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Junebug, I see most of your issue is caused by atheists shitting on religion - understandably you then apply this gracious gesture to yourself. The key here is making the difference between the individual and religion. I assume you are a good person until proven otherwise. It would be horribly rude and condescending to do otherwise. I have no idea whether you murder, rape and then eat babies with a side dish of kittens. If you do, you should probably stop that.  :([1] You probably try to minimize the suffering caused to others and strive to make a positive difference in their lives, which is commendable. Your deity of choice may or may not play a role in this, but the effects may be a net positive to yourself and society.

Religion, on the other hand is quite different. It does not rely on objective analysis of the world we live in, preferring sacred texts and unverifiable subjective personal experience. Some people might observe the natural world, then say "This is definitely the work of Lady Morgan, Queen of the Living and Unliving, born of Storm and Flame". His views may be distorted by reading her holy books before of after his observation. But this should be absolutely meaningless if he cannot supply enough empirical evidence in defense of his claims. His subjective reasoning might be shared of others - in various proportions. Some might beg to differ, saying Lady Morgan only rules over the Living while her consort and avatar among mortals, Thun'der Snoeflayke of Buttlover is Lord of the Unliving. Many others would disbelieve altogether, citing lack of evidence for either scenario. This, in my opinion is the best attitude to have regarding the supernatural - I mean no offense here, but what is definitely real to you sounds like a crappy fantasy novel to me.

There are many atheists who are spiritual. Not to say they believe in the supernatural, but rather have a feeling of wonder when they look at the world around them with a dash of poetry, pretty words and feelings in the mix. While I wouldn't describe myself as such, whenever I look at the night sky and think about the sheer size of our universe and how we came to be on this planet I feel both small and large. Small because I'm just a meaningless mammal that will die in a few decades best case scenario. My entire lifespan isn't worth a damn when taking into account our planet, let alone the universe. The cosmos didn't give much of a damn when I was born and it will continue doing so way past the day I die. All that I am - my thoughts, determined by past experiences and a crapshot at the genetic lottery - is ultimately meaningless in the grand scale of things. However, each atom in my body came from the great furnaces of the stars themselves. They were here when the big bang happened. The oxygen in my bloodstream might have entered the lungs of famous persons, the carbon essential to my biological existence is guaranteed to have been part of multiple previous organisms which may or may not have been humans. I am part of a long evolutionary chain which could be traced back to abiogenesis and although I have chosen not to have children, I am the result of a struggle for existence which has been going on for the past ~3.5 billion years, from the simplest self replicating RNA molecules to my parents and grandparents. After I die, the elements that constitute my body will continue existing, following the same cycle. As I decomposed either thermically or by the action of bacteria, the ecosystem's primary producers will recycle them and it will all start over again. This is what I believe makes me great.

My apologies for rambling, I tend to do that quite a lot. I'll steer this wall o' text and death into a more relevant direction, that of religion.

I won't beat around the bush - it's harmful. As I said, you are probably a positive influence in the lives of others, which I'll continue to call 'a good person' despite the horrible subjectivity of good and evil. Bear with me for the sake of ease in writing.  :-[

In my country, the church is a financial behemoth. Earning more money than McDonald's[2] from their comercial activities and tax exemption, they still receive hefty financial aid from the state. While hospitals shut down due to the lack of funding, new churches are always built using state funds. The overwhelming majority of priests drive expensive cars and live in lavish houses. The few charities they do, help is always given with a good dose of proselytism. Religion classes are optional, but opt-out instead of opt-in and the few students that are aware might be stonewalled by the bureaucratic mess required, obtuse secretaries and principals who might even deny their requests unless threatened with higher authority. The classes themselves are taught either by an Orthodox priest or someone who has studied Orthodoxism. You can be sure the curriculum isn't structured on comparative analysis of different religions and philosophical debate. Politicians and the priests are so closely intertwined, the Patriarch can literally bitch to the Parliament about the laws he dislikes and they'll be changed - this is what happened last time we tried to take the church out of schools. He literally wrote a letter of complaint and it miraculously happened. Recently a member of the Parliament suggested that we maybe shouldn't cart so much money over to the church and follow the German model of a portion of people's taxes going to either their church of choice or NGOs. Of course he got shat on even by his own party by daring to suggest we should respect the constitution outlining us a secular state. People are encouraged to vote on socially regressive legislation which limits freedom and rights, hold intolerant views and discriminate Because the preacher God Almighty(TM) said so. This is only part of what goes on in the piece of paradise known as Romania, and I'm not even going near the classics such as religious wars, the Inquisition, child molesting priests and the violent murder of non believers.

You might have said to yourself "What the fuck, slow down, that's only organized religion! Some people keep it to themselves, isn't that a-ok?"

No, it's not ok. As I said, religion by itself is not based on objective, empirically measurable data. Combined with a high percentage of the population holding such views  it becomes the norm. I'll latch onto the previously given example of Santa - when not only mom and dad but also many people believe in him, kids are less likely to question it. Some might do so and come to a conclusion quite different than their parents. They would either come to terms with their non belief and the fact that they risk being ostracized or rationalize themselves back into the fold desiring security and acceptance. Problem is, they will grow up. Santa's sleigh will take some of their taxes, which will seem like bullcrap. His followers would deny them rights and infringe upon their freedom. Nonsensical commandments laid out in The Ancient Holy Book Of Ho Ho Ho will be seen by his peers as a reasonable basis of morality. All while he fails to receive any substantial evidence of bloody Santa's existence.

As long as believers believe, they latently support organized religion which (by intention or not) works to bring civilization backwards. For each act of benevolence there's many more acts of hate, discrimination, mindless greed and lust for power. All the benefits of religion can be obtained by secular means. They might not be perfect, but they noticeably lack many of the nastry side effects.

I am an anti theist. I fight for not only the abolishment of religion, but also promote skepticism and rational thinking. Sure, there'll always be the metaphorical village idiot rolling around in the dirt hoping he'll produce bacon like his pigs, but I believe that the age of information we live in can help us leave behind old superstitions and work towards a better society and future.

This might all seem like pompous, condescending conjecture but I have to fall back on the basic request: empirical proof. What you stated in this thread about souls and whatnot is all personal anecdote which cannot be verified. Replace "God" with "Queen Morgan" and "soul" with "ley lines of Beer". Or with anything you want, really. The amount of evidence stays the same: 0. Not a good number to base such massive socio-economical influences on.
 1. The only proper side dish to babies is potatoes, naturally
 2. http://www.capital.ro/detalii-articole/stiri/patriarhia-romana-profit-mai-mare-decat-mcdonalds-romania-169214.html No English link, sorry :(
Changed Change Reason Date
Kaine Excellent post. April 29, 2013, 09:01:34 AM
Quesi Damn! April 12, 2013, 04:25:15 PM