God's role on 9-11
January 5, 2002 2:48 PM   Subscribe

God's role on 9-11 from the article "As the various interpreters of God's will appear and crash airliners into buildings, or on the contrary assert that God frowns on people crashing airlines into buildings, or that God will help our blessed nation in its quest for Osama, or that God will help Osama to escape, one might ask again an epochal question: huh?"
posted by onegoodmove (46 comments total)
sartwell nails it for me.
posted by quonsar at 3:01 PM on January 5, 2002

I wish more people agreed with the author of this article. I've always wondered why people believe so deeply in things that are completely insane.
posted by Doug at 3:14 PM on January 5, 2002

Thanks onegoodmove, I found that very refreshing. This part cracked me up:

"One of the most annoying arguments I've ever heard from believers is that actually, deep inside, everyone really does believe in God."

I've never heard this argument before but I think I'd laugh my ass off if anyone ever said it to my face.
posted by homunculus at 3:19 PM on January 5, 2002

That's that whole "There are no atheists in foxholes" argument. I hear it quite a bit.
posted by bradth27 at 3:40 PM on January 5, 2002

‘Truth is a pathless land’. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection. Jiddu Krishnamurti, undoubtedly one of the greatest philosophical minds of the 20th century.
posted by Mack Twain at 4:11 PM on January 5, 2002

Great article. Thanks for posting it. I only hope that a few people who believe absurdities will read it and get it.
posted by UrbanFigaro at 4:28 PM on January 5, 2002

This is the sort of question that has vexed me ever since I started reading The Victor aged about 6.Namely;how the hell can God be on our side and their side? I still haven't been able to resolve it so remain sceptical.
posted by Fat Buddha at 4:28 PM on January 5, 2002

Yup, most religious beliefs are crazy, but the point is they work. Besides, it's not so crazy to believe that God could have sent plagues or brought people back from the dead - I mean he's God, right? If you accept his existence, the rest of it all just sort of logically follows.
posted by RokkitNite at 4:49 PM on January 5, 2002

posted by RokkitNite
Yup, most religious beliefs are crazy, the rest of it all just sort of logically follows.

With just a little editing I agree.
posted by onegoodmove at 4:56 PM on January 5, 2002

By work, do you mean bring comfort, RokkitNite? Cause that's the only marginally good thing about religion, I think.

I know people say there are no atheists in fox holes, but the way I see it, there aren't many true believers in fox holes either. If people really believed in a happy afterlife, why are they so afraid to die? Clearly they have doubt. Which is good. If people have no doubt about their beliefs, they fly planes into buildings, and shoot abortion doctors.
posted by Doug at 5:07 PM on January 5, 2002

"And maybe, just maybe, a dose of skepticism would be helpful to a world where the clash of belief systems is a continual killing."

This itself is a religious sentiment.
posted by quercus at 5:12 PM on January 5, 2002

Ironic. A recently born again Christian began spewing her pablum in my face a day or two ago. My response, "I believe in God but I don't believe in religion. I don't believe in church, and I don't believe in you."

I believe in the possibility, but for all the millenia of people claiming to do any number of crazy things in the name of God, we've made very little progress. We're still cavemen throwing rocks at the moon. As hard as it is for people like Sartwell to believe there is a god, I can only believe there is one. Probability alone doesn't answer it enough for me. Was I formed from clay by a godlike hand or was I enchanted by some random electric impulse generating amino acids into the building blocks of life? I see both stories as equally, hopelessly fantastical.

But at the same time, God's not some grey-haired old goat sitting on a throne in the clouds. Personally I prefer to perceive Him as an old goat on a throne, but that's just cuz it's what works for me. I'm open to being proven wrong, the second someone can sneak a Polaroid camera into heaven (metaphorically speaking of course). God may not even have a conscience as any human being can imagine it. We simply don't know who or what He is, or even if He's a He. Or an It. Both Science and Theology's purpose is to comprehend the incomprehensable. They're going about the same job; they're just going about it in different ways.

Less than a thousand years ago we thought the Earth was the center of the universe. Only a few hundreds of years ago we still thought the Earth was flat. Less than a hundred years ago people were saying if God had meant for us to fly he'd a given us wings. Now we're crashing our man-made wings into our man-made buildings. It's the cynics and the sceptics who are supposed to keep the religious zealots from going over the top, just as its the job of theologians to remind the rest of us of our charity, our humanity and our mortality.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:20 PM on January 5, 2002

One of the most reasonable statements I've ever read about religion here on Metafilter, Doug. As regards religious beliefs, I usually try to stay away from arguments as I've never known anybody to change from believer to atheist (me) or vice versa after 18. When the Pope was about to visit Cuba a few years back, Castro was asked if he thought the Pope would try to change his beliefs. He responded that he wouldn't try to change the Pope's beliefs if the Pope didn't try to change his. Though I now live in a more tolerant country as regards religion (Spain, despite their pact with the Pope) than before (Ireland, more Catholic than the Vatican) I still react bad when I hear bullshit like the Pope pardoning Galileo instead of admitting his predecessor was wrong because the infallibility of the Pope is one of the basics of the church. One of the best Onion headlines ever was "God blames mysterious ways for killing 2000 by tidal wave in Timor". And now that we're on the eve of Epiphany (when the 3 wise men found Brian, I mean Jesus), what did Mary and Joseph do with the Gold? Actually the case of the three wise men is one of the few cases of biblical characters being de-europeanized in western art, following orders from the Holy See itself, converting them into representatives of the three religions that have Abraham in common (Christianity, Judaism and Islam).
Just saw your thread Zach. If I try to respond to it now I'll only find another one by the time I hit preview so I'll leave it for later. Great thread.
posted by Zootoon at 5:36 PM on January 5, 2002

Do I take it that you believe atheists are cynics (we're definitely not sceptics, that would be agnostics, wouldn't it?) and have no charity (though I'm a socialist and there's no place for charity, only justice (wow that sounds so t-shirty but I don't how to express it better)) humanity and mortality (we're the ones that truly believe in mortality). Maybe I'm misreading, sorry if that's the case.
As regards some random electric impulse generating amino acids into the building blocks of life read the last few paragraphs of The Origin of the Species (large Guttenberg txt file) . Darwin was a religious man himself and didn't base his faith on presenting things that science hadn't been able to explain yet. For me, the incomprehensible for the scientist is what has not been explained so far (as in the examples you gave, the list dwindles the more scientist work, not more theologians), while for the religious it's a reafirmation of the faith.
posted by Zootoon at 5:59 PM on January 5, 2002

Here is an interesting article on the biology of belief:

Why Bad Beliefs Don't Die

"Because beliefs are designed to enhance our ability to survive, they are biologically designed to be strongly resistant to change. To change beliefs, skeptics must address the brain's "survival" issues of meanings and implications in addition to discussing their data."
posted by homunculus at 6:15 PM on January 5, 2002

Well, I'm of the opinion that ANY form of religious belief can be abused. Since I DO believe in God (I guess that makes me a close minded fundamentalist), I guess my only argument is, you're screwed, no matter what you believe, because any religion or system of belief can be abused to the detriment of society (see French Revolution, for example, the disaster of the Enlightenment). And to say that athiesm is any better (or even more rational), is, in my opinion, fairly hard to support. (Look at the fruits of athiesm in Stalinist Russia, or Communist Cambodia, to name but a few athiestic regimes)

Why is theism unrational? The great mathematician (and athiest) Hoyle said that evolution is at least statistically impossible. Why then, is it any more irrational to believe in God, than to believe in complete, random chance?

I understand that most people do not change their beliefs after 18, and I'm no evangelist, but I take issue with the specious argument that a belief in God is inherently irrational (I would say it makes perfect sense, in light of the circumstances of our existence). How does athiesm seek to explain things like love, pain, kindness, and hate? I refuse to believe that we are merely a sum of our parts, with no more value than the chemicals that comprise us.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:34 PM on January 5, 2002


These are well-trod pathways, and I thoroughly doubt anyone on MeFi wants another atheist/believer debate. But unless your questions were purely rhetorical, I suppose someone should respond:

I have no coherent explanation to offer for the origins of life, the planets, the universe, human consciousness, etc. Anyone foolish enough to attempt to explain such questions as if they were solved deserves scorn. But interposing a wise being that does understand but keeps largely silent on the thorny issues accomplishes nothing. The implicit argument that's rarely stated is that if we don't understand the answers to the difficult questions -- well, then that proves God's existence. God takes care of our lack of understanding. As if God is a universal spackle we use to fill the gaps in our knowledge!

What about "things like love, pain, kindness, and hate" needs "explaining?" And what do you mean by "explaining?" I honestly don't understand the question. They're powerfully meaningful to us because they describe the emotional substance of our lives and bases of our decisions. They're important conceptual terms that provide us with a rough framework for the complexity of our thoughts and interactions. They mean a great deal to us because they're intrinsic to humanity, and we are humans. I doubt they mean anything to rocks. What more needs "explaining?"

I think the appeal of God is that he is very much as we saw our parents when we were very small and first became humans: He protects us from danger, he knows more than we do, he hands out judgements and (sadly, as many people know their fathers to be) he sometimes lapses into irrational rages or cruel silences. Certainly, as young children, our sense of meaning is almost entirely derived from what our parents provide for us. As young children, most of us would believe living outside their protective glow to be a worse fate than death, because it would take our meaning, our support away. So it is with many believers and God -- if we had to live without Him, were would meaning come from?

But -- come on. With all due respect, to spend our lives replaying childhood dramas and recreating childish sensations isn't just childish -- it prevents us from walking clear-eyed in this world as it is. I don't argue this because I think intellectually-right is more important that joyful-and-loving; quite the opposite. I think that opening our eyes fully and without fear can give us a greater capacity to see the human drama and our place in it. To believe that we're on our own can serve as a first step in saying: "Fine; then let's take responsibility for improving this world, now, and the one that's about to arrive." The meaning arises out of our interaction, our presence in each others' lives, out of the thundering, slightly chaotic music we all make together in mutual reliance. That's a better idea, I think, than meaning arising out of the purposefully inscrutable one-way messages our imaginary magical father figure sends us.

And can we really only have "value" if some being more powerful than us tells us we're "valuable?"
posted by argybarg at 8:52 PM on January 5, 2002

Point of order: Athiesm is not a belief system. Please do not treat it like one.

Thank you. Carry on.
posted by mrbula at 10:13 PM on January 5, 2002

I can't add anything to what argybarg said. I agree with him completely.

To address a different point you made, insomnyuk, I'd like to say that I'm an agnostic. Not in the sense that I'm unsure of whether or not there is a god, but I believe it is impossible for us to know if there is a god. Since we can't through reason detect a god, the question loses all significance. I also think anyone who believes anything absolutely is a little nutty.

If a person tells me he believes in a personal god because of some observations he's made of the world, I'd think that that person and I disagree on a philosophical issue. If a person tells me that he believes absolutely in a book he read, and that no evidence could ever be introduced to contradict his belief...I think he's wacky. I guess it's the difference people always try to make between spirituality, and RELIGION. One being pretty harmless and possibly helpful, and the other being horrible and sad.
posted by Doug at 10:17 PM on January 5, 2002


Atheism n 1: the doctrine or belief that there is no God
posted by skinjob at 10:18 PM on January 5, 2002

Atheism is a belief that their is NO God. If that is NOT atheism, please explain what it is? Someone said people of religion are afraid to die, and I personaly am not. The reason many religious people are afraid of death is because they are afraid of hell, and ending up there for eternity (Or in religions of reincarnation, not ending up in NIrvana. insert whatever word here for hell).
posted by jmd82 at 10:34 PM on January 5, 2002

Atheism is not a belief system as theists understand it. Most dictionary definitions have a theistic bias. (One even gives the definition, "2. Godlessness; immorality.")

Here's what I think most atheists would accept as a definition:

the doctrine of one without theistic beliefs; without belief in a god or gods.

Or, to be deritative: I have a lot in common with good, pious Christians, I just believe in one less god.
posted by UrbanFigaro at 10:51 PM on January 5, 2002

I think the emphasis in that statement should be on system rather than belief. There are so many reasons people are atheist that it can't be reduced to something parallel to a religion. You don't have to be a secular humanist or a scientific materialist, or subscribe to a certain system of ethics to be considerered atheistic. All you have to do is to not believe in god(s). Heck, it's even possible to believe in reincarnation and be an atheist. [It might even be said that one can have certain spiritual beliefs, such as a belief in karma, without having any belief in personalized beings in control of such a system.]

BTW, not ending up in Nirvana is not really comparable to going Hell. When you don't end up in Nirvana, you end up in life. It's sort of assumed that one will reincarnate, unless one has reached Englightened status, which traditionally takes a lot of cycles. Also, IIRC, don't some religions not have an afterlife? Or at least not have a Hell? I recall the ancient Greeks believed that you only went to "Heaven" or "Hell" if you were extraordinarily good/bad. If you were average, you wandered around in a field for eternity.
posted by Charmian at 10:56 PM on January 5, 2002

But Figaro - that same definition could apply to Agnostics as well. I do not believe in god(s) nor do i have theistic beliefs. Athiests believe there is no god, its not a "system" per se, hell i dont know if i'd even call it a doctrine...

I think its more that when asked the question "Does God exist?" Athiests would respond "No" - the reasoning behind that answer is why (i think) people would treat it as a belief system.

Its all semantics really, and I suppose it does nothing to argue about it - but it is kind of interesting ;)
posted by skinjob at 11:04 PM on January 5, 2002

What about "things like love, pain, kindness, and hate" needs "explaining?" And what do you mean by "explaining?"

argybarg: I guess my real question is... are human emotions merely a product of random evolutionary processes, and the word we attribute to them merely a matter of perception, or is there perhaps a design and purpose behind them? I have chosen to believe the latter, not the former. As for your argument that a belief in God is an attempt to explain the world in the way a child would, you seem to imply that people that hold to a thiestic view would not take responsibility for the world. Sometimes, this might seem true (terrorists, end-of-the-world types), but I can cite many examples, of which I have seen and participated in personally, where people who believe in God actively participate in trying to make the world a better place. I would say your average religious soup kitchen does more to make the world a better place than your average washington d.c. political lobby. (hope that's not too much of a non sequitr)

Doug: I often run into the agnostic point of view, and I actually think it's the most common perspective in our society. But I see some problems with that point of view.. isn't it self-defeating to admit that there may be a god(s), and then admit that you know nothing about said god(s)? What then, is your standard for reality, morality, etc? You have to just make one up, I guess, so in the end it's not really any different than athiesm, which brings me to my next, most contentious point:

Athiesm IS a religion. When you do not believe in any sort of higher power, you are still believing something. And from athiesm, like any other system of belief, a moral code (relative or objective, depending on your style), a political system, and everything else that stems from a traditional religion exists.

Sorry if this post seems a little incoherent, its late, p.s. thanks for not flaming me and taking part in the age old debate argybarg, et. al.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:08 PM on January 5, 2002

A-theism, like A-political or a-moral or whatever, just means without - theism. A-gnostic means without-knowledge. So agnostics don't know whether they're without-theism or not. Atheists see no reason to believe in god/s and so are no more doubtful or confused over whether to believe than the average person is over whether ... well - i'm sure everyone's been thru those arguments before.

But the point is, not being theistic is not a belief system in itself; various atheists will have different philosophical, political, & ethical systems. (Which is true of theists too, but many of them claim their version is the one the master of the universe wanted...)

nice post, argybarg.
posted by mdn at 11:22 PM on January 5, 2002


I cannot speak for all agnostics, but basically I came from a hardcore christian background, and when i got out from under that reign and was able to live as a free thinking human, christianity seemed... well lets just say it wasnt for me. So i went off in search of something i did believe in... and i studied a number of other religions, philosophies, etc.

to make a long story short, i honestly cannot say whether there is a god or not. My standard for reality and morality comes naturally - from a more humanistic stance i suppose. for instance - i have always believed in the golden rule. i can understand and experience the world around me, and why morality must exist. I dont understand the logic that morality must be backed by a diety in order for it to be feasible. I enjoy good people, i want to make the world that i live in a better place, and i like it when positive energy flows between humans - its a harmony that seems natural.

its understandable that humans want to know where they came from, where they are going when they die, if there is a soul, a god, etc. for me, i just dont understand how one could possibly come to any sort of conclusions about that at all, especially on the "god" or "no god" side of things.

For me, i dont bother with it much at this point in my life. i feel that whatever the answers are, thus the answers will be regardless of what i convince myself of, and i am fine with that. and that is all it means, you shouldnt infer anything else about me based on that statement ;)

damn it is gettin late isnt it
posted by skinjob at 11:24 PM on January 5, 2002

Nice post miranda, very concise and to the point, and well ... I liked the link.
posted by onegoodmove at 12:26 AM on January 6, 2002

Every month requires one new prosyletizing voice around here. Just like college campus, there is always one there to "challenge" your "soul" in the union.

insomnyuk: your arrogance that nobody's ever heard your line of reasoning (testimony) here at metafilter, let alone, simply through living life on Earth, is tedious. That for some reason you're special only because you have this great personal conversion story, is to sell your self short (at least among your mefi readers). Think outside of the bun holmes. Do you not think we've all had the misfortune to encounter an ecstatic Purveyor of the Finest in Religious Quality before?

EX:Sorry if this post seems a little incoherent, its late, p.s. thanks for not flaming me and taking part in the age old debate argybarg, et. al.

FYI: Atheism IS NOT a religion nor does it share any similarities therein, other than that it's premise deals directly with it. Why is that so? Because I say so! Just like, you'll find, that Jesus died for you merely because you believe it, and you say so. There's no difference. We're both wrong!
posted by crasspastor at 1:25 AM on January 6, 2002

insomnyuk, atheism is a religion only if the belief that Gnomes don't control the earth is a belief system. Most people do not believe that Goblins exist, and yet you wouldn't think to consider that a religion.

I'd write more, but it's super late. I got caught up watching Miracle Mile. Hadn't seen that movie in years.
posted by Doug at 1:50 AM on January 6, 2002

We see the theism vs atheism debate all the time... How about religion versus spirituality[MeFi consensus seems to be: spirituality/faith is good, religion is bad]? Monotheism versus polytheism? Why can't we see interreligion debates instead? Which is, by the way, one answer to Pascal's wager (believe in God anyway. If he exists, cool. If he doesn't, you still win. ) The problem is, you have to choose a god to believe in. If you choose the wrong one, you still may be eternally damned, because a lot of gods are touchy that way. That's another problem with the perpetual debate: proving the existence of deities through intelligent design or something of that sort asserts nothing that but deities exist. It doesn't tell you much about which deity of the hundreds of thousands exists. (Plus it is very much harder to "prove" that say, Zeus exists while Odin doesn't.)
posted by Charmian at 4:12 AM on January 6, 2002

god has nothing to do with anything.
posted by Satapher at 7:13 AM on January 6, 2002

Crasspastor: it is arrogant of you to assume that I'm some doe-eyed idealist because I'm willing to attempt defend what I believe. Aside from your interesting points, your ad hominem attacks do little to support.

Every month requires one new prosyletizing voice around here. Just like college campus, there is always one there to "challenge" your "soul" in the union.

What, exactly is your point? Because I disagree with the consensus viewpoint around here, I am somehow prosyletizing? So basically, if anyone expresses a belief other than athiesm or agnosticism (in the context of a thread which talks about religion, I don't go inserting "god talk" all over the place), you would simply write them off because they are "arrogant"? You are the one who is arrogant, because after re-reading your post, you didn't actually say anything, other than that I shouldn't even talk about religion, because you might have heard it before. Boo hoo, tell that to the person who posted the link, and when I want to defend what I believe, within reason, I will.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:08 AM on January 6, 2002

How does athiesm seek to explain things like love, pain, kindness, and hate? I refuse to believe that we are merely a sum of our parts, with no more value than the chemicals that comprise us.

That is about like asking how does theism seek to explain things like love, pain, kindness, and hate? The answers to those questions will vary quite a bit depending upon if you are talking to the pope, Jerry Falwell, the Dalai Lama, or Rumi.
But then again, theism proposes that we are merely the sum of our parts, it just adds a new part to the equation that cannot be measured. In contrast, many of us nonbelievers take it for granted that an object is not merely the sum of its parts, but an multifaceted entity of its own. An ice cube is not merely a collection of water molecules, but a complete crystal of water molecules bound together to create a structure that exist nowhere else in nature.

Athiesm IS a religion. When you do not believe in any sort of higher power, you are still believing something. And from athiesm, like any other system of belief, a moral code (relative or objective, depending on your style), a political system, and everything else that stems from a traditional religion exists.

But what I think you're not getting is there is no single monolithic ATHEISM just as there is no one single THEISM. Certainly my moral code as a dyed in the wool pragmatist would differ from that of a Ayn Rand objectivist.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:07 AM on January 6, 2002

Thank you for helping to clarify that, mdn. Good link, too.
posted by mrbula at 10:22 AM on January 6, 2002

How about religion versus spirituality[MeFi consensus seems to be: spirituality/faith is good, religion is bad]?

Well, if that's true then that's fairly sad. I've thought for a while that one of the most popular, and hence most irritating, bullshit statements of this era is "I'm not really religious -- but I am spiritual," or words to that effect. It's one of those non-statements that gives the speaker a little pleasant aura without any obligation to meaning anything worthwhile (another example: "In order to grow, you must change").

I have a great deal more respect for people who do observe a systematic set of religious beliefs -- and act them out in their lives -- than I do for people who just want to decorate their psyche with all the nice, easy-to-swallow bits of Buddhism, genericized Christianity and tarot cards, then call themselves "spiritual."

And insomnyuk: I didn't mean to say that religious belief is childish. Well, not exactly. I think many psychologists would agree that the basic patterns that turn up in our interactions with the world are heavily ordered by our early life experiences. In that sense, much of adult behavior is childish -- it resembles the experience of the child. There is an age in our lives (about the first 7 years) when we become human beings, very rapidly -- nothing that remarkable ever happens to us again. Any sensations, especially emotional ones, of that experience carry profound emotional importance. That is why I would suggest belief in God the Father presents itself rarely as just a belief but as a profound belief, one that feels so close to the core of our being (wherever that is). So, "childish" in that sense only.
posted by argybarg at 11:25 AM on January 6, 2002

I refuse to believe that we are merely a sum of our parts, with no more value than the chemicals that comprise us.

The fact that you refuse to believe this proposition has no bearing at all on whether it might be true. I find it sad that people prefer preemptive denial to truth-seeking.
posted by kindall at 12:16 PM on January 6, 2002

argybarg, I'm a bit confused by what you're saying. Let's use reincarnation for this example, because a lot of people seem to believe in reincarnation.

You respect a person who believes in reincarnation less than a full blown buddhist, who believes in reincarnation, but also may believe in god's and demons and any number of other strange things simply because someone else told him it was true?

Another example: a person feels that the idea of a god jibes with the way they see the world, and the experiences they've had, but this person is WORSE than a person who believes the bible literally, including the idea that eating certain foods is actually evil, and that animals talk, and all that?

At least a person who considers themselves "spiritual" (and what COULD you consider yourself, if you believed in reincarnation only? Certainly not religious...and yet, reincarnation is a spiritual concept...) has come to that conclussion independantly, and isn't basing their major life philosophy on a second hand rumor.
posted by Doug at 12:33 PM on January 6, 2002

Well, I shouldn't have been so absolute. I also should clarify -- I wouldn't say it's atheism or an extant religion, with no option in between. Plenty of people have practiced deep yet idiosyncratic religions. Doesn't have to be official.

I say "religious" to imply some sort of practice, usually ritual-based, that also includes patterns and models of behavior used to govern daily life. In this sense it's different than belief.

I guess I'm a bit put off people who feel that "spirituality" is an easy way of claiming the comforting parts of religion without having to making any real committments in practice. If you have come to believe that our actions in this world intersect with the strictures of some extra "spiritual" consideration, then you should change your life and not just what you say about it. If, on the other hand, you have "spiritual" beliefs that have nothing to do with our lives, who cares?

If you really believe, though, that the spirit world influences our own in any non-trivial way, then it makes more sense to carry out that belief in daily practice than it does to just shoot your mouth off about it to your massage therapist.

Of course I'm employing a fairly narrow cliché. Of course I'd rather spend time with a Tarot-card dabbler than a raving fundamentalist of any stripe. But then I don't think any of us owes the spirit world a god-damned thing anyway, since it doesn't exist. I just prefer people who are willing to work through the implications of their ideas, as opposed to simply "having" ideas.
posted by argybarg at 1:43 PM on January 6, 2002

On spirituality and religion: Yeah, I'm also amazed by the religious eclecticism going on, after meeting people who claim to be Catholic/Wiccan online (I have no idea how that is done). It is rather interesting to see people cobbling together "religions" out of disparate parts, even if many of them end up in incoherence.
posted by Charmian at 2:35 PM on January 6, 2002

Charmian: that kind of thing is being put into practice, with interfaith worship services occuring, where people of many different religions participate together in the same worship service. It seems that they are just trying to be spiritual, rather than religious, since many religions claim exclusivity (Christianity, Judaism, Islam).
posted by insomnyuk at 9:52 PM on January 6, 2002

Religion involves a structured belief. While atheism requires faith, and is part of the belief system that supports it, atheism is not a religion. It is a faith-based philosophy.

Theism requires faith, and is part of the belief system that supports it, but theism is not a religion. It is a faith-based philosophy.

Religion is a subset of either that involves the institutionalized belief structures which engender devotion to the faiths and belief systems associated.

While someone could build an atheistic religion, it's a bit pointless....
posted by dwivian at 7:06 AM on January 7, 2002

I wouldn't say it's atheism or an extant religion, with no option in between.

Incidentally, one can be both atheist and agnostic: atheism is a lack of belief in god, and agnosticism is a belief that the existence of god is unknown or unknowable. Therefore I generally classify myself as atheist, agnostic and apatheist. I like to be really sure about what I don't believe in.

"Spiritual" does seem a bit vague. Why not just say you're an optimist?
posted by walrus at 9:00 AM on January 8, 2002

Let me tell you something about Christianity. I don't remember if it's been stated here on Metafilter before, but it's very important to my beliefs, and it goes something like this:

Free will.

That's right. God made me with the ability to think, feel, and breathe all on my own. He gave me my own mind and (thankfully) the ability to use it.

He gave me the ability to believe or not believe in him, the ability to eat meat and the ability to fly airplanes into buildings if that's what I desire.

Some would say that the Lord works in mysterious ways, and he does. But that doesn't take away from the fact that the people who did this and the atheists and people who believe in reincarnation do not believe in him or don't believe in him the way that I believe in him. They don't follow the same beliefs that I do. Those are the choices that they have made, and Christianity tells me to respect that, but not to follow it.
posted by schlaager at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2002

Those are the choices that they have made [...] respect that, but not [...] follow it.

Speaking personally, I would say exactly the same about someones religious beliefs. Saves all the hoohah.
posted by walrus at 10:15 AM on January 8, 2002

While atheism requires faith

you have a strange definition of "faith".
posted by mdn at 6:56 PM on January 11, 2002

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