The Same Realm As
Magic Elves And Santa
I know you must be busy, so please feel free to put this at the bottom of your pile.
I was thinking the other day about atheism vs. theism and came to the conclusion that I must be a theist after years of calling myself an atheist. The reasoning is as follows:
The definition of theism is roughly the belief in a god or gods. There are multiple definitions of what a god is, however for the most part it means a supernatural, omnipotent (or nearly so) being. Since I or anyone can imagine such a creature existing and imagination is a subset of existence, therefore a god or gods exists. I realize that this puts gods in the same realm as magic elves and Santa Claus and therefore reduces the concept of gods to a triviality (If it weren't for the millions of dead left in the wake of said concept).
I've made plenty of mistakes in the past, so I've got plenty of reason to doubt my own reasoning in this matter. If I've made a mistake here or you need some clarification, would you please tell me?
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <email@example.com>
To: "Sean Baran"
Subject: Re: Perhaps I've made a mistake
Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 10:39 AM
I'd be tempted to say that you're spoofing Anselm's Ontological Argument (and doing a grand job at that, I might add). However, despite some intricate attempts on the part of others to describe to me the Ontological Argument, I'm still pretty much in the dark as to it's point.
The main (remedial) points I try to remember are first to distinguish between imagination and sensation, and secondly (and to a much lesser extent, much less forcefully) to let the theist's language decide whether or not that person is a theist. That is, if a tribe thinks a certain volcano is God, the fact that it's really a volcano doesn't make them atheists. This is because they say that the volcano is a god. Thus, we use their language to determine that they are theists, even though what they believe in is actually a volcano. Otherwise, since we all know that Jesus isn't a god (but is dead), that thinking would define as atheists all Christians -- and so on. I realize this is not cut-and-dried, but it points out an important aspect of defining the words theist and atheist that I think you've touched on quite handily.
As for distinguishing between imagination and perception, I didn't fully appreciate this distinction until someone slipped me a potion made from psychedelic Carlos Casteneda plants, which, for several hours, completely knocked out my ability to distinguish what I was sensing from what I was imagining, placing the two on equal par within my (by then very dim) field of awareness. Imagine that! This is as close as I've come, I think, to having a religious experience. I do not recommend the Carlos Casteneda plants, though; about the same percentage of those who try them ever come down again to see the light of day as snap out of a religious experience. In other words, they tell me I got lucky. Real lucky! They also tell me that many psychiatrists would try this stuff were it not for the fact that most who do never come back to talk about it in a coherent fashion. They also say that not enough people come back from this experience for toxicologists to be able to determine whether or not the stuff is addicting. Imagine that! I mean that: don't try it for yourself, just use your imagination.
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
people with no reason to believe
Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.