Thanks for bringing this up. Not only is it a good topic, but it's one I deal with very often in my own spirituality (and don't we all love to talk about ourselves
Ozymandias wrote:In one sense, agnosticism is a medium of theism and atheism. But I don't think that's the answer you're looking for, so we'll go further.
I was raised Christian, and though I still self- identify as an Episcopalian Christian, my beliefs don't always align with my church's beliefs. There is a "rule for detecting bull***t" that I like to incorporate. If you believe something, you must ask yourself "Do I want this to be true?" and if you don't want it to be true, it's okay, it's probably not BS. You wouldn't make up something that you don't want to make up. But if you do want it to be true (and I want theism to be true), you must evaluate it to make sure you're not simply accepting the belief without reason or evidence. To honor this rule, I generally attack my own beliefs by adopting an atheist perspective and arguing with myself. By doing so, I've whittled down my religious beliefs to only what I can actually defend in a logical sense.
I will have to admit that I started NOT believing in God I think the first time I heard about him, which was about the time just before I entered preschool making me doubt God existence before I doubted even Santa Claus existence or even know what Santa Claus was. Although looking back I know my reasons where not the best (some theist try to get me to believe that God would punish me for things that even my parents wouldn't have a reason to hold against me) and not believing in God so early on would make it all but a given that I would be an atheist or agnostic for all of my life (making me very biased against theism), but I can not say that I haven't tried to believe at some times in my life. However the problem I keep having is almost the same as what you said that anything that seems too good to be true usually isn't and it seems a little too convenient to imagine a God that can fix things even if we screw up.
However even if I don't believe in God (or even believe that it is a given that there being a 'good' or 'evil' as I'm partial to nihilism) I CAN have faith in something I loosely refer to as the 'process' and I can have faith in faith itself. I think one can imagine the process as sort of a combination of our collective conscience (that is if it is even possible for our unconsciousness/super egos can work together somehow) combined with the possibility of advancements in science/technology improving our ability to reason to the point that we are sort of God-like ourselves. Although such ideas are merely speculation and not a given, when you don't believe in God and skeptical of nearly everything else you still have to hope for something sort of God-like, even if that things is a lot different than 'God'.
Also I think Christian ideas about faith are not that much misplaced, but what they refer to as 'faith' I think would be more accurately described as one's tenacity and putting something above oneself; which isn't that far for religious faith). The thing is tenacity itself is something one can have regardless of whether they have any kind of faith to begin with; although it is a given that tenacity can only take one so far when one isn't already mentally harden somehow. And putting something like a cause or goal above oneself enables some people to accomplish things they might not be able to otherwise. I think some examples of such people are Don Quixote(although he is just a fictional character), Joan of Arc, and Alexander the Great. Another example I can think of is Abraham from the bible. I admit that some of what I base the power of people using the 'power of faith' in what Soren Kierkegaard refereed to as 'knights of faith' (which more or less are people who put a cause above all else) and it is questionable whether or not anyone can actually be a so called 'knight of faith' under any and all conditions (able to sustain their faith no matter what such as Job did in the bible).
I guess the reason I wanted to mention Soren Kierkegaard's 'knights of faith' (who was a harsh critic of the church in his time) is that even opponents of the theism may use the same paradigms of what people ought to be that are not that far different from the paradigms of the church, which I believe are their patron saints. Of course this is not true of all atheist/agnostics and of course 'knights of faith' are not exactly the same as the churches own paradigms of what people of faith should be; although I believe even some theist who like and study Kierkegaard's work prefer his knights of faith over what the bible says.
Ozymandias wrote:So I am a theist, but I often think like an atheist. Is this at all what you mean by a "middle way between theism and atheism"?
To be honest I don't really know what the 'middle way' is, but YES I do consider the fact that your a theist who is willing to either think like a atheist or try and understand their position as an example of someone trying to find a middle way between the two modes of thought. However even if I am occasionally able to make a theist question their own beliefs and become an atheist to some to degree I'm really not happy with the idea of trying to convert any theist to atheism. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but I don't know if my ideas are the best one and I don't like the idea of brainwashing or converting people. I know it is really their own chose to choose one way or another (and I'm more than willing to force people to question their own thinking or how they look at the world), I don't like the idea of doing something which may make a theist lose faith in something that they are already comfortable and happy with; unless of course it is something that they should be doing already. I don't know if any of that makes sense to anyone reading it, but it is what it is.
Another way I believe a theist and/or atheist may help in understanding a middle way between the two is to study comparative religions; which I will admit I already did by taking a college course in it. It basically explains, compares and contrasts, ect the various religions of the world in the hopes that understanding many various religions and beliefs (other than the theism and secular we know so well in the west) it will shed some light on our own beliefs.
Ozymandias wrote:If you're asking for more of a definitive "middle way", or some sort of compromise between the two schools of thought, take this: As far as I can tell, atheists and theists don't actually believe in different things, they just have a lot of variance in how they define the supernatural presence we all feel (bear with me here). It is true that atheists don't believe in God because there is not physical proof of God, but contrary to popular belief, that doesn't mean they don't believe in anything without physical proof. Most atheists are moral people; that is to say, most atheists believe that there is some kind of rule or set of rules they should follow in their lives in order to be "good people", and in order to feel fulfilled. Unless one's concept of morality is A/ "morality doesn't exist and I won't follow it at all", or B/ "morality doesn't exist beyond my animalistic instincts, so I will follow those", one's concept of morality depends on something supernatural. Believing it's wrong to kill another person isn't something an animal thinks, it is something we just assume because we're human and we usually believe it's bad. Thus, an atheist typically believes in something supernatural. By assuming a belief (for example, that it is wrong to kill) that isn't taken directly from science and reason, but rather depends on a philosophical interpretation of the universe, a moral atheist does actually believe in something beyond science.
I don't know about other atheist but I believe that which is either 'good' or 'evil' is based entirely on the consequences of those actions. For example killing someone in real life is usually 'bad', but killing someone in a video isn't because usually there is no 'bad' consequences to such a action. The reason why lying, cheating, stealing, etc are usually though of as 'evil' is that they cause problems when people do it too often in society, however such actions are 'ok' if we do them in times of war with an enemy that we are fighting with; so more or less morality is societies 'rules of thumb' that we usually follow but go out the window in times when regular morality no longer apply.
Another way to think of it is that what we consider to be 'good' and 'evil' is really just 'useful' or 'counter productive' to us. If you don't believe me just try to replace the words 'good' with 'useful' and 'evil' with 'counter productive' when you contemplate some of your moral choices and you will see how it is more or less the same thing; although you might feel a little more Machiavelli when you word it that way to yourself. To me in the end 'morality' is really just a kind of a mix between hedonistic calculus and game theory where we try to figure out what will be the best outcome for us, regardless of the additional fluff we like to add when we think of it. And again this is just my thoughts on it and may not be true of other atheist/agnostics.
Ozymandias wrote:I believe theology is not actually a black-and-white "atheism vs. theism", but rather a spectrum. On one end, there are people like atheists and agnostics who define the supernatural presence in their minds as a very vague thing that usually works with science. The supernatural presence only manifests itself in their minds as morality. Nothing magical, nothing divine, just a sense of right and wrong. On the other end, there are people such as Mormons who view the supernatural presence in their minds as a literal manifestation called God, a literal person somewhere in the universe. Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc. are on that end too, though they personify God less extremely by claiming God is a divine presence rather than a physical one. Somewhere in the middle are Buddhists, who define the supernatural as the universe, and seek to become one with it. Less personified, but still supernatural.
I will have to say part of me is pretty skeptical about 'magic' and 'supernatural' and believe that the only way such things can exist is if there is some rational science behind it; and when something is explainable they are no longer thought of as 'magic' and 'supernatural' and they become just another part of nature or the world around us. Also it is hard to believe in a 'God' who doesn't use something similar to our own technology in order to create miracles, and if a being uses technology to do something like 'magic' what makes they more 'divine' than us if it is possible for us to do the same thing if we used it? I understand how any 'supernatural' being or technologically advance beings can create shock and awe in both primitive people and people today by being able to do things that we can not do and/or can not explain; however this shock and awe should not automatically translate into them being 'divine' as even false God's and mere God-like beings can do the same thing too. I hope this make some sense.
However another part of me is open to believing in things like ghosts, Ouija boards, PK energy, etc since I did experience some weird stuff when I use to be into the occult. To be honest it as been awhile and the experiences are kind of moot at this time in my life, but they are not something I can completely dismiss either.
Ozymandias wrote:So in my third answer to your question, I would say that there isn't a "middle ground" between theism and atheism, but instead, theism and atheism are simply sections on a line, a spectrum of religious belief.
As I said in a earlier post it is really western culture/theism vs everything else/'the Other' and the way I worded it (including using the idea of some middle ground) may not be the best, but it was the best I can think of at the time. If someone can word it better I will happily accept it instead.
In reality I just want to see if theist and atheist (or theist and anyone else) can talk about their beliefs without fighting over them and trying to prove each other wrong. In past experience this has been VERY, VERY hard to do.
Ozymandias wrote:My apologies if this was unnecessarily long, I'm just not exactly sure what answer you're looking for, and it's a big question to begin with (the best questions are the biggest questions).
I'll I can ask is for forum members to post something along the lines of the OP and seeing people such as yourself talking on this thread (without fighting too much about it) is all I could hope for.
I think in the past my OP goes unnoticed without anyone posting anything and people just continue to argue in the other threads.
-- Updated January 12th, 2017, 4:46 pm to add the following --
Is there a middle way between theism and atheism
In practical terms I believe it's called Secularism? Both sides can agree to protect each others rights and respect each other as human beings. I know it's a hotly debated subject on this forum but in many (if not most) interactions the question of theism is immaterial. If you break your arm you go to the same hospital, if your house in on fire you use the same fire brigade and if you are making spag bol you use the same ingredients etc etc.
I think it can make a difference because some Christians don't believe in taking pain killers or going to the hospital because doing so is against God's will (ie God decided for them to get sick or hurt and it depends on his will whether they get better). Also there tends to often be disagreement between atheist and theist as to what is more important when it comes to one's rights and respect for other human beings.
Another way I can word it is that there seems to be disagreement as to what it means for there to be separation between church and state when the church often chooses to influence the state when their own interests are at stake. I know this is A LOT different when the church and the state where at one time nearly the same thing or organization that worked together, but I think it is safe to say that 'secularism' in western society leans toward theism than any other religion or system of beliefs and is more tolerate to theists beliefs than anything else.
I feel like the average theist and the average atheist agree on many more points than they disagree. And I guess a compromise would be not to force the points you disagree with upon the other. Although even that gets tricky with something like a doomsday cult who want to commit mass suicide, the average atheist and average theist would want to stop that. But is a compromise the same as middle ground?
In philosophical terms it's a bit tougher. As Ormond points out it could be an incorrect form of a question. Although I don't agree with that analysis it does make sense to a degree. Personally I believe that some beliefs are more reasonable than other beliefs and that it's not 100% impossible to judge reasonableness (whether that belief is reasonable is up for discussion
I think it is 'ok' to believe some religions or system of beliefs are better than others, but if you are just trying to discuss various religions and systems of beliefs (such as you would do while studying comparative religions) it is best to think of them somewhat equal to a degree or sort of respect them just for being what others have grow up to believe. The whole goal isn't to get people to think of all religions or systems of belief as being 'equal', it is just to get them to put their own ideology on the back-burner just long enough for them to be willing to listen to other peoples beliefs without outright dismissing them as being completely absurd.
If someone can listen to other people beliefs while still thinking their religion or system of beliefs is much much better than any other beliefs without forgetting their beliefs are better than any other, then I feel it is just as good for them to use whatever method they use to still listen to others. For me I always have to think that my beliefs can be wrong in some way and being open minded enough to hear any and all beliefs that come at me is the only way to correct them; however it is hard being open minded no matter how hard one tries.
Eduk wrote:I guess in short I don't believe there is a true middle ground (philosophically) as the middle ground whatever it looked like would be just as wrong to a theist or atheist. For example your views on morality and where it comes from don't tally with mine even though you have gone to some effort to attempt to reach a middle ground. Or to put it another way half way between truth and untruth is still untruth, regardless of your perspective.
I don't expect or really want anyone to change their position, or at least change them too much. I just hope that there is area where the two sides can agree on and to identify where the specif points that are unreasonable if that is what the case might be.
Also there might be some common middle ground where both atheist and theist (at least some of them) can kind of agree on. A while ago I read about some people being 'spiritual' but not 'religious' who try to find either God or some other meaning to everything through their own efforts and not part of any church or religious organization. As far as I know, many theist can respect those who don't necessarily believe in God reject completely and still are just search and haven't completely given up hope in finding the answers. At the same time atheist/agnostics feel that many of the people who are 'spiritual' but not 'religious' are not really that far from being agnostic themselves, and even if they favor believing in God than not believing it is more likely they will still be more open minded than those who believe 'God' in the conventional/religious way. Of course many of these 'spiritual' but not 'religious' many be really no different then traditional atheist and theist, but hopefully most won't be if they are willing to accept being labeled as 'spiritual' but not 'religious' and accept others in the same position as they are in.
In addition to 'spiritual' but not 'religious' there is the church of Unitarian Universalism (which is kind of like a church for 'spiritual' but not 'religious' I believe) where they are supposedly tolerant to any kind of religion or system of beliefs that one has. The one problem with the church of Unitarian Universalism is that I never been to one and never meet one of their members so I have knowledge of how such a church operates; also I have no knowledge of what the average theist feels about such places. I just know that there seems to be others that have tried to find a way to get theist and non-theist (or at least various non-theist) to be tolerate of each other and accept other peoples beliefs almost as well as they accept their own.