Any aetheists, agnostics, or similar here? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 07-19-2002, 03:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I do not believe in God. I do not believe in gods and goddesses. I do not believe in karma. I do not believe in reincarnation. I do not believe in any sort of life after death. I don't believe in the psychic world, either.

Anyone else here with me? Sometimes I feel very alone on this subject.

I personally do believe that people need each other and that we need the universe (anyone see the movie Contact?). And I believe that we have the power to help destroy or help better our planet and we need to use that power for betterment. And I do believe that there are morals that necessarily spring from such beliefs. For example, I don't believe humans needs religion to tell them that murder is wrong. And I do believe that my beliefs are spiritual and that the pursuit of them constitutes my spirituality.

Part of me yearns for a community of people who share my beliefs, but part of me believes that once that happens, the tendency is for beliefs to head somewhere towards dogma.

I love celebrations and I love to honor the people I love and the rhythms of the universe, but I am also a little wary of rituals because they can become too much like law.

The Pantheist Philosophy appeals to me and perhaps applies to me, but it also seems like a lot of word play. I sometimes call myself a pantheist, but usually call myself an aetheist, and I see them as pretty similar.

Anyway, while I'd love to find someone who believes what I do, I'd be really content to just find a few here who don't believe what I don't believe . So are you an aetheist, agnostic, pantheist, or similar? And if so, what is your view of spirituality?
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#2 of 14 Old 07-19-2002, 11:08 AM
 
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Yes, hydrangea we're here. Periodically someone posts and asks, but no one ever really tries to strike up a discussion. Sounds like you've got a lot of thoughts rolling around, so maybe you could get one started?

While spirituality encompasses religion, religion certainly does not wholly define spirituality.

I agree about feeling a need to talk and share, but also carrying a great deal of wariness about the potentially negative power of the group. Recently, I have felt like I miss out on so much community because I don't have a church family. So many people, especially where we live, draw their strength and friendships from this area of their lives.

I'd love to talk more . . . sounds like we've got lots of similar beliefs!
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#3 of 14 Old 07-19-2002, 11:11 AM
 
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Forgot to add that I probably most closely align with humanist philosophies, although I like a bit of mystery tossed in. Humanism is so . . . practical and grounded and realistic. I like it, but feel a bit more ethereal and puzzled much of the time. I want a bit more room for the universal, I guess.

That probably makes no sense.
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#4 of 14 Old 07-19-2002, 12:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Scribblerkate, I'm glad to hear from you. I completely understand what you mean about humanist philosophies. We attended an Ethical Culture service for a few months, and I found it very dry. I do generally agree with the philosophy though. I guess the idea of pantheism works for me because it endows everything with some sort of spirituality and mystery.

I am sometimes tempted to try a Unitarian Universalist church. I have a feeling I'd enjoy the community and services. But then I read their philosophy, and it's still too rooted in Christianity for me.

I just talked with a friend about maybe getting a bunch of women of different beliefs together each New Moon just to talk about our lives and spirituality. It seems though that most of my friends believe in karma and reincarnation so I'm hoping I won't end up feeling marginalized as usual. Any thoughts on how we could make something like this work?
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#5 of 14 Old 07-20-2002, 01:45 PM
 
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Hydrangea,
Try it! You might like it!
Our UU church has a 'Full Circle' group, Buddhist/Mindfulness group, Taoist group, and the newest addition is. . . a Christian group! (Among others. . .)
It's a wonderful thing to see and be together with everyone on a Sunday morning!

Whatever you believe personally--Humanist, Pantheist, Agnostic that you are!--you will find the others encouaging you in that path despite theirs being very different!

Each UU church (Ok, each Sunday service!) is unique, so check out several churches several times and be bold and introduce yourself. We UUs don't proselytize so sometimes newcomers feel unwelcomed when, in fact, we love to have them with us. We just don't want to be pushy!

See you Sunday?
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#6 of 14 Old 07-20-2002, 08:40 PM
 
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scuze me....had to peek at your post....I started a new moon group, somewhat jewish-based....if you would like ideas on things we are doing I'd be happy to share....it has added such a great dimention to my life! its great if you have a friend on the same page as you to help start it.

michelle
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#7 of 14 Old 07-21-2002, 02:16 PM
 
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Specifically to address the questions about UU and getting together with friends . . . we have slowly started to attend a UU in our area. We have attended it a few times, and one Sunday went to a different local UU. The reluctance springs from that protestantism that you speak of, hydrangea. We really love the wonderful, interesting people we've met, and the UU we've selected is a humanist UU to its core. But, it still is organized around the strict rituals of a protestant service, with standing and singing protestant-style songs (as it's humanist, they generally do not have god references), chalice-lighting, children generally separated from the adults and -- worst of all for us -- a pastor who delivers a sermon. I know that others on this earth are far better people than me. Far better spiritual seekers than me. But on the subject of spirituality I want to explore together, guided perhaps, but not lectured at.

We have decided to continue attending, but minimize our presence at sunday service. Instead, we will volunteer in the kids' rooms.

Interestingly, this UU has started to reach beyond that protestant structure, which is why we're staying. It has sunday forums where experts in any number of areas come to talk with the group and answer questions. It also has started something called discovery groups, where small groups get together monthly to work on some aspect of the inner and the spiritual which that group has decided it wants to explore.

As for the new moon group, I think it's a great idea! I would like to start something similar if I knew enough people who were interested. Since the group has not started yet, you and your friend have a chance to set it up and guide it so that no one spiritual perspective dominated. Perhaps you and your friend could jot out some ideas about things the group would discuss during the first few gatherings. Perhaps each gathering would be spearheaded by a different member of the group, who would propose a question for the group to reflect on, perhaps even study a bit, and then discuss together. That way, sometimes the group's focus would be of interest to you. Also, you may be surprised by where the group goes. Just because some people seem interested in karma etc, maybe once they start really digging deep, they might have many other beliefs they never shared or even realized they had.

Way too long!
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#8 of 14 Old 07-21-2002, 02:24 PM
 
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Yammer, interesting thoughts re who among us may be the actual sheep. Keep 'em coming.

I was raised by parents who both love and participate in their religions, one protestant and one catholic. It guides their lives at least to some degree. So, I am never sure how much of my own thought process is driven by my early experience and/or my rebellion to it. While I don't believe in karma, reincarnation, or ghosts per se, I do believe that there are two aspects to this universe, the practical or scientific and the non-scientific. For me, both of these aspects equally shape the world we live in, and perhaps both have firm, definable "rules"; it's just that we puny-minded humans have only started to discover the "rules" to one side. Or maybe the great religious and philosophical thinkers among us are closer than we realize to discovering the "rules" for the other side. The other side is not a god or some weird psychic recycling, it's just not what we think of as "practical."

Rambling again!
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#9 of 14 Old 07-22-2002, 12:14 PM
 
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Kate,
Here's something to get you started!

http://www.cuups.org/
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#10 of 14 Old 07-22-2002, 08:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've been so busy. I've been following how this thread has progressed with much interest, but I haven't had time to write a good response! I don't even have much time now, but I'll try.

Yammer, first I'll try to address your posts.

I feel like I should reveal a little of my background to explain where I'm coming from. I grew up feeling a lot like you. My parents were aetheist/agnostic (one born Jewish and one born WASP) and brought me up that way, but I really envied my religious friends. I went with them to various churches and synagogues (never mosques or other places of worship unfortunately), even volunteered at a few of these places and went fairly regularly, read up on Eastern and pagan religions, but could never get beyond the ideas of God or of reincarnation.

In my early 20s, I started seeing a guy who ended up being my husband, and we merged our searches (he had been brought up aetheist but in an Italian Catholic sort of background and had always searched for meaning as well), and somehow together we decided that Judaism was The Way. And not just any judaism, but "ultra" orthodox Judaism. We both converted (my mother wasn't Jewish) after a year of studying. I had to take a leap of faith to believe in God in the beginning of that, but I came to believe strongly and deeply and assumed that I'd be keeping Shabbat and eating kosher and covering my hair and body the rest of my life. I won't speak for my husband and how he came to believe, but that was my experience. We did this for seven years, during which we had our two daughters, but then my husband started to have scientific doubts (until then he had found ways to make everything work for him scientifically), and started to lose his faith. This nearly broke us up, because the way I saw it, I had taken a leap of faith and could keep on leaping and everything about me was invested in this leap, but he just couldn't do it anymore. Neither of us felt we could remain in a marriage where each of us saw things differently (when we do things, we do things intensely), and so it was either divorce, him living what he believed was a lie, or my giving up everything for him. It nearly destroyed me at the time (it did destroy all of our friendships), but within a year or so of talking and talking and talking and thinking and reading and talking and talking and talking some more, I have come to believe that I can never go back.

We came to believe, early in our search, that a religious life was a better life, that religious people were good people, that the family who prayed together, stayed together, that there was less chance of all sorts of disfunctionalities (i.e. alcoholism) when one was religous, etc. etc. We have since come to see (although we came to this conclusion separately, each in our own way and time) two things: 1) that one can have all of these wonderful things without religion, that one can have a purpose in life and ethics that follow from there, as I explained in my first post, and 2) that while many religions can motivate people to be good, it also can also motivate people to do bad. I don't want to go into this idea too much here because I don't want to offend anyone, but the way I see it, religions generally just encourage goodness to other people within the religion and in order to spread the good news. That doesn't negate the good works, but it does put them in a different light for me. Also, many wars are caused by religion. Just look at what is going on in Israel right now -- that is all about religious beliefs. These are just a few small examples of why I believe, Yammer, that the price of having a dogma is much more than cognitive dissonance.

However, even while I feel no desire to be part of a religion except for the small matter of missing a congregation, I do still feel like a spiritual person. It is clear to me that there is more to life than just what I can see. There is beauty and ugliness and righteousness and evil, and I think about these ideas and what is behind them all the time. I also think about what I can do to bring more beauty and righteousness and truth to this world. I am fascinated by other religions and religious practices, and I also love religious spaces, like you do Yammer. There is part of me that does want to "know" what happens after death, but mostly I groove on the idea of becoming compost! I understand why we have religions and why people are religious. I do wish sometimes that I had a word to explain how I feel, and I think pantheism comes pretty close, but as I said above, it seems a little bit like wordplay to me.

Scribblerkate, thank you for your description of your UU experience. I think if I had one really close to me, I'd try it, but the nearest one is about a 35-minute drive, and I'm not sure it's worth it to me. I get the idea that it's kind of a safe haven for people who are uncomfortable with Christianity in general, but come from a somewhat protestant background and want to stay somehow culturally connected with that. Perhaps before I had embraced Judaism the UU church would have been right for me, but I am now coming from a different place altogether. I have looked a little into some of the very liberal branches of Judaism (reconstructionism and humanist), but even those have their drawbacks for me. The new moon group is looking better and better to me. Thank you for your ideas on that. I'll be seeing my friend tomorrow so maybe I'll talk to her further.

Do either of you, Yammer and Scribblerkate (or any others who join this conversation) ever feel frustrated by multi-denominational events that seem to include all religions except non-religion? There was an event here recently that included Catholics, Jews, Sufis, Buddhists and others but included plenty of references to a concept of God that they could all believe in. I didn't go, but I heard enough about it from friends and the media to know that I would not have felt comfortable, even though it was supposed to be a spiritual event that included everyone.

Michelle, if you're still following this thread, I am interested in your new moon group. During my religious Jewish days, I regularly attended a Rosh Chodesh group (I'm assuming this is what you're talking about), and I really loved it. I think what actually gave me this idea was a combination of reading a post on these boards about a Rosh Chodesh group and then reading a mention of new moon groups in some pagan resource and realizing how universal they are. Something about universal ideas and rituals really appeals to me.

I'm loving this conversation.
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#11 of 14 Old 07-22-2002, 08:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, Kate, I wanted to add that I understand your feelings about a pastor who delivers a sermon vs. a more congregation-led service. I love in general the idea of people just getting together and talking.
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#12 of 14 Old 07-23-2002, 02:27 AM
 
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hydrangea,

Your first post described very similarly how I feel and think about religion, god, etc. My experience has been very different in that I have never been religious or attached to a particular religion. I have always been an atheist -I grew up in Utah so that was tough at times- but have struggled as well with wanting to be a part of a "church group". One of the aspects that really appeals to me is that it's the only place that people of all ages and generations get together regularly. I would love that for myself and my kids. But what does one do when you don't have the beliefs that go along with it. My dh says that most people go to church for the social part of it, but that seems so hypocritical to me. I am also very jaded because I grew up in a place where religion wasn't just there in the background, it was in your face all the time, and I saw so much hypocrisy. I guess that's my problem with people attending church for the social aspect. I think it tends to breed the hyprocrisy that can go along with religion.

When you mentioned the multi-denominational events the thing that popped into my head that always seems to get to me, is that atheism isn't really acknowledged. It's like you are supposed to be ashamed or something. I was talking (okay, complaining) to a friend about why people assume that one must be some religion or another. It doesn't really matter which, but not being one at all seems to be a personal affront to many people. And that during religious education, children or whoever should be made aware that not everyone believes in God(s). She just about choked when I said that and said that would NEVER happen. But why not? Why is it so negative? I think that religious freedom is very important, but I think that needs to include not believing in any religion or God at all.

I agree with you about the UU thing. I've thought about going. Most of my good friends go, but it's just too Christian for me too. People say that they don't preach any one religion, but I guess I don't want any at all. I think one can be very spiritual without religious beliefs and I guess what I seek is a way to do that with a group of other people. Very similar to what you are looking for.

Okay, this is getting long.

Good thread.

Alison
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#13 of 14 Old 07-23-2002, 09:27 PM
 
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hmmm...I agree good thread overall...Hydrangea - thanks for sharing your story WOW blows my mind to think that you guys were ultra orthodox...what a committment.

sigh* I would love to add some thoughtful comments, alas little time and much todo...so thought I'd share some newmoon/rosh chodesh thoughts with you.

My congregation is reform jewish and I started the group with another member who was looking to start a 'womens group' but didn't know what to do. I was inspired by a thread here many moons ago.

We gathered women associated with our congregation, some jewish, some not, some once jewish but consider themselves spirtual mongrels, some believe in g-d, some not, others raised jewish, married to non-jewish, dislike 'organized' religion.....you get the picture...diverse, diverse

we start and end the meeting with a poem, meditation and recently a song that I wrote.

we meet on the new moon, so the day of the month varies.

we have a charity box...we'll pick a charity at a future date.

focus on 'removing a layer' at the meeting, really opening up to discuss topics.

sometimes started the meeting with a fun thing...such as a fortuneteller game...loosen folks up.

topics we've talked about are...

thoughts about G-d, believe or not, how its changed in your life at different ages

friendships - long lost pals, change over time, what makes a good friend, hurts

mother/daugher relationships - what do you want to inherit, not inherit

Inspiration - what inspires you, relaxes and destresses you, how do you handle great adversity

Our group is definatley more 'spiritual', not focused on judaism per say, but connecting as women, connecting with nature.

Thats all for now! feel free to pm me if you want more details. Go for it! So many women will be grateful for the experience!

Michelle
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#14 of 14 Old 07-24-2002, 05:23 AM
 
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Hi, its funny, I surf this forum regularly but have been skipping over this thread the past few times because I never think of myself as atheist. But when I read your comments, Hydrangea, I realize that I believe basically the same. I identify myself as Buddhist when people ask but Buddhism is an atheist religion (if that is not too much of an oxymoron), there is no God involved at all. I still find it odd to think of myself as an atheist. I was raised Christian and you are right there is a huge prejudice against atheists -- here I am one and the word still has negative connotations for me.

Well you've probably tried this since from your very impressive resume above it seems you have much more knowledge of the various spiritual communities than I have, but have you ever gotten involved in any Zen groups? You don't have to believe in reincarnation to be Buddhist. Maybe Zen is not the right word for what I want to say -- I mean the "mindfulness" practice that is espoused by Thich Nhat Hanh and others. I would love to find a group that practices this sort of meditation but haven't had any luck -- most of the Buddhist communities I've visited do more chanting and are involved in the "supernatural" aspects of Buddhism like reincarnation and whatnot. Not a good fit for me. But when I read books, I know the other groups are out there.
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