Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Atheism Possibly Predates Christ By at Least 500 Years...

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Stephen Fry putting things in rational perspective, certainly in my opinion anyway. Be sure to read the article on atheism for an interesting historical perspective.




The Telegraph - To its adherents it is the ultimate modern belief system, the antidote to centuries of ignorance and superstition, while to its detractors it is the product of latter-day decadence and materialism.


But a new Cambridge University study argues that atheism is in fact one of the world’s oldest religions – long predating Christianity and Islam.


Far from being the result of scientific breakthroughs or modern mass education, the belief that there were no gods was relatively common in the ancient world, research by Prof Tim Whitmarsh, a leading Cambridge classicist, concludes.


But the “ancient atheism” was effectively written out of history after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire after the reign of Constantine in the early 4th Century, heralding a new era of state-imposed belief, Prof Whitmarsh, Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge, argues


The study is potentially bad news for believers and non-believers alike.

On one hand it breaks the widely assumed link between atheism and progress or modernity but it also rejects the idea that faith is a natural, instinctive impulse.
Continue Reading Below the Fold.

16 comments:

  1. I am not sure how you call the belief that there is no God a religion. That's kind like saying nothing is something.

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  2. I had the same thought Jerry, but many have said they believe atheism is a religion. I'm thinking their logic may be that any strongly held belief whether it be the belief in the presence of or lack of a diety is a religion. The belief atheism is a religion may be held by more religious types than non religious types. Just my guess though.

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  3. Well, there were atheistic religions, so to speak. The Greeks developed philosophies of materialism complete with systems of ethics, dogmas, etc. The practice was literally not to practice anything but the ethics. So, in a way, you could call these religions, but in much the same way as you could describe Buddhism. Modern atheists simply reject the supernatural and there's nothing religious about that.

    JMJ

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  4. Yes Jersey, but, modern atheists do have ethics and follow a moral code (generally). Could an argument be made that is a religion (secular) in the same why you pointed out the ancient Greek atheism was s religion?

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  5. Hey, I too noticed the bit about atheism being a religion in the Fry article. Thom Hartmann says it can be a religion depending on whether or not the atheist tries to convert people.

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    1. That's a rather interesting take on it. That perhaps the claim of someone not to be religious fades in proportion to how much they are a zealot about it.

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  6. The commonly accepted definition of religion is-
    the belief in a god or in a group of gods..
    an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods..
    an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group..
    ---so atheism strongly held and proselytized could fall into generalized version three. As in 'high school football is a religion
    in Texas'. Studies of the early development of religion suggest it as
    a neolithic/early Bronze Age system to provide group conformity with
    'laws' for such handed down by (or blamed on) some deity. Ever since,
    non conformists and unbelievers have been held anathema, persecuted when possible, disdained when not.

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  7. There are denominations that can be termed “agnostic” and “secular.” I am thinking of Unitarian Universalists in particular, a denomination I joined once upon a time.

    Unlike some of my more intolerant colleagues (not naming names), I am not anti-religion; just anti-everything that tells me what to believe and what to think. On matters of conscience, I tend to be very private about certain stuff and wish others were more respectful. Here is where I differ from evangelicals and other rightwing extremists:

    Secular laws serve a moral purpose. They proscribe against abuses in the name of religion: Crimes against humanity, ritual sacrifice, reprisal murders, oppression, and the sexual predation of children.  We are free to believe as we choose but not necessarily free to act as we choose. All too often, we forget the benefits of a Constitutional democracy that has kept sectarian wars from American shores while protecting freedom of conscience for all.

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  8. Perhaps I should add this postscript:

    There are reasons why some people are atheists. One problem is the existence of evil in the world, a philosophical debate known as “theodicy,” which negates the notion of an all-loving deity.

    Another reason for atheism is in counter reaction to a millennium of religious brutality: Inquisitions, the Cathar and Huguenot massacres, pogroms, apostates burned alive at the stake, forced conversions under penalty of torture, simony, indulgences, and the Protestant Reformation culminating in the Thirty Years War.  All are examples of ecclesiastical malpractice that ravaged Europe for a thousand years, and the reason why many atheists reject religion.

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  9. As an atheist I have no, zero, nada problem with anyone's religious beliefs. I believe an individual's religion, or the lack thereof, is a personal choice and not open to others criticisms or their attempt to impose their beliefs on the rest of society by influencing those responsible to maintain the integrity of our secular laws. Which is why I oppose Cruz, Rubio, and the rest of the Evangelical right that so adamantly want to force their beliefs down the throats of all Americans. It is the very same problem I have with extremist Muslims who want to impose their brand of religion and god on everyone.

    Our Founding Fathers, whatever other flaws they may have had, were absolutely spot on with respect to total religious freedom and secular law being the American jurisprudence model. Unfortunately many have forgotten this and far too many seem blind to to the similarities of what they wish to do and theocracies in the Muslim world are already doing and have for years. Our founders knew full well the dangers of mixing religious beliefs with government of all the people.

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  10. The point I was making was that the Greeks had a developed sects of this materialistic epistemology. We do not. There is no organized atheistic epistemological system today of any significance. Atheism today, in America at least, is not in any way a religion. It refers simply to the lack of.

    JMJ

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    1. Oh, but I diss agree. Atheists do have a pissed 'em ology, and it pisses off evangelicals almighty.

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    2. Some atheists, Octo, some. And their motivations vary. I like debating religion, and am not a fan of it, other atheists see religion as useful, for the same reason Marx thought it an opiate. Many prefer to simply avoid the subject. I suspect the vast majority of atheists who ever existed never told but a few others at most what they really thought of the silliness around them.

      JMJ

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  11. (O)CT(O)PUS:"All are examples of ecclesiastical malpractice that ravaged Europe for a thousand years, and the reason why many atheists reject religion."

    The modern-day ravages, at least where the RCC is concerned, IMO, are as horrid as anything that happened hundreds of years ago. The RCC knew about the predatory priest problem for years and did nothing until too many people came forward with their horrific stories to ignore it. Also, there's the scandalous Irish orphanage deaths of children of unwed mothers.

    I suppose we can excuse the barbarity of hundreds and hundreds of years ago when people didn't know better, but what's the excuse for what happened to a modern organization that preached it was the only true faith that offered salvation?

    If that organization couldn't or wouldn't protect the most vulnerable in its care what can we say about how dedicated the hierachy is to its own dogma and doctrines? Was it all a flim-flam? Yes, I know the RCC does and did good, but when it betrays, on a massive scale, the youngest and most powerless, IMO, that cancels out any good it tries to claim.

    I'm not bashing the RCC. I was raised Catholic (but am now a non-theist) and it is painful to realize how badly the Church failed its followers.

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    Replies
    1. Catholicism and healthy human sexuality are mutually exclusive practices. It's a fatal flaw of the religion.

      JMJ

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  12. Call it bashing or not, Shaw. That doesn't matter. The RCC has had a HUGE problem with this (no Trump catch phrase connection intended), and the cover-up, stonewalling, and mistreatment of victims continues to this day.

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