Blog /Not Faithful

January 15, 2009 18:14 +0100  |  Atheism Religion 16

Some time ago, something rather big happened in my life and I didn't blog about it. It's kind of odd really: one's blog is not necessarily an accurate record of his/her life, but rather a record of events which are both worthy of account and have passed the author's personal filters for "shareability". I'd never really thought this topic suited for a public sphere, but since a considerable percentage of my family and friends follow my life in part by reading this blog, it seems appropriate that I share this element on it.

A few months ago, I took off my silver pentagram necklace and put it in a box. I've not replaced it since.

To understand the significance of all this, you have to understand how I came to call myself a witch in the first place. I'd always had a personal understanding of how the Universe worked -- understanding in the sense that I make assumptions of how things "are" based on a mixture of what I observe in my life and a healthy dose of intuition.

I've come to believe that the Universe is conscious in a way we cannot yet understand, that it is alive, and that all elements within it are connected. I believe that these elements can be explored and even manipulated in a variety of ways including chemistry, physics and math, but that we must acknowledge that these are all simply understood representations of a field our ancestors would have considered to be "magick".

I've held these beliefs for as long as I can remember, and when I discovered what witchcraft was, I felt that I'd finally found the label for me. I was never comfortable practising with other pagans -- in fact, I was rarely comfortable practising at all. To me, my faith was always more of an understanding than anything else.

But that's just the problem really. Faith, as Dawkins puts it, is a "process of non-thinking". By definition, faith removes all possibility of contradictory thought, even in the face of quantifiable evidence. How then, could I claim to be both a rational person and one of faith? I couldn't, and so I cannot walk that path anymore.

It's important to stress though that calling myself an Atheist does not negate my belief that the Universe is conscious and that everything is connected, but I feel that it's important to stress that this is theory and not faith. I honestly feel that blind faith is too dangerous a mentality to be encouraged and will place my bet with my friend Galileo when he says:

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

Comments

Lara
15 Jan 2009, 6:32 p.m.  | 

This is, I think, roughly where I stand spiritually (although I do not call myself an atheist). I'm struggling with the concept at the moment though, big time, which has prompted me to start talking to others about their beliefs. Unfortunately so far each conversation has left me feeling incredibly empty and disconnected from everything and everybody. For instance, I'm not sure how to reconcile a friendship with someone once I've been made aware that although they like me as a person, they believe I will ultimately burn in Hell for all eternity. :(

Daniel
15 Jan 2009, 6:38 p.m.  | 

There's a couple ways to deal with that really:

  1. Humour them, laugh it off and decide never to speak of such things.
  2. Have a civil, adult conversation (difficult with some) that works out the understanding that you both think the other is a fool and that only one of you can be right. Leave it at that.
  3. Decide that you can't be friends with non-thinking people.

I've tried them all, and they all suck :-(

Melanie
15 Jan 2009, 6:55 p.m.  | 

you mention blind faith; is there such a thing as faith that isn't blind?

there's a lot that I could say, but it really wouldn't be that different from what you've already said.

Daniel
15 Jan 2009, 7:02 p.m.  | 

I don't think that you can have faith that isn't blind. Faith is, by definition "belief that is not based on proof" -- essentially blind to any facts which may contradict it.

Robin
15 Jan 2009, 7:17 p.m.  | 

I've always had a hard time with the word "atheist". I mean, if atheism means not believing in "god" in what's become the traditional sense of understanding he/she/it, than I suppose I am, but for reasons similar to what you outlined above, I can't bring myself to use the term. But then, I also have a problem with the term "faith" as well...

I swear I have a point to make in here somewhere... I'll have to get back to you. :)

Robin
15 Jan 2009, 7:32 p.m.  | 

Oo, I just remembered part of what I wanted to say. Based on your understanding of the universe, wouldn't "pantheist" be a more appropriate term?

Daniel
15 Jan 2009, 7:42 p.m.  | 

Not really no. As I understand the term, pantheist is probably a good description of my bliefs, but in my book, it's like any other faith: it doesn't leave room for the very real possibility that it could be completely wrong. Perhaps it would be a better label than "witch", but if I'm to think of myself as a rational person, faith can't be part of the equasion.

Karen
15 Jan 2009, 7:56 p.m.  | 

What if the possibility that you are totally wrong does exist, but you just decide not to care, because life is simply less enjoyable, less meaningful, less fulfilling, without that faith? (Does that make the person selfish then, even if the faith inspires acts of giving?)

Taavi
15 Jan 2009, 8:27 p.m.  | 

There is a difference between having faith (believing in something intuitively that is not based on proof) and having faith in something false (believing in something DESPITE proof to the contrary).

My mom gave me a copy of "Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)" for Christmas. It's a slightly depressing, but very realistic look at how humans perceive the world, and how they reduce cognitive dissonance in the "easiest" way possible. It's generally "easier" to ignore an inconvenient truth than it is to admit that one was wrong, and in the process wronged other people.

There's no proof that the Universe is not conscious, but you believe it without any proof. Then again, there's nothing to say it's not true. In a way, all scientific theory is taken on 'faith', since you can never 'prove' anything scientific; however, you can certainly DISprove things! It's what one does in the face of hard evidence that makes the difference.

Daniel
15 Jan 2009, 8:37 p.m.  | 

Well I'd counter that the assumption that faith is the only source of "acts of giving" is completely false. We know that we don't need religion to attribute morality and kindness to a person.

Also, the assumption that life without faith is less enjoyable, meaningful, or fulfilling completely ignores the brilliance and beauty in the Universe. There is so much about the world to embrace, explore and enjoy that I would take the position that not only do you not need faith to experience these things, but that it imposes such constraints on your experiences that it actually diminishes the quality. In other words, it's difficult for a Christian to understand the world through the eyes of a pagan or even a Jew, but if you abstract yourself from a narrow view, you can potentially see all facets of a situation.

Robin
15 Jan 2009, 9:29 p.m.  | 

Let me first say that I'm not anti-science in the least. But I think using science as the supreme measure of understanding the universe is a fallacy. So much of our human experience falls outside the scientifically quantifiable realm (eg. music, art, love), that using the scientific method as the only way to really "prove" anything is rather limiting. And as much as I dig Dawkins, I'm not sure why a scientist should neccesarily be crowned judge when it comes to matters of "faith".

I swear I'm still going somewhere with this...:)

Daniel
15 Jan 2009, 9:52 p.m.  | 

Robin I understand where you're coming from and I totally agree. I think what I meant was while numerous parts of the human experience are near-impossible to understand scientifically much of it doesn't need to be and we'd probably be better off not even trying. In other words, we don't have to understand the bio-chemistry involved in what we term "love" or "art", to enjoy them. However I think it would be wrong to assume that such things don't have a quantifiable explanation, whether we want to know it or not.

Roy
15 Jan 2009, 11:45 p.m.  | 

The coment trail unfolding is brilliant... 12+ posts....nothing like a bit of Christian/Panthiest talk to stir things up..Faith,giving,experience etc forever is what goes on between your left and right ear....It/whatever is so "unique" and personal .....imposing morality or your interpretation of your Faith is ...........well ( fill in blank)

I think we humans are just too full of ourselves....be nice, but don't be played....to hard...it is all over very quickly.

Lara
16 Jan 2009, 6:38 p.m.  | 

It's not even that they're non-thinking people .. they are often people who are otherwise rather logical and scientific. Just, if you get them talking about that ONE THING, they have this totally unwavering opinion that they not only are unable to explain but that they refuse to back down from. And they often like to clarify that they don't think any LESS of you for it or think they are a better person than you (which I really don't get at all .. how could they think they're going to heaven and I'm not, but still find me equal)?

Daniel
16 Jan 2009, 9:21 p.m.  | 

They don't actually think of you as an equal. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that they pity you. More than that, some of the really creepy people insist that they're doing you a favour by trying to "save" you from their imaginary damnation. I would submit that the reason so many atheists are so aggressive is that it's actually a direct result of this kind of offencive action by the evangelistic types.

Lara
17 Jan 2009, 12:49 a.m.  | 

Oh no, no, they haven't tried to "save" me. And actually, that's the other thing that gets me. I didn't even FIND OUT they thought I was going to Hell until I (stupidly) brought up the subject of religion with them, and it became clear through what they said. Now, not that I enjoy being preached to, but I actually find it MORE disturbing to know that someone who calls themselves my friend is positive I'm going to Hell but has not ONCE tried to save me from it. Like, seriously, if I thought someone was about to get run over by a truck, I'd tell them to look out. :P

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