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Earlier on Twitter and Facebook I was mocking Yom Kippur. But some comments from a friend made me think about it. I pondered it, an finally figured out what my basic thoughts on it are. Basically, I've never understood doing something just because one's religion required it. To me, my spirituality is for me, by me, for my benefit. My Gods neither require worship nor want worship; I don't worship my Gods, I seek their counsel. I don't pray, I perform magick. My Deities are there for giving advice when asked, but they don't interfere beyond that. They don't interfere in the world itself, so there is no point in praying (except to ask for help finding solutions). I've pretty much always had this perspective on Deities. I forgot that perspective for a brief time during which I became an angry atheist for how much my life was sucking back in the late 90's, but after that settled down, I remembered that the Gods don't have a lot of power in the universe anymore. They made existence, and souls, and let us lifeforms figure out the rest. That's the whole point of existence, IMO: to exist, and explore, and remake yourself if you so desire.

Getting back on topic, I find people who do things because their religion requires it of them to be... silly. Of course, I've long had a problem with authority, been a free spirit all my life. My basic take on any command is "Uh huh. What's in it for me?" I only obey commands when there is something in it for me. And "You'll go to Hell" always made me respond either "How convenient that your God will punish me for not agreeing with you" or "I'm already there. This world IS Hell." Because given how my life has gone over the decades, there are lots of times when Hell would be preferable.

Now, if someone does something because *they* want to do it, whether their religion requires it or not, that is another matter altogether. I respect that. If someone fasts on Yom Kippur merely because they think God will punish them if they don't, then I do not respect that attitude. Because that's twisting something that should be very personal into a form of mind control. Religion is to spirituality as force-feeding is to a normal diet. I respect spirituality, I don't respect religion.

But if someone fasts on Yom Kippur because they want to, then fine, I respect that. I might personally think it's silly, but I respect it anyway. Same goes for other practices.

However, I make exceptions for any practice, spiritual or religious, that harms other people or is needlessly cruel to people or animals. So I will never respect any belief that leads someone to murder, rape, torture, or abuse another human being. Nor any belief that causes one to neglect a child. So "We don't believe in that fancy Western medicine" is NOT on the list of beliefs I respect, if it hurts other people. If you want to forgo medical treatment for yourself, fine. I think you're an idiot, but fine. Yet if you try to impose this on children or any other people, then I will do what I can to bring you down.

Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
christinathena
Sep. 18th, 2010 11:50 pm (UTC)
I'm the opposite. I can, sort of, grasp why one would follow an organized religion. It's a unifying principle for a community of believers. Religious Jews share such customs and practices as keeping kosher, fasting on Yom Kippur, etc. Following those rules connects you to the community of believers. Spirituality … to me it makes no sense. You give up the community aspect of religion, which is the only part I can understand being desirable! I don't get the point of going to the trouble of believing in gods and souls and so forth without the community aspect.

Edited at 2010-09-18 11:51 pm (UTC)
fayanora
Sep. 19th, 2010 12:39 am (UTC)
"Religion," to me, is a term with too many disparate definitions. My personal definition of "religion" is "a spiritual path which has been twisted into mind control." Religion is NOT synonymous with community; spirituality can have plenty of community! Haven't you ever heard of Wiccan covens? Then there's the Unitarian Universalists; I call UUism an organized spiritual path, and it is.

Just because spirituality *can* be isolating doesn't mean it is isolating by definition. Hell, religion can be isolating. Imagine being the only Muslim in a neighborhood full of Christians, for one. Or vice versa.

Also, you make believing in Deities out to be something counterintuitive, to be something only other people can inflict upon you. Which is just silly. It's no more counterintuitive than atheism. I came to my conclusions about reality quite logically, largely on my own. I have a great deal of difficulty understanding the atheist view of the universe. We've been over that before, and I have no energy for a debate right now, so I won't elaborate here.
underlankers
Sep. 19th, 2010 12:50 am (UTC)
As I see it human religions are generally bodies with such close relationships with governments it can sometimes be difficult to see where one ends and the other begins. That actually applies to a good deal of the Northern European monarchies.

One can also note that technically speaking communal organizations can assume religious leadership without state recognition. Christianity did in the Roman Empire albeit mostly because the Roman military spent a century in religious warfare that wrecked the Hell out of the establishment there.

I can understand the Godless rather well in some ways. The Universe here and the one I'm from are both harsh, arbitrary mechanistic places where Might secures control and defines it as Right in what seems eternal bloodshed without ceasing. Albeit understanding it is not the same accepting it as a valid alternative.

-Suvaono H'vat Soroundon-
christinathena
Sep. 19th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)
Most atheists do NOT believe in "might makes right"! If anything, it's some religions that have that view - namely, God's might makes his actions right.
underlankers
Sep. 19th, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC)
The last large-scale religious war was that of Imperial Japan against damn near everyone in East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The last time armies of the Christian religion took to the field in large numbers was the Taiping Rebellion, fought around the same time as the Union and Confederate armies were bleeding each other to death.

The last Muslim religious war was admittedly the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s but in that case it was not the theocrats who started it, but instead the Ba'ath atheist socialists who happened to try to depose the Ayatollahs and incredibly failed to do so.

Where atheist societies have engaged repeatedly across a huge chunk of the world in annihilating religious infrastructure and institutions, leaving potential for new theocracies of a much viler sort than some of the ones they deposed.

Don't get me wrong, I think the religions of this planet would do it in a heartbeat, but their last big religious war was in the 1980s and there hasn't been one in the succeeding 30 0r so years.

-Karzanur H'ven Marshada-
christinathena
Sep. 19th, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC)
What about the current "War on Terror"? You think that doesn't involve religion?

And the atheist examples you mentioned were socialist in nature. They were motivated more by socialism than by atheism. In fact, their socialism really functioned like a religion in many ways, with a faith in the inevitable victory of the socialist system.

The religious have a hell of a lot more bloodshed on their hands than us atheists.
underlankers
Sep. 19th, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
In short your response to bringing up that Stalin and Mao were in fact zealous atheists dedicated to smashing the Opiate of the Masses is No True Scotsmen, by virtue of insisting Vanguardist revolution is a religion. Nonsense.

By that standard none of the religious people you blame reflect on the religion, only on themselves. This is the kind of bullshit reasoning I've seen that erases Aurangzeb and Hong Xiuquan and Oliver Cromwell from the history of their respective faiths.

Looking at this from my own POV as a non-human the two of you are even by virtue of the Commies having killed 150 million because they were Communists but the religious never killed anyone because they were atheists any more than atheists killed fundamentalists for being fundies.

The only religious war to get into the millions in terms of death tolls was the Taiping Rebellion. All the rest were before the power of armies reached the millions of death front.

And do I think it involves religion? LOL no. It's about power-projection and happens to be between majority-Christian superpower the USA and a bunch of local fanatics who are trying to overthrow unpopular dictators, not some Clash of Civilizations.

-Etaono H'vat Soroundon-
christinathena
Sep. 19th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
No, the difference is that atheism is not a belief. It is the lack of a belief. Atheism is not believing in God, not a specific belief. Certainly anti-religious sentiments were part of Stalin's and Pol Pot's motivations
underlankers
Sep. 20th, 2010 01:30 am (UTC)
NO TRUE SCOTSMAN.

Atheism on its own would not be a belief but belief in God never exists on its own, it's part of a broader package of beliefs. Just as the wars between the various Muslim Empires and the Romans/Habsburgs were as much dynastic conflicts as religious wars so was the conflict between Showa Japan and the Soviet Union a power struggle, not a war of Stalinism against State Shinto.
fayanora
Sep. 20th, 2010 03:10 am (UTC)
Atheism is the belief that there is no god. Lack of belief would be agnostic or apathetic.
christinathena
Sep. 20th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
No. Atheism is not a belief. Atheism is the lack of belief in god(s). The difference between atheists and agnostics is that agnostics consider god a reasonable idea, although they themselves aren't sure whether god(s) exist, while an atheist considers it an unreasonable belief.

To me, the idea of God is like the idea of Bigfoot. An unfounded belief. I'm an "abigfootist". Life on Mars is a reasonable - though not yet proven - possibility. I'm thus agnostic about life on Mars.
christinathena
Sep. 20th, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
I suppose you could say I believe there's no God, but only in the same sense that I believe there's no Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster or leprechauns, etc.
underlankers
Sep. 20th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC)
Weak atheism is that. Strong atheism states baldly "there are no Gods". You are a weak atheist in comparison to the Strong Atheists who actually would in fact say "I believe there are no Gods and that's only fireside tales and children's stories told to make people behave."
christinathena
Sep. 19th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
Also, I did not claim that Stalin was not an atheist. He was an atheist, yes. But he was motivated, not by "atheism", but by communism, to which he had a religion-like devotion. He had a faith in Marxist-Leninism as strong as, say, Osama bin Laden has to Islam, or Torquemada had to Catholicism.

Atheism is a meaningless word. "Atheism" is no more a belief system than "gentilism". Atheists are nothing more, nor less, than people who don't believe in god(s). It is not a belief system.

Atheists do not believe in "atheism", we believe in various philosophies, only united by a lack of belief in god(s). The majority of atheists today believe in some form of secular humanism. Some atheists believe in other philosophies, including, yes, Marxism or Nietzsche or whatever.

Also, the War on Terror IS definitely religiously motivated. Can you honestly claim that the Muslim terrorists aren't motivated by Islam? Osama bin Laden doesn't want to create an Islamic theocracy? Bullshit. And on the Western side, Christianity does play a strong role, as well, although, granted, not to the same extent.
underlankers
Sep. 20th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
Makes him an ideologue, not a fundamentalist. I guarantee you no Fundamentalist would have tried to create half-ape super-soldiers.

In theory, yes. But as you note atheism is a belief that fits into larger personalities, just as a committed member of both a Peace Church and a long-term member of the Lord's Resistance Army are both Christians equally.

Actually, yes you could note that OBL doesn't want to *create* a theocracy. Saudi Arabia already is one. He just wants to be the theocrat instead of the already-extant theocrat.

And much of what we term "terrorism" in the Muslim world is the only semi-legitimate opposition to dictators who run the states there either as Imperial Japan-style military dictatorships or as one-party states.
christinathena
Sep. 19th, 2010 03:15 am (UTC)
How are Wicca and UU not religions? Most Wiccans I know consider it a religion!

For me, at least, believing in something without evidence IS counterintuitive. I need to have evidence to believe in anything, whether that's gods, Bigfoot, the theory of evolution, etc. Of those examples, only the third has evidence, and thus, I only believe in the third.
underlankers
Sep. 19th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
One does not believe in evolution. One accepts it or one denies it. Belief in biology is as inaccurate as disbelief in gravity and attempting to walk between roofs of buildings.
christinathena
Sep. 19th, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC)
I believe in evolution in the same sense that I believe in gravity, yes. It's needlessly narrow to say that accepting a scientific theory is not "believing". I do not have faith in evolution, but I believe it is the best explanation of the known facts.
underlankers
Sep. 20th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC)
So do you think it works by gradualism or punctuated equilibrium?

As in most things I split the difference and consider the general pattern to be gradualism with occasional punctuated equilibrium moments offering overall opportunities both for different kinds of gradualistic evolution and punctuated equilibrium.

Another question-do you think the Multi-regional theory or the African Origins theory of human evolution are more accurate? That people continue to cling to the Multi-regional theory in the face of the overwhelming superiority of evidence quality for the African Origins theory leads me to be the slightest bit cynical about the science is self-correcting statement.
christinathena
Sep. 20th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
I lack sufficient knowledge to have a strong opinion on punctuated equilibrium, but it does seem to be likely under certain conditions.
underlankers
Sep. 19th, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)
Shorter version of DW response: As a non-human from a non-human version of a Great Religion all human religions confuse me completely, and they all also suck equally to me. And spirituality is simply a religion that cannot suppress factions that disagree with it.

Additional LJ response: Judaism is not Christianity and has much less of the divine Carrot and Stick model that the Christians more or less plagiarized from the Zoroastrians. Yom Kippur is primarily a Jewish Ethnos-religio thing as opposed to something that will keep you out of Hell the way the Christian sacraments/ordinances/hot line to Heaven do in Christianity. Jews are much too pragmatic to be bothered by the afterlife very much.

The High Holy Days are something I object much less to than I do say, the the general practice of human organized religions to rimjob human governments which tend as a rule to be corrupt, incompetent, and venal.

-Suvaono H'vat Soroundon-
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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