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Mon Aug 6, 2012, 06:56 PM

How I lost my faith (x post with Atheists Agnostics)

Twelve years ago I was a mild mannered, self described agnostic.

I had been such an agnostic for years. If asked I would say that I was truly a skeptic, full of doubt but willing to receive a revelation.

Eleven years ago my mother died but in the final days, and aware of her impending end, she asked my sister and I to have a non-religious celebration for her funeral. To an extent it shocked me for while she had always expressed doubt about biblically based Christianity there was never any hint that she had discarded more than that. Yet here was this middle class British woman, born in the 1920s, conventionally educated, uninterested in theologies and philosophies, asking that we mark her passing, not with a pastor and prayers for her salvation but with a simple eulogy and a request not to mourn. What is more she was doing this in the very face of death.

It started me thinking, and thinking is dangerous to the status quo. Looking back I realised how unusual my mother and her mother had been and how ill conceived my view of them had become (the full story of that is a tale for another time).

Thinking is dangerous, something known to all faiths who respond by carefully partitioning thinkers away and only passing on what the faith leaders regard as acceptable to their theology and that faith. It was fatal to my faith because I saw that my use of the term "agnostic" hid that frightening demon atheism. In truth I was using the term agnostic as a conceit, a concealment and, if I was wrong, a defence in the face of vengeful but forgiving deity.

How was it a conceit? Essentially I, the agnostic, was saying, "I am open to receiving revelation, not like those atheists" but any atheist is just as open to such revelation as the agnostic. Equally the theist of another faith can fall to a revelation of god, look at the story of Paul. The whole point of revelation is that a god can grant it to anyone and in such an overpowering manner that it overcomes all objection; yet they/he/she/it does not grant such visions except to those already primed to accept them without question.

How was it concealment? When I said I was agnostic to another person you are leaving the door ajar to them bringing me into their particular faith, saying "I'm a blank sheet waiting for your god to write upon it - perhaps with a little help from you, friend". I was denying being one of those fearful atheists who can never be converted (see above) and waving a false flag to avoid conflict.

How was it defence? Essentially I was preparing an argument to make to a creature I did not believe existed. No agnostic believes in any god or gods for if they do they are not agnostic. Agnostics have no faith, have had no revelation and would deny that there can be physical proof of a deity; how is that not atheism?

There was another way in which this was a defence, it was a fragile armour against the fear of death and the fear of an afterlife. Here was where my mother led me; a Boudicca knowing that she would end but leading those who needed such a guide. Dying she led me into battle against my fears and they crumbled. She did not know this for she had died and in death was victorious.

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Arrow 36 replies Author Time Post
Reply How I lost my faith (x post with Atheists Agnostics) (Original post)
intaglio Aug 2012 OP
cbayer Aug 2012 #1
intaglio Aug 2012 #2
cbayer Aug 2012 #3
cleanhippie Aug 2012 #4
intaglio Aug 2012 #25
cbayer Aug 2012 #28
Goblinmonger Aug 2012 #30
intaglio Aug 2012 #31
cbayer Aug 2012 #32
intaglio Aug 2012 #33
cbayer Aug 2012 #34
intaglio Aug 2012 #35
cbayer Aug 2012 #36
MineralMan Aug 2012 #5
cbayer Aug 2012 #6
MineralMan Aug 2012 #7
cbayer Aug 2012 #10
MineralMan Aug 2012 #12
cbayer Aug 2012 #14
MineralMan Aug 2012 #17
cbayer Aug 2012 #19
MineralMan Aug 2012 #21
cbayer Aug 2012 #22
trotsky Aug 2012 #8
MineralMan Aug 2012 #9
cbayer Aug 2012 #11
MineralMan Aug 2012 #13
cbayer Aug 2012 #15
MineralMan Aug 2012 #18
cbayer Aug 2012 #20
trotsky Aug 2012 #27
rexcat Aug 2012 #23
cbayer Aug 2012 #24
cbayer Aug 2012 #16
intaglio Aug 2012 #26
cbayer Aug 2012 #29

Response to intaglio (Original post)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 07:08 PM

1. Well done and thanks for sharing.

I have a theoretical question here.

What are your thoughts about intelligent life somewhere else in the universe besides earth.

Are you an aintelligentlifeist or an intelligentlifeist? Or do you simply not know and don't want to take a position? Or something else?

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Response to cbayer (Reply #1)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 07:26 PM

2. False equivalence

1) Intelligent life may be unable to reveal itself because of time or physical constraints. This does not apply to a god.
2) Intelligent life does not require us to believe in them. Deities do.
3) Intelligent life may be hiding because they are afraid of us or of what we might become. Deities could not be so afraid, else they would not be deities.
4) Intelligent life might be hiding because they are afraid of what such knowledge might do to us. Deities don't hide until there are means to examine them.

So intelligent life - probable but not proven

Deities - not probable, not proven and almost certainly not possible.

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Response to intaglio (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 07:33 PM

3. You make some assumptions here.

Why do you presume that a god is able to reveal *itself* and not limited by time or physical constraints?

Why do you presume that deities require belief? The existence of a god or gods may or not be. If they are, then belief makes no difference.

Deities may not be hiding, but perhaps they have a laissez-faire attitude towards the whole thing.

Are we afraid to reveal ourselves to possible other intelligent life? If not, why would you presume that other intelligent life would be.

I fail to see the difference, unless one is willing to make some pretty broad assumptions, as you do here.

I would conclude that you are then an intelligentlifeist, even though you have absolutely no proof of that.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #3)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 07:57 PM

4. The only one making broad assumptions here is you.

Even when told exactly how a person feels and thinks about it, you dismiss it and insert your own feelings and thoughts as the correct answer.

You even fabricated a nonsensical false equivalency that was thoroughly deconstructed and you chose to ignore that too.


Common ground, cbayer? Until you choose to move away from where you are standing, you will never find it.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #3)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 02:33 AM

25. Now let me give you my answer that isn't

"It's midnight, I have to work and this person has made a really foolish comparison," reply.

Firstly
There are a multitude of graded positions about the concept of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

Secondly
Belief in a deity is not like being overweight; dependent upon a multitude of small differences in build, bone structure, metabolism and doctor; it is more like being pregnant -either you are or you are not. Do you believe in a deity? It is a yes or no answer although you can put in all sorts of caveats about either answer. You might be scared of your answer (I know I was). Your stance (if you are truly what you say) is "I don't believe but I can believe." I have pointed out elsewhere that is just a rational position and that even Dawkins says it is possible he might be wrong. This does not make Dawkins an agnostic but means there is an element of agnosticism about his atheism

Now examine your points one by one:
Why do you presume that deities require belief? The existence of a god or gods may or not be. If they are, then belief makes no difference.
Because if they do not require belief of us then they, or it, are not deities, just higher lifeforms that constructed our universe. If we constructed a world, even a little one on computers, would that make us gods? The answer there is no, it merely makes us competent humans, despite what people like the infamous internet troll Mabus believe. We would only become as gods to our creations if we required that their belief, without evidence, dictated our actions towards them.

Deities may not be hiding, but perhaps they have a laissez-faire attitude towards the whole thing.
The point above applies. If a deity has such a laissez-faire attitude then they are not deities and indeed they are, as far as we are concerned, not there.

Are we afraid to reveal ourselves to possible other intelligent life? If not, why would you presume that other intelligent life would be.
There is and has been a great deal of discussion on this subject in the scientific community. Essentially it boils down to "If a spacefaring creature is like us (humans) then we'd better be very, very quiet and hide because look what we did to less developed cultures amongst our own species." The flip side of this coin is best shown by the oft ignored "Prime Directive" of Star Trek; less developed cultures are likely to take great harm from contact with more developed cultures, think cargo cults. Please do not take refuge in the petty statement that "God is not a culture," that is nit-picking.

Essentially you have ignored the false equivalency of your initial argument, which depends upon intelligent lifeforms being equivalent to gods and moved onto making assumptions about gods that might render them equivalent to non-godly, intelligent lifeforms.

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Response to intaglio (Reply #25)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 10:31 AM

28. I disagree with one of your initial premises that it is a black or white issue.

In fact, I think for some people it can change over the course of a day, let alone a life time. The concept that you have to be one or the other is indeed a Dawkins concept, and he is not the last word on things theological, but he is a good team captain.

If one proceeds using your definition of deity, then I think your points are valid, but what makes your definition the one that must be used?

Anyway, I am glad for you that you have found yourself in a place that makes sense to you.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #28)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 12:08 PM

30. You are telling me that there are people

who believe in god in the morning, don't at night, and then wake up again with a full belief in a god?

I don't think I would (or could) ever live in that head.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #28)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 02:23 PM

31. It is absolutely black or white, pun intended

While you may say "sometimes X is an atheist and sometimes X is a theist within the course of a day" just means that X's personal philosophy lacks coherence at that time. This is normal, especially when someone in the midst of changing their world view but the two phases are distinct and whilst the person in the atheist phase may be extremely open to further revelation, it does not allow the two distinct phases to be regarded as one and named "agnostic."

Think of the time when the vacillator is in the religious phase by the very definition of the word agnostic they cannot be considered such. Why then do you insist that those in the atheist phase accept and use the concept agnostic as any more than a qualifier of their atheist state?

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Response to intaglio (Reply #31)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 02:30 PM

32. I think there are many who vacillate and who would tell you that

they simply don't know.

And many of those simply don't care either.

Why is it essential for someone to be able to definitively answer the question "Do you believe in God?". What is the problem with saying, "I don't know"?

The only reason I can see that people so vociferously argue for this is that they feel there are two teams, when in fact, there are not.

As I stated previously, the fastest growing group in the country are "nones" and they have been described as those with no particular religious affiliation. However, many of them maintain that they have some kind of spiritual beliefs and some just don't have an opinion either way. Still, others will be able to answer the question about a belief in god - some yes, some no.

I think Dawkins (and others) had to take the position of eliminating the category of pure "agnostic" in order to make a point and give more credibility to the growing group of open atheists, but I don't buy it and never had.

We may be at an impasse here. I did not mean to dismiss your experience. I think it's valid and meaningful. I also think it may be easier to have a clear answer to the question, whatever that answer is.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #32)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 04:08 PM

33. Look at your post, read it

and ask yourself, "what is it that is not known?"

If it is "I do not know if there is a god," then that is a-theism, you do not have a god; you may wish there was a god but you have no belief or faith.

If it is "I do not know what I believe," then there is no belief in god (a-theism) just doubt and ignorance of your self (2 words intended).

If it is "I do not know what I believe about god," then that is theism, but not a specific theism.

Now why do I and others reject the term agnostic as a unique set of beliefs? Because it is only defined as a part of an atheist whole. No person with belief can ever be described as agnostic, only those without belief can be so described. With belief, you are a believer even if it is only in some vague contortion of the meaning of "God". Those without that belief are, by definition, a-theist. It is entirely possible to doubt the validity of your non-belief, thus being to a greater or lesser extent agnostic, but you remain within the class a-theist

In my original post I said I lost my faith, a faith that was for me a conceit, a concealment or camouflage and a defence. It was a faith because it was not reasoned; it was irrational, unfounded and unexamined. I very strongly suspect that your understanding of agnosticism is based on similar foundations for you do not defend it except to say, in effect, "It's different because I say it is,"

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Response to intaglio (Reply #33)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 04:19 PM

34. Sorry, this is all semantic play, imo.

Your experience and how you define yourself is yours and yours alone. You can try, and you may even succeed, in convincing others that call themselves agnostics that they are in fact something else.

But that doesn't mean they are. Congratulations on your self discovery. You may be right and you may be wrong. In the end, it does not matter.

Tolerance and acceptance of how others define the terms and themselves is what matters.

Anyway, that's what I think and I'm sticking with it.

It's been nice talking with you.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #34)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 05:10 PM

35. No it is not semantics

Do you believe there is a god or that there are gods?

If you do not by the definition of the word you are atheist. You cannot escape it by calling it semantics, it is the heart of the word, the meaning of the word.

In practice you are the one playing with words. You claim that a lack of knowledge (a-gnosis) about deity makes your lack of belief somehow different from the lack of belief of others who, equally, claim lack of knowledge but do not let that ignorance define them. The only difference is that the others defend their lack of belief whilst you defend only your lack of knowledge.

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Response to intaglio (Reply #35)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 05:14 PM

36. You win. Call me anything you like.

When do I get the special decoder ring, lol.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #1)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:09 PM

5. Why would you have that question for someone who was

stating his or her disbelief in deities? I'm not sure how it follows. In fact, I'm not sure there was a reason for any question at all. A person made a statement, and elaborated on it. It is a statement, not an invitation to an argument or some sort of irrelevant questioning.

I'm an atheist. I have no idea whether there is intelligent life anywhere in the universe besides Earth. There could be. There might not be. The question is irrelevant to my atheism. If there is such intelligent life or there is not, that demonstrates nothing that has anything to do with the existence of deities.

It is a silly question.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:26 PM

6. Because he is making the argument that agnosticism is cowardly

And can only be used as a modifier for theist/atheist - a position I reject.

If one takes the position that a god or gods may just be forms of intelligent life with certain characteristics, then the questions are logical. One may or may not believe that there is intelligent life, or they simply may not know.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #6)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:39 PM

7. A statement regarding faith or a lack of it

isn't really subject to questions that have nothing to do with faith. The question about intelligent life elsewhere has zero to do with deities. It's just an argument for its own sake. If someone tells you he or she is an atheist, that is the end of the discussion, really. That person is telling you a fact about himself or herself.

If you ask that person whether or not he or she believes in intelligent life outside of Earth, you are simply being argumentative for argument's sake. It's not a pleasant thing to witness, really, and makes no sense. There is no necessary equivalence between intelligent life elsewhere and deities. If there is such intelligent life, the assumption would be that it came to be much as intelligent life did on Earth. The question of deities may be involved in whether or not you believe that life was created by a deity or not, but that is not an essential question.

A declaration of atheism or faith is just that. It is not something that depends on some other irrelevant question. Logic is good.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #7)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:43 PM

10. And if someone tells you they simply don't know, don't expect to know

and probably will never know, that's the end of the discussion as well. They are also telling you a fact about themselves.

Many people don't make a declaration of atheism or faith, and those numbers are growing.

Logic is good. Sides are not necessary.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #10)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:48 PM

12. You may not know, cbayer. And that's just fine with all of us,

I'm sure. You needn't assume that others do not know because of your lack of knowledge.

The number of agnostics is irrelevant, too. Each person is unique, with unique ways of seeing the world. Trying to force them into some mold that fits you is unlikely to succeed. There is no reason to present a false equivalency as an argument when someone presents a point of view. In fact, it could be considered quite a rude thing to do.

I am an atheist, and a longstanding one. What argument will you bring to me? Do you think my lack of belief is subject to change if I am presented with a specious argument of some kind? I assure you that is not the case. Why not just let people simply declare what they believe or do not believe, and explain their reasons for that? Why produce an argument with no merit whatsoever?

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #12)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:54 PM

14. I don't consider it a false equivalency at all, nor do I expect

anyone to hold the same views I do.

What I do expect is that others will allow me and everyone else to define themselves in the way that makes most sense to them.

I don't try to talk theists or atheists out of their position. What I argue for is allowing each to define themselves.

I respect your position as an atheist. I have absolutely no wish to try and talk you into being anything else. It threatens me not at all, nor does it speak to me.

So, I will reiterate what you have said here. Why not just let people simply declare what they believe or do not believe. But I will add, why not just let people take the position that they do not know and do not expect to know.

The OP brought this here for discussion. Why do you think that my asking a question about something I see as very similar is met with such hostility and resistance?

And why do you suppose it becomes so personal?

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Response to cbayer (Reply #14)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:58 PM

17. Oh, dear. It is not personal at all.

The OP brought this here for discussion. You replied to the OP. I replied to you. The subject is atheism/belief/and agnosticism. The introduction of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe has nothing whatever to do with discussion of the existence of deities. Intelligent life does not imply deities, and is quite a different matter. It is not related. Deities are, by definition, supernatural. Intelligent life, as we can see right here on our planet, is distinctly not supernatural.

Comparing two dissimilar things is a false equivalency. Apples and dirt clods, if you will.

Nothing person at all. It is simply a discussion of logic and illogic.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #17)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 09:02 PM

19. If one took the position that a deity was nothing more than a highly

evolved form of life, one that is incomprehensible to us but may have some role to play in our lives, then there is a connection.

It would be like an ant and a human. The ant, in it's own way, may feel the human is a god.

And in an ant's life, it may well be.

Ants and humans, if you will. Or apples and dirt clods.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #19)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 09:13 PM

21. I'm not familiar with any such deities.

Are you? Deities generally are supernatural by definition. Certainly the Judeo/Christian/Muslim deity is. You know, all omnicient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. That sort of thing takes them right out of the order of the creatures they created.

So, I don't know anyone who takes the position you're promoting here. It is, after all, turtles all the way down, you know. There is no end of turtles. Of ordinary beings, of course, there is an end.

Does the ant "feel" that humans are deities? Based on my frequent observations of ants, they are not aware of humans at all. If humans do not disturb their activities, they take no notice of them whatsoever. I do not know the thoughts or "feelings" of ants, of course, so I cannot say for sure, but I've noticed no awareness of me when I've been observing them.

I believe you are stretching this false equivalency even farther at this point. The breaking point is close at hand, I'm quite certain.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #21)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 09:21 PM

22. I am not familiar with any deities.

I am familiar with some of the mythology surrounding them. I am familiar with the stories of those that claim they do have some knowledge. Who am I to say whether they have or have not?

I am not promoting a position, by the way. I am merely expressing a position and asking that all positions have potential merit and deserve being heard.

Just because you can't observe their awareness does not mean it does not exist. Surely if we bring it up the evolutionary scale, your view might change. Dogs appear to see humans as deities - all knowing, all giving or withholding, all controlling. They adore. They have faith.

To me, this argument is entirely consistent with evolution and, again, not a false equivalency. It would be absurd of me to argue that we are the top of the food chain and nothing greater or more knowing has ever evolved. I simply don't know how far that goes, nor do I ever expect to.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:41 PM

8. Because cbayer thinks she's come up with a devastating "gotcha" when it comes to the plain fact...

that you either believe in gods, or you don't. She refuses to acknowledge the difference between agnosticism and atheism (knowing and believing), and so she thinks comparing it to belief in extraterrestrial intelligence is a way to shut people up.

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Response to trotsky (Reply #8)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:43 PM

9. Well, that trick might work with dull people.

Others see the logical error that irrelevant argument represents. Perhaps the poster should reconsider her opinions about the intelligence of those who frequent this group. She seems to think most of us are stupid. That's also a logical error.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #9)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:48 PM

11. On the contrary, I don't think you or the OP are dull people at all.

This is a discussion forum and I am having a discussion with the OP, which he did not seem to object to at all.

You can make this personal.... or not.

That's up to you.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #11)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:52 PM

13. I do not make anything on DU personal.

All discussions in forums and groups on DU are public, and are open to any DUer who wishes to join the discussion. If you wish to have a private discussion with another DUer, that is possible in DU Mail. You entered the discussion started by the OP, as did several other people. It is now, and started as, a public discussion. That is all.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #13)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:57 PM

15. When you start talking about another person, their motives, what they should and should not do,

it has become personal.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #15)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 09:01 PM

18. Only to the extent that there are persons posting messages in

this Group on DU. I do believe that those persons are real, certainly. If that's what you mean by personal, then I suppose it is personal. It is a form of personal communication, to be sure.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #18)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 09:10 PM

20. It's not what I mean.

One can discuss ideas, differences of opinion, various ways of seeing and experiencing the world without making assumptions about why they are the way they are or how they should be.

Once people start talking about the individual's personality, motives, and particularly when they start discussing that among themselves in a thread or in other areas, that's personal.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #11)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 07:20 AM

27. You just made it personal, though.

Nice sideswipe. Stay classy, cbayer. Good thing your hypocrisy is on display.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #1)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 09:46 PM

23. I think I have seen this question before...

but in a slightly different context.

on edit: http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1218&pid=38234

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Response to rexcat (Reply #23)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 10:35 PM

24. Exactly.

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Response to intaglio (Original post)

Mon Aug 6, 2012, 08:58 PM

16. I have another question. I find your subject line curious.

It sounds like you never had any faith to lose, so I am not sure what you mean by that.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #16)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 02:48 AM

26. Now onto the nitty gritty, What is faith?

Faith is an unsupported belief in a thing or an eventuality. Faith does not apply only to gods, it also applies to our philosophies. My faith was that there might be something other than the vast, unrelenting nothingness of death. I was cowering before that illusory blackness praying that there might be a god who could rescue me from oblivion.

But I did not believe in that god, I was a-theist and taking refuge in the idea that open mindedness could change that probability. My agnosticism was a torn rag covering the absence of belief and like all such rags, unnecessary.

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Response to intaglio (Reply #26)

Tue Aug 7, 2012, 10:33 AM

29. Ok, that makes sense.

Again, I am glad that you find yourself in a place that makes more sense to you and wish you much happiness in the future.

I like where I am as well.

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