Sarah, I appreciate your situation. Losing community was the hardest thing for me, and I found virtually no one to discuss my thinking or feeling in my family, neighbors or friends. I felt muzzled and then ran across several atheist internet sites. Finding these friends helps me to explore ideas and clarify what I feel. Now, everybody knows I am an atheist, however, my thinking is more nuanced than before. I still get the "Have you given your heart to the Lord" or "Do you know Jesus" from all of them, but being able to articulate those things that seem absurd to me seems to be questioned by some of them. I generally have no reason to bring it up, unless someone asks, or makes some claim ... a physician worked 12 hours to save a son when he had a stroke. "God saved him" sent me off on a rant. So I don't have to deal with any more of that. My reputation takes care of it and I don't have to rant very often.
I always found those questions odd, "Do you know Jesus?" They're so... weighed. I've noticed that the purpose of those questions aren't at all to start a discussion, but to begin a long witnessing rant. As with every JW I've encountered who come up to the door and ask such questions, they aren't really interested in what I have to say just in what they want to communicate which is what they believe to be the "saving" necessity of Jesus.
I still struggle with the articulating part. I also find that the reputation is often simply a negative one, rather than an understanding one. Rarely do people actually engage in a discussion over why one is an Atheist and discover one's reasoning, it's simply left at the lack of faith and almost treated like a label.
However I agree, these communities are so helpful in helping to understand and deal with the difficulties involved in the major life change. =)
groups, fellowships, meetings, tight communities are the way the Mafia kept its hold on Italy for so long... and still does to some degree. The great big Mafia hug, a physical contact telling you both who you "belong" to, and who's the boss. Hugs aren't always innocent, sometimes they're simply control tools, just like those fake communities.
I knew some very Christian people who used the word love three times per sentence, all this extra community stuff is but a tool to entrap people into that particular group, the utmost in cliqueness, in gang mentality.
Welcome to the world of free thinking :)
A world where you don't belong to one single community, but to the entire world!
Interesting thought TNT666. Do you really think the concept and practice of community is really so controlling and negative though? Mafia and mob is a strange comparison to church/temple/Sikh(?) fellowship, I'd think.
Sure there is a large amount of fakeness in such buildings and groups, and definitely a lot of cliqueness... but I think that's too broad of a stroke to paint. I've experienced my share of very pleasant, supportful, and loving fellowships. Of course I've seen my share of terrifying control freak churches too!
I like your last line though, the thought of belonging to the whole world instead of a single community. It's a great life-perspective. =)
The concept of community in the Mafia is central and was only understood socially in recent decades, but for those who are leaders, they understand the power that "helping" gives to the giver, more than the receiver. This is also visible in international politics, and in domestic policies of "aid" to our own countries' First Nations. When one country "gives" to another, it is a calculated move to promote the interests of the giving country. Just like when the government's "indian affairs" "gives" to tribes, we in fact keep those people down, and maintain our power over them. Giving is a powerful control tool.
I think because most of this internet community is composed of religious 'ex's, there is a tendency to want to keep the 'comfy' feelings provided by religion, yet throw away the ugly feelings, while not realising that they are one and the same; while conceding/realising that those 'comfy' feelings are the result of political manipulation, of the most basic nature. This is IMO an unbalanced approach, life is made up of all shades of good and bad. I'm not against religion/gods because they're "bad", but simply because I think it's a waste of intellectual capacity to spend even 30 seconds giving credence to nonsense and delusion. And people willing to give the time of day to delusion passing itself off as reality should not be considered "capable" (compared to legal competence to stand trial) to partake in political decisions.
It's really no different than when soda companies sponsor sporting events, they're not doing it out of the goodness of their heart, it's advertising.
I agree with the mantra in life that nothing is free. Everything as an ethical cost... even apparent kindness. And always remember... those people most effective at control are the ones who DO NOT come off as control freaks. People resist control freaks. It's the smooth talking, charismatic (in its wide sense), loving, kind, people who exert the most control over us... and they know it :)
Before we can truly throw out religions/gods from our socio-political sphere, we'll need to stop being apologetic about religion's "good sides" and recognise that it was all advertising/marketing. Until that hurdle (and it's a large one) is crossed, religious delusion will remain present in our society... because we enable it.
I've never belonged to any particular "community", not religiously, not politically, not sexually, not nationality. But I've been atheist since birth, so I was always accustomed to thinking outside the religious box. My family wasn't militantly atheist... it's just that gods don't exist, so why even discuss the topic???
I think (from reading many many people here) that leaving religion is not a one-stop event. It is a gradual process, where more and more layers get peeled off, until in the end, at the core, there is nothing left of that concept.
You have many many years ahead of you to ponder on the true purpose of religions (control, not godliness), I'm sure you'll have an amazing time here discussing with people. I wish you much success on this path :)
I like your thoughts on the subject TNT. I'll need to think about them more, but so far they seem correct. I was a Mormon for 55 years, and I can now see that church is guilty of the kind of control you mention.
TNT666, what an interesting thought! I am already so thankful for this community, you alone have got the wheels turning in my head more than it has since I've been out of college. You are right, I (and I'm sure many of us) have a long path of learning and discussion ahead of us. Such is the glory of life!
From your post, can I assume you follow the ethical philosophy of the non-existence of altruism? That is, that true altruism does not exist, all actions of "caring" are really done out of self-fulfillment or obligation. I personally have accepted that mindset since looking into it, but still struggle with hammering out the specifics of it. The gaping difficulty I've found in this perspective is that it's faulty to assume one's intentions first of all, and secondly even though it may be true subconsciously, the first thought in people's minds when helping the drowning child in the pool is not "I am doing this because it is the socially acceptable thing to do and if I did not do it I would be judged.... etc etc." They are thinking "OMG that person is drowning!" It's an immediate reaction without much thought.
With that being said.... I still have to agree with you! The giver does absolutely have power. I believe the Bible is one of the texts to admonish one not to take out loans, because the lender is master and controller of her who holds the debt. It is so true. Even charity leaves a feeling of being at debt. I know that colleges, for example, who fund lower income students into their doctorate and graduate programs only do so with the knowledge that a large percentage of such charity cases will give back financially to their alma matter.
However... I still have to wonder. It seems to me a little presumptuous to say that religious community and giving is advertising. Perhaps it is, but is it their initial intention? Perhaps. Or perhaps it's subconscious. Perhaps it is for all of us. When we work at soup kitchens, or given to St. Jude's or whatever are we doing it for altruistic reasons or just to say "see, Atheists can do good too!" Are we advertising ourselves as well? Is it even right to judge? As I see it, the religious groups are still the ones who do a great amount of work for the community. Advertising or not, things are getting done, are they not?
Food for thought though, for sure... What do you think?
I would be interested in an analysis of whether the funds would be better deployed if the religious groups didn't enjoy tax benefits? I think they serve the the community only to try and get people on board in a subtle way and to justify their tax exempt status. They do of course do it for guilt/ulterior motives as well as it books them a place in fairy land as well.
That's true... but like you said we all have in-group, out-group mentalities. For Atheists, we can tend to judge the religious people heavily and not realize we are doing some of what they also do. Although we may not meet weekly and disallow those not like us into our fellowships, we do heavily judge those not as "enlightened" as us, sometimes.
Judging will always be a daily component of human activity. I do not begrudge religious people their right to judge... my judging is based on facts, theirs is based on delusions. IMO, the atheist position is stronger. ;)
Just curious because that's an interesting point, can you give examples of the judging based on facts? I can see how their opinions are based on delusions, certainly, but "facts" seems like a strong word to me.