Religon vs. athesim vs. agnostic

Now, before you read on, know that I am starting this only out of curosity, not out of any want to cause trouble.

I have a friend named Jeremiah, who has been my friend for longer in my life than he hasn’t, literally, and I am almost 30. So we know each other quite well, and we have done a lot of crazy stuff together.

About 4 months ago, Jeremiah (or Shaggy as I call him) “found God”. After being baptized, spending the weekend at some kind of religious retreat, and going to chruch every Sunday, suddenly Shaggy is a totally different person. We can’t speak to each other without him telling me all about God. I have even noticed that he now prefers to spend time with other “religous” people, other than me, or his other usual longtime friends. Keep in mind that prior to 4 months ago, we had probably spoken about God and religon probably twice in 15 years.

This has got me to thinking… Why is it that religous people are so convinced that there way, and only there way is correct? I am somewhere between an atheist, and an agnostic, in that I don’t belive in any particular religon, but I don’t totally discount the possibility of a “higher being”.

I almost feel it is a tragedy in that Shaggy is now a different person totally. I would almost call him delusional at times, at least in comparison to say a year ago, or 10 years ago. Why do religons require that you alter every aspect of your life to conform to some notion of piety that you can never acheive?

“If you want all the answers, talk to a newly ordained priest.”
–Longtime priest, who has none of the answers

I think that for many people, a newly found religion is like a shiny new toy. They have to show it off, and can seem somewhat obsessed with it. Nothing wrong with that – I’m the same way if I get a new book or a new techno toy. But that, combined with the fervernt and judgemental nature of religion, is an especially obnoxious combination.

Give it some time for the newness to wear off, and I’ll bet your friend is back to normal.

Religious != christian.

I, for one, am religious, and do not believe my religion to be the One True Way.

Just FYI.

I’ll give you a short overview of my situation. I was raised a Catholic, later rejected, became and agnostic, later became an athiest (a militant athiest at that), then a religious revelation and rebirth. I am now a Southern Baptist. So as you can see I’ve been all three things you mention. The only thing I can tell you is that the conversion experience to a believer is like nothing else you could imagine. At the moment of my conversion I literally felt like a new born, cleaned and pressed with someone holding me in their arms as if I was an infant. Most amazing experience I’ve ever had in my life and I wanted to share it with everyone. I wanted to learn all about my new life so I could live it to it’s fullest. This is where your friend is. I’ve since learned to temper my enthusiasm with the world. I’ll still share, if you want to hear it. If you don’t I’ll move on, because someone else needs it. I’m just a beggar telling others where I found bread.

Some people can turn on parts of their brain that make them feel loved, important, and peaceful, by use of certain thought patterns. These thought patterns can be brought about by stuff like chants, prayer, music, and other things that religion frequently provides. Some people are more susceptable to this effect than others, and it looks like your friend was hooked.

Don’t worry for him, though, he probably feels great and the added confidence, sense of well-being, and feeling of membership in a community may end up doing him some good.

I understand what you are saying “Skank”, I just cannot understand the position. I have never had anything in life (except maybe my wife and kids) that made me feel like I have to make sure every person w/in earshot has to hear how I feel about it… every couple of minutes.

Someone else said the word “obsessive”, which I think is apt. I was also thinking “cult-like”. Not that christianity is the same as those wierdos in California (Heavens Gate?), but there are some similarties in basically all religons, including cults, and I think that some are more prone to preach to non-belivers than others (I think this is called “witnessing”), but you don’t ever hear atheist out there saying “If you don’t belive in us, or our belifs, then you will be punished”.

The punished part worries me Dave, I don’t know who or what group your friend has fallen in with though. One thing to distinguish a cult from a religion is that typically a cult follows after a leader, not just like a Minister or Pastor though. The cult leader may preach anything but it is him that the followers are attracted to and not the message. Christians have been maligned as a cult especially in the early formative years, some would still say so, but that is another debate.

well don’t pretty much all religons state that there is some sort of punishment for straying from the divine path, e.g. hell, eternal damnation, etc. etc.

What I meant was that the “God fearing religions” like christianity and baptist, and all of those try to sway you to there side of the argument by saying that you will be “saved” which is basically the only way that you can avoid hell. So in essence, they are saying, believe like us or be punished for all of eternity.

Whereas, my belifs, and those with likeminded belifs, don’t say that you are going to be punished, and we don’t ever try to force our religon on someone else, which is something that is all too common with chrisians, baptist, presbyterian, etc.

First off it isn’t as easy as that. All atheists are not alike or I guess you could say “believe” the same thing. Some atheists think it is a personal thing (live and let live) and others think they have a calling to convert everyone to their way. These atheists can’t threaten you with going to hell, so they resort to saying nasty things about religion and telling religious people how dumb they are. :stuck_out_tongue: [sup]Personally, I prefer being told I’m going to hell.[/sup]

Dave, the so called punishment is eternal separation from God. What Christianity basically teaches is that the only way into eternal life with God is through acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Without accepting that in your heart you are “doomed” (for lack of a better term) to spend eternity separated from God. This is described as hell. The various references to fire and burning are descriptive of how your soul will feel when you are separated from God permanently. Remember how I said I felt like an infant being taken of in someones arms? The connotation is that since God is love, you will spend eternity without any love at all.

Religion is a confusing thing, I think that anyone that says that they have it all figured out hasn’t looked into everything. I am a religious person, but I am not convinced that just because someone believes slightly different things than me that they are going to burn in hell. Or that my ideas are completely right. I know what I believe and that’s good enough for me.
I think that the first response was probably accurate, give it some time, he’ll find a way to have his beliefs and his life.

Oh, and by the way…to the person who was talking about Christians, Baptists, and Presbyterians…Baptists and Presbyterians ARE Christians, they’re not different religions, just denominations.

That would make you an agnostic rather than an atheist.

From just what you’ve written here, I have no idea whether the new religious life your friend has found is dangerous and tragic, or if it’s extremely good and healthy for him, or somewhere in between. It sounds like your main problem with it is what it has done to your friendship, which is perfectly understandable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad for Shaggy. (In fact, if you were a bad influence on him, it would be a good thing that his religion is separating him from you—not that I’m implying that that’s the case.)

You might feel somewhat the same way if he had just gotten majorly involved in a new hobby that you had no interest in; or if he had fallen in love with The Most Wonderful Girl In The Whole World and was spending most of his time with her and her friends, especially if (1) you believed, rightly or wrongly, that she was bad for him, or (2) you didn’t get along with her due to a clash in personalities, or (3) you were jealous. His new orientation may or may not be permenant, but at least the gaga, can’t-understand-why-everybody-else-isn’t-as-excited-as-he-is stage will fade.

That’s a pretty broad brush you’re painting with there. Even if it is the attitude Shaggy’s taking, such narrow-mindedness is hardly characteristic of all religious people! In fact you may even be engaging in a similar narrow-mindedness yourself (eg. calling him “delusional” because he believes or acts differently from you). If you’re looking down on him and his new friends, it’s understandable if he’s avoiding you.

Or maybe his is just as brainwished as you seem to think. Like I said, I can’t tell from what you’ve written here. I’m just throwing out shoes; if any of them fit, feel free to wear them.

I have been thinking about wether or not this is all my problem and not his… but that isn’t really my main concern, he an I have gone through times before where we haven’t seen much of each other, as long as a year when I traveled alot on business. My trouble is with the way it changed his very nautre, almost overnight. He says that he looked to god to find happiness, which at the time he needed because he just had some personal problems he was dealing with… but when i look at him now, i don’t think he is all that happy… since he started this whole thing, he seems almost exaggeratingly melancholy… i just don’t want him to get sucked into something that turns out to be empty…

maybe just because i can’t fathom having that much faith in something so my natural response to it is to automatically think it is unworthy in some way…

maybe i am just a dick :slight_smile:

no, the symptoms you described happened to an ex bf of mine.
He had just accepted he was an alcoholic, and decided to do something about it. After the first few meetings of AA, he turned to god, as it’s included in the 12 Step programme. After that, things went really fast: he had a spiritual awakening, finally saw the big picture, his own role in life in the world. Saw the consequences of all his actions, relived all the shit he put other people through…
He also tried to “12 step” me, he projected all his problems on me, and then told me how to go and live my life, told me in great detail what was wrong with me and how I could “fix” myself.

Once you’ve had a spiritual awakening, it’s hard to turn it back off. You’ve finally got a huge conscience, your Super Ego is taking over. It’s hard for me to put my finger on it, but it does change you. It makes you see more things, observe more things, experience more “pain” because you feel more empathy, you feel other people’s pain, whereas before you wouldn’t have cared.

tdn is right, in saying that the novelty will wear off. The reason that he prefers being with likeminded people at the moment, is because this is a profound change in him, and he feels the need to talk about it, to people who understand what he’s on about.
You may inderstand, but you do find it strange, and I think that disappoints him, or even hurts him.

I have no advice to give on how to go about restoring your relationship (the BF and me broke up, obviously, since I describe him as an ex), but I thought i’d be able to explain a little how your friend is feeling.

good luck

No, it makes him a weak atheist.

A common misunderstanding, but quite a simple one. Agnosticism is actually nothing to do with whether you believe in god or not. Rather, it is a belief that the nature of a God is fundamentally unknowable. As such, you can be an agnostic deist or an agnostic atheist. Think of gnosticism and theism as two axis on a belief graph.

Theism, or deism, is a belief that God(s) exists. The lack of this belief is a-theism or, more commonly, atheism. You don’t have to firmly believe in the absence to have an absence of belief and the absence of belief alone is enough to make you a-theistic.

However, the difference between believing in the absence and having an absence of belief is judged important enough to be differentiated, which is why the former is known as strong atheism and the latter weak atheism.

Our friend here is a weak atheist. Whether or not he is agnostic, we cannot say on this evidence.


INteresting and informative post.

I always looked upon “conversions” a little different. They do not have to be religious, but could be conversions to different forms of political systems, secular groups or most anything, including science. I have seen people converted to science.

I think these are learning experiences, as you said, they see more things, looking deeper into the well so to speak. If they continue to learn they will move on through the conversion into another and another until wisdom of the path teaches them to learn without being “taken over” by the knowledge.

If you are not experiencing “aha’s”, “eureka’s”, or conversions you are not learning very much. Life is not divided into little boxes of science, religion, nature, politics, etc., it is an integrated whole. It takes a lot of these experiences to reach the plane of wisdom.


Especially in the convoluted alternate-reality world of this Jack Chick tract.

“You religious?”
“No, I’m a Christian!”


I was religious at one point in my life, briefly, but eventually I sucumbed to reason.

thank you :slight_smile:

you are right, you have to have an Aha! Erlebnis, it’s the actual shock of the insight that gives you a mental kick in the butt. If it’s a gradual thing, you won’t even notice you’ve “changed” until people start pointing in out to you.
And yes, it does take constant work, I agree. It may be hard to turn off at first (the conscience, I mean) or indeed, impossible, but the concentrating on oneself, the disecting of ones character and afterwards building up again, is very hard work, and in the end, very hard to keep up. Most people have a tendency to let things “slide” again, after a while, after all, it’s not nice being faced with your own imperfections day in, day out.

You are right again in saying that knowledge isn’t boxed in per subject (if only!). It was, in fact, seeing and discovering the connections between each and everything, and to see how literally everything is connected to everything else, in one way or another, that made it so fascinating for me.

As my mother told me, the beginning of all wisdom is to know you know nothing :slight_smile: