RELIGION

 

RELIGION_Atheism  

(A handbook of religion was published by the Foundation for Pluralism in August 2004. All the groups were given the same set of questions, and some are really silly like denominations in Atheism.  Here is the production of such writings from Atheism to Zoroastrianism and every one in between; it is in two parts, essence of the faith and general information about it. We invite you to send your suggestions to suggestions@foundationforpluralism.com  for updates and new information.)

PROFILE & ESSENCE

Dr.  Andrew Lasaka

There are subtle variations in the definition of 'atheism.' In the most generalized form it means the 'lack of any belief in religion' or 'lack of belief in a God or gods, or any other supernatural entities.' A person of a particular faith believes in a religion and discards all others. The only difference, then, between a person of a faith and an atheist is that the atheist does not believe even that.

No religion truly endorses the choice of someone's faith in another religion. In that respect, atheism celebrates the 'unity' that comes from being human. Hence atheists prefer to be called humanists. Religions divide people, humanism truly brings them together.

Everyone is born an atheist. Religion and faith are usually 'taught' by the elders in an environment in which the child grows up. There is no known human factor that makes one to accept a particular religion; meaning any child can acquire any belief irrespective of who that child was born to. Belief systems, which are authoritative in nature rather than empirical, are imparted from the elders to the child.

Since there is no evidence for any supernatural entities -- including gods, ghosts, and spirits -- people have been questioning the blind belief in such fictitious characters since time immemorial. The first written record of atheism was the Charvaka texts dating at least from the 5th century BC from India. The Greeks have also debated atheism; the records for which can be found dating from the 4th century BC. Since then, although a minority, atheism has survived in almost all human societies to date.

Most atheists rationalize their way into atheism – based on the way things are -- rather than draw from any particular source or material.

Key Personalities

Atheism is not established by anyone. It is a default outlook. There were many people in the past that chose not to discard rationalism and have remained, or reverted, to being atheistic. Owing to the immense pressure from the societies in the grips of 'blind faith' they were forcibly muted or even eliminated.

Atheism, unlike religious beliefs, is not authoritative. It does not rely on someone's authority alone to validate its statements. Rather it stands on the strength of the evidence. Its "tenets" can be openly questioned. And they need to be questioned. Because it is about making choices by rationalization; by thinking and sizing one's beliefs based on evidence.

Hence the personalities who rationalized to be atheists in the past should not be considered authoritative. A short list of atheists would suffice.

Carl Sagan, Stephan Hawkings, Gore Vidal, Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, H.L.Mencken ,Charles Darwin, Robert Green Ingersoll (Prominent 19th century American atheist), Thomas Paine, John Lennon, Lance Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, Periyar, Gora, Basava Premanand, Kamal Hassan, Arundathi Roy, Richard Feynman, Marlon Brando, Tariq Ali, Woody Allen, Bill Gates… and the list goes on and on.

Holy books

If books represent knowledge, all books are holy for atheists. However, atheists are against dogma and ignorance. Hence, the true holy books for atheists are ‘science’ books, where science means knowledge. Science is non-authoritative and represents ‘empirical knowledge.’

As for the holy books of religions, atheists feel that all religious texts are written by humans, without influence from any supernatural entity; there is no evidence otherwise.

Denominations

Humans are one race. Humanity is one. There are no general demarcations that can separate people from one another except beliefs. Science – knowledge – is the universal language. Humanists do not have denominations.

Population

Truth does not depend on how many people believe in it. The strength in numbers is a poor philosophical argument. To humans’ misfortune, rationalism has always been in the minority. Atheism and rationalism have been steadily growing, as a percentage of the population, since the past few centuries. However, its validity -- if at all there is -- is not dependent on these numbers.

Place of worship and holy place

The concept of a personal God -- or gods -- answering prayers is without evidence. There is no proof that anyone is answering our prayers. Ample evidence exists that no one is answering our prayers. We as humans have the power in our hand to help each other and make this world a better place to live for all of us. The world is our temple, church, or mosque, and all humans are its inhabitants. Our “worship” is the serving of our fellow human beings. Our earth is fragile, as we found out, we need to nourish and maintain it with respect and reverence as a holy place. It’s foolhardy to confine ‘holiness’ to small confined places.

Key tenets

We humans have one life to live. Heaven and hell are both on earth, and are ‘felt’ only when we are alive. We need to live a moralistic and ethical life without beliefs in the supernatural corrupting our morals and ethics. Our commitment and duty are first and foremost to our fellow human beings and not to fictitious entities -- which may or may not exist, and by all accounts do not care for our attention or adulation. Rationality is the solid ground on which morality stands and irrationality leads us to violence, misery, arrogance, ignorance, and immorality.

Worship rituals

Mysticism indulges us in rituals. There is no evidence that the practitioner of a ritual draws any ‘supernatural’ benefit from the ritual. Any physical activity or calm contemplation does have some benefit to humans. Participating in group activities provides relief and increases bonding among the group. However, there is no supernatural influence derived from rituals. Humanists feel that rituals with exclusive purpose of drawing supernatural benefits are misguided. Humanists encourage group and individual activities which are beneficial to everyone.

Key Festivals

Atheists participate in secular functions, carnivals, festivals, and national celebrations.

Statements about respecting all humanity

When one places, by all accounts, unknown and unknowable supernatural entities above Man, 
it diminishes the ethical, moral, and existential standards of Man. A genuine respect for the well 
being of Man can only be achieved when the thoughts about these fictitious 
ghosts are banished from our mind.

We hold the view that everyone is born an atheist. Thus, there is no official origin of atheism.

Originator: The practice of openly questioning the existence of God(s) and/or the supernatural goes back to the pre-Socratic Greeks. Other Greeks like Epicurus laid the foundations for science and secularism and so atheism owes its philosophical approaches to these people.

People who shaped the religion: Questioning the orthodoxy of supernaturalism accelerated during the enlightenment with the rise of the scientific method and as expressed through writers like Voltaire, and David Hume. Many other writers since then, some not even atheists have influenced it. Those writers include Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Bertrand Russell, Goya, Carl Sagan, Ayn Rand, H.L. Menken and Mark Twain.

People who wrote the books: There are no specific books that are considered holy by atheists.

Who is worshiped? Nothing is worshiped.

Holy Books (Original Language): There are no holy books. Thus, in the realm of knowledge via the written word no book will have a priori prominence over any other. Any book’s wisdom can be decided on its individual merits, which typically means how well it corresponds with evidence and reason. Atheists believe “holy” books are written by humans and thus not of divine origin or significance.

Holy Places of Worship: none

Key Tenets: Atheism is characterized by a lack of belief in God and a lack of belief in the supernatural. Almost always, an atheist will be a “naturalist” meaning that the person believes that this natural world that we experiences is all that there is. As such, all relevant questions of life come down to humans to solve. That implies that all questions of morality, governance, life, death, knowledge, and so on are human questions answerable only through human knowledge if answerable at all. Additionally atheists will tend to reject life after death, ghosts, spirits or souls. As a consequence of this, atheists will believe that knowledge is generally rendered by experience and empirical methods such as the scientific method as opposed to revelation.

Prayer Rituals: none

Current Leadership: Atheism has no rigid structure so there are no leaders.

Decision Makers:

Interpretations:

Myths: Atheists generally do not have myth stories. However, to contrast it with other religious beliefs it should be noted that many (if not most) atheists believe the universe was created in accordance with “big bang” theories and humans evolved from lower life forms. However, this should not be taken to strongly as being considered a “tenets of atheism” as these theories are currently accepted as probable because they are currently the most successful and not because atheism requires them to be believed.

Myths about Atheism: It is often believed that atheists are against religion. Although its true that some atheists might be, atheists generally desire an atmosphere where they can be secure in their non-belief without intrusion of religion upon their lives. As such most atheists support church-state separation, and this is again misinterpreted by some as an attack upon religion. However, atheists view strict church state separation as way for individuals to be able to decide the answers to important religious questions without coercion or restriction from governments.

Another myth is that atheists do not believe in morality or cannot be moral. Most atheists believe that morality is not absolute but this position does not imply that there is no morality.

Denominations: Atheists can come in many varieties. “Secular Humanists” believe that all knowledge, good and morality exists to benefits human needs in our lives now in an atmosphere of free will, openness, and tolerance. “Objectivists” believe there in an objective reality knowable through science, that it epistemologically organized through reason, that ethics involves enlightened self-interest, and that capitalism is the best political and economic structure. “Metaphysical Naturalists” believe that nature is reality and that there is no reality beyond the physical, natural world.

Major Festivals: none

Dietary Laws: none

Sensitivities: Many atheists are offended by the presumption that everyone believes in supernaturalism and/or gods and that everyone wants to participate in prayers and worship.

What is not polite? Asking atheists to pray or participate in worship.

Customs from birth to death:

Textual support for Pluralism: “If abuses are destroyed, man must destroy them. If slaves are freed, man must free them. If new truths are discovered, man must discover them. If the naked are clothed; if the hungry are fed; if justice is done; if labor is rewarded; if superstition is driven from the mind; if the defenseless are protected and if the right finally triumphs, all must be the work of man. The grand victories of the future must be won by man, and by man alone.” –Robert Ingersoll

World Population: Some encyclopedias put atheists as high as 14 to 20% of the world’s population. Exact numbers are difficult because large areas like China are “officially atheist” when in fact the populace may not be. Numbers are likely lower.

US population: Most surveys which ask about the existence of god report about 5 to 7 percent of Americans respond “no” to the question.

North Texas Population: no data

Terms are descriptive and may not be a precise.  Your suggestions will be considered for 2nd edition

__________________________________________________________________________________

By: Dr. Prasad Golla

Origins: Many atheists hold the view that everyone is born an atheist. Thus, there is no official origin of atheism.

Originator: The practice of openly questioning the existence of God(s) and/or the supernatural goes back to the pre-Socratic Greeks. Other Greeks like Epicurus laid the foundations for science and secularism and so atheism owes its philosophical approaches to these people.

People who shaped the religion: Questioning the orthodoxy of supernaturalism accelerated during the enlightenment with the rise of the scientific method and as expressed through writers like Voltaire, and David Hume. Many other writers since then, some not even atheists have influenced it. Those writers include Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Bertrand Russell, Goya, Carl Sagan, Ayn Rand, H.L. Menken and Mark Twain.

People who wrote the books: There are no specific books that are considered holy by atheists.

Who is worshiped? Nothing is worshiped.

Holy Books (Original Language): There are no holy books. Thus, in the realm of knowledge via the written word no book will have a priori prominence over any other. Any book’s wisdom can be decided on its individual merits, which typically means how well it corresponds with evidence and reason. Atheists believe “holy” books are written by humans and thus not of divine origin or significance.

Holy Places of Worship: none

Key Tenets: Atheism is characterized by a lack of belief in God and a lack of belief in the supernatural. Almost always, an atheist will be a “naturalist” meaning that the person believes that this natural world that we experiences is all that there is. As such, all relevant questions of life come down to humans to solve. That implies that all questions of morality, governance, life, death, knowledge, and so on are human questions answerable only through human knowledge if answerable at all. Additionally atheists will tend to reject life after death, ghosts, spirits or souls. As a consequence of this, atheists will believe that knowledge is generally rendered by experience and empirical methods such as the scientific method as opposed to revelation.

Prayer Rituals: none

Current Leadership: Atheism has no rigid structure so there are no leaders.

Decision Makers:

Interpretations:

Myths: Atheists generally do not have myth stories. However, to contrast it with other religious beliefs it should be noted that many (if not most) atheists believe the universe was created in accordance with “big bang” theories and humans evolved from lower life forms. However, this should not be taken to strongly as being considered a “tenets of atheism” as these theories are currently accepted as probable because they are currently the most successful and not because atheism requires them to be believed.

Myths about Atheism: It is often believed that atheists are against religion. Although its true that some atheists might be, atheists generally desire an atmosphere where they can be secure in their non-belief without intrusion of religion upon their lives. As such most atheists support church-state separation, and this is again misinterpreted by some as an attack upon religion. However, atheists view strict church state separation as way for individuals to be able to decide the answers to important religious questions without coercion or restriction from governments.

Another myth is that atheists do not believe in morality or cannot be moral. Most atheists believe that morality is not absolute but this position does not imply that there is no morality.

Denominations: Atheists can come in many varieties. “Secular Humanists” believe that all knowledge, good and morality exists to benefits human needs in our lives now in an atmosphere of free will, openness, and tolerance. “Objectivists” believe there in an objective reality knowable through science, that it epistemologically organized through reason, that ethics involves enlightened self-interest, and that capitalism is the best political and economic structure. “Metaphysical Naturalists” believe that nature is reality and that there is no reality beyond the physical, natural world.

Major Festivals: none

Dietary Laws: none

Sensitivities: Many atheists are offended by the presumption that everyone believes in supernaturalism and/or gods and that everyone wants to participate in prayers and worship.

What is not polite? Asking atheists to pray or participate in worship.

Customs from birth to death:

Textual support for Pluralism: “If abuses are destroyed, man must destroy them. If slaves are freed, man must free them. If new truths are discovered, man must discover them. If the naked are clothed; if the hungry are fed; if justice is done; if labor is rewarded; if superstition is driven from the mind; if the defenseless are protected and if the right finally triumphs, all must be the work of man. The grand victories of the future must be won by man, and by man alone.” –Robert Ingersoll

World Population: Some encyclopedias put atheists as high as 14 to 20% of the world’s population. Exact numbers are difficult because large areas like China are “officially atheist” when in fact the populace may not be. Numbers are likely lower.

US population: Most surveys which ask about the existence of god report about 5 to 7 percent of Americans respond “no” to the question.

North Texas Population: no data                                                                                                             

Terms are descriptive and may not be a precise.  Your suggestions will be considered for 2nd edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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