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  #101  
Old 12-14-2019, 12:26 PM
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There's also been an uptick in geographic mobility. Fewer people live in the same towns/cities that they grew up in than in the past. And people are more likely to move multiple times over the course of adulthood than they used to. Joining an organization makes sense if you have family who are in that organization (e.g., you are not throwing yourself into a den of randos who could be serial killers for all you know) and you can see yourself sticking around long enough to make investment of time and energy worth your while.
This is something that I’ve been hyper-exposed to as an adult. My first ten years in the Navy, I moved eleven times. I’m single, and so all that taken together makes it extraordinarily difficult to establish and maintain close ties in real life. As an added bonus, I spent six of those ten years overseas, not all at once, and not even in the same overseas location.

Then, when it comes time to do something like renew my security clearance, they want me to list contacts from each of the places I’ve lived so they can investigate my background. Not just work contacts, but social.

Seriously? You think I befriended even two non-Navy people the six months each I lived in Charleston? Ballston Spa? San Diego? God forbid Yokosuka and Bahrain? And don’t even get me started on Iraq...

And then there’s the inevitable (when you lead that kind of a life) trip to the psychologist, when they want to try and divine meaning from your lack of social network, as if having gone ten plus years without close friends means it couldn’t possibly be that you have PTSD, because your lack of a social network predates your claim of PTSD. You must have a personality disorders—yeah, that’s it! A *personality disorder, because NORMAL people would have more friends after ten years.

But then "normal" people don’t get forced to move eleven times in ten years.

So much of what we assume as "normal" is, I think based on out-moded assumptions.

*No, they didn’t actually diagnose me with a personality disorder, thank god (figure of speech), but it’s clear that there are certain assumptions made about what constitutes "normal" and those assumptions seem to be more in line with the experiences of a Vietnam-era draftee than a long-serving (and long-suffering) 21st century volunteer force that maybe doesn’t go home right away (or maybe doesn’t even really have a home in the usual sense, but lives a nomadic existence where they move around every couple of years on average).
  #102  
Old 12-14-2019, 12:37 PM
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Don’t know if this has been said yet, but the internet makes it easier for doubters to hear the other side. Once you start questioning religion, it’s easier nowadays to find people who will affirm—rather than belittle or shame—your growing skepticism. Pre-internet, that was hard to do, especially if you lived in an echo chamber of believers. In the past, you were stuck with only the norms that were in meatspace.

One of my earliest experiences with message boards was on a small forum where atheists and believers would debate each other. I was in my early 20s and still called myself a Christian even though I was more of a believer of Jesus’ teachings than his divinity. Just the process of putting to words my thoughts and ideas forced me to confront my own belief system and realize that I was too empirically-minded to lump myself in with people who believed in God.

In the absence of the internet, would I have had this epiphany? Maybe. But it’s likely I would have not. So then I would’ve
continued to affiliate myself with a religion I only half heartedly believed in, I would’ve felt obligated to go to church, and then later I would’ve raised my kids to see the church as just one those things you gotta do.

Millennials, unlike the previous generations, don’t really remember a time when they couldn’t access opinions outside the bubble of their meatspace community. The internet has always been there for them. When they get old enough to start doubting what they’ve been raised to believe, all they have to do is google and they will find plenty of well-written texts, from well-respected people, explaining the flaws with religion and how religious thinking has hurt people.

The church used to be able to control how people thought. It can’t do that very easily now.
  #103  
Old 12-14-2019, 12:48 PM
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If you live away from a large (and presumably more diverse and liberal) city, what is your perception of the state of religion and church health in your area?
Well, I'm surrounded by Old Order Mennonites. (Nice people, and good neighbors, IME.) So I would say that it looks pretty healthy from here.

The area's also full of other types of Mennonites and assorted types of more mainstream Christians. Most villages have several active churches; while one sometimes closes down, others appear. I don't know how religious all the people are who attend them -- some of it may be more community than faith; but a lot of community things are still organized through the churches. You don't have to be religious to benefit from, donate to, or work at the food pantry, for instance; but it's hosted in a church.

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I feel this is a point being ignored. Religion is declining now, but when these kids get closer to death, they'll likely go back to religion. Just the like old sage that "a conservative is just a liberal that has been mugged", a 55 year old churchgoer is just a 25 year old atheist with heath scares and dead parents. Sad but true.

Check back in 30 years, and see what happened.
I'm 68. My parents are dead. Many of my friends' parents are dead -- two of them in the last couple of weeks. I've been diagnosed within the past year with a couple of major health problems; neither expected to be fatal in the short term, but a definite wake up call that hey, I'm nearly threescore years and ten; and one of them carrying a strong recommendation for a medical procedure to be done soon that I find definitely scary. A number of my friends are also now in and out of doctors' offices with considerable frequency.

Nope. I've thought nearly all my life that it would be nice to believe some of that stuff, especially some of the things about afterlife (definitely not all of them. Would not be remotely comforting to believe in hell, for instance.) But that's not remotely the same thing as actually believing it.
  #104  
Old 12-14-2019, 01:01 PM
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An excellent example of the point I'm trying to make. If, however, instead of who you are you happened to be the type of person who was into and enjoys insular, controlling vibes, passing judgement, and donating money to the cause, then church would be the perfect place for you. My hypothesis is that people who are into those things form the bulk of people who are still big into church and religion.
I think you would be wrong. You are presuming that the very worst characters reveling in the very worst aspects of the very worst denominations are the norm. They are not.

The norm, as I have personally observed it in nearly 30 years of church-going, is that ordinary people generally enjoy going to church because of their need for spiritual uplift, for comforting meaningful ritual, and for a society of mutual aid and support.

It is obvious that the churches, by and large, being repositories of tradition, have not been able to figure out how to serve the needs of people in the forefront of the most rapid and complete technological and cultural changes ever known to humankind. Nor are they being replaced with anything that fills the needs they did.

There is no meaningful ritual, no mutual aid and support, no spiritual uplift, in the secular world. Community, as once revolved around both church and communal work, does not exist except in the most attenuated forms.

You will probably say those things are pointless, outdated, pathetic remnants of a benighted past. I tend to doubt it myself.
  #105  
Old 12-14-2019, 01:04 PM
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They'll be back. There are no atheists in fox holes.
My grandmother became an atheist in the equivalent of a foxhole.

She and her Christian best friend were at a demonstration against the Czar. Cossacks came through and rode them down. Her friend was killed, while praying for God to save her.

My grandmother was a vehement atheist for the rest of her life.

I expect plenty of people have lost their faith on battlefields.
  #106  
Old 12-14-2019, 01:08 PM
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There is no meaningful ritual, no mutual aid and support, no spiritual uplift, in the secular world.
I reject all of the above, with the possible exception of "no spiritual uplift," depending on your definition of spiritual.
  #107  
Old 12-14-2019, 03:24 PM
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At the risk of derailing the thread by hyper-focusing on something, the Bible and OT by no means means "Killing is never allowed in any circumstances." There are plenty of times in the Old Testament when God commanded killing - such as the genocide of the Amalekites, such as ordering the Israelites to execute people for this or that on many occasions, etc.
I didn't say that the Bible says killing is always wrong, I said most people I know that are against abortion say they are against it because the ten commandments say that thou shalt not kill and yet many of these same folks are strong proponents of the death penalty. This is the hypocritical thinking that can drive rational people from religion.

Yes in the bible god kills(or orders killed) more people then the worst human offender ever. The same people that support these actions by saying how great god is turn around and talk about god being all loving. I don't think all loving and genocide are equivalent. When confronted with the differences the standard reply from most Christians I have spoken with is "God works in mysterious ways or we can't know god's reason." What a cop out of an answer. It really means I don't want to think logically about it.

These types of actions/thinking by believers and god in my opinion drive people away from from religion.
  #108  
Old 12-14-2019, 03:33 PM
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I reject all of the above, with the possible exception of "no spiritual uplift," depending on your definition of spiritual.
I wouldn't mind some examples to prove your point.
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Old 12-14-2019, 03:38 PM
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I didn't say that the Bible says killing is always wrong, I said most people I know that are against abortion say they are against it because the ten commandments say that thou shalt not kill and yet many of these same folks are strong proponents of the death penalty. This is the hypocritical thinking that can drive rational people from religion.

Yes in the bible god kills(or orders killed) more people then the worst human offender ever. The same people that support these actions by saying how great god is turn around and talk about god being all loving. I don't think all loving and genocide are equivalent. When confronted with the differences the standard reply from most Christians I have spoken with is "God works in mysterious ways or we can't know god's reason." What a cop out of an answer. It really means I don't want to think logically about it.

These types of actions/thinking by believers and god in my opinion drive people away from from religion.
Many people who are against abortion for religious reasons are also against the death penalty. Catholic doctrine is an example. There are others.

Anyway, asking a garden-variety Christian about such questions will probably get you a vague and confused answer in any case. Being a theologian or ethics expert is not one of the requirements for baptism. Most Christian folks don't think any harder than anyone else does. But they don't think less, either.
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Old 12-14-2019, 03:50 PM
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I think you would be wrong. You are presuming that the very worst characters reveling in the very worst aspects of the very worst denominations are the norm. They are not.

The norm, as I have personally observed it in nearly 30 years of church-going, is that ordinary people generally enjoy going to church because of their need for spiritual uplift, for comforting meaningful ritual, and for a society of mutual aid and support.

It is obvious that the churches, by and large, being repositories of tradition, have not been able to figure out how to serve the needs of people in the forefront of the most rapid and complete technological and cultural changes ever known to humankind. Nor are they being replaced with anything that fills the needs they did.

There is no meaningful ritual, no mutual aid and support, no spiritual uplift, in the secular world. Community, as once revolved around both church and communal work, does not exist except in the most attenuated forms.

You will probably say those things are pointless, outdated, pathetic remnants of a benighted past. I tend to doubt it myself.
Perhaps I went a bit overboard in using the word bulk. I should have said a higher proportion than in the past of those who remain in the more traditional churches are the judgmental types. I think it depends on church. Some, like the Southern Baptists and the Catholics, are probably becoming more conservative. Some of the people who have moved on from those types of churches have moved to nondenominational Christian type churches rather than atheism. It’s definitely a complex phenomenon.
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Old 12-14-2019, 04:44 PM
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Many people who are against abortion for religious reasons are also against the death penalty. Catholic doctrine is an example. There are others.

Anyway, asking a garden-variety Christian about such questions will probably get you a vague and confused answer in any case. Being a theologian or ethics expert is not one of the requirements for baptism. Most Christian folks don't think any harder than anyone else does. But they don't think less, either.
As I said, I have spoken with many people who are against abortion and their stated reason is that the bible says thou shalt not kill. Many of them also happen to be pro death penalty despite the thou shalt not kill. In no way meaning it as a personal attack but I think religious folks do think less, that is how they are able accept all the contradictions with religion.
  #112  
Old 12-14-2019, 06:10 PM
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There is no meaningful ritual, no mutual aid and support, no spiritual uplift, in the secular world.
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I wouldn't mind some examples to prove your point.
Off the top of my head, expending very minimal effort:

Meaningful ritual: Sports, patriotic displays, and the heavily secularized parts of a great many holidays, including nominally religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, but also those established by the government such as Thanksgiving, July 4th, Memorial Day, and so on.

Mutual aid and support: There are, in fact, secular groups, that get together, hang out, maybe even put on an hour or two long event each weekend. Some also do charity. The example I am most familiar with would be the Atheist a Community of Austin, which has been putting on a live (one-time local cable access, now strictly web-based) TV show each Sunday with an open audience—and they go to or host dinner afterwards. There are many others in the explicitly atheist or secular variety, at the local, regional, and national/international levels, some of which are specifically related to some of the things you or other seems to think secular individuals are incapable of dealing with outside religion, including Grief Beyond Belief and Recovering from Religion. But beyond that, are not a great many civic and community organizations like, say, the VFW and DAV, also examples of secular (non-religious) mechanisms for mutual aid and support?

Spiritual uplift: As I said, this depends on what you mean by spiritual. If you mean "that feeling you get when a choir starts belting out hymns" and like phenomena, then I dare say you could get those at a concert at your local high school even, to say nothing of the experience offered at pay for entry music festivals.

Do these examples (discounting perhaps the spiritual, depending on your definition) not fit the bill for lo those things you seem to think the secular world lacks?

Last edited by ASL v2.0; 12-14-2019 at 06:15 PM.
  #113  
Old 12-14-2019, 06:53 PM
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I’m sure there are many reasons people’s attitudes to religion have changed.

1. Religion is becoming increasingly political. To be sure, it has been involved in politics for many hundreds of years — from the Papacy, the Lutheran and Anglican schisms, anything to do with Israel or India. But members may not agree with the political direction. Trump may not be an exemplar of Christian values, but has broad Evangelical support, for other reasons.

2. I think religious ritual has beauty, tradition and value. But I agree there are many examples of ritual in society. Some have value.

3. Internet communities seem like a good substitute for social connections. Many people spend “too much time” on the Web. It has many pluses, and many negatives, poorly understood.

4. Religion is a sign of commitment and faith. Any worthwhile commitment takes time and effort. People think they have less time. They certainly have a lower attention span. Faith has value, but explanations are important too.

5. Peer pressure remains important. You are more likely to be religious if you live in a place where this is valued. But people are more mobile and may not know their neighbours.
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  #114  
Old 12-14-2019, 08:03 PM
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Off the top of my head, expending very minimal effort:

Meaningful ritual: Sports, patriotic displays, and the heavily secularized parts of a great many holidays, including nominally religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, but also those established by the government such as Thanksgiving, July 4th, Memorial Day, and so on.

Mutual aid and support: There are, in fact, secular groups, that get together, hang out, maybe even put on an hour or two long event each weekend. Some also do charity. The example I am most familiar with would be the Atheist a Community of Austin, which has been putting on a live (one-time local cable access, now strictly web-based) TV show each Sunday with an open audience—and they go to or host dinner afterwards. There are many others in the explicitly atheist or secular variety, at the local, regional, and national/international levels, some of which are specifically related to some of the things you or other seems to think secular individuals are incapable of dealing with outside religion, including Grief Beyond Belief and Recovering from Religion. But beyond that, are not a great many civic and community organizations like, say, the VFW and DAV, also examples of secular (non-religious) mechanisms for mutual aid and support?

Spiritual uplift: As I said, this depends on what you mean by spiritual. If you mean "that feeling you get when a choir starts belting out hymns" and like phenomena, then I dare say you could get those at a concert at your local high school even, to say nothing of the experience offered at pay for entry music festivals.

Do these examples (discounting perhaps the spiritual, depending on your definition) not fit the bill for lo those things you seem to think the secular world lacks?
frankly, they are all very weak sauce, with the exception of the older mutual aid/service clubs like the VFW, Rotary, Elks -- all of which are losing membership for the same reasons as churches are.

The idea that watching professional sports is a ritual of the same meaningfulness as a Mass? Wow. Words fail me.

If you have never experienced anything of a spiritual nature, then there is really no point in discussing that particular function, as it isn't one of the things that can be explained in words.

Thanksgiving, which has essentially three functions, eating together, family, and the evocation of gratitude, is I think on almost the same level in some ways.

I am not saying that secular activities cannot take up the functions that religion has always filled, I'm just saying that they haven't, or at least, not very well.
  #115  
Old 12-14-2019, 08:13 PM
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The idea that watching professional sports is a ritual of the same meaningfulness as a Mass? Wow. Words fail me.
You don't know many football fans, do you?

  #116  
Old 12-14-2019, 08:36 PM
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I am not saying that secular activities cannot take up the functions that religion has always filled, I'm just saying that they haven't, or at least, not very well.
I put minimal effort into coming up with examples precisely because I kind of figured you’d respond in this fashion—the examples seem quite obvious to me, to the point it strains credibility to think you couldn’t come up with them yourself. I’m not at all surprised you’d hand-wave them.

Last edited by ASL v2.0; 12-14-2019 at 08:38 PM.
  #117  
Old 12-14-2019, 09:42 PM
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The decline may be part of a long trend spanning several decades, and partly due to increasing secularization as part of industrialization. But as the latter starts falling apart due to limits to growth, then we might see the decline reversed.
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  #118  
Old 12-14-2019, 09:48 PM
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So I'm reading 538 this morning and there's coverage of a new report out of the American Enterprise Institute about how younger folks - Millennials in popular parlance, I suppose - are abandoning religion.

Millennials Are Leaving Religion and not Coming Back

The study posits that, against expectations, as they age folks 23-38 and not wandering back to religion as would be indicated by older generation's behavior instead embracing either a generic religious stance or abandoning the concept altogether.

One of the reasons given by survey respondents is a negative reaction to the trend in evangelicals to make religion domineering or negative overall.



In addition, religion is being perceived more as a political identity rather than a moral identity and that associate is driving younger people away.

So is that the cause of this? A backlash against 40+ years of the religious right conflating politics and religion? Or is it something baser like the fact that younger folks are simply much less willing to join and are much more skeptical about joining civic and group organizations? And is this a good thing given that there's decent evidence that being a part of such groups increases some group goods such as trust and civic engagement?

Aside: And, as a personal bugaboo: The entire lead article riffs on millennials and baby boomers. We Gen X types will again be over here in the corner, keeping ourselves busy, dammit.
I'm on the younger end of Generation X and was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist. It was ... stultifying, and at the time I had a great attention span (not like today!). I simply do not understand how some of my childhood friends are still going to the church. I'm glad that it only affected me one day per week (although significantly so that one day). While I had friends there, I had more friends outside, and when I left I simply lost touch with them. If smartphone had existed in those days, the church would have forbidden people from using them, and the same with ebook readers, eaudiobook readers, and the like... they would have lots of bored members.

I'm male, so if I see the church as sexist, I can only imagine it would be much worse for female members, who would notice slight directed at them that I would miss. ("Husbands and wives should be equal, but in the event of a disagreement the husband's choice prevails." So not at all equal, given a marriage consists of exactly two people. I wish I was making that up, but that's a paraphrase of what the pastor actually said.) I wonder if churches today are better at hiding their sexism, but the women in the audience (at that time) did not act with outrage.

I'm straight, and did not know of anyone who wasn't straight as a kid. (Of course, I later learned of a few people who I knew who aren't straight. It's not a "visible" minority, usually.) Generally I ignored the rampant homophobia. I do not ignore that today, even though that hatred is not directed at me. Millennials are far more likely to know gay people than people from my generation as children. I don't know how a group that preaches literal hate speech against the friends of their own young members can possibly keep many of them.
  #119  
Old 12-15-2019, 12:32 AM
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I'm an older millennial and this is very true for me. My parents were devout Catholics, and I had to go to church and Sunday school and all that, but I never really believed. I realized I was an atheist shortly before my mother passed away when I was young, and despite her death and how much I wanted to see her again, I couldn't fool myself into believing in an afterlife.

Growing up gay and trans pushed me even farther away from religion as I've heard so many "loving" Christians say people like me should be killed, or locked up, or sent to a deserted island so we won't pervert the rest of society with our "wickedness". This has caused me to live in fear for much of my life in the closet. I do respect some religions like Wicca, but ones like Christianity and Islam are just evil to their core.

And this here former Airman has "Athiest" on her old dog tags, so don't tell me there aren't any in foxholes.
  #120  
Old 12-15-2019, 04:30 PM
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The decline may be part of a long trend spanning several decades, and partly due to increasing secularization as part of industrialization. But as the latter starts falling apart due to limits to growth, then we might see the decline reversed.
Logistically, I don’t see how this trend could reverse unless society as we know it radically changes. Like,
something happens that completely disrupts the flow of information so that people no longer have access to diverse opinions, leaving us back in a kind of Dark Age v. 2.0. I really do believe information access is the single most powerful opponent to religious belief.

We’re not just talking about church attendance. We’re talking people rejecting the religious dogma that previous generations never thought to question. As this happens, new generations will be raised to see atheism and secularism as the default. How do you get a bunch of people to believe that have never believed before? You don’t have to do or believe in anything to be atheist, so there is no inertia to work against if you want to keep on doing or believing in nothing. Religious followers, in contrast, have to demonstrate adherence. This means work and effort and often sacrifice in time and money.
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Old 12-15-2019, 04:51 PM
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I am not saying that secular activities cannot take up the functions that religion has always filled, I'm just saying that they haven't, or at least, not very well.
People are finding different ways to obtain what church has traditionally provided.

Instead of going to church every Sunday, they might go to a book club meeting where they take turns hosting with four other people.

They might scratch their itch for community service by volunteering for the school PTA or organizing the food drive at work.

Instead of tithing at church, they donate money on a recurring basis to charity.

Instead of attending Bible study to analyze and debate scriptural text, they discuss current events with other members of online communities they’ve been a part of for years. Like many of us.

My husband used to be a devout Christian. When he felt his faith faltering that, he tried to at least enjoy church for the community aspect. But it just left him cold and lonely. Surrounded by people who spoke of beliefs and spiritual experiences that he didn’t have made him feel like an alien. And that was my experience too.
  #122  
Old 12-15-2019, 05:19 PM
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This is true; in most areas, secular social organizations, too, are dying (or at least struggling to attract younger members) -- fraternal organizations like the Elks, the Moose, etc., as well as service organizations like the Kiwanis, the Optimists, etc.
Except... fraternal organizations aren't really secular social organizations as far as I know. All of the 'lodge' organizations I've looked into have a strong religious component, and require belief in God and prayers said as part of their rituals, which disqualifies them as being really 'secular' in my opinion. A lot of them are sex segregated or were until very recently, were officially racially segregated until and still seem to have issues on that front, and have a history of not being very friendly to LGBT people. There are exceptions and improvements, of course, but I don't think that thinking of them as a completely different type of organization as a church is really accurate, and a lot of the issues that they have mirror the issues that a lot of younger people have with traditional churches.
  #123  
Old 12-15-2019, 05:27 PM
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They'll be back. There are no atheists in fox holes.
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My grandfather was.
Well damn. All these years since my time in Iraq, I've been responding to the claim that there were no atheists in foxholes by revealing that I was the first. I guess there was one before me.

I stand corrected.
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Old 12-15-2019, 05:42 PM
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I saw Hamilton a couple of weeks ago. I don't know if what I felt was "spiritual", but I certainly felt something life-affirming that I never experienced all those years sitting in boring-ass church services.

If church offers something that no secular activity can match, you gotta wonder why so many people find it so easy not to go. It's free. There are churches all over the place. People know when services are going to be held. And yet you don't see long lines of people waiting to pack every single church every Sunday.

I think it's because people know that church isn't all spiritual awesomeness. Church is not only ritual and beautiful music. It's also the dry sermons that leave you feeling guilty and confused more than filled with wisdom. It's also bible readings that make little sense because of all the thous and thees. It's also the congregation--the gossips, the Judgey Judgersons, the butt-in-skis, the sanctimoniousness and manufactured piety and anti-intellectualism. It's also the incessant guilt trip over tithes and offerings. To get to the cool stuff that church has to offer, a person has got to endure a lot.

If a person wants to get experience a feeling of connectedness and awe, they can find other outlets that don't require such a big outlay of patience. Even if those secular activity don't match the magic and wonder of church, they still provide a better bargain when you factor in all the costs.
  #125  
Old 12-15-2019, 06:12 PM
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I saw Hamilton a couple of weeks ago. I don't know if what I felt was "spiritual", but I certainly felt something life-affirming that I never experienced all those years sitting in boring-ass church services.

If church offers something that no secular activity can match, you gotta wonder why so many people find it so easy not to go. It's free. There are churches all over the place. People know when services are going to be held. And yet you don't see long lines of people waiting to pack every single church every Sunday.

I think it's because people know that church isn't all spiritual awesomeness. Church is not only ritual and beautiful music. It's also the dry sermons that leave you feeling guilty and confused more than filled with wisdom. It's also bible readings that make little sense because of all the thous and thees. It's also the congregation--the gossips, the Judgey Judgersons, the butt-in-skis, the sanctimoniousness and manufactured piety and anti-intellectualism. It's also the incessant guilt trip over tithes and offerings. To get to the cool stuff that church has to offer, a person has got to endure a lot.

If a person wants to get experience a feeling of connectedness and awe, they can find other outlets that don't require such a big outlay of patience. Even if those secular activity don't match the magic and wonder of church, they still provide a better bargain when you factor in all the costs.
Really, why it's so hard for some people to understand that you can get feelings of awesomeness without a religious POV? I have no religious bone in my body and have been an atheist my whole conscious life, but what I most liked about church when I still went as a child was the music (especially the music), the lights and the whole, well, show (I was raised in a German Catholic church), But I can easily satisfy those needs by listening to secular music, heck, even to religious/spiritual music (I love me some Van Morrison, one of the most transcendental musicians I know, and he almost always brings some spirituality into his songs). I can shiver in my innermost when I think of some of the realities of the universe, and the mystery most of it is still to us (and the potential for endless future scientific research). I can read books by someone like Kafka and be shaken to my bones. And lastly, not to be forgotten, sex beats every spiritual experience I ever had anyway.
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  #126  
Old 12-15-2019, 06:18 PM
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Logistically, I don’t see how this trend could reverse unless society as we know it radically changes. Like,
something happens that completely disrupts the flow of information so that people no longer have access to diverse opinions, leaving us back in a kind of Dark Age v. 2.0. I really do believe information access is the single most powerful opponent to religious belief.

We’re not just talking about church attendance. We’re talking people rejecting the religious dogma that previous generations never thought to question. As this happens, new generations will be raised to see atheism and secularism as the default. How do you get a bunch of people to believe that have never believed before? You don’t have to do or believe in anything to be atheist, so there is no inertia to work against if you want to keep on doing or believing in nothing. Religious followers, in contrast, have to demonstrate adherence. This means work and effort and often sacrifice in time and money.
I think a return to your granddad's Christianity is unlikely. I do, however, think that people in general will remain susceptible to religious claims just as they are to a wide range of pseudo-science and spiritualistic mumbo-jumbo.

Old religions may morph, in keeping with the trend from old Canaanite religions with their pantheon, henotheistic YHWH worship, to modern monotheistic Judaism, to Christianity, to Islam and Mormonism.

Likewise, new religions will arise, like Scientology, perhaps even cloaking their system of belief in the trappings of science (and not just the name) and yet still arriving at unwarranted conclusions of a spiritual or supernatural nature.

If we can have anti-vaxxers in a country where measles (used to be) eradicated, we can have theists arise again from the ranks of secular society. The tendency to want to point to an answer that is comforting or fills a gap in scientific understanding won’t go away with religion as we know it. And so religion will inevitably be born again, perhaps aided by the lack of hard skepticism among future atheists. Because it’s one thing to be born into a religious family and to arrive at atheism after careful consideration, or even to be born into an atheist family amidst a sea of religions all trying to tell you you’re damned and nevertheless persevering, but it’s something else completely to be born an atheist amid people who have minimal understanding of religion, why it’s unlikely to lead to truth, and why the arguments in its favor are fallacious. It’d be like measles returning to a cluster of non-immunized people. Before you know it, measles is no longer eradicated, and you’ve got to start the war against it all over again. From scratch.
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Old 12-15-2019, 06:23 PM
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Except... fraternal organizations aren't really secular social organizations as far as I know. All of the 'lodge' organizations I've looked into have a strong religious component, and require belief in God and prayers said as part of their rituals, which disqualifies them as being really 'secular' in my opinion.
I'm curious -- which ones did you look into?

My father was a member of the Elks when I was a teenager (and that's the sort of fraternal organization I was referring to), and while the Elks require members to have "a belief in God," I never had any impression, at all, that they were a particularly, or overtly, religious organization -- it seems like that requirement, as well as requirements that they've had (at least in the past) to not be a Communist, and to honor the Flag, are more about meeting their definition of being an "upstanding American." (I admit, I have no idea if they say prayers as part of meetings.)

If you visit the Elks website, while you see lots of patriotic imagery, if there's anything religious (other than mention of "belief in God" as a requirement for being an Elk), I'm not finding it. In essence, from what I remember, the Elks was (and, AFAIK, still is) a place where men could gather to socialize together (drinking beer, smoking cigars, bowling, etc.), and occasionally bring the family along (the Elks lodge where my dad was a member had a restaurant, where members could bring the family for Sunday brunch, and Friday night fish fries).

From what I can see about the Moose, they appear to be a bit more religious, as they apparently have a ritual of a nightly prayer; it looks like the Odd Fellows are more explictly non-religious.

Those don't seem, to me, to have "a strong religious component," or be anything like the overt religious orientation of, say, the Knights of Columbus. But, I can see that, if one is an atheist or agnostic, an organization that says "you must believe in God to be a member" comes across as a religious organization.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 12-15-2019 at 06:27 PM.
  #128  
Old 12-15-2019, 06:32 PM
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I think a return to your granddad's Christianity is unlikely. I do, however, think that people in general will remain susceptible to religious claims just as they are to a wide range of pseudo-science and spiritualistic mumbo-jumbo.

Old religions may morph, in keeping with the trend from old Canaanite religions with their pantheon, henotheistic YHWH worship, to modern monotheistic Judaism, to Christianity, to Islam and Mormonism.

Likewise, new religions will arise, like Scientology, perhaps even cloaking their system of belief in the trappings of science (and not just the name) and yet still arriving at unwarranted conclusions of a spiritual or supernatural nature.

If we can have anti-vaxxers in a country where measles (used to be) eradicated, we can have theists arise again from the ranks of secular society. The tendency to want to point to an answer that is comforting or fills a gap in scientific understanding won’t go away with religion as we know it. And so religion will inevitably be born again, perhaps aided by the lack of hard skepticism among future atheists. Because it’s one thing to be born into a religious family and to arrive at atheism after careful consideration, or even to be born into an atheist family amidst a sea of religions all trying to tell you you’re damned and nevertheless persevering, but it’s something else completely to be born an atheist amid people who have minimal understanding of religion, why it’s unlikely to lead to truth, and why the arguments in its favor are fallacious. It’d be like measles returning to a cluster of non-immunized people. Before you know it, measles is no longer eradicated, and you’ve got to start the war against it all over again. From scratch.
I think the point where your analogy fails is the contagiousness of religion. In contrast to the measles virus, the religious virus has become less and less contagious in Western societies. More slowly in the US, because of historical and societal reasons, but articles like that in the OP show that the US follows the trends of other nations.
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Old 12-15-2019, 07:30 PM
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I think a return to your granddad's Christianity is unlikely. I do, however, think that people in general will remain susceptible to religious claims just as they are to a wide range of pseudo-science and spiritualistic mumbo-jumbo.



Old religions may morph, in keeping with the trend from old Canaanite religions with their pantheon, henotheistic YHWH worship, to modern monotheistic Judaism, to Christianity, to Islam and Mormonism.



Likewise, new religions will arise, like Scientology, perhaps even cloaking their system of belief in the trappings of science (and not just the name) and yet still arriving at unwarranted conclusions of a spiritual or supernatural nature.



If we can have anti-vaxxers in a country where measles (used to be) eradicated, we can have theists arise again from the ranks of secular society. The tendency to want to point to an answer that is comforting or fills a gap in scientific understanding won’t go away with religion as we know it. And so religion will inevitably be born again, perhaps aided by the lack of hard skepticism among future atheists. Because it’s one thing to be born into a religious family and to arrive at atheism after careful consideration, or even to be born into an atheist family amidst a sea of religions all trying to tell you you’re damned and nevertheless persevering, but it’s something else completely to be born an atheist amid people who have minimal understanding of religion, why it’s unlikely to lead to truth, and why the arguments in its favor are fallacious. It’d be like measles returning to a cluster of non-immunized people. Before you know it, measles is no longer eradicated, and you’ve got to start the war against it all over again. From scratch.


An interesting point of view. If I understand what you’re saying, atheism is likely born from and in reaction to religion. With no religion, it is probable that there would also be no atheists. We all need something to react to.
  #130  
Old 12-15-2019, 07:49 PM
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I think the point where your analogy fails is the contagiousness of religion. In contrast to the measles virus, the religious virus has become less and less contagious in Western societies. More slowly in the US, because of historical and societal reasons, but articles like that in the OP show that the US follows the trends of other nations.
It’s not meant to be a perfect analogy, only to highlight the extent to which religion's ability to spread may, paradoxically, grow as atheism becomes the norm. Consider, for instance, how much of this thread has discussed the move away from religion as a reaction to more toxic elements of religion. Supposing all those toxic religions die. After a few years, a generation maybe, the taint of it is gone and the world is primed for a new religion. Skepticism helps get you out of religion, but being non-religious doesn’t make you a skeptic.
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An interesting point of view. If I understand what you’re saying, atheism is likely born from and in reaction to religion. With no religion, it is probable that there would also be no atheists. We all need something to react to.
I’m not saying atheism is born from or in reaction to religion, only that in its current state, in America, atheism exists alongside religion, not in a vacuum. If, however, atheism ever should exist in a vacuum, if it’s just the sort of thing you are born into and without much exposure to religious skepticism, then I see no less reason for new religious movements to arise than I do for a myriad of pseudo-scientific groups like Flat Earthers, Young Earth Creationists, and Anti-vaxxers.

When you aren’t primed to be skeptical about a subject, when you just take it for granted without understanding why it’s the appropriate position to take, you are easy pickings for those with weak arguments to pull aside and into an ever deepening canyon of false or unwarranted beliefs.

ETAM: If, for example, you’ve never been exposed to the various arguments that purport to prove the existence of a deistic creator god, for instance, you may have a hard time picking out thE subtle ways in which their logic fails or their premises are unfounded and so allow yourself to be convinced by some huckster, who then lumps on a bunch of other garbage about how not only does this creator god exist, but they actually ha e a way of telling what this god wants, and specifically what this god wants for you. Whenever two or more people gather in this fashion, voila! there is a new religion.

Last edited by ASL v2.0; 12-15-2019 at 07:54 PM.
  #131  
Old 12-15-2019, 07:53 PM
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There is no meaningful ritual, no mutual aid and support, no spiritual uplift, in the secular world. Community, as once revolved around both church and communal work, does not exist except in the most attenuated forms.
Wrong, obviously, in that I've found uplift outside religion:

Studying science gives me wonder at how amazing reality is. Any fiction pales in comparison to the simple fact quantum particles are governed by the same mathematics as guitar strings, and if you can't understand that, you have no place to deride it.

Being with my friends and family is mutual aid and support, to the extent we need it. I don't need externally-mandated friendship.

You're grasping. You're trying to demand that religion is uniquely necessary and it simply isn't. A demand is a poor, impotent substitute for an argument.
  #132  
Old 12-15-2019, 07:55 PM
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An interesting point of view. If I understand what you’re saying, atheism is likely born from and in reaction to religion. With no religion, it is probable that there would also be no atheists. We all need something to react to.
I disagree with this viewpoint. To me, this is no deeper than if we were talking about a declining trend in college fraternity and sorority participation. It wouldn’t make sense to say not joining a frat is a reaction to the Greek system. Its simply the default state if pledging, paying dues, and tradition isn’t your thing. Same thing with religion.
  #133  
Old 12-15-2019, 08:31 PM
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It’s not meant to be a perfect analogy, only to highlight the extent to which religion's ability to spread may, paradoxically, grow as atheism becomes the norm. Consider, for instance, how much of this thread has discussed the move away from religion as a reaction to more toxic elements of religion. Supposing all those toxic religions die. After a few years, a generation maybe, the taint of it is gone and the world is primed for a new religion. Skepticism helps get you out of religion, but being non-religious doesn’t make you a skeptic.
That’s quite a big “suppose” aint it? If we ever get to the point that this happens, then religion as we know won’t exist at all anymore. And neither will society. Something catastrophic would need to happen to wipe out these institutions.

I actually believe if there is a massive exodus from religion, one of two things will happen. Either churches will become more liberal and secular-like to reflect changing societal norms, or they will become more traditional and rigid as the proportion of diehard fundamentalists rises. If the latter occurs more frequently than the former, the culture war between believers and non-believers will get larger. Religion will lose even more appeal, as believers become harder and harder to relate to.

Yes, I agree that the potential is there for people to pick up pseudo-scientific spiritualism and run crazy with it. Since these type of believers aren’t very organized or devoted, I question how consequential this might be in the long term. Like, how many people really are into the Secret nowadays? Remember that was all the talk 15 years ago?
  #134  
Old 12-15-2019, 09:01 PM
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With no religion, it is probable that there would also be no atheists.
That doesn't make any sense to me. If there were no religion, then everybody would be atheists. I grant that we then wouldn't need a word for atheism -- just like we didn't need a word for analog watches before there were digital watches. But there were plenty of analog watches.
  #135  
Old 12-15-2019, 09:11 PM
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I actually believe if there is a massive exodus from religion, one of two things will happen. Either churches will become more liberal and secular-like to reflect changing societal norms, or they will become more traditional and rigid as the proportion of diehard fundamentalists rises. If the latter occurs more frequently than the former, the culture war between believers and non-believers will get larger. Religion will lose even more appeal, as believers become harder and harder to relate to.
My prediction: Either only the former, or, for a number of denominations, first the latter, then the former.

The religions which really take the mandate to be a source of morality seriously will take the second path, they'll burn themselves out, and then the survivors of those groups will enter the rest of the world.

The religions which are more, for lack of a better term, institutional, will be happier to follow the secular world's lead on morality and end up being gently guided to having the same moral universe as the rest of the sane world.

Here's something I haven't linked to yet, but which might be interesting to the rest of the group:
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Originally Posted by Evaporative Cooling of Group Beliefs
In Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter’s classic When Prophecy Fails, one of the cult members walked out the door immediately after the flying saucer failed to land. Who gets fed up and leaves first? An average cult member? Or a relatively skeptical member, who previously might have been acting as a voice of moderation, a brake on the more fanatic members?

After the members with the highest kinetic energy escape, the remaining discussions will be between the extreme fanatics on one end and the slightly less extreme fanatics on the other end, with the group consensus somewhere in the “middle.”

And what would be the analogy to collapsing to form a Bose-Einstein condensate? Well, there’s no real need to stretch the analogy that far. But you may recall that I used a fission chain reaction analogy for the affective death spiral; when a group ejects all its voices of moderation, then all the people encouraging each other, and suppressing dissents, may internally increase in average fanaticism.
So the groups which can't stand being lead around by the secular world will eject anyone who doesn't want to be in a Christ-flavored death cult (now in Blue Raspberry, Cherry, and Guyana Grape!) and drift off the edge into, for some of them, outright violence. The flip side is that cults are like diseases: The most dangerous among them burn themselves out quickly. Sometimes with an actual burning building.

It's impossible to be sure which groups will do which, I suppose, but I also can't imagine the Anglicans being allowed to drift off the edge as long as they're the Established Church. That's the flip side of religion merging with politics.
  #136  
Old 12-16-2019, 01:56 AM
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That doesn't make any sense to me. If there were no religion, then everybody would be atheists. I grant that we then wouldn't need a word for atheism -- just like we didn't need a word for analog watches before there were digital watches. But there were plenty of analog watches.


“A-theism” literally means “no God.” But you still need a concept of God to be against. Atheism is not the same thing as ignorance. It is a deliberate choice in my experience.
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Old 12-16-2019, 01:59 AM
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“A-theism” literally means “no God.” But you still need a concept of God to be against. Atheism is not the same thing as ignorance. It is a deliberate choice in my experience.
You do not need to be aware of a god claim in order to lack a belief in a god. I am atheistic not only with respect to the god claims I am aware of, but also to all those that I am unaware of.
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Old 12-16-2019, 02:52 AM
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“A-theism” literally means “no God.” But you still need a concept of God to be against. Atheism is not the same thing as ignorance. It is a deliberate choice in my experience.

Theism doesn't mean god, it means belief in a god. So I agree with thorny locust - we'd all be atheists, though we wouldn't have a word for it and would think about it no more than we are almost all people with a lack of belief in magical pixies today.

Atheism is only a deliberate choice because of the amount of religion in the world and the indoctrination most of us get in religion as kids.
Lack of belief in Santa is a deliberate choice also, after all.
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Old 12-16-2019, 05:52 AM
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“A-theism” literally means “no God.” But you still need a concept of God to be against. Atheism is not the same thing as ignorance. It is a deliberate choice in my experience.
Atheism is not the same thing as ignorance, but no one said it was ignorance.

The only difference between a Christian and an atheist is that the former believes in one more god than the latter does. Both lack belief in all the thousands of others.
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:31 AM
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Maybe it's not so much a difference in percentages of people who don't believe as much as it is people feeling less social stigma about not going. My paternal grandfather (born in 1890) was not, as my father tells it, particularly religious* - German Evangelical, if I remember correctly - but nonetheless went to church regularly because that's what you did. Were he alive today I doubt he'd bother.

*In fact his 3 sons and all but one of his grandchildren are firm atheists. It's like we're missing the religious gene or something.
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Old 12-16-2019, 09:36 AM
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The tendency to want to point to an answer that is comforting or fills a gap in scientific understanding won’t go away with religion as we know it. And so religion will inevitably be born again
Have you read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood?
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Old 12-16-2019, 10:05 AM
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Another reason for the big fall in Christianity in America is that it requires you to obey God, and many people don't want that, as society has become more and more individualistic. It clashes with self-determination in life; people don't want God to run their life.
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Old 12-16-2019, 10:11 AM
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Not sure how this could be proven, but I believe that there are many religious sects and communities (could be many or most, but I'll just say "many" for now) that are basically incompatible with critical thinking -- thus, if more people learn and apply critical thinking skills, then they will be "unavailable" for many specific religious groups (i.e. fundamentalist groups, Biblical literalists, etc.).
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Old 12-16-2019, 10:19 AM
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You don't know many football fans, do you?

Actually that's a much more valid point than I think you meant it to be.

I come from a university (Texas A&M) with a VERY fervent fan base (some might say insane, rabid, loony, etc...). And we have a very active and large alumni organization as well. And being a formerly all-male, military institution located in the sticks, we have a shitload of strange (from the outside) traditions. Among them is the notion that "Once an Aggie, always an Aggie", meaning that we're all part of a greater community of current and former students- not necessarily graduates either.

For some of us, it's stuff we did in college and was fun then, and now we identify as nominally part of the community, but mostly as whatever else we do.

But for a lot, this whole thing takes on a quasi-religious character. As in, the world revolves around football season- I swear some of them would plan funerals, weddings and births around A&M football games. And their personal identities are VERY centered around the notion that they're Aggies. Very defensive of the school and it's traditions, even when they may be harmful or not in the right- it's very much got that same sort of circle-the-wagons insular mentality that religious organizations often have.

I view it as something of a desire to be part of a community that's enduring and shares similar views. Even the hyper-religious among us are fervent Aggies- I suspect it's the more mobile, less firmly rooted society we have today- identifying as a Baptist doesn't give the same warm fuzzies or feeling of community when you live in Dallas, your parents live in Beaumont, one sibling lives in Houston, one sibling in Austin, and your aunt/uncle/cousin lives in Lubbock. But you can all be Aggies and all be part of that same extended community.

I'd be really curious to see if things like that are becoming more prominent in people's lives or not- it seems to me that looking at my dad and uncle's opinions about being Aggies (proud of it, but it's not their primary identification, and pretty laissez-faire about most of it), and then looking at the younger, more rabid Aggies of my age and younger and wonder if that's what I'm seeing.
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Old 12-16-2019, 10:54 AM
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Not sure how this could be proven, but I believe that there are many religious sects and communities (could be many or most, but I'll just say "many" for now) that are basically incompatible with critical thinking -- thus, if more people learn and apply critical thinking skills, then they will be "unavailable" for many specific religious groups (i.e. fundamentalist groups, Biblical literalists, etc.).
You may be right, but... have you applied critical thinking to this belief? Do you have evidence? Or are you saying "Not sure how this could be proven, but I believe that there are many people who believe things that can't be proven"?
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Old 12-16-2019, 10:57 AM
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Those don't seem, to me, to have "a strong religious component," or be anything like the overt religious orientation of, say, the Knights of Columbus. But, I can see that, if one is an atheist or agnostic, an organization that says "you must believe in God to be a member" comes across as a religious organization.
Requiring a belief in God for membership, saying obviously Christian prayers, having a chaplain lead the organization in prayer seems pretty religious to me as a deist, not even an atheist or agnostic.

https://www.elks.org/grandlodge/file...s2012-2013.pdf
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EXALTED RULER: Do you believe in God?
CANDIDATE: I do.
EXALTED RULER: The Chaplain will lead us in prayer.
CHAPLAIN: (at his/her station) Our Father Who
art in Heaven, we have gathered as Thy children, to
renew our Obligation of Brotherhood. Prosper us in this
labor of love. Bless this Candidate, and grant that he/
she may become a true and loyal Member among us,
exemplifying the virtues of Charity, Justice, Brotherly
Love and Fidelity. In all our endeavors for good, lead us
and all Elks into the green pastures of knowledge, and
beside the still waters of peace. Amen.
ALL: Amen.
(All the other Officers shall repeat “Amen” in unison.
The Chaplain shall not repeat “Amen.”)
  #147  
Old 12-16-2019, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
You may be right, but... have you applied critical thinking to this belief? Do you have evidence? Or are you saying "Not sure how this could be proven, but I believe that there are many people who believe things that can't be proven"?
Touche!
  #148  
Old 12-16-2019, 12:44 PM
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“A-theism” literally means “no God.” But you still need a concept of God to be against.
Why?

Do you need a concept of a digital watch in order to have an analog watch?

Do you need to have a concept of any sort of watch in order to meet somebody at sunset?
  #149  
Old 12-16-2019, 12:51 PM
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Actually that's a much more valid point than I think you meant it to be.

I come from a university (Texas A&M) with a VERY fervent fan base (some might say insane, rabid, loony, etc...). And we have a very active and large alumni organization as well. And being a formerly all-male, military institution located in the sticks, we have a shitload of strange (from the outside) traditions. Among them is the notion that "Once an Aggie, always an Aggie", meaning that we're all part of a greater community of current and former students- not necessarily graduates either.

For some of us, it's stuff we did in college and was fun then, and now we identify as nominally part of the community, but mostly as whatever else we do.

But for a lot, this whole thing takes on a quasi-religious character. As in, the world revolves around football season- I swear some of them would plan funerals, weddings and births around A&M football games. And their personal identities are VERY centered around the notion that they're Aggies. Very defensive of the school and it's traditions, even when they may be harmful or not in the right- it's very much got that same sort of circle-the-wagons insular mentality that religious organizations often have.

I view it as something of a desire to be part of a community that's enduring and shares similar views. Even the hyper-religious among us are fervent Aggies- I suspect it's the more mobile, less firmly rooted society we have today- identifying as a Baptist doesn't give the same warm fuzzies or feeling of community when you live in Dallas, your parents live in Beaumont, one sibling lives in Houston, one sibling in Austin, and your aunt/uncle/cousin lives in Lubbock. But you can all be Aggies and all be part of that same extended community.

I'd be really curious to see if things like that are becoming more prominent in people's lives or not- it seems to me that looking at my dad and uncle's opinions about being Aggies (proud of it, but it's not their primary identification, and pretty laissez-faire about most of it), and then looking at the younger, more rabid Aggies of my age and younger and wonder if that's what I'm seeing.
I believe this is what Vonnegut had in mind in Cat's Cradle when he invented the term "granfalloon."
  #150  
Old 12-16-2019, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Wiggler View Post
I believe this is what Vonnegut had in mind in Cat's Cradle when he invented the term "granfalloon."
But if there is no deity, all granfalloons are false karasses.

And Vonnegut was an atheist.

I wish he'd written more about Bokononism, personally. I've found it very useful. Foma, of course. But useful foma.

Nice, nice, very nice!

Last edited by Qadgop the Mercotan; 12-16-2019 at 02:01 PM.
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