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What are You? Some Kind of Atheist?

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Yes I am some kind of an atheist. I am a skeptic. I simply do not hear the seductive songs of any gods these days. I have become wonderfully deaf to the myriad siren voices of our pop-pantheon: Neo-Marxism, Political Correctitude-ism, Gender Feminism, DSMIV-ism, even Neo-Conservatism. I also no longer hear the grand deep baritone of that big old daddy God: the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

I am that kind of atheist who found that where there is God-talk, there are people with power lording that power over others they either pity or disdain. When I hear God-talk, I tend to hear more clearly these others, the unloved ones.

And there are always the others. They are the outsiders and the uninvited.

When I hear God-talk, I hear those who just don’t get it – I hear the other-minded, the other-sided, the other-others. I hear the bad people, the demonized people. I hear those who either must be helped with this god, or must be crushed with this god’s blessings. That is the kind of atheist I am. I don’t hear the call of these gods. I really am one of those men who just don’t get it. Anita Hill and N.O.W. – I just don’t get it one little bit, but I certainly do understand it.

Atheism is often misrepresented as a faith in the non-existence of God. That is not the sort of atheism I embrace. It is not a faith, and I am not a faithful atheist. Rather, I am an atheist who accepts that, as a human being, I have unavoidable and periodic mystical experiences of the infinitude of the universe and a periodic awesome feeling that I, as a smidgen among smidgens, somehow fit within this awesome infinitude. I am, I know, going to be all right regardless of how it all goes, including my own death and the death of all that I love. I also know and accept that all I love will, in time, be lost.

This is mysticism, yes, but it is not evidence that there is some entity named “God.” For my mystical experience is an internal emotion. And there is no evidence that my internal emotion correlates to anything externally real at all. The point is, “God” is a name that only names human desires, human confusion, and human hopefulness. “God” simply does not name anything beyond us humans. But does this mean we know all there is? Of course not. Does this mean our brains, grand as they seem to us, can grasp that which is beyond our grasp? Not at all, that is a contradiction.

Still, God-talk remains people talk. So my atheism simply means that God-talk is empty talk, and what is, is, and if what is, is something one might actually name, it is beyond us, and it certainly would not answer to “God”. Nothing about what is can be reasonably said. What does “God” mean? Nothing. Who does God name? No one. That is atheism.

So, when we feel the mystical nudge of spirituality, that feeling gives us no evidence that “God” refers to anything we can say anything about. “God” refers only to our own personal hopefulness and justifies a concomitant desire to claim a divine right over others who call their personal hopefulness by the innumerable names within their own God-talk: Jesus, Mohammed, Zeus, Yahweh, Om, Isis, Zagreus, Agdistus, Heroin, Money, Atheism.

It is important to note, however, that I reject agnosticism. I know that I know God names nothing and no one. No evidence can be produced that might suddenly force me to believe in God. God does not exist, and 2+2 will never equal 27. I am certain I know God is not the name of the ineffable apophatic mystery, nor is it Ayatollah Khomeini, Pat Robertson, Robert Spitzer, L. Ron Hubbard, Freud, Marx, or even Kim Gandy. People invent God; God does not invent people. The rest is unspeakable.

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  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    You could also argue that we are incapable of defining “God”, if it indeed exists; no human words could describe it, so any word we use is by definition incorrect. In a Gnostic sense, God is no thing that can be described; no thing we can describe is God, therefore God is no thing.

    Your thesis is true–having a “mystical experience” does not prove there is God, or a spiritual connection between us. I believe there is anyway, even though I can’t prove it; it’s coincidences and similarities such as those in the Tao of Physics that intrigue me.

  • Jim

    I would argue that if you use words, those words whatever they are, are based on faith and believe in something, what you sense – even the words you use.

    I think your words show a faith and belief that makes sense to me, for the most part.

    I agree with you when you say,”…where ever there is God-talk, there are people with power lording that power over others they either pity or disdain.” I think that is the case much of the time. That is the problem I have with Churches and one reason I don’t go to Church.

    The problem that we all have though, is that our knowledge and understanding of what is, is so limited. And I wonder, what don’t we know? Look at the history of earlier generations of humans; I am sure they thought they knew so much. So much of what they ‘knew’ was wrong. That could be the case regarding what we ‘know’ when future generations look back at us.

    Most of us can only believe and have faith in germs, black holes, the big bang, that planets are spheres, that there are atoms, quarks, that we evolved, that time can stand still at the speed of light. I have faith and belief in all these things because I have belief and faith in the results of science.

    What does it matter to you if someone has faith or belief in God, Jesus, Santa Claus, whatever? Now organized religion, I agree, that is another matter.

    Saying this, it took me fifty plus years to discover that I have faith in Jesus. It was a faith I acquired as a little kid and it guides me. My faith may be as silly as a belief in Santa Claus, it may be child like for me to believe.
    So what?

    My belief is mine alone. It is a mystical belief. It leads me where it leads me. So far it has lead me to live the most normal of lives.

  • Arch Conservative

    Sounds like you not lonly do you not belive in god but you also don’t believe there needs to be a reason for our existence and you’re happy with that?

    Am I right?

    Many atheists say they don’t believe in God because they believe in science and that God can’t be proven scientifically and the existence of a supreme being isn’t logical. These same atheists subscribe to the truth of the Big Bang theory. I find this quite contradictory. They refuse to believe in God in any of the forms mankind has chosen to represent him/her/it etc…. but they have no problem believing that at one point nothing at all existed, not time, not matter, not space…. .. there was nothing………and then from this nothingness was a hyge explosion that created the universe?

    Both beliefs seem like “faith” to me.

    While it is true that there may be some people of faith who engage in “god talk” and want to lord it over others the converse is also true. There are many who engage in “non-god talk” that look down upon and seek to enforce thier will upon people of faith.

  • Jim

    Yes, Arch Conservative I agree with you about the non-god talk too. With regard to the need for our existence, that is outside the realm of my knowledge and likely my ability to know.

    My point here is that if you use words at all, you are expressing a faith and belief in something. I think that is what words are all about.

  • Jim

    Arch Conservative, I re-read your first sentence and I am a bit confused by it.

    To clarify my belief as childish as it may be, it is a belief in Jesus, who represented himself as one aspect of God on earth (the son part of the father, son and the holy ghost) or God on Earth, I think.

    I believe in God. That belief I don’t think is totally childish as it is informed by my life experiences, some science, etc. I would call this belief more speculative, but none the less I believe it without a doubt. Why should I doubt it? Why should I doubt Jesus either?

  • gonzo marx

    ummm..the Jury is out as to how Yeshua(Jesus) portrayed himself…

    most careful study woudl say he NEVER referred to himself as any kind of “god”..other than as part of the “divine” that resides within ALL humans

    this is far different from the dogma of many christian sects, which does attribute divinity to the Annointed

    Ben Franklin was quoted as saying …”I do believe there was a Jesus, it is the Divinity of a man I question”

    there are those who will point to a singular quote from the New Testament “the Kingdom of God is within you” and note that this is identical to the Teaching of gnostic chriostians and their choice fo scriptures

    just sharing some Thoughts for pondering…

    Excelsior!

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    So help me out here, Gonzo. You view Jesus (assuming evidence could be found for his existence) as a teacher, but not a “divinity”, or a “person within a three headed divinity”?

    Not looking for arguments, just curious and inquiring

  • gonzo marx

    you seem to have the Idea, Ruvy…

    my personal gnosis is that no Man, and ALL Men are Divine…

    Yeshua, Siddhartha, the Dalai Lama…and many others have pointed the Way….same as the 7 Taoist Immortals

    “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”

    it is the spark of Life that links us in many ways (see Jung, or Joseph Campbell…for example)

    in other words…i view Yeshua as another Enlightened Teacher, who tried to share this with others…

    note, if you will, the very dichotomy of his accepted Teachings against those fo his cultural and religious environment…

    a far difference between “an eye for an eye” as was accepted under Sanhedrin Law, and “turn the other cheek” as taught by Yeshua

    in my studies…it has occured to me that it is possible Yeshua was influenced by Eastern philosophy…living on the Silk Road as he did…and this opened him up to other Ways of thinking than the much more narrow View fo his cultural Philosophy

    in my Thought..it was against the Pharisees that he was trying to forment Revolt…not the Romans

    example: “render unto Ceasar” as opposed to his actions against the “moneylenders” in the Temple

    by comparing the various Coptic texts…or gnostic scriptures with those compiled by Iraneus and ratified at Nicea under Constantine…one sees a clear difference between a dogmatic organization, deliberately placing a “priest class” between Man and “god”….as opposed to teachings (the Gospels of Mary, (Coptic) Thomas, Judas Iscariot..the Hymn of the Pearl…etc) which are similar in many ways to Buddhist thought that Enlightenment is found within

    oversimplified..i know..but hopefully my little screed opens some “Doors” for others

    Excelsior!

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Thank you, Gonzo. This does clear up a lot of what you seem to say elsewhere.

    Just a thought for you to bear in mind. You might wish to use a different analogy when comparing Jewish law to Christian concepts. “Eye for an eye” terminology always has referred to money damages in Judaism, not the physical vengeance implied in the words.

    This was true in the days of the Sanhedrin and before as well.

  • gonzo marx

    glad to help Ruvy…

    and i DO comprehend the difference..i am being colloquial for those not as familiar with the depth of material we are talking about here…

    still, stoning and other forms of physical Vengance as part of a Justice system were part and parcel of Judaism in the time we talk of

    a diametric opposition when compared to the “turn the other cheek” pacifism espoused by Yeshua

    me?…i fall somewhere in between in that i think it is ethically required to Defend when appropriate….

    but i digress

    Excelsior!

  • http://wp.blogcritics.org Timmy

    Overthinkers, all of you. But you can’t overthink God. It’s faith you lack, clear and simple. You can rationalize your position all day long, but when the shit comes down you’ll be left with a strong feeling of regret. Just have a beer and chill out.

  • gonzo marx

    no regret on my part, Timmy…

    but you are correct in that it IS faith” that i don’t have

    i have no “faith” in ANY who claim to know the mind of “god”

    whether it is the snake oil salesman with a collection plate…

    or an ancient tribal Leader, attempting to keep his People whole…

    or an early bishop trying to unify a “church” into a political entity

    on and on…

    your mileage may vary

    Excelsior!

  • Jim

    I’m old enough and from that 60’s generation that was exposed to sooo many alternative beliefs… I have been a Zen Buddhist, loved Alan Watts, read Chaos Theory, The Tao of Physics, The Tao Te Ching, been through the New Age, rebirthing, past life regressions, channeling, etc, etc, etc.

    But my conclusion after this journey is that faith is simple.

    Gonzo, I am not saying that I am right and you are wrong. I am just saying that with all the different beliefs, ideas, and speculations that I have been exposed to in my life I find that my faith was established when I was a child and it has been there all along and after all these years I was able to figure that out.

    I did not do this alone or in a vacumm. On the internet, I have been exposed to other Christians who have expressed the same core beliefs I share. When I read what they had to say, how they saw Christianity, I realized that the distance I thought I had from my personal faith in Jesus was an illusion. It is other people’s interpretations that I was having problems with. It was the diversity of other peoples faith’s and beliefs that created problems for me. I thought they were Christians and I wasn’t because they went to Church and I didn’t.

    When I realized that my faith is valid as it is, it gave me strength.

    It is a mystical idea – not logical. You have every right to see it as foolish. That doesn’t change who I am. That doesn’t change the child like reasons I believe in Jesus, that the book I read about him reported he said something like, ‘Love is the greatest commandment’, and that he said ‘anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’

    As he was described in that book, he was a good guy. For me, I have yet to meet anyone or read or heard about anyone who I thought was better. The three buddhist priests who burned themselves up to protest the Vietnam war – they were inspired no doubt and I respect what they did to express themselves. Soldiers who sacrifice their lives for what they believe in, I respect that even when they are wrong. But when you take Jesus’s story as a whole, he decided to make his sacrifice for all mankind, a sacrifice that had incredible symbolic importance, was part of an incredible history, and was a gift to me that reached deep into my heart and saved me because as a child I understood what as an adult is hard to understand.

  • http://stoppseudoscience.blogspot.com Carmine

    JP and Jim,
    You both are exactly on to the problem that I too am troubling over. There are two philosophers, who have set me on this path, and I am an expert in neither. The first is pseudo-Dionysius the second is Erigina. These are the guys who developed apophatic or negative theology. This is the idea that it is impossible to make any positive statement about God. Erigena is quite like Jim in that all words must issue from God in that God is the ultimate creator of all terms, which means any statement is already evidence of the Logos that allows for all words.

    But my bigger concern is the development of so many new secular religions with their most innane idols. In particular the tripe that gushes from so many of the social sciences. My sense is that Humanities: Philosophy,Literature,Theology and History have been hopelessly seduced by the social so-called sciences. The fact of the matter is despite the death of God-spoken, the silliness of things like the MMPI should never be allowed to replace good theology. To expand this example, the MMPI uses hundreds of purely arbitrary questions and then with a wave of the hand an a religious faith that statistical averages will uncover truth from chaos, the Psycho-Priest gives a so-called scientific insight into one’s soul. God has been replaced by faith in Rorschach, TAT, Carol Gilligan, junk social science of every stripe and pattern.

    We all, it seems, have now become vulnerable at any moment to a spotaneous Politically Correct drive-by psycho-analysis. Duck! The newest Inquisition has arrived. Good-bye Torquamada, Hello Nancy Hopkins and Kim Gandy!

  • Jim

    Timmy, Fear was never much of a motivator for me. Love and sacrifice, that is what motivates my simple faith.

  • Jim

    Carmine, I don’t know who Erigena is but I wasn’t trying to say that I think all words issue from God.

    What I am saying is that we must have faith and belief in our words and in language – that its use will communicate something, that other people will understand what we are trying to communicate, etc. If I didn’t have that faith and belief then I would keep my mouth shut and I wouldn’t bother typing.

  • Jim

    Since I have mentioned Zen Buddhism several times and I do not want to show any disrespect for that ancient, profound and beautiful religion, I wanted to share this link:

  • gonzo marx

    Jim..my Appreciation for your Thoughts and Words…truly…

    we differ in our Views on some fundamental levels though…as you have easily observed, yet each of us seems quite content to allow the other thier Way

    which is as it should Be…

    i do not see your Faith as “foolish”..mere;y as your own…if you understand the Difference, we are halfway towards meaningful Communication…even if we disAgree

    for instance, what you perceive, as an article of Faith…that Yeshua’s “sacrifice” was for all of Mankind…i interpert as an Act exactly like those buddhist priests you cite

    to me..Yeshua ben Miriam the Annointed (Jesus Christ) was the first recorded non-violent Revoloutionairy…not against the Romans..but against the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees

    his Sacrifice was to prove the extent of his commitment towards the Ideal of persojal Responsibility and Enlightenment…NOT as a “scapegoat” to carry some unfounded burden of “sin” for Man…that particular canard is part of latter day dogma…the Myth after the Man

    yet it IS a very powerful thing, and if it aids a person, then how can that be bad?

    yet, when such dogma is used as a Weapon, as has been so often the case in history…how can that be good?

    we do appear to Agree that one of the highest Achievements a man can attain is when he deliberately scarifices himself for another, or an Ideal, or in Defense…

    would that more had your Understanding and Tolerance…

    Excelsior!

  • Jim

    gonzo – We are on the same page.

  • My Opinion, That’s All

    I grew up as a Christian. I can’t imagine not believing in God. I guess I’m not very smart because I couldn’t really follow everyone’s posts. Of course, I’m no theologian. Atheism to me sounds fatal, like there’s nothing to look foreword to. I kind of like having a guide for life.

  • Jim

    My opinion, I can understand that.
    You see, a difference between you and me is that I was raised as an Atheist. I rebeled by going to Church for one year as a kid against my parents wishes. My father questioned my every belief and played devil’s advocate. It was quite a journey for me to get back to a point where I had a simple faith.

  • gonzo marx

    to “My Opinion”…it’s ok…

    “there is more on heaven and earth than dreamt in your philosophy” Shakespeare

    “atheism” is not fatal….

    Life is…

    just a Thought

    Excelsior!

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    The word atheist is itself a religious term used by faithists to include what they consider non-believers with their world view.

    Just as there is no word for people who don’t believe in astrology, we don’t need a word to describe the majority and we have a word for the members of these cults: FAITHISTS!

    *wanders off muttering to self*

    ;-)

  • troll

    Christopher – here we are again…what makes you believe that faithists are a minority – ?

    troll

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    Church attendance figures?

    Whenever religion has come up in conversation with Spanish people, I’ve taken gentle advantage of the opportunity to ask them about the Catholic faith and the answers tend to vary between respect for cultural tradition amongst the more thoughtful to a vague idea about “just-in-case-it’s-true” amongst the more pragmatic.

    Many of these people go to church on Sundays and even take part in the particular rituals of their communities, like parading through the streets at Easter time carrying massive and heavy icons through the streets.

    They actually compete as to who has the best icons and tributes and it all becomes wrapped up in local community values and civic pride.

    We go along to watch along with loads of other spectators and all the streets are packed with both local and foreign tourists.

    I’ve not met any real hard core believers or any of the members of Opus Dei yet, although they are definitely around.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Here’s a paradox.
    As a staunch christian in my youth, I took comfort in knowing that I’d continue after my death, sort of immortality, so I didn’t fear it.

    Now that my faith has faded (more like ripped from me), I feel sometimes that after death, I’ll just slip into the nonexistance that I existed in before birth, and that gives me comfort because I won’t suffer, nor need, or want.

    It’s not really atheism or a lack of faith, but a different point of view.

    I enjoyed your article very much
    Jet

  • troll

    so – lazy folks just going through the motions who say that they believe in a ‘supernatural creator’ are not faithists…only the ‘hard core’…that does refine the concept

    in my experience push come to shove ‘everyman’s’ faithism (racism – nationalism) is ‘wrapped up in local community values and civic pride’

    threaten their ‘right’ to their myths and a comfortably irrational existence and many lazy people become ‘hard core’ in a jiffy

    (and when that happens – ‘say your prayers’ – their comments get wacky)

    troll

    ps I guess that we just have different experiences of everyday life where I see evidence of faithism everywhere

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Gonzo, I’m in your corner on this – the Gnostic view, the Buddhist view etc. are much more positive and uplifting in my view than the organized-religion dogmatic view. The opposition suggests this is too self-reliant, and gives a person too much room to “pick and choose” his beliefs.

    Jim, that leads me to this question–in number five, you ask why should you doubt God and also why should you doubt Jesus. With no disrespect to your belief system, maybe you can help me here: I think there is a tremendous leap between believing in God and believing in a divine Jesus.

    Personally I have no trouble believing in a “higher power,” something greater than us, which is known by various names (God, Allah, etc). Or that all of us, to some extent, have a bit of that essence in us. Believing in the divine incarnated into a specific human being, Jesus, is a totally different matter and requires a different kind of “leap of faith.” Believing in a “higher power” is not dependent upon believing a specific human’s life journey as historically accurate; believing in Jesus is. As opposed to the example of the Buddha, whose teachings live on even if the life story isn’t exactly as it’s told (which I suspect it wasn’t).

    Do you pose both of your “why should I doubt?” questions from the same place?

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Carmine, admittedly you’re a little oustide of my realm of knowledge, but it sounds like you’re suggesting that belief in a theory from the social sciences–example, the MMPI–is also a matter of faith. Help me out here, which “new secular religions” are you referring to?

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Chris,

    Opus Dei had a “checkered” political history in Falangist Spain. It is more than just a religious organization, as you must be aware. I remember reading a TIME LIFE book about Spain written in the early 1960’s where Opus Dei was described as “liberal” organization. Considering the nature of the Falangist régime, that may well have been a most accurate description then. Now is a different story.

    Somehow, I do not think you’ll find many Spaniards in Opus Dei.

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    Gonzo, perhaps you can clarify your views on what exactly you believe Jesus was. If you believe him to simply have been a good teacher, then you would have to argue that many of his preachings were simply the ravings of a lunatic. He does have certain good moral teachings, but he also talks quite a bit about sin and redemption in the eyes of God. Much of his talk centers specifically around the idea of the divine Father.

    Mind you, I consider myself an agnostic. I don’t believe one can ever have the answers and thus choose not to take sides in the issue, but I do think it’s important to stick to what we can know. Often times, various groups try to position Jesus as a great moral spokesman for their ideology (socialists, anarchists, etc.) and simply leave out the rest. This is intensely problematic, as I’m sure you can imagine, and while I’m not accusing you of doing the same, I am curious as to where you stand.

  • gonzo marx

    well Bryan..you place me in the difficult position of speaking about personal interpertations , rather than my more esoteric approach utilizing historical information in conjunction with a much broader variety of “scriptures”…and thus allowing folks to find for themselves and make up their own minds

    i will say this…i do not think any man is/was “Divinity manifest”..and that all men hold the spark of such within them…waiting to be found

    as for Yeshua’s teachings…much of the argument revolves around knowing when you are speaking of direct Quotes of his teachings…and the interpertations of Men given the same weight

    to simplify…i neither seek nor employ any “spokesman”…i speak for myself

    i hold Yeshua, Buddha and others in equal regards…as Teachers, and as Men

    anything further, i hold as my own…and feel no need nor desire to evangelize….but rather point anyone towards what they may find within

    i do honestly hope that helps

    Excelsior!

  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    much of the argument revolves around knowing when you are speaking of direct Quotes of his teachings…and the interpertations of Men given the same weight

    That’s the crux of my problem with much Biblical scholarship. Many religious folk deny even the possibility that the Biblical texts are somehow unreliable or that they were altered when passed through the hands of man. They were written by men, whether through “divine inspiration” or not, and we ought to take that into account.

    Thanks for your explanation – I completely understand where you’re coming from. Certainly from a different angle than most, but I appreciate your candidness!

  • gonzo marx

    Bryan…try http://www.gnosis.org for some non-mainstream scriptues (the Gospels of Thomas and Mary especially)

    these might help you in your ponderings…

    Excelsior!

  • Jim

    JP,
    You said in #28,
    Jim, that leads me to this question–in number five, you ask why should you doubt God and also why should you doubt Jesus. With no disrespect to your belief system, maybe you can help me here: I think there is a tremendous leap between believing in God and believing in a divine Jesus.

    In ,#5 I said,
    To clarify my belief as childish as it may be, it is a belief in Jesus, who represented himself as one aspect of God on earth (the son part of the father, son and the holy ghost) or God on Earth, I think.

    I believe in God. That belief I don’t think is totally childish as it is informed by my life experiences, some science, etc. I would call this belief more speculative, but none the less I believe it without a doubt. Why should I doubt it? Why should I doubt Jesus either?

    To answer your question as best I can – I was a nine year old who read the bible. It was easy for me to believe and have faith in what I read. I did not worry about having to defend that belief when I acquired it.

    As I see it, my belief cannot be defended in any logical way, other than by referring to the bible, and saying something like, ’this is the truth whether you believe it or not. I know because I have faith. You don’t have faith that the bible is the word of God, so you are wrong and I am right – not only that I have a whole church full of people who agree with me so what ya goin’ do, take us all on?’ I think that is a lousy defense and I refuse to defend my belief that way.

    As I said in another post on this blog, my belief is a mystical belief.

    I can only defend by giving you an example of another belief I have that maybe you will find reasonable but one that I cannot defend, sitting here right now typing. What I believe is this: JP is the nickname of a real human being and I am responding to some words he typed. I may be wrong. JP may be a bot, a program that simulates a real person, nonetheless I have faith and belief that is not the case. Again, I may be wrong but I choose to believe that I am not.

  • http://stoppseudoscience.blogspot.com Carmine

    JP and Bryan,
    Yes I do think the MMPI is rooted in a secular religion that is dependent on unquestioned acceptance of a variety of pseudoscience. See The Cult of Personality for a sustained argument on this. But secular religion is not unique to any of the Personality Tests. Most of what issues from the psychotherapeutic crowd is the attempt to deify non-verifiable presumption. They pretend finding arbitrary patterns is equivalent to genuine insight into the human soul. The MMPI is merely an easy example of divining alleged truth about people from what is essentially reading tea leaves.

    With respect to Jesus, Jesus is not at all a literal story for most Catholic theologians. Karl Rahner is a good example. Jesus, among other things, is a symbol for the potential for a far deeper love than erotic or even brotherly love. Jesus is the symbol of Agape, the purest form of love in the Greek language. Agape, for Catholics, is the infinite love of the creator for the creation. I think the Gnostic influence on Christianity is pretty deep. The problem the Church had with the Gnostic Gospels is it elevated man to the level of God. The Church, on the other hand, is based on a radical gulf between the Creator and the created. Christian Mysticism never allows for the mystic to merge with God, Gnosticism, from what I know of it, does.

    Myself I think we feel what is beyond our reason, and then we attempt to go beyond what we know by defining that ineffible feeling as God, and merely demonstrate our accidental hubris in the process. To pretend to know what cannot be known is simply impossible. Sort of pathetic in the way a child’s naive courage can be charming and silmultaneously pathetic. “What was God doing before he did everything else? And before that? And before that? And….”

  • gonzo marx

    an interesting, if convoluted rant there Carmine…

    might i merely point out that an individuals gnosis is purely personal

    also…that the Catholic Church has done everything it can over the centuries to destroy the gnostic teachings from it’s very beginnings…

    but your attentions appears to be placed on current psychoanalytical processes and how they relate as a secular “religion”

    not something i can get into, having no real or personal knowledge of psych other than reading Jung and some others…

    all i can say to you is to share the Thought that all the truly important Answers are within you…anything else remains unanswerable…and thus should not be of concern

    hope that helps

    Excelsior!

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo,

    You wrote (to Jim),

    “we differ in our Views on some fundamental levels though…as you have easily observed, yet each of us seems quite content to allow the other thier Way

    which is as it should Be…

    i do not see your Faith as “foolish”..mere;y as your own…if you understand the Difference, we are halfway towards meaningful Communication…even if we disAgree.”

    You must know by now that I am not really interested in “converting” people to my views. We Jews are not supposed to get everybody to be Jews. The degree that I’m interested in getting people to view things differently stops once they start paying attention to the Seven Laws of Noah. If I can guide them in that, I’m satisfied.

    Unless I’m wrong, you’re there already.

  • troll

    so Ruvy – IYO what should the court established to enforce the first six laws do about atheists such as the author of this post and unrepentant blasphemers such as myself

    stoning or the stocks or shunning or what – ?

    or are these capital crimes

    how are they going to make the laws stick – ?

    troll

  • Duane

    The degree that I’m interested in getting people to view things differently stops once they start paying attention to the Seven Laws of Noah. If I can guide them in that, I’m satisfied.

    I’m still having troubles with one of the Seven Laws of Noah, although I’ve been trying really, really hard, namely:

    To refrain from eating a limb torn from a live animal.

    Sometimes I just can’t help myself. Am I going to He–?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Troll, fortunately, figuring out how to make these rules stick is not my problem. At some point in the future, there will be a competent court to do the job. At that point, you (and others) may well have decided that atheism was not a happening thing.

    I can nudge and nag, or more intelligently, give guidance on how to follow these laws, if asked. But it ain’t my job to tell you what to think! And thank G-d, I am not judge, jury or executioner. And like I told you before, there will be no knocks on your door from Jews with a Bible and a sales pitch, no literature or revival meetings. That just isn’t our style.

    I’ll stick with the patter and the bad jokes, thank you.

    So, from my point of view, I’ve accomplished what I need to with these laws with you and Duane. You’re paying attention to them.

    Look at this way. Before I got to Blog Critics, were you paying any attention to the Seven Laws of Noah at all?

    Duane, if you go to hell for breaking the Seven Laws of Noah, it will be one of your own belief and choosing. A Jew may tell you to rot in hell if he’s mad enough at you, but theologically, we generally do not “do” hell. We leave that to Moslems and Christians.

    You guys will probably not hear too much from me over the next few days. Tomorrow night in Pessah, and even though we only have one Seder in Israel, I still can’t get on the computer and play till after sundown, Thursday.

    So, to my brother and sister Jews at Blog Critics, Hag Saméah u’Kashér! Happy Passover!!

    Proclaim freedom throught the land and liberty to the inhabitants.

  • no_religion

    The people who believe in God in our society are the same people who would have believed in Zeus in the past. haha.

  • Jim

    no_religion,

    Yet I firmly believe that the people who didn’t believe in Zeus would have still believed in something which if known today what their belief was, would have seemed equally as quaint as a belief in Zeus.

    And I firmly believe that the same will hold true for all of us when future generations look back on our beliefs.

    It is impossible to rise above what we don’t know or where we got it wrong.

  • Park

    God is real MR.! God told the people that wrote the bible what was going to happen before it happened! SO then the stuff in the bible was written before it happened! Also All the other Gods/godesses Die and Jesus died and rose again!!!

  • Richard

    Hi JD,
    I can sort of understand where you are coming from, but let me tell you my story.

    On a Sunday morning back in 1983, I was watching TV in my room. I didn’t have cable in my room, so over-the-air broadcasts only allowed me 3 channels – all of which were occupied by some sort of preacher. Having been raised near the George Washington bridge, I some degree of sophistication, but by high school, I found myself in a small southern town. The local Baptists soon caused me to have nothing but distain for people who wore the label of “Christian” …foolish stupid hypocrites were they.

    Just as the preacher on TV was beginning the sinner’s prayer routine, a thought occurred to me. I had been judging God by looking at people. It was clear to me that if God existed, the only (ultimate) winners would be on His side. I already knew that if God was real, I was: what He would call “a sinner”. If that was so, I needed a savior.

    Disregarding the imperfect humans, I decided to determine the reality of God, by making a real and determined effort to know Him and what He wanted of me. With a whole hearted commitment to this endeavor, I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” and asked Jesus into my heart.

    Now, in the back of my mind, I knew that sooner or later, I’d be able to determine the truth, but the time for sitting on the fence was over. This would be the beginning of my new life! (whatever that meant)

    One should not rely on emotion to determine one’s faith – but I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I instantly KNEW that God was real and that Jesus was real. Everything seemed somehow new to me. This high didn’t last a few minutes or even a few hours, but about a week.

    It was certainly not what I was expecting. I couldn’t help but grin through most of it. ‘Partly because of the love and acceptance I felt and partly because my worst unspoken fear had come to pass; I had become a Christian.

    Now in 2008, I can tell you that accepting Jesus as my savior and master, was the best thing I have ever done!

    As for my contempt for Christians, I try remember not to judge a perfect God by looking at imperfect people. I only wish that the Church hadn’t become so unwittingly infused with Babylonian customs and the traditions of men.

    -Richard

  • Jordan Richardson

    While I agree with the idea of not judging God by imperfect people, I struggle a little bit with this idea:

    One should not rely on emotion to determine one’s faith – but I’ve never experienced anything like that before.

    Your entire conversion story is based around the notion of choosing to simply believe in God. You say that “if God existed, the only ultimate winners would be on his side” and claim that this notion became “clear to you.” But how does this come about when one doesn’t have a God concept to begin with? And doesn’t it seem to be a significant reliance on nothing but pure emotion? You claim you simply KNEW God existed, but again that’s a completely emotional response and could easily be dismissed as a sort of Freudian wish fulfillment.

    To say to yourself that it’s time to stop “sitting on the fence” simply seems like another emotional response, and, as such, it doesn’t seem as though there was anything about your conversion that wasn’t based on pure emotion.

    What do you have to say to somebody that wants to look beyond the emotional response and the wish fulfillment to find God?

  • http://stoppseudoscience.blogspot.com JDCarmine

    Jordan and Richard,
    Thank you so much for your illuminating responses. The problem for me is not with the existence of “I am that I am” (how God names himself to Moses). The problem is with naming what is beyond naming. Pseudo Dionysius’ “The Cloud of Unknowing” and St.Augustine are probably the best on this. Even the word “existence” is too kataphatic (positive statement) for what is utterly mystical (apophatic or negative). There is the notion in Catholic theology of “via negativa” the negative path to knowing God. For the follower of this path, the apophatic path, there is no positive statement that can be made about what is utterly beyond human reason but can still be experienced. This is not mere emotion. For example, it is not mere emotion that makes me certain that 4,312 plus 2 equals 4,314. I know this with certainty though I have not 4,314 marbles available to test it. I know with certainty that totalling the angles of any and ALL triangles will add up to half the degrees of any and all circles. This is merely an analogy to knowing the god of the apophatics, but I think it will suffice. I know with certainty that the divine that is, is not named by the word “God” any more than the truth of the 180 degrees of every triangle is named accurately by “Henry.” Descartes called this certainty about math, intuition of the truth of simple or innate ideas, but I think there is a sort of intuitive certainty about the divine as well. To know it at all is to know you do not know it but by the superficial reflections and flickerings of the divine “through a glass darkly.” That the divine is, is however certain. Again, to speak metaphorically, Man is fallen, but the divine that is, just is and can barely be glimpsed by Man and not at all by apes and sparrows. Our religions are often the coercive mechanisms of evil, but truly some religions REALLY are better than others. Myself I see Catholicism as the best, if for no other reason than that all other theologies –faith derived from reason– are derivative of Catholic theology and therefore Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and to a much unappreciated, but significant degree, Xenophanes who recognized that the gods of men will always look like men, whereas the gods of horses would look like horses were horses to have gods.

    So I think God is really just one more god. Whereas “I am that I am” is not merely the god named Mr.God. So, I agree with the statement “God is not Great”, but neither is Hitchens nor Henry nor any other thing or fantasy named.

    So your startling realization beneath the GW bridge may not at all be a serotonin addled emotion but an apophatic intuition of the divine, like the intuition that math and logic actually work. One short experiment: Would you accept it so if one day you opened the newspaper and the front page said: “Arithmetic wrong, 2+2 actually equals 3!” I sure wouldn’t.

  • Ruvy

    The problem for me is not with the existence of “I am that I am” (how God names himself to Moses).

    Doc, ff you are going to quote the Torah, at least quote it right: ehyhé asher ehyhé means “I Will Be that which I Will Be, and is a very different conceptualization of a Creative Entity than the static “I Am that I Am” mistranslation. This mistranslation was found in the Septuagint, and done for the political reason of not antagonizing the Greeks, who had a very static idea of the universe.

    I’ll only note for you that when you take the simple concept of One G-d creating the universe and try to parse it with a kakaphony of Greek pagan thought, you get something that spreads like butter and stinks like shit. That is what Christians have been doing for the last two millennia, and finally the result of that insanity is showing up in falling church attendance all over Europe. Another result of that insanity is your own article.

    Have a pleasant Sunday….

  • http://stoppseudoscience.blogspot.com JDCarmine

    Hi Ruvy!! I am not kidding I missed you over the past year. I have been out of blogging since my second baby. At my age I feel like Abraham. Yes, I am sure the Christians have been mucking up the Hebrew for two millenia, and I agree it was to calm Greek and Roman polytheists. But the kicker is that Jewish theology to the degree that I am familiar with it, Maimonides, Spinoza, is derivative of Catholic theology. I must just come out with it, I am Jewish but I am in the middle of converting to Catholicism. Not for any reason other than that I can’t find a Jewish community that isn’t corrupted by Romantic American Liberalism. American Jews are either pseudo-Unitarians or Lubbavitch. Where does a theologically minded older guy find access to the ineffable mystery?…Catholicism.