Can an atheist be an atheist

Danger

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Huckleberry said:
I don't think it takes a culture to create a religion.
I know that you'd never do it on purpose :tongue: , but you're actually saying pretty much the same thing that I did. You're still thinking a lot more recently than I am, though. It doesn't require a culture, but it does require communication of ideas. I'm going back to cave-man times here, discovery of fire and all that. All future cultures, and civilizations if there's a distinction, arose from the same initial tribal units. The idea was already ingrained by then.
 
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Danger said:
I know that you'd never do it on purpose :tongue: , but you're actually saying pretty much the same thing that I did.
Did I just agree with Danger on a religious issue? That can't be possible. :biggrin:

You're still thinking a lot more recently than I am, though. It doesn't require a culture, but it does require communication of ideas. I'm going back to cave-man times here, discovery of fire and all that. All future cultures, and civilizations if there's a distinction, arose from the same initial tribal units. The idea was already ingrained by then.
Okay, just a misunderstanding then. Yes, communication is vital to transfer ideas of things like spirits.

I guess it is possible, because I agree with you. :approve:
 

Danger

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Huckleberry said:
I guess it is possible, because I agree with you. :approve:
Does that mean that it's time for us to seek therapy?
 
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Danger said:
You're still talking about relatively modern history.
I am? How so?
I'm going back to the advent of language that was capable of conveying abstract concepts.
Nothing I've talked about couldn't have happened to pre-homo sapiens sapiens homonids. As far as I know biologists believe that even animals can hallucinate.
Theology was already established in one form or another long before 'civilization' arose.
Where did the word civilization come into the discussion? I was addressing your concept of primitive social structure.
And I don't doubt that Moses believed that the bush thing happened, but I certainly don't accept that it really did.
It isn't important to my point whether or not you belive it happened. The Moses example was illustrative. It illustrates that a religion is a naturally occuring phenomena, and not an artificial construct created deliberately by people. It happens with no particular intention of it happening. In that sense it is natural, as opposed to artificial.
 
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Danger said:
Does that mean that it's time for us to seek therapy?
Only if we are wrong.
 

Danger

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zoobyshoe said:
Nothing I've talked about couldn't have happened to pre-homo sapiens sapiens homonids. As far as I know biologists believe that even animals can hallucinate.
No doubt. But for a religious theory, you have to be able to conceptualize the hallucination.

zoobyshoe said:
Where did the word civilization come into the discussion? I was addressing your concept of primitive social structure.
You used the word 'culture', which to me implies the existence of a civilization.

zoobyshoe said:
It illustrates that a religion is a naturally occuring phenomena, and not an artificial construct created deliberately by people.
It's not natural, and I never claimed that it's created deliberately. It is, however, created collectively. Hence the need for communication.
 
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Danger said:
No doubt. But for a religious theory, you have to be able to conceptualize the hallucination.
It depends on what you mean by a "religious theory". Here's what you said:
Danger said:
As for the concept of a god in the first place, it was most assuredly a creation of primitive social structures, not something that someone would come up with naturally. I can't see that an isolated person, who had no communication ever with anyone else, would think up such a thing any more than he would develop a theory of economics.
So, your point was that the concept of god had to be created within a primitive social structure. I am arguing that a single individual could easily have an experience that lead him to believe there was a spiritual being more powerful than himself. No social structure necessary. What does the religion consist of? Off the top of my head I'd say that any interaction he tries to have with that being is the minimun requirement for a religion. From there it gets more complex the more people you add to the experience.
You used the word 'culture', which to me implies the existence of a civilization.
No. Culture doesn't require anything as grand as civilization
It's not natural
Then you have to explain what you consider natural. You implied before that natural meant it would happen to an isolated individual:
Danger said:
As for the concept of a god in the first place, it was most assuredly a creation of primitive social structures, not something that someone would come up with naturally. I can't see that an isolated person, who had no communication ever with anyone else, would think up such a thing any more than he would develop a theory of economics.
If arising from a social structure is what makes it unnatural, then it's ability to arise in an individual is what makes it natural.
and I never claimed that it's created deliberately. It is, however, created collectively. Hence the need for communication.
Collective forms are created collectively and individual forms are created individually. Collective forms have their origin in individual forms, as I've illustrated.
 
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Definitions are the worst of necessary evils. natural/biological/social, culture/civilization, religion/spiritualism. All difficult terms to explain. No wonder religion is so varied in concepts.
 
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Huckleberry said:
Definitions are the worst of necessary evils. natural/biological/social, culture/civilization, religion/spiritualism. All difficult terms to explain. No wonder religion is so varied in concepts.
These discussions do send you looking into the dictionary. A question like "What is the minimum requirement for something to be called a religion?" could fill 20 books and still not be answered.
 

Danger

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zoobyshoe said:
Then you have to explain what you consider natural. You implied before that natural meant it would happen to an isolated individual:

If arising from a social structure is what makes it unnatural, then it's ability to arise in an individual is what makes it natural.
That's exactly why I'm saying that I do not believe that it would arise in an isolated individual. I don't claim that it's impossible, just extremely improbable.
 
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hypnagogue

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Danger, you might be interested to read the book https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/034544034X/qid=1118218125/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/103-9037794-7008653?v=glance&s=books&n=507846. The simple fact is that under certain conditions, the human brain/mind tends to experience things that very naturally lend themselves to interpretations of the supernatural or divine. This is a primitive perceptual and emotional experience, the capacity for which seems to be 'built into' the brain in the same way the capacity for feeling overarching emotional mindsets such as boredom or romantic love are 'built into' the brain. These things are not social constructs, but just part of our fundamental makeup. Despite being an ardent atheist, if you ingested the right chemicals or had the right portions of your brain artificially stimulated, you too could experience things that are downright 'God-like.'

Of course, it's not the case that experiencing what we might call God-like feelings entails that one must create a theology. But this sort of experience certainly lends itself to religious concepts readily; for instance, see here. And it is certainly not the case that a simple, core concept of God or spirits need be articulated to any great degree of detail like a theory of economics. Culture undoubtedly plays a massive role in shaping religion qua cultural phenomenon, but in the first instance, the seed for such things is planted by a naturally occurring kind of human experience.
 
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If a isolated individual conceived of a God, yet told no one, this understanding would die with him. So there would be no way of knowing if this ever occurred, before the time of communication skills. As far as I know, no one has ever discovered to have developed there own God, with out leaving a trace, even if its scratched into a rock.
Hypnagogue's link{Why God won't go away} is a good read, based in sound facts.
There are several known religions that have risen, due to one persons experiences,Joseph Smith, Jr., Latter Day Saints, is a great example. If he was unable to convince others that he had found the golden plates, the Mormons would not exist today.
Not only did it take communication skills, it took the ability to organise, add concepts and rituals into daily life, and make others think it was cool to do.
Huck's rendition of why the concepts of early Gods/Spirts were so readily accepted, is right on the money. With the addition of the social bonding of a group, which meant the survival of people who thought along the same lines.
Survival of the fittest..ect.
 
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Danger said:
That's exactly why I'm saying that I do not believe that it would arise in an isolated individual.
From what I know of psychology it seems evident that it is much more likely to arise in an isolated person than in one subject to the "grounding" effects of having to deal with other people. Left to his own devices a person can fly off into any fantastic train of thought they are inspired to. Being part of a group dynamic is more likely to restrict their flights of fancy.
I suspect what is behind your assertion is the belief that you yourself, would never concieve of religion in isolation. You probably wouldn't and the same goes for others. But you can't let that color your understanding of how religions do get started. The only way to get an idea of that is to read various histories of the origins of different religions and extrapolate something common to all of them from that. I've picked up alot of that history casually, but Hypnagogue has done alot more systematic study of that phenomenon, as you can see from his post above.
 

Danger

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hypnagogue said:
Danger, you might be interested to read the book https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/034544034X/qid=1118218125/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/103-9037794-7008653?v=glance&s=books&n=507846. The simple fact is that under certain conditions, the human brain/mind tends to experience things that very naturally lend themselves to interpretations of the supernatural or divine.
Thanks for the links. It will probably be quite some time before I will be able to read that book (the clowns around here won't leave me alone long enough to read my newspaper), but I'll keep an eye out for it. It'll have to be a library thing though; I'm not gonna buy it.

hypnagogue said:
But this sort of experience certainly lends itself to religious concepts readily; for instance, see here. And it is certainly not the case that a simple, core concept of God or spirits need be articulated to any great degree of detail like a theory of economics. Culture undoubtedly plays a massive role in shaping religion qua cultural phenomenon, but in the first instance, the seed for such things is planted by a naturally occurring kind of human experience.
This article doesn't say anything that I disagree with. In fact, although I half-read/half-skimmed, it would appear to support my position. It seems to specifically state that only in religious people does the experience indicate a god-like presence. I believe that in order to have become religious people in the first place, they had to have been introduced to the concept by someone else.

hypatia said:
As far as I know, no one has ever discovered to have developed there own God, with out leaving a trace, even if its scratched into a rock.
Exactly. Although it might have happened a few times, there's no reason to believe that is has.

zoobyshoe said:
From what I know of psychology it seems evident that it is much more likely to arise in an isolated person than in one subject to the "grounding" effects of having to deal with other people. Left to his own devices a person can fly off into any fantastic train of thought they are inspired to.
Your knowledge of psychology, however, is based upon modern (post-civilized) concepts. We've come so far from the era that I'm talking about that it could even have become a genetic-memory sort of thing by now. I very much doubt that, though. A hypothetical 'wolf-boy', given the same sort of tests as a businessman, would not likely show anything like the same results.
 
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But would a person who has no understanding{never having met another human} spiritual world, connect this with a God/Spirt? Or would he say, "wow that was really weird". He would still half to develope his own slightly complex language, to be able to reason with himself.

I agree Danger, for a person to put unexplained events in a God like state, they must have a previous understanding of what that state is.
 
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Danger

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I'm off to work now (in a hurry!) I can't wait to see what's here when I get back. Toodles.
 
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Danger said:
Your knowledge of psychology, however, is based upon modern (post-civilized) concepts.
I really have no idea what you are saying with this. Are you saying primitive psychology was so different that we can't apply modern concepts to it? If you have a concept of what primitive psychology was like its as much a modern concept as anyone elses and, by your own logic, just as invalid.
We've come so far from the era that I'm talking about that it could even have become a genetic-memory sort of thing by now.
Seems to me if you're going to propose it has become a genetic memory you're going to have to completely toss the idea it's not natural.
I very much doubt that, though.
Not much point in mentioning then.
A hypothetical 'wolf-boy', given the same sort of tests as a businessman, would not likely show anything like the same results.
Obviously. So....?
 
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hypatia said:
But would a person who has no understanding{never having met another human} spiritual world, connect this with a God/Spirt? Or would he say, "wow that was really weird".
I'm sure his first reaction would be that it was really weird. Goes without saying. The real question is, would it be "natural" for anyone to start supposing the "spirit" was some kind of "superior" being? If you've read any of the histories of religions it is clear that many of these "spirit" apparitions do come off as much more powerful and commanding than the person seeing them. That seems to be part of how our brains are wired. This happens all the time even today: people start hearing voices out of nowhere that tell them to do things. Psychiatrists call them "Command Hallucinations". There's a guy who lives in the same building as me who hears them. I asked him why he doesn't doubt they're real, since he knows that no one else can hear them. He said "Oh, I suppose if you ever heard them yourself you'd know they're real." The point being, that they are certainly completely convincing.

Now, if instead of hearing "command hallucinations" a person were to see a full blown visual halucination of an angel or spirit that was telling him what to do, I'd say we have all the makings of a religion right there.
He would still half to develope his own slightly complex language, to be able to reason with himself.
Yes, something. I suppose off the top of my head the very minimum requirement would be whatever the apparition might do to communicate that it wanted the person to adopt a certain behaviour or perform a certain act. Chimp mothers teach their kids to crack some nuts open by slowly doing it right in front of them. Maybe, that's a kind of minimum.
I agree Danger, for a person to put unexplained events in a God like state, they must have a previous understanding of what that state is.
Well, of course a homonid isn't going to jump to the concept of transubstantition right off the bat. The more complex the religious concept the more time it takes to develop, and the more people that need to give imput. But the lone wild human could easily start performing the basics of religion by him or herself. He might well spend his whole life as the only member of that religion, and that religion would die with him if he never meets anyone else to tell it too.
 

hypnagogue

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hypatia said:
If a isolated individual conceived of a God, yet told no one, this understanding would die with him. So there would be no way of knowing if this ever occurred, before the time of communication skills. As far as I know, no one has ever discovered to have developed there own God, with out leaving a trace, even if its scratched into a rock.
Hypnagogue's link{Why God won't go away} is a good read, based in sound facts.
There are several known religions that have risen, due to one persons experiences,Joseph Smith, Jr., Latter Day Saints, is a great example. If he was unable to convince others that he had found the golden plates, the Mormons would not exist today.
Not only did it take communication skills, it took the ability to organise, add concepts and rituals into daily life, and make others think it was cool to do.
I don't think we need to find evidence for a person who developed a personal religion and never shared it with others in order to support sufficiently the notion that religious concepts begin with natural, personal experiences. The example you cite, Joseph Smith Jr., along with any other number of others (Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, etc.) all suggest the same phenomenon, and I fail to see how the fact that they shared (preached) their newfound ideas with others suggests otherwise. These cases are not exemplified by a process of give-and-take; rather, they are examples of religious institutions that began with a profound individual experience, a 'revelation,' the concepts/insights/etc. of which were taught to a group of followers. The flow of influence seems to be almost unilaterally in the direction from prophet to disciple. Certainly this social process is necessary in order for an organized religion to form; certainly the founding individual must be charismatic in sharing his vision in order for it to 'catch on'; and certainly, the basic ideas coming from the 'revelation' go on to be molded and constructed to a significant degree by a process of social interaction. But we still have a case of fundamental concepts that arise in the mind of a single person as a result of a particular kind of experience.

Danger said:
This article doesn't say anything that I disagree with. In fact, although I half-read/half-skimmed, it would appear to support my position. It seems to specifically state that only in religious people does the experience indicate a god-like presence. I believe that in order to have become religious people in the first place, they had to have been introduced to the concept by someone else.
But where did the religious concept originate from, in the first instance? The major point to take from that article is not that peak experiences are likely to be interpreted in a religious fashion so much as it is that the cognitive/perceptual/emotional set of the experience already incorporates many of the core components of a typically religious or spiritual worldview, e.g. feeling/perceiving the 'divinity' or 'sacredness' of nature, feeling/perceiving time as in the aspect of eternity, feeling/perceiving ego transcendence (my 'self' now feels inordinately small compared to the fundamental 'otherness' of the world, or my 'self' now encompasses and is one with the entire world, etc.), feeling/perceiving that the world is fundamentally good and to be valued (even worshipped!), reconciling oneself with death, etc.

It is vitally important to recognize that in the peak experience, these things are not abstract concepts understood from a distance, but are rather immediately and viscerally 'felt in the bones,' so to speak. To a large extent, the core concepts that all the major world religions seem to share in common are already 'built into' in the raw data of the peak experience itself. It is not the case that these core concepts always entail or lead to a concept of God (for example, the personal revelation of the Buddha yielded an organized religion which is not based around a deity). But nonetheless, the concept of God is a rather small step to take, given the raw materials of the experience.

hypatia said:
But would a person who has no understanding{never having met another human} spiritual world, connect this with a God/Spirt? Or would he say, "wow that was really weird". He would still half to develope his own slightly complex language, to be able to reason with himself.
According to my argument above, I don't believe such a person would necessarily even need a complex language in order to form the reasoning processes that lead to a concept of and belief in a God or gods. To a very large extent, much of the conceptual work is already done for him by the experience itself, and he does not need to make any terribly sophisticated judgments in order to get from the direct experience as of divinity, unity, eternity, and perhaps even otherness/animistic spirits in nature, to a lasting belief in such things.
 
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hypnagogue said:
Despite being an ardent atheist, if you ingested the right chemicals or had the right portions of your brain artificially stimulated, you too could experience things that are downright 'God-like.'
I agree. I know many atheists, including myself, who have had highly emotionally experiences (both positive and negative) that practically forced (for lack of a better word) them to consider supernatural explanations. As time passed the emotions fade and reason takes control. It is no longer difficult to accept that people are spiritual/religious, but it is still hard to relate to those who don't strongly question their believes.
 
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kcballer21 said:
It is no longer difficult to accept that people are spiritual/religious, but it is still hard to relate to those who don't strongly question their believes.
Actually, not questioning your beliefs, assumptions, and preconceptions is more common than questioning them. It's the path of least resistance.
 
zoobyshoe said:
Actually, not questioning your beliefs, assumptions, and preconceptions is more common than questioning them. It's the path of least resistance.
I never claimed otherwise. The fact that people follow that path is what I can't understand.
 
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I don't think we need to find evidence for a person who developed a personal religion and never shared it with others in order to support sufficiently the notion that religious concepts begin with natural, personal experiences.
Well the topic of isolated people did come up, thats why I addressed it.

I agree that religious concepts begin with neurology-brain functions, and the ability to convince others that your vision is the only correct one. These people who have these experiences, already have a knowledge to some extent of Gods.

Joseph Smith Jr., along with any other number of others (Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, etc.) all suggest the same phenomenon, and I fail to see how the fact that they shared (preached) their newfound ideas with others suggests otherwise.
My post was only about people with no concept of God, and does not infer that this phenomenon doesn't occur.
 

hypnagogue

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hypatia said:
My post was only about people with no concept of God, and does not infer that this phenomenon doesn't occur.
Yes, but where does the concept of God originate in the first place? Very arguably, in the peak experience itself. Already having been introduced to religious ideas could certainly prime one to interpret a peak experience in an explicitly religious fashion, true. But it doesn't seem plausible to deny that one could actually create a conception of God (or at least the fundamental basis for it) just on the basis of the peak experience, even without having been introduced to the idea of God beforehand. In fact, for the reasons I've already mentioned, this seems very likely to actually be the case. (I take 'concept of God' to refer to a very general concept of a higher/divine/supernatural power or being, if that's a point of confusion.)

hypatia said:
These people who have these experiences, already have a knowledge to some extent of Gods.
Do you mean to say that pre-existing knowledge about God(s) is a precondition for having a peak experience at all? If so, I don't see any basis for such a claim. One does not need to have a pre-existing notion of God(s) to have a 'God-like' experience anymore than one needs to have pre-existing notions of romantic love or hatred or jealousy in order to experience those cognitive/emotional sets. Isolate a child from birth from all references to religious concepts, then give him the appropriate kind of chemical or brain stimulation in the proper kind of perceptual/emotional setting, and he'll nonetheless have a 'God-like' experience.
 
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My post was only about people with no concept of God, and does not infer that this phenomenon doesn't occur.
Already having been introduced to religious ideas could certainly prime one to interpret a peak experience in an explicitly religious fashion, true.
That was my point, sorry for any confusion.
 

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