Monday, January 09, 2006

Is a Belief in God Beneficial? Or, What's an Atheist to Do?

[T]here is clear evidence that nondepressed people distort reality in a self-serving direction and depressed people tend to see reality accurately. -- psychologist Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism, p. 111.)
Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right. -- Henry Ford


Setting aside the question of whether God exists, is it beneficial to believe that he does? If any of the gods of the major monotheistic religions is true, it's clear that believing in Him is beneficial (assuming that we've picked the right one!) However, what if us atheists are right? Could it still be that you're better off believing wrongly than disbelieving correctly?

Regardless of whether theists are correct or not, there is some evidence that being religious is beneficial in a number of ways.

1) Religious attendance is correlated with longevity. A search on Google Scholar reveals a wealth of studies showing that people who attend religious services can expect to live five to seven years longer!

2) Religious belief has been associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms. (Religious belief, depression, and ambulation status in elderly women with broken hips.)

3) Religious beliefs may help with addiction.
The most well-known treatment for addiction are the 12 step programs related to Alcoholics Anonymous, which is often religious, but sometimes not. (Many atheists in recovery manage to accept "God as we understood him" without becoming theists.)

4) Religious attendance is correlated with lower blood pressure. (Frequency of church attendance and blood pressure elevation.)


So What's an Atheist to Do?


It certainly seems like there are benefits to believing. But I can't just flip a switch and believe in God even if I decide believing is in my best interest. What are my other options?

Take Advantage of Modern Psychology


In psychologist Martin Seligman's book Authentic Happiness, he refers to a study by one of his students which shows that "the more fundamentalist the religion, the more optimistic are its adherents. Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians and Muslims are markedly more optimistic than Reform Jews and Unitarians, who are more depressive on average. Probing more deeply, she separated the amount of hope found in the sermons, liturgy, and stories from other factors like social support. She found that the increase in optimism which increasing religiousness brings is entirely accounted for by greater hope." (60.)

There are of course secular sources of hope we may turn to, such as the promise of scientific, political, and humanistic progress. Perhaps more importantly, we can train ourselves to be more optimistic, possibly without even decreasing our realism. David Burns, in Feeling Good : The New Mood Therapy, offers a number of scientifically proven techniques from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to fight "anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and other 'black holes' of depression." (Similarly CBT has been shown to be among the most effective treatments for alcohol dependence -- Cognitive-Behavioral Coping Skills Therapy for Alcohol Dependence.) Although most psychological research has been focused on treating problems like alcoholism and depression rather than on improving "normal" people's lives, Seligman's Positive Psychology Center is trying to change that by "seek[ing] to understand and build the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive."

Find a Community


""You want to go where everybody knows your name." -- Cheers

Losing the tight-knit community was the hardest part of leaving Orthodox for me. I wasn't used to needing to proactively seek friends and activities; they always just sort of fell into my lap when I was Orthodox. Finding a secular community like a small town, a club, a sports team, a meditation group, or just a great group of friends and family might provide an adequate substitute. Still, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to recapture the sense of belongingness I felt as an Orthodox Jewish kid. Obviously, that sense of belonging sharply diminished as my beliefs changed and I fit in less and less, and I wasn't willing to pay the required price of silence and implied agreement with points of view I strongly disagree with.

Bowling Alone makes the claim that the lack of community is a recent American problem: "Americans are right that the bonds of our communities have withered, and we are right to fear that this transformation has very real costs." Others have suggested that Americans need more third places, "the place[s] where citizens of a community or neighborhood meet to develop friendships, discuss issues, and interact with others," like the cafes, taverns, and corner stores of the old days. Somehow, Starbucks and 7-11 don't fill their forefathers' shoes.

Find or Create Meaning


Most religions provide a ready-made meaning to life, but those of us without religion can have meaning, too. Victor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning is perhaps the most-well known book about finding meaning, but there are other sources as well. Or, we can turn to philosophers like Camus, who said, "If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one." He also said, "You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life."

Be "Spiritual But Not Religious"


Spiritual traditions contain great wisdom which doesn't dissipate if you read "spiritual" metaphorically. Many Western atheists find that Buddhism translates well to their worldviews. I blogged about my own relationship with Buddhism here. One also can't help but learn great things from the dominant religions of the Western world by osmosis if not by intention. In fact, one of my favorite books is Meditations from the Mat, by Rolf Gates, who is a Christian and a Yoga instructor.

Understand "God" Metaphorically


Finally, there seem to have been a number of great men (and presumably, women) who have found deep meaning in a God that doesn't seem much different from the Universe itself, or from "nothingness," "Nature," "emptiness," "love," or some other abstraction. Einstein, for example, said "I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." The ex-communicated Jew Spinoza wrote, "We are part of Nature as a whole whose order we follow." I don't know if he was a great man, but Gorbechev said, "I believe in the cosmos. All of us are linked to the cosmos. So nature is my god. To me, nature is sacred. Trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals." Indeed, some atheist members of AA* go one further and interpret "GOD" as "Group of Drunks," i.e. the AA community itself.

I myself have some sense of this metaphorical God. Sometimes I'm running in the woods at twilight and everything just feels perfect, and I think, "There it is." Sometimes I meditate, or do yoga, or just relax, and there comes a stillness that is what I think the Buddhists are talking about when they talk about spirit or the great nothingness or God.



* The Alcoholics Anonymous movement is a great ongoing exploration of the boundaries between believing, trying to believe, and creatively interpreting words and concepts to mean what you already believe. For a fascinating if incredibly long and dense book that deals in part with these themes, I highly recommend one of my favorite books, Infinite Jest.

34 comments:

Chana said...

I find it interesting that according to the study, Reform Jews are more depressed than Orthodox Jews. It seems to me (at least, in the small part of the Orthodox realm that I inhabit) that there are many people who want to grow or expand who are limited by the confines of what they view as Orthodoxy. I would think many of these people would be saddened/ unhappy. I almost wonder whether it's that they are not depressed or that they are not diagnosed as depressed? One of my former teachers once went on a rant expressing the fact that Jews do not believe in depression and it was a sin to be depressed. (Some people brought her evidence of 'melancholia' written about by either the Rambam or Ramban' and a famous doctor (religious) came in to talk to her and explain the truth...

I do believe, however, that your overall point is correct, and then practiced truthfully, religion can bring great joy.

I like this post. I especially like your idea of spirituality versus religion. Or of the fact that you can feel the beauty of nature and the world as you do yoga, or engage in your everyday activities. "Atheist" sometimes comes across as a cold word. You are doing a lot for it to be seen as a more thoughtful kind of person, and that is a good thing.

(A side point- I loved- in a sad sort of way- 'Man's Search for Meaning.' It seemed weighted with pain, but it spoke of someone's understanding. Each person's sense of feeling and understanding has value, especially those who have suffered and grapple with the problem of theodicy...)

Jewish Atheist said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Chana, and welcome. I love your blog.

I was surprised too by the apparent greater incidence in Reform Jews as compared to OJs. Although, I think that a feeling of connectedness can be important for preventing depression, and that's one thing OJs really have going for them. Then again, the study seems to show that it's mostly about hope.

DBS said...

This is a great blog, and I have particular respect for raising the points in this post about the (at least apparent) benefits of having faith. This is probably “preaching to the choir” (how’s that for a misplaced idiom), but I can also point out that there are both tangible and psychic negatives to living with belief.

I lived most of my life as an Orthodox (and learned) Jew – well into adulthood. Believing has powerful benefits. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be so many proponents. Letting go of belief is terribly traumatic, and (as all of us who have done it can attest) can completely disrupt the fabric of our lives and our core relationships. This is a powerful proposition; serenity, happiness and longevity if you stay in – pain, isolation and shame if you leave. For those of us who leave with our eyes open, we reject those who we respect above all others. We leave behind many of our most moving experiences.

One of the facets of being religious (at least ‘frum’) is the idea that the moral code is completely proscribed by God. “The only free person is he who is immersed in Torah.” (Perek, 6:1). Our job is to free ourselves of the need to make independent moral choices. There is no stronger message than the Akadah. If God commands Avraham to sacrifice his son, his challenge is to suppress his innate sense of morality in favor of the divine decree. If you can do this, you are truly religious. You may be able to achieve happiness and serenity, and a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. The only problem, however, is that you’ve slain your son in the process.

To put it in less macabre terms (although, it wasn’t me who wrote Bereishis), you have given up your prerogative (and perhaps, ability) to develop your own sense of right and wrong. If the world is fortunate, the dogma to which you subscribe is magnanimous and humanistic. If less fortunate (as history has unfortunately demonstrated) it is prejudiced and brutal. Probably – if the Torah is any indication – it is a mixture of both

I can’t consider myself a true atheist because I have no idea if God (or, more likely, some cosmic spiritual force) exists. To me, the idea of God is as absurd and unprovable as the idea of the Big Bang (without explanation of any “first fact”). Perhaps someday there will be satisfactory scientific explanations for the cosmos. (That has certainly been the story thus far – faith begins where science fails – and that starting point is constantly being driven back by new discoveries.)

Whether or not there is a God, however, the one thing that I believe is that we are born with an innate sense of justice and morality. That sense is compromised throughout our lives by the dogma and socialization to which we are born. Our supreme moral challenge is to re-connect with that sense within us all - that inner voice which has been drowned out by dogma, by social stigma and by prejudice. What we arrive at may not be perfect, but it paves the way for those who will come to take the next steps. That is my definition of “Tikun Olam”, and that is what we sacrifice when we choose to remain believers.

The Jewish Freak said...

One more thing to consider:
I think that the community of non-believers tend to be less dependent on others for validation, sense of security, and reassurance of belief in certain ideas. Religious people practice in groups because they tend to have personalities that need group validation. That validation then, makes them happy, but the happiness is only sustained by regular "refueling" by the group. Many believers are lost when they find themselves suddenly cut off from their source of validation. For extreme examples consider what happens when cult members are separated from their group, or the effect on the Chabad community when the rebbe died.
I for one, do not want my happiness to be so totally dependant on others. The source of true lasting happiness is internal not external. - JF

CyberKitten said...

JF said: The source of true lasting happiness is internal not external.

Word. (nods sagely)

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Lets see. I have some half baked theories here.
Having more kids and grandkids may make someone linger longer. (I have no kids)
Definitely devoutly religious folk don't drink or smoke as much (I rarely drink and I don't smoke btw)
More likely to have an extended family in the house. I someone has a heart attack or a major accident, there is more likelihood that someone else is in the house to rush you to the hospital (how is that for halfbaked?)
Atheists may lose the will to live once they become a burden more than a religious person.

Wandering Coyote said...

Great post, JA.

Agree totally with JF when he says that true happiness is internal, not external. Very well stated. And true.

JA, I'm glad you raised the issue of being spiritual rather than religious. I think many people assume that athiests are also nihilstic and that plainly isn't true.

Belief in something, whatever it may be - a higher power, a goddess, the universe, yourself - is going to be far more lifegiving than believing in didley squat.

I can also say a lot about living in community, as I live in a Christian community right now (which I know wasn't what you were referring to in your post). There's nothing like it, even though they know I do not adhere to their beliefs. The sense of acceptance and respect has been very life-giving to me personally, and has been one of the biggest factors in supporting me through a rough life transition. We need more community in the world, yet I believe we are only becoming more and more isolated, despite technology that is advertised to us as something that is supposed to keep us more connected.

asher said...

I'm sorry to say you are making the mistake of causation. The fact that religious people appear to have better health or suffer less depression is not necessarily due to the fact that they are religious. There are too many other factors at work here. That's the problem with cold statistics.

JA, in one of your previous entries you talked about how many Orthodox Jews in the Chasidic community want to be rebellious but can't bring themselves to leave. I can't see this as being mentally stable or healthy. When I went through my clinical depression I visited with the rabbi who married me (I didn't particuarly feel close to any rabbi) He told me that depression was overwealming in the Jewish community and that I'd be surprised at how prevalent it was.
Of coure he was only speaking for his own experience but there is something to it.

It's true that if you belong to a community to pray or do social activities you will have more of a backup group. However, that is not any indication that folks in these communities don't suffer from the very same problems as secular people or those not involved in community.

In addition, there was alot of evidence that ill people who were prayed for often got better. I can think of two examples: the last Pope and Ariel Sharon whom many people are praying for right now.
Again, we have the problem of causation.

JA,
One of your best posts.

Miranda said...

"It certainly seems like there are benefits to believing. But I can't just flip a switch and believe in God even if I decide believing is in my best interest."

This is what I used to argue when my very good atheist friend argued that he'd be an atheist until he was in his death bed, and then convert.

Sometimes beliefs seem impossible to change. Sometimes they change because of very small events.

When and why did you stop believing in a personal god?

Your blog, by the way, is one of the most fascinating I've ever come across. I look forward to your next posts.

Jewish Atheist said...

Thanks, everybody for the compliments!


DBS,

Very true. There is definitely a psychic downside in fundamentalist religion. There's often a lot of pressure to conform and everybody's always in your business. As I wrote (sort of) I wasn't willing to pay the psychic cost required to stay.


The Jewish Freak,

Interesting point. The community's great while it's there, but what happens if you find yourself alone? Those who have had experience being more on their own may have built stronger internal resources.


Bacon Eating Atheist Jew,

Another thing is that atheists who live alone (though certainly not all atheists) may not feel as obligated to keep on living and taking care of themselves as do those with families and communal obligations.


Wandering Coyote,

I think many people assume that athiests are also nihilstic and that plainly isn't true.

Very true. Actually, I can't believe I left Sagan out of my post. He was the epitome of finding meaning as an atheist. As you say (or imply) some of the Christians I know are the friendliest, kindest people in the world. I just have to remember not to bring up politics or religion with them. :)


asher,

I'm sorry to say you are making the mistake of causation.

Yeah, that's definitely an issue. I don't think there's any way to establish which is cause and which effect. Obviously, for example, people who are already depressed would be less likely to attend services.

I wouldn't be surprised if depression was overwhelming in the Jewish community; it's overwhelming in America. As I wrote in my response to DBS, living as an OJ definitely has its psychic downsides as well.

In addition, there was alot of evidence that ill people who were prayed for often got better. I can think of two examples: the last Pope and Ariel Sharon whom many people are praying for right now. Again, we have the problem of causation.

I'm skeptical about this. None of the prayer studies were well done and none showed a really significant difference. Also, the Pope and Sharon probably had the best doctors and equipment in the world. If every stroke victim had the 5 best doctors attending to him 'round the clock, the statistics would be a lot different. Maybe that's what you meant by "again, we have the problem of causation," though.


Miranda,

The short answer is that I left (about 5 years ago, but it was a long process) because I no longer believed, no longer fit in, and had to move on in order to keep growing as a person.

I've previously written about How I Left Orthodoxy and What's Good About Leaving Orthodoxy.

Sadie Lou said...

JA said...I think that the community of non-believers tend to be less dependent on others for validation, sense of security, and reassurance of belief in certain ideas.

That's ironic some of us come across that way because the bible tells us not to seek validation, merit and dependancy on each other but in God. People will disappoint you. I'm not being pessamistic--I'm just saying that it's folly to rely on others to make YOU happy.
God tells us that He is our comfort in trials and He can be trusted and depended on--He will never forsake us. I'm just shocked that you pick up on some dependency issues for Christians...
Trust in Him alone.

JDHURF said...

“I'm just shocked that you pick up on some dependency issues for Christians...” – Sadie Lou

You’ve got to be kidding me. There are all sorts of people that have dependency issues and that need the group validation to feel good about themselves and to feel comfortable that they are doing the “right” thing, Christians are most certainly NOT exempt from this, if any thing they may exhibit this attribute more strongly than other religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, etc.
I live in Tulsa Ok (a highly evangelical Christian population) and I am from a secular area so moving to Tulsa was a culture shock to say the least. One thing that I have noticed is that a large portion of the Christians here feel the need to show-boat their faith and make public displays of it, they constantly promote each others “faith” in public and constantly stroke each others religious ego. Evangelical Christians need the constant “pat on the back” from other Christians. They are appealing to others within their religious group and are strictly following informational and normative social influences, they are most definitely depending upon their religious group to say otherwise is outrageous.

Wandering Coyote said...

I just read both posts you linked to above. The one entitled "What's Good About Leaving Orthodoxy" really spoke to me, and you reasons for leaving are very similar to why I left Christianity. Thanks for the links; I wouldn't have read those otherwise, and now you've got me thinking about things - again.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Prayer does not work. I love the example from Raving Atheists: why has god never made a limb grow back for an amputee. Surely the faithful say that god can do anything so growing back a limb shouldn't be a problem.
God seems to focus only on chosen cancer victims, the blind, lepers, stroke victims, and a few paralysis victims to work his miracles.
Does he hate amputees, or can't he perform that trick?

JDHURF said...

Prayer is an example of weakness and helplessness. It is the ultimate example of beggary, wanting something for nothing.

Furthermore what is the use of praying if you believe in god? For the religious say that god has a “plan” for us, if we are praying for something within gods plan then it will happen regardless of prayer so praying is useless in this sense. Then if we pray for something that is not in gods plan then what we are praying for will not happen whether we pray or not, hence praying not only doesn’t work it is completely futile.

Jewish Atheist said...

Sadie Lou,

That wasn't me!


Wandering Coyote,

Glad to help. :) Hope they do more good than harm.


JDHURF,

Prayer is an example of weakness and helplessness. It is the ultimate example of beggary, wanting something for nothing.

I don't agree, except for a small subset of prayer. Many people use prayer as a kind of meditation, not as "God, I want a pony!" Also, people pray for things like courage, others' health, and the ability to be better people, so their hearts are definitely in the right place.

I don't pray because I've got no-one to pray to, but, except for the I-want-a-pony kind, I think it's reasonable.

JDHURF said...

“I don't agree, except for a small subset of prayer. Many people use prayer as a kind of meditation, not as "God, I want a pony!" Also, people pray for things like courage, others' health, and the ability to be better people, so their hearts are definitely in the right place.

I don't pray because I've got no-one to pray to, but, except for the I-want-a-pony kind, I think it's reasonable.” – JA

I wasn’t speaking only of the “god, I want a pony!” prayers but also of the “god, I want courage, health, and ability” prayers also. Rather than work out, eat healthy, and live responsibly people pray (beg) to an unseen supernatural force to bring these attributes about for them (this is beggary). Rather than taking effective steps to create positive changes within themselves, within others, and within the environment through their own human ability and power they pray to a supernatural being to do these things for them. I find this regrettable, use your human ability and power to effect positive change and quit begging a supernatural force to do it for you!!

I don’t pray because I don’t believe in supernatural forces that will intercede within the natural realm and alter natural circumstances, hence I also have no one to pray to but unlike you I do not think it is reasonable. For as I have already stated god supposedly has a plan, if this plan includes you having a level of health, courage, or ability that is to be desired then praying for anything different is completely futile! That was my point, and I am not saying that these individuals “hearts” are in the wrong place but that their “minds” are. For surely praying to an unseen supernatural force to intercede with human affairs for positive change would be the right thing to do, however it is irrational when taken into the religious “gods-plan” context.

Jack's Shack said...

There is a reason why religion is referred to as faith and not science. Faith doesn't hold to the same requirements as science and it doesn't have to. Ani Maamin. I believe. I do and I haven't any problem with it or with atheists and agnostics.

Faith is a deeply personal thing and I am one of those people who believes that sometimes there are individual truths that we all must discover on our own.

I cannot say that prayer works or does not work. I cannot prove that G-d exists anymore than you can disprove it. But there are some things that I can prove.

I can prove that humans have some basic needs and that for large numbers of us being part of a community is one of those needs. There is a need to feel needed and wanted. Being in tune with this goes a long way to helping you want to live and be a part of things.

There are a lot of factors here.

Good post.

Jewish Atheist said...

JDHURF,

Perhaps we can look at prayer as a structured way of talking to one's self, if nothing else. Some ways of talking to one's self are more effective than others, and perhaps prayer is ineffective, but I don't think you can just dismiss it out of hand.

Consider a person with social anxiety who prays every morning for God to give her the courage to talk to people. If it helps her be courageous, can't it be a good thing? Again, obviously I wouldn't use prayer, but I'm not sure that it's any more silly than writing in a diary or talking to yourself in the mirror.

secularhumanist said...

I have read a number of anthropological studies that find that people who live in traditional, tight-knit communities (not necessarily religious ones, though I think it's possible to extrapolate) suffer more from anxiety than depression. One possible explanation for this is that this kind of social structure, while providing a good deal of social support (which can guard against depression) also tends to place other social demands on people that can make them anxious (social scrutiny, lack of privacy, lack of diverse non-overlapping social networks, pressure to conform to communal norms). People who do not live within such a social structure (most 21st century, western urbanites) tend to suffer more from depression than anxiety. They don't have to endure the same kind of social scrutiny and pressure that can lead to anxiety, but may experiences feelings of isolation and alienation that contribute to depression. I guess the key here is to be a part of some kind of community, whether it is religious, spiritual, or even just based around shared interests and passions (personal, political or otherwise). Humans are inherently social beings and I believe we need a variety (in kind of depth) of connections with in other to maintain our sanity.

secularhumanist said...

that last sentence should have read: I believe we need a variety (in kind and depth) of connections with others in order to maintain our sanity.

sorry for the typos!

Sadie Lou said...

Oh sorry, JA. I just saw the "jewish" part in the handle, didn't read the whole thing.

Jdurf--
I get tired of telling people the purpose of prayer. God is not akin to a magic genie in a bottle. He doesn't "grant wishes" in a sense that whatever you ask for is exactly what you'll get.
and I started writting what it means to me, but you're usually rude to me and offensive and I just now decided to not to waste my time.
In fact, there's too much misrepresentations here to cover in one comment so *I give up*

Sadie Lou said...

However, I copied down what you said and I'm going to do a post on my blog tomorrow. I invite you to visit if you should feel inclined but leave your "Mean Hat" at the door. I try to be civil to others on my blog and I would hate to have to be tempted to be sassy.
:)

CyberKitten said...

Sadie Lou said: God is not akin to a magic genie in a bottle. He doesn't "grant wishes" in a sense that whatever you ask for is exactly what you'll get.

Prayer has always confused me. If you can't petition God through prayer.. and he has a plan for all of us.. and he know's what's going on in our lives (and knows what's going to happen) then why bother?

God already knows anything that you can relate to him in a prayer - therefore are prayers said to make people feel better about a 'hopeless' situation.......?

Jewish Atheist said...

secularhumanist,

That makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

Sadie Lou said...

cyberkitten--
I'll post on prayer tomorrow on my blog.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie Lou said: I'll post on prayer tomorrow on my blog.

I'll look forward to the discusion... and learning something (I hope).

JDHURF said...

JA,

I understand your point and I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss it out of hand, I actually have thought along this line before. If people will use prayer in the manner you suggest then that is certainly a positive manifestation of praying, but there are many other effective measures one could use rather than the “structured way of talking to themselves”.

“Consider a person with social anxiety who prays every morning for God to give her the courage to talk to people. If it helps her be courageous, can't it be a good thing?”

I’d go for that, but my point here is that there are better ways of making one feel more courageous with a better success rate than praying to a suspected supernatural force/entity.

Secularhumanist,

Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your post and that I agree with you.

“I invite you to visit if you should feel inclined but leave your "Mean Hat" at the door. I try to be civil to others on my blog and I would hate to have to be tempted to be sassy.” – Sadie Lou

Invitation accepted, I apologize if I came off as “mean” I don’t think I did but I can certainly understand how you took offense at my posts. Maybe using the word beggary was a bit strong considering the religious would be reading it, sorry. I sincerely don’t believe that I was being mean or that I was being uncivil, I was just using strong language to further my point of view and I will rectify this when I visit your blog.

Jewish Atheist said...

If people will use prayer in the manner you suggest then that is certainly a positive manifestation of praying, but there are many other effective measures one could use rather than the “structured way of talking to themselves”.

I agree with that.

Sadie Lou said...

Thanks Jdhurf. It means a lot to me when people are humble enough to accept that that they offended someone and then even more admirable when they apologize for coming off that way.
I look forward to having a friendly conversation about prayer with you and cyberkitten and anyone else who would like to join in.
Also, I really don't like to be called "religious". Organized religion, i.e. "church" is a man-made manifestation of Christians gathering together and subject to imperfection and flaws. Over the years, a lot of horrible things were accomplished under the guise of religion. It is because of religion that turn many people away from the message of Christ.
Pat Robertson is religious.
I just follow Christ and go to church on Sundays-- and not because I HAVE to but because the Bible says to gather together.

freethoughtmom said...

Jewish Atheist, thanks for the great post. Have you read After the Ecstasy, the Laundry? If you haven't, I'm guessing you'd enjoy it. BTW, I love Infinite Jest, too, and is that what it is really about?? :)

Jewish Atheist said...

freethoughtmom,

I have read it, thanks. :)

As far as Infinite Jest goes... What isn't it about? :) As I see it, DFW spent a lot of time dealing with the slogans of AA (for example) and how they are at the same time simplistic and yet somehow true. Also, highly intelligent/skeptical characters (like the protagonist) are portrayed as having perhaps a harder time with addictions than those who may believe things more readily.

Lyss said...

Sometimes I wonder if finding a Higher Power and Religion aren't just another addiction that feed and already addictive eprsonallity....

realitygaps said...

Great post, wanted to thank you for your blog it has helped me a lot in my travels away from Orthodox Judaism.

The community aspect is important, I am lucky enough to be involved with the Open Source/Linux community which is a great substitute (of sorts) for the Jewish community I used to belong to (although living in Jerusalem i'm still surrounded mostly by religious Jews). The people from Debian, Ubuntu and other Linux groups have become the community I now identify with. Like the Jews they have community members in almost every city on the planet and get-togethers both online and offline throughout the year. I've also found most of the FOSS community to be atheists or agnostics as generally they are very rational,scientific people.

Im finding it hard to bring any spirituality into my life at the moment, I used to teach kaballah and seem to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Recently though I have been approaching spirituality again through Alistair Crowley and similar occult writers - i've found the links to Kaballah fascinating.

Thanks again for the great blog, I'll link to you once my blog is up and running again...