Fellow Atheists/Agnostic Atheists - Let's Chat: Do you feel it is risky being "out" these days?

Chairman_Mao wrote:
dejanzie wrote:

Just mention you donate to GWJ every year?

Gamers With Jesus?

I do better than that, I give to aid organizations whose sole existence is giving aid to others, not give aid to others and support a religion.

And not just for poverty and disaster aid, but also for promoting good statesmanship, when I can find it, education, and those things that I love, like GWJ. I'm not doing evil by doing this, but that money isn't going to the church, therefore it's irrelevant.

Rezzy wrote:
Paleocon wrote:

Some folks will answer sincerely with "Fo jiao" (Confucianism), "Ji tu jiao" (Christianity), or whatever, but the most common answer I've found is the humorous and ironic response "Sui jiao" (I sleep [presumably on Sundays])

That's a fantastic answer.

I'm a big fan.

The cultural subtext of that answer is that it is a way of saying that the speaker has enough to concern him/herself with in the real world without having to worry about superstitious stuff. It's as if the speaker is saying "I work hard and need my sleep. I don't rely on silly gods to make my luck for me.".

Paleocon wrote:
Rezzy wrote:
Paleocon wrote:

Some folks will answer sincerely with "Fo jiao" (Confucianism), "Ji tu jiao" (Christianity), or whatever, but the most common answer I've found is the humorous and ironic response "Sui jiao" (I sleep [presumably on Sundays])

That's a fantastic answer.

I'm a big fan.

The cultural subtext of that answer is that it is a way of saying that the speaker has enough to concern him/herself with in the real world without having to worry about superstitious stuff. It's as if the speaker is saying "I work hard and need my sleep. I don't rely on silly gods to make my luck for me.".

I need a phrase like that in simple English.

Why are we talking about religion suddenly in the commiseration thread for atheism?

Yellek wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
Rezzy wrote:
Paleocon wrote:

Some folks will answer sincerely with "Fo jiao" (Confucianism), "Ji tu jiao" (Christianity), or whatever, but the most common answer I've found is the humorous and ironic response "Sui jiao" (I sleep [presumably on Sundays])

That's a fantastic answer.

I'm a big fan.

The cultural subtext of that answer is that it is a way of saying that the speaker has enough to concern him/herself with in the real world without having to worry about superstitious stuff. It's as if the speaker is saying "I work hard and need my sleep. I don't rely on silly gods to make my luck for me.".

I need a phrase like that in simple English.

Exactly. It sort of loses a bit in translation when someone asks me "What church to you go to?" and I answer back "I can't be bothered with that kind of nonsense.". It doesn't have the same cultural context.

Malor:

Shrug. Religion's already been brought up a couple times already. Is it only bad when agnostics do it?

Paleocon wrote:

It was really refreshing living in Chinese speaking Asia where no one really gave a crap about your religion. In fact, folks pretty much assumed that you approached your religiosity like high school students hit sidewalk buffets. You pick what you like out of each category, weigh it out, and pay for it. And you don't get worked up when you discover it is made of dog food or has roaches in it because you never took it too seriously to begin with.

I think what makes being an atheist in the US so difficult is that folks here (in my experience) are far less invested in their communities and therefore yearn for some kind of identity beyond family or community. As a result, they take on a tribal fanaticism regarding the god or gods they believe in. And taking a stand that you don't take it terribly seriously (or seriously at all) is interpreted as a direct attack on that identity.

When Chinese folks talk about religion, they often ask the question "Ni xing shenma jiao?" (what religion do you practice?). Some folks will answer sincerely with "Fo jiao" (Buddhism), "Ji tu jiao" (Christianity), or whatever, but the most common answer I've found is the humorous and ironic response "Sui jiao" (I sleep [presumably on Sundays]).

Even when they do practice some sort of religion, it is very rarely the case that they practice it exclusively. Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism are all generally practiced together. In fact, most of the Christians I knew there still had Taoist shrines in their houses and the insistence on following an exclusionary religion was generally looked on as sort of fanatical or strange.

I agree with your overall assessment regarding religion in Asia (though bolded term is fixed for accuracy). I've read that in Asia, religion and philosophy is generally catered towards how you act, rather than what you believe. In the West, most dogma is aimed at what you believe, which is supposed to affect how you act.

I think that is why I have met a lot of Chinese people who genuinely do not understand why Americans get so passionate about religion. As long as you act nicely towards other people, then who cares what you believe?

Want to know what Confucianism, Christianity and Humanism have in common?

The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Not enough people follow that rule; you don't even need a god to make that rule legitimate!

Grubber788 wrote:
Paleocon wrote:

It was really refreshing living in Chinese speaking Asia where no one really gave a crap about your religion. In fact, folks pretty much assumed that you approached your religiosity like high school students hit sidewalk buffets. You pick what you like out of each category, weigh it out, and pay for it. And you don't get worked up when you discover it is made of dog food or has roaches in it because you never took it too seriously to begin with.

I think what makes being an atheist in the US so difficult is that folks here (in my experience) are far less invested in their communities and therefore yearn for some kind of identity beyond family or community. As a result, they take on a tribal fanaticism regarding the god or gods they believe in. And taking a stand that you don't take it terribly seriously (or seriously at all) is interpreted as a direct attack on that identity.

When Chinese folks talk about religion, they often ask the question "Ni xing shenma jiao?" (what religion do you practice?). Some folks will answer sincerely with "Fo jiao" (Buddhism), "Ji tu jiao" (Christianity), or whatever, but the most common answer I've found is the humorous and ironic response "Sui jiao" (I sleep [presumably on Sundays]).

Even when they do practice some sort of religion, it is very rarely the case that they practice it exclusively. Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism are all generally practiced together. In fact, most of the Christians I knew there still had Taoist shrines in their houses and the insistence on following an exclusionary religion was generally looked on as sort of fanatical or strange.

I agree with your overall assessment regarding religion in Asia (though bolded term is fixed for accuracy). I've read that in Asia, religion and philosophy is generally catered towards how you act, rather than what you believe. In the West, most dogma is aimed at what you believe, which is supposed to affect how you act.

I think that is why I have met a lot of Chinese people who genuinely do not understand why Americans get so passionate about religion. As long as you act nicely towards other people, then who cares what you believe?

Want to know what Confucianism, Christianity and Humanism have in common?

The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Not enough people follow that rule; you don't even need a god to make that rule legitimate!

Doh. I am so out of practice in my Chinese.

Yup. The Golden Rule predates Christianity by thousands of years in other religions. I suspect it probably predates religion entirely.

I think the reason the Chinese have such an easy time being unserious about religion is that they are far more practical than we will ever be. That is both their strength and their occasional downfall.

Try to get a group of Chinese to be system oriented and they look at you like you are out of your mind. They can't see the benefit in systemic change if what they are doing produces an acceptable result in the immediate term. This is nearly perfectly expressed in the Chinese saying "Heaven is high and the Emperor is far away". I sure as hell wouldn't want to be a project manager in China.

My rabbi often says that the Chinese are Jews without Yahweh.

Oh, and my person atheist/agnostic story isn't too interesting.

I went full-on atheist towards the end of my college career. I went to college in at a liberal university, in a liberal state in a liberal corner of the U.S.

Yeah, I had it hard

I will say this though. My mother is a nominal Catholic (never goes to church, has nothing good to say about priests, ect.). I've been in several serious relationships all with girls who were not Catholic. My mother told me she did not care so long as my child is baptized in the Catholic Church.

We had a brief argument about this that essentially amounted to a draw. She is of the opinion that I am angry with the Catholic Church and will eventually come back into the fold. The funny thing is, coming back into the fold for her is equivalent to just saying that I'm Catholic. I know that one day, when I have a child, a Baptism isn't a big deal. I could even see this as a concession to my mother. My problem is, I feel this would be a step backward for me. It has taken me a long time to accept the fact that I do not believe in the Catholic God, so setting foot in another church is the last thing I want to do. I also find a number of elements in Catholicism to be abhorrent and contrary to my own person beliefs (i.e. institutional sexism, the pedophilia conspiracies, homosexuality intolerance, papal infallibility, ect.); in other words, there are a lot of things that come with Baptism that I would not want to share with my children.

One day, I will probably have to make a concrete stand against the possibility of a Baptism (unless my spouse feels strongly about it--ultimately she represents half of my child's philosophical heritage, and I would have no right to take away that from her). I know my mother is reasonable and worries that my child will be "identityless" with association with a proper religion, but that's my burden, no? To give my child the tools to stand on his or her own, and develop his or her own identity.

Paleocon:

It's not like that everywhere in the Philippines, but it is largely like that everywhere I've been, which is mostly in the urban areas. There's a Filipino saying:

"Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa."

which is to say, literally, "It is for God to have mercy, it is for men to work." Idiomatically translated, it means, "It is for God to sympathize with your situation, but it is for YOU to pull your own butt out of the fire." There's still a humongous amount of belief in the supernatural, and the attendant various pagan and "Christian" rituals and traditions surrounding those beliefs, but it's generally viewed that such practices are preventive in nature (of bad luck or supernatural curses) - you still have to do all the hard work to get anywhere.

A significant fraction of religious practice in the Philippines is conincident with ALG's portrayal of Finnish religious life: you go there to get baptized, to get married, and to get buried. Maybe you go to get your car blessed against evil spirits, or to ward it against the intrusion of dwarves (yes, dwarves), but it's not a big deal if you're only very nominally a Catholic.

We have a culture that's hostile to divisive forces. A religion is socially acceptable when it binds families and friends together. If it does the opposite, then what good is it? Perhaps the most controversial thing Jesus said for Filipinos is that He came to divide - priests have a hell of time trying to justify that.

I think that's why agnostics such as myself, and atheists such as some few of my friends have been, don't really have as much of a problem as American atheists. It boggles me that a mother would literally put her own belief system over the welfare of her child. That's just unthinkable around here (which is not to say that it doesn't happen).

Grubber788 wrote:

Oh, and my person atheist/agnostic story isn't too interesting.

I went full-on atheist towards the end of my college career. I went to college in at a liberal university, in a liberal state in a liberal corner of the U.S.

Yeah, I had it hard

I will say this though. My mother is a nominal Catholic (never goes to church, has nothing good to say about priests, ect.). I've been in several serious relationships all with girls who were not Catholic. My mother told me she did not care so long as my child is baptized in the Catholic Church.

We had a brief argument about this that essentially amounted to a draw. She is of the opinion that I am angry with the Catholic Church and will eventually come back into the fold. The funny thing is, coming back into the fold for her is equivalent to just saying that I'm Catholic. I know that one day, when I have a child, a Baptism isn't a big deal. I could even see this as a concession to my mother. My problem is, I feel this would be a step backward for me. It has taken me a long time to accept the fact that I do not believe in the Catholic God, so setting foot in another church is the last thing I want to do. I also find a number of elements in Catholicism to be abhorrent and contrary to my own person beliefs (i.e. institutional sexism, the pedophilia conspiracies, homosexuality intolerance, papal infallibility, ect.); in other words, there are a lot of things that come with Baptism that I would not want to share with my children.

One day, I will probably have to make a concrete stand against the possibility of a Baptism (unless my spouse feels strongly about it--ultimately she represents half of my child's philosophical heritage, and I would have no right to take away that from her). I know my mother is reasonable and worries that my child will be "identityless" with association with a proper religion, but that's my burden, no? To give my child the tools to stand on his or her own, and develop his or her own identity.

As someone who did not baptize his child - it is a really hard decision, even when you are lapsed. I wish you luck with yours when you get to that point.

Grubber788 wrote:

The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Not enough people follow that rule; you don't even need a god to make that rule legitimate!

Amen! Er, uh, HEAR, HEAR!

Paleocon:

You guys don't have to suppose you know. Hi! Asian here. Not Chinese, but also not rabidly evangelically Christian.

The amount of "passion" that surrounds American positions on religion/atheism frankly surprises and scares me. I don't think I'll want to be related to an American anymore (jk).

It's not really a big deal for an atheist to go to a Catholic (or Protestant) Church in the Philippines purely for the sake of his mother, or wife, or sister. No one who knows him thinks he's doing it for any other reason, and the person who asked him for the favor knows that he's doing it purely to satisfy his or her whims - like going to a ballet, only with priests and such.

I've gone to the odd Buddhist and Confucian rituals, and did the polite thing and went away, generally somewhat amused and a little more educated about the world at large. We don't view it as a big deal to participate in these things, so long as you don't subscribe to the belief system (and the lack of belief doesn't mortally offend the people in the ritual). In fact, I'd love to be able to get into a mosque and view the proceedings, only I'm not allowed to go in. Bummer.

Where I live, you're a lot more likely to get persecuted for being atheist IF you make a big deal of it and generally annoy everyone with your inability to get along. Though, at that point, it's probably your stubborn antisocial nature that's doing the damage.

My take on that has really evolved. I used to joke that I would burst into flames if I ever stepped foot in a church again. Now I just see it as a waste of an hour and a half on a Sunday morning -- a concession I made with my wife to do three times per year. It grates me to hear all the needless (and mystifyingly sincere) supplication, but I try to approach it as an anthropological exercise. It grates me more to be in a Korean church because of the anthropological history of Christianity in Korea. Every once in a long while, I have to tamp down the urge to shake someone by the lapels and say "why don't you pray to your own damned gods?".

Mostly though, I just let my mind wander about the pregame shows.

LarryC wrote:

Paleocon:

You guys don't have to suppose you know. Hi! Asian here. Not Chinese, but also not rabidly evangelically Christian.

The amount of "passion" that surrounds American positions on religion/atheism frankly surprises and scares me. I don't think I'll want to be related to an American anymore (jk).

It's not really a big deal for an atheist to go to a Catholic (or Protestant) Church in the Philippines purely for the sake of his mother, or wife, or sister. No one who knows him thinks he's doing it for any other reason, and the person who asked him for the favor knows that he's doing it purely to satisfy his or her whims - like going to a ballet, only with priests and such.

I've gone to the odd Buddhist and Confucian rituals, and did the polite thing and went away, generally somewhat amused and a little more educated about the world at large. We don't view it as a big deal to participate in these things, so long as you don't subscribe to the belief system (and the lack of belief doesn't mortally offend the people in the ritual). In fact, I'd love to be able to get into a mosque and view the proceedings, only I'm not allowed to go in. Bummer.

Where I live, you're a lot more likely to get persecuted for being atheist IF you make a big deal of it and generally annoy everyone with your inability to get along. Though, at that point, it's probably your stubborn antisocial nature that's doing the damage.

I think the whole American Christian phenomenon is driven by a lot of the same social factors that drive Arab Muslim fundamentalism. It is a little bit of an simplification and I can expound on this in another thread, but it pretty much comes down to the inability to deal with rapid social change and the desire among some to recreate a fictional past. In the case of Muslim fundamentalists, it's the glory days of the Caliphate. In the case of American Christians, it's the antebellum South.

Grubber788 wrote:

Want to know what Confucianism, Christianity and Humanism have in common?

The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

There two alternate phrasing that I've always liked.

I thought the first was Thomas Jefferson. After some digging, it was actually Zechariah Chafee about 140 years later.

Zechariah Chafee[/url]]Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man's nose begins.

The second is attributed to Hillel the Elder, when asked to explain the Torah to a potential convert while standing on one foot. (Not injecting religion further into the discussion. For the purpose of the thread, I just appreciate the phrasing.)

Hillel the Elder[/url]] That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it.

Grubber788 wrote:

One day, I will probably have to make a concrete stand against the possibility of a Baptism (unless my spouse feels strongly about it--ultimately she represents half of my child's philosophical heritage, and I would have no right to take away that from her). I know my mother is reasonable and worries that my child will be "identityless" with association with a proper religion, but that's my burden, no? To give my child the tools to stand on his or her own, and develop his or her own identity.

I can understand where your mother is coming from, but identity comes from more than one's religious affiliation. The obvious alternative I suppose would be your ethnic background. However, speaking personally (and I realize this may just be a result of my particular circumstances), the things I was "born into" represent the smallest pieces of my identity.

True story:

My father is Grand Knight of the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. We once met with the parents of one of my classmates for a "situational" lunch - we happened to be heading the same way and we gave them a lift. During lunch, it came out that they were not married, because they were atheists and did not believe in marriage.

Shrug.

On the way home, my Dad remarked that he felt that it was a little foolish of them to have vouschafed the very significant tax breaks for married couples and children just because they didn't believe in Jesus (and can't find some compatible philosophy that would be seen as marriage by the Philippine government). Of course, he's not above lying a little bit to get ahead in the world - few people in the Philippines are, I think. I suppose it's a sad state of affairs in the Philippine Catholic Chruch when one of its most sacred sacraments is mainly viewed as a tax break by some, but it's not really a secret.

He also asked a Taoist priest to "co-bless" the house after it was built. The parish priest and all the local KoC were there. We burned incense and did feng shui stuff. Fun.

I'm pretty sure that the moniker "Golden Rule" actually comes from Buddhism (and predates Christianity by about 500-600 years).

Paleocon wrote:

I'm pretty sure that the moniker "Golden Rule" actually comes from Buddhism (and predates Christianity by about 500-600 years).

Seeing as how the bible doesn't mention Buddhism, I doubt it.

I'm pretty sure you can't find a human culture which does not have that rule, at a minimum for it's own in-group. The freaking Aztecs had that rule.

Grubber788 wrote:

My mother told me she did not care so long as my child is baptized in the Catholic Church.

We had a brief argument about this that essentially amounted to a draw. She is of the opinion that I am angry with the Catholic Church and will eventually come back into the fold. The funny thing is, coming back into the fold for her is equivalent to just saying that I'm Catholic. I know that one day, when I have a child, a Baptism isn't a big deal. I could even see this as a concession to my mother. My problem is, I feel this would be a step backward for me. It has taken me a long time to accept the fact that I do not believe in the Catholic God, so setting foot in another church is the last thing I want to do. I also find a number of elements in Catholicism to be abhorrent and contrary to my own person beliefs (i.e. institutional sexism, the pedophilia conspiracies, homosexuality intolerance, papal infallibility, ect.); in other words, there are a lot of things that come with Baptism that I would not want to share with my children.

One day, I will probably have to make a concrete stand against the possibility of a Baptism (unless my spouse feels strongly about it--ultimately she represents half of my child's philosophical heritage, and I would have no right to take away that from her). I know my mother is reasonable and worries that my child will be "identityless" with association with a proper religion, but that's my burden, no? To give my child the tools to stand on his or her own, and develop his or her own identity.

My comment to this is that it will be your child to raise however you feel is right. Your mother has absolutely no say in the raising of your child and if she wants to be in the lives of you and your child, she better get with your program. I never see any need to make concessions with parents about how your live your life as an adult or how you raise your family.

Nevin73:

Perhaps, that's the entire problem, viewed from the other side.

LarryC wrote:

Nevin73:

Perhaps, that's the entire problem, viewed from the other side.

That's the other side's problem. America's culture is individuality. I know if my parents have issues with me not baptising my kids or have problems with my life then they can "suck it". In other words, it's my life and not theirs, and their opinions do not dictate what I do.

Just in case I wasn't clear, I have no plans on having any children in the near future

LarryC wrote:

It's not really a big deal for an atheist to go to a Catholic (or Protestant) Church in the Philippines purely for the sake of his mother, or wife, or sister.

I don't think it's a "big deal" here, either. The only way I can think of that it would be a problem is if said atheist were to go up to the pulpit and start talking about the non-existence of god, which no self-respecting atheist is going to do. In a lot of churches, I would imagine they might even see having the atheist in their fold as a bit of a victory. A chance to convert or rekindle their faith.

Of course, for most atheists, this isn't going to happen. But I still wouldn't say that it would be a big deal.

In the case of American Christians, it's the antebellum South.

I think it's more Life As Seen On Television in the 1950s and 60s. As far as I can determine, they seem to think that was real.

KrazyTaco[FO]:

That's the other side's problem. America's culture is individuality. I know if my parents have issues with me not baptising my kids or have problems with my life then they can "suck it". In other words, it's my life and not theirs, and their opinions do not dictate what I do.

Is it? I don't know that it is. For a culture that prides itself on individuality, you guys can seem mighty clannish a lot of the time - in all the wrong ways.

Is it this "honesty" thing again? Is it expressing your belief whether or not it offends your parents? I confess that I don't understand. It's not uncommon for us to use rituals and traditions of other faiths, "just to be sure." We had a bunch of incense and a feng shui expert look over the house ritually. The Parish Priest saw nothing wrong with it. They even talked about occupational stuff afterwards during the luncheon - and of course the feng shui expert was Taoist.

Hell, I've attended a Ramadan fast and the evening feast. It was fun.

NSMike:

What I was saying is that it seems to be a big deal for an American atheist to express his nonbelief in every way, even or especially when it offends the people he loves. It can be hard to spot a Filipino atheist because they keep going to church and attending mass and doing things you'd expect a Catholic to do - purely for the sake of pleasing the folks. They just don't receive Communion - because that would be blasphemous.

And of course they stop going regularly when they move out of the house.

LarryC wrote:

I think that's why agnostics such as myself,

When did this happen? I could have sworn you've said you were Catholic, and I know you've said your religious.

I'm not really what you would call religious. I go to Church and all that, but I don't have extra-curricular stuff going on. I am Catholic, but I'm also agnostic. Agnostic means that I don't have proof or I don't believe that I have logical reasons or evidence to believe in God. That doesn't mean that I can't choose to believe in Him anyway.

Actually being theist means that you don't have proof or I don't believe that you have logical reasons or evidence to believe in God, and yet you choose to believe in Him anyways.

Being Agnostic means that you don't have proof, logical reasons, or evidence to believe in God, so you don't believe in God.

Being Atheistic means that you don't have proof, logical reasons, or evidence to believe in God, so you believe there is not a God.