Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Would you say you're spiritual? (Sorry you are an atheist!)

I am not an atheist - I am spiritual. Or I have heard it the other way as well, I am a spiritual person. I am not an atheist, I am maybe agnostic, or a deist, or a pantheist, or something.

I am sorry you are really an atheist. I know that word carries some baggage for many but it is time for a reality check.

My focus here is not definitions. There are plenty of those on the web you can look up. The people who come to my blog are often looking at questions of their own faith or those around them. My job here is to help those folks who need it with deconversion. Not into atheism, although that is exactly what my title of this article looks like. I do not have any answers. I have plenty of questions though.

Together we are going to look at some of these questions. And for many folks who cling to that word "Spiritual" will find that they were really atheists who were just kidding themselves and it is time they woke up to their own real beliefs.

How do you talk with someone who says they are "spiritual" or "deists" or some other non-theist word. Well that is easy.

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Lets start with a little background. This blog is primarily focused on people coming from a christian or Abrahamic (Old Testament) type faith. Mostly because that is the area that I know.

I think when you get done here you will see there really are only 2 positions related to my topic of theism/atheism. Agnostic is actually a different question. Gnostic/Agnostic is about KNOWING, where theism/atheism is about BELIEVING. We are going to be looking at the believing side. I will state that for many people, they don't fully understand agnostic and consider it as a softer side of atheism. it is not. It is a totally different question.

People can be theists and gnostics, theists and agnostics, atheists and gnostics, and finally, atheists and agnostics. It is a statement of what you believe or don't believe and the other question of what you know or don't know. You can look up these words on wikipedia for more detail.

For the purposes of this discussion we are going to consider agnostics just another variation like deism, although there is a technical difference. Most people on the street just don't go that intellectual in their beliefs. My posts are written for the everyday person. People looking for more intellectual discussions should go to one of the more scholarly authors. My posts are about raising questions and helping people with their thoughts.

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OK lets get going here

THE SETUP
You are talking with someone and they tell you that they are not an atheist, but they are "Spiritual", "agnostic","deist", "pantheistic", "panentheistic", or something like that. Your job here is not to CONVERT them to atheism, but to help DECONVERT them from their current position. By giving them that freedom, they can make up their own mind if they are Atheist or not. It is not your job to tell them, but for them to discover it on their own. This revelation will likely not come during your discussion, but maybe later that night, or even weeks later. Deconversion is a process, it takes time.

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Let me restate the concepts of deconversion again for new readers.

1. People did not get their religion by argument, you are not going to deconvert them by arguing with them either.
2. One of the most powerful words in the English language is the word AND.
3. You listen to what they have to say
4. You agree with them by saying "AND"
5. Then you mess with their mind. (see my other posts for more ideas)

KEY PHRASE
*Also, one critical part to this process is to understand an old saying
"If I say it, it might be true, BUT if they say it, it MUST be true"

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I also wanted to give you a couple favorite quotes of mine. They fit this deconversion routine perfectly.

"A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking" -Harold Fricklestein

and

"It's more fun to arrive a conclusion than to justify it." -Malcolm S Forbes
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--Let's get the conversation started.
--The person has now stated something like above
--Let's say they stated they were a "Spiritual" person

* I understand you feel you are Spiritual, I really think that is great
* I know quite a few people who felt like that also
* I have a couple questions, do you have a minute

--We start with agreeing, setting some commonality,
--and finally making them feel comfortable
--Note: I left off the Found part of the Feel/felt/found process
--our techniques leave the "Found" to be in their words later on

* Why do you describe your self as "Spiritual" instead of being an outright Theist?
* Why don't you believe in an all powerful, all knowing, benevolent god?
* Did you ever find yourself having problems with questions like can god create a rock he cannot lift?

* Or can god create a cup of coffee to hot to drink? Oh wait, I can do that. Grin.
--lightening the mood a little.

* So you don't believe in a all mighty powerful god that interferes with the world?
* Is it more like you just believe that there must be something more powerful?
* You know it is not the god from the bible or these other religions, but you believe there is probably something else,something more, out there. Right?

* I can really understand that
--getting into agreement again

* since you say that you don't believe in a direct acting god, would it be safe to say that you are definitely not a theist, right?
* Some other title, just not a theist?
* I am not saying you are an "atheist", just something else, maybe like a deist?
--We let them come to the atheist position on their own later

* So you are not a theist? I guess that just puts you into the category of non-theists right?
* I mean you believe there is something likely out there, just not like a god in the bible or something?
* So within the world of the non-theists, there are typically the deists and pantheists.
* The pantheists say that god, nature, natural laws are all one
* Pantheist are also the ones that just say their is just "Something" else out there.
* The deists typically say something like god existed to create create the universe, but has not been back around once he got it started.
* So you would say you fall into one of those categories right?

* Right now, scientists have come to learn that the universe is in a zero energy state.
* Have you heard that right now, the scientist have figured out that there is as much positive and negative energy now as there was in the big bang.
* So here is my question, scientists have now shown that the universe came into being in entirely natural ways.
'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

* So here is my question, since science has show that there was no god needed whatsoever to create the universe, then I guess the deist position really is now an antique position.
* Wouldn't you say that a deist who's primary and key position is that a god created the universe then disappeared or for all purposes stopped existing, at least as far as we were concerned, is really sort of like saying the world is flat? Right?
* The universe was and is natural. Its cause was entirely 100% natural.
* So a deist who made their beliefs based on a god creating the universe, really is now nothing more than a naturalist.
* A deist may still want to claim that a god really created that natural condition.
* So many people want to have god as the first cause. But at least as far as our universe is concerned, nature itself is now known to be first cause.

* So you are thinking that the deist is really a non-starter. It just does not work anymore in today's world.
* the world is not flat and deists have lost their creator god.
* Since you are a non-theist, and definitely not a deist.
* So it sounds like maybe "pantheist" is probably right? right?
* That's kind of what we said in the beginning, you said you felt you were "spiritual", right?
* I mean that is really the idea Spiritual really means "pantheist" right?

-- remember, my quote above, most people just stop their beliefs somewhere comfortable.
--They just don't want to take it any further, it is often too scary for them to finish their thought.
-- Or maybe they just never took the quite time to give it more thought.
-- So far we have moved them from Theist to Non-Theist
-- Now we are moving them through non-theist, first through deism, then finally through pantheism.

--Remember my second quote:
"It's more fun to arrive a conclusion than to justify it." -Malcolm S Forbes

-- Justification is hard work.
-- But we are helping them do this in just a few fun minutes

... so lets continue...

* So remember, the idea behind pantheism is the idea that god, nature, everything is one.
* And the other variation is called "panentheism" which is slightly different.
* These two are like fraternal twins, so close to being identical, but not.
* Think of it like math. Pantheism is where GOD EQUALS NATURE.
* and Panenthiesm is where GOD IS GREATER THAN NATURE, or NATURE/UNIVERSE is contained IN GOD.

* Let me ask you a couple questions so we can figure out which you are.
* Don't jump ahead of me, OK?

* so if you are a pantheist or believe in pantheism then you believe that GOD is or equals nature.
* So if I were to state this another way you would say that god is physics and chemistry. God is science.
* God is the rock, and god is the trees, and is part of everything and everything is a part of god
* so then from this position, go can be pretty much defined as the fundamental particals in quantum physics. God is quarks, protons, gluons, and so on.

* Does that summarize what you believe god is. God is a bunch of physics particles?

-- Just knocked them out of "pantheism", one to go.

* So you don't think god is the stuff of nature, but something more.
* something bigger than nature
* so maybe you are in the arena of panentheism. Don't say yes yet.
* have a couple of questions before you decide that.

* So if I get your beliefs right, you think that a god exists
* and that god is not part of nature,
* so that means that god would have to exist outside the world of the universe.
* even one of the key beliefs behind panentheism is that the universe is inside god.

* so my question is this, scientists have figured out that the universe is something like 100 billion light-years across
--We don't really care what the exact size is here, just that it is big and finite

* There is all this emptiness, nothingness that exists outside the physical universe.
* My question is that nothingness that the universe is ever expanding through and into, is that what you belief god is.
* Is the god you believe in that specific nothingness just past the edge starting at 100 billion light years and going on off into the distance?
* So would go be made of that subspace structure that the universe is moving through?
* so your god would be the subspace structure of the universe?

* Oh, so it is not that subspace stuff that exists outside our 100 billion light-year wide universe and also permeates our universe.
* God would be something bigger than that, right?

* So if I understand you right, you have said that god is specifically not the physical stuff.
* and you also said that god is not the non-physical stuff, subspace kind of stuff, right.
* So would I be right that if scientists discovered some stuff under the subspace stuff that you would also not consider that stuff god either, right.

--Was that the door I heard? Yep, they just left panentheism. What's left? Just wait.

* Alright, I have to get out of here in just a minute.
* Just a couple more quick questions before I go.

* so would it be safe to say that god would have to be the non-stuff.
* God would have to be an empty void that anything could go into.
* If I am understanding right, as soon as god holds or is something, god can't be something else, right?

* You know how science and math folks are they love their numbers and stuff.
* Polythiests would be someone who believe in more than one god.
* Monotheists believe ONLY ONE theistic god
* Non-theist believe in a kind of imaginary/invisible god that exists
* Mathmatically you could think of them as "square root of negative one"

So we have pretty much covered the entire world of things that exist and can be defined.

* Pantheists you could say god IS the "square root of negative one"
* Panentheists you could say god IS GREATER than the "square root of negative one"

* And we have already said that god can't be any of these
* God would have to be looked at as the eternal empty container that anything could exist in, right?

* Uh, you know what?
* You just stated that you are a nullist. That is great
* Do you know what a nullist is? Ever heard of it?

* A nullist is someone who thinks that god would be like an empty math variable.
* It does not yet have a value.
* think of it like a computer person,
* who need to make a routine to loop from 1 to 100.
* they create a variable that is empty, then when the code runs,
* it replaces that empty variable with these changing values.

* Well that empty value, before the numbers go into it, is called being null
* That variable holds a specific defined value called null.
* Null is not unknown, it is a specific state, it is empty.

* I am sorry I have kept you this long. I really appreciated your time with me.
* Oh, by the way. That belief, being a nullist, is a very powerful position.
* That is great isn't it. To know exactly where you stand in your belief.

* You should go look up on the web this jack russell guy.
* he talks about nullism if you want to learn more.
* and just to help you understand clearly

* ...being a nullist, is a stronger atheist position, than 90% of all atheists out there.
* So just remember, you just decided that not only are you an atheist, but you are a stronger atheist than 90% of all the other ones out there.

* his website is .... (you know what to do from here)

* I have to go. Nice chatting with you. bye.

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Wow, from vaguely spiritual to nullist/atheist in less than 10 minutes.
That was a lot of fun.

I hope you had a good time playing with me.

--Jack

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