Atheists vs. Theists: The Quest for Middle Ground

Introducing people of all ages to mythology... in pre-college educational curricula, youth orgs, the media, etc. Share your knowledge, stories, unit and lesson plans, techniques, and more.

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Limbo
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Post by Limbo » Mon Oct 08, 2007 7:48 pm

Noman,

Upon further reflection, there is one part of your post (so far) that I disagree with.
noman wrote:The only difference of opinion I have is that I don’t think most of the world is capable of, or the least bit interested in, the middle way – and to expect them to be is to invite a grave disappointment.
When I was a Christian I had NO IDEA that a middle way even existed.
My experience at RD.net has suggested to me that most atheists there look at life in black & white terms. In other words they think everyone is atheist or theist...no middle ground.

I think that if they understood that a middle way exists, and understood what each side would gain AND lose from meeting there, then they might be more receptive. I've failed at increasing the over all receptiveness of the RD.net community, but I have learned a bit about them.

Many of the atheists at RD.net are European. From talking to them I have learned that the works of Campbell are not well known in Europe. That is part of the problem, I think. They don't know that there is something important that they don't know about.

So to my mind, it's not that they aren't interested in the middle way. It's that they don't fully realize a middle way is even possible.
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Post by Robert G. » Tue Oct 09, 2007 7:38 am

I thought of an interesting analogy the other day when I stumbled across Dawkins on the radio (why, oh why are all the charismatic, intelligent, well-spoken people in the public eye all nutcases? I MISS CAMPBELL!!) Anyway, bear with me because I'm kind of taken with this idea but haven't tried it out on anyone yet :)

OK, here it is: forcing people to engage with your religious beliefs is exactly like making them watch you have sex, and ought to be sanctioned in the same way. What so you think? Restraining orders and "text-offender" registries? With all due consideration for cultural norming, sex and religion are both innately powerful behaviors that have effects on innocent bystanders. I have no urge to see people getting it on in the bus in front of me, and in exactly the same way I don't want to pass a street preacher or someone calling me to evening prayer. Holding hands in public is great, and a kiss every now and then, and that's the level at which we ought to keep public displays of religion. What people do privately is none of my concern, but keep it off the streets!

There's a woman that makes an unseemly display of her religion at my work, and I can't wait for the opportunity to share this point of view with her :twisted: "Mary, I know it's not your fault, you just weren't very well brought up and probably don't know any better, but I need to let you know that well-mannered people just don't do that in public ...." Absolute heaven! :wink:

And where does that put us, I hear you asking? I'm thinking the JCF is the equivalent of the local bar, and we're all here by mutual consent to show a little leg and hit the dance floor .... :shock:
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Post by Clemsy » Tue Oct 09, 2007 10:04 am

Food for thought there Robert. The key word, however, is 'forcing.' I would hesitate to lump religious behavior in the same category as public sex (Most people look, well, normal and average and are a far cry from the types of people one may actually be attracted to watching, even if out of the corner of your eye 8). The sight of my neighbor having sex would be a sorry sight for a sober man. Probably thinks the same about me. :shock:. )

Rather than legislating against it (You'd have to do the same for political behavior, no? Hmmm. Fox News would then be considered pornography?). I would rather legitimize those perspectives considered anathema in the public square. Atheism being one.

Your coworker's 'unseemly display of her religion' may be another matter. Those who constantly put the symbols and rhetoric of their religion in your face are bores. "Arrogant Christian", for example, is really a contradiction in terms. However, pointing this out is risky business as the more fanatical the Christian, the more the tendency to take any criticism as an attack on their religion.

You could say (if she is Christian), "Mary, where's the whole humility and compassion thing?"

Or of course you could put a pic of Campbell on your desk and one or two of his more juicy quotes. Or just this bumper sticker:

Image

Trying to outlaw public displays of religiousness would only throw a tanker full of gasoline on the fire, and the gods know the righteous don't need any more encouragement!

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Post by Evinnra » Thu Oct 11, 2007 4:53 am

Robert G. wrote:


OK, here it is: forcing people to engage with your religious beliefs is exactly like making them watch you have sex, and ought to be sanctioned in the same way. What so you think? Restraining orders and "text-offender" registries? With all due consideration for cultural norming, sex and religion are both innately powerful behaviors that have effects on innocent bystanders. I have no urge to see people getting it on in the bus in front of me, and in exactly the same way I don't want to pass a street preacher or someone calling me to evening prayer. Holding hands in public is great, and a kiss every now and then, and that's the level at which we ought to keep public displays of religion. What people do privately is none of my concern, but keep it off the streets!

Ha-ha-ha, ‘text-offender’ registries!!!! :lol: Food for thought indeed.
On a number of points I do agree with you.


One could argue that perhaps too much open display of private feelings created the market for Viagra. Similarly, televangelism brought the deepest and most sacred human feelings into the not so sacred living rooms of people and religion became trivialised. I’m afraid the last century managed to dilute the most powerful human emotions, Faith in the One, powerful family bonding and sexual desire. How will humanity survive without these emotions?

However, this is as far as I can agree with the gist of your argument. For although there is some similarity between sexuality and religion never the less there is a gigantic difference between the two areas. When I see a Hindu or Muslim religious festival I do not feel compelled to drop to my knees, cross my self and cry-out for the unity of all Catholics all over the world. Nor do I suspect Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims - that is, those who have true faith and not just ‘in-it-to-win-it’ with God - feeling repelled by watching Christians walking and praying the ‘stations of the Cross’. I would think they feel the same as I do when I am watching their ceremonies; reassured that other religions have their own tradition to honour the One – or the many. Watching other people honouring their religion in a traditional way only evokes spiritual responses in me.

But seeing strangers displaying their private feelings for each other has a physiological effect on people. Moreover, please correct me if I am wrong, but I tend to think that witnessing acts of intimacy supposed to have this physiological effect unless the person is already de-sensitised by cultural norms. No matter what sexual orientation one happens to have, I do not believe it does anyone any good if sexuality is trivialised by open display of affection. Whereas with religion, a street-corner evangelist may annoy me yet s/he will not evoke the same ‘gut response’ as witnessing a sexually explicit act or public display of private emotions. So, my vote is for keeping traditional ways of celebrating religion and for legislating against public display of private affections.

In regards to 'awakening the mythological mind' I think we are already doing a pretty good job at collecting our affiliates. Nobody is invited but nobody is rejected either - unless displaying unacceptable behaviour. Whoever desires to participate are welcome, whoever gets bored here is free to leave. Moreover, I think the greatest draw-card of the JCF community is that we are stubbornly ‘middle-ground’, most of us holds a stance in between the ‘hyper religious preacher’ and the ‘foaming in the mouth atheists’. Maybe it is not so surprising that atheists and religious people are in fact interested in each other’s view, not merely out of curiosity but from a genuine ‘goodness’ in their heart that makes them desire communication. One could argue that the foundation of all morality lies in the basic attitude that good people compare and contrast their views with others. We don’t need black shirts or daisies in our hair to express our affiliation, we have both evolution and God’s design on our side to help us recognise one another.

Cheers,
Evinnra :P
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littlewing
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Post by littlewing » Sat Oct 13, 2007 4:57 am

Sorry, I'm just not taking the flowers out of my hair, Evinnra! :lol:

This is an exceptional thread! One of the best atheist/theists debates I have read. Hope it isn't too against rules to cut and paste and keep (for personal use, including sharing) a post or two. 'Cause I kept Noman's post, a good perusal/summary. As an atheist, I had to concede to polytheism by his definition!

Thank you, Limbo, for your gutsy work there on the Dawkin's forum. Playfully done, huh? Now there's a challenge.

My opinion lies closest to Andrew's:
To my mind, if people's religious beliefs (or the lack thereof) leads them to a worldview that accepts the global nature of man, his environment and his challenges, then so much the better. Anything else shortly will be rendered obsolete.
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Post by noman » Mon Oct 15, 2007 1:39 am

So to my mind, it's not that they aren't interested in the middle way. It's that they don't fully realize a middle way is even possible.

- Limbo
But you see – for us – what is clearly ignorance – can better be seen as a preference. It’s a preference for, what I’m calling a certain 'configuration of deities’. They do realize a middle way but it is not their preference.

(I don’t know about ‘fully realize’. That’s like the phrase ‘complete stop’. You either stop or don’t stop. Many of my thoughts are half-realizations – I think. But I can’t be sure because I’m only half aware of them. :? )

The religious fundamentalist might say of us that we are ignorant of the experience of believing in the scriptures as the true and literal word of a divine anthropomorphic Being who is perpetually concerned with the affairs of the world, with our personal development, and with our ultimate destiny. As I said, these people are not stupid. They just look stupid to us. But we look stupid and ignorant to them because to them, there is no such thing as a ‘configuration of deities’. There is only the truth; the plain truth as stated in the scriptures.

But people do change – move from one category to the other. And that’s the clever part of my theology theory. The configuration of deities does sometimes change – but it is not so much due to acquiring new information and intelligent discourse. It’s due to an inner struggle resulting in the usurpation of a reigning deity.
And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal – carries the cross of the redeemer - not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his [or her] personal despair.

- Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, (1949) p. 391
- NoMan
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Post by Limbo » Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:58 pm

Noman,

Not much in your post I can disagree with. But I would like to comment on the following:
noman wrote:But people do change – move from one category to the other. And that’s the clever part of my theology theory. The configuration of deities does sometimes change – but it is not so much due to acquiring new information and intelligent discourse. It’s due to an inner struggle resulting in the usurpation of a reigning deity.
I was once orthodox Christian, and it was painful for me toward the end until the works of Joe helped me to transcend it. Otherwise, I was headed for a nervous breakdown.

If it wasn't for a friend of my wife recommending Joe's works, who knows where I would be. Perhaps her configuration of deities 'prompted' her to say just the right thing at just the right time. Synchronicity?

So it seems to me, that sometimes the catalyst for change is THROUGH other people.

So when I go to a website to raise awareness of Joe's work, I do so in the hopes that my posts will be there for someone else at just the right time. Whether that someone else is theist or atheist.
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Post by jufa » Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:13 pm

In my experience, or journey, I have discovered that life is a continuum of life. I have discovered that life is a never-end-story of falling down and getting up. That failure becomes one's strength when they take responsibility to move beyond the indoctrinations of the priest, ministers, teachers, mother's, father's instilled values of interpretations handed down to them and became dormant foundation of superstitutions.

I have also discovered no one can gain the wisdom of life's relativity of Being in an earth lifetime. A physical trade and human intellectual assumptive learning can be had in one's earth lifetime, but life's unconditions intent and purpose is not a learning, it is not a becoming because it is not a state of being to be accomplished. Why? because it cannot be a state of being when it is the being making the statement.

Responsibility is, I have grown to know, the foundation for ascending beyond one's own hindering self. And this responsibility is initiated when one sincerely, and earnestly "come to himself" and realize life has place in their being all that is necessary for them to walk this world on their own because it is the structural principle and patterns of the universe to be exactly what life intended and purposed creation to be.

I've found the key to become totally responsible to one's own responsibility is to regard what one allows to enter their minds. The law of the universe is that it is not what is consumed that spoils the mind, but what comes out of the mind after consumption has been interpreted.

Life is about life. It is unconditional. All that is needed by anyone to live and grown, and achieve the momentum which would allow one to ascend beyond the programming of the deterministic human mind is to comprehend nothing anyone does is without consequence. That they are here to fulfill a purpose which has bound them in their Spirit, and should they neglect that purpose, then they are subject victims of themselves.

No one is to blame for lack of knowledge but the one who refused to find out for themselves the truth of their walk in this dimension.

Just my observation.

jufa (You are never alone!)
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Post by Evinnra » Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:36 am

jufa wrote:
In my experience, or journey, I have discovered that life is a continuum of life. I have discovered that life is a never-end-story of falling down and getting up. That failure becomes one's strength when they take responsibility to move beyond the indoctrinations of the priest, ministers, teachers, mother's, father's instilled values of interpretations handed down to them and became dormant foundation of superstitutions.


I've found the key to become totally responsible to one's own responsibility is to regard what one allows to enter their minds. The law of the universe is that it is not what is consumed that spoils the mind, but what comes out of the mind after consumption has been interpreted.


jufa (You are never alone!)

That is precisely the most difficult thing to do Jufa, to become fully responsible since full responsibility requires total control of body and mind, which control in turn isolates the individual. Just yesterday I couldn’t help giggling out aloud when the realisation hit me that the Universe IS fighting my battles for me! Who needs complete control and consequent isolation with such power on one’s side? The Universe unfolds its design through our victories and our humiliations. For years I’ve been struggling with the question what should be my response to a very complicated moral dilemma, and the moment I felt the most ashamed of my self – rather of my thoughts than my actions – the puzzle just clicked together. At last, it is all clear. The Stoics were right to insist that one can not be just a little bit virtuous or just a little bit bad. One is either one thing OR another.

Similarly, there is nor real middle ground between being religious or being an atheist. One either relies on faith or not. JCF associates are not fanatics; they can be persuaded to soften an opinion. But this ability to learn does not place them into a middle position, since there is no such thing. The world is made of all sorts of people, and thank God for that - without diversity we would perish in an instant! So, good people develop good moral standards, remain open to others ideas while holding firm to their own.

Evinnra (you are never alone)
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Post by jufa » Thu Oct 18, 2007 7:34 pm

Hi Evinnar!

You state:
That is precisely the most difficult thing to do Jufa, to become fully responsible since full responsibility requires total control of body and mind, which control in turn isolates the individual.
Of course it is the most difficult thing to do. The human mind will fight you until its very last illusion has disappeared. There is no doubt about that. This is why one must go away. They must to away from the god of morals integrity, the god of necessity of leisure, the god of the intellect, the god of what has been taught by others. It is each and every individuals responsibility to find out who they are. You can't know who you are until you know who you are not.

Campbell is an excellect example of one going away to find out who and what his responsibility to the universe was. And indeed when he found his purpose of enlightenment, consider how he allow his light to shine. This forum is the result of that. It is as the bones of Elisha, how they ressurrected a dead man by just touching them.

You are correct. There is no middle ground, Even though man lives between two world, he does so because he has not overcome his belief in the dual tree of knowledge.

"But when a man's mind no longer lives between the world of soul and Spirit, and moves into the secret place of the most high, all of man's fragmented intellectual reasoning concerning matter and the imperfect material world are nullified, and absorbed back into the consciousness of Reality. Thereupon the promise of the Spirit of the Lord comes upon men as the "word of his power," which "anoints us to preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the broken hearted; to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to sat at liberty them that are b ruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." - jufa

jufa (You are never alone!)
Never give power to anything a person believe is their source of strength - jufa
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Post by noman » Sat Oct 20, 2007 7:35 am

You're right Limbo. My theology theory doesn't mean we have to just sit on are laurals and do nothing. A lot of people could benifit from Campbell's work if we could just get the message out.

- NoMan

(strange idiom 'to sit on one's laurals' I wonder where it came from.)
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