How Religion Got in the Way

For all those readers frustrated with the late posts, Why I Can’t Post On Time.


“Wash your face before bed so the angels will come down and kiss you while you sleep.”

That’s what my grandmother told me when I was a child staying over at her house. I was about five years old, and not only did this information from a trusted authority not faze me, it was a very standard sort of thing for someone to tell me.

I was the first child in a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too Reform Jewish family who also did Christmas and Easter. Being born into that situation set me up to be told the following:

  • Once a year, an obese middle-aged man breaks into our house in the least efficient way possible, leaves a bunch of wrapped gifts for me, and then instead of just walking out the door, decides to work his way back up the chimney, where he’s then carried off by a group of large, wingless, flying mammals to do the same thing over a billion other times in a span of a few hours
  • On Passover, an invisible man breaks into the house silently while we’re all eating because he wants to drink a small glass of wine
  • That same week, a 10-foot-tall sentient rabbit breaks into the house, possibly by morphing through the wall, and puts a bunch of chocolate eggs that he laid all over the place for no apparent reason
  • When one of my teeth falls out, if I put it under my pillow, a flying woman will break into my bedroom while I’m sleeping and buy the tooth from me for an amount of her choosing
  • Let’s add in that no one ever explained that fiction exists, so I assumed that all Sesame Street creatures were actual biological things that existed in the wild

So flying people breaking into my room to molest me while I slept because I washed my face? Fuckin sure, why not. It was a totally ordinary thing to happen—this exact kind of shit happened constantly in my world.

All this information came as part of the same orientation that taught me English, told me what shapes and colors were and how to poop, and explained that it’s bad to stare at really short adults.

It was a lot of information, but I was handling it well, when suddenly I was hit with a disturbing twist. I began to be told, about certain parts of my reality, “Oh yeah no that’s totally false.” Wait. What? I’m a complete amateur at this, and busting my ass trying to gain knowledge and skills, and they’ve been fucking with me? Not only that, I learn that all the fun things are fake and all the mundane things are real.

The more questions I asked, the more of a mindfuck this huge web of lies turned out to be. Dragons are fake but dinosaurs are real. Kings and princesses are real but wizards and fairies are fake. Disney World is real but not Sesame Street. Farm animals do exist but they’re disgusting, base creatures who act and look nothing like they do in fiction. Pirates and Indians are both real but in much less cartoony and racist ways than I’m used to, while witches and ghosts are fake altogether. Touching a toad doesn’t give me warts, my eyes won’t get stuck if I cross them, and no, Michael Dukakis is not a viable candidate despite his 20-1 landslide victory in my first grade classroom poll.

Only able to trust myself from then on, I created two buckets in my brain for “fake” and “real” and started dropping all new information into one or the other.

If there was anything without a clear bucket, I asked someone about it, and one day I asked my dad about God. “Some people believe in God and others don’t, and everyone has to make that decision for themselves.” Yeah nope. Clear fake bucket answer. And from then on, I was an atheist. To seven-year-old Tim, this wasn’t any bolder than saying I was an a-Santa-ist or an a-fairies-ist—I had become cynical about all things that seemed out-of-this world after so many had been revealed to be fake. I developed an “If it seems too fun to be true, it is” rule, and why was there any reason to assess God differently than all the other supernatural characters?

The only thing that was confusing was why my dad hadn’t just come out and admitted that God was fake like he had with so many other things. Why had he been weird about it?

This became even more perplexing as I got older. The “If it seems too fun to be true, it is” rule had hardened into a complete rejection of anything that didn’t fit with the laws of nature. Every single life experience I had had backed this up, so why would I ever question it? And the world agreed with me—with one exception. Most of the Jews I knew believed in God. So did most of the Christians. People older, wiser, and smarter than me believed. Even people who weren’t totally convinced seemed uncomfortable talking about it. I found very few people who would just say, “Of course I don’t believe in God.”

Why was everyone being so weird about this? What the hell was going on?

The more I learned, the more I realized my whole country disagreed with me—I’d read that 96% of Americans believed in God, 90% believed in Heaven, 73% believed in Hell, almost half believed in the Bible literally—talking snake, Noah’s Ark, people living to like 200, etc.—and 61% believed that “a democracy cannot survive without a widespread belief in God or a Supreme Being.” I learned that the deeply religious even included a number of science-minded geniuses like Isaac Newton. Meanwhile, atheist was a bad thing to be, something derogatory, something to keep your mouth shut about, especially if you ever wanted to run for office.

What started as an earnest frustration that I couldn’t understand so many other people’s core inspirational force turned into total shutdown on the subject by college. Anything having to do with the world of the supernatural—God, higher powers, spirituality—was not for me. As for Judaism, I happily joined the family for holidays, ate the chocolate coins, and became skilled at eating Chinese food with chopsticks, but the Torah? Not interested. On top of my rejection of divinity, I didn’t like the way organized religions behaved. Where I saw science being humble, collaborative, constantly under revision, and forward-marching, I saw religion being arrogant, divisive, hostile to change, and obsessed with the past. I graduated college as a staunch atheist with the kind of arrogance only a 21-year-old has the naiveté to feel.

What I missed at the time is that “atheist” isn’t something. It’s just “not something.” By declaring myself an atheist and calling it a day, I was basing my whole spiritual identity on what I wasn’t. Yes, I’m an atheist, but I’m also not from Uganda. If someone asked me where I’m from, answering “Not Uganda” would be unhelpful. Likewise, if my only spiritual identity is, “I don’t believe in the divine components of the world’s large, ancient religions,” that makes me a spiritual nothing.

At the time, of course, I saw no problem with being a spiritual nothing. Spirituality was for religious people, and I was a science guy, so who cared anyway?

What I didn’t realize is that I had inadvertently flushed down the toilet a critical part of the human growth experience.


What Is Spirituality?

There’s almost no word ickier than spirituality. It’s vague, amorphous, somehow very annoying, and it manages to turn off both the religious and the non-religious. And if you gather five people who all say they’re actually fond of spirituality, they’ll be defining the term in five different ways.

So what exactly is spirituality, as we’re using the word today, and what do we need from it?

Ever since the human species began opening its eyes into consciousness, it has been an aggressively curious child, hungry to figure it all out. What was this world it was living in, and what did it all mean?

The first part of that question—What was this world?—became the job of science. The second part—What does it all mean?—is the job of spirituality.

Science is what we know, and spirituality is how we coexist philosophically, psychologically and emotionally with that knowledge. Science gives us the information; spirituality helps us wrap our heads around it. The two lead us as a tag team, each taking care of their critical halves of the “figuring it all out” puzzle—when science tells us something shocking, like “The Earth is revolving around the sun and not vice versa!” we turn, wide-eyed, to spirituality and ask, “How does that change things? How does that transform the way we should think about ourselves, about the world, and about life?”

Under this definition, spirituality is a secular concept, and the idea that spirituality and science are diametrically opposed to each other is incorrect—they’re two halves of the same quest. As usual, Carl Sagan says it best:

“Spirit” comes from the Latin word “to breathe.” What we breathe is air, which is certainly matter, however thin. Despite usage to the contrary, there is no necessary implication in the word “spiritual” that we are talking of anything other than matter (including the matter of which the brain is made), or anything outside the realm of science…Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual…The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.

As humanity continues to learn, science and spirituality should be collaborative, innovative, and forever marching forward in a state of continual evolution as new developments emerge. Science opens pathways for humans to reach higher levels of consciousness and wisdom, but only through the spiritual realm can we grow into those pathways.

On a day-to-day level, one of the greatest challenges facing most humans is the quest to avoid living in an unconscious fog—this fog is where you are when you make big life decisions for small-minded reasons, when you short-sightedly side-step your own integrity, when you continually prioritize the wrong things over the right things, settle for mediocrity out of fear, or waste huge amounts of your precious time procrastinating. And this is one issue science can’t help with—an unconscious fog can only be combated through spiritual growth.

Defined this way, not only is spirituality an acceptable and desirable realm to have in our lives, it is vital in order for humans to grow, thrive, and take fullest advantage of their brain power.

So why is spiritual growth given so little serious attention in today’s world? What happened to that half of our exploration that spirituality is supposed to cover?

Maybe this:
Religion Cartoon
That’s what I think happened to our spiritual realm—it got elbowed out of relevance and into the fringes by religion, for a bunch of reasons:

  • Fear. Religion grabs people by the fear and pulls them into its bosom of definitive answers and immortality. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be doing a convincing job—a recent study found that how close you feel to God makes no difference in your overall life satisfaction. If I were told right now that I could live forever and I believed it, I’d be far, far, far happier than I am as I type this sentence. If a religious person isn’t happier than I am, I refuse to believe that they’re convinced about God.
  • An evolutionary inclination toward tribalism. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explains it well:

I mean that we evolved to see sacredness all around us and to join with others into teams that circle around sacred objects, people and ideas. This is why politics is so tribal. Politics is partly profane, it’s partly about self-interest. But politics is also about sacredness. It’s about joining with others to pursue moral ideals. It’s about the eternal struggle between good and evil, and we all believe we’re on the side of the good.

This is only a speculative theory, but it has a lot of backing in the social sciences. And it makes sense. Believing in something bigger than yourself and bonding with your tribesmen over it is going to make you more cooperative, and over time, those tribes will thrive over those who aren’t as inclined towards sacred things. Cooperation is a magnificent species survival tool for ants and bees, so why not for people too?

  • An evolutionary inclination toward belief in the divine. A similar type of not-totally-proven theory to the one above, this suggests that human tribes who happened to be more inclined to believe in the divine will be more honest, altruistic, and cooperative, because they believe they’re being watched. Over time, those tribes will fare better—i.e. those are our ancestors, not the atheist tribes.1
  • Sigmund Freud believed that many humans seek God to serve as a strong father figure.2

Against those forces, subtle, secular spirituality didn’t stand a chance of making it to the big stage. But religion also caused it to suffer on the small, individual stage. Spirituality has often been neglected by both the non-religious—because they group it, unfairly, into the “not for me” pile as part of their rejection of religion—and by the religious—because they rely on their religion for spiritual growth, and religions aren’t typically focused on the types of spirituality we’ve been discussing.

But we just established above that spiritual growth is important—really important—so now what?

What we need are good, simple, accessible, non-annoying, long-lasting ways to approach spirituality as individuals. I believe that starts with a spiritual framework that clicks with you and that you can turn to as your spiritual guide. And I happen to have one in mind that’s been working pretty well for me (and which is plastered all over this blog in post after post, inadvertently). We’ll discuss in the next post.

  1. Interesting article about this.

  2. Of course he did.

  • Alan

    LOL, I’m a pastor and a tech geek and an avid reader and a curious person. They all kind of mix together in my feedly. Didn’t really look at the source and thought this was a post from a religious blog. I was heartily agreeing with you through your bullet points. My Christian friends and family always look at us like we’re crazy because we tell our children that Santa and the like are pretend (or children don’t seem to be scarred at all, instead they seem to have a better grasp on fiction and made up play time). Then I hit the next paragraph and thought, nope definitely not one of the pastor blogs…. 😉

  • Ravi

    Dear Tim,
    You have no clue, how many times I refreshed waitbutwhy today. Finally, The post came and I was literally grinning. Thanks!!
    Great Post as always, Insightful and you almost linked Spirituality and Science together.
    I would love to know, what should a person reply about his inclination if he is an atheist? You also disagree, being called atheist is not a good option.

    • R.odrig.o

      Good to know that I am not the only crazy here. I am often coming back to the site since last week… To see if I could at least read some new message on the top of the page 😀

      As for the post. I am a little angry that it did not have a real ending, just a cliffhanger, but somehow I feel that something EPIC is coming.

    • Yoyo Go

      I always avoid saying I’m an atheist. Instead when asked I reply “I’m all of them”.

      • guy

        just say agnostic them

  • Some Guy

    Really good post as always. Enjoyed reading it.
    Was although hoping for somethin more due to the long wait.

    P.S. That email subscription pop up is really annoying and its near impossible for me to close it on my phone. I’ve already subscribed but that pop up is kind of annoying.

  • Thou shall not throw pigs

    “If a religious person isn’t happier than I am, I refuse to believe that they’re convinced about God.”

    Your post is great but your logic failed here. For two reasons.

    First, you have a large amount of knowledge about the world that the religious person doesn’t have. And different genetics, environment.

    Second, hedonic adaptation. People get used to everything. They adapt. Remember your guy in the pixel looking bored with a flacid balloon?

    So it’s totally expectable that religious people will be like “yeah, I have eternal life, God gave me, whatever” after a while. So would you.

    • Anonymous

      I get what you’re saying, I do, but I have to agree with Tim. If I knew, and I mean really KNEW, that I was going to live forever in heaven (as I’ve heard many religious people emphatically claim they do) I image I’d have a hard time getting upset about a lot of things that currently upset me. Maybe new things would come along that I haven’t imagined yet, but a lot of what currently upsets me would go away, and based on conversations it seems religious people are upset about mostly the same things.

      For example, my grandfather passed away a few years ago. As someone who doesn’t believe in a Christian style afterlife, I was pretty upset, I’m never going to see him again. But if I KNEW that we’d both be going to heaven when we die (again, as many religious people claim), then yeah the years here on earth without him will suck, but what are those few years compared to an ETERNITY in PARADISE together? How could I really be that upset? If anything I’d be jealous that he was in heaven and I wasn’t. Maybe new problems would come up, but this one would go away completely. So I have to agree with Tim, the fact that religious people are upset to the same level about the same things as me says to me that deep down they don’t really believe it.

      • Efraimmgon

        As a non-religious person you could remeber that he’ll be with you anyway. I mean, literally. Once the atoms that were him might one day be a part of you, and you will, in a way, be one with your grandfather. At least that’s the thought that guides me. Cheers.

        • Mark MacKinnon

          Efraimmgon, I don’t think that’s it. I’m a non-religious person, but I consider the departed gone, except for the models of that person that I and others have formed of that person in our own minds, and the effects that person’s influence continues to have in the decisions we make in our lives.
          It’s not important that the atoms that comprised him still exist. Dead bodies wouldn’t just evaporate of course. But what made him “him” is truly gone, in that the unique patterns of conscious activity within that uniquely structured brain and its neurons have permanently stopped. That’s death of a person, to me, and why “I” should be considered dead if my brain someday dies while the rest of me manages to live on.

      • Jeff L

        I don’t entirely agree. Depending on the flavor of Christianity, there’s no guarantee that you’ll both end up in heaven. In fact, the thought that you might end up in heaven while less devout relatives might end up in hell isn’t very comforting at all.

      • Anonymous

        Disclaimer — this a post coming from a Christian perspective:

        I disagree with Tim on this one. If the Bible is true, and heaven is real, it would be silly to base your belief in it on someone else’s mood or perceived overall happiness. You don’t know their heart or what the REALLY believe. What does matter though is what YOU believe.

        Also there is no “happiness” guarantee in the Bible. Maybe the ending is happy (heaven), but that doesn’t mean present circumstances won’t be extremely difficult or unhappy. For crying out loud, all of Christ’s disciples save John were killed for their faith. Also, I submit the book of Job for consideration. Job wasn’t a happy guy, but he ultimately found favor with God.

        • Anon


  • Thou shall throw no pigs


    If you haven’t already, may I recommend you and all who liked this post go to Sam Harris’s blog right now and read the first chapter of his new book Waking Up? Spirituality for atheists. Or as he puts it, Eckhart Tolle for smart people. It’s very well-written.

    You and he seem to have figured out the same thing: that many if not most atheists often throw away their spirituality and don’t spend much time or energy with anything that can’t be proved by hard cold equations, plus the animosity towards the word “spiritual”. You and he noticed that this needs to be addressed.

    Alain de Botton’s Atheism 2.0 TED talk is another recommendation that points out to what atheists have been overlooking.

    Great drawings, might have taken forever. 🙂

  • Eleison

    Yep, religion does get in the way. It did in the past and does now.

    Sometimes when we tell people to do or not to do something, we get the “Don’t tell me what to do”. I believe that for laws to take effect they needed a supreme authority figure.

    -“Do not take what isn’t yours”
    –“Who are you to tell me what to do?”
    -“God the creator tells you”
    –“oh okay then”

    Having good values and morals shouldn’t need religion, it should be common sense, but we know that common sense is not common at all. Religion did help in a few ways, unfortunately it caused wars and the negative side of it outweighs the positive.

    Washing your face for angels might sound silly, but it was one way to keep a kid’s face clean. Being good during the year for Santa gift was one way to have kids behave correctly, even though it is for not so great reasons (rewards).

    Anyway, this was a good post, like all your posts and I agree with your opinion of science & spirituality. There’s alot of talk about consciousness these days and people sometimes wonder if it is science or spirituality. I believe it is both.

  • Mathieu

    While I do agree to the message of your post, I think that what you claim to be spirituality rather is philosophy, at least by the most common definition of both words. Most dictionaries define spirituality as relating to something religous or supernatural, thereby refering to exactly that kind of somebody-in-the-past-wrote-it-down behavior and reasoning which you presumably can’t relate to as I understood it, while philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom on a fundamental level or, in other words, the search for “What does it all mean?”.

    • Mike

      I was coming here to say this – could not have said it better myself.

      I love this topic, as it is something that never seizes to amaze me and keeps my mind boggled. Really looking forward to your next post Tim!

    • Sophie

      The same thought occurred to me too, though maybe both terms refer to different aspects, or different progressions of the same idea – something that elevates us above the smallness of our daily lives, something ideally a spiritual person, a religious person and a philosopher, as they are currently defined, would all share.

    • James

      I was about to write a comment on exactly this. Thanks for saving me the effort.

  • Will

    Wow, it’s kind of spooky how close this is to a lot of stuff I’ve been thinking about recently, I’m really interested to see what you say in your next post. Assume you’re up to speed with your Joseph Campbell, Tim? In one of his talks/essays in Myths to Live By he argues that all those fantastical religious stories are *literally for children* and by the time we grow up we’re supposed to understand them in a more abstract, metaphorical sort of way, and modern religions are getting it completely wrong by preaching any sort of literal truth in any of it. Fascinating, and frustrating.

  • Justin

    This is a good post, and I agree with much of it. However, from my perspective the premise misses the boat slightly. I don’t believe that most atheists reject spirituality as you define it here – they simply tend not to call it that. They might call it philosophy, introspection, reflection, or any number of things (including spirituality, for some). What I mean is that there are many, many people that reject religion but are still highly spiritual in the way you describe it.

    But maybe I’m missing the boat slightly. At a grander level it’s hard not to agree with the idea that we’ve lost much of that reflection that makes us human and have contented ourselves with the fearful materialism that I think you allude to. In my mind, the major issue is this cognitive dissonance – being a reflective, even spiritual, individual, yet living in a pretty material world.

    Anyway, great work, as always.

  • Felipe

    Awesome post. So insightful and thought-provoking. Seeing that this kind of stuff is somewhat kind of a taboo these days, it is soul refreshing to see such an insightful person bringing it up. As always, great writing (and drawings!) Tim.

  • Rena

    I think most of us start out with atheism in our teens, and gradually learn to define/pick(!) our beliefs(With the help of Wikipedia or if you’re really lazy, Ayn Rand). It’s like customizing your hotdog, pardon the analogy – mustard, no relish, easy on the ketchup, please.
    These days I find it much easier to say I’m irreligious instead of argue exactly what an atheist or an agnostic disbelieves in.

    Great post as usual, thank you 🙂

  • Ryan

    Your statement about Christians knowing that they will live forever and thus should be much happier than Atheists contradicts your previous article “Life is a Picture but you Live in a Pixel”. Christians are probably really pumped when they figure this out, although I’m guessing when its learned at a very young age it’s not exactly a revelation. Someone who picks up religion later in life is probably going to really be ecstatic, because it’s such a contrast to what they used to believe. In either case, time is going to lessen the impact of that excitement. I’m on board with everything else you wrote, and I’m guessing that many Christians are pretty doubtful, but perhaps this one way of determining this isn’t so solid.

    • Anonymous

      To me it’s not that Christians aren’t happy, it’s that they aren’t happy about the same things. If I KNEW I was going to live forever, that would dramatically change what’s important to me, what bothers me, etc. I don’t think that would be something to go away “life in a pixel” style. Happiness with day-to-day details might no matter what, but I can’t believe a reality shifting revelation like immortality won’t dramatically change someone’s priorities.

  • Andrew

    This post is brilliant. I can’t wait for the next part.

    Might I suggest, though, a potential reason why your father was so wishy-washy about the God question? Perhaps he was trying to convey that the existence of a supernatural, supreme being that created the universe is not something that is susceptible to being proven. It is unfalsifiable. It is not like Santa, Elijah, or the Easter Bunny; those things would manifest themselves in physical ways if they existed. God wouldn’t, necessarily. So you either believe it or you don’t.

    I think this was Sagan’s view. He rejected the “atheist” label because he believed (rightly or wrongly) that to be an “atheist” is to have certainty on an issue where one cannot simply be certain. I think Sagan would have said that atheism, to the extent it professes to be certain about the non-existence of God, is as anti-science as theism, because it makes claims that cannot be proven or falsified. Science may eventually tell us all there is to know about the universe (and the meta-universe, etc…), but until then, we don’t know it all – for example, what happened before the Big Bang? We don’t know.

    • Jan

      To be an atheist is not to claim absolute certainty of the non-existence of divine beings. Or at least I have never met such an atheist. It is just not seeing any reason to believe in them, on exactly the same basis as you don’t believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. All religions I know of make explicit statements about physical reality, statements which have never stood up to scientific inquiry and can therefore be rejected as irrelevant.

      If you define your god as being so neutral and ethereal that it does not have any influence on physical reality whatsoever and can never be disproven – why would you worship such a being? How would you know anything about its nature?

  • John

    Some people believe there is a god. Some people believe there isn’t. I believe I’ll have a beer. 😉

    Roughly, the three groups are theist/believer/religious, atheist/non-believer, and agnostic/don’t know/can’t tell.

    I think the real distinction is people who are curious and looking to understand how things are and why thing are, vs. people who aren’t. The latter group (essentially, theists and atheists) may not have thought about it, or don’t think it matters, or are bullied, cajoled, or indoctrinated into certain beliefs. Seems to me the 2nd group is both missing out and ruining a lot of things for a lot of people (including themselves).

    So, dear reader, which are you – ever observing, examining, learning, thinking and adapting…or are have you decided that what others tell you (under various threats) is actual reality? If you’re in the first group, you’re trying to find the meaning of life. What better purpose for humanity? If you’re in the second group, you might want to give it some thought.

    • Jeff L

      Well, I started out religious, went through a brief period of agnosticism, and ended up an atheist. I disagree with your characterization that agnostics are the ones “who are curious and looking to understand how things are and why thing are”, while theists and atheists are not. I see it more as agnostics being wishy washy, while theists and atheists have studied the evidence and come to a conclusion. After all, there’s nothing that can be known with absolute certainty, and some things which really are beyond our ability to determine right now (like string theory), but if there’s enough evidence to be reasonably certain about something, why not say so? It’s not dogmatic to say that fairies don’t exist, or that the Earth is roughly spherical. It’s just stating what’s most likely to be true. Likewise, while it’s not a complete impossibility that deities exist, I’m reasonably certain that none do.

      • Alan L.

        I get it—You are reasonably certain that your unsupported prejudices are valid.

  • Anon

    Yikes. I’m disappointed to find out that you are an atheist, and sad to see people agreeing to it. I understand an atheist’s viewpoint on religion, but it shows a real lack of being able to be comfortable with the unknown. Honestly I feel very sorry for people that are atheist. It must really suck to lack the passion and insight in to life and the human spirit. So, when you die, nothing happens and that is just it? Good luck with that thinking, let’s hope that you don’t die tomorrow in a car crash, because then that is the end of you for all of eternity. Seems like a real shitty way to live to me!

    • Anonymous

      Just shows how compassionate you are based on your comment of “hoping you don’t die tomorrow in a car crash” Very compassionate believer you are! Yes just because some of us choose not to believe in things that we can’t possibly prove doesn’t make us any less passionate about our fellow cohabitants of this planet. Because of the fact that we don’t believe in an eternal afterlife gives us drive to live our life to the fullest here, this one life to live, all the while researching better ways to prolong and enhance our lives here on earth. Keep praying bro, I’m sure your prayers will find the cure to the next plague.

    • Ouch

      Or, God is the fear of the unknown. What’s happening? God knows. God help me. God willing. God will make the sun rise etc etc. But let’s not be judgmental about it. I’m sure not thinking about an atheist’s death will be 1 less worry for you.

      • Anon

        But the thinking surrounding death is one of the biggest differences in an atheist versus a believer. And how is being an atheist not in and of itself the most offensive judgement on religious beliefs? Some of the things that have been said by atheists are: You believe in unicorns, fairy tales, etc. I’m sorry, but it is merely a response to a negative stimulus. Believing in God is putting faith in him that you do not have to be afraid, so I am sorry that you do not understand that.

        • Jeff

          “And how is being an atheist not in and of itself the most offensive judgement on religious beliefs?”

          Did you word that poorly, or are you really saying that the mere existence of atheists is offensive?

    • Anonymous

      I would say atheists are actually more comfortable with the unknown. They accept the fact that the “unknown” might always remain unknown. That’s like the whole point. Religion on the other hand was created to provide answers for things we don’t understand, obviously. GTFU bro.

      • Anon

        Your statement that you are even aware of how religion was “created” is just showing your ignorance on the matter. And “faith” is accepting that we cannot “know” for sure about things, but that we “believe” and “trust”.

    • Tux

      As an atheist, I can tell you that I’m not uncomfortable with the unknown. I can accept that I will live this life, and that I will die someday and will cease to care about being alive. I’m actually quite comfortable with the notion of just going to sleep one day… period. The difference is precisely in how I’m living my life while I have it. Knowing I have a limited time on this ride, I will indulge my passions and also try to make the world a better place. Not because of the fear of an eternal spanking but because of the love for fellow humans and the love of being alive.

      I’ve observed in religious people confidence in an afterlife, which is fine for you if it makes you comfortable. However I believe that putting all your stock in an afterlife cheapens the one you’re living now. What’s the point of being happy today, when happiness beyond your wildest aspirations is one bullet to the head away? Why live angry and miserable when Allah is one bomb-vest blast away? Some religions put so much emphasis on “God is everything; you are nothing and you exist only by His grace” that it’s a wonder if followers have any sense of self worth.

      • Anon

        It is not that believers do not value and treasure this life. The very opposite. I can’t even entertain trying to explain it any further. But questioning followers self worth is just funny to me. Because my religion, Christianity, is the very thing that strengthens and ensures that I do have self-worth and confidence.

        • Anonymous

          Like homeopathy believing they can cure Ebola. perhaps happily deluded.

      • Anonymous

        Nicely put, Tux.

    • Jib

      Ehhhh, disappointed? Really? You’re disappointed that someone doesn’t subscribe to the idea that “something” is constantly watching and judging them? Imagine the impracticality of Religion’s actual implementation. No way can one entity be able to see all and know all. There is simply too much space, too much time and way too many people to keep track of. And to just pass it off as, “God can do anything,” is an absolute cop out and aversion to answering the actual question, How is it possible? Its bullshit. I feel sorry that the richness of the universe and human experience isn’t enough for you feel sated. Do you really need a reward for being “nice” for all existence to have meaning? It may seem like a, “shitty way to live,” but the alternative seems far more like denial and a far shittier view of things.

      • Anon

        I am disappointed that someone that I respect, now I view negatively for their beliefs. And Christianity being “practical” or “impractical” has absolutely nothing to do with it. As a Christian we accept that that is simply the way that it is, whether we really like it or not, and that it is our job to continue to improve ourselves throughout our lives to become closer and closer to His image. I do not know you, but is your life truly enough for you? I doubt it. And it is not just about being “nice”. Because I don’t feel very nicely towards you right now, but that does not make me any less of a Christian than I am. And I am definitely NOT in denial, or incompetent. I am a highly intelligent person with an advanced education. So let’s not try to compare. But yes, I do think that being an atheist is a shitty way to live and I definitely not respect you for it.

        • Spoon

          “I am disappointed that someone that I respect, now I view negatively for their beliefs.”

          What was that the bible said? Something about let those who are faultless cast the first stone? Something about thou shall not judge? Any of those ring a bell?

          • Anon

            I did not cast the first stone. I am merely defending my beliefs. And I never said I was perfect, but I am not expected to be~

            • Bill

              So, the bible says “be nice” but it says people are inherently evil and imperfect, so you can break the rules of the bible, but so long as you believe it, you’re still a good person and will be rewarded when you die.

              No wonder religions are so popular.

        • Maren

          I am dissapointed that you now have a negative view of someone you previously respected because they are athiest. How cold and lonely it must be up on your omnipitent cloud of judgement and wisdom. God is up there judging with you, I’m sure.

          • Anon

            So on which side of the argument are you then? It is not cold nor lonely being a Christian, the opposite. I have many fellow Christians to converse with. I never said that I am omnipotent, that would be God. And if you do not believe in God, then how are you “sure that he is up there with me”? That would mean that you are not an atheist at all. And if you are a Christian as well, then I am not even going to continue the discussion with you, because arguing with me over the others is nonsensical.

        • Anonymous

          You view Tim negatively because of his beliefs? You’re a dick. Kill yourself.

        • Krusty Shakelford

          I hope the next post rips people like you to shreds.

    • Spoon

      Well, as an Atheist, let me assure you, I am perfectly happy and have no desire for anything else in my life. How can you even say that athiesm is a shitty way to live? Is it somehow better to think everything you do is to please someone else so that they may let you live with them eternily? I live my life for me. I treat others how I want to be treated. I follow my own moral code and do a damn good job at it.

      My life is here. it’s now. I wake up and make the most of everyday because it may be my last. I’m grateful for everything around me and all the relationships and experiences that make up my life. And when I die, my energy goes right back into making this world the amazing place that it is. I don’t need to live forever. I have right now to make the most of it. Heaven is such a selfish theory. We are not here for always. We are a speck in the grand scheme of things. And that’s beautiful.

      • Anon

        I value this life just as much as you do because regardless of the afterlife, this life is unique and special, and the only chance that we get to live it this way. I do not lack any more of the “here and now” than you do. And you feel that only living for yourself is not selfish? It is not up to you to create your own moral code to follow, who knows what that could entail, but I suppose as long as you stay out of jail, then you are following man’s moral code to some extent~ You response is one of the least offensive, and out there ones here, so I will take it. The only reason I am even spending any time debating here is because there seems to be a real lack of religious people on here to defend it! I grew up in the church, so it is my way of life, but also a choice that I consciously made when I was a teenager.

        • RVG

          TO ANON:

          I admire your efforts to defend what you believe in. It only shows that you have been properly indoctrinated by your beliefs.

          With that being said, I am also saddened that you measure other people based on what they believe in. You tend to feel uncomfortable with things you cannot control. I apologize for what I am about to say, because It could be offensive to you based on what you speak about, but please review where your religious belief come from. It is deeply rooted in CONTROL and to despise anything it cannot control.

          I was a catholic and I did study most of the scriptures. I even have good friends that are priests and grew up to the Typical Religious family… but it the end after studying more and being honest with myself… I became an atheist.. not because of lack of knowledge of the faith but because of being open to a bigger reality.

          No one has the monopoly of goodness and knowledge in this universe… so please don’t judge people based on the fact that they are not like you.

          Good day to you sir…. or madam..ish…

          • Anonymous

            This is perfect. Well said. Anon is a turd.

          • i think that it makes it even worse when people are religious, and then decide to turn their backs on that religion. Which from my knowledge, God greatly frowns upon as well. And quite frankly I will judge people based on what principles I please, based on my belief system, and I certainly will not take advice from an atheist from the internet, but thank you anyway. So good day to you as well. Asshole

            • RVG

              TO ANON:

              So be it then 🙂 .

              No point in using logic on you especially when you freely call people “Asshole” out of a whim. However, that is your choice. Condemning people is characteristic of what you do based on what you say. It’s ok. I won’t matter in the end. So Go ahead Judge and condemn 🙂 You will eventually get tired of it and come to your own realization 🙂

              Good day to you Sir or Madam (Seriously… This is not meant to offend you. I just don’t know if your a dude or a chick. lol)

    • Bill

      This is generally what believers think life is like for a nonbeliever. I certainly can’t speak for all atheists, but as for myself and most atheists I’ve met, we’re passionate people who see a tremendous amount of beauty and purpose in life and the universe. I live to explore and learn new things, to love my wife and my family and my friends, to experience joy and share it with others. Also, it’s incorrect to assume that all atheists believe that nothing lies beyond the veil of death. We don’t believe in God, at least not in any common or traditional sense, but as for myself, I don’t -know- that there’s nothing more to an individual’s consciousness than what we experience while in our bodies while we’re alive. Maybe there’s more to it. Maybe it endures in some fashion. Maybe there’s nothing. I don’t -believe- there is, but I don’t disbelieve it either. It’s an unknown, and therefore a possibility. The reason I don’t believe in god is because not only is there no emperical evidence to suggest it, the concept simply makes no rational sense to me. If an omnicient, all-powerful entity is running things and demanding of worship in a specific way without providing any concrete evidence, and will reward us if we worship it correctly, and punish us if we don’t, that being is insane, petty, malevolent, or some combination thereof.

  • Murat

    It is hard for a logical person not to end up as an atheist observing the practiced religions & their rituals.
    It is also hard to find valid, unbiased, scientific interpretations of the holy scriptures that make sense based on today’s level of technical knowledge.

    I was surprised to find out this article that states how Islam supports Evolution, a topic no Islamic religious authority accepts. (Universe and the creation of man according to the Qur’an)

  • Response
  • Ethan

    That is too bad you created segmented your mind into two buckets so early. You missed out on exploring religion for yourself. While religions have doctrine, no religion answers every question completely. They all require faith and many (including mine) preach searching your spiritual nature and connecting with the Spirit of God for insight, direction, and answers. Religion is a great, wonderful place to learn and better explore the world around us. Those that do terrible things in the name of religion are just using it as an excuse. They would find another reason (nationalism, an economic or political reason) for their excuse if religion wasn’t around. They unfortunately give people of faith a bad name.

    • Anon

      Finally another believer! The fact that atheists think that they have religion all figured out and bundled up nicely and have decided, nope, they are all crazy and irrational, is ridiculous. Some of the smartest people in the world are religious, and that does not mean at all that they are fearful of the way the world works (the exact opposite actually) or that they do not understand science. To think that science is greater than religion is a very narrow-minded way of thinking. I am a fan of this site, but my opinion has faltered knowing this is the ultimate viewpoint.

      • Underworld

        As someone who was raised Catholic and was exposed to multiple religions and cultures growing up, I spent years learning how religion affected mankind. As a believer, you find comfort that there is a reason for our being alive. If there’s no purpose or grand design for life, that comfort become illusive. I outgrew religion as I found its foundation to be built on human-driven purposes with no scientific evidence. Being smart or not has little to do with the psychological/emotional rationale for adhering to religion. It’s a choice one makes as they assess the benefits they receive from a religion.

        Believers make their choice because they value the bonds, the belief structure and comfort that comes with it. But by using religion as a filter for living in this world, they are buying into a worldview that has been constructed by other humans. The power that worldview holds over you is rooted in the tribalism and evolutionary bent cited in this article. Athiests don’t abide by those constructs because they realize the trappings that come with religion have consistently been used to exploit people to do horrible things that have handicapped our evolutionary cultural progress (we have other inhibiters but religion is certainly one). No doubt, religion has inspired good, humanistic behavior as well, but the net algebra yields a far greater negative. And to keep thinking that the good part of religion somehow justifies the bad is a tradeoff, a compromise made by believers to keep their ship afloat.

        The spirituality that is referred to in this article should seek to celebrate humanistic behavior that promotes human well being: education / advancement in knowledge, acts of love towards humanity and all life and an ongoing effort to build a society that promotes these objectives without the trappings of religions that impose controls evolved from tribalism.

        Jesus supposedly taught love but that message was hijacked by a Roman church that sought to grow its power-base. The challenge for us all is to build the message of humanism so that it can resonate with religious believers without that message being co-opted to serve tribalism or religious institutional objectives that continue to force-fit contradictory elements into their dogma.

        • Anon

          But the flaw in your reasoning is that religion and God were “made up” by humans. Don’t you see that we do not at all believe that to be true so your argument using that logic, is not valid at all. That is what YOU BELIEVE to be true. Not I. Religion is not a solution to a problem, it is that we truly believe that this is the way that it is, regardless of whether you believe or not. So you choosing not to believe does not make it any more true.

      • Anonymous

        Half the religious people you are boasting of are destined for hell, according to your religion. So, why boast about them? Lots of those smartest religious people think your belief is bunk and that you yourself are destined for eternal damnation according to their holy book. Maybe you can first help us understand why this loving selfless guy you call your god will let over 5 billion humans go to your hell for sure. Not to mention all Christians who are not strong in your faith, I will bet that’s most of them most likely including you. Logically, probably most of the your friends and family. Including your smartest religious friends, if I may add. 🙂 And why will anyone want to live forever? And why are your people so afraid of death when the is the only way to your hell. Forgive me your heaven. enough rubbish for one day. Off to enjoy the rest of my time on earth not a care about your god, don’t want to go to your heaven and not scared of your hell. Wake up!

    • Anonymous

      Religions: They all require faith. That kind of sums it up to me. Why would something that “could be” so important require faith? I can think of numerous answers to my own question but nothing that is actually logical.

  • Pingback: Fun essay… | Convert The Atheist()

  • Ryan T

    OK, you’re just trolling us, right?

    Anon wrote about atheism “it shows a real lack of being able to be comfortable with the unknown”. That’s an effed up way of looking at it. It’s *theists* who are uncomfortable with the unknown, that’s why they have to invent fairy tales to explain them. Atheists, on the other hand, accept that there are unknowns and try to resolve them.

    And, is it just me, or did Anon come across like kind of a dick?

    • Anon

      And you think that saying that religion is a fairy tale isn’t being a dick? Just because I believe in God doesn’t mean I don’t think you are a dick.

      • Roger Springfield

        Why do people always refer to a dick as being a bad thing? I mean, I have one and I don’t think it’s bad.\

    • Ouch

      A huge, uncircumcised one.

    • Anon

      Why as an atheist do you feel that you have religion figured out, and you understand how comfortable/uncomfortable we are with the “unknown”? Are you not familiar with the prayer read at funerals that specifically indicates the lack of fear? Of course you aren’t

      Psalm 23:4A
      psalm of David.
      The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
      He makes me lie down in green pastures,
      he leads me beside quiet waters,
      he refreshes my soul.
      He guides me along the right paths
      for his name’s sake.
      Even though I walk
      through the darkest valley,
      I will fear no evil,
      for you are with me;
      your rod and your staff,
      they comfort me.
      You prepare a table before me
      in the presence of my enemies.
      You anoint my head with oil;
      my cup overflows.
      Surely your goodness and love will follow me
      all the days of my life,
      and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

      • Anonymous

        I may not see things as you do, Anon, but I respect your words and your beliefs.

        • Anon

          Well, that I can respect. You believe what you want, and I will believe what I know to be true in my heart. If you have enough conviction about your beliefs, then good for you. I obviously have an abundance of conviction for mine. And the part that burns me up about atheists is that it isn’t enough to just not believe yourselves but to attempt to make a mockery of our ONE GOD, and our beliefs that are ingrained within our very beings.

          • Anonymous

            Dude you proved in your first comment that you’re the one who feels he has to make a mockery of atheist views: “It must really suck to lack the passion and insight in to life and the human spirit.” Ya douche

            • Anon

              I do find it to be a mockery, and I do not feel bad to say that. Your beliefs are a mockery to me.

          • Spoon

            “And the part that burns me up about atheists is that it isn’t enough to just not believe yourselves but to attempt to make a mockery of our ONE GOD, and our beliefs that are ingrained within our very beings.”

            Are you serious right now? YOU are the one who came onto this blog saying that you felt sorry for atheists and had no respect for them. You were making a mockery of Atheism. How is that different? How does that make you a better person? I will never understand the Christian “Holier than thou” attitude. You’re never wrong. And you’ll never get it.

            • Anon

              Because Spoon, I read this blog every week, so it is not like I sought it out to fight for my believes, it just so happened that the name and topic of the post are “How religion got in the way”, got in the way of what? I am not going to fight any more with you about it, because, no that is not how Christians are supposed to handle the situation, but just because Christians say and do things that are not “good” does not mean that the whole institution is inherently wrong. Regardless, you will never understand, and I will never understand you; so that’s that. I never claimed to never be wrong. But I will never believe the same things that you do, concede to them.

          • Roger Springfield

            “know to be true in your heart”? Well, I guess that makes it true all right. Some atheist make a mockery of your ONE GOD, but certainly, not most. Different religions have different gods and each follower “believes” that theirs is the true God and often make a mockery of the other faith’s God. I

      • Anonymous

        Dude you’re the one that said an atheist’s viewpoint “shows a real lack of being able to be comfortable with the unknown.” Ya douche

        • Anon

          To me it is, you do not know Christ, or religion, so therefore, it makes you afraid, and you lash out. As a Christian, we are NOT AFRAID. We are certain or our places in the world, and we are certain that we will be taken care of, if not in this life, than the next. I’m not a dude. But thanks. And because I am a Christian I will try to ignore your insults, because I am better than that.

    • Reply

      I think the Point ANON is attempting to make is that religious people have it all figured out and bundled up nicely in a book. The point with atheism is that there is no real defined answer. Unless true science can explain it – and the more you learn the more questions you have. ANON you are the only person saying atheists have religion figured out. And yes, we all die – religious or not. Drive safely.

      • Anon

        I did not say that we did not all die, or that I hoped that anyone would die for that matter. The point is that I think that my “life” does not end after that. And I am not saying that religious people have it all figured out. We actually believe this:

        Proverbs 3:5

        Trust in the Lord with all your heart
        and lean not on your own understanding;
        in all your ways submit to him,
        and he will make your paths straight.

        So what I am saying, is that it is not my job to have it all figured out. And I certainly do not think that atheists have anything figured out.

  • Verdun

    “Our world is made significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.” – Carl Sagan

    This goes both ways–in science and in spirituality. Soul explores the depths, while intellect ascends to the stratosphere.

    Keep at it, everyone.

  • Hayley

    “Michael Dukakis is not a viable candidate despite his 20-1 landslide victory in my first grade classroom poll.” I just lost it. I am dying laughing. You are the funniest writer ever.

  • Procrastinating on Life Right Now

    Being raised Catholic, I always hated Sundays because that meant I had to sit, kneel, stand, sing, and listen to an old man in robe ramble about something completely unrelated to my life for what felt like the longest hour of my life. As I grew up, and sports, activities, academics, etc. got in the way, my family started to go only on a religious holiday basis, and as of last Christmas, it got to the point where it became a tradeoff between watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and going to church. The less frequent I went, the more I realized that there was no difference in the way life was treating me. My personality did not change, I was not viewed as a “sinner” to anyone who encountered me, and I started to rely on myself more than prayers for self accomplishments. After this realization, I determined that going to church does not make you a better person anymore than parking your car in a garage makes you a mechanic.

    I am currently on the thrilling roller coaster ride creatively named, “College”, and experiencing extreme highs and lows on a daily basis, I have gotten to the point where I am questioning why people think their life problems will be solved by putting their hands together, closing their eyes, and possibly kneeling, and not trying to figure it out for themselves? With society giving Atheists and agnostics a negative connotation, I would have to categorize myself as “Confusianitistic” (Confused, Christian, and Agnostic). Overall, I loved this article because it was not biased towards any specific religion or political views towards current events that are happening in the world right now (hint: what I am referring to starts with an ‘I’), and was straight logical thinking that many people who are afraid to admit their stance on the existence of God can relate to. Thanks for another great article! (sorry for bad grammar)

    • Spoon

      “The less frequent I went, the more I realized that there was no difference in the way life was treating me. My personality did not change, I was not viewed as a “sinner” to anyone who encountered me, and I started to rely on myself more than prayers for self accomplishments. After this realization, I determined that going to church does not make you a better person anymore than parking your car in a garage makes you a mechanic. ”

      “I have gotten to the point where I am questioning why people think their life problems will be solved by putting their hands together, closing their eyes, and possibly kneeling, and not trying to figure it out for themselves?”

      Brilliantly said.

      • Procrastinating on Life Right Now

        Thank you. Living the first 18 years of my life in a suburban town that is predominantly white catholic, and then going to college out of state to an extremely diverse university has taught me a lot. Ironically there is a Catholic church 20 feet away from my apartment balcony.

  • JJW

    I applaud you for recognizing early in life and early in your post that people smarter than you (Sir Isaac Newton) were/are believers. In our Mensa group, it’s split about 50/50 between atheists and believers. Not surprisingly, the some of the believers are pastors, while some of the atheists are very outspoken and would probably preach if they had a pulpit.

    Faith is a gift and a decision – like love.

    I have found that atheists – passionate atheists who have searched their soul (haha), their environment and their history, have a very deep faith that science will, ultimately, prove them right – just like we believers have faith that we’ll be in the presence of God when we pass from this mortal coil.

    My faith is challenged from time to time because I’m a curious person. God has never failed to reveal himself, though, when I’ve sought him with a pure heart.

  • Zoe

    I was raised atheist, and now I’m a Buddhist. I bet Tim is Buddhist too. I practice a very modern, practical form of Zen. Great post, totally how I felt growing up as an atheist.

    • Jeff L

      I didn’t think atheist and Buddhist were mutually exclusive terms, since ‘atheist’ only describes one narrow aspect of your beliefs, and not all forms of Buddhism promote the supernatural (or making even more forms of Buddhism atheistic by using the strict definition of atheism, they don’t promote theistic deities).

      • Zoe

        Yeah, true. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, I just doubt a Buddhist would describe themselves as an atheist.

        • Jeff L

          You’re probably right that the majority of Buddhists wouldn’t refer to themselves as atheists, but I decided to Google ‘atheist buddhist’ just for the hell of it, and came across a book that looks rather interesting – Confession of a Buddhist Atheist. I may have to add that one to my reading list.

  • Zoe

    Oh and I feel like lots of Buddhists will say that it’s not a religion, and I know zen folks are trying to dismantle beliefs, not create them, so it is kind of like a non-religious spiritual path in a lot of ways.
    I’d love to know if I’m on the right track with guessing Tim’s path.

  • Earl Douglas

    Long ago and far away in a large cave, a thunderstorm raged waking one angry member of the group. He bellowed “STOP THAT INFERNAL RACKET” just as the storm abated. Everyone was convinced he had special powers and came to him for help. He no longer had to hunt or work. By tribal standards he was rich. Realizing this great power, he told everyone his son had the same powers. His decendents became rich and powerful. The basic elements for religion, money and power.

  • the delicate place (@misathemeb)

    Thank you so much for this! Loved reading your insight on this and as a scientist often find myself in the crux of my Christian upbringing and my concurrent day to day analysis/gather data etc mindset. I look forward to the next installment and am loving the *so far* healthy discussion here on WBW!

  • Bob

    I’ve always found it fascinating that religion and science both claim to find truth yet they work in exactly the opposite with information that doesn’t fit their model of the Universe. Science tries to build a model and then actively looks for things that break it and are very excited about when they find that so that they can make a better model. Religion ignores and discredits and wants to destroy everything that doesn’t fit their model. Science is interested in a making its model fit the world, religion wants the world to fit its model.

    • jatb

      Yes 🙂

      This is why being “religious” gets you some funny looks where I live, and most of the European nations from what I have seen!

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations, commenters, on this thoughtful and (mostly) respectful exchange of views on this difficult and confusing topic. Tim, you’ve once again gotten us going on a vibrant and enlightening back and forth!

  • Anatol

    Great post, as usual —- thing is, the whole thing gets a lot more complicated once you add history. The nice and clean division of religion and science (as presupposed by your comic) is a relatively new thing, especially since (hard) science, the way we know it today, is very young, maybe 200 years tops. as you mentioned in the article, newton was a highly religious person and the same goes for pretty much every one of our scientific heroes pre-1800, pythagoras, francis bacon, descartes, galilei, kepler, ben franklin, etc. all these guys genuinely believed that there is an intrinsic harmony to our world and that despite (or rather: in addition to) their strictly empirical methods. they felt no conflict because they felt there was none (unlike we do now). now add all the work that has been done in monasteries in the middle ages and the famous stories where the church inhibits “progress”, as in the case of galilei, to me personally they seem more like exceptions to a rule of productive coorporation between religion and science. (on a side note, check paul feyerabend for a great defense of the catholic church in the galilei trials – not a perspective we get every day).
    now on the other hand, atheism, too, is a thing that is relatively young. it just wasn’t much of a attitude that existed before the enlightenment (or rather: the enlightenment reception after (!) the actual enlightenment, our enlightened heroes were also pretty religious). science and atheism have little to do with one another – even if most scientists are atheist.
    now EVEN WORSE, the conflict between atheism/science and religion is even younger and also geographically limited (mainly a problem of the US and Russia). now we tell us these nice and fun stories about how religious people reject darwin – which is fine because everyone who rejects darwin’s main theorems has no fucking clue what they are talking about – but that story forgets that evolutionism was also and mainly discussed, criticized and attacked from within scientific circles.
    sorry, this took a little longer than I thought it would. what i really mean to say is that there is no conflict between science and religion or science and spiritualism, at least no conflict that would have any real significance other than what some guys said at one specific point in time (e.g. today). but that says more about said point in time than about “science” or “religion” itself.

  • hold up

    my eyes won’t get stuck if I cross them????

  • Emma

    Fascinating post!

    Being from France where this is the most common position, I am an atheist, but I have always had a yearning for “something more”. As a child, I spent quite a lot of time imagining what it would be to play with fairies or to live within Middle Earth. As a teenager, I toyed with the idea that the mind could have some power over matter (but I must admit that my earnest attempts to hypnotize the family cat where a bit disappointing). In brief, I am especially interested by the idea of spirituality without religion.

    On a related subject, as anyone read Sam Harris’s “Waking up, A guide to spirituality without religion”?

    I am really looking forward to the next post!

    • jatb

      You should try some psychoactive substances if you’re comfortable with that! It sounds like what you are looking for perhaps 🙂

      I am from Norway, which is not an EU member state, but here we can acquire “kratom”, from SouthEast Asia. It is remarkably effective, not like LSD or 2C-* research drugs, but it is noncriminal to possess!

  • Ab

    An Arabian proverb says:
    Starting from doubt will lead you to certainty, but starting from certainty will lead you to doubt.

    It basically means that you should question everything until you see it make sense.

    Keep it up both in your posts and your journey in life.

  • Clay

    Rather than the ‘belief in God’ there is the recognition of Mother Nature. Mom Nature has nurtured the Earth and, well, our whole universe since the beginning of time. This includes all the disastrous, natural occurrences like earthquakes and tornadoes as well as those beautiful spring days with flower blossoms and kids laughing in the park. Being in tune with Mom Nature is my version of spirituality. Love ya Mom.

    • Mom

      I love you, too, Baby!

  • Dimtyler

    “If I were told right now that I could live forever and I believed it, I’d be far, far, far happier than I am as I type this sentence. If a religious person isn’t happier than I am, I refuse to believe that they’re convinced about God.”

    I think that this happens because of the pressure religion puts on people to behave in a certain way in order to be rewarded. Their eternal happiness depends on their actions and that’s the source of their anxiety. I don’t think that the fact that they are not more happy than atheists has to do with their uncertainty about religion. On the other hand of course, maybe they are uncertain, and this increases the pressure to make the right -according to their chosen religion- decisions, so the fact that they are not really convinced increases their anxiety exponentially.. I don’t know.. I’m too stoned to decide.. Great article once again Tim!

  • MCM

    Hi Tim –

    Interested to see how part 2 plays out. Did you see this (somewhat related) piece in the NYT a few weeks ago: It’s an interesting debate on how (or whether) religion and science (evolution specifically) can be reconciled. Also interested in whether you consider Buddhism ‘religion’ given its focus on the here and now vs. a past history.


  • joek

    so many of your past posts have been both entertaining and thought provoking – and while i’ve shared them left and right, this one hits a chord that i need to write a big Thank You! on here for this and past ones.
    There are parts of it that remind me of The End of Faith by Sam Harris, which i enjoyed reading. curious to see where you take it in your next post! (oh – i see another sam harris mention already…)

  • Allison W

    I don’t mean to add to the pressure here Tim, but you may have just started a new movement. I’m not going to say a new religion, because clearly that is a different animal than what you’re talking about, but something along those lines nevertheless.
    This was a mind-blowing post. Thank you for your uncanny ability to wake me from the mental fog every once in a while, your blog is more precious to me than gold. (Sorry if that sounds creepy, I mean it in the most respectful and sane way!).

  • Kimber

    When my oldest was barely 3, he came up to me and asked/stated, “Santa Clause isn’t real is he?” Other parents were horrified at how my kids were missing out, and freaked at the idea he might let their kids in on the secret (ever tried to control what comes out of the mouth of a toddler?). I, on the other hand, was quite pleased that at 37 months he understood the concept of real / not real, had gathered “evidence” in his own little mind, and come to his own conclusion when we had never said anything one way or the other. He’s 11 now, might be time to get him started reading WBW 🙂

  • Bob

    Here is what upsets me about this third grade interpretation of religion vs. science.

    Take for example, the cartoon. If the Bible is to be the word of God….the foundation for the largest religions of the world (whose ancestral line is the same for all Jews, Christians and Muslims)….how is it supposed to change over time? God is supposed to change his mind every few decades and write a new Bible? The being that is all powerful, all knowing “got it wrong” and needs to write new books?

    And the author seems to feel that science is a bedrock that never changes and is always 100 percent factual. Yet 50 years ago, many thought the world was cooling, then 25 years ago many thought the world was warming, now people just know its changing. Or the fact that up until the 1950s, scientists and atheists were 100 percent certain that we lived in an eternal universe….the the stars and the planets always existed. Then that was shattered by the big bang. Or the fact that most of Darwin’s theories have been disproven, but most people don’t have the intellect to actually follow any of the recent scientific studies to understand that fact or that there are different forms of evolution.

    But I guess it is easier to mock Christians than to have any argument that wholes an ounce of credibility.

    • Mark MacKinnon

      You don’t have to tell Tim that what we “know” changes with time.
      Perhaps you missed that the character’s name was not “religion”, but “spirituality”.
      Holy books SHOULD be rewritten as the human zeitgeist develops further. You didn’t have a problem with change as long as it was Jesus doing it (say, telling people not to stone the Sabbath stick-gatherer to death etc. etc.), or new versions of the Bible coming out through the centuries according to what scholars saw fit to be included or not.
      A book is not divine – it can’t be. It can (and did) only stem from what we might call divine within ourselves. And does that change? Totally, if we are collectively growing culturally, changing the world we live in, developing in our sensibilities and in how we’ll go about the business of living together and making sense of the world, even where our law doesn’t necessarily reach.
      Spirituality is a fluid thing, but religions would try to freeze it in place and offer one particular single slice of the loaf (in time) as the true bread. There was nothing particularly enlightened about that time! They got some things right of course, but left a lot of room for improvement. Just ask a member of ISIS about what his book says. Brr.

    • jatb

      Are you implying that religion has not changed over time? Because it certainly has! Perhaps more radically than human factual knowledge!

      The debate is not that religion should change, but that it doesn’t. And human knowledge does change. This is appealing, because circumstances and knowledge DO change, so why would we follow something which does not change?

      That’s absurd, and you would be openly mocked in every public forum in my country for such arguments.

      ~greetings from norge

  • MIDI

    I was a little disappointed by the lack of polish and depth of this post. The hook is funny and effective, the language is articulate, as usual, and your cartoon is pretty good, too. But after the stick figures, it seems to me like you got a little lazy and hurried up the punch line. Maybe it’s just that I’m already totally with you about “good, simple, accessible, non-annoying, long-lasting ways to approach spirituality as individuals,” and maybe you have a more insightful follow-up coming, but I think the evidence is in the comment section–where your readers are mired in the same nauseating struggle that you start to illustrate–that you scratched the surface on this subject too simplistically and recklessly. Pretty much all of your posts engage me in a special way, even I’ve I’ve heard it or thought it before, and I’m therefore a loyal supporter…which is why I feel like I have to tell you, with love and respect: this one, not so much.

  • thinkingaloudinLA

    Love the article!

    I just one remark from someone with two feet firmly planted in the working world of science. I hope that the your playground age mind has updated itself from “Where I saw science being humble, collaborative, constantly under revision, and forward-marching” to “Science is constantly under revision and increasingly complex”.

    The humble collaboration part is the nice ideal, but advances in science are also driven by competitiveness and career building (not the humble kind).

    But do charge ahead with the general concept. It is an interesting read.

  • d

    Fantastic post Tim!
    I didn’t read all the comments, so don’t know if someone already mentioned this (or if you did and I failed to notice on account of it being Friday evening and therefore, the wine) – but one big part of people buying into religion is the habit (need, really) of assigning meaning to coincidence.

    “Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast. They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement. Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne.”

    Everyone is predisposed to this because the bent of human nature is to try to understand, but the Universe is so much more complicated than we can ever hope to understand so we end up believing whatever seems most likely given what we know at the time.

    And, obviously, the brainwashing since childbirth with threats of vengeful deity are likely to keep religions in business for a long time, but that’s always been around – remember the Aztecs??

    However, we do have a spiritual component and it’s a high time we stopped pretending that it doesn’t exist. Ditto, our valiant efforts to treat emotional fluctuations with molecular biology.

  • Jeff

    “On a day-to-day level, one of the greatest challenges facing most humans is the quest to avoid living in an unconscious fog—this fog is where you are when you make big life decisions for small-minded reasons”

    This shows just how little you understand about the subject. IF there is no God, then there are no big or little decisions or challenges. Nothing matters at all. You, me and the 7 billion other people have no purpose. We are just an accident that has no purpose. There are no rational, moral, civil or practical reasons for us to do anything. The universe is just random chaos. Our lives mean nothing because in 100 years, every single person reading this will be dead and within 200 years, 99.9% of everyone reading this will be completely forgotten. Your life has no meaning what so ever. You are just writing this article to kill time before you die and no one remembers you.

    I know that sounds like a downer, but if you don’t believe in God, that’s all there is waiting for you.

    • Anon

      Thank God! Another religious person. I was starting to think that I was the only one reading this. Apparently most WBW readers, or at least the outspoken ones are atheists. This is news to me. I agree with you. If there is so much evil in the world, what is the reference point? It must be a supreme good. And if atheists do not believe in God, then why do they get so angry thinking about Him? If he does not exist, then what is the threat, the threat there is that they are choosing to turn their backs on Him. So my point is maybe that they do believe in Him, but choose to be against Him. Just a thought.

      • Blog Reader

        While I mostly don’t think there is any point in engaging in online disputes (especially about religion) I would like to respectfully engage you in a discussion about non-religious people and our view on God.

        Our anger about God does not come from God himself. As you say, if he does not exist he is not a threat. I could not agree more. The threat is not from a fear of hellfire and damnation or a fear of judgment. The threat is from his followers. I know, I know! Not all of you are threats and that’s all well and good, but when the majority of Christians we come across are questioning our moral integrity, putting our jobs at risk and actively trying to marginalize women (religious employers denying health care coverage of contraceptives, and hundreds more subtle and not-so-subtle examples) and people of the LGBT community (I don’t feel the need to give an example here).

        Perhaps it’s not acceptable for the majority of atheists to treat the majority of religious people the same. On the other side of the coin it is not acceptable for the majority of religious people to treat the majority of atheists the same. We will all have to become more tolerant of each other as time goes on.

        For myself, I try very hard to judge people based on their merits. And it might not even be fair for me to say the majority of atheists or the majority of religious people and I should instead say the more vocal of these two groups.

        This comment has reached a ridiculous size, so I will wrap it up by saying I’ve never met an atheist who had any emotion about God – only about his followers.

      • jatb

        Here in Norway being “religious” will get you some looks! Because of all the crazies, murderers, rapists, baby sacrificers – they’re all religious whackos here!!

    • Stina

      Yes, what you say is all perfectly true – there really is no grand scheme or point to anything – but I still think you missed something. It doesn’t, for the Universe, matter what we do with our lives, but it matters to us while we’re living, and it matters for the continuation of the species (for as long as it can exist at least – at some point it is very probable that nothing can exist any more). If all humans died today, it wouldn’t matter one whit, but that doesn’t mean that we should nuke the world. One doesn’t have to think that there is a point to anything to think that life is precious, because it’s all we’ve got, and therefore one should make the best of it, and maybe try to make it better for others and those that come after. In the end, the Universe will not/can not care, but I will and you will while we’re here, and our descendants, if they’re there, will care what we, as a species, do now.

      The “point”, really, is just to live the life you’ve got and not make it hell for yourself or others, because it’s all any of us have got. So why not make it good since you’re alive? That’s all there is, no deeper meaning.

    • Blog Reader

      I respectfully disagree.

      I was a very devoted Christian for a large portion of my life, and know where you are coming from. I thought this too, so how could I not understand?

      However, now that I am not religious anymore, I realize that life is so much more subtle than meaning, non-meaning. Why does God confer meaning? What kind of meaning does he confer? Whether or not you are an atheist or a Christian, 99.9% of everyone reading this will be forgotten. There have been many devout religious people throughout the years that neither you nor myself have ever heard of and I would be truly interested to hear what they have to say about the meaning of life if there is a heaven.

      The universe is not random chaos even without God. There are physics, sciences we are just beginning to understand and sciences that leave us scratching our heads in absolute puzzlement. What we do understand tells us how the world works, how evolution happens, how the universe is expanding and at what rate, how long ago dinosaurs lived, that you and I are very, very, very distant cousins. All life is connected, all life has a reason for being here, it’s just not the manifest destiny that religion tells us it is.

      Without religion I still have plenty of big and little decisions to make and the meaning I have in my life is meaning I give to myself. Yes, it’s harder, infinitely more confusing but also exponentially more exciting and fulfilling. I’m sure you are happy as a Christian and I’m sure you have plenty of order and meaning in your life – please don’t make the assumption that atheists are without that.

      • Comment Reader

        Thank you for taking the time to join this conversation. You seem like a wonderful person.

      • Mike

        Couldn;t have put it better myself. Thanks for that.

    • Mark MacKinnon

      What a horrible view of the universe you must imagine we have.
      Random chaos? My toaster can morph into a lump of Jello? My pen will fall sideways into a purple sun tomorrow? Please. Scientists have done better than anyone alive at describing the patterns of order there are to existence!
      No rational reason to do anything? Really? Why do you figure an ability to reason must be predicated upon the existence of a deity? That is not rational, unless you attack reason itself! I expect that even AI’s will be able to predict the consequences of their actions someday, weigh the options according to what outcomes they find optimal, and choose accordingly, and I doubt that you’d argue they need first look to a god to do so. What is optimal is a matter of philosophy.
      As another poster writes below, our lives mean a lot to us – perhaps more than yours to you, since this moment on Earth is ALL we expect to have. And if you can’t see how anything matters to us now or after death, you must truly be unable to fathom where desire itself – for now, or for the future – stems from.
      When religion twists some individuals such as yourself so far from our natural humanity, our innate human spirituality, they they can’t form a considered, honest opinion about other human beings as full human beings with legitimate cares and hopes (for their own sakes), then that religion is failing its members and the test of its spirituality. Remember that “religion” comes from “re-” (again) + “ligio” (binding) — the idea is to bind us to what we value about our spirituality, not to divide us and lower our view of others.

    • Roger Springfield

      It seems to me that your last sentence pretty much sums up why people do believe in a God. We just don’t want to think that we are only an accident. I would like to think that there is a purpose. Wishful thinking? I don’t see any evidence supporting that there is a purpose or that their isn’t. We don’t believe that we are going to be alive in this world very long as our experience shows that to be true. No real experience about afterwards that I am aware of.

  • An

    I just wanted to add that in America 96% believe in God and that you “found very few people who would just say, “Of course I don’t believe in God.”” Well where I grew up (Germany) it was exactly the opposite. Believing in God was seen as a fairytale and only unintelligent people who are not properly educated belief in God. Americans are overall seen as not very open-minded people who travel a lot, especially when talking about all the small cities in the middle of nowhere. I am not trying to generalize here, but I just wanted to point out that when you go to other countries people are not scared to say “Of course I don’t believe in God.” because they are not scared of science and if we were to input a new kind of spirituality that you mention, I would hope it to be a free thinking philosophy that is willing to change with new information and not stick to thousand year old fairytales. That is just getting us in trouble as you can see in this world.

  • Franklin

    Tim ~ have you actually read any of these “silly books” that you make fun of, such as the Bible, Koran, etc? Have you ever studied the historical Jesus? How do you explain how the universe (filled with over 170 trillion stars) came to be? Why do humans have morals – if the strong only survived, then wouldn’t it make sense that the small tribes that were the best hunter/killers/pillagers would have lead the way? If evolution explains everything, why are humans the only animals of the millions of different species to develop a higher level of intelligence? How do you explain the Cambrian explosion?

    Lastly, what are you hoping to achieve in this article? That there is no hope for any of us? That I am an accident, you are an accident and that we have no value other than the misguide value you place on each other?

    I’m not mad….but the worship you get from your fans that think this is a brilliant piece is bordering on sad.

    • Anon

      I am glad that you can articulate it better than I can. I am shocked as to how many people agree with this nonsense. I usually love the posts. But any mocking religion I am not on board with. And I am glad that you are not mad and can be objective, because I was unable to.

    • Stina

      If you use a combination of your own education and google, answers to your questions are readily available. I have taken the liberty of answering them for you.

      “How do you explain how the universe (filled with over 170 trillion stars) came to be?”
      The standard cosmological model, the lambda-CDM-model, explains this. By the way, the number of stars is probably infinite – only the observable Universe has a number of stars we can calculate.

      “Why do humans have morals – if the strong only survived, then wouldn’t it make sense that the small tribes that were the best hunter/killers/pillagers would have lead the way?”
      Survival of the fittest does not mean survival of the strongest. It means those with the traits most fit to their environment survives – and that could very well mean those with compassion, for example, or those that preferred group-survival.

      “If evolution explains everything, why are humans the only animals of the millions of different species to develop a higher level of intelligence?”
      We’re the only ones who, so far, have found a niche where we could evolve to have a “higher intelligence”. There is no goal to evolution, so as long as “higher intelligence” isn’t necessary to continue the species, it will not be a trait that evolves.

      “How do you explain the Cambrian explosion?”
      The major hypothesis regarding this seems to be a combination of self-organisation and ecological mechanisms after a major disaster, which seems a very plausible hypothesis. Time will tell.

      “That there is no hope for any of us? That I am an accident, you are an accident and that we have no value other than the misguide value you place on each other?”
      See my above post.

      • Anonymous

        Ha, nice

    • Jeff

      “have you actually read any of these “silly books” that you make fun of, such as the Bible, Koran, etc?”

      I, for one, have. I read the Bible cover to cover once when I was younger and still a Christian, and I’m about halfway through on my current attempt, to see how my perception of it has changed as an atheist. And not that arguments from consequences make a difference to reality, but I certainly am glad the Bible’s mythical and not true in a literal sense, because it paints a very depressing picture of reality.

      Most of the rest of your arguments are fairly typical creationist arguments, and I’m not going to derail the thread answering them. Any decent biology book will do that for you. And try googling the Euthypro dilemma for your question on morals.

      The one question that is intriguing is where the universe came from, as I don’t think anybody’s really got that figured out yet. Current science only goes back as far as the Big Bang, but anything prior to that (if ‘prior’ even makes sense) is still conjecture. But really, religion doesn’t help all that much, either. Even if Yahweh were real, where did he come from? I’ve seen plenty of religious people try to answer that question, but no answers that are really satisfying.

    • Blog Reader

      Wow, I am just commenting away, but I can’t help it.

      Humans developed a higher level of intelligence because at some point in our evolutionary history intelligence became more important than anything else. You can see this in fossil records – the homo’s brain becoming bigger and bigger in size. The first “human” in the homo genus had a brain of 750 cc and they only got bigger. I think the average brain now is 1,600 cc?? I could be laughably wrong on that one, but I know the first one is 750.

      Humans have morals because it is beneficial to our species to have them. If we all wanted to kill each other all the time we would have died out long ago, so it makes sense that we develop strong emotional ties to the people we see every day (although, of course, there are rare anomalies), or people we feel we have a bond with (which is probably why religion is around – nothing promotes bonding – except for family – like a belief in a deity).

      Also, none of us are accidents. We are the product of billions of years of evolution. As an atheist nee Christian, I can promise the world of science is filled with many more wonders and excitement and answers that make sense than religion.

  • Russ Wollman

    Those who pursue science and those who pursue the spiritual experience may, I humbly submit, share a common goal: to understand the source of creation, to understand why it’s all here, why we can see it, why we feel certain ways about it, and why we do with it what we do.

    It’s obvious to me, at least—the vagaries of human behaviour notwithstanding—that there’s a lot of order/intelligence in the universe. The planets, for instance, follow predictable paths. That’s philosophically significant and, on a practical level, very important. We rely on laws of nature daily. Our bodies typically operate in an orderly fashion if we take care of them.

    Religion is pretty much man-made stuff, well-intentioned, perhaps, but severely limited in scope, which is mainly to keep everyone working so they don’t make trouble.

    I do know that there is such a thing as a spiritual experience, an internal experience that humans can have quite spontaneously, when the mind becomes very quiet and all its activity ceases yet the mind itself remains awake and alert to its own source of energy and intelligence, the very source of thought, which has to be an infinite field, an invisible field that everyone carries inside. It’s the basic juice, so to speak, and there are spiritual techniques to access it.

    Transcendental Meditation is one such technique. I’ve used it for >38 years and have a better understanding of spirituality as a result.

    And, yes, the word “spiritual” is absolutely everywhere, so when we talk of it we have to decide what it means early!

  • Danielle

    Thanks for this thoughtful & thought-provoking treatment of a delicate subject.

  • Libby

    I’m excited to see that you’re attempting to tackle this issue. It’s a difficult one. As a Christian person, I find it disappointing that there are very few nuanced conversations about this in the mainstream and that only the “religious right” fanatics get attention because they are loud and, of course, make the whole thing look bad. Even the conversation among commenters here is mostly arrogant and simplistic and thus boring.

    My husband is getting a PhD in New Testament studies and encounters this divide even within his field all the time–how to look critically at biblical texts and not take all of it literally but still retain faith in the core of it all: Jesus. (And to strive to life unselfishly in academia, and to be a person of faith and still be taken seriously as a scholar!)

    Religion is different from faith. Everyone believes in something, whether they admit to it or not. It’s how we’re wired. I believe part of why it’s so difficult to talk about is because it is experience-based and simultaneously personal and relational. Compare it to another abstract notion: love. It is not a provable thing and doesn’t make sense to measure it according to science. You can know it exists, “believe in it” if you will, but until you experience it, it remains an abstract thing that you can shake your head in bewilderment at what other people do for, and in reaction to, that thing. It also calls upon a person to go against part of their selfish nature. I cannot explain why prayer works, and how it changes me, but it does. I can admit that the unfortunate fact that if I didn’t experience God’s presence from time to time or have a supportive faith community or see the fruit of prayers in my life, that I might not hang in this thing for too long. And that goes to show that yes I’m still a doubting and selfish person, of course imperfect as all get out and no better at life than anyone else. (Mother Teresa did not feel Christ’s presence for the final decades of her life. Perhaps it was a dark night of the soul period, a true pruning of those selfish desires that motivate us to give love in order to receive.)

    I was struck by your Nigeria post, in which you laid out the connection between happiness that is NOT tied to circumstances as in this very poor country where there is a lot of faith. You will find this nearly everywhere in the world–that privilege has an inverse relationship with faith. It’s too easy to say that this is due to fear or desperation.

    Fear is not as strong of a motivator, or as lasting, as love.

    This recent NYTimes article about an atheist and a Christian becoming scholarly friends is inspiring:

    We are loyal readers and suspect, based on prior posts, that you are a humanist.

    • jatb

      Here in Norway you would get some very strange looks for being religious!

      I don’t know a single religious person!

  • Francois

    For further reading, I would suggest that book: André Comte-Sponville, The Book of Atheist Spirituality (2006). Pretty in-line with this post.

  • Alan L.

    What is most amazing about all this bullshit is that you all are absolutely certain;

    A: That your comments have value, and

    B: That you know what you are talking about even though the subject is totally amorphous.

    The wild bleating we see herein is precisely the analogue of the history of God/no god discussions that humans have been babbling for as long back as we know.

  • KM

    I think religion (all the different ones), are just variations of the same thing… like different “editions” of a book. Why can’t religious people just accept that other people believe in something else or that some people dont believe in anything at all. Why must one religion try so hard to prove that they are “right” or try to say non-believers are doomed and whatnot? Can’t we just live and let live?

    • Jeff

      That’s part of the challenge of being religious in a multicultural society. On the one hand, there’s the live and let live value, so that everybody can get along. On the other, if you sincerely believe in certain brands of religion and think anyone outside that religion is going to be tortured for all eternity by your god, wouldn’t it be rather selfish and uncaring not to try to save them from that fate?

      Thankfully, most of my friends have found a good balance on this, and we can discuss religion without anyone getting too pushy, but I can certainly understand the motivation to spread the word.

  • Mechelle

    Did you have a bar mitzvah then? You didn’t say how young you were when you became an atheist. The balloon topic of religion is kind of hard to discuss because there are so many elements involved.

    I’m a spiritual person who believes in God but then I understand that there are spiritual people who don’t believe in God. I got the gist of what you meant when speaking about spirituality and atheists completing disconnecting from it. I feel that spirituality is this sort of modality or tunnel for meaning-making or truth realization but spirituality is not static and dogmatic, like how religion can be.

    I’ve had real conversations with atheists about God and I find that many of them are very, very logical people who want: FACTS, FACTS, FACTS and things to be proven all the time. But what if some things just can’t be proven. You seem to be have very high intelligence in the logical-mathematical realm so I can see why someone of your nature would be atheistic.

    Humans can’t use a huge chunk of their brain and scientists don’t know why and I think it’s this same reasoning why issues regarding God and Him existing can’t be explained. Atheists can’t and don’t want to believe that something just is…they want to know why, why, why. Certain things are just unknown, which neither science nor religion can explain. However, I’m interested in hearing about your spiritual guide…does it have to do with the mammoth? I love your drawings, keep it coming!

    Oh, and check out Lee Strobel’s book: “The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that Points Toward God”…recommend to any atheist searching for answers ; )

    • Mike

      It’s a myth that we don’t use a “large chunk of our brain”. It’s funny however that you immediatly seize that oppertunity to try and make it work in your favor, i.e. religions favor.

      I’d recommend reading the book “The god delusion” by Richard Dawkins – especially all you believers out there 😉

    • jatb

      I am from Norway, we think people like you are loony up here lol

  • Anne

    We are old. This does not stop us from reading your blogs. I have gone through a similar journey way back when the word computer only existed in theory or in a very large temperature and humidity controlled basement somewhere secret. The lack of a handy little device connected wirelessly to just about all the trivia one could possibly want to know led to a plethora of books which got a musty smell and something called ‘foxing’ in the really out of date stuff. What I have learned is that there is no explanation, or conclusion or (that dreaded awful word), closure.

    I think we decided something similar around the same time and bought a very long trailer to drag around behind us while we search out petroglyphs and picto-graphs. There are a lot of religious and/or spiritual theories about these initial attempts at communicating something after one has wandered off way beyond bellowing range. What I see is a pile of rocks out in the middle of desolate nothing, good for a little shade, while the men loll about waiting for something to eat walk by. The young ones have this evolutionary need to mark their territory and what better way than to scratch out stick figures of pubescent girls.

    So, Tim. go for it. It does not matter that we all end up in the same pile, what matters is that we believe the journey to get there was alright.

    For those that ask the ultimate stupid question (and then make up an infinite number of answers) WHY?, here is my personal answer….We all live on the planet earth, a huge petri dish spinning around in space and we are all multiplying at the speed of light towards that wall of glass right there in front of us. My other half sees this as a kind of existential cynicism but we still get along fine. All I can conclude, inadequately, is that it is better to get along with kindness than it is with discord because we will all get old and then we die (in between the people that have no sense collect taxes and/or tithes from the rest of us to pursue their beliefs).

  • Mark

    Athiesm and Religion are in many ways two sides of the same coin, but IMNSHO opinion, it’s not really a coin–it’s a 20-sided die, and most of the world fails to realize it’s not a 2d object. Athiesm is a belief in the nonexistence of spirits and gods, and quite often the nonexistence of psychic/ESP phenomena. Religion is quite often the belief that science can go shove it, but primarily that there is a single god and they know who it is, and psychic/ESP phenomena derives from that one god, and that all other apparitions are mostly the devil. So meanwhile, in the world of magick and quite a lot of the world before the dualistic monotheistic religions took hold (and in the parts where it didn’t), they know of many different spirits and such and use science of a sort to pursue spirituality and/or the interaction with those spirits, along with ESP.

    There are some very weird things going on in the world, and unfortunately one’s belief literally keeps one’s brain from sensing them. But that being said, there is a myth that people don’t experience ESP, that the scientific community is united in its disbelief of ESP, and that ESP hasn’t been proven. It gets a bit weirder with dead people and gods and such, but there are still severely interesting ways to explore and prove their existence. It’s just that the vast mainstream cannot conceive of this, choosing mostly to believe in some horseshit handed down for a thousand or so years, thrown on top of this spirit world, OR the absolute nonexistence of any of it, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

    And the thing is, quite a lot of the old scientific masters knew this. We made a big break at some point in the last couple hundred years in the west, and largely this was due to the religion being straight up nutters, and athiesm being a logical antithesis. To this day, people think it’s a war between the two, but those of us who’ve seen magick in action and know ESP intimately, the two are both very much missing the point and very much just following their own belief systems that contradict reality.

    Basically, apply the scientific method plus the ability to not think (like meditation) to the world of spirits and ESP, and you’ll come away with a science of magick. And you won’t be the first. It already exists, and most people just say that’s “fantasy” or “satanism” or “delusion”, depending on your athiest/religious/etc. credentials.

  • wobster109

    You know, if you go to people and say “would you be happy to be immortal?”, they’re likely to look at you funny and recite a canned phrase. “Death gives life meaning.” They’ve recited it so often that they might actually believe it.

    • Shamanimal

      I don’t think death necessarily gives life meaning, but it certainly gives it URGENCY, which is monumentally important in its own way.

  • thinking aloud in LA

    Hmm, some thoughts to good questions…

    “…..why do humans have morals?….” Possible answers depending on your belief system a.) deity of one’s belief gave morality to humans b.) the evolution of human experience (via the brain )and decisions that made “right” and “wrong” adaptive c.) human language that resulted in various someone(s) communicated to their tribe what is right and wrong , d.) for the same reason that other sentient beings do – if you permit altruism to be a type of moral behavior. I’m going with b and d.

    “…..wouldn’t it make sense that the small tribes that were the best hunter/killers/pillagers would have lead the way? …..” Not if there is a mean epidemic, natural disaster or a clever nonpillaging, peaceful tribe that finds edible food during the lean months on the plains!

    “….If evolution explains everything, why are humans the only animals of the millions of different species to develop a higher level of intelligence?” …. What is your definition of “higher”? After global warming, I’m betting on a few varieties of hearty insects being the last ones standing after the higher intelligent forms of life get flicked off the planet.

    BTW – I do consider spiritual practices important and congruent with scientific theory and knowledge. I am, however skeptical of assigning deities in the study and practice either of these two human quests.

    • Michelle Z

      To Thinking Aloud:

      1. a) Why do humans have morals… evolution. Survival of the fittest. Morals evolved as a way to ensure your genes survived the next round of procreation. E.G. “If you want to kill people OK cool, but the world will never know your offspring cuz we’ll kill you. Your choice sicko.” That being said, I fully concur with Theodore Roosevelt, “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

      b)Altruism doesn’t exist. Not in humans, not in nature. “Acts of kindness” that are often reported as altruistic can usually be explained by biological wiring of the species brain… i.e. protect the young (even if its not YOUR young). Altruism is confused with instinct or reciprocal rewards, though often delayed. (best article I could find with a few clicks.)

      2. Again yes, survival of the fittest here. Some “mean” tribes might perish in a natural disaster situation… or they might reevaluate their situation, change their behaviors, and continue to procreate through the rough times… ensuring the survival of their “mean” oppressive offspring and thus leading us to the evils of society today

      3. Humans are not the only species to develop a higher sense of intelligence. Want a change of perspective?Read: Inside a Dog. It explains how several mammals have been proven to demonstrate the same cognitive patterns as humans. Examples include learning the concept of object permanence (why babies love peek a boo). I would argue that we are not the most intelligent species on the planet as we continue to destroy it despite having the awareness of our actions and the ability to prevent said destruction.

      TIM – Love your blog. Avid reader. Maybe you could post footnotes of references you encountered along the way for those of us who want to delve deeper into the rabbit hole with you. You make learning accessible, but as a devout logicist, I would thoroughly enjoy the chance to evaluate both sides of the story “from the sources”.

  • Shamanimal

    IME, psychedelics are some of the greatest tools we have for facilitating the spiritual, particularly for those seeking it within the secular experience.

  • Libby

    Also, the comic is sadly reductive–essentially parroting the same old stereotypes (science = smart people + curiosity + books and religion = rigidity + dumb people + anti-scholarship), which just aren’t true.

    • Matthew Eugene

      ehhhh it’s kind of a true. Go up the ladder of education and watch the % of theists decline with each degree and step into the hard sciences. You can find these figures.

  • Frank

    God doesnt send people to hell. There is no hell. Thats something religion has made up. Maybe everything you know about God isnt the exact truth. Maybe God just loves people.

  • Jen O

    Ahhh, I want to know about the spiritual framework you’ve been mulling over *now*!

    (In an apparent contradiction to the above, please don’t beat yourself up about when your posts are put up. When I get an email telling me they are, I’m always delighted. Whenever that is.)

  • Voracious Reader

    Did you grow up in my household, Tim? I had a very similar childhood, lol. When I got older I read the bible and made a point of going to different churches and synagogues to find out for myself if religion was for me. I even did a several week bible study with two born-again friends. The answer was “nope, makes no sense”. It still doesn’t, and I’m fine calling myself an atheist. I’ve enjoyed my life, have a vocation I’ve loved, traveled, have great kids, pets, friends and look forward to getting to retire and doing all the things that I haven’t been able to do. All without religion! If you want to be religious, by all means, but don’t feel sorry for me. I haven’t missed a thing and don’t need you to tell me otherwise.

    Great post, as always.

  • Takashiro

    Man its a very good text , but one thing annoyed me as hell , just leave the “spirituality bullshit” behind dude , is just philosophy , critical thinking , social sciences and other things…. , and leaving the “spirituality bullshit” behind will help to leave the religious bullshit behind too , cause one depends on the other . and doing so will help to improve/evolve the philosophical part!
    Putting them together was what resulted in the religious to start , just leave them behind , and go with the philosophical ,critical thinking , and the science , especially because they use questioning as a base .

  • Confused Reader


    Your stuff is usually pretty good, but you miss the mark on this one. Just because you “feel” that religion belongs in your “fake” bucket, doesn’t mean it ceases to exist. Unfortunately, the sad facts of many non-believers are wrapped up in the “sense I can’t figure it out that it can’t be true” mantra. I’ll explain more.

    When, “hey Dad, does God exist” doesn’t get you the answer you want, I’m not sure, based upon your humanist model of belief, that your conclusions can be considered anything more than non sequitor decisions. Just because you don’t get a good answer, that doesn’t disprove God. What amazes me the most about Atheists is that all of the sudden they are the smartest people on earth. “God doesn’t exist, it’s all bull-shit.” Ok, well, then explain how we got the ocean and the stars, how the world spins on just the right axis so we aren’t blown away into oblivion, and why we are faced scientific problems all the time we can’t explain (remember that pluto thing – scientists were just kidding for all those years?).

    Unlike you, I don’t see “the constantly changing” views of science to be attractive. Science has its place, but why does “change” equate to more credibility? According to your thinking, it does. Plato and Aristotle’s writings haven’t changed and many non-believers treat their humanist approach to life as “the gospel.” Amazing that people can read and believe every word of philosophers who lived BEFORE the life of Christ and then write off Christ as “old, stodgy and out-of-date information.”

    Tim, you, like many other atheists, like to assume (without having to say it) that you have all of the universe’s answers all wrapped up in your genius little mind. If you study history, you would surely find that no generation, in the history of the world, would be as arrogant as this American Humanist/Atheist one. It’s only when we get to 21st Century America are we blessed with such geniuses that since they have all of the world’s mysteries figured out, they can conclude that there indeed is no such thing as a silly God. The arrogance is palatable.

    At the end of the day, I would encourage you, Tim, and your readers, to do the hard work and investigate the life of Jesus Christ. He said he was God-incarnate – that he was God, came to earth, he was crucified on a cross for our sins, rose form the dead 3 days later and went to heaven where he resides today. Jewish scholars of his day speak of Jesus’ life, so we can’t refute that someone lived with that name. But was he really who he said he was? Did he really rise from the dead? Research this. See if it’s true. Don’t just take your inability to figure it out by comparing him to Santa Clause, or an ambivalent answer by your dad to help you decide your beliefs. I would behoove you to take the time yourself, it will be the most important decision (i.e. what you believe about Jesus Christ) you will make in your life. I assure you of it.

    Keep up the good work. Your stuff is good.

    • David

      This commenter said, “Ok, well, then explain how we got the ocean and the stars, how the world spins on just the right axis so we aren’t blown away into oblivion, and why we are faced scientific problems all the time we can’t explain (remember that pluto thing – scientists were just kidding for all those years?).”

      Ignoring the condescending tone of your whole comment, this sentence is weird. Science can explain where oceans and stars came from. The rotation and tilt of the Earth are why we find ourselves on this planet. You can’t say, “how crazy is it that we have an atmosphere” and make any sense, because you wouldn’t be here to observe it if we didn’t have an atmosphere (this is called the anthropic principle if you want to hit Wikipedia). And as for Pluto not being a planet, that’s not a scientific discovery. Mankind decided what criteria to check for when deciding to call something a planet, and we eventually decided that Pluto failed to make the cut. What does that have to do with God?

      I’m a Christian, and comments like yours represent the view of God that people like this blog’s author are speaking against. If you believe in God because he replaces scientific facts for you, then you worship a “god of the gaps.” But the God of the Bible does not fall in that category. The creation story in Genesis explained to a nomadic tribe that in the beginning there was nothing until God chose to create everything. The sun, moon, stars, plants and animals are not deities to be worshiped or feared. They are merely created things like we are.

      Science is the ally of true religion, not the enemy. Science answers the “how”. Religion answers the “why”. It’s when Stephen Hawking as an astrophysicist starts declaring that “philosophy is dead” and that the universe created itself from nothing because of the law of gravity (which doesn’t exist without the universe), and when religious fundamentalists starts claiming that the universe is 6000 years old and dinosaurs and humans lived together that we begin to have problems.

      To the author of this blog, I just want to point out a major fallacy: You make an appeal to novelty when you dismiss all religious books as wrong because they are old. If something is true it is always true. The Bible isn’t a science textbook, and shouldn’t be treated as one. It claims to make us “wise unto salvation”, not “wise unto astrophysics and biochemistry.”

      I don’t expect to change any minds with a blog comment, but sometimes you’ve got to get your thoughts out of your head, you know? We’d all do well to be a little less convinced and a little less afraid to admit that we don’t have all the answers. It’s the only way we can grow.

    • Anonymous


      I don’t think you’re giving Tim or other atheists nearly enough credit. I can’t speak for all atheists, but I know that generally the conclusion drawn derives from more than a silly comparison with Santa and in fact often from a sometimes long, tortuous examination and consideration of the evidence. Many atheists, myself included, have religious pasts. I was a very firm believer and highly active in my faith. Yet as I kept an open mind and continued to examine more evidence and viewpoints, I eventually decided that I no longer believed, and this conviction has only grown stronger in the years since. This does not mean that I’ve arrived at a final destination as I always try to keep my mind open, but as things stand right now, I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t exist.

      Your assertion that modern atheists are the most arrogant generation in human history is, and I say this without malice, laughable. I would suggest that the reason you feel this way is because what they say is at odds with what you believe, and it can be hard not to take that personally – it’s an extremely personal issue for you. That’s certainly how I felt when I was very religious. However, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so perhaps you can explain a bit more why you feel this way. If, however, it’s simply because we have the ‘hubris’ to be reasonably certain that there is no God, then any atheist could call out the gross historical arrogance of the Catholic Church and its condemnation of millions of people to death as far more egregious.

      The difference between ancient philosophers and Jesus is that Plato, as far as I know, did not claim to be God incarnate and teach that those who did not follow him would suffer for all eternity. Further, it’s not simply that the Bible is old, it’s that many feel it has lost relevance. If those same people still find relevance in the writings of Aristotle, then that’s their prerogative.

      Finally, I can’t really explain anything definitively, but I can offer some answers to your challenges. The earth doesn’t rotate the way that it does because it’s perfect for life – life is able to exist because of the way the earth rotates. In other words, you need not (but are welcome to) marvel at how the world is perfectly set up for our needs, but may rather appreciate how well life has filled the available niches on this planet. We are faced with scientific problems we cannot explain all the time because our knowledge is always growing and changing. I happen to be skeptical of the objectivity of science, but one of the beautiful things about it is that it is, by definition, ever changing as we learn more about the world around us. And Pluto was kind of minor – it’s not as if we suddenly realized that there was nothing where we thought Pluto was, it was more simply decided to re-classify it based on available knowledge. Another good example of growth.
      In any case, I’m not meaning to be abrasive, I just found your comments about atheists to be unnecessarily definitive. As you call on atheists to examine more closely the life of Jesus, perhaps you will take the time to examine more carefully the well-reasoned arguments against the divine nature of religion.

      All the best.

    • Wow

      You said it perfectly.
      I respect atheists, but sadly I don’t agree with them. I hope we can all get along someday, because we’re all brothers and we as God believers are in the wrong if we decide to treat people bad because they don’t worship God. The only one with power to judge is Him, who am I to tell someone else he’s wrong and going to hell. No no, let’s just all love each other, God will know what we deserve in the end and tell us each individually.

      But anyway, got a litte carried away, I just wanted to say that what you wrote is beautiful and I totally agree with you Confused reader

    • jatb

      You are actually crazy. Seek help!

    • Josh Gaines

      Who is making the claim here? The burden (or onus) of proof is on the person who asserts a positive claim. The theist, by claiming that God exists, must supply the evidence for that claim. Atheists are not claiming or asserting anything, and thus have only the burden of rebuttal. All logical arguments are based on an understanding of these burdens. Obviously, it is impossible to examine every nook and cranny in the universe, or to examine every subatomic particle to find “God”, however one chooses to describe him/her/it. To carry the theist¹s demand to its logical conclusion, the atheist could demand that they disprove the existence of Zeus, Brahma, Odin, Quetzalcoatl, or any of the other mythological gods and beings that sprang from the fertile imagination of humankind.

    • ThinkAboutIt

      I believe that you are missing the point of his post. It is not attempting to explain the existence, or lack thereof, a god or some other type of supreme being; rather, it is attempting to say that forcing a static view of the world, such as the view that many religious organizations hold, can prevent us from learning more about what we do not know.

      With regards to god, I refuse to believe that an all-knowing and all-powerful being would create an imperfect being and then punish this being for eternity as a result of being imperfect. Then thousands of years later, this same being comes back and “decides” to change things by by having itself killed for “our sins”; which, when thinking logically, are the imperfections that it created us with.

      You challenge us to learn about your beliefs… I have and continue to do so; however, I can say that the more I learn the less plausible this belief is for me.

      In the same manner, I challenge you to learn about your own beliefs, to think about them, and ask yourself how and/or why did this happen.

    • NA

      Change equates to more credibility only when that change is warranted. Science changes when it is warranted. The dogma of religions does the opposite. It clings to its assertions IN SPITE OF the need to change based on evidence. Hope that helps.

  • Sooty mangabey

    This reminds me that I may have to pick up Sam Harris’ latest release to expound on the topic. I don’t think I have ever had a spiritual experience beyond the brief moment of awe I felt while staring at the night sky atop Mauna Kea. If ever a religious experience existed in Sooty’s world, that would’ve been it.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article as usual! I think you’ve summed it up and simplified it very well. Looking forward to the “spiritual framework”.

  • RVG

    Good one Tim (As usual). Several things I would like to pick up.

    1. The Illusion of Meaning – Religion, in a sense ,did bring about positive things and was in a way beneficial for maintaining order and peace. It was a blue print for how things should be. However it was “Control”. Their is no such thing as a one size fit all “understanding of the universe”. But people tend to lean towards finding meaning in their lives(or fear that no meaning exists) and that is when they allow themselves to be controlled.

    Is being controlled a bad thing? Well… “It gets in the way”. In the way of what? Fully achieving our potential or fully destroying our civilization.

    2. Faith is a Personal Experience – Spirituality, for me, is a personal connection with the universe. It is what you believe your universe is. The thing that I can correlate with this is Faith. Most people believe that faith is a “religious thing” but I do believe that it is a personal experience of the divine. It might be the Judeo Christian God, the universe, yourself (Kindda long explanation -_-) but deep down we all believe in something. That is why I do agree that being called an Atheist(based on not believing in commonly accepted religion) is derogatory. Because your belief is your own personal experience and you need not defend it.

    I look forward to you next post 🙂

  • Dave

    “science is what we know” – And you’ve already made some metaphysical assumptions to say that.

  • Judy

    I am a relatively new reader of your blog, Tim, and I appreciate it so much! I love the diversity of the comments as well, and wish we were all in a big discussion class. I would love to meet all these people!

  • Gray

    I loved this post. My son would have loved it too. He was 25 and struggled with all of this, even though he was brought up in the Presbyterian Church. The older I get, the less I conform to organized religion.

    Here’s what I would like to ask an atheist. And since you’re the first one I’ve had a chance to ask. …here goes.
    Do you have a soul? Or are you soul less? (It doesn’t seem so.)
    Where did your soul come from?

    • psylophone

      I’m also an atheist so I will give my answer to the question: no I don’t and neither do anyone else. Consciousness comes from electrochemical reactions in the brain and not from some non-material spirit.

    • Anonymous E

      That’s a pretty open-ended question, but I would say that there doesn’t appear to be any convincing, testable evidence supporting the presence of a soul in terms of an energy that inhabits the body and leaves as a coherent force/entity upon death of the body.
      As a non-religious person I have directed my own thoughts toward: “does it matter if I know if I have a soul?” Given the limits of human perception, there appears to be no reasonable expectation that we will ever definitively determine the presence/absence. However, the questioning itself has a value – it required me to look closely at what it means to be human, the value of being a good person, and the myriad of interconnected issues. So the perhaps it does not matter if I know – only that I keep questioning.

    • Josh Gaines

      Energy/matter is never created or destroyed, only transformed (1st Law of Thermodynamics). It would seem to be consciousness is a form of or analogous to a type of energy and therefore it is reasonable to think it cannot be destroyed and at most, only change form. The immortality of the soul may be the spiritual equivalent of the conservation of energy. I was about to tell you in my own words something much less eloquent so I copied this from but I am agnostic in regards to anything contained in books on this planet, however just by keeping with the laws of physics it tells me that in a sense we never die we are simply transmuted.

    • NA

      Atheist scientist here with a background in physics and computer learning and an understanding of psychology. Please define “soul”.

    • tu

      Souls, as religion defines them, are not proved to be real. So, the logic thing is to suppose they don’t exist until proven.

      I think the concept of soul was created to explain why the body moves, and why we are conscious. But those questions are being answered by other theories now, easier to test by physical means. Older theories, specially those that are not subject of factual study, should be rejected.

    • R1ck

      People! HE ASKED TIM, not you guys!

  • JustOne

    i’ve not read all the comments but I want point out this:
    God might or might not exist but, if it does, it’s never been ink on sheep leather.

  • bg


  • Alain

    Epic post as always! I’m a software engineer and an atheist too (I mean, I create virtual worlds of variables and matrixes all day long, so I’m kind of a god myself, right?). Your post was really funny and instructive, thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Tim.
    Be careful, your definition of “spirituality” is the one of “philosophy” if you check a dictionary.
    A bit disappointed by the lack of logic and common sense from the religious commentators.

  • Anonymous E

    For me spirituality is just the process of dealing with what we don’t (and can’t) know. Our sense of self is constructed from a system of senses and memory which have significant limitations, so our minds “fill in” many of the connections and details. In the same sense that our field of visual acuity is small relative to what we believe we can “see”, our sense of self and our relation to the world is built on moments in time supplemented by pretty shoddy memory, torqued by limited perspective and limited senses. So when we ask ourselves “what does it all mean?” we are asking “what is this mess and how do I fit into it?” Spirituality is our minds finger-painting in the connections that help it make sense. Religious folks have a paint-by-numbers adjustment that yields a consistent big picture. Science oriented folks look at the details sector by sector, but still do the adjusting since our minds are incapable of processing all the data simultaneously, and adjust the big picture as they go.

  • Interesting

    I think it’s fascinating that some of the readers are ardent religious believers with rather closed minds to any sort of criticism of their beliefs. That they would choose to read this blog in the first place and then spend a lot of time criticising it is fascinating. The emotional power of belief is really quite astounding, it never ceases to amaze me. The human need for a spiritual frame is just so strong for some of us that it also scares and depresses me sometimes, because it reminds me of our very human limitations. I imagine what we could achieve if we diverted all of this passion, energy, intellect and will towards making a better world and toward scientific discovery, or even just to art. I often thought about this on trips to Italy, admiring all that awesome religious art. I wondered what Michelangelo might have done had he been commissioned by someone other than the church. I am curious to see what Tim suggests in the next post. But I am not too hopeful watching current world events and prominent brilliant minds buried in this struggle to change our common mentality. Only a huge game changing discovery might change us. Like something that would make us feel like we would never need or want anything. Or life on other worlds perhaps? Tim, thanks for tackling a tough topic. Timely especially after your Iraq post.

  • Ross Campbell

    There is no empirical evidence for ‘spirituality’ it is something created by religion. Not ruined by it.

    Assigning what we do not understand about consciousness to ‘spirituality’ is no different from assigning what we do not know from ‘religion’.

    • Anonymous

      Your last statement is wrong. This entire post is showing exactly what the difference is between the two. It points out that previously prescribed answers to the unknown (religion) is not compatible with everything that we’ve learned. It’s time to turn elsewhere (outside of organized religion) for a worldview that is compatible and productive.

      Looking forward to the second part of this post!

    • R1ck

      Bullshit. Animism is not a religion, Ancestor Worship, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism…. all spiritual, but not particularly religious are they?

      Spirituality is the seed of the veritable Precambrian Explosion of ideas, only one variant of which evolved into Science. All others evolved into religion.

      I really hate the use of the word “why?” as if it were a real question; It’s a mouthful, but what is desired is “How did Existence come to Be what it Is?”. However, he rectified this by placing spirituality in the camp of philosophy, where it belongs.

      There is a proper phylogeny. You are trying to put Rabbits in with Cats. Yes, they’re both mammals with 4 limbs and a worldwide distribution, but they aren’t THAT similar.

  • John

    I can’t help but wonder how your recent travels to the middle east have affected your outlook on this subject. Of course, becoming an atheist with an admittedly cynical outlook at age 7 is a very foreign concept to me. I can only imagine how that effected your development.

    However, one important fact that I think your post alludes to is that the human mind will always filter facts to back up its own biases and notions. It hates changing opinions and cognitive dissonance. So while you see religion as fighting some nobler influence inherent in all people and “in the way” of the inherent road to progress, you will also sort the data your mind processes to back up that fact. We all have to be as honest as we can about the world. Ultimately, we can’t know for sure while we’re alive, to a 100% certainty. You’re the kid who threw out God with Santa Claus, I’m the kid who just said Santa was a way to make Christmas a little more magical and God has nothing to do with it.

    • Roger Springfield

      “Ultimately, we can’t know for sure while we’re alive, to a 100% certainty.” To which I ask; can we know with 90% or 60% or 5% certainty? How is the figure arrived at as to how certain we can be?

    • jatb

      Nah, you’re just crazy!

  • Victoria

    Whenever I read an article about religion, I feel like the more or less subtle message behind all of them is “A believer is just a (silly) person scared of reality who needs desperately a made up structure of perfection to relieve that fear”.

    Tim, I think you stopped your journey through science in Darwin on purpose. I really miss the most important scientists (some of them religious) of the XIX and XX centuries. But of course, it is easier to portrait theists as scriptures throwers rather than as intelligent people able to reconcile their beliefs with their brilliant works in science.

    Perhaps you should try drawing Heisenberg giving one of his talks about reconciling science and religion. Or maybe Bragg developing the X-ray cristallography, which was fundamental in the description of the structure of DNA. Or, if your Instant Gratification Monkey allows it, you could research a bit and see how many other Nobel laureates held religious beliefs; you would be surprised. Or maybe this could be a good idea for a future (and probably delayed) post: “Why Nobel Prizes are overrated”.

    Religion is not, and has not been for years, a drawback to be a great scientist.

    • Anonymous

      I totally agree. There were plenty notable scientists who were religious. I’ve read that surprisingly in many cases that modern scientists choose to be religious/not religious based on reasons that really have nothing to do with science. If I find the article l will provide the link.

      • Roger Springfield

        There still are plenty of scientists that believe in a deity. What’s your point?

    • NA

      Just because someone believes the Earth is flat, it doesn’t exclude him or her from being an excellent microbiologist. However, belief that the Earth is flat will bite you in the ass some day, and we’ve reached the point where religion hinders science. So yes, now, religion is definitely a drawback to being a great scientist.

      • naijaboy_

        Religion doesn’t hinder science, it regulates morality, science having none. Science is perfectly okay with operating on fetuses to find a cure for a disease, religion is against because a fetus is still a living being in the process.

        • NA

          Religion DOES hinder progress because it instils the idea that it’s ok to believe in things without evidence and then assert them to be true. This is the exact opposite of how science works. So, QED.

          • naijaboy_

            That is not what religion. Religion is too broad. I will take you are speaking about Abraham religion simply because that is what atheists tend to argue against. In Romans 1:20, it talks about how everything on earth is evidence of a creator. So religion does instills that its okay to believe in things without evidence, people do. The bible even states that humans can’t know nor understand his ways. Science is about knowing and understanding, so therefore a man made tool cannot understand the supernatural that is why scientists don’t go into spiritual things because science is physical. Science is just a tool not an ideology.

            • NA

              Then you’ve just shown that religion is wholly irrelevant and unnecessary. I argue against ALL religions, not just the crappy and popular Abrahamic ones. Ra is your sun god? I’ll oppose that one, too. Earth was created on the back of a Raven? Add it to the list. Pick your religion, they’re all idiotic if they offer dogmatic beliefs without evidence.

            • naijaboy_

              again too broad. You argue against all religions, including atheistic religion?

            • NA

              Atheism isn’t a religion, it’s a lack thereof one. There’s quite a polar difference between the two things.

            • naijaboy_

              Your’re stating 21 century definition. Atheism original definition was the belief in no God because you are taking a stand. You sound like Christians who says Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. Very true but in the context of its usage, it changes nothing. Religion is broken into theistic and atheistic ones.

            • NA

              I don’t need to argue semantics. The word is defined to mean not having a theism of any kind. Just look at the Latin roots of it. So if you wish to discuss what you speak of, you should call it anti-theism, which is something else. I am both Atheist and anti-theist. The two are separate. However, having a lack of religion does not make one religious. Go look up the meaning of the word “religion” and you’ll see why Atheism is not a religion.

            • naijaboy_

              Speaking of latin root. Religion in its roots means bind to. Something you dearly are close to, can’t do without. SO technically speaking, a vivid anti theist in those terms can be describe as religious like following a music artist religiously. You see, definition are one thing, how it plays out is another. Atheism is not a religion like theism is not a religion. However there are atheistic and theistic religions.

            • NA

              I think if you were to ask the vast majority of people on Planet Earth the meanings of those two words, you would find them being used as I described. Why? Look up the etymology of “religion” — “life under monastic views” as of the Middle English period. Until we find atheist monks, your argument is moot, because that’s the definition of the word being used worldwide today, and has been so since the Middle English period ended in the 15th century.

            • naijaboy_

              People would have different way from describing it. Atheists monks, well in the beginnings of Christianity, there was no monks, just a bunch of men and women who believed in one guy named Jesus and had gatherings to discuss, telling people about Jesus being the savior, no buildings, no ranking until the roman took hold of it. Now instead of having just atheists, we have organizations that preach against religion and how atheism has helped them, bla bla bla. Also monks did more that just study theology, they did community work, fed people, the first college education was filled with monks. Monks was just a name given to them because of their peity and exclusion from public life.

    • R1ck

      Where all of them in the XXI Century then?

      This is a cute historical account, but I could also point out many brilliant thinkers who were atheists throughout history from antiquity.

      HUGE mother-fucking sampling bias there.
      Know what doesn’t have a huge sampling bias? Death.
      If God wanted something to be true, people really would be able to live 900+ years to ensure that the history wasn’t getting all fucked up because, you know, people didn’t have radio-isotopic analysis. Even the Taoists believe in immortality through spiritual practice. They were Atheists to begin with, just like Jains and Buddhists, but look how quickly nonsense descended into the rank and file of the believers, making utterly untestable claims.

      No one is immortal, and religion is to me, just a convenient machine for political manipulation. God is just the most convenient way to ensure your authority remains unchallenged. But it has nothing to do with God, per se.

      JESUS, it’s like you people didn’t even read the post.

  • Leo X

    We like in a fantastic universe, where wonders happen every single precious moment. A few of these wonders we learned to explain and/or got used to experiencing, and maybe started taking for granted. Because of that, some of us started shoving things in the ‘fake’ bucket, perhaps a bit indiscriminately. But make no mistake, there are very few things we can afford throwing there…at least for now.

  • Erin M.

    Ahahaha yes! The landslide Michael Ducacas classroom poll! It was third grade for me, but I was SO confused about the Bush win that year.

    Very interested to see what your next post has to say.

  • Vikram

    John Lennon wrote something to the effect of, imagine there are no religions, no heaven above, no hell below, no countries, etc. He asks you to imagine that imagined things do not exist (an all-knowing creator, a devil inside the earth, invisible lines separating countries…). Shoulda called his song “Unimagine.”

    • Henrique

      What he was talking about is, imagine if people weren’t divided by countries or religion, how nice would it be if people had no reason to hate each other.

      • r1ck

        Thanks captain obvious

  • Camelia

    When you talk about being “far far far happier” if you know that you will live forever, you just forget something essential. In psychology, if you feel very happy about something (being eternal or being rich or being a star or whatever…), when you have it, you will take the habit and your happiness will return to average level. It is the same with pain.

  • Pingback: A Religion for the Nonreligious | Article Directory()

  • Сания

    As for spirituality, someone once told me: “A human consists of body, soul and spirit. Before the Fall, body was turned to soul, soul – to spirit, and spirit – to God. After the Fall, body has turned to earth, soul – to body, and spirit – to soul. Our task here is to turn it all back”.
    It made me revise all my picture of the world, because before that I thought that ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ mean the same 🙂
    I also remember him saying that spirit, unlike soul, cannot be controlled by brains. We can only hear it wispering some wise things sometimes.
    Now I imagine spirit as a thin string connecting us to our divine source.

    • Someone Who Thinks

      You admit that “before that I thought that ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ mean the same”. Then please tell me what the differences are.
      From what I can tell this is word games with nothing substantial behind it. No one has ever shown me a soul or a spirit.

      • naijaboy_

        Because you can’t see them. The soul is where our subconsciousness is. The thoughts of doing and not doing and those voices, the spirit however is life. The soul is the essence of humanity’s being; it is who we are. The spirit is the aspect of humanity that connects with God.

        • Someone Who Thinks

          What you have written here is so ambiguous it tells me nothing. “The soul is WHERE(?) our subconscious is.” What does that mean. The rest is equally meaningless to me. Please try again.

          • naijaboy_

            Soul is you. Okay the body, spirit and soul makes you. Consciousness lies within the mind which is in the soul.

          • naijaboy_

            You know what, forget it.

    • R1ck

      Ironically similar to Ghost in the Shell

  • yazinsai

    You’ve put religion in one corner, and science in the other. Believe it or not, there are religions that encourage the use of science. Just look at the contributions that Muslims made so Mathematics, Astronomy and Medicine to name a few (during the Islamic Golden Age). Again, I feel like you’ve tread over the line to over-simplification in an effort to make your writing easy to understand.

    • NA

      If they did, they would not be religions in the first place. They would cease to exist. Science operates on reason and proof, not the dogma that religion operates under.

      • yazinsai

        Did you even read the whole comment?

        • NA

          I did, yes, thank you for asking.

        • James

          comprehension it seems, is a different matter

    • Someone Who Thinks

      People created science. Some of them are religious people. Particularly early one when just about everyone was religious. The opposition is faith versus reason, non-questioning versus questioning.
      That is also one of the reasons why religions splinter. One religious individual who is prone to reasoning starts to think about the religion itself. Questions come up. To resolve them the person make up a new layer of dogma about the how and why behind the scenes. That is how Christianity got the idea of purgatory, The Elect, the Trinity, etc. People trying to understand what is not intrinsically a rational system and needing to bolster it with some rationalizations so that they don’t have to just walk away from a system that is not actually coherent as it is.

    • R1ck

      So have you. The opposite of a reductionist is not an honest person, it’s someone who doesn’t understand Occam’s Razor. Or more hilariously, Newton’s flaming Laser Sword.

    • naijaboy_

      Same goes for Christians and JEWS.

  • NA

    You will find a negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence. Why is this so? It isn’t hubris, it’s the other way around. It’s that assumptions can’t be asserted as true without the necessary evidence and sound theory supporting them. Smart people understand this, religious people do not. They lack the intellectual tools to understand that they even suffer from this problem to begin with. The only reason people join their ranks is because they, too, lack these tools, and find comfort in like-minded people.

    Science asks a question and accepts whatever answer the evidence supplies. Then it draws the conclusion AFTERWARDS, or finds that the answer is insufficient to draw any conclusions, and asks another question. This is the only reasonable, intelligent way to approach the question in the first place.

    Religion just jumps to the conclusion without even asking for any evidence. Then it asserts that it is true, in spite of any evidence presented. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over until you have Stockholm Syndrome ( because of your anosognosia (

    Religion is a disease of the mind. In mathspeak, it’s the error term that happens to be propagated along the rest of the calculation and is included in the conclusion without being explicitly identified. It has all the characteristics of a real disease.
    *It is harmful in that it is a bad way to think (accepting conclusions without evidence and sound theory). I can provide countless examples of this, should you require them. I am hoping you are smart enough to not need them.
    *It deleteriously spreads itself about, using psychological and social mechanisms that make it more convenient to accept than reject, even though in reality the logical mind would by default reject it until otherwise shown that it shouldn’t. We’re supposed to reject the null hypothesis, after all, not accept it and then assert that it is true ( and
    *It acts in a way to prevent the cure to itself (via anosognisia and brainwashing, false promises, untestable claims you are necessarily required to accept, and a whole other host of known psychological phenomena and biases that even the religious logically apply everywhere else, except, of course, to their own religion).

    You know what does the exact opposite of all of this? Science. This is why the two can never be compatible. Science works to reduce, or eliminate the Error Term. Religion IS the error term.

    • James


    • naijaboy_

      you obviously don’t know religion. Science is a tool, no rights no wrong, a tool just like a gun. Religion helps in understand why or how the tool should be used in which morality is involved. Cultures have been religious and have had knowledge increased. Don’t see how soviet Russia benefited from their atheism. Seems you are just looking for um to blame.

      • NA

        Except religion is based on… wait for it… lies. Or at least completely incorrect bases. You seem to forget how Russians are decimating North Americans in science knowledge and math skill. Nonetheless, none of any of that had a shred to do with their Atheism or non Atheism. The way Russia benefitted from their Atheism is the same way you and I benefit from not having cancer, assuming you, too, don’t have cancer.

        • naijaboy_

          Russian are decimating North Americans in Science knowledge and math skill, yet it fails in other areas when it comes to freedom and democracy including transparency. If I had to choose between discovery and caring for people, I would gladly choose caring for people. It had nothing to do with atheism just like religion had nothing to do with drawing science back, that was the point, to make you see your straw man argument. Funny cause the creator of MRI Scan was a christian.

          • NA

            You might be then interested in the Russians who come to North America, bringing with them their skills and intellect. Just because Russians are typically Atheists, it doesn’t mean that’s the reason they are lacking in freedom and transparency. Don’t conflate causation with only correlation. However, religion has in the past demonstrated its ability to suppress science. By its very nature it would do so, and does. It can also be shown that when you promote people’s agendas in brainwashing society, you reduce their propensity to pursue scientific discovery. Pointing out how someone who invented something useful was religious doesn’t at all defend the deleteriousness and damage-propagating effects of religion. Besides, how do you even know what his real beliefs were? It was unpopular to say you were an Atheist (in some cases under penalty of torture or death), so he may have just said it to appease people. Do you understand how your data does not support your case?

            • naijaboy_

              Russians are not typically atheists. It simply proves one thing, their beliefs had nothing to do with their intellect. I never said their atheism led to their lack of improvement. You said religion made science to not excel and I simply threw the question at you as to why then wasn’t the soviet Union super advanced. You are talking about causation and correlation when you were the one in fact attempting to do such. Religion doesn’t suppress science like gun doesn’t kill. By the very nature of religion, it is used to affect a person world view of things. A religious person might feel like his duty is to people and helping them. An atheist might feel his duty is to expand knowledge. The religious person has not suppress science, as it is not possible, only the government is known to suppress things. Can you please name the deteriorating effects of religion on society. I need examples. Those were his beliefs because he actually stated it. That’s like asking how we know JFK wasn’t a catholic. It isn’t actually that unpopular to say you are an unbeliever. Middle ages, yes, modern age, no.

            • NA

              I wasn’t the one who brought up Russia in the first place, or to discuss how the inventor of the MRI machine happened to be claimed to be a Christian — who cares? To be honest, I have little interest in discussing trivial specific examples anyway. The Soviet Union actually was super advanced. Given your logical path, you claim that a lack of religion should necessitate advancement, and I claim that lacking religion isn’t sufficient. There’s a difference between necessity and sufficiency, which you might want to look into to see why. While religion doesn’t OVERTLY suppress science like a gun, like your example, it does it in a much more nefarious way — subtly. It, as I stated earlier, it teaches people to accept dogma, which causes their own brains to not examine the true causes of things. Worse yet, it teaches people that it’s ok to spread dogma without examination. Religion contains with it the spread of its own anosognosia (look that up, it’s an excellent word), and is thus self-propagating in its damaging ways.

            • naijaboy_

              I brought russia because you said religion slowed down science. Russia is the closest to a atheistic state regime, so if religion is that cause, I posed the question as to why they never advanced except for trying to beat America in Weapons and Space. You use the world super advance but was it advanced compared to the super religious America??? I am simply trying to point to you that beliefs have nothing to do with your ability, yet you are sticking to it. Yes your beliefs can shape your worldview and even affect your life choices but it doesn’t the advancement of science. What dogmas are you talking about. You do realize that certain religious laws do have a logical or even a spiritual reasoning behind it. If it was damaging, Europe and the west would not be the place everyone is trying to copy, now would it?

            • NA

              You can’t make the claim that you do about hypotheticals and then cite reality because reality will always trump hypotheticals. This is why the matter of Russia and the (incorrect) usage of its advancements is wholly irrelevant to the discussion. I speak of the general effects. You don’t control for the variables that the people doing the advancement may not be as religious as the general population of the country. You’re making bigger assumptions than you are accusing me of making, here.

            • naijaboy_

              I am trying to make you see why your assumption in the first place was wrong. This is really getting no where. We aren’t going to change our view thoughts.

            • NA

              Because you don’t see the harmful effects of religion. Subtle effects like self-propagating anosognosia are not always easy to see, *especially* if one currently suffers from it and one has been conditioned to include it in their society for centuries.

            • naijaboy_

              I only see the harmful effect of human and force. Beliefs are just simply that, beliefs.

            • NA

              …until acted upon and taught to others recursively.

            • naijaboy_

              Given that only 7 percent of all the recorded wars in the history of mankind have been religious, I am not so worried. An Atheist state government killed more people than a christian state government, I am not so worried about beliefs, I am worried about extremists whether believer or unbeliever.

            • NA

              You are again mixing correlation with causation and supposing that the reason those events took place was due only (or primarily) to the official status of the government’s stance on religions in those cases. Bad logic. You are missing the point about anosognosia and recursion being propagated forward generation upon generation because of religion. I’m repeating myself over and over with you, it’s like these ideas are being ignored, or you are perhaps unable to understand them.

            • naijaboy_

              I wasn’t mixing correlation with causation, you were the one doing it. Nothing get powerful unless the government gets on it or are you forgetting this was a time period where a single sense of rebellion could be crushed. Lol, Europe was on the brinks of collapse and division, Christianity brought that unity among Europeans. This european identity that most people feel is all because of the roman empire adopting Christianity as a measure to unite its territories. Anosognosia and recursion? yea cause you know about the middle ages and the people. Exactly what was passed down by the religion. You mean the increase in literacy rate, development of the roman law which is pretty much the basis on which many empires after that have followed. Your ideas are not being ignored, just been proven to be just simply your idea and not fact. I’m sure children didn’t grow up in the middle ages feeling entitled like spoil brat. So please tell me about what was passed down.

            • NA

              You’ve clearly been overdosing on crack this morning. Physics cares not of governmental involvement. Knowledge and truth do not require an organized body for it to be. As if the Oriental cultures whose populations exceeded Europe’s got literate because of your European Christianity… come on, what a load of crap. It doesn’t matter about the middles ages and the people, these things are not factors of anosognosia and recursion. Just their actions which are evidence of them. You still don’t seem to understand this. Literacy was an accidental byproduct of it, not something to be heralded with accolades because it was some deliberate plan religion had to better humanity. They may as well have learned literacy from reading Archie comics.

              You want to know what was actually passed down? Here’s just a small sample for you: — from just two days ago — man ignoring the evidence that surrounds him in favor of his religious ideology that has been brainwashed into him. You want to understand recursive anosognosia? There is the outcome for you. Roman law existed BEFORE the time of your European Christianity — it predates Christ. You’ve proven literally nothing, except your own ignorance to reality.

            • naijaboy_

              Creationist? LOL. YOu do realize that creationism ideology actually started in the 1900s, not even close to the middle ages. Also creationist are divided into two. Old earth creationists believe all the fossils and the scientific age of the earth, they only don’t believe in the evolution of how man change from monkey to humans. Young earth are the ones who get the media rep. Also it is simply literal interpretation of a metaphorical account. Can’t fault a book for that. That would be a human’s fault. The roman law ranges, from the 12 tables to the Corpus Juris Civilis. So yes the law started pre jesus but has been added and edited up until the time of Justinian. You mentioned physics care not what the government thinks and knowledge and truth doesn’t need a body but may I remind you that a lot of the technological advances that we have today has been because of the government’s involvement either physical or financially. I don’t see how orient cultures have anything to do with my claim of the Church involvement in the increased literacy rate of many European kingdom and empires.

            • NA

              Creationist? LOL. You do realize that the false belief of creationism existed long before this, right? Like, back when the first idiot claimed to the second idiot that some magical deity bent over and shat out the universe in a moment of anthropomorphic CREATION. This predates the Abrahamic religions by a lot of millennia. This has nothing to do with the Middle Ages whatsoever. If ever there were points to be missed, you seem to serially miss them all one by one each time I make one. The article is simply one example of a modern belief that directly and causally originated from a previous false belief based on one particular religion.

              Interpretation? Not a good argument there, either. Science does not leave things up to interpretation. Religion does, because the religious are too stupid to separate fact from fiction. If you claim some parts of dogma are up to interpretation, which rules do you propose we apply such that we can consistently separate the two? None, as religion offers? Thought so.

              The technological advances are the applications of knowledge that stem from Physics. Whether a government or private investor, or a poor person applies them is, once again, *wholly irrelevant in every way imaginable*. I bring up Oriental cultures to demonstrate that literacy and unification existed without the effects of religion. You mentioned that one of the fringe benefits of religion was that it brought literacy and unification to Europe (which to this day is quite divided by its borders and languages and cultures, wholly nullifying your unification argument).

            • naijaboy_

              Creation means it is created, meaning there is a creator, has nothing to do with the process. Creation is imply bringing of something into existence. Once again a belief that results from reading a passage literally. Even the middle age theologians believed it didn’t represent time.
              Again with the science v religion? One is a tool, one is a belief. We should also disregard philosophy because philosophy is not based fact. That is pretty your logic.
              YOu keep on mentioning how government is irrelevant. You also forget the fundamental reason behind advancement is MONEY. The more prosperous a society, the more science advances. SO money is very relevant. Technological advances are you say is the application of knowledge that stems from physics but how can you apply something without having the appropriate resources. Your arguments are simply assumptions not facts.

            • NA

              Well, as a physicist, I DO disregard philosophy, so yes 🙂

              You might think the fundamental reason behind advancement is money, but this does not make it so. Advancement existed before money ever did. Your modern spin on modern advancement is myopic and concerns societal ideals when in fact this is not the case universally. I’ve actually made no assumptions in my statements, if you’ve interpreted them this way this is a failure on behalf of your reading comprehension.

            • naijaboy_

              Now that makes sense. I however don’t disregard philosophy. There is a reason why the technological advances are in prosperous civilizations. Now it doesn’t mean every time but they do go hand in hand. I said WEALTH which leads to resources. Also you need a right mind. You can’t make discoveries and advancement without resources, resources is gained through wealth. If non of what you said was assumption, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  • violeaf

    Tim you should do sketches and sell them to radio or TV channels.
    About the history of religions, I’m inclined to describe the two characters in your cartoon as ‘the curious and brave’ and ‘the content and lazy’

  • hajak

    Great article. I have always had a hard time calling myself an atheist as it feels like I’m putting myself above people saying that they are wrong. Like being 10 and telling your 4-year-old sister that santa doesn’t exist. I would call myself 100% non-religious and not believing, but I can recognize the value of safety and community especially. The worst things religion do to us is not to hinder people to think (as a lot of people seek comforting, absolute truths to have to think) but that it pits us against each other. Can we solve people’s loneliness and sense of lack of purpose and not make them hate others in some other good way?

    • Someone Who Thinks

      Interesting that you feel ” I have always had a hard time calling myself an atheist as it feels
      like I’m putting myself above people saying that they are wrong.”
      As it is, each religion does exactly that, tell everyone else that they are wrong, and without any regrets at all.
      And atheism doesn’t even point fingers and say “you are wrong”. All it really says is “you claim there is a God, but so far you have not given me enough evidence”. That is why there are plenty of religious people wanting to kill other religions people for the sake of their faith, but not any atheists doing that.

      • hajak

        I think I just felt it was more peaceful to say I was agnostic.

        • Someone Who Thinks

          Ah! Agnostic, but not atheist. I won’t get into that debate with you. I’m not that mean!
          You might look into Hemant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist at if you have not encountered him yet. He speaks a lot about atheists needing community in a way similar to how theists do.

          • hajak


      • Will Sam

        I just feel sorry for the millions of children who have many options closed to them because they are not taught evolution

    • Thomas

      this is because you live in US. In Europe, being atheist is the mainstream, being religious is the exception

      • hajak

        I don’t. I live in Sweden, Europe. The most secularized country in the world.

  • BinaryMan

    Why spirituality + science? Because one needs a metaphysics to go with their physics.

  • moin

    There is a reason for our existence and you’d find your answers in Quran – final revelation from the ETERNAL, CREATOR, SUSTAINER of the universe. ALL-Hearing, ALL-knowing, ALL-seeing, THE MOST MERCIFUL, MOST FORGIVING AND LOVING.

    Quran is based on reasoning. You’d find most of your answers if you’re carefully study Quran, know your creator, prohet muhammad and history.

    21:10 ( )
    We have certainly sent down to you a Book in which is your mention. Then will you not reason?

    23:80 ( )
    And it is He who gives life and causes death, and His is the alternation of the night and the day. Then will you not reason?

    67:10 ( )
    And they will say, “If only we had been listening or reasoning, we would not be among the companions of the Blaze.

    • Anirban

      Yes you are right man.. a few more

      Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”

      Quran (3:151) – “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority”.

      Quran (2:216) – “Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”

      Quran (2:244) – “Then fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah Heareth and knoweth all things.”

      Quran (4:76) – “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah…”

      Quran (4:89) – “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.”

      Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…”

      Just a few of the verses from the great book.. Truly it cannot be from anyone else

    • aj

      break the mold fellas

  • Jacob

    I feel like people are always afraid of calling themselves Atheists. Instead people often describe themselves with words like Agnostic or Humanist. The thing is, Atheist just means you do not belive in God. It doesn’t mean you that you know for a fact that God is fake.

  • First of, love almost all your posts. But what you seam to describe here as “spirituality” seems to be philosophy.

  • Mark Monnin

    This is really interesting and I love that it’s not offensive. As a Christian who also trusts science, I’m always doubting the existence of God. But that’s okay, because I think if anybody told you they knew for sure, they’d be lying. As for the Bible, the beginning just doesn’t seem logical. I believe God used evolution to create us. Or, what I would do, is write rules (laws of physics) and then make a system that used them (the center of the universe at the beginning) and then see what happens. So things like Eden and a world-wide flood don’t seem like they could be true. But I certainly believe in some miracles, and I believe in God based mostly on first-hand experience and the first-hand experience stories from others. When coincidences happen with really low odds, I say it’s God.

    But it’s still hard.

    Mostly, I keep pursuing God because I believe:
    1) I’m not hurting anybody (I believe we should be tolerant of everyone’s beliefs)
    2) I see my life continuing to change for the better because I’m pursuing God

    So it works for me.

    • JesseLivermore

      Your two points as to why you do so show that you’re doing it right. I’m an atheist and have a lot of respect for religious folks who go about their beliefs as you do. It’s obviously a deeply personal topic, and it is great when people understand this while making it work for themselves.

      • Mark Monnin

        Thanks! I really appreciate your positive feedback. 🙂

    • Will Sam

      I have a lot of respect for you as you try to find meaning in life

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  • aj

    This is a response to Thomas Anderson’s post. I don’t have Facebook so I can’t reply directly.

    Your comment is very intellectual and matter-of-fact according to your terms. But most people do not view spirituality in the same context as you, nor would they agree with your terms.

    Most people experience spirituality as a deeply intuitive sense that there is a non-conceptual substance/force/essence at the root of their being, and the nature of that substance is essentially joyful, blissful, and good. It is intuitively perceived to be their true, incorruptible nature; and the universe and everything in it is merely an expression of that true essential nature.

    Most people do not associate spirituality with supernatural laws, explanations, nymphs, and so on, but rather with the non-conceptual essence of their being.

    Although your definition of spirituality may work for you, it is not a very useful definition when it comes to tackling the matter that the term spirituality points to—for most people. You are limiting the subject of spirituality to your conceptual framework; while the essence of the term points to intuitive nonconceptual experience. The subject of spirituality is not philosophy, though we do need to use words if we want to talk about it. Though I’m sure your philosophy professor would give you top marks.

    And lastly, epistemology is the study of knowledge, not a subset of a subset of philosophy. You could say it is a branch of philosophy. So check-minus from the prof for that one.

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  • Will Sam

    I found someone who tries to get the point accross about evolution as simply (and bluntly as possible)

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  • JohnAdams_1796

    Science can and does progressively fill in the gaps, and thus knowledge replaces wishful thinking.

    For instance, on the question of where we go when we die.

    It is easy to jump up and down and demand that everyone accept your view and your view only. But that’s not good science. In time, some clever experiment will validate or invalidate your pet belief.

    That said, it won’t be enough to convince many to let go of their old, invalidated beliefs.

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  • Rimantas Galvonas

    I’ll just say one word: Pantheism.

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