Atheism and Sense of Community

Community

Throughout my blogosphere travels over the past few weeks, I have encountered a number of posts by newly professed Atheists who are lamenting the loss of community that religion once gave them.

I can understand this feeling, only partially. Actually, when I was a believer, I deplored church, but I believe myself to be something of a strange breed when it comes to certain kinds of gatherings, even apart from church. Nevertheless, a sense of community is, indeed, something to consider when establishing an outlook on life, especially as it is based on conclusions drawn from the inner-self. We humans are social creatures and we need each other to survive.

For my own experience in making the attempt to find community among the Atheist and Skeptical communities, what I found turned out to be a rather sordid affair. No one really greeted me; people were hogging conversations; a time limit on the gathering was not established and thus, I sat there for a while until I had to interrupt to find out if and when the meeting was going to end. The whole ordeal was rather unorganized and cumbersome, and I found myself not wanting to return.

However, when I look at the phenomenon from a scientific perspective, it’s easy to see how the Internet has been a driving factor in the acceptance and growth of Atheistic practices, wherever these may occur. And just how long has the Internet been among the human population? For myself, since 2006; but on a general level, I’m sure that thousands of years from now, the turn of the century will be marked as the advent of mass communication.

From this point, this would indicate that the correlation between Atheistic acceptance, the communities that follow in its wake, and the advent of the Internet has been in a seeming process from, say — let’s just mark it as the year 2000. The conclusion to be drawn from this speculation is that religious communal entities have about a 2,000 to 5,000 year lead in the practice in of community organization. I say give our sector a chance to grow.

Comunity

Again, I can understand how this generation must feel as the world of reality continues in its fruition. Loneliness. Loss. Isolation. Polarization. But I think that because the phenomenon is so new and attendant upon us, that it will be some time before a true comfort stream can emit from the organizational prospects that the Atheist and Skeptical communities will ultimately have to confront. We already have groups like the Sunday Assembly (though I will admit, this sort of thing might not be my cup of tea); and the many organizations that stem from groups like the British Humanist Association seem innumerable. The Sunday Assembly itself does appear to work for many people, and I think that as time moves forward, a couple hundred years of working out the kinks will have future communities providing a more approachable venue for those non-believers who want a place to be among friends.

Now, if I could figure out a way, I’d invite everyone who follows my blog to a party, because that would be an exquisite experience. I would love to meet all of my fellow bloggers in person, but for now I guess we’ll all have to live ours lives as we’ve made it thus far. This, knowing that future generations may find matters a bit easier in which to thrive.

 [Addendum] Here are a couple of videos about the advent of open Atheism.

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Considering Facts About Atheism; Viewing the Article in Retrospect

Facts 1

Diana Nyad says she’s an Atheist and Oprah remarks, “But you’re into awe.” Oprah seems to be speaking on behalf of those who think that Atheists are automatons who are incapable of experiencing what the religious community has obviously come to own as the human condition. Ms. Nyad can only defend herself by adopting pantheism, but not before Oprah corners her with the “moment of death” question. Here, Oprah exerts her power as a TV icon, and posits with vigor that Nyad’s moment of death will be an “oh-wow one for you.” Ms. Nyad quickly concedes that she will end up in Hell if such is the case. She then explains that she has nothing to say about the beliefs of others, which is fine…though I can’t help but sense a hint of accomodationism.

The conversation then moves into whether or not an Atheist can be spiritual, and Ms. Nyad thinks that they can. She expresses wonder about oceans, plants, and civilizations that have gone before us, and she sees “energy” in all of this. (This part is odd as we get a window into Oprah’s life as she admits to talking to trees, but I digress.) Nyad defines the soul as a “love of humanity,” and she believes this soul lives on, though the body dies. In fact, she sees souls in everyone.

I don’t know, but this is one of the stranger explanations of Atheism I have ever come across. My interpretation of the exchange rest in my understanding of Oprah’s position as a television powerhouse. I don’t think Ms. Nyad is cowering in her presence, but Atheism seems to require a sugarcoat to make the concept palatable for Oprah’s show. On a deeper lever, it seems this is what Atheism faces in the mainstream of American matters. Of course we have a plethora of videos smothering the net with videos of Atheists who blatantly state: there are no god or spirits (the notion of spirits being correlative to “spirituality”), and religion is BS, but to state such points on an Oprah show would be blasphemy.

I suppose in some ways, Nyad’s way is crafty. If an Atheist must walk on pins and needles to get people to at least glance at the prospect that Atheism is here to stay, then let the freedom ring. The idea that it needs a kind of sophistry to function seems rather epistemologically neurotic, but if that’s what it takes for truth to arise from the mucky coat of religion layered over the world, I’m glad it worked for her, and I’m glad it was done on Oprah’s show. Thank you, Oprah.

Here is the rest of Lipka’s October 2013 article:

Facts 2 Facts 3

 

Source:

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/23/5-facts-about-atheists/

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Noah (2014) DVD Release

I am generally late to the hubbub that surrounds many movies because I don’t see them until they come out on RedBox. That being said, when I saw Aronofsky’s Noah (2014) in the new release section, I picked it up because hey, it’s only a dollar. And I figured it would give me a chance to visualize another perspective on the Christian paradigm, a chance to witness Hollywood bolster and boost the claims, to bring forth the realism necessary to make people think, “Wow, maybe I should be a Christian.”

Noah 4

“My word,” I muttered to myself as a preview of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) starring Megan Fox appeared. The standards and expectations for what was to follow had clearly been set, inscrutable as they were.

Noah 1

I had planned on writing an in-depth review, as many have done both positive and negative, but was deterred from doing so.

Noah 2

Is this some kind of a joke? This movie doesn’t need another review, though I believe a round of applause is due to Aronofsky for magnifying the fiction that is the Bible. (And his style of filmmaking is to be appreciated, especially for the time-lapse scenes that were pretty slick to take in as a viewer.)

At any rate, some comparative details about the ark for you:

Noah 3

I guess the thing that unravels me is that people in modern day positions of power are allowed to govern based on their belief in biblical material.

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Concerning Great Literature, the Movies, and How the Bible Fits In

Isn’t it great when filmmakers put forth the effort to bring our favorite works of literature to the silver screen? I view this as an effort to breath life into the stories that intrigue us most. An author takes hold of an idea that invariably derives from their experience in the world, formulates a narrative, and when that author succeeds in their craft, the results are dumbfounding. People attract to the outcome like crazy. They see themselves in the work; they observe circumstances they can relate to; they become intrigued by behaviors and actions that are unexpected; and they use the experience to form judgments about the world around them.

The interesting thing about a filmmaker’s job is the duty they owe to the integrity of a text. Is it even possible to do so? Or are we perpetually having to deal with a filmmaker’s interpretation based on the era in which a film is made? And what does this tell us about a text?

BBC’s 1995 version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813) would have us think of the novel’s protagonist, the endearing Miss Elizabeth Bennet, as a tightly-knit young woman, not to be viewed as indecent or immoral. We gain this perception by the nature of the clothes she wears, and we connect this fashion to the seeming warmth and virtue she expresses in her facial features.

Lizzy 3

I don’t particularly recognize the filmmaking of 1990s as immersed in conservative principles, but this filmmaker’s interpretation seems surprising; the overall aspect of it seems more akin to something the 1960s would have produced. Ten years later, the Grand Millennial Age, and matters look different:

Lizzy 1

Elizabeth is endowed with the same facial warmth, but her dress looks a bit more liberal. It would appear that audiences in the year 2005 are more willing to accept a less cultured version of the famous heroine; or maybe the filmmakers are trying to tap into some sense of realism. Whatever the case, filmmakers have to do what they can with the text to produce something that audiences will be interested in viewing. What is particularly interesting about this process is that the filmmakers are trying to represent what Jane Austen is trying to represent in terms of her fiction. That is to say, her representations are open to interpretation because her ideas are documented in the form of written language.

A couple of other examples give us a lens into how an author’s words are translated into pictorial imagery.

In the 1956 movie of the same name, Herman Melville’s master work Moby Dick (1851) is brought to us in black and white, the great Gregory Peck endowing audiences with his skilled portrayal of a stern and determined Captain Ahab.

Captain Ahab

The incomparable Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel received similar treatment, in modern form, when Hollywood Pictures brought us The Scarlet Letter (1995). Harsh criticism of the movie reveals how difficult the task of producing a film from the descriptions of a literary text can be. This is Arthur Dimmesdale pondering his problem with hypocrisy:

Dimmesdale

Where does that leave us with a text like the Bible? The makers of Bruce Almighty (2003) would have us believe that the Bible’s primary character is an aged black man decked in a fancy white suit.

God 1

How’s that for channeling the interpretive framework? It’s actually a far cry from what people would have thought God should look like during earlier times, as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel conveys circa 1512.

God 2

Here God is sporting the classic full beard, so indicative of what is fashionable for a god, especially when we consider how the trend did not originate with the god of the Bible. Here is Zeus from Greco-Roman antiquity sporting much the same look.

Zeus

What is interesting about the bust of Zeus and Michelangelo’s fresco is that they follow in a line of artistic attempts to bring to life that which can only otherwise, be imagined according to what is written textually, or in the case of the Egyptians (Greeks and Romans too), both textual and oral. The images and hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt seem embedded within mankind’s most distant endeavor to produce a narrative in the form of pictures. In this scene Osiris, one of the earliest gods known to the planet, receives worship according to texts and stories dating to 2400 BC. Can you imagine how much of his character bears resemblance to his successors found among the modern religions of the world (beginning with the beard)?

Osiris

Having seen how the relationship between artist and textual production stretches into time immemorial, where does that leave us with the latest in filmmaking, biblical interpretation? Apprehend no longer as I present to you the whole of literature’s man among men, chief among chiefs…Here he is folks:

SoG 4

Isn’t he a gem? I’m not exactly one for being hip as to what constitutes a good looking male, but reviews of Son of God (2014) have led me to the humorous term “Hot God,” with pleas from the actor Diogo Morgado himself asking that audiences notice him for his acting skills and not the way he looks. What stuck out to me was how the J-man was introduced; the filmmakers felt the need to have him appear onscreen immediately following a close-up of this depiction of a biblical age fisherman:

SoG 3

Why the stark contrast? Of course, we don’t get to the introduction of the J-man, in all of his astonishing sexual appeal, without getting a zoom-in on his ancestral roots. Here we have Eve in all of her sensuous, sexually-charged Garden of Eden energy, poised to ruin the whole of man with her fruit eating habits:

SoG 1

The filmmaking urge to sexualize the Bible is actually quite fascinating, considering its intended moral effect. Additionally intriguing about this film is the presence of Mary Magdalene. No longer is she on the outskirts of the group, the men taking charge as they moralize the land — no. She is front and center, side by side with the main man as he moves about in his mission.

SoG 5

So not only are we seeing the need for sex appeal in the battle to win over modern audiences, but the attempt to heed the advent of feminism seems to be making an appearance as well, though to what end, this I cannot determine. Lastly, but not in the least, we have the filmmaker’s interpretation of a supernatural event, for what biblical movie would be right without one? Of all the dramatic instances of supernaturalism occurring throughout the Bible, I’d have to say that Moses parting the Red Sea is among the most widely known.

SoG 2

The point of view is highly personalized in that we can feel the water rise in vast walls as we are situated directly behind Moses himself as he works his miracle. Simply breathtaking, isn’t it?

The bottom line here is that in the dance between ideas and pictures, text and film, artist and artist interpreter, we understand the whole of the phenomenon to be grounded in what the mind can imagine — and what this imagination says about self and society.

What’s important to remember, with regard to the Atheism/Theism debate, is that just because the Bible fuses moral instruction with characters and events that may or may not have existed or occurred, this does not give it a free pass in the dictation of truth and justice as it applies to the human condition. The Bible is a work of literature that should be studied for its value as a cultural record, just like Pride and Prejudice or Moby Dick. Indeed, the material is great fodder for storytelling, which gives it additional value for filmmakers who want to entertain their audiences — as they rake in huge sums of money. And even such moral maxims such as “do unto others as you would to yourself” (a.k.a. The Golden Rule) should be examined for their worth. But to give credence to the unverifiable claims made in a literary text such as the Bible, is to corrode the nature of truth. The reason why an ancient text like this differs from, say, documentation of the life of Cicero, is because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The account of Cicero does not boast aspects of the supernatural. Because biblical accounts do, this renders the text a work of literature; a crafty one at that, in which its writers sought to capitalize on the skill of obscuring the truth — that is, mingling fact with fiction (or even better, mingling dogma with fiction) — so as to gain control over a body of people.

Since this is what we know about the Bible, that it is a unique body of literature, then it should be categorized as thus, and shelved along with its other literary counterparts which count themselves in among the great works of literature.

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Isn’t Congress Full of Religious People?

I happened to be tuned into the radio when a new statistic caught my attention.

Congress 1

I guess only 7% of the American population have faith in the legislative body that governs them, Congress. Amazing. When I googled the story, I had to read to get more clarity and found, “There’s also the fact that just 8% of Americans believe Congress is honest and ethical” (USA Today).

Congress

As a citizen of this country, of course I have my opinion on the matter, but as an Atheist, it took me about twenty-four hours to realize, isn’t Congress comprised almost entirely of religious people, Christians to be specific?

Congress 2

Source: Pew Forum

When I came to this stark realization I had to laugh, but there is an undercurrent here that is quite disturbing. With all the hoopla about how it is the religionists who are supposed to be endowing the world — chock full of its illiterate plebs and peasants — with their divinely inspired abilities to dictate and uphold the moral standard, how is it that no one finds them to be “honest and ethical” when they are doing their jobs?

As someone who’s been down the religious road, who understands that religious people can be weak and have their moments just like anyone else, I’m not really buying into this philosophy as means to judge them. Why? Because the statistic is a little drastic. It speaks of behavior that is questionable on a continuing and ongoing basis.

How does this look from my perspective? Have these religionites stumbled into the reputation that situates them down there in the gutter with those awful Atheists?

The rationale I adopt from all this leads me away from the aspect of human behavior and back to that question that ever plagues the never-ending debate between Atheists and religionists: Does the supernatural even exist? I see a syllogism here that I believe characterizes religious thinking:

a) Degenerate thug robs liquor store.

b) Degenerate thug has strayed from religious principles.

c) God exists.

The theory here is that a supernatural force is responsible for providing a moral framework that humans can access to be better people. Here’s the syllogism reworked:

a) Degenerate thug finds his religious principles.

b) Degenerate thug becomes a respectable person.

c) God exists.

But what happens when the terms of the deal are altered?

a) Degenerate thug robs liquor store.

b) Degenerate thug is an Atheist.

c) God exists.

In this fashion, the person is a criminal because he has no god; but notions of a supernaturally-charged moral framework become complicated when the syllogism is reworked:

a) Degenerate thug gets caught and does a prison sentence.

b) Degenerate thug changes his ways and becomes a respectable person.

c) God unnecessary.

The point of all this is to suggest that being a morally upstanding citizen does not constitute elemental criteria in the litmus test that determines whether or not the supernatural exists. Religionists are untrustworthy in office, but even if they were not, would that mean the supernatural is something we as humans must believe in order to be seen as respectable people?

What this boils down to is that in order for the Atheist to gain traction in their endeavor to fit in with the world, they have to go around saying, “I’m a good person: I donate, I help at the shelter, I’m perfectly happy, etc.” But this, to me, is not required. Atheists, like members of Congress, can be hypocritical and deceptive and untrustworthy, but no matter how the moral fabric is shaped within a person, it does not establish whether or not there is a god.

 

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