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Atheism as a religion


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#1    CommunitarianKevin

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 11:34 PM

Most of you seem to be getting very irritated when I imply that some of atheism is a religion. I think most of you just ignore what I have to say, which is fair because I am just another dumbass on the internet. What I wanted to do instead was type up much of a chapter in Stephen Prothero’s book God is not One. I am some idiot on the internet but here is someone that at least has a degree in the area. Here is his bio…

Stephen Prothero is a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University and the author of numerous books, most recently God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter (HarperOne, 2010) and the New York Times bestseller Religious Literacy: What Americans Need to Know (HarperOne, 2007). He has commented on religion on dozens of National Public Radio programs, and on television on CNN, NBC, MSNBC, FOX, and PBS. He was also a guest on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, "The Colbert Report," and "The Oprah Winfrey Show." He was also the chief editorial consultant for the six-hour WGBH/PBS television series "God in America" (2010). A regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, he has also written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. In 2010 he was invited to speak about religious literacy at the White House. Prothero received his BA from Yale in American Studies and his PhD in the Study of Religion from Harvard. He lives on Cape Cod, and he tweets @sprothero.

Let me know if you need any information on what exactly a religious scholar does. I have a feeling that many if you will simply ignore this but I hope at least a couple of you read it and think about it…

If you do not like what he has to say, there is his twitter account… tell him he is wrong. The following is not my opinion so do not tell me I am wrong, though I know you will…
I will try and keep this short so I will start with the section titled But Is It a Religion. I will simply be quoting from the book.

But Is It a Religion
“Some atheists, including attorney Michael Newdow, who took his complaint against the inclusion of God in the Pledge of Allegiance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, believed that atheism is, in the words of novelist David Foster Wallace, an “anti-religious religion, which worships reason, skepticism, intellect, empirical proof, human autonomy, and self-determination. Most atheists, however, are offended by the suggestion that they, too, might be religious. For them, exhibit A is as simple and powerful as their denial God. But all sorts of religious people deny God, including many Buddhists, Confucians, and Jews.” (p 323)

“Whether atheism is a religion depends, of course, on what actual atheists believe and do. So the answer to this question will vary from person to person, and group to group. It will also depend on what we mean by religion. Religion is now widely defined by scholars and judges alike…” (p 324)

“According to one common formula, members of the family of religions typically exhibit Four Cs: creed, cultus, code, and community. In other words, they have statements of beliefs and values (creeds); ritual activities (cultus); standards for ethical conduct (codes); and institutions (community). How does atheism stack up on this score?” (p 324)

“Atheists obviously have a creed. Some atheists deny that they believe anything. Is bald a hair color, they ask? But this denial is disingenuous. In fact, atheism is more doctrinal than any of the great religions. By definition, atheists agree on the dogma that there is no god, just as monotheists agree on the dogma that there is one. Belief is their preoccupation, as anyone who has read even one book on the subject can attest.” (p 324)

“Cultus is trickier. Years ago I received a letter from a Boston-area chaplain’s group accompanying an interfaith calendar…Among the holy days was the birthday of British philosopher Bertrand Russell. More recently, the Albany, New York-based Institute for Humanist Studies published a Secular Seasons calendar with more through accounting of atheists’ High Holy Days, including Thomas Paine Day and Darwin Day. There is not much evidence, however, that atheists celebrate these days with any gusto or actually regard these exemplars as saints.” (p 324)

“Most atheists do have a code of ethical conduct. In fact, one of the most frequent claims of the New Atheists is that they are the moral superiors of the old theists.” (p 325)

“Although most atheists go it alone, some father into communities. There is a network of summer camps for atheist children called Camp Quest. Other prominent atheist organizations include Atheist Alliance International, American Atheists, British Humanists Association, Humanist Association of Canada, and the Germany-based National Council of Ex-Muslims…A U.S. group known as the United Coalition of Reason ran a billboard and bus campaign with ads that read, ‘Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.’ Thought intended to raise visibility of atheists in the America public square, this campaign also trumpeted the availability of atheist communities…” (p 325)

“Using this functional approach, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in 1961 that secular humanism functions like a religion, so secular humanists merit the same sorts of First Amendment protections that religious practitioners enjoy. In 2005, in a decision that irked atheists and Christians alike, a lower U.S. court held that, because atheism walked and talked like a religion, judges should treat it as such.” (p 325)

“Onfray, the most radical and, after Hitchens, the most gifted New Atheist writer, detects the stench of religion in much atheism today… ‘The tactics of some secular figures seem contaminated by their enemy’s ideology: man militants in the secular cause look astonishingly like clergy. Worse: like caricatures of clergy,’ he writes… Onfray seems to be channeling at least some of the spirit of German philosopher Arnold Ruge, a friend of Marx who refused to jump on the atheist bandwagon not because it was too radical but because it was too traditional: ‘Atheism is just as religious as was Jacob wrestling with God: the atheist is no freer than a Jew who eats pork or a Mohammedan who drinks wine.’ “ (p 326)

“Are human beings homo religiosus? Is it human nature to grasp after the sacred? Yes, say those biologists who find evolutionary advantages in religious beliefs and practices. If they are right, if religion is an inescapable part of being human, then atheism would seem fated to take on the form of religion. But not all atheists are religious. Some take their atheist creed with a shrug, steering clear of the cultus, codes, and communities of their atheist kin. For others, however, atheism is, in the words of German theologian Paul Tillich, an ‘ultimate concern.’ It stands at the center of their lives, defining who they are, how they think, and with whom they associate. The question of God is never far from their minds, and they would never even consider marrying someone outside of their fold. They are, in short, no more free from the clutches of religion than adherents of the Cult of Reason in eighteenth-century France. For these people at least, atheism may be the solution to the problem of religion. But the solution is religious nonetheless.” (p 326)

Edited by HuttonEtAl, 03 April 2012 - 11:39 PM.

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#2    eight bits

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 09:52 AM

Not so long ago, we had a hard-fought thread here on this very subject,

http://www.unexplain...howtopic=221298

I think the most productive and reliable sense to apporach the question of when atheism can usefully be viewed as a religion is offered by Paul Tillich.

Quote

For others, however, atheism is, in the words of German theologian Paul Tillich, an ‘ultimate concern.'
Everybody whose brain functions adequately, in Tillich's view, has their own ultimate concerns. Everybody, then, has a religion, their very own religion, meaning what they think about their ultimate concerns and what they do as a result of their thinking.

Example. A person's ultimate concerns may be focused on the teachings of the Buddha, and the person may, in point of fact, believe there is no god. That person's religion, then, is Buddhism, where their ultimate concerns lie. Atheism is not that person's religion, it is a fact about their religion, as they personally pursue it.

With that in mind, when is any umbrella term, whether atheism or theism or agnosticism, "a religion" in this sense of Tillich?

Narrowly, never. Theism isn't a religion, it is collection of many religions and constellations of religious beliefs that share something in common. The same goes for atheism and agnosticism. The same also goes for less sweeping religious groupings, like "Christianity."

We do not always speak narrowly, however. Depending on the conversation, we may talk about a collection of religions as if it were a single religion, like "Christianity teaches that Jesus is the Son of God." That can be fine, but it is shorthand for reciting a laundry list of distinct religions that have this teaching in common. That would be impractical, so we do something else.

As the collective term used gets broader and broader, the members of the collection have less and less in common. A theist doesn't necessarily believe in one god, or that any god created the Universe, or that any god will always exist. The very broadest categories, atheism, theism and agnosticism, each have just one thing in common among their membership: their answer to the question of God.

It is ironic that anybody who works in Boston would offer as a test of religion,

Quote

It stands at the center of their lives, defining who they are, how they think, and with whom they associate. The question of God is never far from their minds, and they would never even consider marrying someone outside of their fold.
For many Bostonians, that much is true of the Democratic Party, never mind the Red Sox.

Not a perfect example, since politics or sports could be an ultimate concern, and for Bostonians, God is a Democrat Red Sox fan. But except in jest, politics snd sports really aren't very often ultimate for actual people. Prothero is defining a class of concerns which includes somebody's ultimate concern. Religion, for Tillich, is only about one distinguished member of the class.
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Edited by eight bits, 04 April 2012 - 09:56 AM.

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#3    monstrum

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 10:57 AM

Ideally, atheism is an absence of the belief in god. In itself, it is a non-ideological position. But it becomes irrelevant if the void is filled with any other ideology, which should not be regarded as a part of atheism. That is why I can't really accept Dawkins as an atheist of any significance because by ideology he is just a British upper class traditional white conservative. His religious targets of criticism corrrespond to what were considered traditional "enemies" of the Anglican Church. He defines himself as a "cultural Christian". He forgets, however that all religion is cultural and is performed, rather than believed. He even accept the ridiculous notion that the mythological god, Jesus Christ, was a historical person, which is contrary to all scientific evidence.
In other words, he uses atheism for dubious political/ideological goals, similarly to how philosophical views of individuals (which may be theistic) are used to form political/ideological movements such as religions.


#4    monstrum

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 11:17 AM

View Posteight bits, on 04 April 2012 - 09:52 AM, said:


Everybody whose brain functions adequately, in Tillich's view, has their own ultimate concerns. Everybody, then, has a religion, their very own religion, meaning what they think about their ultimate concerns and what they do as a result of their thinking.



I can't agree with this. Religion of one person makes no sense. The point of religion is in its social potential. When a person comes to some conclusions (even theistic ones), on his/her own, for example, because he can't accept that the universe couldn't have been without a cause, or something like that, this person is basing his/her conclusion on an arguably flawed rational evaluation (even if it means some sort of god), not on a belief (opinion based on faith). Religion is not the same as philosophy. Non-religious people sometimes accept spiritualism or some sort of higher power. It still doesn't make them religious.
This is why atheism of an individual can never be religion, even if it is a philosophy. But atheists can be religious (stalinists, cultural Christians and similar), in spite of their atheism.

Edited by monstrum, 04 April 2012 - 11:19 AM.


#5    Mr Walker

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 11:37 AM

View Postmonstrum, on 04 April 2012 - 10:57 AM, said:

Ideally, atheism is an absence of the belief in god. In itself, it is a non-ideological position. But it becomes irrelevant if the void is filled with any other ideology, which should not be regarded as a part of atheism. That is why I can't really accept Dawkins as an atheist of any significance because by ideology he is just a British upper class traditional white conservative. His religious targets of criticism corrrespond to what were considered traditional "enemies" of the Anglican Church. He defines himself as a "cultural Christian". He forgets, however that all religion is cultural and is performed, rather than believed. He even accept the ridiculous notion that the mythological god, Jesus Christ, was a historical person, which is contrary to all scientific evidence.
In other words, he uses atheism for dubious political/ideological goals, similarly to how philosophical views of individuals (which may be theistic) are used to form political/ideological movements such as religions.
Ahah, a dogmatic atheist denying dogma as an element of atheism?

Err, How can a belief that no god(s) exist, NOT be an ideological expression?

Adj. 1. ideological - of or pertaining to or characteristic of an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation.

http://www.thefreedi...com/ideological

People who chose not to believe in god(s),  are a group who hold a specific,  characteristic orientation of thought. Classic idealogues. :innocent: .

Ps, humans, apart from the very young and intellectually disfunctioning, do not naturally have or hold an absence of belief in god. That would require a person to have never heard of the concept of god, r never to have formulated the concept themselves. And every young child fromulates this concept of god for itself. So what really happens, is that when confronted withthe concept of god a person mus teither  chose to believ in the construct or disbelieve in it  This is not an ABSENCE of a belief in god. It is a deliberate and considered choice to disbelieve in the concept /construct.

For some, the deliberation and consideration is longer than for others, but no human being simply HAS an absence of belief in god. They create(d) that  absence of belief, just as others create a presence of belief.

Edited by Mr Walker, 04 April 2012 - 11:51 AM.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#6    eight bits

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 11:53 AM

monstrum

I was presenting Tillich's view.

I am sympathetic to it, obviously, with the following personal addendum. I believe it is a category mistake ever to approach any classification task, a question of the form "Is such-and-such an instance of so-and-so?" as if it were a matter of fact, except in formal discourse where all non-primitive terms are explicitly defined as a condition of participation in the discussion.

A voluntary, elective classification isn't true or false, it is useful or useless, IMO. Usefulness is both personal and siutation-dependent, and only rarely univeral. There are occasions when it is useful to classify a dog as a meal, and other occasions when it is useless. Ditto atheism and religion.

To forbid a classification claim categorically and globally inhibits free inquiry into the nature of the thing classified. I find this oppressive, dogmatic and incompatible with basic respect for the dignity of the human person.

Other views are possible. Welcome aboard.

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#7    Beckys_Mom

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 12:38 PM

Another one of these threads that claim  Atheism is a religion  ..Threads like this  are now a religion  lol Posted Image

Religion in the traditional sense  = To worship the supernatural and requires a deity...   But see now, some people are not happy with that, they will add in their own personal views and touches and class everything else religion...I put that down to desperation  and the want to class all religious..

Atheism only has one belief -  No God or Gods exist.. that's it... Anything else they do in their personal lives is separate..   Clubs they attend.( if any of them care to ) . it is separate regardless what the club is.......... Even science they take interest in is separate, it is  something even religious  ( real religious) do.. so that doesn't count either.. .. and are given different titles to describe them for a reason....  But sadly not everyone clearly can understand that... .


So  if you do something  every day  or regular in life...  scrap the title that describes what it is you are doing..and just call it all religious?

Like   If  if -  Attend school every day taking lessons, follow teachers word and rules of the school etc ...  You are not a student - You are  religious... School is a religion...Education is not education  it too is a religion ....scrap all titles and replace them with  - Religion !!

If you cook and clean every day, you are not domestic  or housewife...  you are following a religion

If you play football every week......  Don't call it sport.. just religion..and act  like that  makes sense !!!

If you work every day, following work regulations, and you do it in a group....forget the job title... just call it religion....

If you use  the bathroom every day, several times a day... That's a religion...In fact if you are unfortunate enough to have a problem with your bowels..  Go to the doctor and see what he can prescribe for your religious problem... !!!

The list goes on... Just scrap all titles and  names  given to describe each and every day...and call everything you do in life - A religion...And pretend to yourself it all makes sense !!

Me I wont entertain it...Atheism is not a religion.. I see no logic in classing it as such, just like the long list above I made  is just plain stupid to call them all religions too...

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#8    monstrum

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 12:54 PM

View PostMr Walker, on 04 April 2012 - 11:37 AM, said:

Ahah, a dogmatic atheist denying dogma as an element of atheism?

Err, How can a belief that no god(s) exist, NOT be an ideological expression?

Adj. 1. ideological - of or pertaining to or characteristic of an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation.

http://www.thefreedi...com/ideological

People who chose not to believe in god(s),  are a group who hold a specific,  characteristic orientation of thought. Classic idealogues. :innocent: .

Ps, humans, apart from the very young and intellectually disfunctioning, do not naturally have or hold an absence of belief in god. That would require a person to have never heard of the concept of god, r never to have formulated the concept themselves. And every young child fromulates this concept of god for itself. So what really happens, is that when confronted withthe concept of god a person mus teither  chose to believ in the construct or disbelieve in it  This is not an ABSENCE of a belief in god. It is a deliberate and considered choice to disbelieve in the concept /construct.

For some, the deliberation and consideration is longer than for others, but no human being simply HAS an absence of belief in god. They create(d) that  absence of belief, just as others create a presence of belief.

I am not a dogmatic atheist. I am rather open for a possibility of god if someone provided a proof for his existence.

You misunderstood my post. I do claim that personal atheism is not ideological by default. But I also think that personal belief in god can be non-ideological as well. What is always ideological is religion and possibly socio-political manifestations of atheism.
Finally, I am ambivalent towards ideology itself. In my opinion, it is not always a negative term. In fact, some historical moments needed ideology in order to make things work.


#9    monstrum

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 12:55 PM

View Posteight bits, on 04 April 2012 - 11:53 AM, said:

monstrum

I was presenting Tillich's view.

I am sympathetic to it, obviously, with the following personal addendum. I believe it is a category mistake ever to approach any classification task, a question of the form "Is such-and-such an instance of so-and-so?" as if it were a matter of fact, except in formal discourse where all non-primitive terms are explicitly defined as a condition of participation in the discussion.

A voluntary, elective classification isn't true or false, it is useful or useless, IMO. Usefulness is both personal and siutation-dependent, and only rarely univeral. There are occasions when it is useful to classify a dog as a meal, and other occasions when it is useless. Ditto atheism and religion.

To forbid a classification claim categorically and globally inhibits free inquiry into the nature of the thing classified. I find this oppressive, dogmatic and incompatible with basic respect for the dignity of the human person.

Other views are possible. Welcome aboard.

Thank you.


#10    CommunitarianKevin

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 12:58 PM

View PostBeckys_Mom, on 04 April 2012 - 12:38 PM, said:

Another one of these threads that claim  Atheism is a religion  ..Threads like this  are now a religion  lol Posted Image

Religion in the traditional sense  = To worship the supernatural and requires a deity...   But see now, some people are not happy with that, they will add in their own personal views and touches and class everything else religion...I put that down to desperation  and the want to class all religious..

Most of what you posted makes no sense according to the book. He does not make the claims you suggest.

I will say this though...the definition of religion has changed. It is not that people want to classify everything, rather the definition has changed. The same goes for the definition of marriage. I would imagine you would be annoyed if I were to sit here and argue that marriage is only an exchange of property, because that is what it was in ancient times, or even in some places today. Marriage in the traditional sense = exchange of property.
Definitions change. I find your definition of religion rather dogmatic.

Edited by HuttonEtAl, 04 April 2012 - 01:03 PM.

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#11    Beckys_Mom

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 01:08 PM

View PostHuttonEtAl, on 04 April 2012 - 12:58 PM, said:

Most of what you posted makes no sense according to the book. He does not make the claims you suggest.



Yes but see I don't believe and suck in all I read.. So I care not for what some author  who cannot understand what religion is   says...His ideas  do not mean all are true and must be taken in by all...If you choose to believe his words, that is your personal choice.. It does not  make it fact for everyone else


Quote

       I would imagine you would be annoyed if I were to sit here and argue that marriage is only an exchange of property, because that is what it was in ancient times, or even in some places today. Marriage in the traditional sense = exchange of property.                



Good grief.. it just gets worse  lol.....Look Marriage in the traditional sense  = Long commitment between two people who love, honour and  are loyal to each other...  Property  follows...  A dictionary would tell you that..............

I do not get why people think.. If they see some change the meaning of traditional words, this MUST mean we all must adopt and accept it  ...What a silly concept... Glad I am not tha silly...Nor do I suck in all I am told  or follow the sheep

Quote

     I find your definition of religion rather dogmatic.             

And I find yours illogical...Your personal choice is to follow and beleive n some authors words and definitions... That is your choice... Do not lump it on anyone else... Doing that makes you religious  lol Posted Image

Edited by Beckys_Mom, 04 April 2012 - 01:21 PM.

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#12    CommunitarianKevin

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 01:12 PM

View PostBeckys_Mom, on 04 April 2012 - 01:08 PM, said:

Yes but see I don't believe and suck in all I read.. So I care not for what some author  who cannot understand what religion is   says...His ideas  do not mean al are true and must be taken in by all...

Yeah, good point. You know everything you know by not reading anything. I guess all of the world's answers just magically appear in your head right? I'm sure you know more about religion that someone who actually studies it...knowing everything without reading or researching anything is dogmatic, is it not?

reply to your edit:
I held this view before I read his book. It is a view I have held since I started learning about religion. I just happened to read his book and he had the same opinion. I posted his view because everyone ignores mine.

Edited by HuttonEtAl, 04 April 2012 - 01:13 PM.

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#13    monstrum

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 01:19 PM

View Postmonstrum, on 04 April 2012 - 12:54 PM, said:

I am not a dogmatic atheist. I am rather open for a possibility of god if someone provided a proof for his existence.

You misunderstood my post. I do claim that personal atheism is not ideological by default. But I also think that personal belief in god can be non-ideological as well. What is always ideological is religion and possibly socio-political manifestations of atheism.
Finally, I am ambivalent towards ideology itself. In my opinion, it is not always a negative term. In fact, some historical moments needed ideology in order to make things work.

I want to clarify that. One socio-political manifestation of atheism is the New Atheism. Similarly, the socio-political manifestation of belief is religion. The paradox is that neither of these is actually about the philosophy it was based on. The New Atheism is not neccessarily fighting for non-belief. They are more like a right-wing ideologues who happen to have an atheistic leitmotif, a right mirror image of communists. I am not saying all of them are bad, far from it. Just as I admire some communist thinkers, I greatly admire Christopher Hitchens, for example. Maybe because he was often conscious of these dynamics and always questioning his own stance.
As of religions, they are all about retaining tribal power trough oppression. The belief in "god's truth" is far down on the priority scale.
If I am to choose between the two, I would still take the New Atheism (or rather some New Atheists) over any religion because they still belong to the humanist family of thought. Of course with reservations.


#14    monstrum

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 01:29 PM

One more thing, and this might be it for today: In regards to the OP, not only do I don't agree that atheism is a religion, I don't even think that religion is a "religion", in the sense that it has much to do with theistic philosophy, as opposed to gaining more power for a chosen few.


#15    Beckys_Mom

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 01:37 PM

View PostHuttonEtAl, on 04 April 2012 - 01:12 PM, said:

Yeah, good point. You know everything you know by not reading anything. I guess all of the world's answers just magically appear in your head right? I'm sure you know more about religion that someone who actually studies it...knowing everything without reading or researching anything is dogmatic, is it not?


I feel your problem is simple as this -   You have chosen to adopt the beliefs of some author .. You now are using these personal beliefs  to argue with others and lump them on to everyone that reads... If anyone dares to argue, you will tell them how illogical it all is and it doesn't make sense because your book author says so ....... <-- That is like what a real religious perosn will do with their holy book  filled with many words from many authors ......... ...You don't seem to see this do you?  

And no not every answer in the world appears in my head.. But I  still can think for most things myself.. I have a brain,I will use it ..  And so not assume you know what I know about religion ..I know more than you think...

And if you call the author as someone who has studies religion all because he claims football  which is a sport  .. he classes it too as a religion  more of an expert? Then  that is just your  opinion... and one you are welcome to hold ...Not one I will take on

Now  you can continue arguing with anyone that disagrees with your personal beliefs and your authors..and see if you can lump them all as religious... But you will not be able to convince everyone.. It is a personal belief you are using and  not fact....   I have seen multi threads like this before... They never win or get anywhere...   You will lean this soon enough

You began this thread.. all because you were arguing with shadow sot in another over the same thing.. Now you are looking to take on more...I wish you luck..But please do not expect me to adopt to your ideas... I am not that easy to lead down a garden path

Edited by Beckys_Mom, 04 April 2012 - 01:38 PM.

Posted ImageRAW Berris... Dare you enter?

If there's a heaven...I hope to hell I get there !




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