Do You Believe in Something?

I favor separating my discussions regarding the existence of god or gods from those about religion or religious denominations and sects. This is partly why.

I would have thought that, are you an atheist? and do you believe in god? were two versions of the same question. Apparently not.

In America, when someone asks if I believe in god, what do they mean? When I answer, what am I claiming? Are the inquisitors asking the same question I think I’m answering?

According to PEW Research, it is not always as simple as yes you do, or no you don’t. As we know, and as PEW suggests, within specific religions or religious denominations, members may not agree even though they admit to a belief in the same god and claim to practice the same religious denomination.

PEW did two surveys, one here and one in Europe. In the American survey, (view article here) wherein they worked out some clarity, the researchers claim that while 80% said they do believe in god, one third of that “yes” group does not believe in the god of the Bible.

Only two-thirds of that “believing” group believe in the god of Abraham. That’s 56% when you apply the sample to the total, or slightly more than half of the USA population. That does not mean, however, that the other 44% does not believe in god.

While 19% of the respondents said they do not believe in “god,” almost half of those who said no (9%) correspond with about a third of the people who said that they do believe in god. In other words, overall, one third of Americans, whether they profess a belief in god or not, think there is a higher power or spiritual force of some kind, according to PEW. I find that interesting.

PEW thus claims that according to their survey only 10% of Americans believe there is no higher power, spiritual force, deity, or god. We can split hairs regarding definitions of belief, disbelief, doubting, skepticism, and all of that. What PEW is suggesting is that while many of us claim not to believe in god, about half of those do believe that there is “something.”

It’s different in Europe. There, this number of nonbelievers is multiplied by 2.5 (about 25%) since a much greater number claim no belief in the higher power/spiritual force.

I think these surveys are interesting and have some merit. They are more in the food for thought category than good answers because people lie all the time. The whole social survey construct must be viewed with some degree of skepticism. Culture and human nature play into the answers. In the United States we are more likely to say we do believe in god when we don’t. In Europe, the reverse is likely.

A Jew, Christian, or Muslim might see someone who dismisses the god of Abraham but suspects a higher power or spiritual force exists as Pagan or even atheist. On the other hand, an avowed atheist may see the same person as a believer, just not in the Biblical sense.

I know people who claim to be Wiccan or Pagan. I have had discussions with some who use the terms Universe or Nature in the sense of a higher power or spiritual force. That makes sense because when we say god, most believers assume we mean what they believe, the god of the Bible, for example.

So, if someone asks me if I believe in god, my answer is “no.”
But maybe it should be more like this…

Please explain your question.
What do you mean by god?
What do you mean by believe?
Why do you ask?

While my accurate and honest answer is, I do not believe in any god, higher power, or spiritual force, perhaps it’s not a question for which I have such a simple answer. If the water is muddy or cloudy for the likes of PEW Research, it is a communication quandary for me. It’s as complicated as we are, but that is why it’s so damn interesting.

Bill


Credit – Linked Pew Research article.

Essay: Why So Negative?

Reality

I forget what she was talking about, but when I brought up reality, she said I should not be so negative. In her thinking, reality was bad. It was negative, and anyone who talked about it was likewise. In her defense, her life with a non-supportive alcoholic who eventually drank himself to death was certainly a negative reality. We were not discussing any specific topic, but even the term was a turnoff for her.

When I think about what she said, which basically shut me up, I always get philosophical and default to the line from Hamlet: “Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison. Well, then it isn’t one to you, since nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it.” I can’t say the line applies in every case. But sometimes it is precisely what we think about some reality that defines it for us.

I agree that reality is relative. And what isn’t? The thin line between one’s perception of reality and imagined non-reality, such as dream-based events, is the conscious choice between what is and what isn’t. But does any of that mean the one is negative and the other not? Is either reality or non-reality truth? Imagination is real. If one hears voices, the voices are really heard in the brain even if the source of a voice is either unknown or assumed.

I also agree with my friend who saw my broaching of reality as negative or dark for her, even if not for me. Much of reality sucks. Her experience was not mine. We make the best of life if we can make anything. But some might say the reality is that we can move on and find another, conceivably better, life.

Time and reality are relative to the individual. While the reality of the passage of time should be the same for each of us, that is seldom the case. Memories of the same event differ between individual witnesses. Experiencing current events is the same. When I walk out of a building and it is raining, I’m usually delighted. Then I hear others complaining about the nasty weather. It’s the same reality: a rainy day.

My response is to ask, what is non-reality? Why do I insist that it is necessary and okay to deal with what is real? Either it is what it is, or it’s not. Depending on the individual, the same real (or even imagined) event may be seen as either good or bad. The truth should be reality, but black or white is too often gray. So then, even truth becomes relative and based on outlook and experience.

If we see reality as negative, does that mean we conversely see non-reality as positive? And what of truth? If truth is negative, is untruth then positive? Maybe some think so.


A to Z Challenge 2020 (M = Metaphysics)

I got through most of my life without knowing the meaning of metaphysics. I didn’t care. I saw it online and had to ask. Then I had to look it up. I still didn’t care very much, but I had a name for what other people seemed to hold in high regard, like a religion.

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy consisting of ontology (dealing with the nature of being), and cosmology (the science of the origin and development of the universe). It can be deep stuff and fun bar talk after a few rounds. But there is woo-woo. There is always woo-woo.

New Age and nonempirical ideas such as energy (like chi and prana), ideas like being balanced, harmonized, tuned, aligned, unblocked, and mellow. Okay, maybe not mellow. While I don’t believe in that stuff, I don’t sit with my back to the door either.

In one sense, metaphysics is often used with ideas of what is real, the nature of beings, and the theory of mind and mental phenomena such as ideas, perceptions, memory, consciousness, and so forth. That all seems reasonable to me.

But metaphysics also gets rolled into broad theories of reality. These would be like materialism and dualism, the nature of reality, why something and not nothing. I’m not even sure I can mentally grasp the concept of nothingness. Is there free will? Is there always cause? Has the Universe always existed? Are there spiritual beings and life after death?

This stuff is not scientific. I had my time battling it out in conversation with friends who saw things in a different way. I’m sure I enjoyed it at the time. I just didn’t know or care what it was called.

Some of it is nonsense. But some of a lot of interesting things is nonsense. Like the existence of god, most metaphysical stuff cannot be proven nor successfully refuted. But maybe that’s where the fun lives.

Bill

 

A to Z Challenge 2020 (L = Lucid Dreams/Dreaming)

This is when you are asleep, and your frontal brain lobe makes you aware that you are sleeping and dreaming. I’ve seldom had this experience, but it has happened, and I remembered it. Like dreams themselves, it’s interesting. Also, like dreams, you can spend thousands of US dollars on learning and doing more about it. But, even with personal experience, I must weigh in with a bit of not so fast. The whole dream business is packed with frauds, charlatans, and quacks, and the awareness aspect has been roped in at great profit.

If you need help with lucid dreaming (I cannot do it intentionally) you can purchase books, tapes/CDs or whatever the tech is today, scientific publications, and induction devices such as special lights and speakers. You can spend money and time going to seminars to help you tap into your unconscious mind and get continuing education or college credit (Psyc.).

Perhaps you will fly (in your dreams) with spirits and have an out-of-body experience you enjoy, and that makes you free (again, you’re dreaming) of the restraints of being human and gravity bound to Earth. Maybe you will even feel better. But I doubt it.

There is no special state achievable by paying a fee through which we can find transcendent consciousness any more than we can stop having nightmares because we don’t like them. But, as with so many things, you can pay the price and take your chances. You can also read a lot more about it, if you are so inclined.

I prefer to know when it happens and what the biological cause is. When I wake from my off-base dreams, many of which relate to my life 30 or 40 years in the past, I know immediately that I was dreaming and what facts were twisted in my dreams to create the imaginary scenario.

So, yes, it is a real thing. But I doubt that it is what many seem to think. From reality to woo-woo, and to $$ all the way to the bank once again.

Bill

A to Z Challenge 2020 (K= keraunoscopia or keraunophobia)

Keraunoscopia is a form of divination, which is fortune telling or foretelling the future. My sister once told me that she went to a fortune teller at a show of some kind and was thrown out for laughing. We share that, but I would more likely just mumble bull shit. The forms of this divination crap, which must include reading animal remains or deposits, go on and on. This one is by reading thunder and lightning. Very, very, frightening, right? Well, it is.

Keraunophobia a related funky word that seems to be a condition of every dog I have ever owned. It is an unreasonable fear of thunder and lightning. As many of you know, I am a pluviophile who finds comfort, peace, and pleasure in rainy days, and I will often venture out with the intention of getting very wet. However, I avoid such behavior in extreme cold. I also avoid thunder and lightning. When I lived in the states of California and Washington, thunderstorms were rare.

Here in Texas it is rare to have a nice soft rain without the threat of lightning and telltale thunder. But that is what all the woo-woo diviners look for so that they foresee the future. Like when the current lock-down (or shelter in place if one finds euphemisms comforting) will end. Well so can I. If you go out during a Texas thunderstorm and hold your golf club just right, you may be struck by lightning. I have no idea what to do about dogs freaking out when it thunders and lightning strikes are too close to home, but I don’t blame them.

Bill

A to Z Challenge 2020 (J=Justification)

Justification is a concept I don’t recall being in my metaphysical pandora’s box or my highest theological concept. I still don’t care, but I needed a word for J -day.

In the Jesus brand of theology, justification is god’s removing the guilt and penalty of sin (call it hell). If you spin your English just right, you get to go to a good place instead of the bad one. But you must have faith and believe. To Christians, this makes sense.

Since the Protestant Reformation, and probably before, justification was and area of significant disagreement. It is also an area of significant theological fault that, to this day, divides Roman Catholicism from the Lutheran and Reformed traditions of Protestantism.

Catholics, Methodists, and Orthodox distinguish between initial justification, which occurs at baptism, (ala infant baptism) and final salvation, accomplished after a lifetime of doing what you’re supposed to.

In Lutheranism and Calvinism, righteousness in the eyes of God is viewed as being credited to the sinner’s account through faith alone, without works, which maybe fodder for W-day.

My point here is that all these branches of Christianity, supposedly one religion, have fought over this woo-woo hair-splitting nonsense for reasons none of us probably care much about.

Atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindu, and Buddhists need not worry. There is no justification for any of this.

Bill

A to Z Challenge 2020 (I=Ignorance)

Ignorance is lack of knowledge, education, or awareness. When I hear or see the word ignorant, I seem to want to interpret that negatively, as a lack of intelligence, for example. But, it’s not. All people, intelligent or not, are ignorant of some things. Some very intelligent people are ignorant of fundamental cognitive biases hindering their own critical thinking.

I’ve heard the idiom; I don’t know what I don’t know. The fact remains that there is a great deal of knowledge of which I’m ignorant. I know what some of it is. I don’t know, for another example, if I go to a church on Sunday and sit with hundreds of other people for an hour or more if I will become infected with a virus that will end my life in less than a month or two. I do know what happened to the ignorant folks who went to choir practice several weeks back. What they did not know infected many and killed some. What I don’t know can kill or injure me or others.

Willful ignorance is not defined the same way. The adjective changes everything. When people today go to choir practice, or to church, or have gatherings in their homes thinking it is a safe thing to do; or when they rely on a medication they are taking as a preventative measure, unlike the choir members who were infected out of ignorance, the new group is being willfully ignorant. They have been provided the knowledge, education, and awareness needed to be safe and to not endanger others. They are choosing to ignore it. Are they so brain-washed by religion, a minister, or family member that they flaunt their beliefs in the face of death to themselves or others? I think so.

But, like so many atheists (agnostics also), I like to say I don’t know when I don’t. I say it often. It turns out there is much of which I am, and shall remain, ignorant. That does not seem to trouble most others. Yet, some folks demonstrate considerable irritation by my confession, and they suffer even more dissonance when they try to apply the phrase to themselves.

I know what I think. I think I like staying home.

Bill