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That whole religion thing

I've usually called myself atheist. I called myself agnostic once on the school bus, out of cowardice. The other kids didn't know what it was, except for one who explained it was what atheists called themselves when they were chicken. This isn't true in general, but it was for me, and I felt shame, and resolved not to sell out again. I usually mean "weak atheism", "I lack belief in God" vs. "I assert there is no God"; sometimes I've gotten into arguments about atheism vs. agnosticism but really, the usage of both terms overlaps heavily, with an extension to militant atheists in one direction and can't-know-anything skeptics in the other.

And of course atheism isn't a religion, though it might have been for Madalyn Murray O'Hair, and Communism might be a sort of religion, with an atheistic component; also Objectivism, at least the way some people do it. I've dabbled in Unitarian Universalism communities but was never able to take it that seriously. Too vague and umbrella-like. Might be a nice place to hang out but I can't get to mine easily and like to sleep Sunday mornings. Well, most mornings.

On the other hand, I've known since 8 or 10 about Democritus and Epicurus, and identified fairly strongly with Epicureanism, without ever doing so publically. Felt too quaint, I guess. But really, atomism/materialism (from first principles, no less), sensation (especially touch, direct contact) as the ultimate source of truth, concentrating on enjoying this life, seeking out pleasure and avoiding pain, doubting the gods because (a) you don't see them and (b) does the world look like it's run by an omnipotent being who cares for us? No -- it's all me. Both the good questioning parts and the bad part of being a lazy ass happy to spend my life sitting in a garden and reading or chatting with friends.

So yeah, I'm Epicurean. Not quite a religion; I've called it and Stoicism "moral philosophies", Hecht (see below) calls them "graceful-life philosophies". I guess you could apply them to Communism and Objectivism or environmentalism too, depending on where you want to focus on presence of the supernatural or dogma vs. a way to live one's life and something binding (-ligio-) one to a community.

This post provoked by finishing Jennifer Michael Hecht's Doubt: A History, a big fun book on the 2600 year history of doubt, from Epicurus and Buddha to the present day, and with a notable recurring role for Epicurus and Lucretius -- including in the Aramaic words for heretic or unbeliever in the Talmud.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Aug. 1st, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC)
If there is no God then how do you atheist explain you existence and everything around you?(please respond back)
mindstalk
Aug. 1st, 2006 11:52 pm (UTC)
Existence of humans is explained by evolution. Existence of everything -- I don't know. Neither does anyone else. Saying "God did it" isn't an explanation -- what's God? why does God exist? To which the believer can only answer "I don't know". (Or with some lame arguments about why God has to exist, and be benevolent to boot, which only sound convincing to the people making such arguments.)

Some, both atheistic (Epicurean) and theistic (Hindu) speculate that the universe has always existed, possibly in cycles, no creation necessary. Others speculate that every universe which can exist does. Physicist Lee Smolin suggests an evolutionary process for universes, explaining fine-tuning. But we don't know. Possibly we can't -- what could an AI in a computer simulation know of the causes behind its world?

Of course, even if by some miracle a philosopher did manage to prove the necessity of an Intelligent Designer or Creator or Observer of All Things, that would in no way support the general truth of Christianity, vs. Brahman or Great Spirit or some creative force which hasn't even noticed human beings and couldn't care less what we get up to before we prove ourselves to be interesting by engaging in intergalactic travel, say. Without evidence fantasies can run rampant, and there is no evidence.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 2nd, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC)
Iam a christain and we dont know everything about God as for what God is, he is God. in the bible somoene asked the same question what is God? God said "Iam that Iam" he is the beggining and the end, the alpa and omega, the first and the last, he always was, God is to complex for small human minds to grasp of that question. for God to explain what he is would be like you or me explaining the internet to an ant. everything you see with your eyes was created by someone, name one thing you have in your closet that spontaneously just appeared there? did your keyboard come from space spontaneously? or did someone creat it
with their knowledge of technology? your telling me that if you dump 1000 puzzle peices scatterd on the floor, in 50 million years from then, the puzzle will be complete ot of sheer chance its impossible is it not? how much more imossible is it for an entire universe!!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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