Author Topic: Difficulty of Reconciling Reality with a Persistent Desire for Supernatural  (Read 1086 times)

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Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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I’m fairly sure that I’m a bit different from most of the atheists here.  Most have completely accepted reality in a fundamental way, and thoroughly reject any tendency towards woo.  I respect that and envy that as well.  I however, cannot quite reconcile reality with my desire for some sort of supernatural.  Don’t misunderstand.  I know the difference:  One is real and the other is wishful thinking, but that pull towards the supernatural is emotionally very strong within me. 

I cannot get rid of my emotional attachment to the supernatural, even though I know absolutely that there is no such thing.  There is no god or goddess in the sky, offering me their help when I most need it.  There is no angel assigned to watch over me.  There is no nine tailed fox to bring wonder and adventure into my life.  I am ashamed that I should even desire such things, especially knowing full well that none of them have ever been more than fairy stories.  And yet I do.

I held onto my belief, my faith in god for as long as I could, so that what I perceived as reality, allowed for that which my heart so longed.  Finally, even one as romantic, sappy, and given to fancy as I, could no longer believe in the fairy tales.

I bring this up not to confess my own shortcomings, but rather, to wonder if this pull doesn’t hit other people as well.

I think that theists may be confronted with a similar problem.  They are reluctant to accept reality (as I eventually had to) because then their fondest hopes and dreams would have no foundation in what they understand as truth.  As long as they can expect supernatural occurrences, they can hope that those dreams might someday become reality.  There might be peace, or retribution, or punishment for the wicked, paradise for the faithful, reunification with lost loved ones etc.  Asking them to give this up may be asking them to give up too much.

I don’t know how to address this dichotomy in myself, and so have no solution for others.  I live with it.  I am often quite sad because of it.  Having said this, living with some sadness is much better than living a delusion.  Dreams can often be more wonderful than life, but almost everyone would choose to be awake rather than spend their life asleep. 

Offline Samothec

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YANA       :D

I was going to write out the words but I wanted to see if you recognize the reference.

I grew up reading stories where everything worked out for the misfit thus building up lots of hope in me and I have a strong agency detection faculty. But I also have a strong logical side and have learned to really hate being lied to.

So I too want there to be more but I see no evidence for more. I do see an amazing unvierse. But while the bar at the top said this topic has only been read by 3 people at the time I started writing this, I know that is only coincidence and not providence. I understand math enough to know that something that has only a 1 in a million chance of happening each year to somebody will happen on average 16 times a day (and more as the population grows) because there are 6 billion people (divided by 365 days). So someone who still believes will see the hand of god while I see an amusing coincidence.

I also find this difficult. There are those who are confortable in their non-belief. And there are those who are happy still clinging to the delusion.

I just realized with some dark humor that if this was really providence, your words would have sparked an epiphany in me and I'd be able to write something wonderfully inspiring and soothing for you.   :P   And tomorrow morning the foods that are bad for me will taste bad and the ones that are good for me will taste good and excerise will feel good. And all the theists will either realize god doesn't exist or they'll drop dead. And politicians and corporate executives will all have a Grinch moment and their hearts will grow. And farts will smell wonderful.    :o

Was that soothing and inspiring? Didn't think so. Hopefully it was amusing.    :D
Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. - Martin Luther

Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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It is somewhat comforting knowing I'm not alone.  Thank you.

I like the phrase 'agency detection faculty'.  I have definitely got one of those as well.  I was watching a TV program that really got to me, and in that show, all of the main characters were driving the same make of car as mine (not rare but not all that common).  It immediately seemed to reinforce my enthusiasm for the show... until I realized that the car company had sponsored the broadcast.  :-[

I loved this tendency within myself; a capacity for wonder, but now find it an embarrassing liability.  It used to make me feel young and more alive, but now it is just a reminder of my reluctance to grow up and face the world as it is.  Don't get me wrong... I do face the world as it is, but that 'pull' is always there, reminding me that I am hard coded to respond to delusion.  My atheism and skepticism is a program running over top of the machine code, doing everything it can to compensate for that very old and very poor program design.

I can only guess that if I, who have mentally accepted reality as it is, struggle so, how can theists be expected to toss their beliefs aside?  There is a part of me that understands their reluctance to our efforts here; a part that almost sympathizes with them.  I would almost like to spare them our efforts so they could live believing in their delusions.

...Then they go and lie, twist, turn and do everything they can to justify their delusions, and I lose whatever feeling of protection I may have had for them.  I lose patience with their willful immaturity.

...then I feel sad about that too.

Offline lomolo

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This is basically the same problem that I have (I apologize for not having responded to the latest posts). It's kind of a heady, depressing feeling sometimes. Have you watched this guy's story (under "Why I am no longer a Christian") on why he de-converted from Christianity? In one of the videos he's talking to a professor who warns him that it might be better to hang out in the delusion for a while and sort your life out first because it might be a bumpy road ahead for you. I didn't understand why at first but I think I do now.

On one hand I kind of wish I could believe fairy tales were true and that there was a paradise to be had after living. On the other hand, I just can't lie to myself like that. I went too deep into the rabbit hole to get out. I hope that ultimately it was a good decision to have made. Good luck B_o_F!

Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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@ lomolo

I think accepting reality is always a good decision.  It just may not (always) be a comforting one.  If we don't accept reality and live in a delusion, then all of our actions, all of our responses are going to be the wrong ones, since they are predicated on things that doesn't exist.  This may explain religion.  A group of people who accept the same delusion and accept the responses resulting from that.

Really, we have no choice.  There is no going back for us.  We cannot choose to believe something we know is a lie, no matter how much we sometimes wish we could.  One cannot re-believe in santa claus. 

Online One Above All

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AFAIK, there is no secret to reconciling reality with your wishes. It's a simple matter of self-control and applying logic to every feeling and desire that pops into your head.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
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Offline Quesi

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I was raised in a secular household, with an atheist father and an agnostic mom.   I grew up with a critical view of reality.

And yet, in my 20's, I embraced a sort of earth based paganism.  I danced under the moon and celebrated the solstices and equinoxes and the crosspoints between them.  I looked at the stars and considered great truths that were contained in the ways that they appeared in constellations from my little corner of planet earth. 

I don't think I ever really believed it.  Except, perhaps, the whole cycle of life thing.  But it felt so good.

And later, when I delved a little deeper into understanding the wonders of the universe, through the words of poetic scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I was able to find that same awe and wonder, and shed the silliness of finding significance in the shadows cast on the moon. 

I sometimes hear atheists proclaim that science has "proven!" this and that, and therefore there is no mystery.  I kind of disagree.  Just as I scoff at "The End of History" I scoff at the "end of science" with just a few little questions to clean up before we are done.

There are great mysteries that will not be answered by human beings until long after I am gone.  I can fantasize about those mysteries, and find comfort in the fact that the realities that science have to offer us are so much more amazingly complex and wondrous than the teachings of any religious doctrine.  And I can fantasize, (like the great science fiction writers) about realities that may be uncovered in the future. 

I think we are programmed to be awed.  But why restrict ourselves to being awed by supernatural fiction?  As a non-scientist, I find so much science to awe me.  So much beauty.  I can be hypnotized by gazing at the tides of a great ocean, or by the sounds of life in a rain forest.  Or even by the sounds of so many lives going on behind the apartment windows and office windows and taxi windows of my urban home. 

The universe is wondrous.  Life is wondrous.  Reality is wondrous.  Probably even more so than the supernatural.   

Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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AFAIK, there is no secret to reconciling reality with your wishes. It's a simple matter of self-control and applying logic to every feeling and desire that pops into your head.

You're absolutely right, and I do.  I didn't say there was a secret, but rather a 'difficulty', and no matter how much someone like me reconciles 'Reality with a Persistent Desire for Supernatural', I cannot prevent those notions from popping into my head.  When I've applied logic, the silliness dissipates, but there is a resulting sadness that settles in... for a brief while.  Since I have a problem with depression, I cannot easily dispel sadness.  No big deal.

Remember though, this observation of mine was more about how difficult it might be for theists, since their perceived reality is closely related to their faith. 

My point is, that if I (and some others here), who see reality as it is and apply that to those 'persistent desires for the SN' is troubled by sadness as a result, I know the kind of world shattering transformation that a theist would undergo if they were suddenly forced to see things the way we do.  It might explain their desperate attempts to hold on to their fantasies to save their god delusion. 

Offline ParkingPlaces

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I don't think that I have a corresponding desire for the supernatural to be real. In my younger days I may have, but either I outgrew it or just forgot. At this point in my life (I'm old) I assume that all phenomena have natural explanations, though I've no doubt that some of those explanations, if suddenly understood, would seem pretty supernatural by todays scientific standards. Things like why the speed of light is what it is, or understanding the actual secrets of gravity will probably be mind-blowing. Explaining photosynthesis to a 13th century gardener would have, by default, seemed supernatural to him or her.

Of course, we'll never know everything. If the religious get their way, we'll hardly know anything. But for now science is progressing on multiple fronts and mind-blowing discoveries are being made every week. Some of which help pull us a little bit further away from ideas of the supernatural each time.

If there is something that is indeed supernatural, I assume that our efforts to explain the phenomena naturally will fail. And at some point we'll find ourselves amazed. But I've seen no evidence of such possibilities yet, and I don't need the hope of such things to live.

I would never argue with someone who is hoping that we will find supernatural phenomena someday. Who am I to say that such things are absolutely impossible. But based on what i know now, I'm a bit less receptive to those who claim that we have already found such things.
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Offline Nick

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It all goes back to the need for a security blanket or crutch to get us thru hard times.  JUst part of the human experience.  Kids have imaginary friends for the same reason.  As adults we need to let them go.
Yo, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Quit ragging on my Lord.

Tide goes in, tide goes out !!!

Offline learnin

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I guess my problem is a little different at the present.  It's not that I have a desire for the supernatural, it's just identifying what "supernatural" would be.
For instance.  I read that the "God Particle" has been detected and it will be announced on Wednesday.  Does this discovery mean that creating something from nothing is no longer supernatural?  Because we identify a particular something and name that particular something, does this make it natural and not supernatural?  I don't know if I can convey what I mean.

Maybe the whole frickin universe is supernatural and we make it natural by identifying a process and naming it.

Maybe every piece of matter, energy, life form, particle and non-particle is part of the supernatural whole...part of a process some people call god.

When I looked through my telescope at the Venus transition, I was in awe and you might say humbled before it all.

Offline kindred

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Meh, the feeling of superiority I get from knowing that I have shed the emotional crutches that normal people have is enough to keep me going. Oh, and the loss of cognitive dissonance caused by intellectual dishonesty is also nice.
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Offline natlegend

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*sigh*

As a child I grew up without ever going to church or having any organised religion in my home. My parents had moved from the UK and met in Australia, and they told us about but didn't push the idea of god. (When there was rain, it was god watering his garden. When there was thunder it was god and jesus playing marbles. When there was lightning it was the baby angels flicking the lightswitch on and off in heaven. All quite cute IMO)

So I never really 'fell for it', once I was old enough to realise, I unconsciously rejected the idea of god and put it away with the santa/tooth fairy/easter bunny myths.

However, I used to wish that heaven were true. I thought that those who were able to believe in the afterlife were truly lucky and I wished I could do the same. I want to see my grandparents again, and other people and pets that are now gone. That I could be loved unconditionally by this amazing sky daddy was so desirable...

But then I discovered this site and read postings here of bible atrocities. Ugh. Even if it did exist, I don't wanna have anything to do with this god. He's mean and nasty. Yaweh is a prick. And the exclusivity of heaven means that those I love will most likely *not* be there, so screw that too.

I guess I'm saying I can sort of relate.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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[snipped]

But then I discovered this site and read postings here of bible atrocities. Ugh. Even if it did exist, I don't wanna have anything to do with this god. He's mean and nasty. Yaweh is a prick. And the exclusivity of heaven means that those I love will most likely *not* be there, so screw that too.

I guess I'm saying I can sort of relate.

Oh, I agree completely.  But what's even more embarrassing for me is that I start to pine for things which don't even have the 'authority' of the bible behind them.  Nonsense... fantasy... I can get choked up watching a movie and dearly wish that the justice or kindness (or whatever) displayed in that movie could be counted upon in real life.  Yaweh is as fictional as the love affair between Chuck and Sarah*, but as you say, Yaweh is a prick while Chuck is a likeable tech-savy schnook and Sarah is impossibly amazing.  I wish I was Chuck.  I wish Sarah was real.  It's infantile, but I have a hard time shaking off this stuff.  But the usual religious crap; no longer an issue. 

Chuck was a TV program about a geek who had government secrets downloaded into his brain.  Sarah was his CIA handler..  BTW, the person who plays Chuck is a very serious born again xian, though to his credit, he has never once tried to insert his beliefs into the program.

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« Last Edit: July 03, 2012, 07:29:18 AM by pianodwarf »

Offline The Wannabe

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I think everybody catches themselves thinking wishfully from time to time, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.  While we all have some desires that have no hope of being fulfilled, as long as a concept or aspiration has grounding in reality, it can be realized in reality.  Once upon a time, breaking the earth's orbit and putting a man on the moon was nothing more than pure fantasy, but now there have been multiple moon landings.  So, catching yourself day dreaming isn't always an unproductive or infantile thing to do. 

 While you may never be able to become "Chuck", at least you realize this.  The problem with truly religious people is they don't know how to differentiate between what they want, and what they've got.  Just because i want to survive my own death, doesn't mean i will.  Religion is a great coping mechanism, there's only one catch, you can't give a rat's ass about seeing reality for what it truly is.         
"I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance."  -Friedrich Nietzsche

Offline jynnan tonnix

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Add me to the list of those who have a hard time letting go of some aspects of "woo". Even though I never really bought into any of the Biblegod mythos, there is still a significant part of me which "believes" in some sort of afterlife. Even though, like you, I can recognize that it is, in all probability, a function of wishful thinking, and that there is no real evidence to support it, there is an inextinguishable "feeling" that some part of us simply has to go on. Whether it be some sort of heaven or reincarnation or whatever. My consciousness feels so immutable that it's just hard to comprehend and accept the fact that someday I will simply stop experiencing the world.

Offline learnin

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Add me to the list of those who have a hard time letting go of some aspects of "woo". Even though I never really bought into any of the Biblegod mythos, there is still a significant part of me which "believes" in some sort of afterlife. Even though, like you, I can recognize that it is, in all probability, a function of wishful thinking, and that there is no real evidence to support it, there is an inextinguishable "feeling" that some part of us simply has to go on. Whether it be some sort of heaven or reincarnation or whatever. My consciousness feels so immutable that it's just hard to comprehend and accept the fact that someday I will simply stop experiencing the world.

I know what  you mean.  Here's something I wonder about, too, since most of us have a feeling for something more.
Why would we have this sense and longing for something more if something more did not exist?

Offline Hatter23

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YANA

I do have difficulty letting go of the concept of luck. I know in a cebral fashion that it is not true, but I notice there are people whom seem lucky...I'm not discussing lottery winners and the like, but those that seemly day in and day out seem to have chance work out somewhat better than normal, invariably they also seem more attractive than average. I'm not sure or the mechanism at work here, whether it is confidence based on looks, that they can "sell" ideas better because of confidence...I intellectually know it isn't woo.


None the less, I often feel like it isn't and that I am unlucky.

An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

And you should feel guilty for this. Give me money.

Offline Samothec

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For those who don't watch Dr. Who:

You Are Not Alone

In a way we are playing out IRL the relationship between the Doctor and the Master (aka Professor Yana) with athiests as the Doctor and the vocal theists as the Master. We fight to protect and educate each other while the vocal theists try to rule over and control everyone. Hopefully one day we can reach a similar conclusion where the theists get a clue and embrace reality and their humanity.

I cope by enjoying fiction and I try writing some - although I don't have the discipline to write for a living. I don't see a problem with delving into fiction as long as you always keep in mind that it is fiction.

Like Quesi, I also enjoy exploring science for the weird and amazing things we've discovered about reality. Ironically those things also help me dismiss god. The universe is so much more amazing than what any god of any religion could have created, it helps me see the gods as the fiction they are. I realized in my late 20s that I could figure out how to help people without ever revealing myself (if I was god) that I reached the conclusion that either I was smarter than god or he didn't exist. While smart (in some ways), I am not a genius so any god that I am smarter than is a pathetic god. Reality could not have been created by a pathetic god so there are none.

The moderate christians who use the teachings as a philosophy of caring and compassion are decent people. Their only major failing is not recognizing the less reasonable xians as a problem. Maybe that should be the first thing we need to change. Get the christians to recognize the difference between themselves and the xians who like using the bible as a weapon and validation for hatred. I'm sure we can all think of examples of both kinds of believers. That itself would be a big hurdle but probably more managable.

BoF, YANA as you have read. Thank you for sharing and starting this topic.
Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. - Martin Luther

Offline jeremy0

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While I wish there were such a thing as a heaven where everything is good, and a lot of people have various reasons for wanting the same, it's still a good thing that this life is all I have to put up with..

What I mean is, we all yearn for peace, human dignity - hell, the fact is we have this hierarchy of needs, and for most of us we can go our whole lives without ever having fulfilled the entire thing at any real point in time.  That leaves us with this empty feeling like 'this is it?'  This is all that this existence had to offer me?

That's basically the way I see things - I was duped in this existence.  But, it doesn't make me sad knowing that my existence will just linger like a fading memory.  I find it relaxing - I've came across a ton of knowledge in a short amount of time.  That makes me feel good.  And even though I won't ever get out of people what I was really looking for - well, that's just how it goes.  I feel like I'm an outsider who came to this place to search for something, and I only found it hidden under a pile of a mess...

So yeah, that makes me wish everyone had some kind of second-chance.  I think the correct thing for you to do is separate out that emotion from religious teachings.  Then, maybe channel it into motivation in knowing that we only really get this one opportunity to realize what we've set out to accomplish or find here.
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Offline jeremy0

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None the less, I often feel like it isn't and that I am unlucky.
I feel that way - indeed.
"If you find yourself reaching for the light, first realize that it has already touched your finger."
"If I were your god, I would have no reason for judgement, and you have all told endless lies about me.  Wait - you do already. I am not amused by your ignorance, thoughtlessness, and shallow mind."

Offline jeremy0

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AFAIK, there is no secret to reconciling reality with your wishes. It's a simple matter of self-control and applying logic to every feeling and desire that pops into your head.
This is good advise.  In certain situations you can refer to logic and reason to overcome what you might have thought or done through mere emotion.  The same applies the other way around - you can put yourself in a certain feeling based on what you do with your mind.  it's an interesting field of thought...

Basically, repetition is the key here.  So when you overcome the emotion to hold on to religion because of wishful thinking and emotion, refer to that over and over.  Then it becomes so easy it's no longer a problem.
"If you find yourself reaching for the light, first realize that it has already touched your finger."
"If I were your god, I would have no reason for judgement, and you have all told endless lies about me.  Wait - you do already. I am not amused by your ignorance, thoughtlessness, and shallow mind."

Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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I know what  you mean.  Here's something I wonder about, too, since most of us have a feeling for something more.
Why would we have this sense and longing for something more if something more did not exist?

And worse yet, that question hasn't been adequately answered, at least not to my satisfaction.  I assume that that feeling is either part of some evolutionary imperative or is an errant trait that has piggy-backed upon such an imperative.  This is not to say that just because it hasn't been explained to my satisfaction, that therefore it has to be mystical.  I've rejected the notion of mysticism a while ago, but at one time, it was my primary reason for believing that there 'had to be something' and that this feeling was placed in us by that something for a reason.

One of my early posts here was arguing just that.  However, I did so so that I could get counterpoint.  Because of WWGHA I no longer believe or need to believe that there is 'something else'.

Offline Graybeard

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I’m fairly sure that I’m a bit different from most of the atheists here.  Most have completely accepted reality in a fundamental way, and thoroughly reject any tendency towards woo.  I respect that and envy that as well.  I however, cannot quite reconcile reality with my desire for some sort of supernatural.  Don’t misunderstand.  I know the difference:  One is real and the other is wishful thinking, but that pull towards the supernatural is emotionally very strong within me. 

I cannot get rid of my emotional attachment to the supernatural, even though I know absolutely that there is no such thing.  There is no god or goddess in the sky, offering me their help when I most need it.  There is no angel assigned to watch over me.  There is no nine tailed fox to bring wonder and adventure into my life.  I am ashamed that I should even desire such things, especially knowing full well that none of them have ever been more than fairy stories.  And yet I do.
You make an exceptionally good point. It is indeed difficult not to think irrationally. I think it has been posted on WWGHA (and if you know who did it, I'll give them a Darwin) but there is a video of "Superstition in animals" or similar.

The essence is that a pigeon is placed in a cage with a device that randomly drops a food pellet. At first, the pigeon is simply grateful for the food but then develops superstition. It can be seen that a couple of times when the food drops, the pigeons head is to the left. The pigeon then keeps putting its head to the left in the hopes that this will produce food from the random food generator.

Is this superstition or training? The two are simply aspects of the same thing; it is erroneous self training. The pigeon is desperately looking for food but, whatever controls the appearance of food is simply beyond its intelligence/experience. It therefore grasps at a straw and keeps looking left.

Once it has started its superstition of looking left, it feels reluctant to do anything else just in case this time it will work. It has therefore stopped thinking and will not alter its behaviour.

Aspects of this pervade even the greatest minds: Niels BohrWiki is supposed to have said, "Of course not ... but I am told it works even if you don't believe in it." [in] Reply to a visitor to his home in Tisvilde who asked him if he really believed a horseshoe above his door brought him luck, as quoted in Inward Bound : Of Matter and Forces in the Physical World (1986)

However, I doubt that Bohr would have sat on his arse rubbing a rabbit's foot in the hopes of finding solutions.

Superstition is the art of not thinking. We are all entitled to stop thinking at some point; the fault comes when, in the face of contrary evidence, we insist we are right.
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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The moderate christians who use the teachings as a philosophy of caring and compassion are decent people. Their only major failing is not recognizing the less reasonable xians as a problem. Maybe that should be the first thing we need to change. Get the christians to recognize the difference between themselves and the xians who like using the bible as a weapon and validation for hatred. I'm sure we can all think of examples of both kinds of believers. That itself would be a big hurdle but probably more managable.

I don't want to swipe this, but I think it would make a good topic for discussion.  I feel as though atheists, agnostics, deists, and reasonable theists should find common ground.  I don't think any of us/them care what the others believe.  Perhaps on matters such as progressive issues, not dictating morality for others, live and let live, we might have more in common that is generally thought.  I know many disagree, and see moderate theists as being a big part of the 'problem'.  Perhaps they're right, but it might be worth discussing

Offline Samothec

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It's been a long time since I read this book - Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought by Pascal Boyer - but what it taught me has been extremely helpful. It helped me see that superstition is natural but wrong. For my personal use I say "stupid-stition" instead to remind myself.

While I'm temped to try to give a thumbnail explanation of the book, it is very detailed and I probably wouldn't do it justice. Now, you may think you've read something similar by someone else. No, you probably haven't. This is written looking at the sociological aspect of the evolutionary origins - the deep roots - rather than discussing memes or recent things like the creation of the Abrahamic religions.
Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. - Martin Luther