Episode 39: Atheism and the Church

John Larsen is joined by Jason “Dr. Shades” and Lorin “The Dude” to discuss the issues of leaving the Church and arriving at atheism/agnosticism.

Episode 39

50 comments on “Episode 39: Atheism and the Church”

  1. Wes Cauthers Reply

    Another interesting podcast, John. As a postmormon theist, I have come to some different conclusions than you and this panel, but I always enjoy listening to different perspectives and keeping an open mind. I thought one of the most interesting points was made near the very end when you were discussing meaning. I often hear atheists/agnostics/non-theists say how much more meaningful life is to them because of their belief that this is all we get. But I totally agree with the panelist who said the exact opposite is probably true for the person who lives in abject poverty and suffering. In light of the fact that far more people are currently in (and have been in throughout human history) those kind of circumstances than not, I think it behooves us to consider that reality more deeply.

  2. Wes Cauthers Reply

    Another interesting podcast, John. As a postmormon theist, I have come to some different conclusions than you and this panel, but I always enjoy listening to different perspectives and keeping an open mind. I thought one of the most interesting points was made near the very end when you were discussing meaning. I often hear atheists/agnostics/non-theists say how much more meaningful life is to them because of their belief that this is all we get. But I totally agree with the panelist who said the exact opposite is probably true for the person who lives in abject poverty and suffering. In light of the fact that far more people are currently in (and have been in throughout human history) those kind of circumstances than not, I think it behooves us to consider that reality more deeply.

  3. John Larsen Reply

    Wes:

    I plan on having an upcoming episode for those who have left and are now Christians. Post-Mormon Christians, let me know if you are interested in telling your story.

  4. John Larsen Reply

    Wes:

    I plan on having an upcoming episode for those who have left and are now Christians. Post-Mormon Christians, let me know if you are interested in telling your story.

  5. Rebecca Reply

    I would say I’m Agnostic, but to me that means I still believe in God, I’m just not sure any one religion has the entire truth. I’m still not sure about Christ, I do believe he existed but I’m not sure if he’s the Savior or more of an example.

    I have to agree that it’s easier for me a Convert to the LDS Church to hold onto more of a Christian perspective because I came from one prior to becoming a member of the church; I also believe it’s harder for me to give up because Christianity has always been a part of my life. So while I’m unsure of who Jesus’ is to me anymore.. I still wonder if I’d be doing my children wrong (if I had any) if I did not baptism them.

    I’ve been attending a UU Church and it provides the sense of community and offers the opportunity for service that I needed when I left the LDS church.

    Did anyone else see the 30 days show where a Christian lived with an Atheist family? That show really opened my eyes to the idea that Atheists have values, morals and find a meaning in life without religion dictating those for them.

    Good podcast guys! I’d like to hear more about how your family accepts or doesn’t, your beliefs now.

  6. James Reply

    John , Dr Shades and the Dude

    Thanks for doing this interesting podcast.

    I also think our stand on the apostacy and understanding how the catholic church and protestant church’s began make it impossible for most members who have that basic understanding to be christians after their lds beliefs fall.

    http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/gospel/restoration/Peterson_Which_Church.htm

    But in saying that John I do have a friend who has been a bishop twice join the church of england and is very active. If you would like I can approach him and give him your details.

  7. John Larsen Reply

    Rebecca:

    My family has been attending UU services for a few years now. I even teach the 3rd graders in Sunday School. It is definitely a good transitional path.

  8. John Larsen Reply

    Rebecca:

    My family has been attending UU services for a few years now. I even teach the 3rd graders in Sunday School. It is definitely a good transitional path.

  9. Luigi Reply

    Interesting podcast as always, thanks John. I think the fact that loss of faith generally leads to agnosticism/atheism is actually a major deterrant to many people from leaving Mormonism specifically. I know for many years the fear of death and the hope that Mormonism would bring me to a ‘sure knowledge’ of the afterlife kept me gripped to it with the hope it would alleviate my fear. I also felt that fear amplified any time doubts entered my mind.

    With time though I recognized that all I ever had with Mormonism was my own mustered hope of any afterlife and there was no logical reason to attach that illogical hope with an illogical religion. This realization also made me finally accept that death is scary for everyone-whether you’re Mormon, otherwise religious or not-and that all of us deal with it the same way, by focusing on the one life we know we actually have.

  10. Luigi Reply

    Interesting podcast as always, thanks John. I think the fact that loss of faith generally leads to agnosticism/atheism is actually a major deterrant to many people from leaving Mormonism specifically. I know for many years the fear of death and the hope that Mormonism would bring me to a ‘sure knowledge’ of the afterlife kept me gripped to it with the hope it would alleviate my fear. I also felt that fear amplified any time doubts entered my mind.

    With time though I recognized that all I ever had with Mormonism was my own mustered hope of any afterlife and there was no logical reason to attach that illogical hope with an illogical religion. This realization also made me finally accept that death is scary for everyone-whether you’re Mormon, otherwise religious or not-and that all of us deal with it the same way, by focusing on the one life we know we actually have.

  11. Swearing Elder Reply

    After Mormonism, what’s left?

    I think part of why Ex-Mormons become atheists is that Mormons — faithful Mormons — already know a fair amount about why other religions aren’t “true” because of their belief in the Great Apostasy. After you’ve done the heavy lifting of dismantling Mormonism, taking apart other religious beliefs is a cakewalk.

    John, like your wife I also lost my testimony of Satan before I had completely lost any hope of believing in god.

    BTW, I almost wrecked my car as I was driving to work this morning and the discussion of “God’s anus” came up.

  12. Swearing Elder Reply

    After Mormonism, what’s left?

    I think part of why Ex-Mormons become atheists is that Mormons — faithful Mormons — already know a fair amount about why other religions aren’t “true” because of their belief in the Great Apostasy. After you’ve done the heavy lifting of dismantling Mormonism, taking apart other religious beliefs is a cakewalk.

    John, like your wife I also lost my testimony of Satan before I had completely lost any hope of believing in god.

    BTW, I almost wrecked my car as I was driving to work this morning and the discussion of “God’s anus” came up.

  13. Clay Painter Reply

    Good discussion, folks.

    As an atheist, I have a few reactions.
    The panel discussed using euphemisms for atheist; such as, non-theist, skeptic, etc etc.

    Being the stubborn person that I am, I try NOT to use such euphemisms, and I just try to use “atheist”, if questions result, then I clarify what atheist means (a lack of belief in a theistic god). It is true that there are a lot of misconceptions about what atheist means, but what hope do we have for clarifying those misconceptions if we stay away from the term? Why not try to re-claim the label?

  14. Clay Painter Reply

    Good discussion, folks.

    As an atheist, I have a few reactions.
    The panel discussed using euphemisms for atheist; such as, non-theist, skeptic, etc etc.

    Being the stubborn person that I am, I try NOT to use such euphemisms, and I just try to use “atheist”, if questions result, then I clarify what atheist means (a lack of belief in a theistic god). It is true that there are a lot of misconceptions about what atheist means, but what hope do we have for clarifying those misconceptions if we stay away from the term? Why not try to re-claim the label?

  15. Marin Reply

    Three points:

    I agree with Swearing Elder, in the mission field you learn to “bash” every other religion, especially protestantism. So when one loses their faith in Mormonism, there truely is nothing left.

    Also, if the Book Of Mormon is considered the “Keystone” of Mormonism then once that is removed, the LDS faith teaches that everything comes crashing down. Including, I would propose, ones belief in God and Jesus. This is how it is set up in the system.

    Finally, when one feels “duped” by Joseph Smith’s religion it doesn’t take long to take that same reasoning and apply it to the Bible.

    Other than that, I was amazed at how similiar (exactly actually) the road taken by the interviewees was to mine and so many others. Especially leaving when kids come along (or start to reach an age of awareness in my case) . I call this “the rubber hitting the road”.

    Great podcast. I’ve been missing this type of positive, non-bashing forum on Mormonism since John Dehlin hung up his hat.

  16. Marin Reply

    Three points:

    I agree with Swearing Elder, in the mission field you learn to “bash” every other religion, especially protestantism. So when one loses their faith in Mormonism, there truely is nothing left.

    Also, if the Book Of Mormon is considered the “Keystone” of Mormonism then once that is removed, the LDS faith teaches that everything comes crashing down. Including, I would propose, ones belief in God and Jesus. This is how it is set up in the system.

    Finally, when one feels “duped” by Joseph Smith’s religion it doesn’t take long to take that same reasoning and apply it to the Bible.

    Other than that, I was amazed at how similiar (exactly actually) the road taken by the interviewees was to mine and so many others. Especially leaving when kids come along (or start to reach an age of awareness in my case) . I call this “the rubber hitting the road”.

    Great podcast. I’ve been missing this type of positive, non-bashing forum on Mormonism since John Dehlin hung up his hat.

  17. David Clark Reply

    Marin and Swearing Elder,

    There is a huge problem with your argument that the church dismantles other religions leading to atheism as the logical choice. If you truly no longer believe in Mormonism then it’s time to throw out the Mormon arguments that “dismantle” other religions. If you don’t believe in Mormonism anymore, why think that a Great Apostacy ever happened? Similarly, all the other Mormon arguments that dismantle other religions presuppose a Mormon worldview. If you are going to throw away Mormonism then you have to throw away that worldview too.

    Now, if you come to an independent conclusion that atheism is correct, then I have no beef with that.

  18. David Clark Reply

    Marin and Swearing Elder,

    There is a huge problem with your argument that the church dismantles other religions leading to atheism as the logical choice. If you truly no longer believe in Mormonism then it’s time to throw out the Mormon arguments that “dismantle” other religions. If you don’t believe in Mormonism anymore, why think that a Great Apostacy ever happened? Similarly, all the other Mormon arguments that dismantle other religions presuppose a Mormon worldview. If you are going to throw away Mormonism then you have to throw away that worldview too.

    Now, if you come to an independent conclusion that atheism is correct, then I have no beef with that.

  19. Marin Reply

    David,

    If these arguments rely on a Mormon worldview why would they be used to teach potential converts? Joseph Smith wasn’t Mormon before, according to lds teaching, he was approached by God and Jesus and told all the other churches were false. If you work for Apple and all the while you’ve been smashing Microsoft, isn’t it hard to go and work for Microsoft? Am I missing your point? I have a feeling I am.

    All that aside, I don’t know if I ever wasn’t an athiest. I was a Mormon through and through but looking back I don’t know if my faith was ever routed in Christianity or a belief in God (My “testimony” was to be gained on the BoM and JS and from there in God). Although I will admit I have now read Sam Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens as well as some other stuff on ancient “jesus mysteries” and gnostisism and I think my “athiesm” is now better founded in a non-lds worldview.

  20. Marin Reply

    David,

    If these arguments rely on a Mormon worldview why would they be used to teach potential converts? Joseph Smith wasn’t Mormon before, according to lds teaching, he was approached by God and Jesus and told all the other churches were false. If you work for Apple and all the while you’ve been smashing Microsoft, isn’t it hard to go and work for Microsoft? Am I missing your point? I have a feeling I am.

    All that aside, I don’t know if I ever wasn’t an athiest. I was a Mormon through and through but looking back I don’t know if my faith was ever routed in Christianity or a belief in God (My “testimony” was to be gained on the BoM and JS and from there in God). Although I will admit I have now read Sam Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens as well as some other stuff on ancient “jesus mysteries” and gnostisism and I think my “athiesm” is now better founded in a non-lds worldview.

  21. lump Reply

    David,

    I echo what Marin said. Also, some of the apologetics or strategies used by missionaries seem logical. Even your example of the apostacy. While catholicism may claim an unbroken chain from Peter to Pope Benedict XVI, their proof has lots of holes in it including numerous popes in the dark ages that were very un-pope like.

    Another example is the Trinity. Before losing much of my faith in Moism, I would engage in debate with Fundamentalist Christians regarding their doctrine of the Trinity. It typically ended as a stalemate. I mean how does a Trinitarian really explain Acts 7:55-56?

    So when one abandons Moism and the visions and miracles from the 1820-1840’s, how is it easy to embrace the miracles of the Bible from 2000 years ago? It really isn’t that easy in my mind and the trail to agnosticism/atheism is a more logical/reasonable choice.

  22. lump Reply

    David,

    I echo what Marin said. Also, some of the apologetics or strategies used by missionaries seem logical. Even your example of the apostacy. While catholicism may claim an unbroken chain from Peter to Pope Benedict XVI, their proof has lots of holes in it including numerous popes in the dark ages that were very un-pope like.

    Another example is the Trinity. Before losing much of my faith in Moism, I would engage in debate with Fundamentalist Christians regarding their doctrine of the Trinity. It typically ended as a stalemate. I mean how does a Trinitarian really explain Acts 7:55-56?

    So when one abandons Moism and the visions and miracles from the 1820-1840’s, how is it easy to embrace the miracles of the Bible from 2000 years ago? It really isn’t that easy in my mind and the trail to agnosticism/atheism is a more logical/reasonable choice.

  23. David Clark Reply

    Marin,

    A Mormon worldview was used to teach potential converts for two reasons. First, it’s the only thing the missionaries know, what other worldview are they going to utilize when teaching potential converts? Second, you want the potential convert to accept a Mormon worldview, so again why would you teach them anything other than a Mormon worldview? My point is that if you no longer accept the Mormon worldview, why do you think that its arguments are in any way valid.

    As for your observation that you were probably always an atheist, that may be true. So much of LDS doctrine and practice concentrate on ancillary issues that God and Jesus get lost in the mix at times.

    As for your reading material, I would suggest that if you are going to be an atheist then I would read people who take atheism seriously. Start with Nietzsche. Any of the atheist existentialists (Sartre, Camus) would also be good starting points as well. By serious, I mean someone who is interested in pursuing all of the ramifications of a thorough atheism.

  24. David Clark Reply

    Marin,

    A Mormon worldview was used to teach potential converts for two reasons. First, it’s the only thing the missionaries know, what other worldview are they going to utilize when teaching potential converts? Second, you want the potential convert to accept a Mormon worldview, so again why would you teach them anything other than a Mormon worldview? My point is that if you no longer accept the Mormon worldview, why do you think that its arguments are in any way valid.

    As for your observation that you were probably always an atheist, that may be true. So much of LDS doctrine and practice concentrate on ancillary issues that God and Jesus get lost in the mix at times.

    As for your reading material, I would suggest that if you are going to be an atheist then I would read people who take atheism seriously. Start with Nietzsche. Any of the atheist existentialists (Sartre, Camus) would also be good starting points as well. By serious, I mean someone who is interested in pursuing all of the ramifications of a thorough atheism.

  25. David Clark Reply

    lump,

    So you abandon “Moism” yet you still think that Mormons had the better end of the argument when it came to missionary arguments and apologetics? Doesn’t that strike you as just a little bit weird?

    Mormon arguments for a Great Apostacy only convince other Mormons. If you really still think those arguments are persuasive then you are still thinking like a Mormon. And, why are you no longer one if you think like one? If you chuck Mormonism you have to reevaluate the arguments that Mormons make.

    As for your question about Acts 7, do you really think that other religions don’t have an explanation for what is going on here? Again, you are still reading scripture like a Mormon, so why aren’t you one?

    As for the question about miracles, again you have to take a step back from your Mormon worldview. Mormons are fundamentalists, they insist that the miracles either happened as recorded or everything about scripture and belief is crap. Well, there are lots of non-fundamentlist believers (myself included) who think that’s a false dichotomy and completely misses the point of the miracle stories. A good step might be to investigate what scholars and more sophisticated believers make of these stories and how they read them in the modern world. Heck, even early Christian and medieval scholars tended to be more sophisticated in their readings of the Bible than do many modern fundamentalists.

  26. David Clark Reply

    lump,

    So you abandon “Moism” yet you still think that Mormons had the better end of the argument when it came to missionary arguments and apologetics? Doesn’t that strike you as just a little bit weird?

    Mormon arguments for a Great Apostacy only convince other Mormons. If you really still think those arguments are persuasive then you are still thinking like a Mormon. And, why are you no longer one if you think like one? If you chuck Mormonism you have to reevaluate the arguments that Mormons make.

    As for your question about Acts 7, do you really think that other religions don’t have an explanation for what is going on here? Again, you are still reading scripture like a Mormon, so why aren’t you one?

    As for the question about miracles, again you have to take a step back from your Mormon worldview. Mormons are fundamentalists, they insist that the miracles either happened as recorded or everything about scripture and belief is crap. Well, there are lots of non-fundamentlist believers (myself included) who think that’s a false dichotomy and completely misses the point of the miracle stories. A good step might be to investigate what scholars and more sophisticated believers make of these stories and how they read them in the modern world. Heck, even early Christian and medieval scholars tended to be more sophisticated in their readings of the Bible than do many modern fundamentalists.

  27. Marin Reply

    David,

    Thanks for the reading suggestions. I’ll check them out. I am definitely an amature when it comes to my athiest reading.

  28. Marin Reply

    David,

    Thanks for the reading suggestions. I’ll check them out. I am definitely an amature when it comes to my athiest reading.

  29. lump Reply

    David,

    Perhaps we’re not that far apart when we get to the bottom of the argument.

    While I may not truly believe in any deity, I am still involved in the church. I attend regularly and hold a somewhat significant calling (but one that does not require that I bear my testimony). The bishop is aware of my non-belief and my dear wife is happy that I attend meetings on Sunday with her.

    I’m reminded of a grandfather of one of my cousins. He was married in the temple and was true to his wife. Sometime after his marraige he decided that the mainstream LDS church had gone astray and began to believe that the fundamentalist (polygamist) factions had it right. After that time he never held a temple recommend, but stayed with his wife. Upon her death he left S. Idaho and joined with the FLDS in Colorado City.

    I find similarities to my situation. If I outlive my wife, I doubt that I will continue active in the LDS church. But who knows. In some ways it is part of my heritage, even if I can’t believe or support the doctrine. What I’m quite sure will not happen would be any involvement in other Christian religions; just won’t happen.

  30. lump Reply

    David,

    Perhaps we’re not that far apart when we get to the bottom of the argument.

    While I may not truly believe in any deity, I am still involved in the church. I attend regularly and hold a somewhat significant calling (but one that does not require that I bear my testimony). The bishop is aware of my non-belief and my dear wife is happy that I attend meetings on Sunday with her.

    I’m reminded of a grandfather of one of my cousins. He was married in the temple and was true to his wife. Sometime after his marraige he decided that the mainstream LDS church had gone astray and began to believe that the fundamentalist (polygamist) factions had it right. After that time he never held a temple recommend, but stayed with his wife. Upon her death he left S. Idaho and joined with the FLDS in Colorado City.

    I find similarities to my situation. If I outlive my wife, I doubt that I will continue active in the LDS church. But who knows. In some ways it is part of my heritage, even if I can’t believe or support the doctrine. What I’m quite sure will not happen would be any involvement in other Christian religions; just won’t happen.

  31. Swearing Elder Reply

    “If you truly no longer believe in Mormonism then it’s time to throw out the Mormon arguments that “dismantle” other religions.”

    Well, once you know something about other religions you can’t really unring the bell. Yes, when you throw out the Mormon arguments that includes the Great Apostasy. But, if the religious practices and doctrines are still, on their face, absurd, well then they’re absurd no matter what.

    Part of why so many exMormons become atheists is that unwrapping the church’s package means you become an expert of unwrapping other packages. It’s not hard to see through other defenses of belief in god/God.

  32. Swearing Elder Reply

    “If you truly no longer believe in Mormonism then it’s time to throw out the Mormon arguments that “dismantle” other religions.”

    Well, once you know something about other religions you can’t really unring the bell. Yes, when you throw out the Mormon arguments that includes the Great Apostasy. But, if the religious practices and doctrines are still, on their face, absurd, well then they’re absurd no matter what.

    Part of why so many exMormons become atheists is that unwrapping the church’s package means you become an expert of unwrapping other packages. It’s not hard to see through other defenses of belief in god/God.

  33. FJ Cannon worshipper Reply

    Just listened, what a great topic. Lump, I’m fascinated by the fact that you are able to hold a calling while having no belief. My last attempt to participate in the Church a few years ago collapsed when I eventually asked the Bishop for an interview, and confessed a series of doubts about Church dogmas such as grave doubts about Joseph Smith as a translator (althouth not at that time extending to any atheist position); the interview ended with me being released from my very light responsibility as ward ‘program coordinator’ (all I did was make the programs for each Sunday). All for the best, and it was amicable in my case, I had just recognised that I no longer fit with the group, and the Bishop did too; he said he “thought I was a good man” in the interview.
    But it’s interesting that in some cases the local authorities find it best to encourage participation, in others to push the person away.

  34. FJ Cannon worshipper Reply

    Just listened, what a great topic. Lump, I’m fascinated by the fact that you are able to hold a calling while having no belief. My last attempt to participate in the Church a few years ago collapsed when I eventually asked the Bishop for an interview, and confessed a series of doubts about Church dogmas such as grave doubts about Joseph Smith as a translator (althouth not at that time extending to any atheist position); the interview ended with me being released from my very light responsibility as ward ‘program coordinator’ (all I did was make the programs for each Sunday). All for the best, and it was amicable in my case, I had just recognised that I no longer fit with the group, and the Bishop did too; he said he “thought I was a good man” in the interview.
    But it’s interesting that in some cases the local authorities find it best to encourage participation, in others to push the person away.

  35. Gunnar R. Reply

    I just discovered your website today and enjoyed this podcast in particular. I found the views expressed by all three of you to be very similar to mine. You talked about “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” I disagree with the view that “there is no baby, it is all bathwater.” The baby that we should not throw out with the bathwater is the importance (discussed by all of you) of dealing honestly and charitably with our fellow beings, and sharing our joy and good fortune with others. As I am sure you all agree, this is ultimately more conducive to real happiness and well-being than any material gain, power or influence that could possibly be attained by deliberately harming or taking unfair advantage of others, whether or not there is any such thing as God or a hereafter. I feel deeply sorry for people who seem unable to figure this out on their own, and suffer the delusion that the sure route to happiness is to amass as much material wealth and power as they can, no matter how many they have to hurt or cheat to get it.

    If the church would judge our worthiness solely on how committed we are to this principle and how well we live and practice it, and not on whether we believe the nonsensical religious dogma it expects us to believe, I would have no problem with it. I’m sure that those who live that principle without any expectation of a reward in the hereafter for doing so, or fear of punishment for not doing so, are much more deserving of such reward than those who do so in expectation of reward or punisment after they die.

    Like you guys, I doubt there is a life after death, but I would not be be disappointed to wake up after dying to find myself reunited with my wonderful and much beloved parents, whom I miss terribly, not to mention having my beloved wife and children eventually join me. I find it impossible to believe, however, that getting to experience that depends on what my religious beliefs during this life were, or whether I belonged to any particular religion.

  36. lump Reply

    FJ Cannon worshipper,

    I guess everyone has a different way of approaching their faith or lack thereof.

    10+ years ago I was a counselor in the bishopric when I couldn’t function as such any more and was released from that calling after a few visits with the Stake Pres. I subsequently had some callings in that ward including husband of RS president (lol), chorister, asst clerk, etc.

    We were living outside Utah at the time. We then moved to Utah. I was totally inactive for 6 months or so as my wife did not join me until later. I began attending after that. I am still not sure how I was convinced to take the calling I have, but I guess it was in a moment of weakness. I would be lying if I said there were not some moments of cognitive dissonance, but by and large I am at peace with myself and my situation.

  37. lump Reply

    FJ Cannon worshipper,

    I guess everyone has a different way of approaching their faith or lack thereof.

    10+ years ago I was a counselor in the bishopric when I couldn’t function as such any more and was released from that calling after a few visits with the Stake Pres. I subsequently had some callings in that ward including husband of RS president (lol), chorister, asst clerk, etc.

    We were living outside Utah at the time. We then moved to Utah. I was totally inactive for 6 months or so as my wife did not join me until later. I began attending after that. I am still not sure how I was convinced to take the calling I have, but I guess it was in a moment of weakness. I would be lying if I said there were not some moments of cognitive dissonance, but by and large I am at peace with myself and my situation.

  38. NightAvatar Reply

    David Clark,

    I appreciate your position and that you share your views so eloquently and non-judgmentally. However, your advice about “atheist reading material” was completely unnecessary on the grounds of this statement: “I mean someone who is interested in pursuing all of the ramifications of a thorough atheism.”

    I am interested to hear which “ramifications” you have in mind.

    You insinuate that atheism as just another form of religion. Well, atheism isn’t another religion any more than walking is a brand of car. You appear to be thinking of atheism from a 19th century politicians’ point of view.

    Today, atheism is pure and simple: A lack of belief in any form of god.

    Nietzsche has some very illuminating and worthwhile writings, most notably “Beyond Good and Evil” which is superb reading. However I would certainly not agree that reading Nietzsche is mandatory reading for anybody who claims to be an atheist. Any more than reading the Book of Mormon should be standard reading for anybody who claims to be a Christian.

    Besides, isn’t it more important and more relevant for people living today to read writings from today’s leading atheist figures? That includes the three Marin mentioned, especially Hitchens who is very much a public figure in both politics and religion.

    One reason many atheists today might discount Nietzsche, is because he was not only critical of religion but almost equally critical of science. Today’s atheists are far more accepting of science, at least today’s science. (It has changed a lot since Nietzsche, who died over 100 years ago!) Nietzsche was fond of mocking almost everybody, including philosophers (the ones he called “new philosophers”) and so often he seems to be simply rambling off complaints and criticism about anybody who thinks they know anything at all. Personally I found it quite fun to read but seriously, this man and his writings do not represent atheism today, although there are obviously many parallels. I would compare some of his writings to reading Psalms. Many golden nuggets of wisdom who anybody could agree with.

    I should also note that even Richard Dawkins has stated that, on a scale of 0-9, where 0 is complete disbelief (zero possibility of a god) and 9 being complete certainty that there is one (you have seen him, shaken his hand, etc) Dawkins himself claims only to be a 1. He doesn’t think there is a god but agrees it may be possible, though he rates the likelihood equal to chances that pixies live in his back yard.

    Regarding miracles, without them what makes Jesus special? I assume you include his resurrection as one of the major miracles? And the virgin birth? So if he was “just a man” why should we worship him or treat him any different than any philosopher, leader, moralist? I don’t follow your thinking here. Or are you subscribing to the new age religions who believe in reincarnation or the physical manifestation of god’s love?

    That isn’t Christianity, is it? But if it works for you, go for it! 🙂

    I think Swearing Elder said it best: “Part of why so many exMormons become atheists is that unwrapping the church’s package means you become an expert of unwrapping other packages. It’s not hard to see through other defenses of belief in god/God.”

  39. NightAvatar Reply

    David Clark,

    I appreciate your position and that you share your views so eloquently and non-judgmentally. However, your advice about “atheist reading material” was completely unnecessary on the grounds of this statement: “I mean someone who is interested in pursuing all of the ramifications of a thorough atheism.”

    I am interested to hear which “ramifications” you have in mind.

    You insinuate that atheism as just another form of religion. Well, atheism isn’t another religion any more than walking is a brand of car. You appear to be thinking of atheism from a 19th century politicians’ point of view.

    Today, atheism is pure and simple: A lack of belief in any form of god.

    Nietzsche has some very illuminating and worthwhile writings, most notably “Beyond Good and Evil” which is superb reading. However I would certainly not agree that reading Nietzsche is mandatory reading for anybody who claims to be an atheist. Any more than reading the Book of Mormon should be standard reading for anybody who claims to be a Christian.

    Besides, isn’t it more important and more relevant for people living today to read writings from today’s leading atheist figures? That includes the three Marin mentioned, especially Hitchens who is very much a public figure in both politics and religion.

    One reason many atheists today might discount Nietzsche, is because he was not only critical of religion but almost equally critical of science. Today’s atheists are far more accepting of science, at least today’s science. (It has changed a lot since Nietzsche, who died over 100 years ago!) Nietzsche was fond of mocking almost everybody, including philosophers (the ones he called “new philosophers”) and so often he seems to be simply rambling off complaints and criticism about anybody who thinks they know anything at all. Personally I found it quite fun to read but seriously, this man and his writings do not represent atheism today, although there are obviously many parallels. I would compare some of his writings to reading Psalms. Many golden nuggets of wisdom who anybody could agree with.

    I should also note that even Richard Dawkins has stated that, on a scale of 0-9, where 0 is complete disbelief (zero possibility of a god) and 9 being complete certainty that there is one (you have seen him, shaken his hand, etc) Dawkins himself claims only to be a 1. He doesn’t think there is a god but agrees it may be possible, though he rates the likelihood equal to chances that pixies live in his back yard.

    Regarding miracles, without them what makes Jesus special? I assume you include his resurrection as one of the major miracles? And the virgin birth? So if he was “just a man” why should we worship him or treat him any different than any philosopher, leader, moralist? I don’t follow your thinking here. Or are you subscribing to the new age religions who believe in reincarnation or the physical manifestation of god’s love?

    That isn’t Christianity, is it? But if it works for you, go for it! 🙂

    I think Swearing Elder said it best: “Part of why so many exMormons become atheists is that unwrapping the church’s package means you become an expert of unwrapping other packages. It’s not hard to see through other defenses of belief in god/God.”

  40. Erico Reply

    Like Zilpha, my belief in God also unraveled with no longer believing in the Devil. Even before I lost my faith in Mormonism I thought it was suspicious that the Devil was tempting people when he could so easily thwart the plan of salvation by simply doing nothing – walking away. So that led me to believe that the Devil was secretly on God’s payroll, and that somehow the Devil would be redeemed by God after the end of the world for his role in helping perfect humanity.

    Obviously that view does not square with Mormonism or any other mainstream Christian group. The next domino to fall was my lack of belief in a personal god who bends the universe to the whims of a shortsighted human’s prayer. Total rubbish. So then I became a deist. After that I studied science and realized what a terrible job the deist god had done in designing the universe. After that revelation, it was all over. Hello atheism.

  41. Erico Reply

    Like Zilpha, my belief in God also unraveled with no longer believing in the Devil. Even before I lost my faith in Mormonism I thought it was suspicious that the Devil was tempting people when he could so easily thwart the plan of salvation by simply doing nothing – walking away. So that led me to believe that the Devil was secretly on God’s payroll, and that somehow the Devil would be redeemed by God after the end of the world for his role in helping perfect humanity.

    Obviously that view does not square with Mormonism or any other mainstream Christian group. The next domino to fall was my lack of belief in a personal god who bends the universe to the whims of a shortsighted human’s prayer. Total rubbish. So then I became a deist. After that I studied science and realized what a terrible job the deist god had done in designing the universe. After that revelation, it was all over. Hello atheism.

  42. Zèle Chyrème Reply

    I’m a Monist. I believe in the perpetual, necessary, self-actualization of Being; each particular thing participating in It according to its role, or measure; and good and bad corresponding to what is good for, and bad for, such particular things.

    Also, I disagree with the sort of dogmatically egalitarian/relativist notion according to which all religions or worldviews are said to be similar vehicles of a basic intrinsic morality. Seems obvious to me that worldviews exist because they are adaptive, and are adaptive at least because they provide in-group solidarity, which easily translates into predatory attitudes towards outgroups, and the ideological, moral, legitimation of such predatory acts. A clear example of this is the Islamic institutionalization as an the essential virtue of the murdering, or at least enslaving, all non-followers-of-a-main-Abrahamic-religion refusing to convert (Muslims say “revert,” as they claim all people are in fact born Muslim), as well as of the dhimma, i.e. “protected” – from whom if not the Muslim ‘protectors’ ? – status of second-rate citizens for followers-of-a-main-Abrahamic-religion-that-is-not-Islam (other religions being more or less formally added for practical reasons, such as the Muslim failure to easily exterminate the great Hindu masses, not for lack of effort, and greater interest in parasitically living of their work) including punitive taxation (jaziah), ritual humiliation (dhilla), interdiction on bearing arms, or rebuilding crumbling religious infrastructures or building new ones (see the “Pact of Umar,” for instance, which stipulations’ the Muslims have the impudence to claim were asked for by the Christians)… And I won’t even go into the Islamic harem industry. I refer those who are interested in Islamic spoliation and sadism to this internet book, for instance, and the sheer mass of material readily available is enormous (as is the mass of apologetic lies, of course) : http://islamicexpansionanddecline.blogspot.com/2007/04/theory-of-islamic-expansion-and-decline.html

    Obviously, a great advantage, at least in the short to medium term, and that is always a precondition of any longer-term, can be gained in terms of wealth, power, glory, reproductory success, confort… by killing off rivals, by exploiting dominated foreigners, by castrating them and empregnating their wifes…

    That said, there may well be counter-types that incorporate in their ideology the opposite of this traditional worldview function, generating a tension between its working as a worldview and supporter of in-group favoritism still, as it is a worldview, and its working as a delegitimation of worldview and in-group favoritism as well, as that is the actual content of the worldview. And here, very obviously to me at least, the pacifist, universalist, anomian if not antinomian, suicided Christian God of love and altruism directly comes to mind.

    More generally, I hold Judaism to be profoundly, about equally, sadistic and masochistic; Christianity to be both as well, but mostly masochistic; and Islam to be both again, but mostly sadistic. And I think there is a single, unacceptable, morbid and nihilistic, logic at work in the dialectical deployment of the three. Judaic iconoclastic ‘monotheism’ (itself a bastard child of Mazdeism, Assyrianism, Judean imperialism… and maybe even Platonism – the historico-critical datation work on the Bible now permits) as a form of reification, of idolatry, of impossible nothingness, engendering attitudes of extreme self-righeous impudence (i.e. “I am of the only people of the only God, and if you beat me at something, you are naught but an ancillary instrument of my God punishing me for not having realized enough that I am of the only people of the only God, and for having not acted enough in accordance with such a thing; and even then, all my enemies will be extinguished, after they boil for something akin to an eternity in boiling feces and the such, while I will be resurrected to administer in the heavenly kingdom of God on Earth for eternity…”) bound to produce both hostility and fascination, and hence achieve notoriety and infiltrate societies, and gain proselytes who want in. Christianity as a bastard child of Judaism, the Julius Caesar martyr and god cult, Traditional Indo-European religious conceptions… and even it now seems perhaps Buddhism. A mitigated judaism-light, and weakening, and hyper-proselytistic, for the “gentiles.” Both less nihilistic than Judaism (the whole Christ as Verb, or Logos, i.e. the very logic of creation; and the Incarnation principle as such which affirms a possibility of the unity of the sacred and worldly; and the Trinity principle which affirms a unified variety in the principle of all things; etc.) but also much more radically so in particular in one dimension: morality (the whole “love your enemy;” omnipotent lord choosing to manifest himself decisively as a leftist virgin rabbi agonizing, whining and promising eternal bliss to hoodlums dying nearby him; the whole dissolution of the self à la “there is no Jew nor Greek, no man nor woman… for all are one in Christ Jesus;” etc.). And thus Christianity is both acceptable enough to have massively spread, and nefarious enough, to have paved the way for number 3. Islam being a hardcore, brutish-judaism for the “gentiles,” having returned to the Ancient Testament all the while keeping some elements of Christinity (especially the notion of religious expansionism) both much more nihilistic than Christianity (back to the single Null idol; extreme internally-egalitarian and suprematist vis-à-vis the exterior, reality and culture negating, dogmatism, iconoclam, and sectarianism; etc.) but without the inherent constraints on practical hubris of Judaism (limited demography, inability to be and remain territorially sovereign, and such) and thus taking on a morality just as abjectely sadistic as the Christian morality is abjectly masochistic. The latter in fact called the former into existence as a logical compensation on one dimension, and furthering on the other – it paved its way.

    I am here talking in ideal-types, or the essences of the mentioned religions; but obviously, history is made of continual conjugations and accomodations of a number of interacting dynamics, and deploys more like a sort of spiral, perhaps, rather some straight line; and these religions have even modified each other, at least for a time (e.g. the Crusades as a reaction against, and imitation of, Islamic Jihad). But I believe I have the basic, general pattern and trend of these religions right.

    I could call this a process of human dehumanization, and of tendential transformation of the world into an open-air extermination camp, or simply hell.

    But then I might be accused of dramatizing things a bit. ^^

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