Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Thoughtage » Mon Jan 12, 2015 1:37 am

As a thought experiment....

What if worship had nothing whatsoever to do with religion? What if none of us had ever been theists? What if religion had never been invented?

How might experiences such as worship, reverence, awe, mystery, elation, celebration, obedience to a higher power etc be considered if we were talking exclusively about our relationship with reality, and the subject of religion was completely irrelevant, entirely discarded?

It seems to me our relationship with worship need not be related to our feelings about religious belief in any way.

As example, surely atheists can worship their children with the same passion as theists, and the philosophical beliefs of each party has nothing to do with it.
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Karen » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:14 am

Thoughtage wrote:How might experiences such as worship, reverence, awe, mystery, elation, celebration, obedience to a higher power etc be considered if we were talking exclusively about our relationship with reality, and the subject of religion was completely irrelevant, entirely discarded?
It seems to me our relationship with worship need not be related to our feelings about religious belief in any way.
As example, surely atheists can worship their children with the same passion as theists, and the philosophical beliefs of each party has nothing to do with it.


I am having trouble with the word "worship" if it is used outside a religious context. Especially when you include "obedience to a higher power" in your first sentence.
Do you mean "putting someone on a pedestal" ?? http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english-thesaurus/put-someone-on-a-pedestal
I agree with you that parents can worship their children, to me that means the children are their 'reason for living'. Their (conditional) love turns to (unquestioning) worship.
As you say, beliefs have nothing to do with it. One of my friends is a devout Christian, another friend is atheist. Both have their children firmly planted on top of a pedestal ;)
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Thoughtage » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:32 am

Hi Karen,

Karen wrote:I am having trouble with the word "worship" if it is used outside a religious context.


Yes, I understand, that's probably a common reaction. And of course I agree that's the context which is most familiar for the word "worship".

But it seems reasonable to ask, why couldn't atheist/agnostics worship observable reality in the same way theists worship a god?

I'm not saying they should, only that they could, if they so chose. It seems the experience of worship would not conflict with atheism/agnosticism. Faith is not required for worship.

Especially when you include "obedience to a higher power" in your first sentence.


Is observable reality not a higher power? If the skies decide to rain, is there anything we can do about it? Would fighting it do any good?

Wouldn't it be more rational to accept the rain? Might it be even more rational to embrace, celebrate and worship the rain?

Not that the rain cares according to atheism of course. But we care what our mental experience is, don't we? Wouldn't worship be a more enjoyable mental experience than just acceptance, or a complaining rejection?

Do you mean "putting someone on a pedestal" ??


Not someone, something. Reality. Nature. Whatever one wishes to call all that is.

I agree with you that parents can worship their children, to me that means the children are their 'reason for living'. Their (conditional) love turns to (unquestioning) worship.
As you say, beliefs have nothing to do with it. One of my friends is a devout Christian, another friend is atheist. Both have their children firmly planted on top of a pedestal ;)


Yes, you get it.

If one can worship children, why not pines trees too? Why not the clouds, the wind, dirt, every creature that shares this place with us?

Who cares what the Christians or Hindus are doing? That's their business.

Shouldn't we care what we're doing? Shouldn't we care how rich and deep and joyful atheism/agnosticism can be?

And if someone should sincerely feel that theism is a problem to be solved, wouldn't having way more fun than theists be a pretty good way to move towards a solution?

Why argue with theists?? We should be partying harder than them, and having tons more fun. WAY more persuasive!
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Karen » Mon Jan 12, 2015 11:21 am

Thoughtage wrote:
Karen wrote:Especially when you include "obedience to a higher power" in your first sentence.


Is observable reality not a higher power? If the skies decide to rain, is there anything we can do about it? Would fighting it do any good?

Wouldn't it be more rational to accept the rain? Might it be even more rational to embrace, celebrate and worship the rain?

Not that the rain cares according to atheism of course. But we care what our mental experience is, don't we? Wouldn't worship be a more enjoyable mental experience than just acceptance, or a complaining rejection?


To me, observable reality is not a higher power, it means "it is what it is" and nothing more, nothing less.
I have no wish to "fight the rain", but I don't feel the need to "worship" the rain either.
I don't subscribe to "If you can't beat it, join it" - as a matter of fact, I recently moved quite a distance away from
an area where rain is almost constant, save for a few months, and I am enjoying life much better now :)
When it rains here, it is a nice change.
Steak everyday, no matter how delicious, makes one wish for a meatball
Perhaps if you worship something/someone, you don't get bored :?
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Carol » Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:06 pm

In my experience I have found worship to be a "state" of the mind that is responding to the idea that a "higher power" is listening and is responding in some fashion.

I'm with Karen, I've become such a realist, it would be difficult for me to get myself into such a state over natural occurring events such as rain. I might feel a sense of awe at our Northwest lightening storms but that's hardly worship.

The worship I gave to God as a Christian had a dual purpose although I didn't realize it at the time. It satisfied my longing to be near God and gave me the idea that I was being noticed and rewarded by him. I couldn't come up with that ideation with any inanimate object. What would be the point?

The closest I can come to what you are talking about is the awe that is felt with certain facts of science, such as when I watch Cosmos and realize how tiny we really are on this earth. Or like I said before, seeing the Grand Canyon or a fierce lightening storm. Again, that awe doesn't add up to worship.

I also have trouble with the word "worship" outside a religious context and once more....I don't need to be in that worshipful state again. The thought comes to me now that I guess I don't really worship anything. Better wording for me would be love, respect, awe, appreciation....those I can wrap my logical brain around. :)
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Thoughtage » Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:57 pm

Thanks for your comments guys. I hope it's understood I'm not a worship salesman :-) I just find the subject quite interesting.

It seems to me that theists have, very generally speaking, an affirmative plan for addressing the human condition, which includes various beliefs and experiences which it is hoped will enhance that condition.

The proof that they are in many cases succeeding would seem to be that they have attracted billions of followers over thousands of years, a rather impressive record.

It seems that we atheists/agnostics, again very generally speaking, content ourselves with critiquing theist beliefs. The primary focus seems to be on what we don't like about theism. Even the word "atheism" reflects this focus.

Sometimes I get the sense that theists are out on the playing field, while we are sitting in the stands questioning the plays called by the coaches. Theists are up front behind the wheel, while we play the role of back seat drivers. This seems particularly true in regards to the emotional experience of being human.

Perhaps the best thing that could happen to atheism/agnosticism is that we finally get over theism. Forget it, walk away, leave them in peace to conduct their own business.

If we did this, then we'd have no choice but to either come up with a compelling message and experience of our own to put on the table, or sit down and be quiet.

Which I will now try on for size.... :-)
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Inquisitor » Sat Jan 17, 2015 8:22 pm

"Perhaps the best thing that could happen to atheism/agnosticism is that we finally get over theism. Forget it, walk away, leave them in peace to conduct their own business"

This would be the best approach if the theists were not evangelical in practice. Because of the way they view "the great commission", the church is mandated to go out and convince people of the merits of their faith and the futility of life without their faith.

As for using the term "worship" in Agnostic / Atheist circles.....it has become far too entrenched in the religious culture and however amazed I may get with the wonders of this world, none of it is worthy of worship in the strictest sense of the word. Humanists have been known to give more credence to a "worship like" idea to the natural wonders, but I prefer to just feel warm and fuzzy at best.
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Ayn Marx » Sun Jan 18, 2015 3:23 am

Thoughtage wrote:It seems to me that theists have, very generally speaking, an affirmative plan for addressing the human condition, which includes various beliefs and experiences which it is hoped will enhance that condition.
The proof that they are in many cases succeeding would seem to be that they have attracted billions of followers over thousands of years, a rather impressive record.

I suggest you're putting the egg before the chicken. Evolutionary psychology is telling us so called religious states had a tribal survival value for pre-historic humanity.
Organised religion realized soon after power and wealth could be attained by directing these instincts to it's own ends and still does.

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=evo ... CBwQgQMwAA

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(Cited in Annie Hillard's, For The Time Being 2000 )
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby romansh » Sun Jan 18, 2015 8:58 am

Inquisitor wrote:"Perhaps the best thing that could happen to atheism/agnosticism is that we finally get over theism. Forget it, walk away, leave them in peace to conduct their own business"

I don't think this is going to happen.

But welcome any way ... Inquisitors are welcome.
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Re: Can Atheists And Agnostic Worship?

Postby Bill » Sun Jan 18, 2015 9:15 am

Thoughtage wrote:Perhaps the best thing that could happen to atheism/agnosticism is that we finally get over theism. Forget it, walk away, leave them in peace to conduct their own business.

Semantic quibble: it is not theism that causes so many problems for the rest of us, it is religion. Agnostic and atheist are in harness when it comes to trying to put an end to whatever problems religion causes, we are still in different camps when it comes to considering whether it is possible for some sort of theism to be the reality behind our universe.

Yahweh is beyond contempt, and Allah beyond belief. But that is a different class of problem than the one about theism in general.
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