or Connect
CHUD.com Community › Forums › POLITICS & RELIGION › Religion A-Z › I'm not an Atheist, but I don't believe in "God."
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

I'm not an Atheist, but I don't believe in "God."

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
At least not the mass-marketed, "Magic Man in the Sky" sort of God. I had a discussion with a friend today and he kept asking me "What do you believe?" and he wanted a concise, to-the-point answer and I realized that I can't give one. Mainly because what I believe is something I've been piecing together on my own my entire life, comprised of similar discussions with people from all sorts of religious backgrounds and weighing what makes sense to me and what doesn't. The problem is I think I've gone as far as I can go on my own and in my own scope of logic and reason and I think it's time to branch out and see what other people are saying and if in fact there's a quantifiable "label" with which I can answer that question.

So, without further ado - What I Believe, by Jeremy G. Butler:

I believe in something bigger than us. You can call it God, or fate or The Universe, but I do whole-heartedly believe that there are forces at play that go way beyond our comprehension of existence. Forces that provide us with opportunities, leaving it to us to decide how or if to capitalize on them. My mom likes to say "The Universe has a way of helping you work everything out as long as you're open to it." I can get behind that. I believe in science to its utmost believability, but there are things that science just can not explain. I believe in ghosts and aliens and evolution and I can't subscribe to a belief system that forces me to discount those things or write them off as "tests of faith." I believe in a person's soul. I believe that what happens to your soul after you die is dictated by the choices you make in life. And by "what happens," I don't mean whether you go to Heaven or Hell. I don't believe in the authoritative "Higher Power" - I don't believe there is something waiting to judge us for punishment or reward after we die. I believe that the choices you make on Earth as far as your religion and spirituality are what you invest in your soul and your soul in turn cashes in that investment once you die. A sort of "Pick Your Own Afterlife" if you will. And not in the sense where you show up in the afterlife and "God" says "Okay Jeremy, so what do you wanna do now?", but that you make that choice while you're alive.

For example - if you spend your entire life as a Christian believing that this life is temporary and that your REAL life begins in the afterlife and you're gonna go to Heaven or Hell, then that's what you've created for your soul and that's the choice you've made. Same with Buddhism or Hinduism with karma and reincarnation. If that's the spiritual investment you've made in yourself and that's what you truly believe, then that's what you've set yourself up for. Same goes with atheists. If you don't believe in anything and don't make any spiritual investment, then that's what you get in return. There's no reward and there's no punishment, there's just a return on the investments you make in yourself.

Maybe that's me saying that we're God. But if God made us in his own image, then why not? I FEEL like that's a bit reductive, but then again I feel like people give "God" too much credit. I do believe in something much, much bigger than we are, but I believe it to be neutral. I don't believe in Organized Religion, I don't believe in stringent rule books and the "I'm right, you're wrong" mentality. I don't even care about the "What if you're wrong" question. I don't believe in compromising what makes sense to me for a spiritual insurance policy. Again, I don't believe that "God" needs to be personified and I tend to believe that the people who leave it up to God to judge them are people who can't fathom having to make their own decisions in a plane of existence they can't even begin to understand. I can't begin to understand it either, but a) I'm okay with that and b) again - that's why we make the choices now.

So, my questions: 1) Where should I turn to help me sort all of that jumbled mess out and 2) in all honesty - where does that leave me? What do you believe if you essentially believe in everything?

I know this is REALLY rambly but again, I've gotten to the point where I don't think I can figure any more out on my own and I'm weighing myself down with questions I don't know how to answer. Plus it's 3:30am and I've been up and going since 7. I wouldn't expect me to make a ton of sense right now anyway.
post #2 of 17
I wouldn't say you "believe in everything", I think you've essentially studied all the extremities to try and reach a midpoint. I think I'd agree with you on the idea that there's no reason to necessarily doubt a higher, more complex power at work that we cannot understand, but that today's conception of it is just simple and crude and reflects people's imaginations than anything else. I think the issue is that people are hard at work trying to define the existence of a higher power in their own terms.

Too many religions focus entirely on "this is God, this is what it looks like, this is what it does" and your entire fate rests on accepting these weird shallow presumptions. None ever acknowledge the idea that if God does exist, then how would anyone be able to even describe it ? There would obviously be nothing like it on this planet to compare it to. Which is why I often call BS on any conception of a higher power that's a variation of the "God is a being in the sky", or that God would be a "being" at all. Or that if a higher power existed it would judge you the way a human being would.

I think if an afterlife did exist it would simply be an extension of the rules here. Which is that once one upsets any kind of balance in nature there are negative consequences. For example, the crudest example I can give is that if you eat healthy and your body is balanced and functioning properly, you'll maintain a healthy body. You start over indulging in over consumption or deprivation and you'll make yourself sick or obese or anorexic. If any functions in your body get hyper active or lethargic, you'll also develop disorders. No one ever thinks of these things as "punishments", but simply natural consequences of imbalance.

I'd say if a "soul" did exist, then it also needs some kind of balance in terms of certain things, and it's something you condition in life but you do not sense it till you no longer have your body and all you're left with is your soul.

This is all hypothetical, but what I'm saying is that if these things did exist, and you wanted to place them within the realm of what we know now of life, then, in my opinion, this is how it would play out.
post #3 of 17
too long; didn't read you creepy sky-wizard believin' hillbilly. God, you people.

No, seriously, I used to be in the same boat as you belief-wise - I was sick with homicidal rage with the antics and self-righteousness of the Southern Baptist church, didn't have the patience to go sit in the pews of the Episcopalian church every Sunday even though they were generally cooler, and was overall just sick of God and Jesus.

When I got the inevitable "Are you saved" question, I'd hit back with a response terrifyingly similar to what you wrote (though with a little more props to the Native American concept of the Great Spirit just to jab these assholes and remind them that their beliefs weren't first), and I'd immediately get fucking eviscerated (mostly by SBC members, mind) because it didn't hit all the right bible-thumpin' bells.

Now that I've moved to L.A. and don't have people hounding me about it every five seconds like they do (seriously, I don't know if it's that bad in your area, but Canton was UNBEARABLE w/r/t this), I've totally disregarded Steve Perry's advice and just stopped believing in general. I still stick with the general moral code of "Treat others like you'd want to be treated, be kickass, respect women/elders without being condescending, don't rape/kill/steal", but again that stuff seems to be more general common sense than outright religious sentiment.

So I haven't really had a crisis of faith yet because I haven't taken the time to think about it. I totally don't miss the inherent guilt, the constant browbeating, the theological dickmeasuring that happens too often in the church, and the blatant hypocrisy of lots of people who use their religion as a crutch to be total fucks for six days and 22-23 hours out of the week.

I figure that I'm here, breathing, healthy, not a complete idiot, not horribly unfuckable, and that's enough to get me through for now despite my current quarter-life crisis (lollerskates) that I seem to be unwillingly wafting through, and that I'd rather deal with the immediate, physical manifestations of my existential issues than the metaphysical at this point in time.

Maybe I'll have better advice in the future, but religion's just one of those things that I'm not really all that concerned with right now, because it's just nice to not have to deal with stuff related to that for once. :P

So to end my own long-winded reply and actually answer your questions:

- As far as where to turn, I think just talking about it is good if you have the right audience, and sometimes not having the right audience helps too, if that makes sense. Sort of a test of your Swiss Army Faith, if you will. Go to the library and dick around in the philosophy/religion section. Write about stuff that bugs you or stuff that you're curious about. Even just thinking about it is a bigger step than most people who subscribe to conventional organized religions do all day.

- Where it leaves you: I'd say it leaves you in a pretty awesome place, because you don't have all of the aforementioned baggage AND you have the self-awareness that your beliefs CAN and probably WILL change over time, and there's honestly nothing wrong with that. Just stick to being an awesome person with a pretty good barometer of right and wrong and I don't really think you'll go astray.
post #4 of 17
I was, along with my sister a...Forced Catholic. My mom was dragged to church as a child, and she did the same with my sister and I. Once a week I went to an hour of catholic studies or CCD. I did this for 8 years, and did get my confirmation, but in the 8 years, I only learned...3/4 ths of one prayer. For some reason my mom was incredibly angry at learning I knew only the one prayer. I of course was extremely...amused by this. My sister became an atheist, while I have not gone since I was a teen. I am not an atheist, but I do not pray to some higher power either.
post #5 of 17
Fleed: A Real Human Being?

Here in Cincinnati, a billboard was put up recently that said "Don't believe in God? You're not Alone". I was immediately intrigued. Turns out it's for www.cinCoR.org, a humanist society that meets once a month to discuss art, science, politics, and religion, but not to sit around and bash God. Why bash something that doesn't exist? I'm planning on attending next month's meeting.

Meanwhile, I'm at home having a lazy Saturday last weekend and I hear a knock at my door. Turns out it's some door-to-door baptists spreading the good word. I'd like to say I went to town on them, but instead I took the easy way out and told them my wife and I are members of a Presbyterean church. Which is kind of true, she's a member but we never attend. That wasn't enough to defer them, however, as they were so concerned with my immortal soul! Eventually I had to say "I'm comfortable with my religious life" and slammed the door. Then closed the blinds and hid in the bathroom.
post #6 of 17
Who am I to bother god with a wish list? I keep out of his way and he keeps out of mine. fair is fair. It's a great understanding.

Good move Bartleby! While I was at Purdue I told a baptists I did not believe in god and just shut the door, and went back to my girlfriend to comment more sin.
post #7 of 17
I used to be in the same boat. Being ready to believe in just about anything and not really believing in nothing. Then I realized I was just delaying the inevitable. I took the plunge, admitted to myself what I really felt and I've been a better person since.

I believe in what can be objectively experienced or logically deduced. That means no gods, devils, karma, afterlife, ghosts, spirits or souls of any sort. You begin when you're born and end when you die. The only afterlife exists in the thoughts of the people you leave behind, so make it a point of leaving them better off than when you found them. There will not be any other reward for your acts than the happiness of the people around you.

That's it.
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stelios View Post
I used to be in the same boat. Being ready to believe in just about anything and not really believing in nothing. Then I realized I was just delaying the inevitable. I took the plunge, admitted to myself what I really felt and I've been a better person since.

I believe in what can be objectively experienced or logically deduced. That means no gods, devils, karma, afterlife, ghosts, spirits or souls of any sort. You begin when you're born and end when you die. The only afterlife exists in the thoughts of the people you leave behind, so make it a point of leaving them better off than when you found them. There will not be any other reward for your acts than the happiness of the people around you.

That's it.
I took that plunge a few years ago and realized that I really couldn't get behind it. There are too many ancillary things that I DO believe in and too many things that I've seen that don't mesh with the belief in nothing. Which isn't to say that I'm right or you're wrong - it just doesn't work for me. All of these beliefs came from somewhere and are rooted in something and it doesn't make sense to me that every single one was just pulled out of thin air. I think it would be dismissive of a lot of things to just say that we're all there is. I DO keep an open mind to science and realize that what can't be proven today can very well be proven in ten years, but there's some weird and wonderful things going on and until science tells me otherwise, I like the idea that there's something else behind a lot of it. And to look at Jake's response - I do wonder how I'd let my whole train of thought be affected by a relocation. Obviously I'm stuck in the middle of the Bible Belt so it's something that's almost always in my face, even if it isn't abrasive or oppressive. So I spend a lot of time thinking (and rambling) about it.
post #9 of 17
It goes without saying that what I wrote was simply my personal beliefs and in no means do I consider them some sort of guideline for others.
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by JGButler View Post
I took that plunge a few years ago and realized that I really couldn't get behind it. There are too many ancillary things that I DO believe in and too many things that I've seen that don't mesh with the belief in nothing. Which isn't to say that I'm right or you're wrong - it just doesn't work for me. All of these beliefs came from somewhere and are rooted in something and it doesn't make sense to me that every single one was just pulled out of thin air. I think it would be dismissive of a lot of things to just say that we're all there is. I DO keep an open mind to science and realize that what can't be proven today can very well be proven in ten years, but there's some weird and wonderful things going on and until science tells me otherwise, I like the idea that there's something else behind a lot of it. And to look at Jake's response - I do wonder how I'd let my whole train of thought be affected by a relocation. Obviously I'm stuck in the middle of the Bible Belt so it's something that's almost always in my face, even if it isn't abrasive or oppressive. So I spend a lot of time thinking (and rambling) about it.
Well, there's also the problem with putting too much stock in objectivity. For one, there are only some things that can truly be evaluated objectively, and they're generally tied up in math and science. When it comes to a lot of other things that matter just as much, like politics, morality, ethics, art - your social sciences and your humanities, basically - you can attempt to sort them out rationally, but the conclusions you reach, as well thought out as they may be, are subjective.

This doesn't necessarily have much bearing on religion specifically, but it might be helpful to keep it in mind. Unhealthy preoccupations with objective truth are what hinder literalists on all sides of the issue (to say nothing of Objectivists proper, who are outright crippled by their contention that one's own rational decisions will inevitably result in objective morality).

As for sorting this whole thing out, Jake and Bartleby are right about doing some reading and research. If there isn't a humanist society near you (or the atheistic leaning rubs you the wrong way), you can check into Unitarian Universalism, which has roots in Protestantism, but now welcomes anyone - Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, polytheists, atheists - who are interested in spirituality. And there's often a hefty emphasis on charity and good works, which is nice. After all, religious or not, I think we'd all agree that helping others is a good thing.
post #11 of 17
Interesting stuff Jeremy, I sometimes wonder what it's like to live somewhere that religion is so much more omnipresent than it is in my life. My Dad and his family aren't religious but my Mum and her mother were and I grew up going to a Presbyterian church. When my three younger brothers and I were in our mid teens Mum let us decide what path to take and none of us go to church anymore (hence I'm sitting here reading CHUD at 11:30am on a rainy Auckland Sunday morning).

I'm 35 now and for about the last 15 years I've been of pretty much the same mind as Stelios. In regards to science (I've studied physics most intently but have a healthy interest in biology and zoology too) I find myself completely at peace with the idea that science doesn't make any claims at providing all the answers. There is no safety net or comfort blanket with science, only the endless drive to answer our curiosities.

In regards to those ancillary things you mention (ghosts, spirits, souls etc); where you say that all of these beliefs came from somewhere and are rooted in something and it doesn't make sense to me that every single one was just pulled out of thin air, I do think they come from somewhere and I don't think they were pulled out of thin air. I think where they come from is the imperfect human mind processing information imperfectly. I think these ideas were formulated by mere* human beings, maybe even human beings who were working with the best information available to them, but ultimately they're misguided (although possibly very well intentioned) interpretations.

So, it's not that what I believe is in "nothing". If there's a label for my view it's probably agnostic. I don't have faith in anything but nor do I dismiss the possibility that there is some kind of controlling hand (after all, we do it all the time in science, controlling systems of our own construction, so who's to say that we aren't part of someone/something else's). What I do believe in is nature, as in, nature on the grand scale, from the subatomic to the megascience of astronomy. That doesn't mean I believe in science as the answer to everything, it just means I believe that the mind-blowing, inspiring and amazing but incomplete answers that the current laws of science do offer us are the best answers available and are closer to reality than the complete answers religion tries to offer us. It means I'm at peace with the possibility that there is nothing and nobody either consciously or hand-off-the-wheel in control. (Even so, I understand completely the human desire for the reassurance of something of a higher intelligence being in control of at least the basics of our universe, and also the desire for the comfort of something beyond our experience of death, both for dealing with a fear of our own ends and to ease the pain of mourning others. Smarter people than me (including my Mum and Grandmother, not to mention a lot of talented thinkers/scientists) have had strong faiths in things that I don't, so I hold to a respect for faith as a potentially positive force.)

As far as your question of where to look for more guidance I recommend reading as much philosophy (start with the big guns) as you can get your hands on. It doesn't have all the answers either and you'll find plenty of things that don't jive with your experience along with things that do. It is brilliant food for thought though and it sounds like you have a good healthy appetite worked up. Hopefully something I've said makes sense and/or helps you in your search.


* This is probably the key to my whole take on things, the acceptance of how "mere" we are in the greater scheme of things. Not in the sense of being physically insignificant in terms of the scale (in all four dimensions) of the known universe, but in the sense that as a species we are still infants. I think our dominance on Earth over other life continually tricks us into thinking that our knowledge is more advanced in terms of understanding how this all works than it is in realtiy. To me most humble view is to accept that, in spite of how impressed we are with how far we've come from where we started out in the caves of Gondwanaland, in terms of understanding everything even the greatest minds available are actually still - to employ a phrase for modern times - total noobs.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post
Here in Cincinnati, a billboard was put up recently that said "Don't believe in God? You're not Alone". I was immediately intrigued. Turns out it's for www.cinCoR.org, a humanist society that meets once a month to discuss art, science, politics, and religion, but not to sit around and bash God. Why bash something that doesn't exist? I'm planning on attending next month's meeting.
I've heard of atheist groups that do sit around and "bash God" instead of concentrating on more outwardly productive conversation, and I wouldn't want to be part of that, but it is understandable from a certain point of view. Thing is, they're not bashing "God", they're bashing the belief in "God", which exists without question.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by JGButler
So, my questions: 1) Where should I turn to help me sort all of that jumbled mess out and 2) in all honesty - where does that leave me? What do you believe if you essentially believe in everything?
You're Oprah.
post #14 of 17
ohhhhhh shiiiiiiiiiiit
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by JGButler View Post
Mainly because what I believe is something I've been piecing together on my own my entire life, comprised of similar discussions with people from all sorts of religious backgrounds and weighing what makes sense to me and what doesn't. The problem is I think I've gone as far as I can go on my own and in my own scope of logic and reason and I think it's time to branch out and see what other people are saying and if in fact there's a quantifiable "label" with which I can answer that question.
Yeah, your post is nonsense of trying to rationalize a grand scheme in which everybody can "get what they want", and even those atheists can have their nothing! Ridiculous.

EDIT: AND DANGEROUS INDEED in trying to be ethical.
post #16 of 17
Quote:
I believe in ghosts and aliens and evolution
Wonderful, let's all join hands and sing. Can't scientists and victims of alien abduction get along?
post #17 of 17

Good post, JGB. Thanks for sharing your views with us

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Religion A-Z
CHUD.com Community › Forums › POLITICS & RELIGION › Religion A-Z › I'm not an Atheist, but I don't believe in "God."