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The Appeal Of Atheism?


Mudcat

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I had a conversation with an old friend today.

He confessed to me, that he doubts his faith in Christ.

He is very seriously considering atheism.

I don't understand the appeal of this ideology of a "cosmic accident" that made us all, which seems to be a part of the concept.

It has never made sense to me.

So for those that have seen friends become atheist, those that are/were atheist, those who have considered being an atheist, those understand why they aren't atheist and those who just wanna say something about it..... I ask you, why are there some people who think this makes sense and why do you think it makes sense to them/you?

Respectfully,

Mudcat

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First, I hope whatever is causing your friend to feel this way will turn out well in the end. Beyond questions of faith (or the lack thereof) and what is true or not, at a human level it sounds like he is lucky to have a friend he can talk to about those things and not feel he had to keep them inside.

I don't know that the ideals of atheism are any more appealing than that of faith in any absolute manner. One can find comfort in the belief that there is a guiding hand in the universe that holds justice and mercy to be a defining virtue or one can find dispair/resentment living in a world that is in conflict with this guiding hand. Likewise, a person can find hope in the notion that humanity has it's own destiny in its own hands and in trying to make a heaven of the here and now rather than looking to one in the hereafter, or one can be filled with dispair/resentment over a world that seems to have no sense of justice and is indifferent to our individual existence. In both cases, it may depend on the personality and current needs of the individual in question.

For me, I find that there is some appeal in the lack of absolute knowledge on matters that is at least theoretically a part of agnostism, if not in atheism. And I am sure we all know someone who is as entrenched in certitude regarding their unbelief as any believer is in their own. In a nutshell, and just personally not in reference to anyone else, it seems to be more honest.

I also like this comic regarding the subject, just because.

nihilism.png

I found squirrels!

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I had a conversation with an old friend today.

He confessed to me, that he doubts his faith in Christ.

He is very seriously considering atheism.

I don't understand the appeal of this ideology of a "cosmic accident" that made us all, which seems to be a part of the concept.

It has never made sense to me.

So for those that have seen friends become atheist, those that are/were atheist, those who have considered being an atheist, those understand why they aren't atheist and those who just wanna say something about it..... I ask you, why are there some people who think this makes sense and why do you think it makes sense to them/you?

Respectfully,

Mudcat

If this freind of yours had ever experianced the wonderous beauty of true spiritual confirmation; He would never doubt. Not even possible. :P

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I can't comprehend not believing in God as I see evidence of his existence all around me, whether in the order of the starts, or the tides or the seasons, or in the kindness one person shows another or in the laughter of a little child.

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...

So for those that have seen friends become atheist, those that are/were atheist, those who have considered being an atheist, those understand why they aren't atheist and those who just wanna say something about it..... I ask you, why are there some people who think this makes sense and why do you think it makes sense to them/you?

I was an atheist for almost a year after I lost my faith in Mormonism. I teetered back and forth with doubts and reconciliations. But I did wear the cloak of atheism for oh, about a year. It was silly, really. For me, I found atheism just about as dogmatic as theism was. Dogmatism rubs me raw. I decided that there is no way to rule out some sort of a higher force or intelligence did not use, for example, evolution, to create humans and all other life as we know it. I discovered the satisfying freedom of saying "I Really Don't Know About That!". But discovering what or who or how that force actually is or was is the trick. In that spirit, I went searching to turn over the stones of some of the world religions.

As I teetered back and forth here and there, I came to a point in my loss of faith where I could not find any means to stay faithful to Mormonism while simultaneously rejecting Islam, non Mormon Christianity, Jehovah's Witnesses, or what have you. Faith based claims were decidedly faith based claims. I was prayerful, and held many moments of introspection. I talked to so many people in different faiths for a few years. I would give non Mormon religion at least as good an attempt in discerning Truth as I gave for Mormonism. I found that in nearly all the religions I considered, there was no means available to discern if it was the approved religion. Each "felt" uniquely wonderful and satisfying. So many of the other religions out there so obviously surpassed Mormonism in fellowshipping and honest to goodness extension of soul satisfying brotherly love that I was brought to tears with gratitude for the sheer humanity I was finding out in this great big world. I felt, several times, by comparison, ashamed at how calloused and cold or unfeeling my former religion seemed to be to its investigators or to those not of the LDS faith. Mormonism, in my view, often times holds a quasi hostile or untrusting flavor to those outside the LDS group.

Eventually, as grand as my experiences were, I found no basis by which I could thoughtfully reject, say Islam, or Catholicism, and then accept any other non Mormon religion. So in that light, the process repeated itself but kind of in reverse when I lost faith in Mormonism.

What was the basis I could use to say one was false and one was true, are they all true, they all cannot be true siultaneously.. can they?

I decided that if God existed, then it, he, she, did a rather poor job in providing a basis by which a human could discern what it wanted that human to do while they lived. So I adopted my own codes of conduct, which I won't bore you with, but they are wonderful to me.

Being an atheist was uncomfortable for me. There is an existential nothingness that is not satisfying (to me). Most of my atheist aquaintences are very comfortable in dealing and comprehending the nothingness. I think it was all so raw on account of having to deal with the passing of my mother at the time and the thought of her not existing in any way at that point just devestated me. I had the pleasure of an Evangelical friend of mine who was "fellowshipping" me at the time inform me that my dear Mormon mother was now roasting in the flames of hell on account that she never worshipped the real Jesus. Nice! That was not one of the more brotherly kindness moments in my journey.

I am still searching in many ways. That is part of the reason I post here and elsewhere on other forums. I admit I am "stuck" in finding the basis by which I can reject one and accept another. But for the moment, agnosticism seems to be a great fit.

Noggin

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Likewise, a person can find hope in the notion that humanity has it's own destiny in its own hands and in trying to make a heaven of the here and now rather than looking to one in the hereafter, or one can be filled with dispair/resentment over a world that seems to have no sense of justice and is indifferent to our individual existence.

Honorentheos,

Thanks for your insights, I suppose you may have a certain proclivity for this arena.

Most likely (emphasis mine) this is the case for my friend. His work deals with cancer patients, his wife seems to have no love for the RCC or any other faith, he is an a part of the USA that is not a bastion for any religious ideology. I suppose he is beginning to look at humanity, as more of a cruel cosmic joke, than even a cosmic accident. I suppose, to further define the topic... where is the appeal for this rationale.

I found squirrels!

Jesus found me.

Respects,

Mudcat

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If this freind of yours had ever experianced the wonderous beauty of true spiritual confirmation; He would never doubt. Not even possible. :P

Hi J,

If you don't mind, pray for him because he needs such an experience.

His nickname is Op(pronounced like Rope, without the R).

It is my prayer that God would 'Rattle his cage'.

Thanks for your thoughts

Mudcat

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I can't comprehend not believing in God as I see evidence of his existence all around me, whether in the order of the starts, or the tides or the seasons, or in the kindness one person shows another or in the laughter of a little child.

Deb,

I SO agree with you. I don't get it either. God is real. I see Him in all the things he has made and all things he has done. I just can't comprehend how someone could think otherwise.

Mudcat

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Most likely (emphasis mine) this is the case for my friend. His work deals with cancer patients, his wife seems to have no love for the RCC or any other faith, he is an a part of the USA that is not a bastion for any religious ideology. I suppose he is beginning to look at humanity, as more of a cruel cosmic joke, than even a cosmic accident.
I have found that people I've known who have left their beliefs for atheism do have a hard time reconciling all the evil and pain in the world with a loving God. They intellectualize the bad too much and begin to lose sight of the good that goes with it. For all those who suffer from disease there are those who lovingly and unselfishly dedicate their lives to giving comfort and trying to eradicate the disease. For all those who are unjust and cruel, there are those who stand for right and truth, even at risk of their own lives. Evil has its counterpoint in good, but I think many who turn away from belief begin to only see the darkness, losing sight of the light.
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I had a conversation with an old friend today.

He confessed to me, that he doubts his faith in Christ.

He is very seriously considering atheism.

I don't understand the appeal of this ideology of a "cosmic accident" that made us all, which seems to be a part of the concept.

It has never made sense to me.

So for those that have seen friends become atheist, those that are/were atheist, those who have considered being an atheist, those understand why they aren't atheist and those who just wanna say something about it..... I ask you, why are there some people who think this makes sense and why do you think it makes sense to them/you?

Respectfully,

Mudcat

You seem to be suggesting that you shape your beliefs based on what ideas you find appealing. IMHO that is no grounds for cosmological belief. I am an atheists because I sincerely believe it to be true and am unconvinced by the alternatives. My feelings about the way I wish things to be are irrelevant. .

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Hi Noggin!,

I must say..."Wow" to your post. I appreciate your candor and for what I can perceive, a great heart.

I was an atheist for almost a year after I lost my faith in Mormonism. I teetered back and forth with doubts and reconciliations. But I did wear the cloak of atheism for oh, about a year. It was silly, really. For me, I found atheism just about as dogmatic as theism was. Dogmatism rubs me raw.

Me too and Me too.

I decided that there is no way to rule out some sort of a higher force or intelligence did not use, for example, evolution, to create humans and all other life as we know it. I discovered the satisfying freedom of saying "I Really Don't Know About That!".

and what a power that is.....

But discovering what or who or how that force actually is or was is the trick. In that spirit, I went searching to turn over the stones of some of the world religions.

As I teetered back and forth here and there, I came to a point in my loss of faith where I could not find any means to stay faithful to Mormonism while simultaneously rejecting Islam, non Mormon Christianity, Jehovah's Witnesses, or what have you. Faith based claims were decidedly faith based claims. I was prayerful, and held many moments of introspection. I talked to so many people in different faiths for a few years. I would give non Mormon religion at least as good an attempt in discerning Truth as I gave for Mormonism. I found that in nearly all the religions I considered, there was no means available to discern if it was the approved religion. Each "felt" uniquely wonderful and satisfying. So many of the other religions out there so obviously surpassed Mormonism in fellowshipping and honest to goodness extension of soul satisfying brotherly love that I was brought to tears with gratitude for the sheer humanity I was finding out in this great big world. I felt, several times, by comparison, ashamed at how calloused and cold or unfeeling my former religion seemed to be to its investigators or to those not of the LDS faith. Mormonism, in my view, often times holds a quasi hostile or untrusting flavor to those outside the LDS group.

Eventually, as grand as my experiences were, I found no basis by which I could thoughtfully reject, say Islam, or Catholicism, and then accept any other non Mormon religion. So in that light, the process repeated itself but kind of in reverse when I lost faith in Mormonism.

What was the basis I could use to say one was false and one was true, are they all true, they all cannot be true siultaneously.. can they?

I had something happen to me. I realized that Jesus got up. The rest of my life is based on that.

I decided that if God existed, then it, he, she, did a rather poor job in providing a basis by which a human could discern what it wanted that human to do while they lived. So I adopted my own codes of conduct, which I won't bore you with, but they are wonderful to me.

If you ever felt the need to indulge upon your beliefs, now is a good a time as any.

Being an atheist was uncomfortable for me. There is an existential nothingness that is not satisfying (to me). Most of my atheist aquaintences are very comfortable in dealing and comprehending the nothingness. I think it was all so raw on account of having to deal with the passing of my mother at the time and the thought of her not existing in any way at that point just devestated me. I had the pleasure of an Evangelical friend of mine who was "fellowshipping" me at the time inform me that my dear Mormon mother was now roasting in the flames of hell on account that she never worshipped the real Jesus. Nice! That was not one of the more brotherly kindness moments in my journey.

I suppose, I am a rarity in the fact that I think I am an Ev that thinks your LDS mom was/is not roasting in hell.

I am still searching in many ways. That is part of the reason I post here and elsewhere on other forums. I admit I am "stuck" in finding the basis by which I can reject one and accept another. But for the moment, agnosticism seems to be a great fit.

I have the utmost faith, that if you are looking...then by God you will find it.

Thanks again, Noggin, for an insightful and truthfully heartfelt post.

Respectfully,

Mudcat

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Deb,

I SO agree with you. I don't get it either. God is real. I see Him in all the things he has made and all things he has done. I just can't comprehend how someone could think otherwise.

Mudcat

Hi Mudcat,

I have had thoughts about atheism the last while. I hear people pushing evolutionary doctrines so much, I wonder how many believers in evolution are atheists? Most? Half?

Since belief in evolution does not seem to require a Creator, it seems like a form of atheism. I am a agnostic evolutionist-- I am simply not ready to decide how much of evolution is true or false. But, I remain convinced that super-complex meaningful things to not happen by accident.

I cannot see three choice, only two: either life on earth is the work of a "creator" -- or -- it ultimately came about without any creator-- in other words-- by many accidents.

The idea that it all is an bunch of accidents is more dogmatic and unbelievable than anything in any religion I ever heard. The Bible seems to have it right: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God."

On the other hand, I can see why atheists dislike all the confusion among the myriad faiths---

1219202591UNuvkIK.jpg

Did you have a good laugh?

Richard

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I had a conversation with an old friend today.

He confessed to me, that he doubts his faith in Christ.

He is very seriously considering atheism.

I don't understand the appeal of this ideology of a "cosmic accident" that made us all, which seems to be a part of the concept.

It has never made sense to me.

So for those that have seen friends become atheist, those that are/were atheist, those who have considered being an atheist, those understand why they aren't atheist and those who just wanna say something about it..... I ask you, why are there some people who think this makes sense and why do you think it makes sense to them/you?

Respectfully,

Mudcat

Hi MC, hope things are well with you.

It's funny I think that sometimes the religious and the non-religious speak completely different languages. You say that your friend is "considering atheism", and the you don't understand its "appeal". Such words do not really convey the the process by which I became an atheist. 'Choosing' atheism based on its 'appeal' sounds like I sat down at Ruby Tuesday's and was handed a menu of different beliefs, each tasty and appetizing in its own way, but 'atheism' was the one that went best with the Newcastle I was craving, so I decided to have one cooked up medium rare. (Dangit now I'm hungry and thirsty.)

On the contrary I am not atheist because I found it the most attractive set of beliefs on the menu. I would be the first to admit that atheism can, among all belief systems, be harsh and unsatisfying at times. Atheism denies certain ideas that seem very appealing like cosmic justice and a paradaisical eternal existence. I didn't choose atheism because I felt that believing it would bring me the greatest satisfaction, but because I felt it was correct. After two and a half decades of being brought up to believe and wanting desperately to sustain that belief, I just couldn't. A naturalistic view of the world seemed more plausible, logical and complete than any set of spiritual explanations I had been given. To believe anything other than atheism simply because it appealed to certain of my instincts would have been deliberate self-deception.

Now, having said all of that, I think that religious believers often misunderstand the true nature of atheism. While it can be harsh, it can also be beautiful. Not having a divine system of justice has not lessened my belief in justice but strengthened it as I feel a greater need to pursue justice in this life since there will be no divine judge to straighten out all our screwups. Not believing that we are offspring of some divine being has placed in me an even greater awe of the magnificent things that humankind has accomplished solely through its own wits and perserverance. Knowing that love comes from within rather than being bestowed by a divine spirit has made me even more acutely aware of what a noble attribute this is. And the beauty of our world is in no way diminished by knowing that it came about through scientifically explainable processes.

Cheers.

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Deb,

I SO agree with you. I don't get it either. God is real. I see Him in all the things he has made and all things he has done. I just can't comprehend how someone could think otherwise.

Mudcat

It appears that there is highly selective observation going on there, then. You see God in, your words, "ALL" things he has done. He made mankind, in your view... and he made them inherently capable of committing attrocious crimes against humanity. For me, it comes down to suffering and the horrific degree that said suffering occurs. Suffering clearly does not need to be going on to the degree that it does in order for humans to learn important life lessons. What important life lesson does the 9 year old Somalian girl get to "learn" by being raped to death in front of her family? If there was a God, and that God was able to prevent suffering, yet did not do it, how can one find a God worthy of fealty in that?

The theist is quick to point out and praise "God" in the most inane happenings. Lost car keys are found, praise God. Uncle Jerry recovered from an illness, praise God. Yet if God was at the root of such things, why is God absent from others? Why can't God distract the gang of Somalian young men who are hell bent on raping the 9 year old girl? God obviously interferes with the car keys, mall parking spaces, and curing irritable bowel syndrome all the live ling day elsewhere... why the inconsistencies?

Also, if God truly was omnipotent, all seeing, knowing the end from the beginning, then by that design, God created some humans he knew would be tortured to death, raped, molested, imprisoned for life, and others that would do the acts of rape and murder in the most creatively gruesome ways imaginable... while still others he knew would live a life of relative ease and comfort. Yet, in God's infinite omnipotent wisdom, he chose to send the creation down to be raped, murdered, plundered, molested or to do the acts of which I am analyzing.

What is the point of making humans that would co-exist in such extreme opposite living conditions, knowing that such horrible injustice would be served?

You "see" God everywhere. God is so obvious to you. I applaud that. But have you thought about how God is not so obvious to so many billions who have suffered so terribly over the course of human history?

I have slight Deistic leanings in that I have no grounds to say that any sort of God does not exist, however, it one did it does appear to have gone on vacation after setting the world or universe in motion.

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You seem to be suggesting that you shape your beliefs based on what ideas you find appealing. IMHO that is no grounds for cosmological belief. I am an atheists because I sincerely believe it to be true and am unconvinced by the alternatives. My feelings about the way I wish things to be are irrelevant. .

**imitates stewardess voice*** "Will all Threadjackers make their way towards the rear of the plane and when we reach an altitude 28,000 feet, please evacuate the plane."

Just kidding JL.

Seems you feel compelled to live life without God.

Why?

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Now, having said all of that, I think that religious believers often misunderstand the true nature of atheism. While it can be harsh, it can also be beautiful. Not having a divine system of justice has not lessened my belief in justice but strengthened it as I feel a greater need to pursue justice in this life since there will be no divine judge to straighten out all our screwups. Not believing that we are offspring of some divine being has placed in me an even greater awe of the magnificent things that humankind has accomplished solely through its own wits and perserverance. Knowing that love comes from within rather than being bestowed by a divine spirit has made me even more acutely aware of what a noble attribute this is. And the beauty of our world is in no way diminished by knowing that it came about through scientifically explainable processes.

But Spinner, at the end of the day...when it all boils down. You are a good guy, I mean that...even though Newcastle.....(I won't say it for the sake of the G rated audience). Somehow, I still don't understand it, there you are, Mr Goodguy Athiest.

Doesn't Mr Badguy Athiest shoot holes in your philosophy...or does it matter?

BTW...I am doing well, hopefully you are too.

Sincerely,

Mr. Goodguy Evangelical

Secretly known as Mudcat

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For me, the day I decided that God did not exist, was the happiest day of my life to that point. No more struggling to figure out God, my relationship to God (a god that I hated), how to make sense of things that didn't make sense. Done with that. What a relief!

The orderliness of science, the material certainty was an appeal at first, but eventually, I found it too limiting.

As an atheist, Faith, was this huge mystery. I would go to Mass and see people praying and would just stare at them, wondering how they did it. How did they have faith and I didn't?

I prayed, not very good prayers. I felt ridiculous, like talking to air. There were times where I feared that God did not exist, combined with doubts that God could exist. I feared fooling myself, that is, that I could convince myself that God exists, but really, He didn't. I tried out believing in God, pretending that I saw Him in the beauty of the mountains and a sunny day. I didn't. I feared God would be really pissed off at me for being an atheist.

As trite and corny as it sound, my Faith is a miracle, as there is no way I came up with it on my own. It is one of God's gifts.

Prayer, reading the Bible, and having a believing ear in the form of a good friend that took all my ranting and anger and doubts and kept telling me to pray and go to Mass. That is all I can say, I don't know how, but I couldn't deny God today if I tried.

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Hi MC, hope things are well with you.

It's funny I think that sometimes the religious and the non-religious speak completely different languages. You say that your friend is "considering atheism", and the you don't understand its "appeal". Such words do not really convey the the process by which I became an atheist. 'Choosing' atheism based on its 'appeal' sounds like I sat down at Ruby Tuesday's and was handed a menu of different beliefs, each tasty and appetizing in its own way, but 'atheism' was the one that went best with the Newcastle I was craving, so I decided to have one cooked up medium rare. (Dangit now I'm hungry and thirsty.)

On the contrary I am not atheist because I found it the most attractive set of beliefs on the menu. I would be the first to admit that atheism can, among all belief systems, be harsh and unsatisfying at times. Atheism denies certain ideas that seem very appealing like cosmic justice and a paradaisical eternal existence. I didn't choose atheism because I felt that believing it would bring me the greatest satisfaction, but because I felt it was correct. After two and a half decades of being brought up to believe and wanting desperately to sustain that belief, I just couldn't. A naturalistic view of the world seemed more plausible, logical and complete than any set of spiritual explanations I had been given. To believe anything other than atheism simply because it appealed to certain of my instincts would have been deliberate self-deception.

Now, having said all of that, I think that religious believers often misunderstand the true nature of atheism. While it can be harsh, it can also be beautiful. Not having a divine system of justice has not lessened my belief in justice but strengthened it as I feel a greater need to pursue justice in this life since there will be no divine judge to straighten out all our screwups. Not believing that we are offspring of some divine being has placed in me an even greater awe of the magnificent things that humankind has accomplished solely through its own wits and perserverance. Knowing that love comes from within rather than being bestowed by a divine spirit has made me even more acutely aware of what a noble attribute this is. And the beauty of our world is in no way diminished by knowing that it came about through scientifically explainable processes.

Cheers.

"believe and wanting desperately to sustain that belief, I just couldn't. A naturalistic view of the world seemed more plausible, logical and complete than any set of spiritual explanations I had been given."

jadams.

Good analogy from a personal standpoint, But I am just wondering about when you say "Any set of spiritual explainations" i have been given? Are "explainations" all you have to rely and understand of spirit? :P

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But Spinner, at the end of the day...when it all boils down. You are a good guy, I mean that...even though Newcastle.....(I won't say it for the sake of the G rated audience). Somehow, I still don't understand it, there you are, Mr Goodguy Athiest.

Doesn't Mr Badguy Athiest shoot holes in your philosophy...or does it matter?

BTW...I am doing well, hopefully you are too.

Sincerely,

Mr. Goodguy Evangelical

Secretly known as Mudcat

Glad you're well MC; things are OK on my end as the air is clean today, the Olympics are almost over, vacation is coming up and I'm seeing a pretty neat girl now. On the downside, Newcastle is almost impossible to find in Hong Kong, but like I said vacation is coming soon. On a side note, I'd believed you were a good guy previously, but your heretical beliefs towards Newcastle are creating doubt. :P Maybe we should take this debate offline, though, I suppose.

Mr. Badguy atheist doesn't shoot holes in my beliefs in any way. I feel no ties to other atheists, no 'brotherhood' of atheism, no unity of disbelief, and demand no adherence by fellow disbelievers to any unified dogma. Thus when an atheist behaves badly, he is not violating any principle of atheism because there are none. This doesn't mean atheists are necessarily unprincipled, but rather that atheism is not the tenet that informs those principles. Atheists share one belief only--the belief that god doesn't exist. Where they go from there is a matter worked out entirely in the heart and mind of each individual.

Unless you think that Mr. Badguy Atheist is the norm and that his badness is somehow a product of his atheism, I don't see how Mr. Badguy Atheist damages atheism more than Mr. Badguy Christian (also not the norm, IMO) disproves Christianity.

[edited to add: re-reading my second paragraph, I realize that somebody could really rip a couple of those sentences out of context to smear atheism.]

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I think the biggest appeal of atheism is that it panders to our pride. Because so much of it is purportedly rooted in science and rationalism, it's easy to look down on religious people as naive simpletons. As someone who has toyed with atheism before, I found it satisfying to think that I had more figured out than my religious counterparts.

The other major appeal is the illusion of freedom that atheism creates. Without a God or any other punitive metaphysical entity, one is finally free to do as one pleases without any sort of eternal consequences. However, the removal of God from the picture also removes hope from life, so the freedom of atheism really just ends in despair.

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Good analogy from a personal standpoint, But I am just wondering about when you say "Any set of spiritual explainations" i have been given? Are "explainations" all you have to rely and understand of spirit? :P

When I said 'spiritual explanations', I meant systems of belief that include supernatural elements, including feelings attributed to (as Mormons would term it) 'the spirit' and all of the claimed confirmatory power of such feelings.

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I think the biggest appeal of atheism is that it panders to our pride.

Dunno about this one--I think it takes a certain humility to admit that we are not in fact the children of a divine being, ordained above all other life, and destined for eternal glory, but instead are just one of millions of the species of fauna that populate this ball floating precariously in space, differentiated only by our abnormally enlarged brains.

Because so much of it is purportedly rooted in science and rationalism, it's easy to look down on religious people as naive simpletons.

Other than the pridefulness accusation you make above, I will refrain from repeating the numerous other invectives I frequently hear hurled at atheists, and simply point out that certain people on both sides of the question probably unfairly stereotype people on the other side.

As someone who has toyed with atheism before, I found it satisfying to think that I had more figured out than my religious counterparts.

I think that any set of beliefs, religious or otherwise, claims access to special knowledge that others lack. Atheists, Mormons, Jews, agnostics, Buddhists and Zoroastrians--all claim to know the truth while others walk in relative error, no?

The other major appeal is the illusion of freedom that atheism creates. For you per

Without a God or any other punitive metaphysical entity, one is finally free to do as one pleases without any sort of eternal consequences.

I think that you should do right for the sake of doing right. Period.

However, the removal of God from the picture also removes hope from life, so the freedom of atheism really just ends in despair.

Just because you toyed with, and rejected, atheism doesn't make you an expert on the subject, and your characterizations of atheism sound like caricatures. I feel more hope, greater optimism and more brotherhood with mankind as an atheist than I did previously. It seems like you are not talking about atheism at all but merely taking the good you derive from your belief and projecting onto atheism the opposite attributes.

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