I Reply that I Do Not Have a Religion

Commenter Roger Norling was curious to know among those who answered #7. Do you think it is important to understand the tenets represented by a label before using it? — with “Very Important“, how many were in the “I reply that I do not have a religion” category from question #1. The answer 19.7%

The problem is that doesn’t really say much because the number of respondents to the survey is rather small. So, what I’ve done is broken all the answers out for that “Do not have a religion” group (of which there are currently 92 members). Here is how their answers broke out. I hope you find it interesting Roger! (and please take the survey if you haven’t yet…)


15 Responses

  1. Thank you for the data koska.

    With the low sample size in mind, there’s still a 2/3 preference for “very important” in question 7. This is as I suspected.

    In this group as well it’s surprising to see the certainty in an unprovable, with almost 1/3 selecting the 0% probability in question 9. The majority seem to be atheists though. May I instead pursuade you to join the out campain (http://outcampaign.org/)?

  2. wow, that is one catchy looking design for a
    t-shirt! i’m glad to see the marketing team is on the band wagon with displaying a hot female model wearing the T and cropping her face just about the pouty lips…i find that very enticing! now what design should an agnostic wear? AG or maybe a giant “?”. if it were the Fonz all thumbs up behind the Aaaaa, i’d be all in.

  3. In these results, I actually split out those that responded “Atheist” altogether. Among them, 27.8% answer question #9 with 0% chance of God (compared to the 27.2% in the above sample). I also find that interesting, especially since I took question #9 almost intact from the TGD where Dawkins puts himself in the “Almost 0%, but not quite” group.

    As for the “Out” campaign, while I have no problem saying that i do not believe in God, i’m still “on the fence” with the best way to make that message palatable to the “masses”…

  4. I was raised to be believe in an all-powerful and benevolent deity. I still have and honor my Jewish roots. I am actually reading (via Beliefnet.com) the yearly cycle of Jewish scriputual readings.

    My problems with Judaism and other organized religions:

    1. I don’t believe in miracles.
    The book of Genesis is mostly based on Babylonian myth.

    2. I abhor ethic cleansing.
    The Egyptians wanted to ethically cleanse themselves of the Hebrews dwelling in Goshen. The Hebrews are rescued with great loss of Egyptian life and then God directs his chosen people to conquer Canaan and ethnically cleanse it of Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites and &. In Mosaic Judaism, non-believers are not only not saved they are killed to make way for the Chosen. (eww!)

    Of course the Muslims did the same to the Jews. And then the Christians did the same to the Muslims and the Native Americans.

    It never ends. (See the Balkans and the present day Middle East)

    3. I am a sinner and I would not like to be stoned to death.

  5. It always surprises me how much we talk about what we believe, but without saying much about whether we believe any of it to be true…as if those are somehow disconnected… what i mean to say is, shouldn’t we concerned with whether we believe if the god of Christianity, Judaism, Islam actually exists? …not which particular god/religion we find to be nice or unproblematic?

  6. Well, I don’t find any religion that worships the purported God of Abraham to be non-problematic. Which is why I can say as a Westerner that I have no organized religion. I do not regularly practice any religious ritual, but I can’t accept dogmatic atheism either.

    Scientifically the “God hypothesis” is non-falsifible. That is, no experiment or mathematical proof can be constructed to falsify belief in an omnipotent creator entity or to prove it either.

    Therefore we left to the messy world of feelings. Sometimes we use literature as a catalyst for our feelings. The Book of Numbers leaves me cold, but then Tamara Yellin’s “The Genizah at the House of Sheper” leaves me with the unprovable feeling that the Divine Word is not what Moses purportedly copied down at Mt Sinai (apostasy, heresy, and possible mysticism). But, Spinoza appears to support my thinking and of course said this with infinitely more logic and authority than I dare to claim.

    What I am trying to say underneath this all, is that at 61 years old my religious/spiritual education is still incomplete.

    I am trying to wrap my brain around the idea that both scientific materialiam (atheism) and the Western scriptures (orthodox religion) are wrong. The truth lies somewhere in between.

    And yes “enlightened” people should consider the God question above the finer points of religious lore and law.

  7. What is “dogmatic atheism?” If it is the statement that god’s existence is impossible, I’m with you — that seems to me a faith-based claim. I would submit to you, however, that this statement — “the existence of the flying spaghetti monster is impossible” is equally faith-based…

    I don’t think (actually I’m pretty sure) that most people who call themselves “atheist” say that God is impossible. If my survey is correct, about 25-30% do (which disappoints me).

    But then you go on to say that atheism is “scientific materialism” which you assert outright is “wrong.” I’m just wondering why do you say that? It’s an honest question; I really want to know…

  8. Tyson Koska: I certainly hope you don’t mean that some ways are wrong. There are many way to present arguments and all approaches are usefull. I’m not commanding you to join the Out campain 😉

    Jack: I second Koska’s notion; what “dogmatic atheism”? I agree absolute certainty about something unproveable is a faulty logical position, but I guess some of these individuals argue 2000 years (for christianity) would be enough to produce sufficient evidence. What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

    I would place my focus on the fundamentalists of christianity, islam [insert religion] instead. (Don’t throw me the Hitler/Mao argument now, please).

    When it comes to feelings we may never be able to make observings of them because they are by definition a subjective phenomena. But exactly from this reason it can not say anything about the matter of the existance of god(s).

    Futher, spiritualism have been hijacked by religion, but as Sam Harris points out it may carry important truths about our state of conciousness which helps us be more happy. The eastern philosophies are much more developed in this line of reasoning (after carefully filtering out the new age crap).

    Note that such study must be concerned with what is true. If you mean materialism is wrong in the sence it doesn’t give any spiritual effect I agree. But correct me if I’m wrong, countries with low practice of religion seem less likely to start wars and have lower crime rate compared to countries where some edition of scripture is utilized. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

    Oh, and btw, you’re not a sinner, there is no such thing as a victimless crime.

  9. “If you mean materialism is wrong in the sence it doesn’t give any spiritual effect I agree. But correct me if I’m wrong, countries with low practice of religion seem less likely to start wars and have lower crime rate compared to countries where some edition of scripture is utilized. I don’t think this is a coincidence.”

    I agree with your next to last paragraph.

    I have encountered many of what I call “dogmatic atheists” on the internet. Many are academics in the sciences (although I do not mean to single out scientist of all stripes or to say that non-scientists are excused from criticism either.) This is just an observation based on the blogs that I particulary and peculiarly read. Hardly an objective sample). What I mean to say is that scientic materialism as I understand it is based on experiment and measurement and experiment and DIRECT measurement have been pretty silent when it comes to God.

    Scientific materialsm is of course not entirely wrong or even a lot wrong. Without scientific materialism and those who use it professionally every day, we could not sustain the 6 billion plus population of the world today. We could not explain global warming or have any ides on how to fight it. I myself have used it daily in my engineering career without experiencing any spiritual harm.

    Faith is subjective and so I guess that I cannot generally comment on the rightness or wrongness of another’s faith. It is just that the contradictions that I have found in the world view that my limited formal religious education has tried to impose on me and the observations that I have made of documented history and current events also seem to contradict faith in a purely benevolent God.

    But, faith does exist and, yes, there must be a reason for that. For example the Dalai Lama has faith (and deep insight) as did Mother Teresa. I admire them both. I am sure there have been many individuals who have demonstrated both the utility and rewards of faith. But, the Catholic Church (among other organized religions) has done much that I cannot accept, and the Dalai Lama has criticised, and pointed out his view of the wrongness of, the actions of militants within his own religion.

    So while I have difficulties with religious dogmatism, I admire and wish to learn from “spiritual individual” who do believe ln a sumpreme being, while I reject organized religion. On the other hand I accept science as a way of understanding the world that is right more than 90% of the time, but can’t answer spiritual questions very well, and I respectfully disagree with those who interpret this silence as a denial of the validity of spiritualiy.

    I think that I have said more than enough of this question and I will be silent on this subject from now on.

  10. Why be silent? I mean, I’m really curious about this statement, “faith does exist and, yes, there must be a reason for that”… what if that reason turns out to be purely material?

    Also, Roger, when you say “materialism is wrong in the sence it doesn’t give any spiritual effect”… i wonder what you think about the inspirational power of the “human spirit”… i mean, can’t the word spirit be understood in material ways? I think this is what Sam Harris makes a good case for at the end of the End of Faith…

  11. If Jack want to withdraw from this discussion I will formulate my last response.

    But first Koska: It is certainly correct conciousness can be understood in scientifical terms. There might be facts which we can find, and should search for, about the condition of the human mind.

    However this can not describe the experience of conciousness, as Harris also argues. Let me give an example. Why are there mountains? A geologist would answer this as it were a How question, the movement of tectonic plates and the magma streams forms the surface to produce mountains, but it doesn’t answer the Why question.

    We could say our minds are described by how questions while our experience of conciousness is the why question. But just as for the mountain question, a Why question is non-sensible. Still, investing time to study conciousness would have a positive effect for our well being.

    Jack: So why isn’t it a coincidence? Two points mainly. Most major religion define thought crimes. What better condition can one find for breaking those rules? Most religion offer redeption from sins by some means, asking the particular god or paying compensation. Is it not apparent that this reduce persons responsibility toward each other?

    I wanted to hear examples of this “dogmatic atheism”, but in absence of this I will not move this argument futher.

    Science is (and I will assume will continue to be) silent on the god hypothesis because no evidence have been presented.

    The notion that just because something exists it must be usefull does not hold. We all have an appendix, but it have no function. Faith, or dogma as we should properly call it, is a vice not a virtue. The idea that there is other ways of knowing beside the evidence based is outright dangerous. It’s this very idea that gives shelter to those fundamentalists you oppose.

    As for science I might shock you by stating science is always 0% right (if we disregard the case of a possible future when _everything_ is discovered), because no model is ever complete. This is alright though because science is the process of figuring out what can to be true, not all truths served on a plate.

    The only reason we lack answers about the human conciousness is that we have yet to investigate this branch of inquiry. As I’ve said the major religions have hijacked the concept of spiritualism for their own agenda. Spiritualism should have nothing to do with the supernatural, only what is true.

  12. Wait a tick… you think I was suggesting consciousness should not be investigated? Furthermore, you think that asking questions like “why do we feel consciousness” is not scientific? I am most perplexed…

    My point was that materialism has a “spiritual” aspect to it… (just as it certainly has a “consciousness” aspect to it — our consciousness is in all probability not floating-in from some supernatural realm).

  13. Tyson Koska: 1. No, I’m just suggesting that there is limits to what can be objectively observed, as conciousness by definition is an subjective experience.

    2. A question of “why do we feel conciousness?”, basicly a how question, is absolutely scientific. I’m sorry if I made you belive otherwise from my previous post.

    Do you by “spiritual” mean the ability to feel wounder and awe in the greatness of cosmos, mathematics, art and so on? In such case I might have missinterpreted you and I agree completely, otherwise I’m afraid I don’t understand what you refer to.

  14. No, I think we are “on the same page”… except I would add that “spiritual” can refer to more than just “awe” — it can be used to describe feelings of inspriation that might well-up inside of us as we consider human achievement and potential, or it might even describe that rare feeling of universal oneness that on a fundamental, MATERIAL level exists, but which we seldom perceive…

  15. Yes, like the feeling one may get from contemplating that we all are literary made of stardust?

    This is what makes me the most sad. Many people will never know this feeling. Religion may conjure these feelings too, but with much pretending and effort. I dare say what is true and real is massively more inspiring and sofisticated.

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