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Why do so many ‘nones’ believe in life after death?

(RNS) Since atheist blogger Martin Hughes left Christianity, he hasn’t missed believing in God or in hell.

But he does miss heaven.

“I wish that there was one to go to, and that’s the truth,” Hughes wrote in a blog post, adding that his view is probably not “atheistically correct.” In Hughes’ version of heaven, he would “understand everything.” There would be “deep, rich happiness that feels like Mom’s sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving.”

Hughes may not be alone in his desire to keep believing in a more secular version of heaven.

According to a recent analysis in the journal SAGE Open of responses from 1973 to 2014 to the General Social Survey, the general trend over the past few decades is broadly toward less religiosity (both public and private). However, the one indicator that seems to buck this trend is belief in the afterlife, where a slight increase was recorded in recent years. A 2013 survey by the conservative Christian Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture found that even 32 percent of the group comprising atheists, agnostics, and people of no religion claim to believe that there is life after death. Why this seeming contradiction?

The U.S. is not the first place where this phenomenon has been documented. The U.K.’s Daily Mail asked several prominent thinkers how they might explain the rise in numbers of atheist Britons as well as the increase in those that believe in life after death. The proposed explanations included selfishness, incredulity at the finality of death, a desire to believe in infinite possibility, and hope for those without material possessions.

But is someone who believes in life after death still an atheist? According to Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine as well as the New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, the answer depends on how you define “atheism.”

“Strictly defined, an ‘atheist’ has no belief in the traditional personal deity imagined by Western religions,” he wrote in an email. “Such an atheist could believe in an impersonal supernatural realm or an afterlife, but not presided over by a god. Arguably some Buddhist conceptions of karma and reincarnation are atheistic in this sense.”

Flynn adds that a broader definition holds that an atheist has no belief “in any supernatural realm or phenomena,” which would rule out belief in an afterlife.

Still, the connection between belief in life after death and religious dogma may be more tenuous than widely assumed.

A new study out of Australia took an in-depth look at a group of Australians of varied ethnic and religious backgrounds. Andrew Singleton, a sociologist of religion at Melbourne’s Deakin University, conducted interviews with 52 Australians aged 18-85. And the findings, published in the quarterly journal Mortality, suggest that “afterlife belief is varied, individualistic and mainly arrived at with little to no reference to orthodox religious teaching.”

Unlike mass polling that tends to offer large groups or participants merely the option of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to questions like “Do you believe in life after death?” Singleton sought to explore the content and character of their afterlife beliefs. He found that most people had arrived at their beliefs without being faithful to traditional religious dogma, but were still influenced by society at large.

Four categories of belief emerged:

1. “Life continues in heaven”

This was the most popular view, with 20 people expressing this belief. These were further divided into those with a “theocentric” (eternal solitude with God alone) or “anthropocentric” (believers are reunited with friends and family) view of heaven according to the previous work of scholars Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang. All the committed Christians in the study (16) believed in the theocentric view of heaven. Singleton found that the older participants were more expansive in their views, but were neither more certain in their beliefs nor more theologically precise. Furthermore, across all ages, heaven was the main focus: “Only a few very committed, orthodox evangelicals and Pentecostals argued for the existence of hell.”

For Hughes, who was raised as a fundamentalist Christian, it was exactly this traditional view of hell that was a factor in him leaving Christianity altogether. In an interview, he said it was a “major part” of that decision: “I just was uncomfortable with a God who thought some people deserved hell.” Asked if he was ever tempted to believe in the version he described, he said he tried, but ultimately could not: “I found no evidence for it.”

An additional four non-Christians believed in an anthropocentric version of heaven, not dissimilar to Hughes’ version. Religious themes don’t feature prominently, or are completely absent: “God is there, but not central to the proceedings.” Singleton attributes the popularization of this version of heaven to Spiritualism — a religious movement that began in the U.S. in the 19th century whose adherents believe the living can communicate with the spirits of the dead. The theocentric and anthropocentric believers in heaven were the only participants that arrived at their beliefs through religion. All other participants formed their beliefs outside of it.

2. “Continuing on …”

Five participants had beliefs categorized as “Continuing on …” These people were neither religious nor raised religious. They did not believe their actual consciousness lives on after death, but that “an aspect of our being continues in some way.” The example testimony of a participant who by his own admission had “a very messy belief system” describes the post-death state as: “You as an individual are not consciously involved in it anymore but your existence doesn’t, the existence of whatever makes you doesn’t cease, you’re part of the whole thing whether you’re a conscious part of it or not, it doesn’t matter in the end.”

3. Reincarnation belief

Nine people believed in reincarnation, sometimes in another human, sometimes in another species. Some were influenced by Buddhist or Hindu teachings on this matter, but had never really participated in either religious community or considered themselves adherents. These participants saw themselves more generally as “spiritual.”

While Singleton found a level of diversity among afterlife views, he found certainty to be lacking. Indeed, many never really discussed it at all. The exception to this was strong believers in Christianity. For the most part, informants were “hazy and equivocal” in their religious views. He found no “widely accepted religious model” of afterlife belief to be pervasive.

If not from religious teaching, then how did people arrive at their views? Some were raised religious. There were also those who were convinced they had seen ghosts or communicated with the dead through mediums. Singleton posits this is probably due to a broader modern cultural shift toward picking and choosing from different religions or philosophies: “I discovered that people place a very strong premium on the right to formulate their own opinions — typical of the religious individualism that characterizes contemporary Western society.”

4. Death is the end

Of course, not everyone believes in life after death. The remaining 16 interviewees (two participants avoided discussing their personal views altogether) were of the persuasion that death is the end. Singleton found them “entirely comfortable” in their conviction and said they had no real desire to entertain speculation about life after death. He asked one of the participants if he “secretly hoped” that there was life after death. Unlike Hughes, he said he didn’t.

When respondents were first asked about belief in afterlife in the GSS in 1973, the U.S. was a more religiously homogeneous country. Afterlife belief was largely synonymous with Christian conceptions of heaven and hell. In today’s more diverse society however, simply asking people if they believe in the afterlife may no longer be enough.

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Simon Davis

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  • “None” refers to no religious affiliation.

    It does not refer to no wishful thinking.

  • “Nones” are a catch-all category that includes people who believe in god(s) but who don’t belong to a specific religion. A majority of “nones” as surveyed by Pew Research believe in gods.

  • Atheists used to celebrate the rise of the “Nones”, until they found out that a good dollop of them (like 40 percent) were still open for discussion about the rational possibility of a Creator God. That sorta quieted things down.

    Openness to the concept of a possible afterlife, is just going to further alienate the hard-core Baby-Boomer atheists from the Nones.

    But who am I to complain about these developments? Mwahahaha!!

  • Like you would know a thing about atheists? Seriously? You still can’t represent what their beliefs are in an honest manner.

  • Why? Memories. Dreams. Reflection. As religionists become more crazily reactionary, more people step back, repelled, and if they have the interest and the persistence, read and explore they ways toward something that actually makes sense, to them anyway. This is what drives extreme religionists into even further frenzies of radical reaction (see, for example, Ted Cruz), up to and beyond pretty obvious insanity. Which reenforces the departure of people who prefer common sense, even if it means (at least for a time) “godlessness”.

    I guess I’m both atheist and none, since I believe reincarnation is fact but not in any supervising deity (more Daoist, really, than Buddhist) because a) this made sense to me, and b) of some unusual experiences over the past 35 years. Cherry-picking? If you like, and keeping in mind that the Bible as we know it is the result of many rounds of cherry-picking by various scribes, translators, and “holy men” arguing over what to include and what to leave out. But finding and crafting your own beliefs is, IMO, an exercise in maturity and liberation from the rigidities of traditional religion.

  • Atheists are “still open for discussion about the rational possibility of a Creator God”. It’s just that theists have yet to propose a rational argument for one, so we just don’t believe one exists.

  • We are hard wired to believe in some kind of life after death. It goes back as far as we know of humanity. I do believe those who believe heaven is a place may be in for a revelation. The truth is nobody knows what life after death will be like. I find that kind of exciting and at my age something to look forward to with anticipatory curiosity.

  • God, Allah, Jehovah, gods etc. all spitting theological hairs about the same thing. Nobody actually knows what “god” is or what god is made of. There is some allegorical imagery of what heaven and hell are but we really don’t know. Scientifically we know very little about things of earth and the universe, but the metaphysical is the ultimate unsolvable mystery.

  • That would justify agnosticism. But atheism generally comes with a heavy helping of arrogant self-assurance that there is ABSOLUTELY no God, and a refusal to concede that this creates as many questions and problems as it answers.

    Theism is logical, if not scientifically proven: it explains the existence of creation by pointing to the existence of a supernatural being that is not bound by the natural laws we have knowledge of that say, for example, that a rock or plant or biological organism cannot simply spring into being from nothing. But the absolutely-no-God atheism is not logical. In fact, its hypocritical. Because if there is no supernatural power, then you must believe that everything sprang from nothing in a random and unplanned manner. A concept equally lacking in support, and running into conflict with even more scientific principles than a deity.

  • Why do so many “nones” believe in God? Human arrogance…and poor catechism on the part of left-leaning Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations over the last fifty years.

    People feel entitled to judge God. The article above offers a clear example of this. The idea of “I’m not comfortable with a God who believes some people deserve hell” is roughly in the same category as “I don’t believe the sky on Mars is red because the sky is supposed to be blue”…its simply illogical. God either does or doesn’t exist whether you like the kind of God portrayed in scripture or not.

    But secondly, Churches haven’t exactly done a good job making the case for their own existence. How often do you hear hell discussed in a Catholic or Lutheran or Presbyterian church? You have a great many Christians who have totally abandoned the idea that anything other than Heaven awaits anybody. And if there is no risk of penalty for sin, how can the virtue of religiosity be a necessity?

  • Your fundamental flaw is that you assume your particular, peculiar version of God is the correct one, the only one, the only one that matters, and that very one else has it wrong, whether Christian, “Christian”, or other.

    As for this? “And if there is no risk of penalty for sin, how can the virtue of religiosity be a necessity?”

    Well, you said it, not me.

  • That is your idea of atheism. It fits almost no atheist I have ever met, though it does fit a few. But they are more properly known as anti-theists, rather than atheists.

    Everything sprang from nothing is wrong if it’s the universe, but right if it’s religion. Again, that’s your caricature of science and atheism.

    “A concept equally lacking in support, and running into conflict with even more scientific principles than a deity.” Again, you said it, not me.

  • Re “atheism generally comes with a heavy helping of arrogant self-assurance that there is ABSOLUTELY no God”:

    I personally believe there is no God, but I also believe in respecting others’ beliefs. My parent’s faith gave them comfort during their final year, and I’m grateful for that. Everyone cherishes their rights to their spiritual/existential beliefs, and I oppose the trampling of your beliefs by others as much as I oppose the imposition of your beliefs upon others. That’s why I so often refer to “respecting each other’s boundaries”.

    As Ben said, atheists hostile to theists’ beliefs are called antitheists. Similarly, theists hostile to atheists’ beliefs are called antiatheists. I don’t know what theists hostile to other theists’ beliefs and atheists hostile to other atheists’ beliefs are called. I call them jerks.

    It seems to me that all that hostility toward other people’s equally rightful beliefs is nothing but cooked-up ego food — possibly the most toxic and most tempting snack in the universe.

  • There are the ‘nones’ in the Pacific N W who think near death experiences are simply the brain working chemicals to take away the trauma of dying…that we don’t know yet about the 5th and 6th zones of metaphysical reality…and so for them, death is the end.

  • “nones” are rejecting traditional judeo christian beliefs especially their inability to reconcile evil in a world created by a beneficent God (theodicy) and the teaching of eternal punishment. poll questions are almost never termed in a way which accurately exposes what people are thinking. ridiculous

  • The concept of eternal life is not only ludicrous it is out right frightening. Why would we want to live forever? Such a concept is too horrible to contemplate, an eternal existence woud be hell. What I think most are discussing is that they wish they could live longer, like maybe a few thousand or few million years. We want to see what happens in the future. But eternity is not merely a long time. 200 trillion years is an insignificant fraction of eternity. The only form of eternal life I accept is the nature of a fractal universe where eventually our universe is recreated.

  • I’m always amused when someone asserts something like, “. . . if there is no supernatural power, then you must believe that everything sprang from nothing in a random and unplanned manner,” but yet they obviously believe that a “supernatural power ” with the intelligence and skills to create the universe “sprang from nothing.”

  • Silly, narrow article, by and about people with little imagination. To reject Western religious views leaves all other alternatives open. Humans run on instinct/desire/fear/excitement, and on rare occasions -brains.

  • I don’t see why evolution, which evolved our consciousness, could not also have evolved to continue our consciousness after death. Of course I am influenced by having numerous dreams spending time with dead relatives and their childhood friends I never met.A few are solemn, most are funny, like most of our family get togethers. Some of the dreams conveyed complex information that turned out to be accurate. BTW, who I ask about what life after death is like, they laugh, explaining that they are only taking forms familiar to me but that what I am seeing is a manifestation tailored to my limitations, not what it is really like. Do I believe in God? I’m not concerned with that question, religion is boring or scary or obviously spiritualizing for some. I think it is obnoxious that any group of humans act like they own God and their God approves of their nasty behavior and ignorant ranting preachings.

  • Nones celebrate unity because it means so many are rejecting the religions that claim to own god, treat god as their personal attack dog, condemn so easily and want to impose an intellectual construct that makes no sense. Th issue of belief in god is not that important as abandoning religious institutions.

  • Consciousness is a product of electrical activity in the brain. Without the brain and without the electrical activity, there can be no consciousness. So the idea that consciousness could “evolve” without a brain to generate it is complete nonsense. Your dreams are not evidence that the consciousness of dead relatives still exist – they may be evidence of subconscious memories, confirmation bias, or just wishful thinking. You realize scientists have developed ways of testing all the ways that people think consciousness survives death, right? And all the tests have shown nothing.

  • Again, it seems the “Nones” are being confused with “non-believers.” While all non-believers can be called “Nones,” not all “Nones” are non-believers. Non-believers are a subgroup within the wider realm of “Nones.” The “Nones” also include a lot of religious folk who don’t belong to a defined religion or religious group (or perhaps they do, but don’t want to admit it i out loud).

    That people keep confusing these two groups — equating them as identical when in truth one is merely a subset of the other — is really getting old. Use of the term “Nones” became common in the wake of the ARIS 2008 report released by Trinity College (Hartford, CT). Several years have gone by since then … more than long enough for religion writers to have figured out the difference.

    Yeah, I get the point here; the theists all get to snicker at the “atheists” who believe (some of) the same things they do, thus betraying themselves as “not ‘really’ atheists”; but honestly, it’s a lie, predicated on a purposeful misapprehension of a very basic term that no one has any excuse for not understanding correctly. It’s long past time for it to just freaking stop already, fercryinoutloud.

  • I think that when I die, that’s it. The end. It makes sense to me. But feel free to believe whatever you like.

    Why are you, anyone, threatened by people with different beliefs?

  • Because people with different beliefs tend to act on them, and when a belief system advocates violence, that is threatening.

    2006 02 26 In North Carolina, 4 year-old Sean Paddock was beaten, then suffocated to death by his devout Christian parents. The parents were following their belief in Proverbs 23:13-14.

    2008 03 23 In Wisconsin, 11 year-old Madeline Neumann was murdered by her devout Christian parents, when they refused to treat her diabetes with anything but prayer. The parents were following their belief in Luke 8:50, James 5:16.

    2010 02 05 In California, 7 year-old Lydia Schatz was beaten to death by her devout Christian adoptive parents. She was beaten for mispronouncing a word. The parents were following their belief in Proverbs 23:13-14.

    2011 05 12 In Washington, 13 year-old Hana Grace-Rose Williams was beaten and starved by her devout Christian adoptive parents until she died of hypothermia. The parents were following their belief in Proverbs 23:13-14, Joel 2:12.

    2015 10 11 In New York, 19 year-old Lucas Leonard was beaten to death by members of the Word of Life Christian Church, after he expressed a desire to leave the church. His killers’ actions were based on their belief in Deuteronomy 13:6-11, Deuteronomy 17:2-20, 2 Chronicles 15:13.

    2015 10 20 In Kentucky, 49 Year-old Laura Reid beat a disabled man using the man’s metal walking cane. The man was forced to crawl to a local gas station to get help. He suffered serious injuries, including a concussion and a broken arm. He was beaten because he said he did not believe in God. Reid’s actions were based on her belief in Deuteronomy 13:6-11, Deuteronomy 17:2-20, 2 Chronicles 15:13.

    2015 12 24 In Arizona, 20-year-old Crystal Hillman was shot to death by devout Christian Anitra Braxton because Hillman claimed not to believe in God. The killer’s actions were based on her belief in Deuteronomy 13:6-11, Deuteronomy 17:2-20, 2 Chronicles 15:13.

    2016 01 20 In Israel, Jewish vandals attacked the home of 89 year-old Professor Yaakov Malkin, leaving a letter threatening Malkin with death if he did not “immediately end all atheist and heretic activity”. The vandals’ actions were based on their belief in Deuteronomy 13:6-11, Deuteronomy 17:2-20, 2 Chronicles 15:13.

    Members of ISIS have killed many many people, following their belief in passages in the Qur’an such as Quran 8:12, which says “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”.

    So, no. People should NOT feel free to believe whatever they like. They should feel free to believe anything that does no harm to others. If a set of beliefs is harmful, STOP believing in it.

  • “Yeah, I get the point here; the theists all get to snicker at the “atheists” who believe (some of) the same things they do, thus betraying themselves as “not ‘really’ atheists”;
    But that very criticism of atheists has a nice little boomerang: so its silly if atheists believe it– whatever that means– but not silly if theists believe it?

  • absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
    I am about as rational a person as you can come by. Yet I have had experiences of my late partner– as have several other people I know, none of whom are stupid, crazy, religiously inclined, or deluded– that defy explanation. Some of them might be considered coincidental, or reading meaning into something that has none. Others not.
    What does it mean? I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t think it tells me anything other that in some way, some part of him survived. It certainly doesn’t validate the Christian story, or anybody’s story, for that matter. But the experiences were as real as anything.

  • No, of course not. I’m saying it’s a terrible idea to say it’s okay to believe whatever someone wants – which includes harmful things.

  • This article is about the diversity of afterlife beliefs, or not. I don’t see any harmful things there. Do you?

  • You’re right — but that’s a detail theists are likely to miss. What they will pay attention to is the apparent evidence suggesting that atheism is, itself, a religion, thus bosltering their underlying belief that “everyone” is religious, even those who say they’re not.

  • As long as you underline “apparent” at least 15 times, with an asterisk indicating a footnote that the word “religious” only properly applies to rabid anti-theists, and not your average atheist who would not object to seeing some actual evidence, I’m good with it.

  • Any belief can be twisted into a reason for harming others — if the believer chooses to do so.

    Your own belief, “People should NOT feel free to believe whatever they like,” is the very basis for at least the last five of your examples.

    How would you ensure that people won’t (can’t?) believe whatever they like?

    It’s not about beliefs. Beliefs are only thoughts. They can’t hurt anyone. It’s what people DO with their beliefs that matters.

    That’s why we have legal systems. And, yes, it’s just as easy to think, “People should NOT be able to break the law.” But, again, how are you going to enforce that? How can you control others’ free will? Tie them up until they die?

    The best we can do is choose not to harm others; do all we can to spread that ethic; and stand with each other, united, against those who do harm.

    (BTW, this is why I speak out against divisive words and actions — inequality, trespass, cruelty — and why I speak up for “respecting others’ boundaries”.)

  • No one is “threatened” by the idea of a life after death. The idea that they are is nonsense. So if that’s all you were talking about, then you were constructing a straw man. Alternatively, you were speaking more broadly, in which case my response was valid. So which is it?

  • The original post said “Why are you, anyone, threatened by people with different beliefs?”

    I explained why.

    I would not “ensure that people won’t (can’t?) believe whatever they like”, but I would ensure that they could be strongly criticised for believing harmful things, which is what many atheists do, to the dislike of many Christians, it seems.

  • You’re certainly going off in a variety of directions while attacking me for rather innocuous comments. You are the one who talked about advocating violence and harmful things. Calm down and examine your responses. This seems to be about you, not me.

  • Then I think we’re probably in agreement, Ian.

    I speak out against those who try to hold other people to their own spiritual/existential beliefs, or who disparage other people’s noninvasive beliefs, or who presume to judge other people, or who refuse to do business with other people because of their private lives or differing beliefs, or who make up stories about other people and mistreat them accordingly.

    For examples, see my replies to rayster (later in the conversation).

  • What a cruel farce to foist on people that there’s an afterlife.
    Where’s the proof??? Show the video of someone coming back!! Not a single one. Not a single empirical communication. Why? Does God forbid it?!!
    The burden of proof is on the believer.
    Man created God, not God created Man.
    Quit looking upwards, look forward!

  • If there were proof, there would be no need for faith, rayster. Belief in an afterlife gives people hope, and it doesn’t hurt you one bit. Although I’m an atheist, it was obvious to me how much my parents’ devout Christianity comforted them during their last year.

    Antitheistic flamethrowing only destroys the goodwill that respectful atheists are working so hard to build with believers. Coexistence requires respect for and from both sides.

  • You cannot prove nothing! THAT is the point.
    Yes, we see what acts of madness and murderous acts are carried out in the name of religion worldwide! Acts of delusion!
    I am not happy my parents were brainwashed as young susceptible children to live an entire life under irrationality and illusion (yes, even delusion). My dying mother had doubts about her Catholicism and I encouraged them gently.
    Tell me, how might you explain to parents (or anyone!) the gruesome painful deaths of the ten children whose heads and chests and limbs were crushed by an 18 ton truck in Nice, France? An omnipotent omniscient all loving God??!!
    The Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Crisis is yet another example of the utter utter hypocritical dangers of unassailable traditional organized religion and deceipt ruling peoples’ spiritual lives.
    Illusion leads to inaction and truth leads to action.
    At critical junctures, people need to be SHOCKED out of their safe little bubbles of dogma and scriptures and rituals and prayers and feckless withdrawn contemplative lives waiting for “justice” in the next life.
    My journey from good little altar boy to atheist was self-motivated and actuated, but I am one person and I agree in practice heavy handedness is not the best way to get someone to start to change. But, if I open some eyes with what I say here it is but one first step.

  • Only heaven and everyone goes there? Hitler and Stalin too? Rapists, murderers, war criminals, etc.?

    No hell = no ultimate punishment of those who commit vile, despicable, and unrepentant acts upon humanity.

    If there’s no ultimate justice then nothing in this existence makes any sense; the world is a bleak place of “…continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. –Thomas Hobbes. Might as well off myself now and save a boatload of futility.

    Maybe cosmic justice is meted out through reincarnation and karmic retribution? If so then we shouldn’t be helping out the poverty stricken and less fortunate: They are only living out their karma and should be left to suffer so they can have a better life in the next one. Sorry– I can’t go with that option, either.

    Just a few reasons why I believe in heaven as well as hell.

    Obviously, believe what you want. But philosophically I believe there has to be some cosmic justice.

  • Why does the universe have to conform to your desires? Even if there’s a god, why should he have to create places of reward and punishment to fulfill your petty desires? I think your view is kinda arrogant, as well as unrealistic.

    Personally, I enjoy my existence, despite the fact (and it is a fact) that it has no higher meaning than the meaning I give to it. I think it’s really sad that you find life without a higher meaning so empty that you’d feel compelled to commit suicide if you found your beliefs to be in error. I mean, that’s messed up, especially since the overwhelming likelihood is that there is no higher meaning.

  • I understand your anger, rayster, and I’m very sorry to hear that your mother’s final spiritual experience wasn’t calming, comforting, and hopeful, as my parents’ experiences were.

    Nevertheless, I disagree with many of your assertions, the first two of which I want to directly address:

    (1) “You cannot prove nothing! THAT is the point.”:

    The hard-and-fast truth is, none of the living can know, with objective evidentiary certainty, whether or not deity exists.

    But, like you, I personally believe there is no deity.

    Still, I like to imagine a “mirror universe” in which humanity’s ungodly inhumanities have so offended a loving and merciful God that he/she has left us alone, and will not return until we fix our own problems — a difficult yet not impossible challenge.

    (2) “Yes, we see what acts of madness and murderous acts are carried out in the name of religion worldwide! Acts of delusion!”:

    It’s important to remember that such awful acts are committed in the name of nonreligion, too; and that at least as many acts of sanity and lifesaving, of wisdom and compassion, of physical and emotional healing and relief are also carried out in the names of both religion and nonreligion.

    As I’ve said before, both theistic and nontheistic beliefs tend to magnify whatever is in the human heart, for better and/or for worse; and when it comes to humanity on this Earth, and how people treat each other, it’s not the beliefs, but rather what you do with them, that matters.

    With all the above in mind, I hope you can appreciate why I would have been way beyond angry if anyone had made any attempt to undermine my parents’ faith, especially during their last, peaceful, hopeful moments on this world.

  • I think you’re kinda’ arrogant, to think your views are any more realistic than anyone else’s. I was just saying what I believe and why–not trying to foist my beliefs on anybody else. I think it’s fascinating, as well as telling, that you felt compelled to bring up “god” when I didn’t mention “god” at all. Like I said, “Believe what you want.”

    I simply have a philosophical problem with a universe where there’s no justice. I hope nothing horrifically unjust ever happens to you or anyone you care about in a reality with absolutely no provision for fair ultimate adjudication. That would suck.

    No reason to be sad regarding my conjectured demise. Since, in this life anyway, I won’t find my or your beliefs to be in error, will I? Seeing as there’s no proof for either of us until after our demise…

    Have a great life and may it be full of the meaning you give to it.

  • …or shall we call it “making god in your own image, according to your preferences”?

  • Huh? Atheists don’t “judge God”; absent evidence of God’s existence (apart from a piece of many-times-translated ancient literature), they don’t believe there is a God, so there’s nothing to judge. And your example is a false equivalence if ever I’ve seen one: “I’m not comfortable with a mean God” does not equate to “I’m not comfortable with a red sky on another planet”, since an ethical issue (why believe in a God as cruel as evil people?) doesn’t equal “If Mars actually does have a red sky, I’m not going because that makes me uncomfortable”, an issue of observational proof or disproof.

  • The atheist as Flynn first describes her — as someone who does think there is (or might well be) survival of the soul/consciousness after death ins some supernatural state NOT presided over by “God” — can also be a spiritualist (and may also perform rituals, historic or constructed, to maintain good relations with spiritual entities who are not a supreme supernatural being). The word I’ve come across for atheists at the extreme of atheism, who believe that if they can’t apprehend convincing evidence of a thing via their normal physical senses then it cannot or does not exist, is “Materialist” (Dawkins, Hitchens et al). So the term atheist as currently used is pretty loose and baggy, IMO, and probably benefits by that very flexibility, since part of the problem for many with religions is their unforgiving rigidity in the face of social change.

  • Oh, I don’t know . . . I think there are various degrees of wishful thinking involved in a good deal of None ideation. Humans do tend to lean this way, inside or outside of structured religion. I don’t think it matters, since nobody can prove *any* of the many theories and beliefs about post-death survival (or not) to a “scientific” (or Materialist) standard.

    Personally, I think that many experience a phase of wishful thinking after death (that is, a perceived materialization of what they *expect* to find) to comfort themselves (hence some returning from NDE’s reporting meetings with Jesus, Grandpa, or even the Devil — “wished” for if you sincerely believe you’ve been evil and deserve punishment). What happens after that is just as open to question; I have some ideas about that, as many do, gathered from about 6 decades of study, experience, dreams, and plain old thinking about stuff, which I don’t normally discuss — because why do so? It’s always a big bundle of unprovable arguments, and often descends into rancor and name calling — because there are no proofs.

  • Atheists don’t “judge God”. You don’t pass judgment on something that you don’t believe exists.

  • You can call it that, if you choose to. I don’t, but that’s no reason for you to change your mind.

  • Nothing wrong with self-assurance, IMO; nor does self-assurance mean that what one is self-assured about in terms of belief is set in stone. We develop self-assurance to help deal with life’s challenges by deploying and off-setting or minimizing what we’ve learned are our strengths and our weaknesses.

    Arrogance, on the other hand, is telling other people that God absolutely exists and that everyone must believe in “him” or go to Hell — with no evidence whatever, outside of a very old, many-times-re-translated piece of literature.

  • Being an adult generally comes with a heavy helping of arrogant self-assurance that there is ABSOLUTELY no Santa, and a refusal to concede that this creates as many questions and problems as it answers. How do the presents get here? Who wraps them? How could every kid get presents if it’s not a jolly fat guy who uses magical reindeer?

    But the thing about adulthood is that we’re not afraid of unanswered questions (or at least some of us aren’t). We just prefer to try to find answers using methods that actually work, rather than just going on faith that Santa is real. It’s the same with gods.

  • Philosophically, I think there is cosmic justice, but there’s no need of a God figure to dispense it, if you think that reincarnation is how all this works. That concept works (IMO) on the basis of balance, imbalance, and re-balance: I incur karmic debts through actions that cancel the possibilities of another making their own choices (and learning from the consequences). If I kill you, or abandon you when you are helpless, or rape you, or unlawfully imprison you, I am ending or diverting your choices (or opening them to drastic distortion one way or another) in this life.

    In a later life, you and I will agree to meet again, to destroy the karmic link that my action created between us. The terms on which we settle the debt I owe you will be set by you, but the debt must be cancelled for both of us to be able to move on in the education provided by our journeys of many lifetimes. In this concept, a Hitler, or a Stalin, or a gangland killer or a landlord who imprisons people on welfare and takes their government checks will all have lots and lots of individual debts to settle and lessons to learn.

    But that’s just what I think, articulated here just to speak up for a non-Abrahamic belief.

  • The tests show changes in biochemical and bioelectrical activity, and nothing that is proven to track whatever energy constitutes the spirit or soul (if there is one). What CitizenWhy’s dreams are evidence of or not evidence of is not yours to say, Ian Cooper, because no one has yet scientifically nailed down the entire spectrum of the functions of dreams. Calling something “complete nonsense” only means that it makes no sense to you; but, just a gentle reminder — you are not everybody, or even the most knowledgeable person in the world, so a less superior tone would suit this discussion; if you are capable of that.

  • Okay, where’s the evidence that consciousness can exist without a brain? If you don’t have any, the notion is on the level of the idea that there are magical reindeer who can bring a fat elf to every kid’s house in one night – i.e. complete nonsense. The fact that I can’t prove it’s not true doesn’t mean it’s at all reasonable to believe it is.

  • Yep; me too, Ben, particularly re dreams. More specifically, I tend toward rationality, though not without forays into credulity or wishful thinking sometimes, mainly because I have found rationality to be both enormously useful and grounding *and* inadequate when it comes to aspects of experience that simply fall outside of rationality’s scope. Not being subject to rational analysis does not, IMO, equal non-existent; not by a long shot.

    I do think, though, that an individual’s perception of their own experience varies tremendously in “rationality” and “spirituality” (among other things) according to how much life-experiebnce that person has had (over how many lifetimes, I mean), so that on very subjective matters there will always be major disagreement on the basis of individual perception and receptiveness to perception (some people never remember their dreams, which doesn’t mean that they don’t have dreams, or that their dreams don’t have any function — only that, for some internal reasons, such a person has their memory for dreams turned off, in this part of this lifetime).

    Science has a lot of clear, solid rules at macro and micro levels, but we all live in medio levels, where a whole lot of very complex and (so far) very spottily observable phenomena take place and where for the most subjective of them (at this point), one size does not seem to fit all — or even most. And maybe never will . . .

  • Wow, great; glad you wrapped that all up in a neat package for me! Or rather — for yourself. To me, your summary is deeply inadequate, and therefore, of all things, also silly by reason of being not nearly imaginative enough.

  • Sderamus, I agree; I like the person I’ve grown up to be pretty well at this point (I’m in my 7th decade), but that doesn’t mean that I’d be happy living as that self for eternity. Good grief, what a *boring* idea that is! Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I think I’ve had a bunch of former lifetimes as all sorts of people all over the world, and still have another bunch ahead of me (I don’t claim to be an “old” soul as Nones define these things, must middling mature with a LOT to learn), until I’ve learned everything I need to about life as a physical being. Then — something else, maybe, not imaginable from here. I can’t prove this, of course (well, I’m not willing to do the necessary work — there is one past life that I might be able to find evidence for, if I were to brush up my high school French, go to France, and devote the rest of this life to hunting down some still extant legal tomes “I” wrote as a magistrate or judge during the time of the Revolution of 1789 — so, no, not gonna do that).

    I also think that the universe expresses itself in fractals, and is self-reinventing. Can’t prove that, either. But I like it. A lot. Cheers!

  • Yes, poll questions are usually too simplistic; but I’d rather live a culture in which such questions can be asked, even badly, than one in which even asking a question about religious belief can get you killed or imprisoned. It ain’t conclusive, but in the absence (so far) of something better, I’ll take it, and thanks.

  • Sure, brain stuff happens during the process of death; but there’s no necessary *causal* link established between those processes and the subjective experience of dying, insofar as the latter has been reported by survivors of NDEs. That is the fallacy of simultaneity being taken for causality. I await further developments in scientific inquiry techniques and results on the matter before taking scientific *descriptions* of brain activities leading to death for “explanations” for the subjective experience reported by NDE survivors.

  • Depends on your definition of “reasonable”, which clearly is narrower than mine. No magical reindeer in my mental barn; sorry. And elves are tall, slim, and beautiful — haven’t you read Tolkien?! I am not just blowing off your answer, by the way; it’s just that you and I have clearly gone as far as we can go with useful conversation about this, since for me it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that consciousness can exist without a living, functioning brain, based on evidence that you would simply deny is valid because it can’t be proven to your satisfaction. Fine: I’m talking about what’s proven to *my* satisfaction.

    As I said: in subjective matters, one size does not fit all; including the size labeled “scientifically valid”.

  • It came out today on Drudge…that they are noting brain activity after death.

    And then there are those who have experienced loved ones from the dead communicating to them….usually when they are in some sort of danger.

    The Catholic Church has many testimonies regarding life after death. So many. Some think today the 5th and 6th dimension is the New World of discovery….but then as Socrates said, ‘there is nothing new under the sun…’

    Life after death requires a moral value actually…that science cannot provide of itself. Reason and science….and faith can co exist.

  • A “not theist” is an impossibly broad category. It is not unlike dark matter. I have studied religion for over five of my seven decades. Occam’s Razor, applied to the subject of religion (as a feature of all organized human society), would resemble my summary if one only added the cynical exploitation of superstition by a ruling class.

  • Oh — but I thought “death” is now more or less defined as when the brain stops exhibiting any signs of activity. So what kind of “death” is this measurable brain activity occurring after?

    Not sure why the existence of the soul/spirit/whatever requires a “moral value” — can you expand on that? I’ve thought for a long time now that we all have souls, and all souls have an existence after they are unhoused from a non-functioning body by death — again, can’t prove it, and won’t urge that idea on anyone who doesn’t care for it.

  • Nothing impossible about that category, although it can certainly be broken down into identifiable bits (differently by different people, naturally). As for Occam’s Razor, it is indeed handy, but not always and for everything. Some concepts are too complex to be well served by reductionism.

    As for “the cynical exploitation of superstition by a ruling class”, I am with you there, brother; con artists of various kinds are found at all levels of society, but the crooks at the top are the worst in terms of doing widespread damage. On the other hand, I’m not as quick as you seem to be to (again) reduce all aspects of spiritual belief and practice to mere superstition.

  • Problem is LIFE…is outside of science, I mean the Creator Who IS…the Eternal Being…don’t mean to cap but am trying to infer that which is outside of us.

    Thomas Aquinas said our understanding of God can be compared to an eye of an owl next to the sun.

    About hell…what I have been taught is that when you die you are passing on continuing the attitude you have had. And it is violation against God and your neighbor and your self…your own opposition that places you in the place without God, without belief. A priest told us one time he thought hell would be in a room where you stayed for all eternity..white, no color, all alone…no human contact…

    But for myself as a Catholic, ours is to enter into the life of God here on earth….through Word and liturgy…the liturgy the first step here on earth that connects us with heaven.

    Catholic/Orthodox liturgies are trancendant, lift us up to a higher consciousness…and with the reception, worthily…meaning to put into practice our beliefs, what we do is then serve others….that is the over riding force…through this communion of the Trinity united with our inner being, our core…and those around us…where we are free and totally complete…

    I am afraid of death and assume it is most traumatic. But I keep my focus back to how I just explained to you.

    Faith is a gift…and you cannot really explain it well to others, it comes more in your relationship with others.

    I think all the misinformation, disinformation, distortion of religious history has harmed so many, the caricatures from Hollywood, etc., the issue of suffering, the value of human life, the family and one ‘s care for one another, one’s parents caring for them in their old age….all this living out of faith…is really that and you cannot put it into a scientific category.

    Hope I make some sense here.

  • I just answered yours….you come across as existentialist….

    I liked studying it when I was a college freshman and it was when the social revolution was going into full swing and i was an agnostic.

    In medical field, yes, when the brain stops working, one is considered deceased but the article I read today was that they found brain activity continuing after death. i could look at that and also think of the same activity of muscles…they have spasms after a person dies.

    Faith in God…in my tradition….is communion and you cannot achieve it unless you work within some kind of framework of the commandments and loving God and neighbor…and having faith that the little things and choices you do every day….out of love and self denial….and live on a more contemplative level than a consumer, competitive level….is this….and to have faith that the little things you do….are seen as great by God because He is great…a thought from Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

    So it is more this internal day to day relationship guided by love and value that offsets the emptiness….the nones…i feel this world is now. It can feel so empty to me.

    We live in a culture of self isolation and I think this also affects people.

  • I’d like to answer this in greater detail, and your other comment as well. But I’m on vacations with my in-laws and don’t have the time right now. But there is a book by James Branch Cabell, one of my favorite authors, called Jurgen. It made quite a stir in its days. In it, Jurgen learns that the entire history of religion in the west was created by a sort of deity called Koschei the Deathless, in order to get Jurgen’s grandmother to shut up and stop bothering him when she learned that the Christian cosmos was a myth. He wrote a number of books, but his Biography of Manuel, which covers about 50 volumes of his out put, constantly returns to these themes. Very witty and clever and learned stuff, on the whole.

    “What are your beliefs and your pride to me, Who Made Things As They Are,” said Koschei.

  • You make as much sense as anybody else here, IMO; I like it that your religion works so positively for you. What works for me, in the sense of helping me to enjoy and examine my life and not try to mess other people up for taking different paths to mine, is to assume that “I”, as a spirit, am embodied in order to live in the physical and learn what that is, how it works, and what its delights, its pains, and its limitations are. When I’m done with the lifetimes it takes to reach that point, I’m outta here, taking my earth lessons with me to whatever non-physical (? Probably?) for of existence comes next. This isn’t any sort of dogma; it’s just what I’ve come round to thinking, mostly via Zen studies, study of dreams, moments of illumination (we all have them, but they’re hard to hang onto afterwards in any accurate way), and conversation with others. No God/gods are involved. I think that makes me some sort of None.

  • Hi, Julie — I was an existentialist (formally speaking, more or less) when I was in high school and college, reading Sartre and Camus etc. But what I remember of that mind-set, as I understood it, was much more, oh, what to call it — maybe just *French* than what I think is likely now. I remember the whole idea as being absolutely soaked in the French “tristesse” — sadness, a dramatic outlook full of despair because nothing ultimately means anything and entropy always wins.

    I still think that entropy is unbeatable, although it can be postponed a bit, but at the same time the winding down of the universe is followed by the emergence of a new one, with different rules and inhabitants to ours, and this goes on eternally, like a heartbeat that never stops. I could see that as a tragedy — and sometimes I did, and still do — or as a fantastic, gigantic tapestry that weaves itself out of all our lives, or a dance that’s wonderful for its own sake (I think that’s a Hindu idea, as I first encountered it), and that oscillation between delight and despair is in fact part of the learning of life on and in the physical.

    One aspect of this view, for me, is that there *is* no isolation; we are all part of the same weaving/unweaving, aware sometimes, sometimes not, and part of learning our way out of it is learning that isolation is a trick of the ego and its terror of annihilation. But we, as spirits trying on varying embodiments, are all in this together, literally; and if one isn’t too scared to see it, the world is full of old friends and companions in changed lives. If you’ve met and recognized some of them, you’ll know how that feels and how it changes things. if not — next time, or the time after that. Isolation is a trick of the ego used by con artists of all kinds to manipulate people and frighten them into foolish and harmful actions. That’s how I see it.

  • Hey, Ben — I do know Cabell’s work, read a good deal of it once. He took Koschai the Deathless from Russian folklore (and I think you can find a version of Koschai in Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” as well — another wonderful book, IMO). Nothing enlivens religion like wit! I have to admit that I don’t remember “Jurgen” now. I hope we get to chat more about all this another time, when we’re both more at leisure to do so.

  • We shouldn’t never mess people up and we all need to accept people at the level of where they are at.

    The world would be much better …

    Take care, dear soul!

  • Narcissism is so prevalent now. That is a good take on French existentialists.

    You have hope and joy….that is good and socializing….communing…

  • Well, we can but try, eh? Only not too hard . . . there’s an art (that must be learned) to cutting yourself some slack when that’s what’s needed.

  • And this experience cannot be taught….faith is not necessary…ancient Greek philosophers said you can encounter The Person without faith….

  • “he thought hell would be in a room where you stayed for all eternity..white, no color, all alone…no human contact…”

    That’s Hell for extroverts. Sounds like heaven for an introvert. Maybe I can finally get some peace and quiet.

  • Agreed; what is required is absolute trust, even if only for a moment — and more than a moment is very, very difficult, if not impossible. That’s been my (very limited) experience.

    But the person I’m talking about is any person, and I think you may mean (given your capitals, The Person) “God”. I don’t — at least, not as I suppose you think of that concept. In my terms, the one you meet fully in this way is the soul in the other human being, which your own soul recognizes and embraces. It’s more like the hands-over-heart salute that Asian Buddhists offer each other, each saluting the “godhood”, the indestructible soul energy, in the other; but not as a customary formality, as I found it in Thailand, for example, or the “gruss Gott” people greet you with on a hiking trail in Austria.

    On the larger point you raise, I also agree: faith is entirely beside the point for me. Each meeting is an experience, a discreet and amazing thing that happens, and then life moves on, and the job is to move on with it, not linger with longing looks backward. Memory distorts. Only the immediate experience is itself, and it’s not to be stored up because it won’t “keep” during our physical lifetime. I think, though, that it returns fully during the life-review that I believe we each undertake after each physical death.

  • No problem with disagreement, but you may have jumped to a wrong conclusion about my position. As usual, the word belief is so malleable that it is useless. Does it mean credibility, or certainty, or reliable, or likely, or indispensable, or XYZ …?
    Having a spiritual experience (I have had my share) does not mean that the explanation offered for same is satisfactory. I opine that spiritual experience is viewed through our cultural lens, unless one makes the difficult effort to be impartial. Kant’s solution was to hold revelation as invalid for all but the participant. I would go even farther, and say validity is an inappropriate speculation.

  • Good insight because so many times we make choices on our personal inclinations, be they introvert, extrovert…or the ambivert…

    He was a lawyer who became a priest.

  • I may well have, and thanks for being civil about it! People do tend to get so het up about these things . . . Actually, Kant’s solution is one I’d apply to pretty much *all* experience, not because experience itself is questionable, but because of the changing personal filters everyone brings to each and every experience in life. So that certainly holds true, IMO, regarding experiences described as revelatory.

    Sometimes I think about what would happen if, somehow, mental telepathy were to suddenly descend on planet Earth’s human species: a total freeze, I imagine, while we all tried to cope with the — ah — *revelation* that all experience is individual and no single person is exactly like any other in the way he or she views and takes in and interacts with the world. Or so I believe. That’s why the arts interest me so much — they are projections out into the world of each creative originator’s individual perceptions of the world, a person’s learning offered to the rest of us to receive (or not), and to share if we choose to.

  • Well, for all of us, I think, and with all of us. It’s what people search for in so many ways — true intimacy, which implies perfect trust. Follow that out, it becomes perfect acceptance, aka unconditional love. Physical self, geared toward survival at all costs, can barely stand the concept, while still craving what it means. Poor us! No wonder we’re such a magnificent mess.

  • Darwin is one of my greatest heroes. In his autobiography (Nora Barlow edition, 1958), he makes a few comments about religion that I find unsurpassed. Among them is “…..can the mind of man, which has, as i fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? May not these be the result of the connection between cause and effect which strikes us as a necessary one, but probably depends merely on inherited experience?….”. After a Century and a half, Epigenetics has demonstrated that inheritance is not firmly fixed at conception and independent of the environment. Speculation continues. Faith, in the Christian sense, is unsupportable.

  • Finally I have a chance to respond.

    I agree, it’s all wishful thinking and/or unproved and unprovable beliefs. That’s why I became an it-doesn’t-matterist. The ultimate answers to ultimate questions ultimately don’t matter. Part of that answer was simple materialism. Part of the pat answer was trying to embrace Christianity when I was a young man, and realizing that all of the basic premises, no matter how attractive, were absurd. (I love you so much that I became a man to prove it, and if you don’t believe that, I will consign you to hell for ever to burn and turn and burn. But I love you, so don’t take the burning eternity thing personally).

    And part of it was Cabell, whom you are familiar with. He basically posited that either no faith is true, one faith is true, or the most entertaining prospect, they are all of them true. And not in some mushy, pantheistic way, where we all worship the same God (despite centuries of murder, war, torture and thought that demonstrate otherwise). But all literally true, or at least, as literally true as our limited understandings are capable of taking us.

    For myself, it doesn’t matterism takes that thought and runs with it. I’m fairly certain the Christian story isn’t true in any sense, or that any theology in particular isn’t true. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, then whether he exists or doesn’t exist simply doesn’t matter– everything would be exactly the same. Omni-anything simply removes the need for omni-anything. Scripturally: not a sparrow falls but God knows about it. But the sparrow still falls, so God knowing about it has no practical use or value. And if a God is not Omni-anything, then he becomes merely an immensely powerful being, which puts him right into the Star Trek universe.

    Rationality is useful, as you say, a lot of the time. Yet I have experienced enough in my life to know that it only takes you so far. Rationality doesn’t explain my late partner’s visitations to various people. It doesn’t explain some of my experiences on lsd– and I’m not referring to unicorns. I am Content with having had the experiences I had, and not requiring anything further from them.

    Do revisit Cabell, especially Jurgen. You can download it for free from Gutenberg.org, among many other sources. I’ve read it probably 6 times, and always find it refreshing when I return to it.

  • Hi, Ben — My rejection of Christianity was thinking it through this way in my early teens (I had a best friend who was Catholic so we talked about these things a bit): if God knows everything and is all powerful and didn’t bother stopping the genocides of the Turkish Armenians or the European Jews, then He is basically no different from the Devil, and why would I choose to worship the Devil (if there were a Devil)? It’s basically your same argument, and I came to it early enough to see it clearly without all the distortions of “adult” rationalization and justifications. So I think you had at least one ally in don’t-matter-ism early on. God without effectiveness is, indeed, pretty much Q, and Q is extraneous to anything but imaginary comedy in Star Trek, *when he bothers to show up and mess with people at all*, which = rarely.

    But — I was (and still sort of am) a city kid. I suspect that if I’d grown up in the country, on a farm, say, I might have had a whole different take on this. My understanding is that people who are regularly exposed to the risks in Nature — crop-killing weather, the capricious deaths and maimings involved in the extractive industries (logging, fishing, mining, etc.), the diseases, predators, and market fluctuations that affect your flocks and herds, and so on — and risky service jobs like firefighting and policing tend to be not just religious but superstitious as well. Facing such odds, people feel a need for all the edge they can get — or imagine getting from friendly gods.

    Maybe modern cities can be seen as machines designed in part to de-fang the dangers of Nature and to leverage up the skills and the will of human beings so as to offset and partially negate the effects of blind chance. And there’s so much else going on — so much productive human endeavor *not* specifically tied to turning soil into corn or rock into tools — that the whole God business stops being the major occupant of the citizen’s mind. The idea of God becomes less needful, because human endeavor and will seem so much more effective (massive mechanized floodgates protect expanded land on the Dutch coast, and people designed and built those gates).

    On the other hand, I’ve also come across influences and sources of knowledge and insight that are labeled “supernatural” to one degree or another, at least until we know more about them. So while my education (in economic history, anthropology, and so on) helps me use rationality well, I don’t discount other sources that have proven helpful. SBNR pretty much fits, for me. A gendered super-being of whom much is said and written although nothing is demonstrably known — that’s not for me.

    As for Cabell, maybe I’ll get back to his work sometime — but books and stories are my profession and my delight and my rest, and keeping up with the good stuff appearing now is more than I can manage as it is! I’m trying to empty my bookshelves these days, and spend more time with music, friends, and so on. That’s what’s important to me lately — edging up out of my seventies. There is one book I can recommend — maybe you know it: “Earth Abides”, by a guy named Stewart, came out in the late fifties I think. Among other things, it deals with the making of a god . . .

  • Thanks for your lengthy response. Here’s a bit more:

    “and risky service jobs like firefighting and policing tend to be not just religious but superstitious as well. Facing such odds, people feel a need for all the edge they can get — or imagine getting from friendly gods.”

    You should read H.L.Mencken on the subject. I’d highly recommend huis “Treatise of the Gods.” same point exactly,. You might also want to read Winwood Reade’s “Martyrdom of Man”, recommend by no less a personage than Sherlock Holmes!

    SNBR– don’t know what it means.

  • Spiritual But Not Religious. Google it if you’re curious — tons of stuff on-line in the last couple of years, as Americans self-identifying as belonging to this or that church shrink in numbers (all to the good, as far as I’m concerned, considering how US Christianity in particular has been corrupted by Reactionary politics).

  • I tried googling the initials, but that isn’t what showed up. But I know what it means. I was around in the seventies!

  • Maybe googling “Nones” or “atheism in America” would get you there — lots of articles about this right here in HP for ages now! Usually hitched to a new survey or some other sort of study . . . a growing phenomenon, apparently, since the New Age wave busted open the US religion box.

  • Here’s the problem……Suppose Ted Bundy found GOD before he was executed….He gets to go to Heaven and meet the peole he killed (except GOD erases their memories so to them he’s just another traveler)

  • Something can’t come from nothing because nothing is required for there to be nothing. Nothing can have a beginningless infinite past because it would take an infinite amount of time for anything to happen then, so nothing ever would because there never would be that much time. So for anything to exist there has to be something or someone to cause them. The only type of entity that could cause the first beginning would have to be independent of time and space.
    There is good reason to take the new testament seriously. There’s about 42 documents saying something about Jesus, a lot of which are not positive of Christianity. Some historians also account for Jesus miracles recorded in the gospels or just that Jesus was famous for miracles that they dismiss as illusionist tricks, or otherwise sorcery. An example is a record from Thallus in the 50’s A.D. mentioning the darkness that occurred during Jesus crucifixion and attempting to explain it as a solar eclipse. Africanus, who quoted this record about 2 centuries later, mentioned that an eclipse wouldn’t be possible because it happened during the Jewish Passover, when the moon is full and diametrically opposite from the sun. Both of these historians records only survive as quotes in other historical writings, like in the records of Eusebius, from what was still left of their respective work during the time. Tacitus references in 115 A.D. in his Annals that Christians were killed for saying Jesus was resurrected. He recorded “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular”. Suetonius recorded “After the great fire at Rome . . . . Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief”. The only way that many people would believe that Jesus was resurrected was if they actually saw him.
    Even his most devoted listeners doubted his resurrection until they saw him and some even after, or didn’t immediately recognize him. The same culture that presented Jesus to be executed with the accusation of apostasy and sorcery is not going to suddenly change their minds about him and invent stories in agreement with his claims that they originally hated him for. And none of them could have hallucinated him because neurological research has shown that shared hallucinations don’t happen and in general can’t happen anyway when you aren’t expecting to see the person or have no care to. Paul on his way to Damascus saw and heard Jesus, and Paul was with other people who too saw him and turned away because the light of Jesus was so bright that it blinded Paul. Again multiple people seeing the same thing that they didn’t expect. The talmud records that Jesus was arrested for accusation of apostasy and sorcery and that no one defended him in his trials. Simply knowing the culture of his time is enough to deduce that the converts were reporting a real encounter. It’s recorded that one of the disciples touched Jesus after he appeared to them and that he ate. Paul records having met about 500 witnesses. These new testament accounts are consistent with Josephus and the Roman historical records talking about the teaching of Jesus resurrection.
    The only known forgery recording Jesus is one of Josephus accounts, but that record is in every copy of his original compilation containing it, so historians know that Josephus wrote an original that Christians later altered. There is a copy of it in another language, older than most other copies, that has none of the Christian praise in the interpolation. Hardly any scholar, regardless of belief, doubts Jesus was a real historical figure, it’s mostly the miracles that are controversial, but with no evidence inconsistent with them, just skepticism that miracles can even happen. The reason Roman emperors had miracles attributed to them was because of threats to anyone who did not record those stories, such as the scenario with Alexander, because they wanted to be glorified to bolster their reputation. Most of those records of the Emperors weren’t written until centuries later anyway. http://www.garyhabermas.com/…/historicaljesus.htm… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus
    No one who ever wrote about Jesus was ever questioned by anyone about if he actually existed. People who knew anything about Jesus would be around to say how accurate these claims were that were being recorded. There were plenty of people who hated his teachings who would have loved to refute that he was real, if he was made up. The problem is he was seen by many people in person. There are over 5000 copies of the new testament in it’s original language, all of which are mostly consistent with each other and modern translations. The only differences are the story of Jesus and the prostitute not being in the oldest copies and textual variants.
    We know the new testament was completed before the second century because Clement of Rome quotes it in the late first century. The gospels would be some of the earliest of the new testament compilation.
    It doesn’t make any sense to be annoyed by the belief in the afterlife. It is the only way there could be a hope to have. If there were no eternal continuation of life, there would be no reason for anything to exist and no reason to care about anything. But people and animals have love and care for others and what we experience in life. There would be no point for any of those feelings and the will to live to evolve and be inherited if all will eventually die and that be the end of it. There would be no advantage for anything then if it’s all literally for nothing. And most people in history have been theists and believers in eternal existence, then if we evolved, then that being the norm must have been advantageous to have the joy necessary to be fit to survive and reproduce, so hating belief in God and the bible makes no sense even from an evolutionary perspective.

  • “Something can’t come from nothing because nothing is required for there to be nothing.”

    Says a guy who clearly isn’t a particle physicist.

    “There is good reason to take the new testament seriously.”

    No. There isn’t.

    “If there were no eternal continuation of life, there would be no reason for anything to exist and no reason to care about anything.”

    This is complete nonsense. If anything, if an infinite afterlife existed, THAT would give us no reason to care for anything in this life. The fact that consciousness is finite is what makes it so precious. There is no evidence for an afterlife, and that is a very good thing.

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