Hey folks, Protestant seminarian here. I have a class on worldviews I’m taking this semester, and I’m really interested by the increasing number of non-religious people in America – nearly a third, by some estimates. Thanks for taking the time to look at my questions – I’d love to have some good conversation about these things. I’m really not looking to convert or argue, just find out what you think. Thanks.
1) How old are you? Are you male or female? What nationality/ethnicity are you?
2) What is your occupation?
3) Did you grow up with religion? If so, which?
4) If you grew up with no formal religion, what was your exposure to it? Did you ever explore it on your own?
5) How do you self-identify now?
6) How did you come to reach your present set of ideas or philosophy?
7) What worked for you or what didn’t work for you in your previous system?
8) What do you think is your purpose in life, if any?
9) Do you think humanity has a purpose? If so, what?
10) Do you think you have a soul, or that there is a spiritual aspect to your life?
11) Do you believe in or observe any kind of spiritual practice? If so, which?
12) How do you determine what is right and wrong? Do you create your own system, or do you also look to other sources or authorities for guidance sometimes? If so, which ones?
What follows are my answers before I censored myself. It just got too damned long. I didn’t want to post a blog to Reddit today. That’s what this place is for. So as I type these words my intent is to save this here relatively unedited, and then go back to Reddit and seriously cut the shit out of what I’ll save there.
1. 45, male, american melting pot, but for your purposes put “white.”
2. Rat in a maze (cubicle drone surrounded by dead ends)
3. Born Southern Baptist
4. I did grow up with a formal religion so technically this question doesn’t apply, but I question use of the word ‘formal’ cuz the more formal religion got the more more informal i found myself becoming. I instinctively rebelled against established conservative tradition, particularly when i’d ask questions about why we’re doing this and i’d get dumb stares back.
5. ABSURDIST first and foremost, but few understand what that really means and I’m one of them. SubGenius curmudgeon. Abrahamic apostate. Godless Heathen is also fun. I also like the words “atheist” and “skeptical” but I don’t like what others are doing with those words. I also sometimes call myself an Agnostic Atheist. I don’t know. I don’t believe. They’re not mutually exclusive.
6. I get this kind of question a lot and can’t answer this question well enough here, which is why I wrote this and also “SUDDEN” which is linked in the first paragraph of that link. If that link doesn’t work, just google “zachsmind sudden wordpress” and i’m in there somewhere. But to be fair, those essays don’t answer the question either, cuz I haven’t reached my present set of ideas or philosophy. That is still ongoing, and I don’t intend to finish before I’m dead.
7. The belief system into which I was born claimed certain specific things worked consistently and I found that they didn’t. The whole sin thing for example pretends to be rigid but for some can be very loose, and for others quite elusive. I notice some people embrace science like a religion but science doesn’t pretend to know absolute knowledge either. I am an absurdist. Nothing really works forever. Some things appear to work for a time, and one needs to keep an eye out for them, like looking for footing on a rock ledge. You go with what works for a time but it probably won’t work forever. Rocks are only solid right now. Everything is really atoms. Shifting sand. Some sands shift faster than others.. i’m sorry what was the question again?
8. Joss Whedon once wrote, “if nothing that we do matters, then the only thing that matters is what we do.” I have no purpose in my life other than to live it. I can make up goals. Other people may opt to try to push goals upon me. Ecclesiastes says, “All is useless it’s like chasing the wind” and that’s perhaps the most true thing one can find in the Judeo-Christian Bible. Sometimes chasing the wind can be fun. Like if there’s a butterfly in that wind for example.
9. See 8. And I’d add George Carlin once said in response to Saving the Planet and Global Warming, “the world isn’t going anywhere. WE ARE.” Humanity’s fate is finite, like the dinosaurs or the do do bird. How soon our end will come depends partly on us (polluting the planet. killing each other. etc) but also on variables we can’t control like meteors and the other 99% of the universe that wants us dead.
10. I have seen no evidence there is a spiritual world, and we can’t prove souls exist. When the heart can beat no more, the lungs stop breathing and the brain ceases to function, that’s it. Your existence lives on in the memories of those who knew you. Perhaps one’s words will outlast the body if the words are memorable enough for others to seek out and read long after you’re gone. I am open to scientific evidence to the contrary, but by this point it’s gonna have to be pretty compelling and conclusive evidence.
11. I am a SubGenius. “Anything any SubGenius says at any time is sacred dogma automatically.” This is true because Pope David Meyer of New York once said it, and I choose to accept it, so in this way i am “observing a spiritual practice” even when I don’t want. I practice the SubGenius Faith In “Bob” because it (usually) pleases me, and soothes me, and brings me joy. I’ve been told I’m very Buddhist in my SubGenius practice. I fancy that Buddha, “Bob” and The Fightin’ Jesus are golfing buddies in space.
12. This question feels loaded but I’ll do what I can. First off, my exposure to Christianity has dulled and twisted my discerning objectivity in this arena, because I can’t tell just how much of that behavioral conditioning is still affecting me and I don’t consciously realize it. Even when I was a child I thought the idea that “dancing is wrong and sinful” was incorrect, but some other things like theft and murder, I still agree with the religious dogma. Is that because of the dogma, or because theft and murder are objectively wrong all the time? Sometimes my own government commits what i would objectively call heinous crimes, but I also don’t believe humans are capable of objectivity, so there ya go. Male homosexuality still kinda creeps me out, but I chalk that up to religious upbringing. As best as I can subjectively see things objectively, there’s a lot of stuff religion calls sinful that I can’t see is bad for any reason other than some ancient text or modern day preacher says it’s bad. That’s just not good enough.
Nothing is really good enough. There may be no such thing as objective good and bad. I’ve yet to see a system that is consistently dependable. However, I still have to get along day by day. So I go with what works until it doesn’t. Absurdism and Atheism have no dogma to which I personally acknowledge or adhere. We live in a universe that is constantly moving and changing and expanding and is far more unpredictable and ephemeral than it feels like it is sitting here on this spinning mudball in space. We’re very lucky here. Over 99% of the universe would kill us almost instantly.
So I’m in the process of creating my own system, one that works for me, which will probably not work for others. I pool together my limited knowledge based on my brief time here and try to learn something new every day. I observe other sources, authorities, and guidance. I’ve done this for decades. Ultimately I find everything wanting, but I take what works and ignore the rest.
So in some ways, things haven’t changed. When I called myself a Believer in Christianity, I didn’t believe every word in the Bible. When I actually read the Bible I was like, I REALLY don’t believe a lot that’s in there. So I took what I thought worked and ignored the rest.
Now that I’m no longer Christian, I’m not limited to that one Judeo-Christian Bible. I’ve tried to educate myself on other faiths, as well as actual history and sciences and literature, and even current events and how things are happening right now that sometimes reflect events and mistakes made in human history.
The truth is none of us have the answers yet. Religion grants one the illusion that we don’t need to know the answers. We DO. IS there really a god? There might be something out there that YOU will call a god. I won’t. The honest answer to that question and so many others regarding this universe is this: “I don’t know. Let’s go find out!”