A theist and a non-theist being friends - Is it possible, and how?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by wynn, Sep 24, 2012.

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I'm not a strong atheist, so I can't easily dismiss matters of "God."

    It's not clear how there can be theism without religion.

    Perhaps that is a specific of American culture.

    A strong atheist is someone who believes there is no God; and thus usually someone who believes that belief in God is merely tradition, superstition, myth.
    As such, as I already noted, it is easy enough for a strong atheist to dismiss a person's theism, not take it seriously, but consider it a mere personal quirk. Which makes it easier to forget about it, and focus on other things about the person (who otherwise identifies themselves as a theist), such as, say, their interest in football or whatever.

    I think it is reasonable to propose that some people who were undecided on the matter of "God," slid into strong atheism precisely because it made interactions with theists easier.

    I'm not a strong atheist, so I don't see it that way.

    I'll give you another example from Buddhism:
    People who devote themselves to the Buddhist path, organize their whole life, every minute of every hour, accordingly; the ideal is to do everything in such a way that it furthers one's progress on the path. As opposed to simply adding some Buddhist practices and rituals to one's daily activities, while otherwise going about one's day as everyone else, disconnected from the Buddhist path.

    Theists do similarly: they organize their lives so that they can think of God all the time; and not just at the time of daily prayers or on Sundays.

    I don't understand why you find this so hard to understand.


    No. But surely you agree that there is more to theism than a dictionary entry?

    Because the theist, unlike the atheist, builds his life around his understanding of God, and aims to align himself with God's desires.

    We probably do differ on what drives friendship.

    Each theistic religion seems to have a somewhat different understanding of God, and theism.

    I do think that if we go with the definition of God as being the Creator, Maintainer and Controller of the Universe and all living beings in it, the Source of all good qualities, the Summum Bonum, the Supreme Person, then it follows that belief in God is something to be considered 24/7.

    I try to go with the individual theistic religions and their understanding of things.
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  3. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Frog and toad, how can they be friends?

    ...Is this really a thread?
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Further down, you define "strong atheist" as a person who believes that the supernatural creature(s) known in English as "God" or "gods" do/does not exist. That's pretty much the dictionary definition of any atheist:
    I had to look up your terminology. I continue to see no difference between a strong atheist and any kind of atheist. The definition of "weak atheist" is ridiculous and as an editor I would not have allowed it in print on my watch: "a person who does not believe in the existence of any deities, but does not explicitly assert there to be none." That phrase is self-contradictory. To believe that certain things do not exist is 100% identical to believing that there are none of them. They toss in the words "explicitly" and "assert," as if that makes a difference. Yes it does: It makes it a piece of really crappy writing. Are they simply trying to define a "weak atheist" as someone who's too chickenshit to state his own beliefs? That's equally bad writing. If you have two terms, "strong X" and "weak X," those two terms are exact opposites, so their definitions must also be exact opposites. "A person who believes X" and "a person who believes X but won't say so" are not exact opposites. The one is a subset of the other!

    A religion is a set of beliefs "concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe." In practice, most modern religions consider the universe to be "a creation of a superhuman agency or agencies," but this was not always the case in ancient religions. Even today, a belief system that includes supernatural phenomena, but no God, is considered a religion. Some forms of Buddhism fall into this category, as does, arguably, the Dao.

    I think you'll find it even more widespread in Europe and the Antipodes. Christianity there is approaching the state that Judaism is rapidly reaching here. Even in America, it's been pointed out that the two most popular and common symbols of Christianity are Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. By that token, Mrs. Fraggle and I become Christians twice a year.

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    And according to Wikipedia a weak atheist is one who believes exactly the same thing but doesn't go around saying so, perhaps for fear of being persecuted, ostracized, or merely "unfriended."

    But a weak atheist restricts his interactions with theists to non-controversial topics since he doesn't want his position on the issue known. A strong atheist is more likely to speak his mind. As in my personal experience, this will not drive away all or even most of his potential theist friends, but it will drive away some of them. I would say that the interactions of the weak atheist are "easier."

    My wife is a Buddhist. There are many moments in her day when she finds Vipassana not to be germaine to her activities and decisions.

    Of course, like most American Buddhists, she does not consider Buddhism a religion. The Buddha would not be offended.

    As I said before, your depiction of theists appears to have been crafted without interviewing any of them. I've only ever met two people who satisfied your definition of "theist." And that was back during our adolescence, when people do all kinds of weird shit that they grow out of. The people you're speaking of are the tiny subset who become monks and nuns.

    Because (apparently) unlike you, my depiction of theists is based on knowing, observing, talking to, and socializing with them. You seem to have crafted yours after reading a couple of books. You treat theists like woolly mammoths: drawing tentative conclusions from secondary evidence, since there are no living ones to observe.

    Like what? That's a rather well-stated definition. Theism is belief in one or more gods, which created the universe and are or were its ruler(s). It says nothing about whether they are still alive and still interfering with the universe's natural operation. Not all gods in all religions are/were immortal.

    Again, you seem to have not interviewed any theists before creating this straw-man theist.

    Perhaps you and I form friendships based on different criteria. I look for honesty, mutual respect, intellectual companionship, a few shared interests, and fun. Differences in philosophy, including religion, usually end up being some of the fun--for two people who share an intellectual companionship.

    But all modern ones adhere to the basics: A supreme being who created and (still) rules over the universe.

    But that is not how they think about it. As an outsider, your own views are particularly irrelevant!

    Then all you'll do is steep yourself in their doctrines. You won't really understand how their members think. You'll end up with nothing more than an interesting abstraction suitable for arguing about on an internet board.

    This is like reading the U.S. Constitution and then proclaiming that you understand Americans.
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  7. Balerion Banned Banned

    I did, and my post stands.

    Please respond to my other posts to you. I took the time to write them, you could do me the courtesy of replying even though you may find them difficult. Being challenged isn't a reason to run away, Wynn. For once show that you're adult enough to have this conversation.
  8. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    I personally think it would best to re-orient the thread in such a way that the ideas can be discussed.

    Clearly, as shown from the responses here, it is not normal to attach a saint's life and thoughts to all theists. There can be no argument from wynn on that matter, so essentially that idea need not be argued over and over. Trying to assign a personal definition to the world is not a useful discussion technique, so Wynn's use of the word "theist" is not accepted by any of us, and i think we can all agree on that. There are theists and religious people who do not fit wynn's ideas, QED, end of story, so either
    a) wynn must change the idea of "theist", realizing that NOT ONLY theists would suggest doing so, coming from their supposed high horse and saying "do it because i have God on my side", but also non-theists who are simply saying, "your idea is wrong and unreasonable." (HEY, It is even possible for the theist to say Wynn is wrong from the perspective of asking to be "reasonable" without resorting to arguments necessitating a claim to be the vessel of divine truth.
    b) wynn must assign the title "false theist" (or perhaps something a little less negative sounding) to the incredibly vast majority of people who think they are theists but actually are not.

    Assuming wynn will not change the idea, we can proceed by either
    a) wynn assigning the title "false theist" to her maybe friend and finding out whether the friend is a more accepting and understanding person who could perhaps realize that wynn knows people can be decent and wonderful people while being confused about their idea that they are in fact "real theists" when they are actually "false theists".
    b) continue towards a possible understanding of the ideas presented by finding out whether a person who is not in the .0001 percent should (or can) even think they can be. In order to be one of the saints that is accorded the grand, and almost impossible to attain, title "real theist", there are two possibilities either a) this saint was once a normal person who at some point crossed the line between human and theist, or b) the person was "born to be" a theist and simply awoke at some point to find themselves no longer imperfect but rather, some other being that could be called the "real theist". Of course there is always c) which is to realize that religions generally don't teach release from this life, and that is reserved for some specific philosophies which teach the idea of an attainable nirvana, while remembering that even those that teach nirvana seem to have a pretty clear notion that the enlightened don't just go away, but rather that their actions can no longer be judged by anyone else. Which presumes of course that some of those actions will look like mistakes to the rest of us normal people.

    the first step i see in Wynn's movement anywhere is to be able to say "that isn't me" in order to see the limits of his/her understanding and sympathize with the limits of others. Someone ask's "does the dog have buddha nature?" The response is ,"No! WRONG! you aren't living that life so how can you think straight about the dog? You aren't your future or past either, so stop thinking from somewhere other than your true mind."

    P.S. clearly being a human is not something that fits into Wynn's ideas of theism or true religion, so i don't see the need to argue about such human ideas as stress, drama, or any sadness that is allowed to exist beyond the least absolutely required to deal with any particular situation. I am not a "God robot", impervious to all human failings and sufferings, so i guess wynn would just call me whatever is most suitable, or even tell me i have less of a grasp on the metaphysical importance of my ideas than i do, since they don't turn me into a super-advanced being. i am fine with that.
  9. Balerion Banned Banned

    She has yet to explain why her definition of "theist" is valid. Her best answer has been "It's the only way theism makes sense to me," but I think we can all agree that this isn't a satisfactory answer. I could easily say that 2+2=7 because that's the only way seven makes sense to me, but that wouldn't mean my definition of seven should be of any concern to anyone else.

    This thread seems an exercise in imposition. For it even to make sense, one has to suppose her personal definition of theism is valid, and since she hasn't made a case for such, it has to be a supposition made on faith. This is not conducive to productive conversation.
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    As an atheist, you probably haven't, and even if you did hear it, you mightn't have remembered it.

    You will need to show how these mundane analogies apply to theism.
    Although as an (strong) atheist, you probably have no scope to do so.

    That is called "dictionary theism" and is an invention of atheists.

    I go by what I've heard in different theistic religions.

    Not relying on others would effectively be solipsism.

    Reading the source materials still is a matter of listening to others.
    The source materials and commentaries to them didn't write and publish themselves, you know.

    What on earth makes you think I have "comfortably" taken this position? Does it look to you like I am being comfortable??!

    In many ways, depending on how the specific aspect of the theodicy problem is pointed out.

    Without knowing the truth about God, one cannot know how to go about relationships with others, especially with theists.
    If God is such that He is on the side of theists, this means that the theists are always right in a relationship, no matter what they do - and thus any kind of abuse by theists is divinely justified; and so it would be wrong to leave such a relationship.

    I don't hold them to this ideal.
    Like I said many times, I don't understand how theists can fall short of this ideal (which is, arguably, simply a norm), and nevertheless claim to be theists.

    "I love you. You should believe it and feel loved, even if I never talk to you, never communicate with you any way, directly or indirectly."

    Does that make sense to you?

    The one following from the usual definitions of God.

    It doesn't make sense to define "God" as the Creator, Maintainer and Controller of the Universe and all living beings in it, the source of all good qualities etc., but then do as if God would be nothing more than yet another item in one's drawer.

    And where are the theists who actually hold the definitions that you propose?

    I said:

    Surely acting in such a way that is pleasing to God will be the optimal way to relate to all other living beings.

    If you work out of an atheistic understanding of "God," yes, sure, then "your point stands."

    Perhaps I ought to learn something from your lack of good faith ...
  11. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    But in the end, it is still you who has to decide.

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  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I've never heard this definition of "weak atheist" before that you mention above.

    From what I've read, a "weak atheist" is someone who is willing to change his stance on God if appropriate evidence for God's existence is provided. While a strong atheist holds that there is no God, so no evidence of God's existence could ever be provided.

    Surely you are aware that there is more to Buddhism than Vipassana.

    The Buddha might not be offended for not considering Buddhism a religion, but that you think you can speak on his behalf ...

    You keep missing the point.
    Like I said:
    I don't understand how theists can fall short of this ideal (which is, arguably, simply a norm), and nevertheless claim to be theists, to "believe in God."

    What does it take for a person to claim "I believe in God," yet not hold this belief 24/7?

    I'm not sure whether this is just vain, or gutsy, or psychotic, or what. I certainly can't relate to it. Personally, I think that if I were to consider believing in God, I would only declare such belief if I were sure to hold it 24/7, otherwise not.

    But apparently you think that all GODS are to be put into the same category.
    That is typical atheist thinking.

    Sure. And there are many practical implications following from this, like the ones I've already listed.

    My views are relevant to me, because based on those views I will decide how to think, feel and act toward theists.

    That's like suggesting that theists say one thing, and mean another.
    Surely you realize how offensive it is to suggest such a thing.
  13. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I am sure there are things on which I have to decide.
    But I am not sure that everything is the topic of my decisions.

    For example, it's not mine to decide what the half-life of uranium is.
  14. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    "God robot."

    That you suggest such a concept could simply imply that you are working out of an inferior understanding of God and theism.
  15. Balerion Banned Banned

    Ad hom. Answer the question.

    So you don't know how analogies work?

    The point is simple: Your definition of theism is flawed because it presumes that in order to be a theist, one must be the ideal--or as cole put it before, a saint. That's what my "mundane" (as opposed to what?) analogy meant to convey.

    Also, there is doubt as to whether it's even possible to attain the level of devotion required to meet your definition.

    You need to explain what exactly you mean by this. You're a coward, so you won't, but you really should.

    Wrong. The term "theism" was first used--and with that definition--in the 1600s by Ralph Cudworth, a Christian philosopher.

    But hey, why educated yourself when it's so much easier to simply pretend you know what you're talking about? Right?

    What a joke.

    The irony here is that your attempt to make "theist" synonymous with "Christian/Jew/Muslim" actually is a rhetorical device employed by some atheists. You'd know this if you cared to learn anything about this stuff. But again, why bother? You'll just fake it instead.

    Can we have some examples? Can we have even one example? Something more than these alleged (and unnamed) "theistic" sources you're citing?

    I'm sorry, are we discussing what you'd like religion to be, or what it really is? I don't see how your comment is relevant.

    Don't be a pedant. We're talking about reading the canonical texts versus having a second-hand understanding of a religion. You, as someone who clearly hasn't read anything save for the writings of a guru or two (and a lot of Twilight, apparently), are basing your entire opinion of theism--not just of religion, but of theism itself--on, presumably, the words of one or two of your buddies.

    Yes, it very much does. Your position is firm, and you are dismissive of all opposition to it out of hand. (See your dismissal of the actual definition of "theism" as "an invention of atheists," which is a baseless, ignorant assertion that you've employed so as not to have to actually engage in a meaningful discussion where you might learn something) You're not conversing, you're preaching.

    While that may be true for you, it certainly isn't true for others. I, for example, have no problem whatsoever having a relationship with theists, and they with me. It isn't a problem anywhere outside of the real estate within your head.

    This makes no sense whatsoever. Which religion allows this?

    It's only "arguably" a norm if you can make the argument that it should be a norm. You haven't, so I have no reason to accept it as anything other than your own personal misunderstanding. I'm sorry you don't understand how theists who aren't inhumanly perfect still call themselves theists, but until you tell me why such perfection is a necessity to be considered a theist at all, I can't help you.

    No, but only because I can't figure what it has to do with the passage you quoted. Could you elaborate?

    Again, according to whom? If you want to argue that someone isn't being a good Christian, fine, but theism has nothing to do with any action other than belief. Belief is enough to be a theist. Perhaps being a Christian, per your or someone else's definition, requires attending mass and confession, but being a theist doesn't. Again, it comes down to you trying to write your own definition for a term which is already well-defined.

    ...I'm sorry, do you want me to round them up, or something? How exactly am I supposed to present them to you--aside from providing you the dictionary definition of the term, which originated from a 17th century Christian philosopher (not that you knew that, or cared to know, since it's easier to just chalk it up to a grand atheist conspiracy)?

    What is an "atheistic understanding" of God, particularly as it compares to a theistic one, exactly? You clearly insist there is a difference, so what is it?

    Should I list all of the threads you've bailed from? My "bad faith" stems from you history of elusive behavior. If you're turning over a new leaf, great, but I'm going to need to see it a bit more before I believe you're not just biding your time until you can duck out unnoticed.
  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    What? Because I used the term "sky fairy"? Is that all it takes to make somebody a strong atheist?

    What have I dismissed about theism, by the way? And what should I not have dismissed? And why?

    I'm not convinced that epistemology is a concept you can apply to a single person's understanding of something. Therefore, I think this particular tangent of yours is probably unlikely to be productive.

    Do you dispute that it is necessary for a human being to breathe to stay alive?


    What would I intend if I were a theist and I flushed the toilet? To praise the Lord? To live my life as a True and Good glorifier of Him in my toilet-flushing ways?


    What's your idea of theism? Please educate me.
  17. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    it is called prose, and it is a term i used to describe this ultra-theist, who can eat, drink, sleep, shower, and excrete God all day long, which you have probably been exposed to by stories of saints and by cult members.

    I once thought God was there to help me do everything right, but i learned that that wasn't how it worked for me. And i hated myself somewhat for that. And then i began to think, "what if this is actually supposed to make sense, and God evolved my brain for me to use?" And i found out that, if i didn't expect God to solve all my problems I wouldn't wait around for years and years, saying, "God, why are you not there?" because i was looking for a God that came down lifted my foot onto each step like a baby might need. And maybe I was actually supposed to learn something here on earth, and not just be catapulted to nirvana. So that's my path, i think if you could actually understand it, it wouldn't seem so weird to you.
  18. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    perhaps if you were to have a romantic "true love" affair with a person you would require that you always felt the same, and never had a day where you just wanted to be left alone instead of being engrossed in them day and night hardly able to think straight. I just don't think that is how it works, but i'm sure there is a .001 percentage of people who experience that.
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Fraggle, for someone who prides themself in their linguistic capacity, I am rather surprised that you think like this.
    There is a clear logical difference between strong and weak atheism... the difference is whether you believe or not, and if you believe then in what you believe.

    Do you believe? If yes then you either believe in God (theism) or in there being no God ("strong" atheism).
    The other alternative is that you simply do not believe ("weak" atheism).

    If I tell you that I am wearing either a red hat or a blue hat, and you can not see me... you can choose to believe that I am wearing a red hat, or that I am wearing a blue hat, or you can choose not to have a belief about the matter.
    In religious terms anyone who believes that I am wearing a red hat is a theist, and anyone else is an atheist.

    Your confusion is equating a lack of belief in X to a belief in not-X.
    They are logically different.

    As to your understanding of "weak atheist" being along the lines of "one who believes exactly the same thing (as a strong atheist) but doesn't go around saying so...", whether from wiki or not, is not common and not held by any "weak atheists" that I know - only by those that try to insist that there is actually no difference in their beliefs. But these people fail to see the difference between "not believing in the existence X" and "believing in the non-existence of X".
    I can also see no reference to such a definition in the Wiki pages on atheism, or on positive/negative atheism etc. Care to provide the source?

    If you were my editor and didn't understand the simple difference between weak and strong atheism then I'd be looking for a new editor.
  20. Balerion Banned Banned

    I actually agree with Fraggle on this. How is it possible to not believe in something without believing it doesn't exist? You have not articulated this yet, only said that it is so. Please, if the difference is so "logical" you should have no trouble doing so. That you haven't yet should tell you something.

    You say this, yet in this rather long post you've failed to even once explain how such a difference is possible. Considering this, I think Fraggle's hypothetical job is safe.
  21. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    OK - Extraterrestrials. Do I believe they exist? No. I have never seen any convincing evidence for them.
    Does it follow that I must therefore believe that they do not exist? No. The universe is a big place, there could very well be extraterrestrials.

    There you go, I do not believe they exist and I do not believe that they don't exist. I leave the question unanswered.

    I do indeed have thoughts, ideas and speculations about other life in the universe. But beliefs - nothng to base a belief on.
  22. Balerion Banned Banned

    Yes, it does follow that you must therefore believe they do not exist. If you do not believe they exist, you are by necessity believing they do not. There is no middle ground.

    No, you answered the question, then attempted to retroactively double-talk your way out of that answer. Like Sarkus, you've failed to actually articulate how such a difference exists, and chosen instead to simply state that it does.

    Now you're toying with the definition of "belief." For the sake of the argument, call it "think" or whatever other word that might not have the connotations you seem to think belief carries. You either think there are extraterrestrials or you don't. You can speak of probabilities in the context of factual statements, but if you don't think they exist, you must also think they do not.
  23. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    Yes, there is. It's the words, "I don't know."

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