Opinion by Chris Stedman, special to CNN
(CNN) - To some, Oprah Winfrey appears to have an almost godlike status. Her talents are well recognized, and her endorsement can turn almost any product into an overnight bestseller.
This godlike perception is fitting, since in recent years Winfrey’s work has increasingly emphasized spirituality, including programs like her own "Super Soul Sunday."
But what happens when an atheist enters the mix?
A few days ago Winfrey interviewed long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad on Super Soul Sunday. Nyad identified herself as an atheist who experiences awe and wonder at the natural world and humanity.
Nyad, 64, who swam from Cuba to Key West last month, said “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity — all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt.”
Winfrey responded, “Well I don’t call you an atheist then.”
Winfrey went on, “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery then that is what God is… It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.”
Nyad clarified that she doesn’t use the word God because it implies a “presence… a creator or an overseer.”
Winfrey’s response may have been well intended, but it erased Nyad’s atheist identity and suggested something entirely untrue and, to many atheists like me, offensive: that atheists don’t experience awe and wonder.
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The exchange between Winfrey and Nyad reminds me of a conversation I once had with a Catholic scholar.
The professor once asked me: “When I talk about God, I mean love and justice and reconciliation, not a man in the sky. You talk about love and justice and reconciliation. Why can’t you just call that God?”
I replied: “Why must you call that God? Why not just call it what it is: love and justice and reconciliation?”
Though we started off with this disagreement, we came to better understand one another’s points of view through patient, honest dialogue.
Conversations like that are greatly needed today, as atheists are broadly misunderstood.
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When I visit college and university campuses around the United States, I frequently ask students what words are commonly associated with atheists. Their responses nearly always include words like “negative,” “selfish,” “nihilistic” and “closed-minded.”
When I ask how many of them actually have a relationship with an atheist, few raise their hands.
Relationships can be transformative. The Pew Research Center found that among the 14% of Americans who changed their mind from opposing same-sex marriage to supporting it in the last decade, the top reason given was having “friends, family, acquaintances who are gay/lesbian.”
Knowing someone of a different identity can increase understanding. This has been true for me as a queer person and as an atheist. I have met people who initially think I can’t actually be an atheist when they learn that I experience awe and am committed to service and social justice.
But when I explain that atheism is central to my worldview — that I am in awe of the natural world and that I believe it is up to human beings, instead of a divine force, to strive to address our problems — they often better understand my views, even if we don’t agree.
While theists can learn by listening to atheists more, atheists themselves can foster greater understanding by not just emphasizing the “no” of atheism — our disagreement over the existence of any gods — but also the “yes” of atheism and secular humanism, which recognizes the amazing potential within human beings.
Carl Sagan, the agnostic astronomer and author, would have agreed with Nyad’s claim that you can be an atheist, agnostic or nonreligious person and consider yourself “spiritual.”
As Sagan wrote in "The Demon-Haunted World,":
"When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”
Nyad told Winfrey that she feels a similar sense of awe:
“I think you can be an atheist who doesn’t believe in an overarching being who created all of this and sees over it,” she said. “But there’s spirituality because we human beings, and we animals, and maybe even we plants, but certainly the ocean and the moon and the stars, we all live with something that is cherished and we feel the treasure of it.”
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I experience that same awe when I see people of different beliefs coming together across lines of religious difference to recognize that we are all human — that we all love and hurt.
Perhaps Winfrey, who could use her influence to shatter stereotypes about atheists rather than reinforce them, would have benefited from listening to Nyad just a bit more closely and from talking to more atheists about awe and wonder.
I know many who would be up to the task.
Chris Stedman is the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University, coordinator of humanist life for the Yale Humanist Community and author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious.
Not all people who believe in the existence of God are the same nor are all atheist; therefore, I will describe my disagreement with this article without associating it to all atheist alike. Everyone can feel awe and wonder; however, spirituality is different. I can be in owe of many things in our universe, it is an amazing one. However, when it comes to spirituality, it has an element of what lays beside the physical world. People describe spirituality in many ways, but it is something that cannot be felt from observing the physical world or from learning about. With that said atheist too might feel spirtuality even if they do not believe anything exist beyond the physical world, and if you do, I hope that you examine where that feeling is coming from.
That is your definition of spirituality and perfectly fine. Others have narrower and some have wider definitions. Argument ensues.
Think for yourself, I'm giving you two thumbs up!
"I hope that you examine where that feeling is coming from.
Why does it have to be a manifestation of the divine. Simply because you can't explain something doesn't automatically mean "God caused it".
It does to many, unfortunately.
For me it is God; however, I specifically said "examine" and maybe I should've said "examine for yourself", which says go look into it and then decide. I cannot dictate on you or anyone what they feel.
As I posted on the previous page,
Art, beauty, nobility, awe of the universe etc, exist as concepts to humans. This is pretty self evident but we really can't explain why.
So you conclude that they are manifestations of the divine.
I conclude that our understanding of how the brain functions has a long way to go.
Anyone who as owned a pet knows that they can be playful and happy and sad and lonely and they dream. They know when they are being good and when they are being bad. (At least dogs do. Cat morals seem to be different.)
Where does the line for sentience get drawn?
Can a frog feel happy?
Can a fish feel lonely?
Hard to say for sure though I'm pretty sure mosquitoes don't think a lot.
I am certain God exist through faith. I feel his presence in my life.
However, if you base your decision solely on science, how can you be so certain God doesn't exist? Science never concluded that.
Or through delusion.
Neither has it conclusively proven the non-existence of Skeletor.
Weird, because my delusions never led me to believe in Skeletor.
I never said I was certain that God doesn't exist.
Having said that, I don't believe s/he/it does exist and don't see the fact that we have created concepts like nobility and beauty as evidence for said existence.
Either way, it's a very long road from the "universe is beautiful" to "Jesus is my personal lord and savior who died for my personal sins so that I could live with him in paradise for eternity". That seems like an ambitious extrapolation there.
it's a very long road from the "universe is beautiful" to "Jesus is my personal lord and savior who died for my personal sins so that I could live with him in paradise for eternity".
That's also the bit I don't get. I can kind of understand the initial argument (weak as it is) but that massive leap from a possible supernatural element creating the universe to the commie carpenter and his warmongering dad is baffling to me.
Sorry, didn't mean to put words in your mouth.
I don't believe in God because earth or the universe is beautiful, I don't even think everything on earth is beautiful. Some animals are pretty ugly in fact. That kind of beauty or ugliness does not matter when talking about God. He is love and that is his beauty.
I certainly don't want to put words in your mouth either. Only you understand the wellspring of your belief.
To me as a non-believer, when people argue that they see beauty, nobility, etc as manifestations of the divine in the same way as their answer to the question of existence of everything.
It is all short cut by "God did it" based on the pre-supposition that God is real. The existence of us and other stuff is used as the proof of God, rather than actual evidence of the existence of God.
It's like arguing a case based on circ.umstantial evidence – like trying to prove a murder without a corpse.
Everything is a mystery until we discover more about it. Just because we can't explain something doesn't mean god did it. The problem I have with a lot of very religious people is that their curiosity stops there. "God did it" tends to halt the search for a rational explanation. I believe there is a rational explanation for everything hiding somewhere.
I wonder what you mean by 'physical world'. Russ was going on about the 'material'. Do you mean something more or less than that?
I simply mean our universe and all it's physical components. Everything seen, touched, observed, quantified, etc.
You mean everything that it is possible to see, touch, quantify etc.?
Your name is hypocritical, since you insist on foisting your thoughts upon others. Why not shut up and go away?
Expressing one's thoughts doesn't deny others the ability to express theirs.
True. But lies can deny others the right to have accurate and honest information, leading to more nonsense.
Your name is worse and is quite the d-bag name, implying that you refuse all logic and all reason and prefer to restrict others.
Right? Better change your name again.
I don't get the second part of your post. Is that aimed at me also? Are you accusing me of being another poster?
Well, I seriously doubt that it says "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that" on your birth certificate, right?
Have you always used this name? I doubt it very much.
In the movie, HAL was the biggest computer d-bag that anyone had ever seen before. Is that the image you really want to have? Your call.
I did not force my opinion on anyone, or lied about anything, yet you accused me of both. And why are you so mad at everyone? What drives you to use insults instead of having an open conversation? Many of us have been having open minded conversations, try to participate.
I'm guessing "I see you rollin" isn't on your birth certificate either. Quit being a hypocrite.
Don't worry, atheists, she claims to be a Christian, but denies Christ is the only way to the Father.
Topher, is that me?
I'm not actually worried.
So glad this happened. More and more good individuals are speaking out and not keeping their spirituality to themselves. I hope Oprah learned something and is getting all kinds of feed back from this. It's not going away...so glad to be an atheist.
This is a good talk by Dan Dennett at Cal Tech. Dr. Dennett looks at religion and "belief in belief". He discusses how some concepts regarding belief evolved; how certain concepts were normalized, much in the way many things are in the physical world, from planning, and sometimes from an obvious lack of planning.
That's Oprah for you.
I'm shocked to find such a well-written, insightful article about atheism on CNN. I suppose they should be commended for that.
"To some, Oprah Winfrey appears to have an almost godlike status.."–Agreed!!!
Also, Oprah is a god unto herself.
As evidenced by each cover of "O" magazine.
"Oprahism" or "Opraham"
The angels that sing her praises = Opraphim
Celebrity fetishism is grotesque.
From the article, "Knowing someone of a different ident.ity can increase understanding"
This is a very simple concept. Religion is fading because young people have more access to differnt ideas and more information than ever before. Society is making more decisoins based on knowledge, reason, and ethics than on religious myths.
There is hope for the world.
If there's one thing religionists fear it is widespread acceptance of moral relativism and respectful discourse between those of differing worldviews.
God really hates that kind thing, you know.
Just look at the first three commandments...
It's interesting that some viruses seem to occur in multiple infections – more than one type of HIV in one host, for example. Others seem to occur in only one clone or type per host. People have suggested these can exclude other types somehow, perhaps like God does.
My church doesn't preach this. Quite the opposite.
That's great AE but until all Christians can come forth and provide a unified voice on any particular point of theology I will continue to assume that the majority (as evidenced by my own personal experiences) believes that moral relativism is "evil".
Any cursory look at history suggests that nothing is more self-evident than moral relativism.
Everyone I know is of a different identi.ty than me. How could it be otherwise?
But in the internet world I can steal your identi.ty, not that I would, oops. My bad.
If not me then who
Oprah always bring out the Creed in me.
Only for the new visitors to this blog-
The Apostles' Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)
Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??
I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)
Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,
He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.
(references used are available upon request)
Religious blogs bring out the creed in you.
Kicking puppies brings the creed out of you.
Breathing air brings the creed out of you.
Copy/pasting isn't a skill...it's an obsession.
Creeds are written to be reiterated in order to hammer the truth into our neurons. Then there is this:
As a good student, you have read the reiterations of the "fems" (flaws, errors, muck and stench) of religion. Therefore the seeds have been planted in rich soil. Go therefore and preach the truth to all nations, reiterating as you go amongst the lost, bred, born and brainwashed souls of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as Rational Thinking makes its triumphant return all because of you!!!!
More copy/paste. Face it, you are an addict.
Google it... he has been posting that exact same thing for over 2 years. Ugh.
1998 years to go to eradicate the reiteration of the worthless NT. 5998 years to go to eradicate the reiteration of the worthless OT.
Maybe you should switch back to reality 1 , it is ; there is no god never was , never will be. Evolution is a scientific fact. Evolution does not include Zues, Jehovah ,jesus , Allah or any other imaginary omnipotent being.
Besides not believing in the existence of God, a main reason atheists are perceived that way is they don't believe in the spiritual world which is metaphysical. Prime examples are: consciousness, mind, love, etc. Atheists attribute the aforementioned to mere "chemical reactions."
Pheromones can sometimes send off the wrong signals hence a dog trying to dry hump your leg, or the moose trying to get it on with a horse, screwed up chemical reactions indeed.
No, the label "atheist" is perceived the way it is because the religious (particularly from organized religions) conflate the term with anti-theist and categorize *all* atheists as wanting to destroy religion. (Clearly some do, but they are a minority of a minority.)
I will stipulate that we haven't the foggiest idea how our brains form the concepts of truth, beauty, and love, but to say "God did it" is a bit simplistic, don't you think?
but to say "God did it" is a bit simplistic, don't you think?
Yes. And there are plenty of examples of religious people that don't say that that contradict your theory.
But there are so many more that essentially do say "goddidit". I get it that you are from a fairly progressive church and I certainly wish more churches were like that, but I can't help but feel your's is the anomally.
But that's what Vic says.
You may want to catch up with reality. Many mammals show some degree of emotions that you attribute to the spiritual world, do the animals have access to our human god/spiritual myths?
It is ridiculous of you to decide what someone else thinks or feels. Making a blanket statement about people you don't know is moronic and childish.
From the article:
"Carl Sagan, the agnostic astronomer and author, would have agreed with Nyad’s claim that you can be an atheist, agnostic or nonreligious person and consider yourself “spiritual.”
I think there is a large camp in the "spiritual but not religious" camp for whom this is very true, yet don't want to be associated with atheist or even agnositic labels, even though privately they are not theists, or even deists.
There is no reason that an atheist cannot have a deep awe for the universe around us and a appreciation for love and beauty. These are things that are self-evident to the sentient, even if we don't yet know where or how these concepts exist in our brain. Saying that they are a manifestation of God is a cop-out.
The author equivocates. He wants to have his cake & eat it, too.
Atheism believes there is nothing but the material (i.e., naturalism, no higher being, etc.).
It NECESSARILY excludes the spiritual. BY DEFINITION.
To say "I'm still spiritual" but begin by eliminating the possibility of the spiritual realm as one's central thesis...
it just lacks any intellectual honesty. Have the integrity to embrace the consequences of your beliefs.
It's not that complex: you can't be both spiritual & believe there is no such thing.
The problem is a sematic one.
We simply don't have a word in English that means what the author wants to convey except "spiritual" or similar metaphysical words.
What word would you use for people who have a deep awe of the universe and the world around us and are as equally moved by it as people who see it as "God's creation"?
@ GOP: your question is genuine, but *out of respect* I am drawing the line.
having awe at the size of existence is categorically different than having awe at a supposed Architect of said existence.
the former brings no imperative into the beholder's life.
the latter absolutely does (pun intended).
"having awe at the size of existence is categorically different than having awe at a supposed Architect of said existence."
But that is exactly what the author was talking about, the awe of existence, not of any supposed Architect.
@ ME II: and yet my point was the exact opposite. the author is changing the meaning of the word to its opposite.
he doesn't believe in God – so for him, it's the same thing. that makes sense from his perspective.
but it is a refusal to even entertain the fundamental divide the other side is claiming.
consider the opposite: how outraged are the atheists here at what Oprah implied (simply folding your beliefs into her own – with no regard to the violence it does to your beliefs)?
I guess I wasn't aware that Theists own the word awe.
a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder:
they gazed in awe at the small mountain of diamonds
the sight filled me with awe
his staff members are in awe of him
archaic capacity to inspire awe:
is it any wonder that Christmas Eve has lost its awe?"
@ ME II: where did you see me claiming that theists have a monopoly on the word awe? my objection was to his use of 'spiritual.'
Same thing. It's perfectly reasonable for an atheist to be spiritual. Even by Webster's definition.
"Beneath the facade of order lies an eery kind of chaos, and buried deep within that chaos lies an even eerier kind of order." The theist/deist believes he understands that kind or order, the non-theist/deist does not.
@ Doris: really? did you read Webster's? here's the link:
look at those.
1) relating to a person's spirit – this is question begging.
2) religious – isn't this precisely what most atheists so adamantly claim they are not?
3) supernatural beings or phenomena – do you concede the possibility of those? if so, on what basis do you exclude God?
what i find fascinating here is the tight window you seem to want to paint yourself into...
adamantly sure there is no God (or at least excluding the possibility of one as seen in religion)...
adamantly claiming there is something greater you cannot exclude...
why? what is it to which you feel you must remain open (not God or religious, but 'spiritual')?
You appear to deliberately miss the point.
I'll concede that the word 'spirituality' is about belief in the supernatural. What is a better choice of words. I submit that there may not be one.
God is not real to me even if you insist that the wonders of the universe *are* his creation.
@ GOP: i wasn't intentionally missing your point. I was honoring your beliefs by noting that – unlike the author of this article – we fundamentally claiming different things.
awe at the intricacy and expansiveness of what atheists themselves have often labeled as random meaninglessness is not at all the same thing as theistic awe (which sees that awe as a compelling action toward that Creator). it shouldn't be insulting for BOTH sides to agree that we are not talking at all about the same thing. the theist's awe compels a radical reorientation centered around the Creator. the atheist is claiming that awe for the exact opposite purpose. why is it insulting or "deliberately missing the point" to note that is the enormity of our divide on this most foundational topic? i would think it is actually respect to call it what it is.
my suggestion was that the author was indeed describing something different (on that point we agree) but lacked the vocabulary to express it 'properly', which was the point of my original question.
All words I can think of that relate to sprituality, metaphysics or mysticism have religious connotations.
"Random meaninglessness" – I see wonderful complexity and also simplicity and symmetry in nature. It is meaningless in the sense that there is no mind other than that of the observer behind it. I think believers may still be animists at their core, seeing meaning in things that have no intelligent Creator or Designer.
@ TTTOO: I hear you reading my beliefs through your grid & respectfully do the reciprocal with you.
and yet that is exactly what Oprah did above that appears to have so many atheists up in arms...
Russ: "..that appears to have so many atheists up in arms..."
Really? Well I don't take issue with Oprah at all on this point. I'm just glad they were both open enough to discuss a bit of their spirituality. Also notice that the author doesn't seem to find fault with Oprah, but that it is important for the outnumbered atheist to be aware when, however unintentional, erroneous assumptions or generalizations can be made about them if they don't express themselves and if they are not clear about their views.
@ Doris: here's David Foster Wallace (a fellow atheist) on this issue...
“Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship - be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles - is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and se.xual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”
That's very interesting, Russ. I don't agree with everything Mr. Wallace wrote there. But I don't disagree with all of it, either. I wonder how he really would have responded today to this very incident were he alive today. I see that as only perhaps addresses one of many aspects of "spirituality", that itself it difficult to nail down from one person to the next.
Corrected last sentence:
I see that as only perhaps addressing one of many aspects of "spirituality", where spirituality itself it difficult to nail down from one person to the next.
someone who quotes the bible speaking about intellectual honesty? LOLOLOLOLOLOL
@ Dog: sarcasm doesn't substi.tute for honest dialogue or a substantive point.
Hint of irony re "substantive points" coming from thou...
I think what Russ is trying to say is that there is only one kind of blue, his blue, and if you claim to see blue then you must be seeing his blue and shouldn't ever call it sky blue or sea blue or navy blue, it's his blue, blue damn it!!
Yes. The notion that we experience an awe of the universe (and truth beauty etc) but are apparently too stupid to realize that these are manifestations of the divine feels more than a little insulting *respectfully speaking*.
@ GOP: that's a two-way street. are you not claiming the opposite as an atheist?
and – worthy of note – there's a difference between not recognizing something & stupidity.
"are you not claiming the opposite as an atheist?"
No. The concepts of awe, beauty, love etc are self-evident in humans. The question of where they come from and why they are there is relevant. I simply don't see any evidence that they are manifestations of the divine the way you do.
Your logic is, they exist and I can't explain them, therefore they are manifestations of God.
My logic is, they exist and I can't explain them, so we have some homework to do.
These questions are about 'truth' – an altogether unsovlable problem and one that has vexed philosophers since the dawn of time.
@ GOP: awe, beauty & love are self-evident? i think that in & of itself has been debated for a long time – especially in light of atheism.
while certainly one might mock my belief in a Creator, such awe & beauty & love are fully understandable in light of that metaphysical grid. however, within an atheist's grid, those same concepts raise much greater problems (do they merely serve our evolutionary survival instincts? if so, are they real in any sense? they might be useful, but not – in & of themselves – beautiful, etc.). the theists are mocked for believing in a Designer while the atheists are questioned for pragmatic beliefs that do not comport with their metaphysical presuppositions.
both groups should rightly expect to be challenged & questioned on their respective grounds. and yet for some reason you deem my questioning of your grid as thinking you are "too stupid" but don't see your reciprocal questioning of me as assuming the SAME things you are complaining I have assumed about you?
"..but not – in & of themselves – beautiful, etc."
Here again, Russ – trying to claim a theistic ownership of "beauty".
Pick a fight all you like. I certainly didn't call you stupid. I agreed with you that the word sprituality conventionally has, at the very least, metaphysical connotations.
My question to you was – which you pointedly ignored – if you won't let non-believers use the word "spirituality" for an appreciation of the world around us, what word do you suggest?
I'm quite open to using an alternative word here.
1) i'm simply quoting you from above on the "apparently too stupid" remark. you were assuming that was my thought about you. i never used that word of you – and yet you inferred it. would you want me to do the same of you?
2) i'm open to a whole host of words here. i'm not against the idea that atheists would have respect for the sheer immensity of existence. what i am objecting to is using words that have directly contrary meanings to the supposed presupposition of atheists (i.e., spiritual). not only does it require re-defining a word, but it also requires ignoring the whole debate that distinguished other positions (de facto assumptions ensue: there is no other real substance to spirituality, etc.).
you said: "Here again, Russ – trying to claim a theistic ownership of 'beauty'."
no, i am simply insisting on the clear delineation of how beauty functions in different systems of belief.
theists recognize beauty has a source – Beauty itself is alive.
atheists see beauty as merely a subjective thing – some may share, some may not.
particularly, within an evolutionary framework, beauty is merely *useful*, not a thing to be honored in itself. so, for theists, beauty is an echo of the divine – and as such, warrants awe, etc. for an atheist, however, beauty can present a problem: why does this seem to matter more than simply as a tool to a greater end? why stop & admire sunsets, mountain vistas, the expanse of the universe, etc.? if there is no greater meaning & it's purely subjective, why does it *seem* to so many to carry more weight & bring awe? shouldn't it instead simply press in the reality of our fragility and insignificance in the greater scheme of the universe?
the central divide: what does beauty *do*?
for theists: it points us to its source: ultimate Beauty – a thing to be appreciated in & of itself.
for atheists: there is no greater meaning, it's just the eye of the beholder... a tool to be used for something else.
sure, you can use 'beauty' & 'awe', but WHY would you be preoccupied with it like theists are?
Exactly. I knew Russ was in trouble when I read "Atheism believes", "BY DEFINITION" and "central thesis". Lol.
@ Doris: so you deny that atheism doesn't believe in the absence of the spiritual? or are you purposefully dodging the point?
I thought it was strange that you restricted atheists beliefs to things that are material, Russ. I said as much somewhere around here.
As the point was made to you above, Russ, it is a matter of semantics. Another's definition of spirituality is likely different from yours – even among believers. You like to pigeon-hole things into nice neat boxes and do not seem comfortable when you can't firmly categorize something according to Webster and your own interpretation of your god's "word". It was quite obvious from your OP.
@ Doris: semantics? the word is a-theism. literally: "no belief in god."
@ TTTOO: what non-material existence is there if there is no Spirit?
for both of you, it appears you are *presupposing* that to speak of 'the spiritual' is merely a metaphor of some sort. but that is the entire debate in question. what – if anything – are you speaking of (metaphysically) that is 'spiritual' & not material in an existence without the transcendent reality of God?
Russ: "what – if anything – are you speaking of (metaphysically) that is 'spiritual' & not material in an existence without the transcendent reality of God?"
Probably something very different from whatever you mean when you say "spiritual", Russ. Whatever it is, you'll never be able to take it away from us, and it sounds like you'll have a difficult time ever "bucketizing" it in your museum because I believe you often *pre-suppose* how others might think about it.
@ Doris: pot, meet kettle.
your response is doing the same thing you are claiming I am doing.
Not really, Russ because, unless I missed something, you're the one trying to give everything a definition. I didn't say precisely what spirituality was for me. I just said, more or less, that with blinders on, you're likely to never come across whatever it might be.
Clarification: I just said, more or less, that with blinders on, you're likely to never come across whatever *it* might be.
(Where *it* is my view on spirituality; I am not questioning what it means for you. It's like if I went into a good ethnic restaurant and the waiter said something that sounded like it was blasphemous to me [if I were the type]; if I sit there and only understand the term he's using in my way, I'll just continue to feel insulted without ever knowing that what he really was saying was the name of a dish that I would only by accident find out years later that I would come to love; all because I had 'blinders on'.)
What if anything is meant by 'spiritual', Russ? I don't really have use for the word. I did mention some non-material things. I'll throw in things we construct that are not material: logic and mathematics. What we construct them from is not material, including facts and order.
@ TTTOO: correct me if I am wrong, but pure materialists believe logic & mathematics are material principles. in other words, your criticism is overly literal. the adherents of materialism don't take that position.
@ Doris: however you want to stack it, you are dodging the fact that you are doing the same thing: excluding my position.
moreover, your articulation here sounds self-contradictory: you want to exclude me for being exclusive.
in short: your feigned humility about 'spirituality' is anything but. you are confident enough to exclude others (namely me) in the very same fashion that you believe I am excluding you – your waiter example notwithstanding. otherwise, what is the basis of your objection to my position?
@ Just the facts: ironically, so are you. everyone here is claiming that unique angle. and that's the missed point of the classic "blind men & the elephant" story so often used to mock religious truth claims. why else would you be mocking me – except that you are making an OPPOSITE claim to truth?
per the elephant & blind men:
"In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant… the real point of the story is constantly overlooked. The story is told from the point of view of the king and his courtiers, who are not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it. The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmations of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth. But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite. If the king were also blind, there would be no story. What this means then is that there is an appearance of humility and a protestation that the truth is much greater than anyone of us can grasp. But if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth, it is in fact an arrogant claim with the kind of knowledge which is superior that you have just said, no religion has."
" ironically, so are you. everyone here is claiming that unique angle. ... why else would you be mocking me – except that you are making an OPPOSITE claim to truth?"
I would suggest that everyone else is not claiming the opposite, but simply that the definition includes both/all. One can feel awe regardless of the object/being/concept which caused the awe. It is a description of the feeling not an indication of the cause of the feeling.
Russ, what you don't want to admit is that an atheist can at the same time experience the same internal feeling and rationalize it as awesome and incredible but not divine and call it a connection to nature or whatever without accepting your or anyone elses definition of "God" or even "spirit". You imagine those feeling to be supernatural, we atheists feel the same things and call them natural. The other concept you seem to want to ignore is that atheists by definition are NOT ruling out the possibility of higher powers, they are catagorically refuting other humans who claim they know or have proof and yet have not provided even a speck of evidence for their brand of deity. The atheist position is "I do not see any evidence supporting any God/gods therefore I do not believe in any that have been presented" and it is not "I have researched eveything and know everything and can see in the deepest corners of the universe and there definitively is no God/gods or anything that could be considered such." as the latter would presume far to much to be found logical or reasonable.
@ ME II: I never said one can't feel awe while being an atheist. I pointed out that it does press certain questions about what you *do* with that awe & what its purpose is.
but my main objection was to equating such 'awe' with being 'spiritual' – especially considering the latter is directly contrary to the notion of atheism.
@ Just the facts:
1) no, I readily agree that an atheist can have the same "feelings" – as you put it. but i would also expect an atheist to heartily agree that what we are assuming is happening in light of that awe is VERY different. the feelings themselves are not supernatural...
2) a-theism = "no belief in God." it's simply what the word means.
3) you want to quibble between so-called strong atheism & weak atheism – yet both want to stare at the fact of existence and arrive at the conclusion that "there is no evidence for god(s)" (as you put it) while YET HAVING AWE. why? at randomness? at the expansiveness & complexity of... meaninglessness?
the confidence you criticize in theists is (at least) matched by the confidence that you have that existence itself doesn't present ample evidence of something more & meaningful.
"while YET HAVING AWE. why? at randomness? at the expansiveness & complexity of... meaninglessness? "
I believe that the first life on this planet was likely not the first life in the universe. This however does not mean I believe in God/gods. I believe that life having gained a foothold here and thrived and adapted and gone through many many faces and having an extremely low porbability gives our life far more meaning and purpose than that of a deity generated universe. As the tiny microbe adapting itself into a human space traveler over the billions of years on this planet we have a far greater responsibility to keep this life moving than we would if it was just some supernatural beings universe where the deity already knows everything that is ever going to happen. With a God driven universe man takes a backseat and can merely continually ask "Are we there yet?" and has no responsibility to the planet or to other humans because only the creator deities wishes should be adhered to if the deity gets to decide some future fate. As an evolved being I have a responsibility to all those single celled organisms that came before and allowed me to exist and thus we have a responsibility to the future of our planets continual evolution. If you don't have a creator deity who you think is just going to come along and clean up the earth you have a greater responsibility in taking care of it. Life becomes more valuable when you discard the childish belief in God/gods that there is zero empirical evidence of.
@ Just the facts:
1) greater purpose? by that do you mean the eventual heat death of the universe? if you believe in a completely naturalistic evolutionary framework, have the integrity (as Hitchens did) to embrace it. in such a framework, there is no ultimate purpose here – only temporary, fabricated ones. it's disingenuous to suggest otherwise.
sure, mock Christianity for being a fairy tale if you don't believe it. but don't be surprised when you are called out for doing the same thing you criticize. either there is ultimate significance or there is not. you can't have both. Read Nietzsche's "Parable of the Madman." he's calling out supposed atheists for failing to realize that.
2) you claim to know the bible but are misrepresenting its clear teaching. "no responsibility to the planet"? what is the point of the Garden of Eden? what did God put Adam & Eve there to do? what is his clear command? no, much to the chagrin of the Tea Party, all biblical Christians have a strong interest in a green earth.
moreover, at the end of Revelation, it is not that we "escape" earth, but rather that it is remade. heaven comes down. and the faithful Christians will be fighting not just for the renewal of souls, but for the whole earth. after all, the preposterous claim of the bible is that when that happens: the lion will lay down with the lamb, the child will put his hand in the adder's den & not be bitten, the trees of the field will clap their hands, etc.
in short, the Bible argues that Christians should be cultivating a green earth. why? because it is not theirs! they are merely stewards of the King. and we are answerable to him for how we treat it.
3) "as an evolved being" you have no such responsibility to earlier forms of the evolutionary chain other than those which serve your survival. there is no moral compass otherwise. again, have the integrity to embrace the full system you are claiming. sure, you might cultivate lesser life forms, but solely for the symbiotic benefits they might provide you – not because of the thing in itself. they are useful for you, not beautiful. after all, what is beauty in evolution but a construct that might serve your survival? the same is true for love, justice, etc.
"In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference."
—Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (Basic Books, 1995), 95.
SUM: you want to make a hybrid of incompatible systems of belief. you can't have it both ways. so what do you actually believe?
Very well put! I think you hit the nail RIGHT on the head there!!!!!
There are, of course, many things that are not material, Russ: facts and physical laws would be two.
@ TTTOO: so you equate physical laws with spirituality? do you regard the conceptual realm as spiritual? Platonic atheist?
I don't know of a 'spiritual realm'. Perhaps a realm of things that don't exist comes close? Or impossible worlds, perhaps?
@ TTTOO: then why claim to be 'spiritual'? that's my objection to this article. the author claims to be 'spiritual' while yet denying such a realm exists.
If there is a Creator, we can be absolutely certain that it isn't the one presented in the Christian religion.
@ Sue: this often-repeated statement requires omniscience. are you claiming to know everything? or on what basis do you preclude a transcendent Being which cannot contravene your current understanding (notably, an understanding most would admit is constantly in flux)?
Nice wafflegab, Russ. We expect no more from you.
Thanks for coming out and being the laughingstock, though.
@ Sue: another unsupported statement. I welcome a substantive response – even one with which I might disagree.
Yes, Russ, you did make another unsupported statement. Good on you for admitting to that.
Reasons why if there is a God "it isn't the one presented in the Christian religion."
1. Genesis account severely flawed and yet claims divine origin. No global flood, no single pair of human ancestors, no 900 plus year lifespans, interbreeding with neanderthal and denesovians proven by our DNA.
2. Biblical accounts of events could not have happened such as the sun and moon standing still for an entire day. There is no astronomer or geologist who would even consider that happening, besides the fact that the bible get's wrong that the sun is the object moving in relation to us and not the other way around.
3. Hebrew scriptures describe a powerful angry jealous God ready to kill thousands of his own people if they offend him. The Greek scriptures on the other hand, speak of a turn the other cheek God, a do unto others as you wish them to do to you pacifist God. This hints at the huge rift between the followers of the different faces of this same God. Is he Yahweh? Or is he Allah? Or is he Jesus? Holy spirit maybe?
4. The two thousand plus years of the Christian message being misused to subjugate the poor uneducated masses. Millions of people have lost their lives either physically or figuratively to this vile religion.
5. Mark Twain once said "A Patriot is the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.” Well there are no persons hollering louder than those Patriots and Patrons of the Christian religion and there are none that know less about what they are hollering about than they.
@ Just the facts: yet again, there is plenty of scholarship here you appear to be completely unaware of. a few examples...
1) reading Genesis in light of genre...
2) first, you're not reading the text with its own integrity intact. the assumption that God is real precludes your argument against natural coursing (since in that grid, God is the one who upholds natural law, and can interrupt it freely). so the sun stopping in the sky is not a big deal for the God who spoke it into existence.
secondly, you're assumptions about metaphor and relational language fail to grasp what the text is claiming. do you also think the author believes God has a big hand and the sky is like a scroll? to read it that way is creating a straw man that dodges the actual intent of the text.
3) sounds like you need to re-read both testaments. repeatedly in the OT (take his declaration to Moses on Mt Sinai in Ex.34, for instance), God declares himself to be “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
and in the NT, read Acts 5. Ananias & Saphira get struck down dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. is God vengeful in the NT? according to your reading, that's not turning the other cheek... but then again, what do you do with the whole concept of He.ll?
point being: because you BEGIN by assuming God is self-contradictory, you make a straw man that allows you to dodge the actual meaning of ALL these texts. the cross actually shows us that both his justice & mercy are held together AT THE SAME TIME.
a) we are worse off than we want to admit (we all deserve that sort of death – justice)
b) we are more loved than we ever dared to hope (he took that justice *for me* – mercy)
4) if everything that has been misused in history was immediately disqualified, there would be nothing left to use. if anything, i'd say biblical anthropology is upheld by that reality: people are the problem. we are utterly broken.
but think through what you're saying: did you stop flying planes after 9/11? they were misused. do you use a knife to eat a meal? knives are misused every day. do you use math? criminal minds have been employing math for evil since its inception – does that make math bad?
your argument here fails because it debunks EVERYTHING – including your own position.
and possibly more problematic for you: much of the underpinnings of modern society began under the aus.pices of Christianity (public education, hospitals, etc.). you either ignore these inconvenient facts or are forced to argue such schools were actually miseducation and such hospitals were actually taking life – something patently false.
5) do you think Mark Twain was unpatriotic in that remark? by your approach, it wouldn't leave the option of genuine patriotism. and your final remark is simply rhetoric. if i reciprocated your remark (replacing 'Christian' with 'atheist'), what would you do with that statement? it would be equally unfounded, and it adds nothing to the dialogue.
God said it-I believe it-that's it. I've read the Bible 10x.
@Russ – I have read the bible several times cover to cover, I used to teach from it as a pastor so I know all the religious dodges that are used to justify the flaws. Not a single one of your exuses is valid. "you're not reading the text with its own integrity intact" oh please, go whine about it to someone else, i'm not buying your snake oil answers because i've seen behind the curtain of organized religion and it stinks to high heaven. Science and the bible are incompatible and there is no way God "made the sun stand still" when it was the earth that would need stopping but the divinely inspired book got that wrong to. I could take Tolkeins works and cobble them together and present them as biblical fact if I was allowed to use the logic bridges believers use to defend their faulty book.
@ Just the facts:
1) so, scientifically speaking, you don't believe the sun is in motion also? seems you are the one out of step with science.
2) is a subjective agent not allowed to make an accurate statement from his parallax? in your mind, that makes it false?
3) your objection here is tangential. you object to the claim that God is Creator – a much grander claim which makes this particular passage minor in comparison. obviously, if God created everything just by speaking, this is well within the realm of possibilities of what he might do with his own creation. but b/c you don't accept that premise, you are now arguing about a dependent stipulation. that's why i'm challenging you to read with integrity. go to the bigger argument. if you object to the notion of creation, that is the real argument.
it's the same as people objecting to Jesus walking on water when the huge claim is that he was raised from the dead or his claim to divinity. the former is minor & contingent in comparison. that's why i'm pressing you about integrity. let's go to the real point of divide. as Jesus said, you're straining a gnat & swallowing a camel.
Russ – you can't prove or disprove the existence of god as a general concept.
But a specific god can be disproven, or proven. If I say there is a god who turns people green every time they say "Lady Gaga" – then it takes mere seconds to prove or disprove that god. If the Christian god is taken as being the god represented by the Bible – then a literal reading of the bible would disprove that god – the bible claims he will move mountains if you have even the tiniest bit of faith in him – yet mountains are unmoved, that he heals the sick and injured – but we have never yet seen an amputee healed, regardless of their degree of faith. To keep the Christian god as unfalsifiable, you have to go with explanations that say that what the Bible says isn't quite right – that it's parables, and errors introduced by men, and so on and so forth.
That version of the Christian god can't be disproven – but some can. Depends which one you believe in. There are so many varieties.
No, Russ, you idiot, it does not require "omniscience." The god of the bible is contradictory within it's pages; therefore, all you need is a sense of hypocrisy and a copy of the bible to know that he does not exist. Simple.
A person needs omniscience to make claims about any and all gods, but not specific ones with very precise definiitions and descriptions.
@ Cpt Obvious: you have said this before – and again I'd point out your out-of-hand dismissal of 2000 years of critical thought on all of these issues. it doesn't guarantee truth, but you fail to even engage that reality. remember, the Bible was put under the same scrutiny by Christians long before those outside the faith asked such questions. why ignore the entire discipline of biblical studies as though there weren't volumes already written on your standard set of objections?
More like 2000 years of a lack of critical thought. Russ, you're really struggling, even more than usual.
@ Sue: Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son... is that you? are you back? this certainly matches your m.o.
Russ's point about all the diligent study is pathetic and far wrong. The reason is that it was done by groups with an obvious confirmation bias.
Russ is pretty stupid. I appreciate the rest of you humoring him though, while pushing back against his nonsense; might be required if we are ever to break the yoke of religious dominance that hinders the USA especially.
@ Wes: the higher critical assumptions you appear to have regarding the faith ALSO began among Christian scholars. you can't have it both ways. you can't presuppose part of the scholarship while dismissing it as a whole.
Russ, that is a false statement you made. That is implicit even in the terms you used. And furthermore, you wouldn't know a "higher critical assumption" if your boyfriend bit you in the ass with it.
@ Wes: let's hear it then. to whom are you appealing for modern historical critical methods?
Schleiermacher? Ritschl? Schwietzer? Strauss?
the farther back you go, the stronger my case becomes.
Russ – that is quite simply not what the word "atheist" means. An atheist can believe in ghosts, naturalism, gaia, whatever. The word is a simple one – "a-theist" – lacking a theistic belief – lacking a belief in god. No more than that. It doesn't mean that all atheists believe only in the material – some do, some don't – personally I find plenty that is inspiring and awesome in the world without adding anything else – others think there is more – but not a god.
"An atheist can believe in ghosts, naturalism, gaia, whatever. The word is a simple one – "a-theist" – lacking a theistic belief – lacking a belief in god. No more than that. It doesn't mean that all atheists believe only in the material – some do, some don't"
Very well put.
@ Susan: yes, you technically "can" believe those things... but it lacks logical integrity. it doesn't match your foundational assumptions. it is directly contrary to them.
read Nietzsche's "Parable of the Madman" (it'll take you 90 seconds). that's his primary point – self-ascribed atheists who lack the awareness or guts to follow through their beliefs.
“I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery then that is what God is.."
Appreciating beauty and being stupidifed by the grandeur and vastness of existence does not equal religion or even faith. It's a human condition. Perhaps one could call it a spiritual aspect of ourselves but it's not unique to christians or any religious group. All humans can be taken by the ineffable quality of life and existence.
I think that often Theists actually think they are being generous by trying to include Atheists, by some obscure logic, in the circle of the speaker, as if inviting a wayward child to dinner. They are trying to nice.
What they don't seem to understand is that Atheists don't want to be in that circle, and it is not nice, but condescending.
I still marvel (or actually chortle) at Wolf Blitzer's goof when he asked the survivor of the recent Oklahoma tornado if she thanked "God" for saving her, not knowing that she is an atheist!
They both laughed at the mistake, I believe. No big deal.
Yes – but it was the assumption of belief that was a bit less funny if you are on the other end of it. Yes they lauged, it's a common response when both sides feel embarrassed at what just happened.
It was a nice moment – she was nice to him about his mistake, and he laughed at his own error there. It highlights how much this is an assumption – but given the percentages, it's not an unreasonable assumption.
Oprah has an opinion for every occasion and does not listen to other people much at all.
I suppose when you get that rich and powerful, you are constantly surrounded with people telling you how right you are all the time. It's living inside an Oprah bubble so you lose touch with reality...
which is like Christians who live inside the Christian bubble and never understand all that we now know scientifically ... who homeschool their kids and teach them fantasy so their kids are kept in the bubble, who watch and read nothing but christian tv and radio and books ... you lose touch with reality.
Yeah because atheists would never find themselves in a bubble...never ever.
you finally got one right ... "atheists never find themselves in a bubble...never ever"
Except for the bubble of their own ego.
The ego is a trap we must all avoid (regardless of our belief in the supernatural). It's that little bit of ourselves that cannot concieve of a world in which it doesn't exist. It tries to mold the world around itself until it becomes the center of that world and the main character in it's story.
Admitting that you are not a special creation is usually a pretty good start in deflating the worst egotistical attributes.
No more than I'm offended by the easter bunny, big foot, ghosts or UFOs
I'm pretty sure Stedman meant he was offended by Oprah's dipshit comment, than about being offended by a reference to a god
If we are looking for dips hit comments Oprah has always been a good place to find them.
It does sound pretty silly everytime a theist tries to twll a non-theist "Well X is your god, then." They are so threatened by a world in which one doesn't believe in gods that they're willing to attribute God status to Dawkins, nature, the self...whatever. Once you do that, what was the point of the word god in the first place?
People are different and have very diverse beliefs. Folks just need to get over it if they want to see life as it is. I don't believe in libertarian free will, and I couldn't count the number of nitwits that have told me that even if I intellectually don't believe in it, of course I feel it and act as though I have it. Uh, no. I feel determined. End story. I think I know myself better than you do. Give atheists the same credit. They don't go around saying "By god, of course, you really just mean nature." OK, probably a few idiots do...there are a few everywhere.
Poor Oprah....all that money and she can't even buy a lick of intelligence.
got one better......
for an atheist, the combination shift+g in the word "God" is harder than pressing two magnet sides together with the same polarity.
People lie when they know the truth isn't on their side, the truth isn't good enough.
You should realize that everyone knows that, so it's out there and clear when you lie.
And god is capitalized or not depending on what we're talking about – it's no effort for an atheist to capitalize it – just depends if we're talking about the concept of god (including Shiva, Allah, and Odin), or the Christian God (proper noun, thus should be capitalized). Nor do atheists hate god any more than you hate Odin, or the Loch Ness monster or martians.
Christians arguing stories from their bible vs. scientific facts is like arguing about Santa's sleigh flying ... sure it says it flies in the stories but the facts are that there is no Santa (sorry kids), there is no magic sleigh, and there are no magical reindeer to guide his sleigh tonight. Anyone using any story in the bible as a fact to argue against scientifically proven evidence is deluding themselves and annoying the sane.
And you Christians wonder why we atheists sound annoyed all the time.
I always figured you had too much fiber in your diet.
"13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!" Joshua 10:13,14
Believer: "Yup, it happened"
Astronomer: "Nope, that did not happen"
Believer: Yeah it did, my book says so"
Astronomer: "Well all of the collected science and discovery and understanding about the universe thus far makes that statement out of the bible an impossibility"
Believer: "Nothing is impossible for God..."
Astronomer: "... sigh..."
Yesterday Topher was saying that he belives it likely that the Roman Empire drastically changed their means of tax collection and census taking becuase the Caesar could read the signs in the stars that The Messiah was coming.
Even in the face of all the docu/mentation we have from that era proving otherwise.
Cuz, you know – Jesus is magic and stuff.
It doesn't exist. On the other hand most Christians on this board are very offensive
Scroll up and I think the percentages will lean toward the atheists being offensive a bit more. It could change.
Yep – like where you accused an atheist of kicking puppies?
I'm not atheist.
Sarcasm doesn't sink into your head very well does it?
Finally, Oprah found her match!
Can someone quickly arrange an interview between Oprah and Chris Stedman?
Atheists are always complaining, whining and sulking.
Even when they are "wonderstruck" and "awestruck" they cannot let go of a casual reference someone made about God.
Any remote mention about God makes them unhappy!
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