“This dissolving of the ego is akin to what Freud, borrowing the expression from novelist Romain Rolland, called ‘the oceanic feeling.’ He described it as ‘a sense of indissoluble union with the great All, and of belonging to the universal,’ very much as a wave or a drop of water belongs to the ocean. Most of the time, this is indeed no more than a feeling. But occasionally it is an experience, and a powerful one - what contemporary American psychologists call an altered state of consciousness. [..]
There is nothing innately religious about the oceanic feeling. Indeed, my own experience of it is quite the opposite. When you feel ‘at one with the All,’ you need nothing more. Why would you need a God? The universe suffices. Why would you need a church? The world suffices. Why would you need faith? Experience suffices.”
From The Little Book of Athiest Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville
“…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”
Does anyone else think it’s odd that you need a permit from the government to dance? Not individual dancers, but the owner of any venue in which people might choose to dance. That’s right, if you stop and do a quick jig at your local market, you could be placing the owner in legal jeopardy.
A ban on dancing in New York bars was upheld in court recently, and the Institute for Justice is fighting a case for a restaurant allow square-dancing despite the fact that it is not in the proper zone for dancing.
Dancing permits come from the fire marshal, who is certainly the first person that comes to my mind when I think “dancing authority.” The idea is that venues which have people regularly dancing in them will have a different occupancy level (as determined for safe evacuation in case of fire) than those that don’t.
My concern that government decides when and where we may dance in semi-public venues may seem like a small point. And it is - kind of. But I also think that you can look at this another way. This the most basic and fundamental exercise of human liberty: people gathering together to express themselves in an emotional and, for many, spiritual way. Freedom of expression, peaceable assembly, and religion: together these comprise the very first amendment to the US Bill of Rights.
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“Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: ‘I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.’”
From 10 Myths and 10 Truths About Athiesm by Sam Harris
“People who once lived under the yoke of oppressive religion now have the freedom to believe, read, and do what they want. So why have the ungrateful bastards not become full-fledged atheists? The answer from some quarters seems to be that not all have got the message, so what they need is some reeducation in the folly of religion and the joys of science. But this is wrong. The reason they haven’t become atheists is that many people use the freedom to think what they want to not think very much at all. And, given the evidence of history, I don’t think that a population without strong convictions on matters of fundamental ideology is a bad thing.”
From “Toward a More Mannerly Secularism”, by Julian Baggini
(Doesn’t seem to be online, unfortunately - can be found in print in the Feb/Mar 2007 issue of Free Inquiry.)
Baggini makes a compelling argument that uncompromising atheists like Richard Dawkins are sabotaging their own efforts by framing the discussion as a fierce battle of us-vs-them. Us, the reasonable, science-loving atheists; and them, the superstitious, unreasonable theists. But most people would rather ignore both science and religion, while not directly disassociating themselves from either. Perhaps the best way for outdated beliefs to exit our cultural consciousness is to wither away; direct frontal assault will only reawaken fervent faith.
Yesterday I was listening to an audio book (that’s what we called podcasts in the olden days) on the subject of natural law. The lecturer, a Jesuit priest, noted that many theologians conjecture that the existence of moral obligations implies the existence of a god. After all, obligation can only exist if you’re obliged to a certain party. That party can only be a divine creator, by their reasoning.
The counterargument to this is so obvious as to be hardly worth stating, but I’ll do it anyway: you’re obliged to society as a whole, or at least the part of it that will be impacted by your actions. For example, a person’s obligation not to steal is an obligation not only the person or people who own that property, but also their friends and family, who will feel secondary effects of the harm done.
Moreover, all of society is harmed whenever theft occurs: it makes people less secure about their property. That in turn means that owners will spend more time looking for ways to protect their property, and less time putting that property to use in creating happiness and wealth for themselves and the world. Defacing a park hurts everyone, because now the park owner(s) are going to think about putting up fences and hanging signs, instead of planting more flowers.
Still, the morals-imply-god argument got me thinking. Maybe the sum total of human consciousness - the hive mind that I suggested in Elephants All The Way Up - is what believers really mean when they use the word “god.” Think of the primary traits of the Christian god: a vast intelligence, as old as humanity itself, everywhere that humans are (but at the same time nowhere specific), an entity that loves and understands humankind deeply and purely. All of those things describe the sum of human consciousness. The mind of God is an emergent effect of the decentralized network of humans on planet Earth. We’re each a neuron in God’s brain.
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“If I’m not feeling well, or I’m in a bad mood, telling me to ‘open my heart chakra’ is, to my thinking, equivalent to suggesting that I ‘might find more peace by accepting Jesus’.
Everyone is entitled to their own practise. That’s fine. However, just because pranayama is hip and edgy doesnt make it any less of a personal, spiritual pursuit. There are appropriate times and places for discussing these matters with people, whether that discussion is an objective examination of theology or even an unabashed attempt to convert.
However, it is rude to assume that
a) I share your beliefs regarding prana/chi/kundalini/whatever
b) that I would like to hear more about them, or practise them with you
c) that Burning Man is an appropriate place to proseletyze, unless that is the stated objective of your camp, in which case you can trust me not to visit.”
The other day a perfect stranger approached me and asked, “Do you worship Satan?” I get this question from time to time, though oddly enough it’s never happened when I’m wearing my leviathan shirt.
Since I’m an atheist, Satan is as real to me as all the other elements of the Christian mythos, the gods and devils of other religions, or Santa Claus. He (it?) is a fictitious construct used for mythological storytelling. But unlike most of other Bible stories (e.g. guys getting swallowed by fishes, other guys having god command them to kill their own children, and that sort of good-natured fun), I do find some value in the mythological figure of Lucifer.
So it’s not that I worship Satan. No, it would be more correct to say that I consider Satan to be an excellent role model.
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