Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Thoughtage » Sun Jan 11, 2015 6:38 am

Apparently, a great many theists find the experience of worship to be quite meaningful, given that religious communities around the world have spent billions upon billions of dollars creating structures dedicated to this activity.

Worship is an experience we usually think of as being a function of theism. But can atheists and agnostics experience worship too? Can a deeply emotional state of worship be achieved without the god concept? Is it rational to embrace such an experience?

Can we explore this together?
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Carol » Sun Jan 11, 2015 8:28 am

As a Christian, I loved worship...and praise. The music, the words, the realization that God was present, pleased, and close to me was a very uplifting and emotional experience.

I suppose one could experience the same emotional state while observing nature, meditation on the universe, or simply reading a touching passage in a book.

However, I cannot compare the two. Because one (the worship of God) is based on fallacy, a false knowledge of being visited by a heavenly entity and a false closeness to that entity. It's all false except for the actual emotions that a person feels based on erroneous information.

But one might "feel" the same emotion while standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon or from the beauty of the mountains outside my window. But this would be a different kind of emotion based on a knowable structure, peace of meditation or basic appreciation. One might experience the same emotion of love for another person or child....still different.

Like I said, I cannot compare the two. To me, one seems false and the other is logical, humanistic, "normal."

One last comment: The reason people like the emotional high of worship is because they thrive on the fact that they are "special" to God and that he cares so much he visits them during worship and draws very near to them. It's a good feeling to know such a powerful "all-loving" God cares for you possibly more than the next person. Worship brings that idea.
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Thoughtage » Sun Jan 11, 2015 9:03 am

Hi Carol,

As a Christian, I loved worship...and praise. The music, the words, the realization that God was present, pleased, and close to me was a very uplifting and emotional experience.


Yes, a great many people in various religions have reported this positive experience.

While by definition religious belief is not available to atheists, it seems entirely rational to inquire in to whether such a very widely reported positive emotional experience, commonly called "worship", might be available by other means.

I suppose one could experience the same emotional state while observing nature, meditation on the universe, or simply reading a touching passage in a book.


Yes, agreed. And so we might ask, can non-theists pursue a worship experience by these methods?

More to the point, can they pursue that experience with the same relentless determination that often characterizes religiously inspired experience of worship?

Do atheists typically not have worship type experiences because those experiences are available only via religion, a deal breaker for the atheist?

Or....

Do atheists typically not have worship type experiences for the simple reason that they are not pursuing that experience? Or not pursuing it with the same seriousness that many religious people often do.

However, I cannot compare the two.


There may be similarities within the experience itself, while the methods one uses to reach that experience may vary widely from person to person.

Imagine you prefer wine, while I prefer pot. Two different methods, to get to a similar place, perhaps for similar reasons.

Imagine I truly dislike wine. So what? So long as I have pot it doesn't matter.

If I didn't have pot then my hypothetical distaste for wine might matter quite a bit.
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby romansh » Sun Jan 11, 2015 9:30 am

I am sure they can ... I worship my wife.

But at the ripe old of age seventeen I came to the conclusion that a god might require worship is a nonsense, at that point I started deviating from Christianity, not that I was particularly close in the first place.

I like this quote from the Heretic Mystic Catholic Meister Eckhart

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Thoughtage » Sun Jan 11, 2015 9:58 am

romansh wrote:I am sure they can ... I worship my wife.


You are a wise man, I bow to you!

But at the ripe old of age seventeen I came to the conclusion that a god might require worship is a nonsense, at that point I started deviating from Christianity, not that I was particularly close in the first place.


Ok, yes, it would be nonsense to try to achieve the worship experience via any belief which we are unable to accept.

Might it also be nonsense to then give up on that experience?

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.


I once heard a radio interview with a priest whose practice focused on thankfulness. His thing was to tape up thank you post-it notes everywhere he went, so he wouldn't forget.

Thank for for electric lights! Thank you for carpets! Thank you for pencils, and forks and spoons! Etc...

Being a priest, he was likely thanking God, which won't work for many. But the thanking part should work for anybody, eh?

Point here is that the priest was very dedicated to creating the worship experience for himself. Is there any reason those of us who don't believe can not do the same? Is the god business even relevant?
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby romansh » Sun Jan 11, 2015 10:35 am

Thoughtage wrote: Might it also be nonsense to then give up on that experience?

So how would (or do) you go about worshipping?
What
When
How
Why
Sort of thing

And completely off topic but sticky notes on things reminded me of this:
viewtopic.php?f=52&t=960&p=14087&hilit=Tenzen%2Fquestion1.htm#p14087
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Bill » Sun Jan 11, 2015 11:26 am

The why of worship is fairly easy to explain: at the end of four weeks of focused worship, it was observed that the amygdala (the deep rooted core for instigating fight, flee, feast, fornicate responses to stimuli) appeared to have become a center of loving benevolence and generosity. While loving benevolence and generosity might not be prime assets in survival strategies, they make a welcome alternative to Ak-47 terrorism.

The linking mechanism is thought to be the limbic system: in religion, the empathy felt towards a non-present entity that wants love and understanding to the norm can, given four or five weeks of concentration, be used to get at the prime motivator lying just below the cerebral cortex. Meditation has been known to achieve similar results.

For the atheist and agnostic, it looks to me as if some sort of lifting yourself-by-your-own-boot-straps mechanism might be needed to be brought into play. When we get the sense of awe vibes that theists tap into as personal "proof" of god - perhaps we need to enhance our own sense of goodwill to all that is natural. A sort of turning up our "golden rule" drive a notch or two.

But I think those who are not of a theistic nature should not try to conduct pretend worship on the off chance it might produce some beneficial side effect. Even if it works, the constant mild embarrassment at the methodology we used might have a longer downside than any temporary upside. For, unless you are deeply devout, the effect of achieving a high level worship response seems to last for days rather than life times. On the other hand, self nagging seems to last for life times rather than hours or days.
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Thoughtage » Sun Jan 11, 2015 4:41 pm

romansh wrote:So how would (or do) you go about worshipping?


Well, it would seem to begin with a person deciding they wish to have that kind of experience.

An obstacle here may be that the word "worship" is typically so closely associated with religion that those allergic to religion may assume that for them worship is undesirable or unavailable. Thus, for them, the question never comes up.

So perhaps before a decision could even be entertained, a person would have to have enough interest in the worship experience to think it through, and realize that worship and religion are not necessarily the same thing.

Such a person might as example be a former theist who misses the worship experience, but not the religious beliefs. It may be more difficult for someone who has never experienced worship, not sure.

Next might come the question of what the phrase "worship experience" means to a person.

In theism it perhaps means a joyful surrender to a power greater than oneself. If one believes in such a power then this is a rational act, surely more so than a tiny human arguing with a creator of all reality.

An opening door might be the realization that we all believe in a power great than ourselves. For some it might be called Jehovah, while for others it could be called nature.

Whatever ones calls it, the relationship is essentially the same. It is very big and powerful, and we are very small and weak. It is gloriously beautiful beyond comprehension, and also an utterly ruthless killer of the innocent.

Sure the religious might wish Jehovah was different, and the secular might wish nature was different, but nobody on any side has any power to implement change on something so huge.

So what is one to do?

We have the option and right to complain about what we don't like about Jehovah or nature, but what would that accomplish? It doesn't seem rational to create a negative experience out of something we can do nothing about.

Although I'm not personally inclined towards religious beliefs, I see a great wisdom in deciding to worship that which one is incurably immersed in and controlled by.

To finally address your question more directly, for me it's endless hours of hiking in the "church" of the north Florida woods. There's a great little state park just 4 miles up the road from us, so that's the closest "church" to our house.

I used to endlessly day dream about distant brand name exotic nature locations. When such travels proved impossible I was forced to realize it's not the place that matters, but our relationship with it. What I was looking for wasn't to be found in Oregon, Hawaii or British Columbia etc, but in between my own ears. A couple hundred acres of ordinary nothing special Florida scrub can do the job just fine, if one wants the job done.

The bottom line question would seem to be, does one want the worship experience? If yes, where there's a will there's usually a way.
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Thoughtage » Sun Jan 11, 2015 4:54 pm

While loving benevolence and generosity might not be prime assets in survival strategies, they make a welcome alternative to Ak-47 terrorism.


To quibble just a bit, it could be proposed that loving benevolence and generosity could turn out to be quite important survival strategies in a nuclear armed species.

The linking mechanism is thought to be the limbic system: in religion, the empathy felt towards a non-present entity that wants love and understanding to the norm can, given four or five weeks of concentration, be used to get at the prime motivator lying just below the cerebral cortex.


As agnostics, it seems we may be required to admit that the love felt towards the entity might be getting at the "Prime Motivator" lying just below the the cerebral cortex, you know, The Big Guy. The apparatus you describe could be the result of a random mechanical reality, or the mechanism some higher intelligence uses to communicate with human beings.

For the atheist and agnostic, it looks to me as if some sort of lifting yourself-by-your-own-boot-straps mechanism might be needed to be brought into play.


Yes, unlike theism, there is nobody available to force the experience of secular worship down our throats, so we're on our own. :-)

A way to begin the bootstrapping might be to examine and understand what is obstructing a joyful embrace of "what is", whatever one might consider that to be.

But I think those who are not of a theistic nature should not try to conduct pretend worship on the off chance it might produce some beneficial side effect. Even if it works, the constant mild embarrassment at the methodology we used might have a longer downside than any temporary upside.


Yes, it's helpful to mention roadblocks on the path. We could presume that the person whose concern about embarrassment out weighs their interest in worship isn't ready, or isn't so inclined by nature, and thus should wait, or forget it.

For, unless you are deeply devout, the effect of achieving a high level worship response seems to last for days rather than life times.


Should we turn down a great meal because it will be in the septic tank a few days hence? :-)
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Carol » Sun Jan 11, 2015 9:16 pm

In thinking once again about worship, I've come to the realization, for me anyway, I don't need it anymore. As a Christian I couldn't get enough because I so entertained the idea that it actually brought "God" into my presence and he was thoroughly blessed.

Now, I don't need anything even slightly related to those feelings or ideas. And, thank you Bill for once again bringing up our past discussed lessons on the brain and its envolvement in religious experience. I do fully embrace the results from the studies that have shown the major part the brain plays in much of what is often labeled supernatural.

I understand the relaxation that comes from meditation, the time alone with nature, quietness, etc. But if one has to "try" to reach a sublime experience, then to me, it becomes phony and self acquired which, by the way, I believe describes much of religious worship anyway.
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