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Hello everyone. I am new to this site and thought I might introduce myself by way of a discussion on the very topic which led me to atheism in the first place: in your opinion, which argument proved the most convincing in forming your current position. For me, I think it has always been the simple plurality of religions. This was something that struck me decades ago as a teenager and I have never yet seen it effectively countered: the fact that so many religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, maintain that  individually each one represents the "one true religion" and that all the others, no matter how close they might be in all other respects, are essentially bogus. Given that it is impossible for them all to be "right", I concluded that they simply cancel each other out. None of them is right, none of them is worth my committment. I'd be interested to hear what arguments proved the "clincher" for anyone else.


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Comment by TRIAL NERROR on April 19, 2014 at 5:25am

Thank you Loren for that very nuanced contribution

Comment by Loren Miller on April 17, 2014 at 2:02pm

My argument has been, is now, and remains about as pragmatic as an engineer can manage, to wit:


It's not that Islam and Christianity and Judaism and all the others are somehow opposing vectors which sum to zero or anything like that.  It's far more that all of them amount to little more than story-telling, with varying degrees of intrinsic value to the stories, accompanied too often by violence, misogyny, xenophobia, and other charming traits which don't help their cause.  The problem in virtually all cases is, when asked to look outside their own traditions and holy books and into disciplined science for independent corroboration that ANYTHING recorded in their holy books actually HAPPENED, what we get is a big load of ZILCH, NADA, BUPKIS, the big Goose-Egg.

And frankly, that's all I expect to ever see.

Comment by TRIAL NERROR on April 17, 2014 at 1:41pm

Thanks Matt - reading your comments now. Shall respond at length. Just want to say I very much enjoy how our dialogue takes us to a grey area where terms like "atheist" "theist" etc seem somehow crude and lacking.

Comment by Matt--Lukin on April 17, 2014 at 1:19pm

Well, perhaps you've heard of Perennial Philosophy of the sort espoused by authors such as Aldous Huxley. Perennialists argue that although the sacred scriptures of the world religions are undeniably diverse and often superficially oppose each other, one can discern an underlying root which is universal in all religion, and therefore could cast aside the superficial discongruities.

Alan Watts has an interesting way to put it in a lecture he once gave entitled "Image of Man" where he discusses comparative religion at great depth, and I'll post a link to a specific point in that video relative to this discussion below. Watts makes the point that if Christ was born in India and announced to everyone, "I and the father are one," a Buddhist might reply, "Congratulations! At last, you've found out!" because the Buddhist adheres to a kind of panentheism not to be confused with pantheism.

Alan Watts - Image of Man

It's simply that in western religious interpretations, such as Christianity, Christ as been pedestalized as the "one and divine appointed being." Eastern traditions, on the other hand, seem to imply that this insight or potential is latent within us all.

Dr. Rick Strassman also has an interesting theory which he elucidates in his book "DMT: The Spirit Molecule," that religion is a kind of by-product of a phenomenon in consciousness. A colossal altered state of consciousness of which Richard M. Bucke refers to as "cosmic consciousness." It's been contemporarily named "ego death," and that endogenous traces of N-N-DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine), a powerful neurotransmitter produced in the human body which also just so happens to be the most powerful psychedelic known to exist, is probably the culprit of such powerful ego-shattering experiences. Alan Watts also spoke about this phenomenon long before the work of Strassman, and I'll post one more link below regarding it.

So, the implication being that the founders of the major religions, i.e. Christ, Muhammad, Gautama, etc., were all simply mortal men who sometime in their lifetime had this phenomenon in consciousness occur and then all went on to each become the founder of a religion.

Alan Watts - "The Oceanic Feeling"

Comment by TRIAL NERROR on April 16, 2014 at 2:24pm

The inclusivity of Buddhism is indeed interesting, but in the end it simply boils down to a unique version of the same problem. To reiterate, religions cancel each other out because each claims to offer the definitive truth, thereby asserting that all others are in some manner deluded. Buddhism however asserts that any one religion is just as viable a route to the same end of spiritual enlightenment. Unfortunately, this unique position of Buddhism, this insistence on inclusivity, does not provide any kind of resolution to the common problem of reciprocal negation via exclusivity. It would be a resolution if all religions expressed what Buddhism expresses; better still if there only ever had been one religion throughout human civilisation - the sheer plurality of them strongly inclines one to suspect they are wholly a product of diverse human culture rather than the result of one divine being enlightening its creations. For the world's religions to achieve the unity asserted by Buddhism, there would have to be some serious, not to say heretical, rewriting of several verses of holy scripture in various holy books. This, as they say, is not going to happen any time soon. Sure, the Pope and the Dalai Lama can cosy up together in some ecumenical marriage bed, talking about how the one faith helps practitioners of the other to perfect their habits of meditation or charity. Sure, the Pope and the Dalai Lama can cosy up together in some ecumenical marriage bed, but their fundamental core beliefs make any talk about a common cause look hypocritical and downright contradictory. From this perspective, Buddhism is simply yet another example of the exclusivity of any particular religion. It too makes an assertion that, in the end, no other religion can concur with. The fact that that assertion is one of blanket inclusivity is irrelevant, and simply compounds the problem rather than resolves it.

This is apart from other issues any self-respecting rationalist might have with Buddhism; for example, I would personally love to take up the Dalai Lama's challenge that reincarnation would be difficult to disprove. Also, no amount of eclectic, pacifistic ecumenicalism has prevented the manifestation of rabid sectarian fundamentalism in Buddhism - a feature shared by many other religions, perhaps not in the sense suggested by Matt-Lukin. The Buddhism he speaks of is clearly not the Buddhism of Dorje Shugden, though who is to say whose kind of Buddhism is the right one?

Comment by Matt--Lukin on April 14, 2014 at 12:28pm

You know, it is possible from the perspective of some eastern religions for all religions to be "right." For instance, if you take into account Buddhism, from a Buddhistic perspective it could be said that all religions are correct, because the Buddhists feel that every religion derives from a single source.

Comment by TRIAL NERROR on April 13, 2014 at 10:43am

So far, the Conflicting Plurality argument seems to be the most popular and persuasive. Currently rereading Nicholas Everitt's "The Non-existence of God", which has kind of been my atheist bible for a number of years now. I especially recommend his take on fine-tuning, which actually made me laugh.

Comment by K J on April 12, 2014 at 12:20pm

Thanks B.

Comment by B Fletcher on April 11, 2014 at 4:50pm

I cannot deny that time lost to "Sunday School", time I'd rather have spent playing with friends or watching TV, may have played a role in my de-conversion.  I guess religion never really had a solid hold on me.

K J - I don't know where you could find help, but please, seek help.  It sounds like religion has stolen much from you already, but it doesn't need to steal your future.

Comment by Pablo Novi on April 11, 2014 at 4:43pm


For me, back in the mid-'60's, when I realized that:

Every religion claimed to be the One & Only True One; AND insisted that everybody not in their faith would get eternal torture

that forced a "soul-searching crisis on me. The deeper I looked, the harder I struggled, the more fundamental contradictions I encountered. With each I found, I hoped to find its solution in another area; but that was equally as bad a case for god(s)' existence:

1) Bad Odds: At least 199 out of 200 religions had to be dead wrong in their most fundamental belief. If being religious led inevitably to such bad odds of being right about THE most important thing, then believing in god(s) in an organized way was an automatic losing proposition.

2) POST-DEATH HELL FOR THE MAJORITY = GOD(S) MUST BE EVIL: At least 80% of all humanity, past, present and (probably) future (unless seemingly impossibly one religion could win over the faithful of all the others and win over all the non-faithful) ... at least 80% ended up in hell. Therefore: god(s) MUST be evil.


4) GOD(S) CAN'T SIMULTANEOUSLY BE: A) ALL-KNOWING, B) ALL-POWERFUL, C) ALL- GOOD / LOVING: The suffering, now & later, is way too much. Yet, supposedly "he" knew it would be like this and could have made sure it wasn't like this; thus, "he" can't be all-loving OR ELSE can't be all-knowing or all-powerful.

5) GOD OF THE GAPS: All of the above implied "bad news" for the case of god(s)'s existence. This raised the question of, "Where did god(s) come from? If god(s) don't exist, then we humans must have created them. What was that all about?" And I realized that, as humans went from knowing almost nothing to understanding every more things, we had gone from 100s of gods to 3 to 1; and 1 is only 1 more than none. And what was the 1 god like? "He" was the "answer" for whatever we still didn't understand or didn't want to understand.

6) REGIONAL GOD MEANS CHILDHOOD BRAINWASHING: All of a sudden, what I had not much paid attention to, that what people believed seemed to depend more on where they were born than on the superiority of their "god" cried out to me. I stared at a world map comparing religious beliefs; and there it was, clear as day. Where you were born was overwhelming the #1 factor in what god-belief you held the rest of your life. This mean two key things: a particular god's existence was not "evident" in itself; and children everywhere were being brainwashed, BEFORE THEY COULD REASON.

7) CIRCULAR HOLINESS: Holy God, Holy Book, Holy Church. But, once kids became adults, why did they remain believers, particularly in their birth-faith. So I asked myself, what "authority" was used for the 100% sureness each believer had. And I realized it was simply a "trinity" of circular reasoning: God is proved to be real because of the word of the holy book and church. The holy book is proved to be real because of the word of god and church. The hold church is proved to be real because of the word of the god and book.

The recognition of this kind of "holy circular trinity" was the last straw for me, the last missing piece of the puzzle. There was "no where left to run"; no desperately hoped for god-believing solution to this "7-ways-to-Sunday" death knoll for god(s).

In other words, instead of one key realization, it was the air-tight seven-sided case that forced me to admit "defeat"; give up further effort; give up religion and god; become an atheist; and win!

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