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#253069 - 31/03/2005 19:24 Here I go again
bonzi
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/09/1999
Posts: 2401
Loc: Croatia
(Warning: people having enough of my discussing religion-related subjects might want to skip this thread, but I would rather if they wouldn't )

AlterNet recently run an article on organized religion in the USA titled The End of Reason. The piece, predictably, stirred quite a discussion (on average of rather disappointing qualitiy).

Let me ask one question raised in the article:
How would you define the difference between faith and superstition?
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Dragi "Bonzi" Raos Q#5196 MkII #080000376, 18GB green MkIIa #040103247, 60GB blue

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#253070 - 31/03/2005 19:39 Re: Here I go again [Re: bonzi]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31181
Loc: Seattle, WA
Quote:
How would you define the difference between faith and superstition?

Interesting question.

I quickly checked the dictionary definitions, the most applicable sub-definitions in this kind of discussion would be:

Faith
- Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
- The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.

Supersition
- An irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.
- A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance.

You weren't asking for the dictionary definitions, but I find it interesting that the two dictionary definitions share a few similar points.

To an atheist, religious faith looks identical to superstition. Belief in magic is the same, whether the magic is perpertrated by deities from a Bible or by pagan forces.

To a theist, superstition means a belief in magics other than those found in their religion, and would therefore be considered specifically sacreligious. There's a clear difference.
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Tony Fabris

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#253071 - 31/03/2005 19:41 Re: Here I go again [Re: bonzi]
pgrzelak
carpal tunnel

Registered: 15/08/2000
Posts: 4859
Loc: New Jersey, USA
Before this gets ugly, I will say my two cents worth and then run for cover.

Much of it is point of view. Faith is if you are the believer, superstition is if you are not.

I would add that there seem to be connotations that faith is usually thought of as a more positive, complex / interrelated / singular system of beliefs, while superstition has more negative connotations, being more associated with individual events / actions / rituals that do not appear to be interrelated to each other.

Again, this is all perspective and point of view. You may not personally have faith, but still recognize something as faith if you share a common context. If you do not share a common understanding, any singular event seems a random instance, perhaps nonsensical out of context, and is often perceived as a superstition.
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Paul Grzelak
200GB with 48MB RAM, Illuminated Buttons and Digital Outputs

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#253072 - 31/03/2005 19:53 Re: Here I go again [Re: pgrzelak]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31181
Loc: Seattle, WA
The Christians and the Pagans
by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said 'we're up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having solstice, now we need a place to stay.'
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes, all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, 'it's Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,'
She said, 'Christmas is like solstice, and we miss you and it's been a while.'

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on Earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, 'is it true that you're a witch?'
His mom jumped up and said, 'the pies are burning,' and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, 'it's true, your cousin's not a Christian,'
'but we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere,'

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from? I think magic's in the learning,
Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans, only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, 'really, no, don't bother.'
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year,
He thought he'd call him up and say, 'its Christmas and your daughter's here.'
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve, saying,
'can I be a Pagan?' Dad said, 'we'll discuss it when they leave.'

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#253073 - 31/03/2005 19:58 Re: Here I go again [Re: pgrzelak]
bonzi
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/09/1999
Posts: 2401
Loc: Croatia
Quote:
Before this gets ugly, I will say my two cents worth and then run for cover.

Aw come on, this is not the first time we discuss similar questions politely (hence the warning)

Quote:
I would add that there seem to be connotations that faith is usually thought of as a more positive, complex / interrelated / singular system of beliefs, while superstition has more negative connotations, being more associated with individual events / actions / rituals that do not appear to be interrelated to each other.

Again, this is all perspective and point of view. You may not personally have faith, but still recognize something as faith if you share a common context. If you do not share a common understanding, any singular event seems a random instance, perhaps nonsensical out of context, and is often perceived as a superstition.

That is more or less the most people discussing there at LaterNet got: faith is, shall we say, more complex and all-encompassing, while superstition is more particular and unsystematic.

But the problem is with the second part of Tony's definition: all too often this boils down to 'my faith is faith, others are superstitions'. The author has some fresh examples from American political life.

BTW, I saw there a guy declaring himself a 'practicing Atheist'. How the heck does one practice atheism?! In a Church of No Particular God!? (I asked him that and am expecting the answer with interest )

Others?
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Dragi "Bonzi" Raos Q#5196 MkII #080000376, 18GB green MkIIa #040103247, 60GB blue

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#253074 - 31/03/2005 20:02 Re: Here I go again [Re: bonzi]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31181
Loc: Seattle, WA
Quote:
I saw there a guy declaring himself a 'practicing Atheist'. How the heck does one practice atheism?!

He probably meant it as a joke, in reference to the common argument, made by theists, that atheism is also a religion, requring faith in many things.

He could also mean that he's outspoken, strong, and specific about his atheism, in the Douglas Adams sense.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#253075 - 31/03/2005 20:03 Re: Here I go again [Re: tfabris]
bonzi
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/09/1999
Posts: 2401
Loc: Croatia
That's beautiful, Tony, and of course, exactly on the point.
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#253076 - 31/03/2005 20:06 Re: Here I go again [Re: tfabris]
bonzi
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/09/1999
Posts: 2401
Loc: Croatia
I hope so, but he sounded dead serious
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Dragi "Bonzi" Raos Q#5196 MkII #080000376, 18GB green MkIIa #040103247, 60GB blue

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#253077 - 31/03/2005 20:08 Re: Here I go again [Re: tfabris]
JeffS
carpal tunnel

Registered: 14/01/2002
Posts: 2858
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Quote:
To an atheist, religious faith looks identical to superstition. Belief in magic is the same, whether the magic is perpertrated by deities from a Bible or by pagan forces.

To a theist, superstition means a belief in magics other than those found in their religion, and would therefore be considered specifically sacreligious. There's a clear difference.
Nail on the head, I think.

I read the article and there is LOT I can say in response, but I don’t have the time now.

For now I’ll stick with this statement
Quote:
Taking a proposition "on faith" means to consciously and willfully refuse to examine the facts.


I think this is not true. Taking something on faith means that you are taking into account additional premises than others may consider, and this will definitely alter a belief. If a person’s premise is that the bible is inerrant, then they will clearly come to a different conclusion when looking at question than someone else will. In fact, even two people who believe the bible is inerrant will come to different conclusions depending on what thy think “inerrant” means- most people’s definition of this is NOT the way theologians use the term.

We all assess questions based on premises. For some spiritual faith is a premise; for others it is not. If you do not possess such a premise, to you it becomes a “superstition”. I know of many people who would label reason and logic as “superstition”. What makes one premise more right than another? Well, if when put into practice it is born out, I guess. For many, like me, spiritual faith has born out, just like reason and logic. I operate under both premises, that my faith is true and that reason and logic are true as well. When the two are in disharmony, well that’s when I work to find a solution between the two. Often I have to throw up my hands and say “I don’t know”, because I just can’t resolve the difference. Neither premise trumps the other, for me. For God gave us logic and reason as much as He gave us scripture.

To that end, it seems perfectly reasonable that a Catholic would not want “The Da Vinci Code” being sold in a Catholic bookstore. If you accept the Catholic premise, then it makes sense that you would not want to promote books that defy it. You might read them, consider them, argue against them, but until you are convinced your premise is wrong, it is unreasonable to expect you to promote them.
_________________________
-Jeff
Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

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#253078 - 31/03/2005 20:12 Re: Here I go again [Re: bonzi]
pgrzelak
carpal tunnel

Registered: 15/08/2000
Posts: 4859
Loc: New Jersey, USA
Well, I would like to say that the point of view of the perceiver and person answering "is it faith or superstition" is critical. Someone without the background or context of any belief system as random individual acts. Therefore someone without that background will see superstition. It does not take any belief to allow the perceiver to recognize something as faith, even if they do not believe it themselves. It merely takes enough understanding and context to recognize that the acts / rituals / etc. are interconnected by something greater.

The concept of "my faith is faith, others are supersitions" is a biased perspective where the perceiver does not, or chooses not to, appreciate the complexity of the individual actions / beliefs and chooses to minimalize these conflicting views by selecting term with negative connotations to dismiss the concept.
_________________________
Paul Grzelak
200GB with 48MB RAM, Illuminated Buttons and Digital Outputs

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#253079 - 31/03/2005 20:13 Re: Here I go again [Re: bonzi]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31181
Loc: Seattle, WA
Quote:
That's beautiful, Tony, and of course, exactly on the point.

Yeah, one of many songs I wish I'd written.

It was N6mod from this very BBS who turned me on to Dar Williams, now I'm like this huge slobbering fan.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#253080 - 31/03/2005 20:16 Re: Here I go again [Re: JeffS]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31181
Loc: Seattle, WA
Quote:
When the two are in disharmony, well that’s when I work to find a solution between the two. Often I have to throw up my hands and say “I don’t know”, because I just can’t resolve the difference.

A very enlightened point of view, IMO.
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Tony Fabris

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#253081 - 31/03/2005 20:26 Re: Here I go again [Re: bonzi]
JeffS
carpal tunnel

Registered: 14/01/2002
Posts: 2858
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Quote:
But the problem is with the second part of Tony's definition: all too often this boils down to 'my faith is faith, others are superstitions'. The author has some fresh examples from American political life.
He does, and I’d really love to comment on them all. The general sense I get, though, is that he believes that when critical thinking and faith are in disharmony, critical thinking should win out. Why? Because it’s worked out so well for him? What about the premises of all those people he disagree with, but whose beliefs have been bourn out time and time again?

I know you’re probably cringing that I’d put critical thinking on the same level as a religion, but should critical thinking get a pass and get trump power over everything else? If so, why? What about the people who don’t think that critical thinking is of any value (and there are plenty of those)? Is it right to just overrule what they want and put in a system that is better for them?

That political leaders would make decisions based on their premises makes all the sense in the world. I know there’s a lot of talk about “values” recently, but all politics is about values- in a sense politics is the practical working out of our values. And we all get an equal say in what we think is a valid source for our values, be it critical thinking or religion.

Some of the examples do show how individuals can abuse their power. Specifically the idea of allowing ONLY the ten commandments displayed is a great example. But just because some people have adopted such an attitude doesn’t mean that all people of faith have, or that allowing faith to guide a political decision is wrong. I realize that having George W. up there making decisions on the basis of faith scares a lot of people, but having a leader who doesn’t is an idea that scares a lot of other people. Ultimately it just all comes down to what the majority wants for a given time period. Fortunately we all have the opportunity to convince others to view their premises differently so we can get the kind of leadership we want if what we have right now isn’t it.

It’s a balancing act to have a society where people are free to believe what they will. In a sense, it seems like there are a lot of critical thinkers who want people of faith to “believe whatever you want, just don’t act on it.” But it is irrational to allow someone to believe something and then expect them not act like they do.

Jeff
_________________________
-Jeff
Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

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#253082 - 31/03/2005 20:49 Re: Here I go again [Re: bonzi]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
I think superstition is when you at least realize that you're trying to fool yourself.
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Bitt Faulk

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#253083 - 31/03/2005 20:54 Re: Here I go again [Re: JeffS]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Quote:
What makes one premise more right than another? Well, if when put into practice it is born out, I guess. For many, like me, spiritual faith has born out, just like reason and logic.

First, "borne".

Second, please define how your faith has been borne out.
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Bitt Faulk

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#253084 - 31/03/2005 21:03 Re: Here I go again [Re: JeffS]
bonzi
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/09/1999
Posts: 2401
Loc: Croatia
More tomorrow, but I cannot resist this bit before going to bed:

Quote:
What about the people who don’t think that critical thinking is of any value (and there are plenty of those)?

I invite them to live by their convictions and give up medicine, tools, shelter, cars, food, army that defends them from infidels and other such illusions 'brought to you by critical thinking'.
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Dragi "Bonzi" Raos Q#5196 MkII #080000376, 18GB green MkIIa #040103247, 60GB blue

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#253085 - 31/03/2005 21:33 Re: Here I go again [Re: wfaulk]
JeffS
carpal tunnel

Registered: 14/01/2002
Posts: 2858
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Quote:
First, "borne".
Heh, thanks. As you can tell, I've been trying to figure out the spelling. Should have opened up a dictionary . . .

Quote:
Second, please define how your faith has been borne out.
Through experience and observation. When following the precepts of Christianity as I understand them, God has proven faithful and worthy of trust.

One of the most immediate illustrations has been my wife’s physical battles. As you know from my rant before, it has been an immensely difficult time for us both. She is having her 14th surgery on Monday since we’ve been married, which will be 6 years on May 22nd. We’ve been through a lot with all of these medical problems, both physically and mentally. When I say God has given us both a supernatural endurance through this, I don’t mean that in any sense except for the miraculous. Have people managed through such things without God? Sure. Could we have? I seriously doubt it- at least not as well as we have.

In the past six years there have been numerous opportunities for resentment, anger, fear, depression, and many other things to hinder our marriage. I can tell you that personally there have been times of intense anger and frustration, especially when some of the rather extreme drugs have altered my wife’s behavior so she didn’t even seem like the woman I married. Left to my own logic or actions, in those times I’d have reacted far differently than I did. It was faith that led me to pray with my wife; it was faith that told me it was my job to serve her no matter what the cost to myself; it was faith that told her to trust my judgment for the hard decisions, even when she disagreed. And ultimately it was faith that said no matter what happened, we live under grace, are loved completely by God, and have an ultimate hope in Jesus Christ that one day the suffering of this world would fall away.

I realize that not being in my skin, there’s no way to really understand what this is and has been like. All I can say is, were it not for my faith I know my marriage would be in shambles right now, as would I. And this is but one example of MANY where my faith has proven to lead me to a life that is better than it ever could have been without.

Of course you can always say that my faith is just a placebo that produces results because it is the belief that is important, not the substance. All I can say is that there have been too many “right moments” and “coincidences” for me to believe it isn’t true. This, of course, is where Tony pops in to link to the skeptic’s dictionary about Confirmation Bias. True enough that you have to be cautious with experience, but in the end everything we believe is believed on the evidence of experience- even science and reason. I cannot think of anything that has been proven to me so completely as my faith in Jesus Christ.
_________________________
-Jeff
Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

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#253086 - 31/03/2005 21:36 Re: Here I go again [Re: bonzi]
JeffS
carpal tunnel

Registered: 14/01/2002
Posts: 2858
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Quote:
Quote:
Quote:
What about the people who don’t think that critical thinking is of any value (and there are plenty of those)?

I invite them to live by their convictions and give up medicine, tools, shelter, cars, food, army that defends them from infidels and other such illusions 'brought to you by critical thinking'.


Sure, but until they take you up on your invitation, in a society of tolerence their right to believe and act upon this must be respected, as is your right to believe and act upon critical thinking.
_________________________
-Jeff
Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

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#253087 - 31/03/2005 21:37 Re: Here I go again [Re: JeffS]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31181
Loc: Seattle, WA
Quote:
This, of course, is where Tony pops in to link to the skeptic’s dictionary about Confirmation Bias.

Heh. I wasn't gonna do that. You know what you're talking about. You're someone who maintains your faith and convictions, even when you know that there are other possible explanations for your experiences. I respect that.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#253088 - 31/03/2005 21:39 Re: Here I go again [Re: JeffS]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Quote:
This, of course, is where Tony pops in to link to the skeptic’s dictionary about Confirmation Bias.

I'd add to that my belief that the human brain is obsessed with finding patterns.

I wonder in some way if the reason your faith exists isn't related to how I see a face in a 3-prong electrical outlet.
_________________________
Bitt Faulk

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#253089 - 31/03/2005 21:48 Re: Here I go again [Re: tfabris]
JeffS
carpal tunnel

Registered: 14/01/2002
Posts: 2858
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Quote:
Heh. I wasn't gonna do that. You know what you're talking about. You're someone who maintains your faith and convictions, even when you know that there are other possible explanations for your experiences. I respect that.
Thanks Tony, it means a lot to me that you (and others here) can respect these beliefs, as different and polarizing as they are. I’ve said it before, but this bbs is one of the most tolerant groups of people I’ve ever been a part of.
_________________________
-Jeff
Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

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#253090 - 31/03/2005 22:11 Re: Here I go again [Re: wfaulk]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31181
Loc: Seattle, WA
Quote:
I wonder in some way if the reason your faith exists isn't related to how I see a face in a 3-prong electrical outlet.

Naw, confirmation bias and pareidolia are two separate things.

(see, got the link in there anway! )
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#253091 - 01/04/2005 08:00 Re: Here I go again [Re: bonzi]
peter
carpal tunnel

Registered: 13/07/2000
Posts: 4148
Loc: Cambridge, England
Quote:
BTW, I saw there a guy declaring himself a 'practicing Atheist'. How the heck does one practice atheism?! In a Church of No Particular God!? (I asked him that and am expecting the answer with interest )

Others?

I knew someone who called himself a "devout atheist", by which he meant he was an atheist and he thought it mattered that he was an atheist. I'm an atheist ("the only sin is to dehumanise" -- actually maybe that makes me a humanist), but I'm not that devout.

As for superstition versus faith, I've always understood it as one of the "irregular verbs" beloved of the programme Yes Minister:
Quote:
"It's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it?
I have an independant mind,
you are eccentric,
he is round the twist"

"That's another of those irregular verbs, isn't it?
I give confidential briefings,
you leak,
he is being prosecuted under section 2a of the official secrets act"

I have faith,
you are superstitious,
he is a witch (burn him).

Peter

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#253092 - 01/04/2005 10:18 Re: Here I go again [Re: peter]
tahir
pooh-bah

Registered: 27/02/2004
Posts: 1747
Loc: London
How rational is atheism? We still have to accept that somehow we were created, all that matter out in the universe came from somewhere, didn't it???

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#253093 - 01/04/2005 20:25 Re: Here I go again [Re: tahir]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31181
Loc: Seattle, WA
A question that can be equally posed to theists, by the way.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#253094 - 01/04/2005 20:31 Re: Here I go again [Re: tfabris]
JBjorgen
carpal tunnel

Registered: 19/01/2002
Posts: 3501
Loc: Guadalajara, MX
Although it would seem they would have a simpler answer.
_________________________
~ John

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#253095 - 01/04/2005 20:37 Re: Here I go again [Re: peter]
tonyc
carpal tunnel

Registered: 27/06/1999
Posts: 7058
Loc: Pittsburgh, PA
Maybe I have my terms confused, but I always thought a "non devout" atheist was better described by the term "agnostic."
_________________________
- Tony C
my empeg stuff

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#253096 - 01/04/2005 21:18 Re: Here I go again [Re: tonyc]
JeffS
carpal tunnel

Registered: 14/01/2002
Posts: 2858
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Quote:

Maybe I have my terms confused, but I always thought a "non devout" atheist was better described by the term "agnostic."
I the classical definition of "Agnostic" is more proactive than that- not only does he or she not know, but believes that one CANNOT know.

Your definition is the more popular understanding these days, however, and is listed as the second defition on dictionary.com
_________________________
-Jeff
Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

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#253097 - 01/04/2005 21:28 Re: Here I go again [Re: tonyc]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31181
Loc: Seattle, WA
Quote:
Maybe I have my terms confused, but I always thought a "non devout" atheist was better described by the term "agnostic."


Something I cover at filk cons. Imagine a bouncy gospel number and you'll get the melody in your head. Note the parenthetical bits are the backup singers doing call-and-response type stuff.



"An Agnostic Gospel Song"
by Andy Corwin of "Actual Size"

There is a train, (train, train)
that is bound for glory
But you won't find me on board...
If-you're-wonderin'-why, (why oh why)
come and listen to the story
Of why I'm not on a first name basis with the Lord

When I was a little child (just a little bitty tyke)
I used to read the gospel
and I prayed at night up in my room
But then I went to college (U.C.L.A.)
and the required reading
included Schopenhauer, Kant and David Hume

In a very short time (in the relative sense)
I had to declare my major
And I chose philosophy
'Cause I began to think (therefore I am)
that I could totally ace the midterm
Because I could already spell epistemology

By my Sophomore year (still living in the dorm)
I began to doubt and ponder
The-very-existence of "you know who"
I had become (a godless heathen)
I prefer the term "agnostic" (whatever)
Profound as Bertrand Russell, existential as Camus

Hey gimme that ol' Skepticism
Gimme that Logical Positivism
Dialectical Materialism's good enough for me

Oh, have you warshed in Einstein's theory that
Space/Time is curvulinear, not flat
or speculate each moment of your life is
as random as Schrödinger's cat

So today I stand here as a non-believer
But I'm tempted to change my ways
Cause recently
while I was thinking deeply
I realized agnostics don't have any holidays

There is a train, train, train
that is bound for glory
But you won't find me on board...
If-you're-wonderin'-why, (why oh why)
come and listen to the story
Of why I'm not on a first name basis with the Lord
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#253098 - 02/04/2005 01:44 Re: Here I go again [Re: JeffS]
kayakjazz
member

Registered: 10/09/2004
Posts: 127
Loc: Bay Area, CA/Anchorage, AK
Quote:
the classical definition of "Agnostic" is more proactive than that- not only does he or she not know, but believes that one CANNOT know.


If we're trying to stick to any semblance of critical thinking, agnostism is the only stance that makes makes objective sense; it makes no more sense to be convinced there is not a supreme intelligence behind it all than that there is, though there's never any dearth of folks cxompletely invested in both. Makes sense to me that the finite mind isn't wired to comprehend the infinite...though there may be some value in trying.

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