A Statement of Belief, Principle & Perception

Sometimes Christian organizations will post a “statement of faith” on their websites that lists the basic beliefs and principles they adhere to.  This is my version of that little list, as an atheist/agnostic or whatever the heck it is that I identify as:

1. When it comes to the deities that are defined by the “big three” (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity), I’m fairly certain that those entities simply don’t exist.

2. The less detail one ascribes to their deity, spirit force, or what have you, the more difficult it becomes to prove or disprove the existence of such an entity.  As descriptive detail decreases, my perceptions of the phenomenon in question grow increasingly agnostic.

3. It’s a huge, mind blowingly complex universe.  It’s so freaking huge and complex, that most human beings can’t grasp how huge and complex it is.  I doubt that anyone can truly know how this whole mess works.  This includes both theists and atheists.

4. Number 3 leaves me with a sense of wonder and mystery that I rather enjoy.

5. Evangelists make me feel uncomfortable. This includes evangelists of both persuasions: theists and atheists.  I don’t like it when someone shoves a bible or a Watch Tower magazine in my face.  Similarly, I imagine that folks grow annoyed when I shove a copy of my favorite atheist tome in their face. Consequently, I tend to assign equal stature to evangelists and annoyingly assertive used car salesmen.

6. I abhor attitudes that foster intolerance, hatred, and discrimination.  I value promoting acceptance and tolerance between differing groups of people… including theists and atheists.

7. I try my best to value diversity of belief, as I value all forms of diversity.  It is NOT my objective to rid the world of religion.  If everyone came to hold the same set of beliefs, I would be saddened.

8. Religion and a belief in the supernatural do not bother me, so long as people do not harm others in the process of practicing their beliefs.  If belief becomes a basis for prejudice and harm, I feel compelled to challenge that prejudice and harm.

9. I apply the same standard to atheism. If non-belief in a deity or the supernatural becomes a basis for prejudice and harm, I feel compelled to challenge that prejudice and harm.

10. No matter how you cut it, human beings are not rational creatures.  We run on emotion, intuition, instinct, and perception.  Logic is a wonderful and useful tool, but our brains aren’t composed of microchips and solder.  Unless human beings replace their brains with motherboards, I suspect that belief in the supernatural is probably going to continue.

11. While I usually trust science when it comes to explaining how the universe works, I do not position science as my ideological god.  Scientific research usually requires money and the support of large institutions.  This inevitably brings the specter of power and politics into play.  Power, politics, and objectivity often make poor bedfellows.  Hence, science is not infallible.  Science may be one of the best resources we have in understanding that which surrounds us, but like all tools, it has it’s limitations.

12. When it comes to the subject matter of human beings, everyone has an agenda and everyone has prejudices of varying forms—conscious or otherwise.  Scientists are by no means exempt.  Consequently, I do not fully trust science when it comes to research surrounding human behavior and human psychology.  I am a cynic, and my cynicism doesn’t exempt science from its scrutiny.

13. Regardless of belief or non-belief in the supernatural, I believe that it’s paramount to make love and kindness central to one’s approach to the world.  There is already too much violence and hatred in this world.  There’s no need to add to it.

The weirdo in me loves the number 13, so I’ll stop here.

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~ by timberwraith on June 6, 2010.

18 Responses to “A Statement of Belief, Principle & Perception”

  1. agreed with point 13 especially.

  2. I hope that #13 is at least the one principle that theists, agnostics, atheists and whomever can reach agreement on. *crosses fingers*

  3. That makes you an enchanted naturalist !
    Nice description.

  4. Hi Sabio. Thanks for stopping by!

    “Enchanted naturalist.” Hmmmm. That has an interesting ring to it. I wonder if it’s related to “Atheistic Paganism” which was my top score for a quiz on nontheistic religions/philosophies.

    Thanks for the complement, too. I’ve been wanting to jot down a summary of my beliefs as an atheist/agnostic for a little while now. Someone (Andrew, I think) had a link to a series of posts you had on charting one’s belief systems. That finally inspired me to write the above post.

    I don’t think I fit into the agnostic/atheist binary all that well. I find that the labels are too restrictive and I also find that a lot of my accompanying beliefs differ from many atheists I know. That occasionally gets me into hot water with some atheists and was the reason for my off-the-cuff headdesk post. My feeling out of sorts over this lead directly to the 13 statement list.

    From reading your blog and Andrew’s blog, y’all don’t seem to be cut from the common atheist cloth, either. It’s nice to have you both around. I enjoy the unique perspectives you both bring to these issues.

  5. I guess the only point I’d continue to stress is that there is no atheist “cloth.” Atheism is a mere, slight, nearly meaningless term. What similarity can there be when the only thing you know about a person is that they do not believe in gods? (For that matter, look at the diversity of theists. What similarity can there be when the only thing you know about a person is that they believe — in some form or fashion — in some formulation(s) of deity(ies))?

    I do think that there are certain groups that happen to be atheist who seem to be more vocal than others, and so it’s a good thing to challenge the stereotype of what an atheist is and show that there really is a lot more diversity.

  6. Regarding thirteen, I wrote a post on it on my blog called Ghulf Genes a ways back — actually two posts. The one I have in mind is titlted Thirteen. The Categories listing on that site will guide you if you’re curious. It is My Number too!

    I like the Thirteen Theses you nailed here to the woodshed wall. Endless diversity, yes, and letting people find their own way is absolutely on — as is the flip side of that coin, thus let’s not try to badger, “save,” and pressure those who have divergent views.

    At the level of mutual love and respect there is real community; where these are absent I want to slip out the door as quietly as possible — touch lightly and be gone.

    • Andrew said:

      I do think that there are certain groups that happen to be atheist who seem to be more vocal than others, and so it’s a good thing to challenge the stereotype of what an atheist is and show that there really is a lot more diversity.

      This is mainly what I’m talking about. I see certain patterns of belief/ideology/practice evolving among atheists who are online that exist in contrast or even conflict with my approach. I try to remind myself that this is a biased sample because the most vocal members of a group of people can manifest behaviors and perspectives that are unrepresentative of the entire group, particularly the quieter members of the group. I very much agree with you that it’s a good thing to challenge the stereotype. Perhaps that notion was floating around in the back of my mind when I made this post.

      @Arsen Darnay:
      Yeah, I like to slip out the door in those situations, too. Occasionally, I’ll take someone to task before I slip out, though.

      Thanks for the recommended read at your place. I have to grab some sleep now, but I look forward to reading it tomorrow. I’ve enjoyed our brief chats about spirituality, btw. 🙂

  7. You know Arsen, I think I like the number 13 because it’s a prime number and because some people have freaky feelings about the number. I can’t explain why I like prime numbers. I just do, for some reason.

  8. I don’t really care for prime numbers. I like numbers divisible by four. So I like number six.

    Nice list. I appreciate seeing opinions spewed from an atheist standpoint that aren’t hateful.

    • Hi infinitesounds. Thanks for hanging out at my blog.

      You know, it’s funny. We often ask each other about our favorite colors, books and movies, but we never ask about numbers. Why is that?

      I try my best to talk to people in a caring and respectful way. I don’t always succeed, especially when I’m confronting someone on an issue of prejudice and I feel threatened, extremely angry, or worn down. I do try to not be an asshole, but like most human beings, I sometimes fail.

      I suspect that there’s a large body of mellow, live-and-let-live nonbelievers in the world but those folks tend to be pretty quiet. I also suspect that there’s a large body of mellow, live-and-let-live believers in the world but those folks also tend to be pretty quiet. There aren’t enough of those folks roaming the ‘net, TV talk-shows, and the halls of government. Consequently, here in Bloglandia (and other venues), we get to see the verbal equivalent of WWF wrestling. If you have a cynical sense of humor, you can grab a bowl of popcorn, and smile as people bludgeon each other with words. My sense of humor has left me of late.

  9. Nice. All the way around.

  10. Thank you, Rachel. 🙂

  11. We don’t worry about favorite numbers. Believing a certain number has power over others is silly. There are infinite numbers, infinite options, and infinite variables. Why pick just one?

    Tolerance is a lost idea in the Western world. We are convinced that we are so right that everybody else must be wrong and stupid.

    Oh, yeah, I took that quiz regarding what kind of atheist I am, and it’s wrong. lol

  12. This is wonderfully insightful! I especially appreciate 5 and 10-13. I actually probably agree with each of these in some ways, though I would question the first two. It isn’t really that I believe the phenomenon of god exists inherent in existence itself. Rather, I would posit that these gods do in fact exist in the narratives and cultural memories of these peoples and that the empiricist methodology has no place offering itself as a legitimizing support or critic of the religious narratives.

    • Thanks for checking out my blog, Brandon!

      I hear you. I come from a sociological angle. My perspective is somewhat driven by empiricism, but is ultimately concerned about people, their cultures, and their wellbeing. There’s a notion in sociology that goes something like this: regardless of whether a belief is based in physical realism, a belief will have real consequences because people will behave as though the belief describes reality. That notion reminds me a little bit of what you said.

      For me, that doesn’t mean that a culture and it’s beliefs should remain passively static. If certain aspects of a belief system are bringing strife, famine, or other negative consequences to a society, then members of that society probably will need to revamp their beliefs in order to survive. That doesn’t necessarily mean ditching the entire body of belief, but it certainly implies a need to modify the existing framework. It doesn’t seem realistic to scrap an entire framework of belief because societies generally do not shift that radically in a short period of time without bloodshed and extreme chaos. That doesn’t seem like a very humane way to bring about positive change.

  13. Cool list Timberwraith.And i agree with it all.But still fear number 5 will always cause us problems …Because it depends a whole lot on the big differences between everyones very different situations and very different personal experiences.Thats bound to happen in a world where equality often doesnt really exist so much

    Like some folk against racism will always also sound very evangelistic, specially maybe to folks who havent really experienced very much racism at all themselves .And folk against sexism can sound evangelistic,to somebody who knows nothing of any sexism.

    You know what im saying here.Where do we say we draw the line? ,how do we decide ? ..what is actually about this evangelism! and what is actually more about good reason ?.

    You maybe dont always want to shut good reason up , simply because its sounding very much like some evangelism ,either do you.If we did that maybe slavery will still also exist today.Or wifebashing , or even stonings etc

    • Hi Gandolf. I’ve been wrapped up in a family emergency for the past two weeks and consequently, I’ve been unable to respond.

      I think it’s deeply problematic to conflate religious/irreligious evangelism with advocating for others’ rights. The first deals with concepts that are not fully provable or disprovable. The second deals with concrete, everyday issues: harm brought to others via prejudice and bigotry. Put another way, we can argue back and forth over the existence of a god for the next decade but ultimately, that won’t prevent someone from being assaulted because their assailant took issue with the victim’s race, sexual orientation, gender expression, etc. As far as I’m concerned, belief in the supernatural doesn’t harm others. Belief that harming others is a legitimate course of action is the problem.

      More importantly, evangelizing for or against a religion or spiritual belief can easily turn into prejudice and hatred against others who hold different spiritual/religious beliefs. We atheists often point out that zealous religious believers have a habit of promoting hatred against nonbelievers and people with differing religious beliefs. What we are often loath to admit is that zealous nonbelievers have a habit of promoting hateful attitudes against believers. So, again, I think evangelism either for or against a religious belief is a dangerous road to walk down.

  14. I’m also aware that you have personally experienced quite a bit of abuse at the hands of religion. You have every right to challenge religious institutions on the abusive practices that you endured. I don’t view that as a form of evangelism. Speaking out against injustice and protecting oneself and others from harm is not the same as evangelizing for a particular spiritual belief/non-belief.

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