Why All the Atheists?

Apr 27, 2012 | Posted by: roboblogger | Full story: Psychology Today

I am in the process of writing a book tentatively titled, How God Inspires Us: Religion , Personality , and the Contradictions of Human Nature.

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“It's just a box of rain...”

Since: May 07

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Apr 28, 2012
 

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I remember my first thoughts as I finished reading Frankl's seminal work, "Man's Search for Meaning": what is this obsession with meaning? Why is our need so intense that we will fabricate meaning rather than live without it? Before reading Frankl's book, it never seriously occurred to me that there was any intrinsic meaning to life.

Steven Reiss writes, "In this book I will advance a new, comprehensive theory of religion. I will suggest that religion's sacred role in society is to help people experience their life as meaningful." He may be right about that. If there is no inherent meaning in life, most people's need for it may still be too intense to bear: false meaning for such is preferable to no meaning at all.

But for the few who prefer to live with an authenticity that requires us to face the full glare of reality no matter how uncomfortable that may be, no search for meaning can incorporate fabrication of any sort. Real meaning, if there is any, may assert itself as we live our lives, but I suspect that all such meanings are human creations.

I don't think that purpose and meaning are the same things: we choose our purposes in life, and they become real. Our marriages, parenthood, careers, and avocations or purposeful, and many build meaning in their lives on those foundations. Religion can fill that role, too--Reiss is right about that. But I think that another interesting project for some bright researcher would be to study the few who live happily and comfortably without any need for meaning. We do exist.

For me, most purpose is transitory, and when one purpose runs its course, I always find another. Instead of meaning, I look for value in my life. Not that parenthood and marriage are behind me, the one purpose that has been the "background noise" through those phases has come front and center, and my purpose is to create beauty, first for myself and ultimately to share with others, through the medium of music. That purpose does not feel transitory, and I suspect that many have lifelong avocations that form their core purposes as long as their abilities to pursue them remain. I will die sometime around the middle of this century. My music may die with me. Knowing that, I am still content.

In the article, Reiss mentions atheism only in passing, refuting idea that intuitive thinking requires less intelligence than analytical thinking. I agree. Both are parts of well developed minds, each compliments the other, and integrating the two can help people to reach heights that could never be attained in any other way.

Many of our atheist readers will be tempted to denigrate Reiss's project. I do not. A quick look at Reiss's career shows him to be a brilliant psychologist who loves to explore new territory and is never afraid to share conclusions that are likely to be controversial. Note this article in which he asserts that intrinsic motivation probably does not exist:

http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/inmotiv.h...

an assessment with which I agree, and I intend to read his new book when it is published.
EdSed

Wishaw, UK

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#2
Apr 28, 2012
 
Well the link NS provided is more interesting than the junk in 'Why All the Atheists?"

Quote:
Reiss has developed and tested a theory of motivation that states there are 16 basic desires that guide nearly all meaningful behavior, including power, independence, curiosity, and acceptance. Whether you agree there are 16 desires or not, he said there is not any way to reduce all of these desires to just two types.
Unquote.

The desires are power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility. One can put any behaviour into both the two types and the sixteen types. And many more. What he has written may be original, interesting and MIGHT be helpful sometimes. Nothing really new that grabs my attention.

One thing he wrote that perhaps offered insight into his own thinking was, "What they do not do is explain mystical experience, which many serious scholars take as the true origin of religion."
That is what I seem to have detected too -sometimes, people are religious because they think they have seen miracles (i.e. had mystical experiences). Perhaps that explains why some otherwise intelligent people are religious? And why they seem baffled by rejection of blind faith?

My life has only the meaning I am aware of. It wouldn't necessarily have meaning (or more meaning) due to a god. Steven Reiss seems to think that some Creator is necessary for life to have meaning (or to have some ultimate purpose)?
wolverine

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Apr 28, 2012
 

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Since The Introduction Of Urcle In The White House, The Minority Feels Embolden...

Out Of The Closets Of America Came The Immoral And Entitlement Groups.

How Does It All End ?....Much Like A War On Terror, The Bad Guy Gets What He Deserves.

While I Do Not Subscribe To Any Organized Religion, I Have To At Least Give It To The Religious Masses....They Dont Buy The Speculation By Science, To Try To Explain The Unexplainable.

Scientific Method Cannot Explain GOD....Never Will.
Philosophy, Elitist Banter And Bloviating Cannot Explain GOD.

Why Do The Minority Demand To Be In Charge ?

“It's just a box of rain...”

Since: May 07

Knoxville, TN

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Apr 28, 2012
 

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wolverine wrote:
Since The Introduction Of Urcle In The White House, The Minority Feels Embolden...
Out Of The Closets Of America Came The Immoral And Entitlement Groups.
How Does It All End ?....Much Like A War On Terror, The Bad Guy Gets What He Deserves.
While I Do Not Subscribe To Any Organized Religion, I Have To At Least Give It To The Religious Masses....They Dont Buy The Speculation By Science, To Try To Explain The Unexplainable.
Scientific Method Cannot Explain GOD....Never Will.
Philosophy, Elitist Banter And Bloviating Cannot Explain GOD.
Why Do The Minority Demand To Be In Charge ?
So do you think that religion is the only path to a meaningful life? If so, is that meaning real or illusory? Are there ways to find meaning without God? Are those of us who can accept that life has no inherent meaning, only that which we give it courageous or merely delusional?

These are the topic that this thread began with. Not Obama. Not minority rights or rites. Not war or vengeance or science or elitism.

Can you address the topic? Or will you insist on making this thread an extension of every other one when it could be so much more substantive? There are so many threads on Topix. Why not choose one that discusses your concerns rather than divert this one before it can even get started?

Why be a troll?
redneck

Cave Junction, OR

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Apr 28, 2012
 

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The 'meaning' of life is survival.

“Life may be sweeter for this”

Since: Nov 08

Fennario

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Apr 28, 2012
 

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I don't have an issue with meaning or purpose in my life. I have an issue with theists who work tirelessly to depict me like that - to dehumanize me, and to attempt invalidate my life because I live it without religion.

Am I the only one who is outraged to read, "Does your life have meaning? If you say "yes," you are a believer. If you say "no," you are a true atheist."

I read that, and I think, "Fuck you." That's the issue to me - that people feel so comfortable demeaning people like you and me, and do it with a smile and wrapped in sweet language. But the message is the same - the monstrous dehumanization of the "godless." And also, that we seem to be so used to it as to not even comment on it, or feel a need to be tolerant of it.

I realize that people like you and the gal from Iowa - "haven't forgotten" - would like to see more friendly discussions between the two sides - or I think that's what you advocate - to try to see it through the other guy's eyes.

If so, sorry. I can't see the value in that. The opposition never reciprocates. It doesn't compromise. It doesn't try to listen or try to learn. It has contempt for any type of un-Christian life, as the article shows.

“Life may be sweeter for this”

Since: Nov 08

Fennario

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#7
Apr 28, 2012
 
Sorry - the above was written to NightSerf.

“It's just a box of rain...”

Since: May 07

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Apr 28, 2012
 

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It aint necessarily so wrote:
I don't have an issue with meaning or purpose in my life. I have an issue with theists who work tirelessly to depict me like that - to dehumanize me, and to attempt invalidate my life because I live it without religion.
Am I the only one who is outraged to read, "Does your life have meaning? If you say "yes," you are a believer. If you say "no," you are a true atheist."
I read that, and I think, "Fuck you." That's the issue to me - that people feel so comfortable demeaning people like you and me, and do it with a smile and wrapped in sweet language. But the message is the same - the monstrous dehumanization of the "godless." And also, that we seem to be so used to it as to not even comment on it, or feel a need to be tolerant of it.
I realize that people like you and the gal from Iowa - "haven't forgotten" - would like to see more friendly discussions between the two sides - or I think that's what you advocate - to try to see it through the other guy's eyes.
If so, sorry. I can't see the value in that. The opposition never reciprocates. It doesn't compromise. It doesn't try to listen or try to learn. It has contempt for any type of un-Christian life, as the article shows.
That statement bothered me, too, and I did what I could to refute it. I suspect that the points of view on this will be all over the map. There will be atheists who see intrinsic meaning in their lives, some who make their own, some, like me, who are content to live without it, and some at varying levels of despair. As in most things, atheists will agree only about the doubtfulness of deities and diversify from there.

I don't think that religion is the only path to meaning in life, nor do I think the meanings found in religion are any less artificial than the others. Some need that meaning, need it desperately, and I am happy for those who find it. But you are right that to use the subject as a point of attack on those who believe differently is despicable, and that's just as true of fellow atheists as it is of believers.

Topix seems to be populated with people who find meaning in demeaning others. I think that's pathetic. Don't you?
Amused

Lowell, MA

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I prefer to use different terminology. Rather than wonder whether my life is 'meaningful', in some broad cosmic context, I look at whether my life has a purpose and is useful.'Meaningful', to me, suggests conforming to some order imposed from outside myself, whereas purpose can be self-created, and usefulness can be determined in relation to the needs of those around me whom I choose to care for.

The human mind does seem programmed to find order, even when there is no order, to impose patterns on random occurrences, sometimes even to the point of distorting our perceptions to aid in the search for order. This is not so much an affirmation that such order or meaning must necessarily exist as it is an affirmation that this is how the human mind evolved. That such thinking is useful for our survival does not, in and of itself, affirm the actual existence of such order and 'meaning'.

Even if it were true that belief that life has some universal 'meaning' made for greater human happiness, that alone does not make it true. Human life would be happier if there were a vaccine for cancer. The fact that such a vaccine would be desirable is no proof that it exists or could exist. Argument that god exists because mankind "needs" god to give us meaning is argument for the desirability of god, which is quite a different proposition than argument for the actual existence of god.

The argument that 'spiritual' experiences are proof of the existence of god essentially boils down to an argument that people have emotional experiences they cannot explain, therefore god exists, which is a complete nonsequiter. Indeed, the author seems to be deftly redefining 'religion' as including all 'spiritual' experiences, and in the process, leaving belief about god out of the question entirely. To the extent that he is doing so, he is saying that atheists cannot have spiritual experiences, or that if you have spiritual experiences, you are 'religious'. Stated either way, the proposition is nonsense. One can feel the power of the vastness of the ocean in comparison to ones self as an individual as a spiritual experience without attributing anthropomorphical qualities to the ocean, or viewing the ocean as the product of a creator. The same with many other natural phenomena. I personally experienced very strong feelings from a visit to the Killing Fields in Cambodia, a mixture of sorrow and horror for the suffering of the victims, and dread of the capacity of the perpetrators to commit such acts.

In short, I find the article completely unpersuasive and lacking in the kind of intellectual rigor one would expect from a practitioner in a scientific discipline.

Since: May 10

Maple, Canada

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NightSerf wrote:
<quoted text>
So do you think that religion is the only path to a meaningful life?
One is free to live a meaningless life; there is no compulsion; but then one should not object to others who want to live a meaningul life.

Afterall the atheist don't have even one strong evidence that the Creator God does not exist; so one should be ready for the consequences.
Amused

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Apr 28, 2012
 

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paarsurrey wrote:
<quoted text>
One is free to live a meaningless life; there is no compulsion; but then one should not object to others who want to live a meaningul life.
Afterall the atheist don't have even one strong evidence that the Creator God does not exist; so one should be ready for the consequences.
I think you missed the point. Nightserf was not arguing that all life was meaningless, rather that religion is not the only path to finding meaning in life.

Your second paragraph was a feeble allusion to Pascal's Wager, which has been rebutted so many times in so many ways that you make yourself look quite foolish by continuing to mention it. Of course there is no clear proof that god does not exist. If there were, theists would be foolish to waste their time and money in a pointless pursuit. One cannot conclusively prove there is no Santa Claus, or that long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Jedi Knights did not vanquish the evil Emperor Palpatine. We can, however, say that in the absence of any proof that god, Santa or the Jedi existed, we can assign a fairly low probability to their existence, and act accordingly.
redneck

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paarsurrey wrote:
<quoted text>
One is free to live a meaningless life; there is no compulsion; but then one should not object to others who want to live a meaningul life.
Afterall the atheist don't have even one strong evidence that the Creator God does not exist; so one should be ready for the consequences.
Do you have evidence that Thor,Superman,Santa Clause,Rodan,fairies or the boggie man do not exist? Idiot!
wolverine

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Apr 28, 2012
 

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NightSerf wrote:
<quoted text>
So do you think that religion is the only path to a meaningful life? If so, is that meaning real or illusory? Are there ways to find meaning without God? Are those of us who can accept that life has no inherent meaning, only that which we give it courageous or merely delusional?
These are the topic that this thread began with. Not Obama. Not minority rights or rites. Not war or vengeance or science or elitism.
Can you address the topic? Or will you insist on making this thread an extension of every other one when it could be so much more substantive? There are so many threads on Topix. Why not choose one that discusses your concerns rather than divert this one before it can even get started?
Why be a troll?
Puff On Your Pipe....O'le Man

Philosophy And Arrogance Are The Socialists Creed.

Of Course There Can Be No Meaning For Your Pathetic Lives, Without God. But Why Do You Demand That Others Take Your View ?

That Is The Point Of Bringing Up Urcle, The Liberals, And The Minority Entitlement Groups....They Demand That We Take Them Seriously, While We Cannot, If We Are To Be Honest With Ourselves.

Its All Tied Together O'le Musician

Since: Apr 12

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Apr 28, 2012
 

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wolverine wrote:
<quoted text>
Puff On Your Pipe....O'le Man
Philosophy And Arrogance Are The Socialists Creed.
Of Course There Can Be No Meaning For Your Pathetic Lives, Without God. But Why Do You Demand That Others Take Your View ?
That Is The Point Of Bringing Up Urcle, The Liberals, And The Minority Entitlement Groups....They Demand That We Take Them Seriously, While We Cannot, If We Are To Be Honest With Ourselves.
Its All Tied Together O'le Musician
You're a prick and you define the word pathetic.
Simple and to the point.

“The eye has it...”

Since: Jan 12

Russell's teapot.

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#15
Apr 28, 2012
 
wolverine wrote:
<quoted text>
Puff On Your Pipe....O'le Man
Philosophy And Arrogance Are The Socialists Creed.
Of Course There Can Be No Meaning For Your Pathetic Lives, Without God. But Why Do You Demand That Others Take Your View ?
That Is The Point Of Bringing Up Urcle, The Liberals, And The Minority Entitlement Groups....They Demand That We Take Them Seriously, While We Cannot, If We Are To Be Honest With Ourselves.
Its All Tied Together O'le Musician
http://tinyurl.com/6pqutb7
EdSed

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Apr 29, 2012
 

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Religion - now that is what I call meaningless!

Virgin birth; Jesus died for our sins;and why doesn't rising from the dead and talking burning bushes occur now? lol! Fish in barrels!:-)

“It's just a box of rain...”

Since: May 07

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Apr 29, 2012
 

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Attempts to yank this conversation into the usual, more comfortable topics that infest this forum even though they squarely off topic in most of those threads notwithstanding, I venture a logical followup question to each of the people who read this:

What over the course of your life so far has brought the greatest reward and satisfaction. Are there any bits about your past about which your love to reminisce? Any prospect in your future that elicits an eagerness of anticipation that equals or even surpasses the best of your past?

These are intimate questions, so sharing your responses is entirely up to you. My intention is less to pry than to set off a chain of thought that might be beneficial and perhaps even spur action. Life can be so fabulous. Why allow it to be drab where that can be avoided?
yon

Miami Beach, FL

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Apr 29, 2012
 

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wolverine wrote:
<quoted text>
Puff On Your Pipe....O'le Man
Philosophy And Arrogance Are The Socialists Creed.
Of Course There Can Be No Meaning For Your Pathetic Lives, Without God. But Why Do You Demand That Others Take Your View ?
It's like "The Fox that Cut off it's tail."

It couldn't get back what it threw away.

So it wants others to wallow in misery.

Just like Esau who threw away his birth-right.

They have no hope!

“Life may be sweeter for this”

Since: Nov 08

Fennario

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Apr 29, 2012
 

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wolverine wrote:
Of Course There Can Be No Meaning For Your Pathetic Lives, Without God.
And here is Christianity once again, tirelessly spreading its filthy message that any unbeliever is less human than he is. This is why unbelievers are so hated - the most despised minority in America. Because of this. And this occurs because of that filthy church and its filthy message.

Sorry, NightSerf, but I donīt want to try to make peace with that. And I donīt care to be polite to it, either.

Since: Jun 07

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#20
Apr 29, 2012
 
yon wrote:
<quoted text>
It's like "The Fox that Cut off it's tail."
It couldn't get back what it threw away.
So it wants others to wallow in misery.
Just like Esau who threw away his birth-right.
They have no hope!
You're not selling your imagination very well. Please make your imaginary beliefs more attractive and maybe some of us sane people will be encouraged to entertain you with your own self-built brand of madness.

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