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My Secular Journey

Updated on November 1, 2010

In my Hub Pages profile, I mention that I am someone "in search of the truth." Some who I have interacted with and debated with on Hub Pages have criticized me for this: how can I be open to wherever the facts lead me, if I have already identified myself as a "secularist"? Don't I have a preconceived worldview already in place, before I have even looked at the facts?

It is important for me to make clear that I am secular because of where the facts have led me. My intellectual confidence in this area is relatively recent. I have never been religious in my life, unlike many others who were raised in a particular tradition and then rejected it, sometimes for emotional reasons. But neither was I particularly attached to secularism or secular philosophy for most of my life. Nevertheless, from a young age I had my suspicions about religion. Two fundamental realities undergirded my lack of interest in religion. These two facts, recognized by a child, still pose a problem for anyone claiming religious certainty.

The first thing that I realized was that there are many religions, each claiming to be absolute truth. They can't all be right. Long before I even understood in detail what the various religions of the world believe, I understood this reality. In a moment reminiscent of "Spartacus," the neutral observer is anything but swayed toward one direction or another. Instead, if anything he is made even more skeptical than he was to begin with by the overabundance of belief systems that, without any particularly unique or essentially different arguments or ideas, nevertheless each passionately make the exact same claim.

The second thing I realized was that people generally believe in whatever religion happens to be dominant in their place of birth. In Saudi Arabia, the vast majority of people grow up to be Muslims. In India, most people become Hindus. Someone born in the interior of the United States is most likely to become a Christian.

Had I been born in any of these places, chances are that I probably would have grown up to believe in whatever religion happens to have won the historical battle there. What is clear is that for almost all believers in the world, their belief is not essentially determined by a reasoned analysis, an earnest reflection or a weighing of the claims made by various religions in the context of a marketplace of ideas (although this process certainly plays a role for some).

Rather, their belief is primarily a function of where and when they were born. In other words, an accident. To the neutral observer (which I was when I was young) accidents of birth are hardly dependable foundations for truth claims. Since religion is mostly an accidental and random phenomenon, it is no more meaningful than language, hair color, fashion tastes or anything else that has been mostly predetermined for us by history and geography.

Neither of these two facts constitute proof that religions are false or useless. But they are more than enough to sow significant doubt as far as a neutral party is concerned. To someone who has no vested interest in the truth or falsity of any particular religion, the basic cultural and social realities of religion render it highly suspect vis-a-vis knowledge, understanding and morality.

More recently, I have pursued and continue to pursue a more rigorous understanding of exactly what the merits of religious belief are. What I have learned and continue to learn, and the critical arguments I have looked at on all sides, lead me to secularism. Secularism for this purpose is the belief that human action and understanding should be based on naturalistic evidence and reason alone.

Some of my key ideas on the topic of religion and secularism include:

  • There simply is no legitimate evidence--scientific, logical or otherwise--for the existence of God, gods or a supernatural world, and all evidence that has ever been offered has been refuted for one reason or another
  • Religion has two original, basic functions: (1) to explain the unexplainable, and (2) to provide moral guidance
  • Religion is unequivocally not needed for the first purpose anymore (which was its most important purpose for almost all of history); instead, modern science, history, economics and other fields are more than sufficient to explain the world
  • Religion is not needed for morality, either, as is indicated by the fact (among others) that tens of millions of people around the world are not religious, yet are not sociopaths, and lead productive, happy lives
  • Religion nonetheless can have some serious negative effects, including violence and intolerance. But the worst effect of all, in the grand scheme of things, is the narrowing effect on the human mind and the human pursuit of knowledge.
  • By acclimating people to blind faith, blind acceptance of "revealed" knowledge, tradition for the sake of tradition and unquestioning obedience to authority, religion at a fundamental level has always inhibited the productive, dynamic and fertile generation of knowledge through doubt and reasonable skepticism.

These points are either self-evident or eminently defensible. Thus far, my search for the truth has led me to secularism.


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    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Yes, that is a good point Baileybear. Silly me, I've always used a simple dictionary definition: secular means not religious. Simple as that.

      But really, religious people who use "secular" to mean a kind of religion or satanism or witchcraft are really trying to redefine terms to make an argument--that secular thinking is not neutral thinking, that it is just as ambiguous and uncertain as religious thinking.

      Since this is a major claim of secularists such as myself, it bodes well for them to attack the underlying assumption that secularism is somehow "not neutral," that it counts as a "religion like any other." Because if true, then we can debate about which religion is better or which speaks more to the human heart and the human soul--the one that talks about sin, salvation and eternal happiness, or the one that thinks human life is slime (which is yet another idiotic misconception).

      So whether they are consciously trying or not, this is a clever tactic (as clever as religionists can be) to undermine the secularist's argument.

      It's very similar to the evolution debate: instead of attacking the evidence or the claims based on the evidence, attack the idea itself--call evolution a "religion," and then suddenly it is no longer a scientific theory like other theories, it is just another religion or superstition, no better or more logical than any other.

      It is a tactic used by people that are either highly deceptive, or highly misinformed. Or both.

    • profile image

      Baileybear 7 years ago

      It seems there are lots of myths out there about what secular means - I just read a hub by a religionist that claimed secular = religion, occult, witchcraft, new-age etc.

      Might be something to hub about?

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      I never used the term "secularist state." When you said that I just assumed it was a different way of saying the same thing. I suppose that a "secular state" can be defined as a state with secular qualities, whereas a "secularist state" would be a state that takes a more active anti-religious stance.

      If that's the meaning you meant, then few of the modern rich countries can be called "secularist states." That designation would be more appropriate for, say, the Soviet Union or communist Albania.

      But the "secularist state" could also be defined as one that adheres to secularism as an overall philosophy of political governance, rather than open hostility to religion per se.

      All of the modern rich countries are secular states, though, some more than others.

      Actually, the truth is exactly the opposite of what you say: generally the rich secular countries are in fact the happiest, according to a number of studies. Here are some sources:

      You will note that the MOST secular societies on earth, such as Denmark and Finland, rank among the highest.

    • A.Villarasa profile image

      Alexander A. Villarasa 7 years ago from Palm Springs

      Secularist 10:

      Can you exlain to me the difference between the term "secular state" and "secularist state". My reading of secularism indicated that those two are not the same thing.

      BTW if my recollection is correct, USNews magazine, years back did a study rating the "happiness index" of people in different countries around the world, and found that none of the secularist countries in Europe made it to the top 10.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      A. Villarasa I think you're defining state secularism incorrectly.

      On the first point, I completely agree that immaterial prosperity (i.e. happiness, fulfillment, comfort, sense of purpose, etc) is just as important if not more important than material prosperity.

      Recall, though, that immaterial prosperity often stems from material prosperity, because of our fundamentally material nature. Happiness (immaterial) can come from medicine (material) that cures your disease, for example. Thus the rich and secular countries tend to have more immaterial prosperity as well.

      On the second point of tolerance, again I completely agree that a secular state does not automatically translate into a tolerant state, by definition. The Muslims in Europe are an example of this, although there are some aspects of the European Muslim situation where intolerance is acceptable (intolerance against domestic violence or honor killings, for example).

      But true effective state secularism often does allow for significant religious freedom, which is why there is such a strong correlation between democracy/ freedom on the one hand, and state secularism on the other.

      This is why I said I think you are defining state secularism incorrectly; the US is most definitely a secular state--the laws and policies of the country are not derived from religion, and they are applied equally to all citizens, without regard to private religious belief. The same cannot be said for Iran or Saudi Arabia, for example.

      Secularism values reason. And reason tells us that private religious practice should be protected by governments, within limits.

    • A.Villarasa profile image

      Alexander A. Villarasa 7 years ago from Palm Springs

      A case in point-- the muslim immigrants that have swamped Europe (the center of the secularist universe) the past few years. The secularist governments of these countries have not assumed the responsibility for, or encouraged the assimilation of these immigrants into their daily societal fabric. On the contrary, these muslims have been marginalized, and ostracized because of their religious and cultural beliefs that have become conundrums in their adopted countries.

      In the US, where secularism has not taken any significant foothold, immigrants of any stripe, coloration, cultural bias and religious beliefs are as easily assimilated as, forgive the medical analogy, glucose into the neuronal metabolic pathways.

    • A.Villarasa profile image

      Alexander A. Villarasa 7 years ago from Palm Springs

      Secularist10: If you measure progress and prosperity solely on the basis of materialistic gain, then your argument ring true. But progress and prosperity to be considered "real" should also include those areas that are totally peripheral to the purely material and physical. Secularist states may be more tolerant of other people's beliefs, but that does not translate to willingness to assimilate these people in the general cultural millieu

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      A.Villarasa, welcome and thanks for visiting.

      Secularism is certainly a belief or an idea, but it is hardly on par with religion. I suppose the primary difference is that secularism is supported by evidence and logic, while religion is supported by neither. Tough choice!

      I'm not very interested what the leader of the Catholic Church has to say on much of anything, except as a curiosity. But isn't it interesting that those regions that are the most religious are also the least prosperous, in general? Sure there are exceptions, such as the US.

      But as a rule, the more religious your society, the less prosperous you are, and the less religious your society, the MORE prosperous you are. Coincidence? I think not, A. Villarasa.

      Speaking of the Catholic Church, isn't it interesting that as the power and influence of the Catholic Church over the political, social and economic spheres declined, western civilization's prosperity INCREASED, over the last 500 to 1000 years? Very interesting indeed. Perhaps, in spite of the rhetoric we hear out of Pope Benedict, the Church has actually been a force *against* progress for the west...


      Thank you for your comment and don't worry--I won't delete it!

      Yes, history and enormous anecdotal evidence show that religion predominates among those who have the most difficulty in their lives. They need something to comfort them in a world that makes little sense. That's part of the reason why there is a negative correlation between prosperity/ wealth, and religiosity.

    • gr82bme profile image

      gr82bme 7 years ago from USA

      LMAO, I just went through the chart. I am going to print it.

    • gr82bme profile image

      gr82bme 7 years ago from USA

      I think that we all know right from wrong,we make our OWN choices. The devil didn't make you do it!

      I have also noticed a lot of people that turn to God are people that have not led very good lives or have hit rock bottom, maybe because of drugs or alcohol. After all that is what they teach in AA. I think some of these people don't believe in themselves any more and need someone or something to believe, and if that is what helps, so be it.

      I also don't like when I take the time to read and comment, the hubber chooses to delete my comment.

      I am at the point where I may stop commenting.

      Good discussion, will vote up!

    • A.Villarasa profile image

      Alexander A. Villarasa 7 years ago from Palm Springs

      HHHmmmmm Secularism, the newest religion? Interesting concept. Ironic? Maybe, but one that PopeJP2nd found unsettling during his papacy, specially since Europe once the vesssel of Western civilization and Christian thought have become the cradle of secularism. No wonder he loved traveling to other places (United States, South America, the Philippines) that are still clinging to their traditional (not necessarily geographic) beliefs. And Oh... the flow chart is hilarious. It just pegged me (correctly too) as a very boring run of the mill Christian.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Unaccepting that decision may be difficult emotionally, but it is clearly very possible, as millions of people have found out.

      Anyway, as I think I indicated in the article, I'm not interested in "avoiding Christ." I'm not interested in avoiding anything. If the logic and the evidence is there for something, I will support it. And I have. I've discarded my previous beliefs on a number of things in life when the logic and/or evidence came up short. So I assure you I am not afraid of anything or dodging something that otherwise "feels" correct.

      I'll put a question to you that I put to Izettl above (who conveniently did not answer it). Suppose I accept your idea that God exists. Explain to me how you reconcile the logical problems with the existence of God?

      For example, the paradox of omnipotence: if God can create a stone he cannot lift, he is not omnipotent; if he cannot create such a stone, he is not omnipotent. Either way, he is not omnipotent, and if he is not omnipotent, then he is not God. How do you solve this logical problem, among many others?

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 7 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      We all have periods of doubt, but the fact is that if anyone accepts that Christ died for them, and that His sacrifice was for our gain, they are saved... and it's very difficult to 'unaccept' that decision!

      I hope you do find Christ to be the truth for you, but if you don't, well that's your decision, but you will at least have made one.

      Believe me I ducked and dived all over the secular horizon in an attempt to avoid Christ, for I was a very happy sinner for many years, but maturity and inner searching made me realise that I was not the answer.... so then I needed to find out who was.

      BTW, love the flow chart, forgot to say that last visit... I may use it as an inspiration and do another version in Photoshop...


    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Aguasilver, depends what the definition of "the truth" is I suppose.

      What is so interesting about your comment is that it comes on the heels of someone--BaileyBear--who has had the exact opposite life experience. She began life devoutly religious, and eventually came to realize the error of her ways.

      Still not convinced. :)

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 7 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Good hub, been there, done that, got the T shirt, but still found faith at 41 years of age.... if you are looking, you will find it (the truth that is).

      Have fun searching.


    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Thank you, Baileybear. Glad you enjoyed the hub. I like the flowchart for a seemingly endless number of reasons, but one reason being it makes religion a "choice" on par with shopping for clothes or picking your favorite TV show--and this is exactly what religion is all about for most people nowadays!

      If life in this church gets too tough, and the rules are too hard to follow, many people don't change themselves--they change their God! Yet they still claim their religion is all about absolute truth. Sometimes you just gotta stop and laugh at them.

      Anyway, thanks for visiting!

    • profile image

      Baileybear 7 years ago

      It is clear you are intelligent and a thinker. Good points raised. The flow-chart should include christians as being annoying too!

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Izettl, you referred pretty clearly to taking risks or "leaps of faith" in life in your previous comment, mentioning your marriage and referring to "missing out on life."

      Every time you make a major decision in life, you are combining rational calculation with taking a blind chance. One stereotype of atheists and non-religious people is that they do not take such risks, and that they are boring, fearful of the unknown, unwilling to put themselves or their beliefs at risk, etc. Obviously this is nonsense, as history and countless accomplished individuals shows, as I mentioned in my previous comment.

      Sorry, I just have to quote you here:

      "I believe many atheists lead what they think is a fulfilling life because they do not know any better."

      Now, that's not condescending at all! Haha.

      Suppose you're right. Let's say that nobody can know about God or the supernatural until God interferes in their life. Ok, fine. The natural question this generates is this: Why does God choose to touch some people's lives, but not others?

      There are many questions you have not answered, izettl. You can talk all you want about the legitimacy of feelings, or taking a leap of faith to believe, or being touched by God, or whatever. But the fact of the matter is, you have not settled the logical problems inherent in God.

      For example, the problem of omnipotence: can God create a stone so heavy he cannot lift it? If he can, then he is not omnipotent. If he cannot, then he is not omnipotent. Either way, he is not omnipotent. Therefore, since God cannot exist without omnipotence, God does not exist.

      Putting aside feelings and being touched by God and everything else, how do you, izettl, respond to this problem of omnipotence? It is an extremely simple and primitive argument, so simple even a child can understand, and yet for over 5000 years no theist has ever been able to refute this argument. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

      I wrote a hub expanding on the paradox of omnipotence and the problems it spells for the belief in God:

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Taking a chance and taking a leap of faith are different. You have calculated in starting your own business, by the way I am doing the same, and most of it is not "faith" whether you will make it- it's about if you take action to make it successful. Not much faith involved.

      An enlightened Buddha will tell you what yo uare lacking in your life, but you will not see it, simply because you are not enlightened enough to be aware of it. Same with sensing and experienceing a God. You are not aware enough- you are intelligent, but not on the same level of awareness. There really is no way to explain it if you are not there.

      I believe many atheists lead what they think is a fulfilling life because they do not know any better. I was completely happy without my daughter, totally fulfilled in knowing I would not have kids, but when she came along, it was new and different level of fulfillment. We can not be fulfilled in that which we do not know. We can not miss something or someone whom we do not know.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Haha, so now I don't take enough risks because I don't believe in your supernatural? Allow me to burst your bubble once again, izettl, and inform you that I have and continue to take many risks in my life, socially and financially, including starting and running my own business. Yes, there is some calculation involved, but ultimately I am willing to take a "leap of faith" and have done so many times, and continue to do so.

      But here's the thing: taking a social or financial "leap of faith" WITHIN the context of this life and this world is very different from taking an intellectual or philosophical leap of faith about what happens OUTSIDE this life and this world. Two very different things.

      In any case, if atheism/ skepticism/ agnosticism really led to a boring or unaccomplished life as you seem to imply, how do you explain the many people who have accomplished great things with little or no belief in the supernatural? The self-made billionaires who have transformed entire industries; the great artists, musicians and actors; the great scientists driven by unending curiosity and the love of discovery, etc?

      I will also note you have not answered some of my key questions posed above.

      At bottom, izettl, here is the fundamental question you must answer for yourself: You expect and demand secular/ naturalistic explanations for 99% of the questions in your life--how does my car work, why is it raining today, why did my neighbor's kid fail his test in school, why am I tired today, how does my brain work, why does my husband have a cold, etc. All of these countless questions, large and small, you quickly answer through secular reason and naturalism. Yet a few questions you choose to fence off from this normal reasoning. Why?

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      So actually we are alike, but on different sides. I accept God without further explanations, proof or until anything else comes along that disproves. And you accept no God without further proof, etc.

      Like I said, I've had other "weird" things happen too, but explained them differently as you might have explained them. You seem to think I can't possibly follow the same path of logic as you and have skepticism.

      I took a leap of faith. I am, after all, married and one would logically presume marriage is a gamble,purely 50/50 chance we'll make it. Acutally 75% we won't because he's been married before. It took me 31 years to get over hesitating because of "facts" and "skepticism". I can't sit around and wait for things making sense. I was missing out on life. My life has been so much better since I started taking leaps into the unknown- leaps of faith. But that is just my opinion. Don't get married or have kids because if they survive, it might be a miracle that gets you through the tough times when logically speaking, or calculating, you would fail.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Haha, izettl, don't worry, I think your contribution here has been terrific--amazing even! I don't agree with you, but I appreciate your contributions here very much. I love debating these ideas, so this is what the hub is all about. In fact, I am so happy to have you debate and criticize with me, I will give you a smile :) and a kiss on the cheek :* ... Oh God, I can't believe I just kissed a theist, maybe I've been reading too much Jesus.

      Jane is a friend, so I was just being playfully sarcastic with the "terrific" thing.

      You can quote me as much as you like.

      Anyway, I never said just because it doesn't happen to me it doesn't exist or isn't real. I don't have that kind of faith in my own experiences, as I said before. What I have faith in is something that transcends me, you, Einstein, Newton or any individual person. And that is a basic standard of rational empiricism and logic.

      The reason we mostly concentrate on God instead of aliens is that (1) God is infinitely more popular than aliens or ghosts--many more people believe in him, and (2) the God idea carries massive implications for reality and morality that aliens and ghosts do not.

      So that makes it much more consequential as far as people's beliefs go, even though it is a belief of the same basic nature as aliens or ghosts.

      If aliens were remotely as popular as God nowadays, with giant, well-funded institutions devoted to them, with senators proposing legislation based on them, with governments deriving their legal frameworks from ancient books written about them... then yes, we would probably be just as interested in aliens.

      You mentioned something interesting--a personal truth vs a universal truth. I do not believe in "personal truths" if that means something is true for me, but not true for someone else. Something is either true or it isn't. It either is real, or it isn't. Whether I want to believe it or not, 1+1=2, that is a fact, and it is true for everyone.

      Otherwise, there is no reason for me to say "oppressing women is wrong" because if that is just my own opinion, my own "personal truth," then a Saudi man who disagrees, his opinion is no better or worse than mine. I have my personal truth and he has his. My personal truth involves treating people with respect and dignity, his does not, and we are both equally legitimate. That is the outcome.

      So I am not a relativist. I believe in absolute truth. Absolute truth in mathematics, in physical nature, and in moral considerations.

      Now, you say the fact that a feeling is associated with the mental experience renders it more legitimate than if there were no feelings. Why? Feelings are just another phenomenon of the brain--just like the trances and the exhaustion and stress, etc. So I don't see how that changes anything, except to make it more complex. Yes, it may be very difficult to explain, but that by no means compels us to accept a supernatural explanation.

      I have had many experiences of varying degrees of weirdness, so rest assured I understand what you're talking about. It's just that, as I keep reiterating, you explain it in supernatural terms, whereas I explain it in natural terms. You seem to think there is no conceivable explanation other than "God" but that is certainly not the case, as I keep trying to stress.

      "You have no better explanation than I do."

      Actually, I do--naturalism. You still have not solidly proven why I or anyone else must accept a supernatural explanation for anything.

      "If you put me, or any other believers, on the defense then you slide out without having to explain yourself."

      Umm, what? I don't get this. What have I been doing all this time but explaining myself in the context of a debate or discussion?

      Ok, your "one thing" called God is actually an amalgamation of MANY ideas and assumptions: omnipotence, a divine plan, a special relationship with humans, perfect goodness, etc--all rolled into one thing that happens to be called "God."

      You are indeed more sure than me. That is PRECISELY the point. Faith requires wholesale acceptance of an unprovable idea, an idea that cannot be justified. That's why it's called faith. Faith is easy. Faith is simple. That's why it is so popular.

      Skepticism is difficult. Being critical of established assumptions is hard, and sometimes can get you killed. There is indeed a clear difference between a mindset that is quick to explain something new in terms of mysterious, unknowable and unprovable forces, and a mindset that is slow to explain it, a mindset that is hesitant, skeptical of others' explanations, and one's own explanations, a mindset that is humble, that is constantly willing to say "I might be wrong" and is ultimately not ready to put total faith in any idea, popular or not. Especially if there is not a shred of *legitimate* evidence for it.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Jane~ maybe you are too plain Jane to have extraordinary experiences.

      secularist~ To assume, because it doesn't happen to you, it must not exist, well that would mean you are the standard by which everything is to be measured.

      You may laugh at alien experiences but if someone insists upon it, who am I to question them? Atheists tend to compare God to supernatural or aliens, but I don't see you guys out there disproving or thinking, ponder, hanging out on sites, or discussing those topics. You tend to concentrate on God. It proves you definitely don't believe in the former (aliens), but the latter (God) at least has you intrigued enough to think and wonder. Do you search for truth in alien abductions? No, you guys concentrate on God.Do you sit around and discuss alien abductions, no. You discuss God or no God. So why even compare the two? I don't see you writing anything on ghosts or aliens, why God then? If the two are slightly comparable then maybe you'd find some truth if you pondered aliens instead.

      Maybe there is an abundance of explanations to consider in the supernatural before dwelling in the natural explanations. Maybe the natural came from supernatural. Mabye there is no seperatoin. Maybe if you aren't fixated on truth coming from one type of source, then you could find a personal truth instead of a universal truth.

      Yeah, I know about trances,etc. I know the logics of the brain probably better than you. I've been hypnotized and I've hypnotized others and a long list of other brain related phenomena experiences. The reason I brought up feelings before (i.e love) is because I could explain my experience as any of your suggestions (trance,etc), but when combined with the feelings I had, there was no doubt. That's why I maintained love is a personal feeling. You can kiss, or any other "loving" acts with someone and that is how you see love or pove love, but if you don't have the feelings then it is jst an act, it is not actually love. If my experience came without the feelings then yes I would explain it away, but that's not the case. If I am not in love right now and you are, who is right? Does love still exist?

      I've had other experiences, but I can explain them; some dreams, etc. So I realize a difference. YOu see I have both to compare to each other, while you don't.

      Yipee! I finally get to quote you! "I am always interested in new arguments made by religious believers, to see if they're really up to snuff." Really up to snuff? WHy do I have to prove myself to you? You have no better explanation than I do. Don't you think I know better? If you put me, or any other believers, on the defense then you slide out without having to explain yourself. We may never prove whether or not God exists, but we can decide to approach it other ways than just scientific explanations. Maybe you're not up to the snuff. I listed one thing, God, to explain my experience while you listed several. Seems I'm more sure than you and have it narrowed down. Don't you think I already considered everything you listed? I was a non-believer longer than I've been a believer. You say you enjoy your life more from your viewpoint and I say I enjoy mine more since believing. Again, who is right? And if someday, GOd forbid, you are suffering, who and what will you turn to? Your friends and family will only carry you so far. I only had strength through God when I was in the worst pain ever. My friends and family and certainly myself could not get me through painful nights when I would finally pass out from a combination of pain and exhaustion. I only had strength to endure through God. No way mere human strength got me through that time. I had no strength. When in a true crisis, people will draw upon every resources they have. Many who have nothing turn to God, because they've lost faith in the system or what man can do for them. I draw upon all my resources to make myself a stronger person. Survival of the fittest right?

      Can I get a "terrific contribution" too as I've given your hubs more thought than "jane" and her anal probe.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Jane (or should I say Spartacus), good to see you. Well they say great minds think alike.

      And thank you very much for the "anal probe" image. Terrific contribution... sheesh.

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      I'm Sparticus! I really am!

      Hi secularist,

      It sounds like you and I have had similar experiences as far as belief goes. I've never been particularly religious either, and have pondered the same have millions of others I suppose. Those questions are unanswerable as far as I can see.

      As to personal testimony, ie; people claiming to have experienced God..well many people claim to have been abducted by aliens and poked with anal probes too. I wouldn't be convinced of that without proof, so why would I be convinced of any other personal extraordinary experience?

      Love the flow

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Well, again, what are my conflicting ideas? Actually, my ideas are very consistent and coherent. When I was younger, I was indeed uncomfortable with conflicting ideas I had picked up from my parents, the culture, and other sources. Through hard thinking and self-criticism, I have attained much greater internal comfort as I have come to a worldview that is very satisfying and empowering and fulfilling for me.

      My worldview and ideas and beliefs have allowed me to become happier, to recognize and seize opportunities in academics, work and relationships and to see beauty in the world and in life (not to mention great sex).

      But I digress. I have a passion and interest in this topic because it carries massive implications for the nature of reality, where the universe came from (if anywhere), morality and ethics, how we should try to figure things out, how we should orient and organize society, etc. In other words, the answers to these questions carry implications for pretty much everything.

      Yes, I look for truth through reading what other people have written, writing things myself, thinking, talking with others, debating with others, etc.

      The only "big picture" anyone gets from the many accounts of God and spiritual experiences across the world is that (1) the human brain is basically the same everywhere, and (2) humans experience basically the same things everywhere.

      Actually, I have found the truth on many things, and I am constantly open to new ideas and new criticisms. That is why I am always interested in new arguments made by religious believers, to see if they're really up to snuff. I do not claim to have the final truth about reality, but at some point, I am willing to say with certainty "one plus one is two."

      It does not have to be fatigue, it might be a semi-trance state like the type experienced when doing a very routinized activity. Or it might be stress, or it might be an unknown lingering effect from a medication a person took 3 years ago. Or any combination thereof. Or it might be another naturalistic phenomenon that science has not discovered yet.

      The point is that there is an abundance of natural explanations that we must consider before going straight to the supernatural explanation.

      Again, as I said, you chose to interpret one experience as from God, and the other one as not from God. Even though there are plenty of non-God explanations for both of them.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I say things "bug" you because you've spent a lot of time researching this topic, pondering it, and writing about it in your articles, etc.

      Cognitive dissonance isn't a meantal illness, it's just a term for having conflicting ideas or thoughts. Whic can be uncomfortable, therefore also bugging you.

      So let's get to the meat of this topic and maybe we can learn somethign from each other.

      Why do you have a passion and interest in this topic?

      Where do you look for truth? By reading and writing? Do you meditate?

      One piece of advice, take my comments as a whole, not spliced up as you do when you comment back. If you took every account of God someone claims to have as individual, it means nothing, but if you combined the many accounts and coincidences people who experience God have, then you may see the big picture. You want the truth, you have to learn and take in facts differently than you are. Ever wonder why you haven't found the truth and you are reasonably intelligent person?

      Why did I have hallucinations when i was super tired, but nothing having to do with God? THen I have an experience with God when I'm fully rested. Shouldn't God have come to me when I was tired?

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      Sorry for the delay--busy with work the past week.

      "I don't know why you're talking to me about religion."

      Well... that's what this hub is about, after all.

      "I'm not defending myself with anything from the Bible and I think that's what irks you most."

      Haha, "irks" me? Nothing you could say would irk me... I've heard these ideas and arguments many times before.

      "Why didn't my experiences come when I WAS NOT getting sleep?"

      Not sure. We know very little about the brain, but we do know that extreme sleep deprivation can sometimes induce hallucinations. Perhaps genetics play a role, diet, gender, etc. The point is, as I keep reiterating, supernatural explanations are not needed.

      "I was hallucinating while driving, thinking I was doing something else, etc but no "Spiriutal" happenings."

      You simply chose to interpret one mental experience as "spiritual" and the other one as not. This goes back to the problem of knowledge I described in my previous comment, which you still have not addressed. For example, you take your kid to the doctor, but why? Why not pray to God, if He is so powerful?

      "I think that bugs you- how can someone minus mental illness and plus functioning logic, believe in God?"

      I'm not sure why you think everything "bugs" me. I am well aware of many intelligent and even brilliant people who believe in God, religion, cults, conspiracy theories, etc. Hitler, to take an extreme example, believed lots of cooky things, but he was a very intelligent man.

      Typically I see otherwise smart people who deny evolution or believe in conspiracy theories or other strange things as simply misguided. But it takes all kinds. Just because I disagree with something doesn't mean it "bugs" me.

      I completely agree many people make certain decisions based on feelings. That does not mean they should.

      "... be open to it within yourself. If you're not open then how do you know what's out there?"

      I am very open. But you mentioned before you don't trust the views and opinions of scientists and priests. I am the same way, except I am more consistent: I also don't trust my own subjective experiences. I know that I am human, that I make mistakes and misinterpret things sometimes. Therefore I put my trust in something larger than me or any individual person. But you, on the other hand, put your trust in your own experiences even though they might be just as flawed if not more flawed than someone else's.

      I have been saying that general empiricism, rationalism and reason are the paths to understanding. When you say "the scientific model" you are referring to a very strict convention in the physical sciences. That model or convention is just one manifestation of the general human tendency to think and reason and criticize ideas with logic.

      "you seem to take this subject very personal."

      I really don't know where you're getting this. I think you are mistaking my passion and interest in this topic for "taking it personal." I am not offended by your lack of belief. I am just trying to have a reasonable conversation and get closer to the truth. Sometimes that requires being a bit tough and direct to get to the heart of the matter. Sometimes it means really digging deep to see what somebody is REALLY saying, or really assuming. But that is all in the effort to understand, not take things personally.

      "I haven't invested the effort in it as you have."

      And that is why you have not been able to address many of my points nor refute my arguments.

      Haha, so now I suffer from "cognitive dissonance" or some kind of psychological ailment? Pray tell, what are the "conflicting beliefs" that I hold?

      Come on, izettl. Just because I have a different view from you doesn't mean you have to hit so far below the belt.

      BTW, in my comment on your hub (which seems like ages ago now), I was referring to the conversation between me and you--that conversation seemed to be over because you made a personal criticism about my intelligence, therefore I said you had moved from the realm of ideas into the realm of the personal, the productive part of the conversation was over.

      I was not referring to the larger conversation on the hub itself--how can I regulate that conversation, it's your hub lol! And anyway, for one relatively small line in the comment, you delete the entire comment? Hardly seems fair to me.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I don't know why you're talking to me about religion. I'm not defending myself with anything from the Bible and I think that's what irks you most. I find that many atheists know the Bible better than the religious folk. If they don't get anything from the Bible- a "spiritual awakening" than they are disbelievers. Which is fine, but I don't believe anything can be found in the confines of both religion or science.

      Speaking of fatigue, I really could have used a vision or something inspiring when I was getting 2-4 hours per night of sleep for the first year with my baby. Why didn't my experiences come when I WAS NOT getting sleep? I was hallucinating while driving, thinking I was doing something else, etc but no "Spiriutal" happenings.

      I certainly wouldn't compare what I believe in to voodoo or witches and what nots. Big difference. I'm not one of those people that leaves healaing up to prayer rather than taking my kid to the doctor. Yes, some of us logical, common sense folk can believe in God and science. I think that bugs you- how can someone minus mental illness and plus functioning logic, believe in God?

      Yes, science has progressed us as a society, but I still don't put all my faith in it. Like I said before, right now I am as likely to be cured by something "supernatural" as somehting scientific. Most "modern" cures were derived from nature, manipulated by technology. Even science is part nature/natural. Some of the healthiest people in the world, do not go to traditional western doctors- such as Nicoya, Sardinia or Okinawa. Only one of several groups of longest living people live in the U.S- all others are from other countries some with not much more than running water. Hmm...

      We all act on feelings. War and other big decisions are based on feelings. THere is power in feelings. Subjective reports are still used legitimately in science as data. It's based on how many commonalities within them, etc. Faith is subjective and I guess the only take home message I would like to give you is one I mentioned before, be open to it within yourself. If you're not open then how do you know what's out there?

      Can I test your love? So many things cannot be tested so that doesn't even make sense. Unless you can apply the scientific model to something, it doesn't exist?

      p.s I deleted only one of your comments because I didn't want to end on a bad note as it now appears. It's not my intention and you seem to take this subject very personal. Even though God is personal to me, it's exactly why I don't expect you to get it. I left your other comments because they added to the discussion, once it didn't, I didn't it was necessary to continue. you have invested a lot of time, energy, and yourself on learning about your viewpoint. I have seen this is psychology. I haven't invested the effort in it as you have. As quoted from Wikipedia: "Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously, but refuting one. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions.Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology."

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      izettl, Thank you for visiting. I enjoy your writing and your contribution to the conversation. I was surprised at your deletion of my comment on your hub because I generally have a very low tolerance for censorship. I say, let people speak, speak, speak even if they say something I don't agree with, or have a different perspective.

      Regarding how I "capture people's comments," I sometimes do that, sometimes not. There are several advantages to doing it that way: it focuses my side of the discussion, makes very clear what I am addressing, makes clear that I am not ignoring points made or trying to dodge someone's criticism--that is important, because otherwise there would be room for someone to say I am not addressing their argument or position, which is instant argumentative death.

      Now, call me dense, but I guess what I simply do not understand about the equivalence drawn between science and religion (yours as well as others) is the following. Yes, man created both science and religion. Man also wrote both a children's book and an encyclopedia. I ask you: which would you first turn to for knowledge about a given subject--the 10 page children's book, or the 1000 page encyclopedia?

      Just because they were both created by man does not mean they are of equal epistemological value. Yes, they both have limitations, because man is inherently limited. But one has much more severe limitations than the other. Is this not demonstrated overwhelmingly by history, if nothing else?

      If it is not demonstrated by history, then how do you or anyone else explain how civilizations that pursued scientific reasoning and discovery have attained much greater understanding of the universe and how it works, as well as superior health and comfort, than primitive societies that still ignore scientific techniques in favor of supernatural explanations?

      The difference between the scientifically-inclined and naturalistic-inclined societies and cultures and the supernaturalist-inclined cultures is so great it is shocking. It demands an explanation. What is your explanation for it, if not that science is superior to religion?

      Regarding religion vs. God: I agree that god is an idea unto itself, it does not require religion. But belief in God lies at the heart of most religions. This hub is more about religion and religion vs secularism, not God so much, but in any case the blind faith issue remains just as legitimate vis-a-vis God as it is vis-a-vis religion. That's probably why the defenders of the God idea typically line up on the side of religion, and the attackers of the God idea routinely line up against religion as well.

      Now I will quote you directly--fair warning.

      "Ever wonder why people who believe in God are so convinced without physical proof?"

      No, I do not wonder. I know why they believe it. It is because (1) the human mind has a very vivid imagination, especially with things it does not understand, (2) we do not understand many things, providing fertile ground for mysterious, fantastical, supernatural, or other-worldly explanations.

      Let's say there is no naturalistic explanation for your experiences, or for anyone else's experiences. The fact of the matter is, as I mentioned in your hub, you cannot prove that your experience was caused by God, instead of by a demigod or an angel or a ghost or some other type of supernatural entity.

      But the funny thing is, there IS a naturalistic explanation for all these things. Suppose someone said "I had a vision of a talking elephant." We could say it was God, or it was his spirit, or something else. Or we could just say it was a hallucination caused by extreme fatigue. Which type of explanation is more plausible? The natural or the supernatural?

      The reason the supernatural side fails is because it cannot be tested, it cannot be proven, it cannot be falsified, it is not accessible to almost any human faculty of knowledge or awareness. And without knowledge or awareness, what do we have? Nothing, because we have not discovered anything new.

      The supernatural side is accessible to only that person's own feelings. But then, are feelings legitimate? If all feelings are legitimate, then his "feeling" that it was a talking elephant is equivalent to my "feeling" that it was a non-talking dinosaur from the planet Exxon. So who's right? We're both adamantly convinced, based on our feeling. Who's right? Since evidence does not apply, only feelings, all we have to go by is the feelings or subjective experience. How can we possibly settle this question? See the problem?

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      How do you know God created religion? I believe religion is fallable because it is man-made. THe same man that created the scientific approach, created religion. Both inferior with limitations. I know God separate from church or religion. I know if I love someone, but I wouldn't accept you telling me f I loved them or not and likewise I wouldn't expect you to understand why I love them- it's personal. That could answer your question to why different religions- there are different interpretations by man depending on culture, etc. Ever wonder why people who believe in God are so convinced without physical proof? If you don't love my husband, I'm not going to convince you to oeven defend why I love him. I'm a confident woman and I don't commit to a beief unless I's sure. Like I've stated before, I've had experiences with God. I explained one, but there are others. I also say why not to other "supernatural" occurances or creatures, or spirits. I have't experienced them, but that doesn't make me the last say. I can't speak for everyone else. I think the way you defend yourself speaks volumes about you. You capture people's comments "phrase by phrase", very analytical and logical, but sometimes by doing that you are missing the big picture. I am more sure of this than anything I've said to you thus far. In order to understand someone's personal relationship with God, you must either be them or be God- so which are you?

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      HSchneider, thanks for visiting.

      Yes, I'm not against the belief in a god in principle. A single belief, or a few, based on blind faith is not problematic, and is necessary for most human thought and action. Where religion goes wrong is in constructing an entire system of belief, layering blind faith upon blind faith--this process is unnecessary and destructive.

      But the key thing to remember is that belief in god is not necessary for anything--moral ideas, epistemology, etc. So, by Ocham's razor alone, agnosticism is the default position.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 7 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Hi Secularist. I've been on a similar search for truth and have recently written about it in a Hub. I agree with you that religions are blind faith but many people need it to get by. I'm not a believer though I feel there was an unknowable force that started all of this. My religion is to constantly seek truth and speculate. I gather you feel similarly. I believe in our science and the Big Bang theory but what caused that. I also agree with you that most people blindly adopt the predominant religion in their area. I did when I was young but now I keep exploring for the truth. Keep up yours also. I enjoyed your graph also. Quite amusing. Keep writing. I enjoy it.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 7 years ago from New York City

      "If you truly are seeking truth you will find it!"

      I certainly hope so. But the Bible says the earth, sun and moon were created in the span of 6 days. We now know it took much longer. So the Bible doesn't seem very useful as far as the truth is concerned.

      Thanks for visiting, Captain.

    • Captain Jimmy profile image

      Captain Jimmy 7 years ago from WV

      If you truly are seeking truth you will find it!

      John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.


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