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Wed Oct 24, 2012, 01:28 PM

Atheists and Foxholes

OCTOBER 23, 2012 1:14PM
Ann Nichols

When my brother told me my mother was really going to die, that there would be no amazing reprieve this time, I got the answer to a question I’d been asking most of my life. I always wondered if, when my parents died, I would pray, talk to God, and find some comfort in something outside myself. It was the worst thing I could think of, the death of my parents, worse for me than any physical threat. As a small child I stood at the window and wept if I heard sirens when they were out for the evening, convinced that they had been killed. The loss of either or both of them, although inevitable, was the hardest thing imaginable, the complete destruction of all that I believed to be stable and good.

It was never clear whether I would be atheist or believer in that unavoidable foxhole of loss. My spiritual life was shaped by my believing-but-not-very -observant Jewish mother and my lapsed Catholic-turned-atheist father. My brother and I experienced everything from Passovers, chopped liver and menorahs with my mother and her family to Catholic mass with my father’s mother. We received information about religion and spirituality that was contradictory,non-directive and honest. Organized religion, according to my father, was the root of most of the evil and suffering in the world. He believed that “religious” people unwilling to question doctrine, or to offer real help to those in need were sheep and hypocrites. He also took my grandmother to mass every Sunday, and genuflected before entering the pew at her funeral.

My mother believed in God, and she placed great value on keeping Jewish traditions and history alive. She was also as open and ecumenical as my father was not; in the later years of her life she and I discussed everything from Jesus to angels. She and I shared the belief that faith can be a great blessing, but that religion was absolutely not essential in raising moral children who felt a duty to serve. My brother and I turned out pretty well, we are both personally and professionally dedicated to helping other people, and we did it all without threat of hell, excommunication or judgment of any kind. We did it because our parents modeled it, demanded it, and made us want to be good people.

Left to my own thoughts and choices, I experimented, sampled, and studied. I believed there was something greater than our little lives. It could all be a series of accidents from The Big Bang forward that created the beauty of spider webs, seashells and snowflakes. Everything could be science, all gravity and stardust and evolution. I believed in the scientific facts, but I, personally, wanted something more.

http://open.salon.com/blog/ann_nichols/2012/10/23/atheists_and_foxholes

57 replies, 3647 views

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Arrow 57 replies Author Time Post
Reply Atheists and Foxholes (Original post)
rug Oct 2012 OP
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #1
dmallind Oct 2012 #32
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #35
cbayer Oct 2012 #2
skepticscott Oct 2012 #3
stopbush Oct 2012 #4
cbayer Oct 2012 #5
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #7
cbayer Oct 2012 #9
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #10
cbayer Oct 2012 #11
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #13
dmallind Oct 2012 #33
edhopper Oct 2012 #6
rug Oct 2012 #8
edhopper Oct 2012 #43
rug Oct 2012 #44
edhopper Oct 2012 #47
rug Oct 2012 #48
edhopper Oct 2012 #51
rug Oct 2012 #52
mr blur Oct 2012 #12
cbayer Oct 2012 #14
rug Oct 2012 #17
cbayer Oct 2012 #18
rug Oct 2012 #19
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #20
cbayer Oct 2012 #22
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #23
cbayer Oct 2012 #24
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #25
cbayer Oct 2012 #26
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #27
cbayer Oct 2012 #28
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #29
cbayer Oct 2012 #30
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #31
cbayer Oct 2012 #34
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #36
cbayer Oct 2012 #37
rug Oct 2012 #38
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #39
rug Oct 2012 #40
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #41
rug Oct 2012 #42
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #45
rug Oct 2012 #46
beam me up scottie Oct 2012 #49
rug Oct 2012 #50
rug Oct 2012 #21
Silent3 Oct 2012 #15
cbayer Oct 2012 #16
tama Oct 2012 #53
cbayer Oct 2012 #54
nothereforyou Oct 2013 #55
gopiscrap Oct 2013 #56
cbayer Oct 2013 #57

Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 01:36 PM

1. Oh brother.

“Buddhism is a religion which teaches people to 'live and let live'. In the history of the world, there is no evidence to show that Buddhists have interfered or done any damage to any other religion in any part of the world for the purpose of introducing their religion. Buddhists do not regard the existence of other religions as a hindrance to worldly progress and peace.”
.

I really wish people would do their homework before embracing alternative religions.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #1)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:38 PM

32. Arakan anyone?

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Response to dmallind (Reply #32)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:46 PM

35. Exactly.

Fucking new agers, they aspire to be rebels and rogues but they're no different than Sarah Palin, just recycling old bullshit.


Great. I haven't even been back for two days and I'm already swearing.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 01:53 PM

2. Excellent article, imo. I think she expresses what many feel.

There is a lot of room between atheism and theism, and I think that is where many of the "nones" find themselves these days.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #2)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:20 PM

3. That's only true if

you think that the need to believe is the same as actual belief. The person in this article is expressing the latter.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:24 PM

4. "There may be atheists in foxholes, but apparently I am not one of them." writes Ms Nichols.

Well, I am.

I've lost both parents and didn't feel a need to pray or seek god either time. In fact, I was pretty much appalled and disgusted by the whole Lutheran religious claptrap that went on during their funeral services.

My wife and I lost a child at 26 weeks. Didn't feel any urge to pray to the imaginary deity when that happened, either.

As far as atheists in foxholes - weren't all those "godless Communists" we fought all those years atheists? Weren't they in foxholes?

BTW - if you're not an atheist and you find yourself in a foxhole, why is your faith and your god so weak? Surely, you must believe that your god will be looking out for you in that foxhole, protecting you from danger. And if he doesn't have the power to protect you from danger, why bother groveling before him?

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Response to stopbush (Reply #4)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:39 PM

5. It's not always about groveling, you know.

Some people find comfort, strength, insight, even enlightenment through their faith. Those that are only asking their god to perform some kind of intervention on their behalf are quite likely to be disappointed.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #5)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:46 PM

7. In a foxhole it is.

Like an abused child promising they'll be good and begging their parent for mercy.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #7)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:57 PM

9. I disagree. Sometimes in a crises, it's about trying to find some internal strength.

Sometimes it's about reflecting on making the right decision. Sometimes it's about those that you love.

Whether one uses their faith and beliefs to get to those things is most likely inconsequential, but not all religious people see their god as a punishing parent.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #9)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 03:09 PM

10. The author misused the term "atheist in a foxhole".

It refers to atheists who think they're going to die soon and in a moment of weakness hedge their bets.

So yes, it is just like a child pleading with an abusive parent.


I am an atheist, I have nearly died several times, I never begged for my life, not once.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #10)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 03:16 PM

11. What she describes is nothing like begging for her (or her mother's life), so I agree

that the term is being used rather loosely.

I believe that there are atheists in foxholes, emergency rooms, ICU's, car accidents, etc., etc.

They are no more or less likely to have a better outcome than a theist in the same situation, imo.

In the end, it comes down to whatever gets you through your night.

Nice to see you back.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #11)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 03:37 PM

13. The foxhole reference usually sets me off.

I really don't care what she believes or doesn't as long as she doesn't speak for other atheists or promote bigoted stereotypes.

Thank you for the welcome.

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Response to stopbush (Reply #4)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:40 PM

33. I am - and it's my death not someone else's to boot.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:44 PM

6. Hmm

I believed there was something greater than our little lives. It could all be a series of accidents from The Big Bang forward that created the beauty of spider webs, seashells and snowflakes. Everything could be science, all gravity and stardust and evolution. I believed in the scientific facts, but I, personally, wanted something more.

So the reality that there does not need to be any "more" to explain this Universe is hard for you to take. You need to imagine that there is something greater for your own comfort. I guess it works for you, But the universe and reality don't exist for your comfort.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #6)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:49 PM

8. Is there a reason?

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Response to rug (Reply #8)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 07:02 PM

43. A reason for what?

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Response to edhopper (Reply #43)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 07:07 PM

44. "But the universe and reality don't exist for your comfort."

You've eliminated one reason. Do you believe there is another or none?

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Response to rug (Reply #44)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 07:33 PM

47. If you mean an anthropromorphic reason

none that I can see.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #47)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 07:34 PM

48. No, I'm not asking for physical ausation.

I'm asking if you believe there is any reason for it to exist. We both know the mechanics of its existence.

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Response to rug (Reply #48)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 09:43 PM

51. Are we in

meaning of life territory?
Yes, my life has meaning, that which I ascribed to it.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #51)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 09:46 PM

52. No, never mind.

I'll just say this.

It seeems to me that if one objects to the notion that the universe is here for a reason, perforce, there is no reason at all for it to exist, it just is. End of inquiry.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 03:31 PM

12. You know rug, you really ought to post all this anti-atheist crap in Atheists & Agnostics

Oh wait.....sorry...

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Response to mr blur (Reply #12)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 03:47 PM

14. How is this anti-atheist?

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Response to cbayer (Reply #14)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:01 PM

17. Edit, replied to wrong post.

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Response to rug (Reply #17)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:03 PM

18. If anything, I found this to be very supportive of atheism and a very personal story.

I'm truly curious as to why it is being read as anti-atheist?

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Response to cbayer (Reply #18)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:05 PM

19. He is under the delusion that if I posted it it must be anti-atheist.

I find his cool rational objectivity to be amusing.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #18)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:10 PM

20. I can't speak for Mr. Blur but if I had to guess

it would be the Atheist in a Foxhole meme.

It's extremely offensive.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #20)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:19 PM

22. I can see how the "There are no atheists in foxholes" meme would be offensive,

but that's not really what this article is about at all, as we discussed above.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #22)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:30 PM

23. You asked how this thread could be construed as 'anti-atheist'.

When the title is offensive it begs the question.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #23)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:44 PM

24. That would be true only if one didn't read past the headline.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #24)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:46 PM

25. If the headline read 'Catholics and the Buggering of Little Boys' would you read past it?

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #25)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:51 PM

26. Yes, I would, because headlines are often used to incite interest.

This is a silly debate, isn't it? The article is not anti-atheist. The member appears to have made a knee jerk assumption based on reading the headline and his notions about the member who posted it.

I asked him to explain and so far he has not done so, but I am curious.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #26)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:56 PM

27. They are also used to sow discord.

I guess I can't expect you to understand why it's so offensive, I just wanted to give you a heads up since this issue is quite popular in this forum and others.

And imo, the op regularly posts material that just barely squeaks in under the 'flame bait' radar.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #27)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:04 PM

28. I don't think there is a need to make this personal.

You said the phrase "No atheists in foxholes" was offensive and I agreed with you. That's not the title, however, and the author is an atheist.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #28)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:11 PM

29. Ok, first, the author is no longer an atheist (if she ever was one).

And secondly I'm not making this personal, I am just trying to answer your questions.

Nit picking about the exact phrasing in the title is either naive or purposely obtuse.

When the words 'atheists' and 'foxholes' are used in the same sentence we get it, we're not stupid.

And neither is the op.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #29)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:19 PM

30. What does she say that makes you think she is no longer an atheist?

I didn't get that from the article at all.

Anyway, I think it was a good article about a very personal experience.

Editing to add that if you think I am naive or intentionally obtuse, we will have little to talk about in the future.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #30)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:30 PM

31. "I believed there was something greater than our little lives."

Left to my own thoughts and choices, I experimented, sampled, and studied. I believed there was something greater than our little lives. It could all be a series of accidents from The Big Bang forward that created the beauty of spider webs, seashells and snowflakes. Everything could be science, all gravity and stardust and evolution. I believed in the scientific facts, but I, personally, wanted something more.

So I flirted with Catholicism, Judaism, Wicca, some vague amalgamation of Taoism and Other Asian Stuff. I joined a Protestant Church, of which I am still a member, and while I love the community, the good works and the exhortations to follow Christ’s example, it was only a couple of years before rebellion stirred. I had problems with The Bible. I loved the language and poetry in The Old Testament, and there were lessons of universal usefulness in both Testaments. If everyone actually did the stuff Jesus said to do, we would have peace, justice, and enough love and food and support for everyone on earth.

***

There may be atheists in foxholes, but apparently I am not one of them. During those last hours, I believed that the universe breathed with me. It was neither the stark atheist nothingness of stardust and gravity, nor the embrace of some omnipotent God.


And yes, the article is just fucking adorable, the part I find offensive is where she uses a bigoted stereotype to describe her silly quest for "something more".

I am not labeling you naive or willfully obtuse, but if you continue to completely disregard the op's posting history in this forum what else am I to conclude?

Referencing the atheists in foxholes meme is as offensive as comparing your god to Santa Claus.

My beef was with the op and the ditzy author, not you. I will not push your buttons if you don't push mine.

Peace out.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #31)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:45 PM

34. OK, but you make assumptions about "my god", which I would ask you not to do.

See you around the campfire.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #34)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:50 PM

36. Okay, comparing anybody's god to Santa Claus is offensive.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #36)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 05:53 PM

37. Agree.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #27)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 06:30 PM

38. You think an article written by an woman sifting through belief systems is flamebait?

As I said, you have some weird opinions.

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Response to rug (Reply #38)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 06:37 PM

39. At least I don't play coy.

Your concern for us poor confused atheists is touching.

What would we do without Unca rug?

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #39)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 06:44 PM

40. No, you just indirectly accuse people of posting flamebait.

When called, you invoke "us poor confused atheists" like a dog whistle and resort to an ad hominem.

I'd say that's play but this place is not a playground.

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Response to rug (Reply #40)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 06:50 PM

41. Oh it's a playground...

It's just not your playground.

No, you just indirectly accuse people of posting flamebait.

When called, you invoke "us poor confused atheists" like a dog whistle and resort to an ad hominem


Oh dear.



We need a hypocrisy smilie.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #41)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 06:54 PM

42. Really? And what game are you playing?

Disruption versus discussion?

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Response to rug (Reply #42)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 07:24 PM

45. We really do need that hypocrisy smilie.



Which one of us is banned from posting in the other's group again?

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #45)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 07:30 PM

46. One of us does, desperately.

It would behoove you to see precisely what happened there. I invite you to post right here, in my words, what that decision was based on. BTW, say hello to laconic. He stated the objection was to my mere "presence". I can't say I have that objection.

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Response to rug (Reply #46)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 07:38 PM

49. It would behoove you to re-read your posts to atheists in this forum before throwing stones at me.

It's not my fault you set the bar so fucking low rug.

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Response to beam me up scottie (Reply #49)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 07:42 PM

50. Simple minds find things to be simple.

As do minds ringed by stereotypes. Don't forget to say hi for me.

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Response to mr blur (Reply #12)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:10 PM

21. You have a peculiar view of what is anti-atheism.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 03:52 PM

15. How is that not atheism?

The author over-personalizes a connection to the universe in a way that most atheists I know would avoid, given their generally skeptical nature about all forms of mysticism, not just about deities. Atheism, however, is not defined by a "stark... nothingness of stardust and gravity". Atheism is defined by a lack of belief in deities.

The author started out as a mystically-inclined atheist, then confronted the death of her parents as a mystically-inclined atheist. She did not suddenly embrace a belief in a deity. A universe that "breathed" with her for a time is not a God. She simply didn't remain as narrowly-defined an atheist as she seemed to think one would have to be to remain an atheist.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #15)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 03:56 PM

16. I think that a very accurate description of what she describes.

I didn't read this as her denouncing her atheism, just embracing something else (which doesn't read as theism to me either).

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Response to cbayer (Reply #16)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 07:50 AM

53. "To kati allo" - Embracing Something Else

 

The most important sections about being are the Battle of Gods and Giants (Sophist 245e–249d) and the aporetic passage that follows (249d–251a). The Gods are friends of the forms, who look a lot like middle period Platonists, and the Giants are materialists. The Stranger offers the reformed Giants a definition (horos) of being as a capacity (dunamis) to do something to something else or to be affected by something else (247d–e).

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-sophstate/notes.html

When I was living in Athens, there was a nice psistaria with good cheap wine and interesting clientele called "To Kati Allo". The expression has double meaning, meaning also "Something Special". When I read the Sophist by Plato, the theological part of that dialogue struck me as deliberately omitting something, which I imagine was omitted for the reason why Socrates was sentenced to death by Athenians on charge of atheism. Socrates denied the accusation and said that the God he was serving was "Something Else":

"Gentlemen, I am your grateful and devoted servant, but I owe a greater obedience to God than to you; and as long as I draw breath and have my faculties I shall never stop practicing philosophy". Since Socrates has interpreted the Delphic Oracle as singling him out to spur his fellow Athenians to a greater awareness of moral goodness and truth, he will not stop questioning and arguing should the people forbid him to do so, even if they were to withdraw the charges. Nor will he stop questioning his fellow citizens. "Are you not ashamed that you give your attention to acquiring as much money as possible, and similarly with reputation and honor, and give no attention or thought to truth and understanding and the perfection of your soul?"

In a highly inflammatory section of the Apology, Socrates claims that no greater good has happened to Athens than his concern for his fellow citizens, that wealth is a consequence of goodness (and not the other way around), that God does not permit a better man to be harmed by a worse, and that, in the strongest statement he gives of his task, he is a stinging gadfly and the state a lazy horse, "and all day long I will never cease to settle here, there and everywhere, rousing, persuading and reproving every one of you."
As further evidence of his task, Socrates reminds the court of his daimon which he sees as a supernatural experience. He recognizes this as partly behind the charge of believing in invented beings. Again Socrates makes no concession to his situation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apology_(Plato)

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Response to tama (Reply #53)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 12:01 PM

54. To Kati Allo - I like that very much.

As I said above, there is a huge gaping grey area between theism and atheism, imo, and this is an interesting description of it.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #16)

Sun Oct 13, 2013, 01:45 PM

55. Silly

She's not an atheist. I happen to know the author. She wrote a personal story about a personal experience. That in and of itself entitles her to write whatever she freaking wants, does it not? I believe we are still entitled to our feelings and expression of same, or has that changed?

This is a very cool and open minded woman. Stop summarizing people you know nothing about aside from a blog post.

We hear all the time about fanatic religious people. Stop being intolerant of others for having the views they do. Unless someone is telling you that you are wrong or interfering with your life, freedom, etc, what another expresses - and believes - is none of your business.

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Response to nothereforyou (Reply #55)

Sun Oct 13, 2013, 01:50 PM

56. Welcome to DU

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Response to nothereforyou (Reply #55)

Sun Oct 13, 2013, 02:04 PM

57. Welcome to DU and to the Religion group, nothereforyou.

I can't see where I said anything here that would lead you to the conclusions you did.

I liked her article very much and understood her struggle between atheism and theism.

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