially when in doing so you eject yourself from your cosy church community. Also don't forget that if you're in a nice church, you may avoid much effective challenge to your faith but get lots of reinforcement for it.

For me, in the words of Carl Sagan:
“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” but I can understand why many people brought up with a faith don't reach this realisation.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 18:55:52

> I prefer to stick to the English language definitions we have now.

Unfortunately for you, we don't have an equivalent of L'Académie française. I hope you're not as old as I am, I've had to unstick lots of definitions from my youth! grin

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Wed 13-Nov-13 18:59:56

Sick, the majority of social scientists who have done important work into the subject (Durkheim, Weber, Marx) have concluded that part of the attraction of organised religion is community- in that respect, religion is similar to supporting a football team. The other highlighted aspect of anthropological study if thee need to explain the unexplainable. Primitive cultures had dreams at night and didn't understand what they were so they assumed there must be a soul which could travel infinitely during sleep. Equally they needed to explain the weather, the growth of their food, the joy of love or childbirth. However this explanation is predictably refuted by the fact that we can now explain all of these things with science- and yet the world is as furiously religious as it ever was. And so we go back to the idea of community.

msmiggins Wed 13-Nov-13 19:00:17

Errol I completely agree. My nieces ( now in their 30s)were brought up in a very strict religious home. Even sent to a baptist school and only allowed to mix with other kids within that community. Their family and community life was all prayer groups, shared apple pie and a seemingly loving church community.
One of my nieces has now rejected the church and become athiest. It has been the hardest thing she has done. She has been rejected by her family, her community and remains somewhat of an outcast. People who she though were great family friends now cross the road to avoid speaking to her. She feels hurt, betrayed, isolated and very guilty. Although intellectually she has managed to let go of religion she still feels the emotional damage that has been inflicted upon her and finds that aspect very hard to let go of.

msmiggins Wed 13-Nov-13 19:04:49

GuybrushThreepwoodMP true, but it's not just the posistive aspects that keep people in religion. It's fear too, and power. Abdication of our personal power - as the church encourages- is quite seductive, it infantilizes people and protects them from taking responsibility for their actions. A hefty price to pay imo.


Like { thumbs up symbol }

taffleee Wed 13-Nov-13 19:19:36

I have always been agnostic, mainly in the view that we have to have come from somewhere to be here, but I don't believe in any particular religion fully because 'how can we all be wrong'??

I have thought this way from a very early age, my RS teacher hated me, and called me 'miss agnostic', but I like to think he admired me for at least being a little different.

However, I so admire people who believe in a faith, and would just love to, It must be of great comfort to look to a higher belonging - a reason, a meaning -

I Just can't see it, but I would love something to change my mind,

headinhands Wed 13-Nov-13 21:40:10

I'd love to fully understand how/why my faith survived all those years. I think that's why I like discussing religion and beliefs on here. I honestly don't think I was being wilfully blinkered, and I'm not daft. I do know that I wasn't really challenged that I can remember. I only had conversations about god with other believers.

I do chuckle and shake my head when I remember some of the, frankly, nonsensical things we came out with. I remembered something yesterday, a sermon based around the notion that the gospel was too good not to be true. I swear I didn't even flinch when I first heard that but nodded along in agreement. Also all the other stock answers for gods existence like 'well you can't see the wind but you can see the trees move'.

And again the belief that millions upon millions of people around the world have the wrong belief just by dint of being born into a family where the religion wasn't Christianity.

I know that most Christians on MN are careful not to tread on the toes of posters with other religions and wave the whole problem away by saying something about god being fair and knowing our hearts but when I was at church, while we were tolerant and respectful of other faiths we know they had a false religion.

Yet on these boards it seems that the general consensus is that they're all right. There'd have been a right hoohaa if a preacher had said that in the church I grew up in and while it's only been 8 years since my last church attendance as a Christian I think generally for the last few years of my faith preachers didn't mention it so maybe it is a general trend of 'all religions lead to god'? Wouldn't you be thinking 'Why would god knowingly pitch his followers against each other by using different religions? I dunno. Nowt as queer as folk.

Like I say I would love to understand my history, if anything to make sure I have fully learnt from it.

taffleee Wed 13-Nov-13 21:48:53

So Headinhands as a total 'floater' in regards to religion, what would you say to me??

headinhands Wed 13-Nov-13 21:55:25

Sorry taflee not sure what you mean? What would I say about what?

headinhands Wed 13-Nov-13 22:03:35

I think I get you. You mean, as in, you can't decide which, if any of the 2000 or so religions are wrong? If that's what you mean I'd ask how you decided that other stuff is wrong and right? I'm guessing it would come down to having very good reason to think it was wrong or right due to evidence or lack thereof and even more so if it's about something that's making some special claims.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 22:12:32

>maybe it is a general trend of 'all religions lead to god'?

I think it may be a response to increasing secularisation and the fact that many people like us are now able to freely assert our atheism - a drawing together of 'faith groups' trying to retain their privileges.

taffleee Wed 13-Nov-13 22:22:50

Headinhands I actually am at a point where I think I need faith in my life, and I really want to believe in god - I don't know -

headinhands Wed 13-Nov-13 22:25:27

Yeah I can see how that would work. Also, it's probably difficult to logically pull a religion apart without 'pissing in your own cornflakes' as it were. I don't remember really spending too much time thinking about the dilemma of how god would judge someone for merely adopting the religion of their parents, we just felt sorry for them not having the real god and left it at that.

headinhands Wed 13-Nov-13 22:28:02

Ah right taff, I see. If you were a friend saying this I'd probably be gently asking why you thought you needed a faith. And then work from there.

taffleee Wed 13-Nov-13 22:28:12

Head I'm asking you cos your posts seem very similar to my thinking -

taffleee Wed 13-Nov-13 22:32:17

Head your posts are totally what I agree with, if you wanted to go into why I needed a faith right now, wouldn't even know where to start - lost some close people, maybe

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 22:32:21

Taflee - of course you don't have to answer this - but curious why you feel you need faith in your life at this point.

Having had faith before, and now not - I prefer it now, the 'reason and meaning' of my life is what I make of it rather than being a pawn in some higher being's game. (not that I saw it in those terms before though).

nooka Wed 13-Nov-13 22:34:54

I think that's it really. A general thinking that the other faiths (thinking monotheistic ones here) have some but not all of the truth, and therefore are potentially allies against secularism. Makes some very strange bedfellows at times.

My family has a mix of those with no faith, those brought up with a strong faith who still have it, those who have subsequently lost their faith and recent converts. Putting the religion piece on one side I'd say that they were all as rational and intelligent as each other - I'd trust them all to tell me the time. The very religious might also tell me that their god had something to do with the time, or tell me about their prayers or conversations with god as a side line. I find it very odd.

The only bit of church I miss is the singing, but I found other places to do that (still often religious pieces as there are so many, but a secular context). I'm happy to acknowledge how wonderful the world is when I walk the dog smile

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 22:35:49

sorry, x-posted with you and HinH. Whatever it is you're going through hope you can find some help. flowers

taffleee Wed 13-Nov-13 22:37:20

Errol Maybe the total opposite of you lol - i've never had 'faith' so to speak, but see others in getting some comfort from it, and ive lost alot recently, and I need some comfort??

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 22:37:42

> I'm happy to acknowledge how wonderful the world is when I walk the dog

Me Haven't found anywhere to sing though.

nooka Wed 13-Nov-13 22:40:50

I joined a choral society Errol. It was great fun for a few years, there is a huge sense of community being part of a large chorus, and making a lot of sound is very cathartic too.

headinhands Wed 13-Nov-13 22:41:55

I'm sorry to hear that tafflee, has it been a very recent loss? Have you got much RL support around you at this time? I guess you're hurting and are looking for some emotional comfort, that's utterly understandable.

nooka Wed 13-Nov-13 22:43:16

taffleee I am sure there are plenty of churches who would love to welcome you if that's what you are after. Post on one of the religion threads and I'm sure someone could find you something local to try.

Or you could look to get some counseling to work through your feelings as a secular alternative.

headinhands Wed 13-Nov-13 22:43:57

Tafflee, can you think of other times you have needed comfort, can you remember the things that helped you through?

Talkinpeace Wed 13-Nov-13 22:46:41

I'm atheist
I avoid "belief" threads like the plague
give me evidence any day

taffleee Wed 13-Nov-13 22:54:51

What a horrible place a discussion forum can be, I think writing about my horrible past could be quite cathartic, only to be called 'weird' -
lol, i give up

garlictrivia Wed 13-Nov-13 22:57:42

Thread for people who might call themselves atheists if other atheists on different sub threads weren't so argumentative

I'm on that one!

Or I might have to start my own soapbox, entitled "Religion, Spirituality and Mental Health". It's an extremely unpopular soapbox round here, people throw rotten eggs when I stand on it.

headinhands Wed 13-Nov-13 23:05:08

Sorry tafflee haven't seen that thread. Some posters can be too flippantly rude like any message board participant. When I get flack I just think, well that person doesn't actually know me from Adam so no need to take it personally. Easier said than done, especially when you're feeling quite vulnerable I guess.

taffleee Wed 13-Nov-13 23:17:28

Head I like you xxx you totally seem to have your head in gear x

headinhands Wed 13-Nov-13 23:23:11

Why thank you <blushes>. smile

Contrary to my earlier post, if you are an agnostic doesn't that make you a better skeptic than an atheist?

An atheist asserts there is no god, but without proof. A skeptic would question this and demand proof and therefore choose to be agnostic.

Should I be an agnostic then? I do like evidence.

Alternatively, do agnostics believe the FSM is possible?

headinhands Thu 14-Nov-13 07:41:46

I think the atheist is someone who has no belief in any god, not that they are certain there is no god anywhere. I am not convinced by any of the proofs of any religion so logically I have no belief at this time. If I get my hands in some proof I will change my mind.

headinhands Thu 14-Nov-13 07:50:07

For clarification, when I called myself agnostic it was because I wasn't sure if Yahweh etc was real. Now I'm very sure having thought more about it so feel I'm atheist as in sure the gods we know about are manmade.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 14-Nov-13 08:02:00

Agnosticism is saying you can't prove/disprove god, not just that you don't know or don't believe. So you can be an agnostic Christian who accepts you can't prove god but believes in a particular one; or an agnostic atheist who accepts you can't disprove god (though particular types of god may be exceedingly improbable and some may be logically impossible) but believes there is no god.

So, I'm an agnostic atheist - I'd guess most atheists are.

Taffleee - a public forum may be a difficult place to discuss very personal issues - sometimes people do manage to have a support thread where people are kinder. Perhaps under bereavement (if the loss was through death, it sounds that way but might not be) or under Off the Beaten Track which doesn't show up in active convos so doesn't get too much random traffic by bored busybodies. (if you do start one in one of those places perhaps PM anyone who you think might be supportive as otherwise they might not find you).

I was thinking about you after I logged off last night; I don't think you can create faith (I couldn't hang on to mine when I still wanted to) so perhaps you might find something like a Buddhist group would work better for you as that does not require belief. As I understand it, one of the main focuses of Buddhism is to enable people to better deal with suffering, and their basic principle is to combine compassion and wisdom - perhaps this is somewhere you could find comfort without needing faith?

But if you can't prove/disprove then atheism is just a belief, like theism.

Perhaps I'm just an agnostic skeptic then. Atheism sounds like it requires belief (in no god).

Keep helping me on this one please. I'm having a philosophical identity crisis.

CoteDAzur Thu 14-Nov-13 08:14:00

Atheist doesn't assert "there's no God, without proof". That would be a silly thing to say.

If anything, atheist asserts "I listened to all your fancy stories and I'm not buying any of it" - i.e. I don't believe your God hypothesis.

Isn't that wriggling out of the problem a bit. Not that wiki is any arbiter of truth (!) but here's what it says about atheism:

"Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities."

A theist in the latin sense, means "without God". So I can see the position where one starts with no God and suggests it's up to theists to prove there is one, not up to atheists to prove there isn't.

Maybe I am just mixed up. smile

On agnosticism, if we start with "I think, therefore I am" then do we have to stop there? Is it actually possible to "prove" that our external perception is correct? I am not sure it is. In other words, aren't we all believing in the world/universe around us but unable to prove its existence?

By the way, I started the "register"

Sign up now!

"Atheist agnostic skeptic register, 1 post each, 10 words max, I am ..."

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Thu 14-Nov-13 09:06:19

I don't believe the burden of proof is on those of us who don't believe. I can't prove there isn't a god. I also can't prove that there isn't a big pink unicorn or giant spaghetti monster. Doesn't mean I should believe in them unless their existence is disproved.

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Thu 14-Nov-13 09:08:15

I would say that agnosticism is a non-belief in the existence of god whereas atheism is a belief in the non-existence of god.
By that argument I an an atheist. I don't not-believe in god, I actively believe there is no god.

msmiggins Thu 14-Nov-13 09:12:46

I don't think we can compare the "belief" in god the same way as a belief in the"non- existance" of god. One is a stance of faith.
Athiesm is not a faith.
Comes down to semantics but to me a faith is an emotional response, not the same approach as most athiests have.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 14-Nov-13 09:13:55

>So I can see the position where one starts with no God and suggests it's up to theists to prove there is one, not up to atheists to prove there isn't.

Yes - you're not mixed up at all. Russell's Teapot is the standard bit of philosophical kit for this issue.

DadOnIce Thu 14-Nov-13 10:13:26

Totally agree with stuff above on burden of proof.

And if we can't immediately knock the skittle down with the ball of a rational explanation, that doesn't mean there isn't one. We could just be not throwing straight. There could be a perfectly good scientific answer to the "problem" - an answer which has evidence to back it up. Just because science hasn't found it YET, doesn't mean it isn't there. It may well be accepted in the future. We don't look at the gap and think, "Hmm, couldn't answer that one... must be a supernatural force, then."

People who want to find a supernatural explanation - despite the fact that there are, if you believe that sort of thing, literally thousands on offer - always seem to want their particular favourite one to be the only answer. It was God. Or it was angels! Or it was demons! Or it was a ghost! Or it was crystal healing! Or it was Thetans! And so on. They're not open to each and every one of these irrational explanations. They choose ONE and stick to it, despite not being able to provide a shred of actual evidence.

Stuff like "angel feathers" makes me lose the will to live. I could not believe - until I saw it on here - that functioning adult humans would believe in stuff like that. Charming and sweet from a 4-year-old girl, but...

Just wanted to say that I didn't have a special immunity to religion when I was younger. At one time I believed it too. There was no reason not to. I might have carried on vaguely believing if nothing had caused me to look at it closer. It's only the adults who can defend it in detail that I have the problem with.

Posted in Register

I see the whole Atheism/agnostic thing has been covered, but for the record I'm atheist in the "give me one good reason to accept it' camp and am atheist to all things for which there is no proof. Gods, teapots, lucky dice, and ghosts.

You can't disprove god as a vague 'something out there', but can find evidence that a particular god doesn't exist.

If someone claimed their god looked after them and controlled the weather I could point out that their church building had a lightning conductor and for that matter a new roof where the storm blew tiles off. If they claimed he was the god of love and that he liked to torture people then I could point out that this was a contradiction.

So we can show that the god they describe isn't real even though there might be some entity out there.

MostlyLovingLurchers Thu 14-Nov-13 10:46:19

I think the difference between atheism and agnosticism is this. Atheism is simply an absence of a belief in god. Agnosticism is about knowledge, it is not just a moderate atheism as so many people seem to think. It is saying there is no proof either way. So you can be both agnostic and atheist or conversely you can also be a deist and be agnostic. The latter obviously requires a belief, whereas the agnostic atheist position does not as it is an absence of belief.

So can you be an atheist and not be agnostic? If i say i am an atheist and not agnostic would that be an irrational position, as i would be taking a standpoint for which there is no proof, however unlikely i considered the existence of god to be?

For an atheist to say there is certainly no god would be irrational. Not least because the definition of god is so fuzzy that you can't be sure what you are denying. It can be anything from a little invisible man who whispers in your ear to an impersonal force that initiated the start of the universe and doesn't know or care that we exist.

We can only say that belief is irrational without at least some evidence.

DadOnIce Thu 14-Nov-13 11:12:05

"There is no evidence for the God you describe" is a good way of putting it.

It's when you get into the whole "what would you accept as evidence?" stage of the argument that you feel as if it's being thrown back at you, and you tend to give up... Or I do, anyway...

For some Christians, the very fact that the world exists, the sun comes up every day and the birds are chirruping in the trees is "evidence" of "God". It's daft, but there's just nowhere you can go with that. (Anyone familiar with the awful Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, the epitome of loud, brash, American right-wing Christianity? It's his "tide comes in, tide goes out" so-called argument which he uses with every non-believer on the show.)

taffleee Thu 14-Nov-13 11:57:37

I am an agnostic, I think I have always held a 'hope' about faith, and I can't help but admire people who have it, but I just cant seem to believe in any religion, it just never made sense to me - books that say you should do this and that, because 'magical' people cured this, and did that, in my head, from a very young age, I just thought 'yeah, riiigghhht!!???!!'

But that's not to say if I get proved wrong I wouldn't be open to change my mind -

Maybe I'm a 'hopeful atheist' lol, is there a classification for that??

garlictrivia Thu 14-Nov-13 11:58:34

Agnostic means "without church". You can certainly be an agnostic theist.
You could, semantically, be an atheist, but not agnostic, by going to church despite rejecting theism. It would be a contradiction in accepted terms, though.

I loathe it when people of faith call atheism a faith or belief system. They seem unable to accept that it's possible to live a life without believing in supernatural beings. Millions of us do, though, and I can attest it's quite nice to be free of the sense that one is answerable to an unseen judge. It doesn't automatically make you an amoral twat, either; humans (and other animals) have an inbuilt sense of social and personal responsibility. Those who don't are dysfunctional - and many of them are believers!

taffleee Thu 14-Nov-13 12:10:25

Buddhism is a great shout, by the way - my OH and I used to visit a local monastery for walks a long time ago - and found very peaceful, a revisit may be in order xx

Great that the register is growing!

Glad that friends here can clear up the definitions. (better than bashing other posters wink)

Here's another questions (yes I'm full of questions and you're full of answers)

What atheist comedy podcasts do people listen too?

DadOnIce it can seem pointless to argue with some people - especially American evangelist types, but it's worth it for the other people listening to the argument.

CoteDAzur Thu 14-Nov-13 13:15:28

Agnostic doesn't mean "without church" shock It means "without knowledge" - i.e. without knowledge of whether or not God exists.

A: Without
Gnosis: Knowledge

garlictrivia Thu 14-Nov-13 13:20:07

Bugger me, Cote, I was taught that in Sunday school and never thought to check it!

Agnostic atheism & theism


garlictrivia Thu 14-Nov-13 13:20:58

That does, at least, explain why Gnosticism is all special & mystical ...

headinhands Thu 14-Nov-13 13:24:57

Oh god the feather thing yes. Eeek. Someone in extended family once told me about a robin that they'd been seeing in their garden who seems to appear whenever they've been thinking about a certain long dead relative.

They're also a feather/psychic/ghost believer. I did once ask how something worked, I think it was about the feathers, they actually got up and stormed out of the room leaving their spouse saying 'umm head, you've gone and upset them now' so now I just go into some sort of autopilot mode. Where inside I'm like 'OMFG are you actually serious' but outside I adopt a calm listening posture. On here it's fine if people get huffy, they're not going to spit in my tea or whatever.

But it is curious that although they know I'm not a believer they still share it with me, like I've been trained to be polite now. I wonder how much of this is actually the norm for society and why a lot of this woo goes unchecked because no one is saying 'wait a minute, how does this make any sense logically?'

SicknSpan Thu 14-Nov-13 13:31:04

BOB and DOI- but why do we as atheists have to argue with people who do have faith? I just don't see why this is necessary. I think this is why atheists can be seen as a fairly militant, aggressive bunch- in much the same way that the fundamental element of many faiths can be. The aggressive "you're wrong and I'm right, plus you are quite obviously a little bit unhinged if you believe in (a) god" approach is so unbelievably rude, at best. If someone else chooses to believe in their god, why is that any of my business? I like the public debate bit, the open questioning of beliefs to show onlookers that there might be different opinions, but arguing? If a debate gets to this point, it's lost me and I don't want to hear any more.

MHD- there are such things as atheist comedy podcasts? Wow. It's really not a big enough part of who I am for me to go searching for them, but please do link- if they are anything like Tim Minchin than hooray smile

headinhands Thu 14-Nov-13 14:05:09

I don't think atheists do have to argue and most probably don't and don't even think about it. Many people of faith do like to debate too from what I see on here and they're the ones I like to engage with. I assume those believers who don't want to engage will just not reply maybe? As I covered in my previous post in my RL I largely don't debate with people, it would be difficult without putting someone on the spot whereas here they can choose not to even read it or respond. I personally like to discuss it being an ex-Christian. I find it all so fascinating and revealing.

headinhands Thu 14-Nov-13 14:13:04

Another thing, Christianity is the business of everyone in the UK seeing how we have seats specifically for believers in the House of Lords and a requirement for worship in state schools.

Well I meant arguing as in presenting the argument rather than throwing things at them and calling them rude names. It can sometimes go that way too, but that's not really the plan.

But there are a number of really good reasons why religion must be exposed at every opportunity for what it is.

While the church has stopped killing us for being unbelievers (at least in the UK) they still want us kept from attending certain state funded schools, and they don't think we should have the same say in government. In fact we don't now have the same say in government because of the special places in the house of lords reserved for the religious.

In addition it's my opinion that the irrational nature of religion is the cause of many social problems. For me encouraging people away from religion is rather like encouraging people away from hard drugs. For their sake and for the sake of the rest of us who may suffer the consequences.

DadOnIce Thu 14-Nov-13 14:28:57

It's not that atheists "have to argue" as such, but often, here and in other forums, they are addressed, directly or otherwise (e.g. "I don't know why atheists can't see the truth", etc.), which is kind of an invitation to step in and put our side.

And if there is misrepresentation, too, as there often is, someone has to put that right.

It's like anything where you know someone is wrong, isn't it? Like every AIBU on here and breast vs. bottle battle and private vs. state spat... The difference being that this particular argument is one where all the evidence is on one side.

garlictrivia Thu 14-Nov-13 14:32:36

Christianity is in the warp & weft of our culture, more so than any of the ancient or other contemporary religions. Fine. I like Christmas. What I don't like is Christians telling me this really happened, and refusing to accept a "Well, I don't believe it" from me. They can, and do, get really irate and - in life as on here - take it personally. I'm content to accept they believe it; many don't return that courtesy. (My observant friends do, obviously.)

garlictrivia Thu 14-Nov-13 14:36:38

Argh, Dad grin

Jesus existed. No he didn't, he was an amalgam of several itinerant preachers at that time. He was a real person! There's proof! Oh, that's interesting, where? In the bible. The proof is the document based on a belief that he existed? It's an historical record! It's a record of beliefs, not facts ... etc ... etc ... <gives up>

garlictrivia Thu 14-Nov-13 14:37:41

What's the word for an argument that relies on itself to be true? is it a syllogism? It's one of those, anyway.

YoucancallmeQueenBee Thu 14-Nov-13 14:47:42

Hello, just wanted to mark my place really on this interesting thread.

I think I'm an atheist. I was raised in a strict Catholic household but ever since I can remember, I've questioned religion. I think my brain is wired wrongly, as I just can't make myself believe in god / gods / deities or creators. That said, I find aspects of religion very comforting. I like the sense of community and I also like the rituals during times of stress.

I'm vehemently against state funded faith schools. Faith should be a personal matter & should not have anything to do with the state.

I'm very interested in mindfulness & hypnosis. I think we hugely underestimate the power of our minds. I don't believe in witchcraft (although I'm not entirely sure what it is) and I don't know enough about Buddhism either to draw a conclusion on that either.

headinhands Thu 14-Nov-13 16:51:33

I think another term for that is a circular argument or circular evidence The proof for a belief is part of the belief itself.

Going back to believers who point to the world as proof of god. I usually ask how they know it's the same god they have taken their chances on, it doesn't have a label stitched in its hem saying 'made by Allah'.

headinhands Thu 14-Nov-13 16:52:02

Sorry meant circular reasoning

ErrolTheDragon Thu 14-Nov-13 17:21:07

>What's the word for an argument that relies on itself to be true?
Circular. You often get one of those if the question 'why do you believe in the Bible' is raised.

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Thu 14-Nov-13 18:34:22

Actually the view of religion from any scripture is entirely an interpretation. If you read the bible as a more accurate translation it was almost entirely figurative. A fable about morality. For example we all know there can be no such thing as a virgin birth. But according to a direct translation from the original bible, the word didn't mean virgin, it meant innocent.

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Thu 14-Nov-13 18:36:14

I completely agree that religion should be no where near schools- other than in the form of sociology, anthropology, cultural education. Church and state would be completely separate.
But then we need to be a republic don't we? We can't stay the process of secularisation while the head of the state and the head of the church are the same person.

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Thu 14-Nov-13 18:36:52

Yay for all the Tim Minchin references. grin grin grin grin

I think we do need to be a republic, but we don't need to wait for that to sort the schools out.

I think I can fix faith schools anyway by talking to the parents.

"So you insist on religious teaching and worship in school Mr & Mrs Christian?"

"We certainly do! We're a decent, moral, god fearing, family"

"Okay then. Monday they will pray to Jesus, Tuesday they will bow to Satan, Wednesday we'll give them a prayer mat and they will prostrate themselves before Allah.... oh what's that Mr Christian? You don't think religion has a place in school after all?"


ErrolTheDragon Thu 14-Nov-13 20:50:09

>We can't stay the process of secularisation while the head of the state and the head of the church are the same person.

I don't really see why not TBH. The Queen is head of all sorts of bodies.

Ok. It's official. I love this thread. smile


Used to be a fundamentalist Christian, went through a bit of an epiphany on MN regarding feminist thought, and by extension free thinking, and have subsequently begun to relish atheist thought and identity. I try not to be convert though, as that's just tedious...

ErrolTheDragon Fri 15-Nov-13 12:40:48

Hello PMGM - that's a really interesting path! smile

headinhands Fri 15-Nov-13 14:50:19

It's funny how free thinking slips in through the side door. My foray into atheism started through star gazing in the back garden with DH. I then wanted to unearth the old 'Cosmos' series with Carl Sagan that is watched as a child. It was some of his thinking that prompted me to explore why and how I believed what I did.

garlictrivia Fri 15-Nov-13 15:20:15

That is interesting, PMGM! And thanks for not being a 'convert', heh.

grin although I do get a bit heated about the religious schools topic - but then I did when I was a believer.

I do get a bit heated about the religious schools topic

Me too, I just this minute saw another of those 'if you don't like religion don't send your kid to a religious school' and it amazes me that people think there's a real choice about that in the UK.

DoctorTwo Fri 15-Nov-13 17:57:24

I've posted this before but it bears repeating:-

Having a religion is like having a penis: it's ok to have one, just don't wave it around in public and keep it out of my children.

Oh the 'why did you send your kids to a religious school' thing gives me the irrits. "Because I fucking paid my taxes to run the bugger and I'll damn well use the facilities I paid for"

taffleee Fri 15-Nov-13 20:24:00

Doctortwo LOOOLL!!!

Is it okay if I use that - x

YoniRotten Sat 16-Nov-13 01:44:14

The threads moved on a bit but can someone please explain symbolism to me, those who say they use it?

DoctorTwo Sat 16-Nov-13 08:44:23

Go ahead taf, I stole it from a Facebook group I'm a member of.

garlictrivia Sat 16-Nov-13 10:10:22

We probably all use it in different ways, Rotten. For me, focusing on my Buddha carving helps me access the wise, calm and understanding side of myself. If I want to be a super-assertive, take-no-shit kind of woman, I "invoke" the voodoo goddess Iansa. I don't actually do rituals or think she's going to materialise in my kitchen; it's just a way of hyping myself up to be strong. Most people use symbols like, though perhaps not as consciously - think of students taking a lucky mascot into an exam. If you make it conscious, it works better.

And I have an imaginary Mumsnet, too, which I call up when the situation demands "What would Mumsnet say?" grin

1) What are all we atheists doing on Christmas day? (A: Whatever my wife tells me smile.)

2) Did you sign up yet (click below)? wink

I shall be holed up in the kitchen, cooking a feast for just us, listening to the request show on Classic FM and drinking at an appallingly early time.

headinhands Sat 16-Nov-13 17:34:34

Christmas ARGH!! It'll be spent ruining food and just waiting for tea time do I can pile into the vino.

We do Xmas because that's what my church going other half wants.

Do real atheists do Xmas? Because of tradition, family time, an excuse for a party?

Is Xmas one of the hardest tests for atheists?

I'm an atheist and I love Christmas. I figure that if I were living in or visiting a non-Christian country, I would embrace the local festivals with equal enthusiasm (unless they were actually morally dodgy in some way, obviously) so why on earth shouldn't I embrace Christmas. I love the carols and Christmas symbols etc, not just the food and present-giving. Plus there's the whole 'it was a pagan festival first' thing. I think we need a big cheery festival to get us through the winter.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Sat 16-Nov-13 19:02:39

When the dc were young, we did Xmas because of Santa Claus. Now, we do Xmas because of Santa Claus (4yo dgs) and because otherwise my Xtian, elderly and widowed MIL would be sitting alone.

mixed household here and I treat it like a cultural festival. Don't mind the odd carol service and the like, LOVE Christmas music. Enjoy festive cheer in the middle of winter, no more, no less.

nooka Sun 17-Nov-13 05:31:48

Why would Christmas be a test? I was brought up in a religious household and do sometimes miss the traditions associated with that, but for me Christmas has more to do with the older winter festivals, so I like the decorating, the lights, the feasting and the gift giving. The only bit of my Christian roots that really shows is that I really like carols and hate santa related songs (mainly because they are rubbish).

I don't get to spend Christmas with my family anymore (we emigrated and it's too far/too expensive) so no clashes with the more religious members of my family (my BIL and sister are both ordained) but that was never a huge issue until my mum out of the blue decided that she needed everyone to do grace, which I really find quite objectionable (and dh refuses to participate in).

headinhands Sun 17-Nov-13 06:49:21

Sub, you say you're not as concerned with evidence, but there isn't ANY. I have no good reason to pick Christianity over any other religion or belief system.

headinhands Sun 17-Nov-13 06:49:43


is Xmas one of the hardest tests for atheists?

Having a holiday on the same day as the Christians doesn't present any difficulty. I know that christians like to pretend that "trees, logs, fairy lights, decorations etc all 'belong' to them, but really our winter celebration came first and most of those were either part of it or introduced by pagans.

I can see it's harder for you in that you probably need to go to church over xmas, but that needn't be painful really. I am 100% atheist but I don't burst into flame in a church and unlike one famous Saviour, I don't feel any urge to throw the furniture about and make a scene smile

Hymns can be nice anyway - Is there anyone who doesn't like Jerusalem? - and you don't have to believe the words. I quite like the poetry in Lord Of the Rings too.

headinhands Sun 17-Nov-13 13:19:12

We get to take the school down for a local carol service. I love it!

garlictrivia Sun 17-Nov-13 14:25:24

There are no tests for atheism! Mine won't be tested until I die and find myself facing a long staircase up and another going down ... but that isn't going to happen, I will just die and that'll be the end of me.

I spend about half my Christmases alone (no, it isn't sad,) and half with my sister's family, who celebrate Winterfest. That's one of the names for the old festival which, if you didn't know, was celebrated with lights, logs, feasts & gifts in late December.

If Jesus had existed, christian scholars say the likelihood is that he was born in the Spring as that's when the Romans did their tax registrations. So christians aren't celebrating his birthday on 25th December. They're celebrating his birth, three or four months early, on the date of Winterfest.
I thought all adult christians knew that.

Can't tell you how comforting the idea of just dying and there being nothing is. I had an accident some time ago ago and my heart stopped and I had a literal near death experience. There was nothing. I was just unconscious and then I was conscious again.

In the most recent Doctor Who, the Doctor talks about the 'keepers of the flame of eternal life', only he calls them the 'keepers of the flame of utter boredom', and that's very much how it feels to me. Of course if I end up roasting in hell I'll rue the day, etc.

garlictrivia Sun 17-Nov-13 14:42:18

I had a literal near death experience. There was nothing. I was just unconscious and then I was conscious again. - Yep, me too. I crashed post-op & was revived. I just went from "I'm cold" to "That's better" with no clue as to the drama my body had just played out. No white lights, choruses, astrally roaming the hospital or dropping feathers on my friends.

Outside of that setting - I was already surrounded by medics with the right equipment - it has been shown that the body puts in a last-ditch effort, pumping out neurotransmitters all over the place to try and kick-start the system one more time. This would be likely to cause hallucinations which, if the effort was successful, the recovered individual would remember.

garlictrivia Sun 17-Nov-13 14:44:03

... I was quite excited that Dr Who chose a 'Warrior' revival! Looking forward to an intergalactic Dark Knight Returns ... starting next Saturday, squeee!

Wow! Talk about born again atheists. Glad to have you both here!!



ErrolTheDragon Mon 18-Nov-13 09:39:36

No problem with xmas here either - I rather enjoyed it when DD was at primary and there was the nativity play in infants and carol service in juniors (a chance to sing! - for which reason I also enjoy the cheesy santa etc seasonal songs. DD and I sing them in the car... usually starts after half term, we're a bit late this year come to think). Doesn't just about every culture at these latitudes have some sort of midwinter celebration?

Presumably everyone knows that the correct response if a Christian says something about 'putting Christ back into Christmas' is to ask them when they're going to put Oestre back into Easter? wink.

I'm happy being a 'cultural christian' - and also a 'cultural pagan/norse/druid/Roman/whatever-else' went into the mix of what we have today.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now