The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
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18-05-2011, 02:12 PM
The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
Earth 18 may 2011 (Julian date system)

Dear religious human

Can I have 10 minutes of your time?

Let's face it... We are both stuck here on this planet. No matter what you are trying to say, or how you are trying to convince me of your deity, it is a plain fact that everything is said, I am not convinced and yet we will be forced to live together here.
Lately, I've been thinking on how we could make it easier on ourselves. To do so, the only thing I ask of you, is that you see "Religion" wider as "A believe in Gods". To me as a freethinker with layman's interest in theology, religion breaks up into 5 parts. Denomination, Dogma, Believes, Values, Rituals.
Let me first give some examples on what I understand under these terms.
  • Denomination: Your section on the theistic map. (Are you a "Sunni Muslim", "A Roman-catholic Christian", "A Baptist Christian",...)
  • Dogma: Indisputable truths that you consider "deity given". ("Yahweh is the one true God and Jesus was his son" or "Allah is the one true god and Mohamed is his prophet.")
  • Believes: Things that you accept as truth but that are disputable from denomination to denomination. ("The pope is the substitute for God on earth" or "If I accept Jesus as my lord and Saviour I am saved from sin")
  • Values: Things you see as good or that you see as evil (the drinking of alcohol, gays, Having faith, Honoring your parents)
  • Rituals: Things that you do to underscore the consistency of your religious group ("Holy mass", "Pilgrimage to Mekka")
If you accept this view on religion, we can have ourself a start. I can perfectly document my world-view and philosophies inside this kind of religious mould. If you can see my freethinking as a religion, perhaps we can come to a better understanding about each other and find "common ground".
One last remark: All the statements below are my personal statements. Although you might find other freethinkers who's statements are alike, they probably won't agree on all of them.

Denomination
I am an "Agnostic atheist and secular humanist"
Agnostic: (un-knowledgeable). I see the world as a place where you only have a very small amount of absolute knowledge. nl: only a small bubble around your person. All the rest are assumptions ranging from 99.99% sure to 0.01% sure. If this Is hard for you to accept please think about the following: Imagine that you are in an office and left your car far outside where you can't see it. Are you really sure It's still there and in the same shape as you left it that morning? Yes? It's not stolen? Towed away? Vandalized? You can safely assume it to a certain degree, but do you really KNOW this? This explains my "agnostic" position about the world we live in.
Atheist: I don't believe there is a God or deity. (note: I haven't said there IS no deity). There are several reasons why I've taken this position but the main reasons are: Lack of indisputable proof that there is such a being and/or the inability of such being to provide its creation with an indisputable way to worship it. I don't worship deities for the same reasons I don't regard to a hypothetical invisible infinite ham in my fridge as being "lunch".
Secular: Although "secularism" is merely the opposite of "religious" I took the liberty to define it slightly different: A strict separation between religion and state. Since religion is a private matter, it should be separated from the state and it's laws. You can't force religion by law for the same reason you can't force a favorite color by law.
Humanist: Whenever whatever you do, the well being of your fellow humans should be foremost on your mind. I choose human well-being above religious dogma's, human life, economic profits, scientific knowledge, nationalism, ...

Dogma
I subscribe two dogmas. Why? I need a starting point... I am willing to discuss other dogma's as well, and find them very interesting to examine, but I regard them as inferior without proof. Sorry.
  • The world around us is explainable using logical and rational arguments
  • The world as we perceive it, is real and the only world we interact with
Simply put... logic works... If your ear hurts, stop pushing the cotton-swab! The second is something I assumed due to lack of disproof.

Believes
This are some of the things that I accept...

Everything is relative to it's context
  • You are tall because I am small, You are bad because I am good, but you are not as bad as someone else. This Implies that every moral dilemma should be judged separately
You only have one life and you are living it NOW
  • One shot! Don't waste it!
The vast majority of people on this planet are not bad: They are good at best and indifferent at worst
  • I can't believe that we are ALL "bad to the bone". Even in cases of war there is mercy among enemies. There are however serious exceptions who draw a lot of attention.
The scientific method is of great value when you want to find objective results
  • I haven't found any better alternative yet. Due to the fact that this is an argument of ignorance I don't regard to it as a dogma.
The highest good you can achieve as a human is freedom
  • where freedom is defined as follows...
    I'm free when I am able to go, think, act and speak as I please.
    I understand that, in defining so, my freedom comes with a price: great responsibility!
    Not only am I responsible for the advantages of being free, I am also responsible for the things that go wrong in my life, the society and by extension, the world.
    I would consider myself really free if I could find a balance between my freedom, that of my fellow humans and the resources that are needed in obtaining and maintaining such freedom.
    • This freedom ends where that of my fellow human starts.
    Although emotions have their place in human life, they should not be used as a single means to decide upon
    • The challenge lies in the ability to distinguish between emotional and rational decisions
    What you do in in your bedroom, with how many and with what gender is none of my business, as long as it's between empowered individuals
    • I won't consider you as "more" or "less" about it
    • Just don't come pissing and moaning if it turned out not the way you hoped or if it complicated your life. You take your full responsibility yourself.
    • Mutual respect is the key
    The mystery of our existence is, although really interesting, not of much practical use in every day's life
    • Unless you want "universe" sprinkles on your doughnut... face it, we are living since long without knowing it and it has worked ever since.
    Focus on the future
    • The past is gone. I's only use is to learn from it. Accept that it's not going to come back even if you whine about it.
    • The actual present is elusively small and uncatchable.
    • The only way to make a real difference is in the future.
    You are not above nature, you are part of it.
    • Try and eat money, or breath "wealth" or "prestige" and tell me if that worked for you
    Both male and female are born with equal value
    • Although man and woman have a different perspective and reasoning on the world, both have an equal value. Combining those two values is more then the sum of the parts.
    You don't own children, you steward their lives.
    • Children are sacred
    • Children are meant to be as sorrow-free as practically possible. Take their sorrow serious however. Later you will find how rewarding that is. (note that a spoiled child is not the same as a sorrow-free child)
    • The older the infant gets, the less you need to intervene.
    • By your actions in your own life, you involuntarily steward over other children as well. Even if you yourself have none.
    There are more things that I believe in, but these are the first that pop into mind.

    Values
    My (incomplete) list of sins and virtue's

    Sins
    • Deliberately violating someone's psychological or physical integrity against his/hers will is considered a sin.
    • Deliberately violating someone's psychological or physical integrity against his/hers will without taking responsibility is considered a penal sin.
    • Deliberately violating a child's psychological or physical integrity without taking responsibility is considered high treason to humanity. (consider yourself lucky that the people in charge are even more compassionate then I am)
    • In general, not be willing to take responsibility for your actions is "the original sin" if you like to call it that way.
    • Thinking that you're more important then that you're in reality are is a sin
    • Neglect of your reasoning and that of the children you steward is a sin
    • ...

    Virtues
    • Taking respon... (you get the point by now)
    • Thinking before you act
    • Respecting others freedom
    • Having empathy
    • Having compassion
    • Being helpful
    • Having self criticism
    • Courage
    • Acceptance and respect about differences
    • ...

    Rituals
    Rituals are in place as symbolic deeds you do, to please your gods.
    Although not as elaborated as in most religions I do engage in rituals. Most of them are well known to you.
    • When I meet a stranger for the first time I make sure he can feel my hand is empty and I am unarmed. I to this by shaking hands.
    • When greeting a child, I crouch to get to the same eye hight as the infant. I do this to give the sacred individual more self confidence.
    • When embracing a loved one, I close my eyes. This is to say "I trust you blindly".
    • ...

    Did you ever think of these simple and really old gestures as being rituals of humans among humans? Well... maybe now you can for a second.

    Conclusion and request

    As you can see dear fellow human. If you open your mind for my perspective you will note that I might be just as religious as you are. Can this be a common ground to start from? You don't have to agree on everything I said, but some empathy can make a whole lot of difference. It can work "miracles" if you believe in such. I, from my part, would be happy to give it a try.

    Even if we both have a different approach, we might end up at the same destination.
    Having said all this, I'd like to invite you in an age-old ritual depicting peace and acceptance between humans...

    Care to drink something? Wine? Beer? Or rather a God approved soft drink? Or Mint-tea perhaps?

    To my friends at TTA...
    What do you think of this statement?
    Is it defensible?
    Is my reasoning flawed somewhere?
    Input would be greatly appreciated.

    Observer

    Agnostic atheist
    Secular humanist
    Emotional rationalist
    Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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    19-05-2011, 02:15 AM
     
    RE: The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
    Amazing! I have only discovered these forums within the last hour or so but if your post is anything to go off im sure I will enjoy perusing through them.

    If only religions could take the same empathetic approach as you!
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    19-05-2011, 11:33 AM
     
    RE: The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
    (18-05-2011 02:12 PM)The_observer Wrote:  You are not above nature, you are part of it.
    [list]
    [*]Try and eat money, or breath "wealth" or "prestige" and tell me if that worked for you

    Not going to lie, this part made me laugh pretty hard. I enjoy your humor
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    04-06-2011, 08:43 AM
    RE: The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
    I will borrow lots from this post, thank you!

    "Never underestimate how narrow-minded, petty and stupid people can be". Mark Fulton, forum member
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    04-06-2011, 12:35 PM
    RE: The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
    (04-06-2011 08:43 AM)Cubic Bubbles Wrote:  I will borrow lots from this post, thank you!
    Be my guest and spread the word.

    Observer

    Agnostic atheist
    Secular humanist
    Emotional rationalist
    Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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    05-06-2011, 01:37 PM
    RE: The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
    Well, OK for you, but I am not tied to any particular beliefs or "ism's", and I don't see any necessity to adopt any sort of position or worldview in order to point out that The Emperor Has No Clothes.
    I don't see a whole lot of point in appeasing folks whose creed includes eradicating us, either, but good luck with that anyway.
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    07-06-2011, 04:35 AM
    RE: The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
    (05-06-2011 01:37 PM)stuka Wrote:  I don't see a whole lot of point in appeasing folks whose creed includes eradicating us, either, but good luck with that anyway.
    I'm very realistic on that point Stuka. I'm figured that, if people are willing to go and search for "my personal religion" they where ready to accept it anyway. Others where not open to it from the start.
    There are more reasons then the obvious ones that I wrote this post.
    • It was an exercise for me to turn my atheism (a negative as it states NO-believe) into a positive statement. Why? Negatives don't work in your life. Imagine entering a bar, the barkeeper asking you what you would like to drink and you saying, "I don't want a beer". He will ask you "what WOULD you like then"? So you go, "well, I don't want a coffee either". Smile
      Life doesn't solely work on negatives.
    • It turned out that having a narrative is easier on the reader. The "letter" form was mostly some kind of by-product.
    • I got challenged by the statement "you have to believe something". I guess that made sense. No one ever said "you have to believe something supernatural" Smile
    • If it convinces even 1 theist to take atheism more serious it more then doubled the gain on my effort.
    I strongly encourages everyone to do the same, and get your believes strait. It brought serious ease to my mind.

    Observer

    Agnostic atheist
    Secular humanist
    Emotional rationalist
    Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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    07-06-2011, 12:03 PM
    RE: The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
    (07-06-2011 04:35 AM)The_observer Wrote:  
    (05-06-2011 01:37 PM)stuka Wrote:  I don't see a whole lot of point in appeasing folks whose creed includes eradicating us, either, but good luck with that anyway.
    I'm very realistic on that point Stuka. I'm figured that, if people are willing to go and search for "my personal religion" they where ready to accept it anyway.

    Understand. We are not without a creed, but comparing atheism in itself to a religion tends to be a straw-man tactic of theists more than anything else.

    Quote:Others where not open to it from the start.
    There are more reasons then the obvious ones that I wrote this post.

    [*] It was an exercise for me to turn my atheism (a negative as it states NO-believe) into a positive statement. Why? Negatives don't work in your life. Imagine entering a bar, the barkeeper asking you what you would like to drink and you saying, "I don't want a beer". He will ask you "what WOULD you like then"? So you go, "well, I don't want a coffee either". Smile
    Life doesn't solely work on negatives.

    But being atheist doesn't mean that one has no creed, no morals. But morals and ethics do not have to be tied to any particular beliefs, which is the biggest fundamental mistake that almost all religions make, and which is their ultimate downfall. And this is what I am pointing out. If I pin my ethical hat to a certain set of beliefs about the world and those beliefs are challenged, then my ethics is challenged along with it. Witness "crises of faith" and the 500-year uproar over the simple, innocuous fact of the planet being round and going round the sun. Why was that such a problem? Because religion hangs its ethics on beliefs and worldviews.


    Quote:[*]It turned out that having a narrative is easier on the reader. The "letter" form was mostly some kind of by-product.
    [*] I got challenged by the statement "you have to believe something". I guess that made sense. No one ever said "you have to believe something supernatural" Smile

    Well, really, the answer is that we don't have to believe something. We can certainly take a great many things on advisement, and we can have a pretty good idea that certain things have held true in every case that we or others have been presented with, but "you have to believe in somethings" coming from a theist is really just an invitation to latch onto a straw man so they can work you.


    Quote:[*]If it convinces even 1 theist to take atheism more serious it more then doubled the gain on my effort.

    I do appreciate your effort.


    Quote:I strongly encourages everyone to do the same, and get your believes strait. It brought serious ease to my mind.

    I would indeed encourage folks to have their ethics straight, in a "Golden Rule" sort of way, and to cultivate peace of mind, but defining and/or grasping onto a belief system just to have one or to have talking points looks like unnecessarily diving back into the sty with the theists from here. You do have some great points there, though, BTW.
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    07-06-2011, 03:00 PM
    RE: The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
    I think we're having a bit of a semantic discussion about believes here.

    Things I see as believes are not the same theists see as believes. Theists (A) believe in "Jesus as Saviour" or "the holy trinity" or so. I eg, (B) believe in things like "Humans not being bad but just ignorant"
    Statement A is a supernatural believe while statement B is an assumption. Calling that a "believe" is just a synonym for assumption. So in that context, I DO believe something. Now... if it makes it easier on you, feel free to replace the section "believes" in the OP with a section "creeds". That's not going to change the content.

    About atheism as a religion:
    Nowhere in this post is stated that my religion is Atheism. It is clearly stated that I am a freethinker with agnostic atheist and secular humanist as denomination. Now, should a theist try and attack a straw-man made out of this, I'm in a comfortable position to defend it since I have my facts straight.


    Thanks for the feedback.

    Observer

    Agnostic atheist
    Secular humanist
    Emotional rationalist
    Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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    09-06-2011, 12:08 PM (This post was last modified: 09-06-2011 12:52 PM by TrainWreck.)
    RE: The common ground - Open letter to religious folks and free-thinkers
    (18-05-2011 02:12 PM)The_observer Wrote:  One last remark: All the statements below are my personal statements. Although you might find other freethinkers who's statements are alike, they probably won't agree on all of them.
    And there in lies the problem that you do not understand - your ideas only go as far as your perception. You need to find people who agree with you, or at least tolerant enough, to live with your behavior. But don't expect them to accept your ideas as definite precepts to construct legislation - you will need to realize tolerance on your part to realize that their ideas are better precepts for regulating social issues in this fantasy utopia you are dreaming of.

    In other words, get ready, because there are people, such as me (much more free-thinking), who are much smarter than you, and have much better and simpler ways of building community - which is what you are trying to do with this manifesto rendering (social agreement, constitution).
    (18-05-2011 02:12 PM)The_observer Wrote:  You can't force religion by law for the same reason you can't force a favorite color by law.
    Yes, you can enforce religion by law - the people of a district have the right to enforce their morality through their representatives. People do not choose a religion based on the same personal criterion as they choose a favorite color - people choose a religion because they agree with the logic and morality that they share with other people. Just because some flipping Christian, who you determine is wrong on everything else, explains to you that religion is a personal matter doesn't mean that is what religion is - you need to think a little bit more critically and realize what constitutes a religion - it's a social philosophy system for organizing community. the description of the god is an allegory to the ideology that defines the social philosophy.

    Why do you want to believe what Christians tell you - why can't you think freely of the crap that Christians and atheists tell you?


    (07-06-2011 03:00 PM)The_observer Wrote:  About atheism as a religion:
    Nowhere in this post is stated that my religion is Atheism. It is clearly stated that I am a freethinker with agnostic atheist and secular humanist as denomination. Now, should a theist try and attack a straw-man made out of this, I'm in a comfortable position to defend it since I have my facts straight.
    Well then, what are the moral precepts by which you are going render legislation, and do you have a constituency willing to support you on your laws?

    Theists are not going to give a flying shit about your manifesto until you can impose it on society - how are you going to impose it if you do not have political representation?

    Humanism - ontological doctrine that posits that humans define reality
    Theism - ontological doctrine that posits a supernatural entity creates and defines reality
    Atheism - political doctrine opposed to theist doctrine in public policy
    I am right, and you are wrong - I hope you die peacefullyCool
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