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Atheism Would an Atheist Pray in a Life and Death Situation?

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Navdeep88, May 31, 2010.

  1. Navdeep88

    Navdeep88 Canada
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    If someone who claims to be an atheist is put in a life and death situation, would they not pray for their life to be saved, when all other options that they can control have been exhausted? If prayer comes so naturally to us, if emotion precedes thought, and prayer is rooted in emotion, then how can life grow denying this? How can a person deny themselves the belief in themselves and see themselves isolated from the universe? If atheism is considered a lack of faith, I am not convinced, it seems to be a delay in belief.

    Members who consider themselves atheists, could you share your views?
     
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  3. Caspian

    Caspian
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    Having been in a life/death situation (A car accident at 100km into a ditch). Prior to the car accident, I had a feeling we "could" get into a car accident due to my friends reckless driving (He was in the "oncoming lane" of a windy road in the pitch black of night). Then when he veered off into the ditch, I couldn't help but think "Holy ****" (That's about as religious as I got). After the crash landing, I remember thinking I was dead, laughing to myself, but my first coherent thought was "to get the **** out of the car," and my second thought was "WOW! I CANT BELIEVE I SURVIVED THAT" once I was out of the car. My third thought, after a few minutes, was a feeling of guilt because I had forgot to help my friend get out of the car (Lol, he was fine though, no worries). He is also an atheist, and although I never asked him, I suppose his first thoughts were of guilt (for endangering my life) and fear (for having totaled his car).

    I never once thought about God, or thanking God. Neither did my friend. But upon coming home several days later, and our families learning of the event. All they could ever talk about for the longest time was "You should thank God." We both come from deeply religious families.

    Hope that helps, Atheists dont care for god even during life/death situations. I was more concerned with the state of my camera (it was in his trunk, and it was pretty expensive). But if that's not enough for you, the next quote is from "Bhagat Singh" (who, despite the popular perception, was an atheist himself).

    Quote from the essay "Why I am an Atheist" by Bhagat Singh- "one friend asked me to pray. When informed of my atheism, he said, "During your last days you will begin to believe". I said, "No, dear Sir, it shall not be. I will think that to be an act of degradation and demoralisation on my part. For selfish motives I am not going to pray."

    While in a condemned cell in 1931, he wrote a pamphlet entitled Why I am an Atheist in which he discusses and advocates the philosophy of atheism. This pamphlet was a result of some criticism by fellow revolutionaries on his failure to acknowledge religion and God while in a condemned cell, the accusation of vanity was also dealt with in this pamphlet. He supported his own beliefs and claimed that he used to be a firm believer in The Almighty, but could not bring himself to believe the myths and beliefs that others held close to their hearts. In this pamphlet, he acknowledged the fact that religion made death easier, but also said that unproved philosophy is a sign of human weakness.[1]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagat_Singh
     
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  4. Sinister

    Sinister
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    claims
    1) atheist would pray on deathbed
    2) prayer comes naturally to us
    3) emotion precedes thought
    4) prayer is rooted in emotion
    5) denying oneself is to deny belief in oneself and isolating oneself from the universe
    6) atheism is not a lack of faith but a delay in faith

    Plausible Responses
    1) I have yet to see an atheist carry out the pascal wager
    2) ooooo..."naturally"...i like that adverb, because naturally, its devoid of any meaning
    3) can thought affect emotions...and if thought can affect emotions can those emotions then affect thought? (just a thought... or wait was that an emotion?)
    4) prayer is rooted in emotion and devoid of thought? not so sure about that.
    5) whaaaaa?
    6) faith is not a lack of non-belief but delay in non-belief
     
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  5. Caspian

    Caspian
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    lol
     
  6. Navdeep88

    Navdeep88 Canada
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    Sinister Ji,

    please stop assuming that everything anybody writes needs to be dissected intellectually, im sure you could break down anything to find fault in it but that is not sufficient! intelligence can be stretched to survival... the heart is about LIVING and that is what I wanted to know about. the LOVE that a person feels, the GRATITUDE...those things feel much better, and therefore, are truthful to the state of my heart and also my mind. I wanted to know how an athiest could continue to be, when their emotions are at such a height, when their need is so dire...is there not a moment when their constant drumbeat of "its just me, its just me" gives up to something else.

    and Caspian Ji, what you describe with such pride, I see as a lost opportunity... because I see so little growth (other than intellectual) from your standpoint.
     
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  7. Sinister

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    your view of an atheist is rather silly and I honestly believe you are generating questions out of lack of experience. Much of what you say may be offensive to humanists, positivists, cynics, stoics, Platonists etc etc. and I think you have the right to know (if you don't already).

    It is as childish a sentiment that many atheists use to debase religious virtuosity as an insincere product rooted, primarily, in their fear of their own afterlife.

    to them it is the religious that are truly disconnected from the universe and are incapable of experiencing free and genuine emotions (love, guilt, compassion, gratitude, etc).

    and they are both wrong

    notion that a god is needed for altruistic acts or to control desires or to feel 'connected' is just not true.

    One of the best known Cynics was Diogenes. an atheist cynic who lived in a barrel and owned nothing but a cloak, a walking stick and bread bag. He was approached by Alexander the Great on his way back from some eastern conquest and he asked him 'is their anything i can do for you?' to which Diogenes replied "Yes stand to one side! you are blocking the sun"

    notions of contentment and immateriality were being expressed by atheists 400 years before christ

    cheers
     
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  8. Archived_member14

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    Navdeep88 ji,



    Nav: please stop assuming that everything anybody writes needs to be dissected intellectually, im sure you could break down anything to find fault in it but that is not sufficient! intelligence can be stretched to survival...


    C: I’m usually impressed by people’s ability to analyze and summarize another person’s ideas, something I’m not good at myself, which is why I kind of liked Sinister ji’s message. Plus I got the impression that he did this with a sense of humor which again is something I lack. Normally I hate criticisms, but there are times when I wish someone would come out and point out any wrong thinking on my part. The truth is the bitter medicine which I think we all need to take from time to time.

    I agree with you that not all dissection of thought is helpful given that not everyone does it with good intentions. Of course this usually comes down to difference in belief, since the person who analyzes is coming in from a different view and the underlying motive may therefore be to question the other person’s views. However I don’t think this is the case with Sinister ji here, I think he was genuinely trying to be helpful.

    ===========
    Nav: the heart is about LIVING and that is what I wanted to know about. the LOVE that a person feels, the GRATITUDE...those things feel much better, and therefore, are truthful to the state of my heart and also my mind.

    C: I think Sinister ji was addressing this as well when he made this comment, “can thought affect emotions...and if thought can affect emotions can those emotions then affect thought? (just a thought... or wait was that an emotion?)”

    Being truthful to ourselves is perhaps the most difficult of achievements. Usually we behave like the axe, sharp on only one side ready to chop at other people’s ideas and their character, unable to turn around and do the same with our own. And one reason for this is the strong attachments to the ideas that we have, including taking for granted and thinking that we “know” such things as living, love and so on. I think it is therefore helpful that someone else in analyzing our thoughts directs our attention to those things about ourselves that we usually overlook. Such a person would then be like a friend who points out the treasure to us, since nothing is more worthy than to come to discover our own faults. The other kind of friend, one who always praises and sides with us may turn out to be someone we could have done without all along.

    =========
    Nav: I wanted to know how an athiest could continue to be, when their emotions are at such a height, when their need is so dire...is there not a moment when their constant drumbeat of "its just me, its just me" gives up to something else.


    C: Could not your line of enquiry have as well given a ‘believer’ pause for thought?
    In suggesting that an atheist might turn to God when faced with death, should this not cause the theist to review his own position “now”? Does he believe in God out of fear? Are the reasonings that he uses to justify the belief a deceptive veil behind which is a strong attachment to self? And would this not in fact be as much about “me, mine and I” as it is for the atheist or anyone else?

    =========

    Nav: and Caspian Ji, what you describe with such pride, I see as a lost opportunity... because I see so little growth (other than intellectual) from your standpoint.


    C: Since from the little that I’ve read Caspian ji say, I don’t see that he dismisses the need for good deeds; I’d encourage this in him as I have done with respect to theists here and elsewhere. Believing in God or not should not come in the way in this regard.

    I hope there has been something useful to think about in the above.
     
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  9. jasbirkaleka

    jasbirkaleka India
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    Navdeep88 ji

    If,as believers say, eveything happens according to God"s will or as ordained by Him, who are we to question his wisdom.

    If God wishes that I should die,then praying to save my life is in a way telling God that He took a wrong step and He should change His decision.

    Another way of saying this is that He does not know what he is doing.

    Atleast the believers should have faith in what He is doing and desist from praying to God, telling Him that His decision-making powers are not all that perfect and sometimes they know what is good for them.swordfight
     
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  10. Navdeep88

    Navdeep88 Canada
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    sinister ji, the above post which you approve of, is that not exactly what you found to be the fault in mine? i find it rather silly myself.

    mr. jasbir,
    you make the assumption that as a believer, i would seek to change what is god's will. that is not so. as a human being i am prone to fear and my mind, seeing all that can go wrong, usually wants to focuse on the "I cant". Its not about questioning god's wisdom, its about acknowledging the limitations of your own. By turning to God, I am speaking about a person's PERSONAL effort to go in that direction and see things very differently, to see the good, the life that blossoms out of situations that your mind tells you are impossible to get through. i dont think true prayer is telling god anything, god already knows exactly where you are, all the things effecting you, and has the solutions for that. its about recognizing the wholeness of your own self, which like, god, is eternal. and in that process, fear is dispelled.

    what is capable of killing you is not always outside! external circumstances can never be more severe than that of your own mind in finishing you off. life is not just breathing, and surviving, the way i see it, your ability to live is not constant, the more vibrationally in tune you are with god's will, those are the moments you actually experience life.
     
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  11. Caspian

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    I think what jasbir is trying to suggest is that their is no "personal effort" on your part or my part, there is no free will to choose. Everything is god's will. The reason why im an atheist is because its all part of gods plan so how dare anyone suggest i'm wrong :p

    IMO, you use alot of meaningless adjectives or ur speaking in highly figuritive/poetic language which is fine and dandy but it reduces the impact of what you have to say. I'm trying to make sense of what you just said but i cant wrap my head around stuff like:

    "its about recognizing the wholeness of your own self" (Because I too, recognise myself as whole? and im an atheist)

    "external circumstances can never be more severe than that of your own mind in finishing you off." (dont even know what this means? how can your mind ever work against your... mind? to finish it off?)

    "the more vibrationally in tune you are with god's will, those are the moments you actually experience life." (?)

    Any 4rth grade poet can say something like "God is life" and get an A. (Which is what i feel like your entire post sounded like, an appeal to one's "soul" and i use the term "soul" in the figurative sense. but i have a feeling you mean everything u say quite literally and not figuratively. i guess thats where we differ—at worst these kinds of ideas are simplistic and dangerous and at best their poetic but rarely ever can they be translated to say anything meaningful about real life).

    Im not saying poetry is meaningless. I love poetry. But peotry is highly subjective—and you seem to be speaking as if everything you say is an objective truth, a matter of fact. You cannot say for sure, that your experience of life is any more or less "whole" then my experience of life simply because i dont believe in god. To you it may seem like im suffering or something. Believe me, I feel the same way about you. Everything is relative though. I can acknowledge the fact that religous people can lead deeply meaningful lives. Why cant you think the same for atheists?

    Im a cognitive science major (i realize your an english prof, lol please dont take my "txtspeak" literally, the way I write in internet forums is only a fraction of my writing ability, but i do minor in english/creative writing) and one of the philosophical problems we come across has to do with the theory of mind (especially in artificial intelligence). Forexample, how do i know that you have a mind like mines? What if you are simply acting as if you have a mind, but u dont really have an internal thought process? Because I cannot be for sure about whether or not you have a mind, I simply assume you have a mind because you act similarly enough to the way i act—and i know i have a mind.

    Similarily, I assume you live a meaningful life because I know i live a meaningful life. If i was there, and i could see your happiness, i would more readily believe you live a meaningful life; yet, would u not be convinced that i lived a meaningful life? that i was whole too? even if i was as happy, as spiritually fulfilled, charitable and as nice as you?

    I guess what im saying is that. Let assume you had an identicle twin who was like you in almost every way—except she/he did not believe in god. Are they somehow missing out on life? I think not.
     
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  12. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    I don't know.

    There was a time when I visited the museum in the Ducal Palace of Venice. In one of the rooms was an ancient helmet covered with worn and moldy red velvet. My cousin who lived in Venice became very emotional. She say she loved to think of the person who might have worn it. Until she said that I thought it looked like a piece of junk. At that point I began to get the point of history. I have the same feeling here.

    Navdeep is a professor of English. So his manner of expression reflects who he is. Don't take that away from him. Sometimes a professor has a way of beckoning a class to another zone of attention, and if we take a few steps we see things we never encountered before. He can still be a helpful tour guide, at the same time, proceed onward. I am sure he will provide more details.
     
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  13. Caspian

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    Ah I see. Even though I'm a cognitive systems major. English has always been my best subject since highschool. I minor in creative writing. But I've always liked a minimalist approach to writing (a lack of adjectives and dead metaphors for example). There a famous essay by George Orwell entitled "Why I Write" that advocates a minimalist approach to writing, I found it very influential as a first year undergrad. So perhaps I'm being too quick to judge his writing style :p. There are alot of writing styles, those were just my opinions, so no hard feelings their I hope, didn't know you (Navdeep) were an English prof.
     
  14. Sinister

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    Navdeep Ji,

    I found his post to be more "natural" than yours. Jasbir ji's post showed genuine feelings that i related to.

    Why should we pray on our deathbed? shouldn't we rejoice and be happy, enjoying the few moments left with our family/comrades and celebrating, what an atheist would term the last inevitable experience of life? (relishing the positive experiences accepting the process and its outcomes) ....if this is not 'becoming one with' (acceptance of your natural fate) then what is? ... i feel that this mental state is above begging and pleading for a miraculous recovery or a desirable afterlife. and if this is the mindset of a religious person then they are "vibrating" at the same frequency of an atheist, agnostic, cynic, clown whatever.

    going back to your original question, would an atheist pray in a life and death situation?

    pray to whom? pray how? and pray for what? (are all relevant to the discussion)

    would he start reading out loud from some ancient translated scriptures and perform dogmatic rituals, perhaps sacrifice one of his slaves?
    If he does he is no longer an atheist so your question is irrelevant. People always fail to evaluate the situation once they prescribe labels onto other people.

    an atheists life experiences, the feelings of awe of the grand scheme/design, are mostly identical to those who hold a faith in a god. to say otherwise is just dishonest...which is why I disaprove of the undertone meanings of your posts/questions and the labels you give to categories of people.
     
  15. BhagatSingh

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    Navdeep88 ji,
    "see things very differently, to see the good, the life that blossoms out of situations that your mind tells you are impossible to get through." -
    I am wondering, can this not be accomplished without a deity?

    "i dont think true prayer is telling god anything..." - Are you sure you are still talking about prayer?? Is it prayer, if its not directed at a diety?
     
  16. findingmyway

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    Maybe it would be pertinent in this case to define prayer as everyone seems to have different ideas from what I've read!!

    To some prayer is asking for a miracle
    To some prayer is saying thanks
    To some prayer is a way of collecting their thoughts
    To some prayer is a way of relaxation
    To some prayer is asking for change
    To some prayer is a chance for reflection
    To some prayer is words on the off chance
    To some prayer is their feelings from the heart
    To some prayer is asking for blessings
    To some prayer is an expression of what they are thinking
    To some prayer is a way of gaining strength to face life

    Does prayer have to be to a deity? I'm not sure it does.....
     
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  17. Caspian

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    For all extensive purposes. I think in this case, prayer is asking for a miracle.

    If its not directed at a deity then its more likely a form of meditation, not unlike what buddhists practice.

    "Buddhist prayer is a practice to awaken our inherent inner capacities of strength, compassion and wisdom rather than to petition external forces based on fear, idolizing, and worldly and/or heavenly gain. Buddhist prayer is a form of meditation; it is a practice of inner reconditioning. Buddhist prayer replaces the negative with the virtuous and points us to the blessings of Life."

    http://buddhistfaith.tripod.com/pureland_sangha/id41.html
     
  18. Navdeep88

    Navdeep88 Canada
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    First, Id like everyone to know that I am a woman.

    Second, Caspian Ji, please please stop talking about yourself. I dont care what your majoring in, I dont care what you think Im majoring in (you dont know what kind of life i lead). I dont care about your personal business. I say this because its very cluttering. You are the kind of "athiest" this question is referring to and I say this lovingly. But your right, everyone is where they are according to God, if you are happy where you are, thats where God wants you at the moment.

    "findingmyway" thank you for your considerations.

    bhagat singh ji: "i dont think true prayer is telling god anything..." - Are you sure you are still talking about prayer?? Is it prayer, if its not directed at a diety?

    yes, when we recite gurbani, its the same verses everyday, no matter what the circumstances. they're not directed AT God, they're of God, theyre said in the presence of God.

    Sinister Ji, I apologize if I have offended you, but at least out of that offence I get an opportunity to learn, and thats what we're here for, right? I posted this question several months ago, and i think there is something i need to clarify... physical death is in progress. So a "life and death situation" is constant, however, there are fluctuations, are there not? There are moments of pain and in those times, we become more aware of death and our weaknesses... this happens for everyone, regardless of label. and i really dont think the process to gain strength is any different for anyone either, because God is in everyone and everything. So, from what you say, then really, an "athiest" is just an external label.... Please define what you think an athiest is and how they differ from a believer because its very interesting.
     
  19. Sinister

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    instead of focusing on how they are different why not first examine how they are so similiar?

    http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/general-discussion/21797-the-a-manifesto.html
     
  20. Sinister

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    what is odd...the prime dividing force (the prime causation) between the divide of the divine and the profane is also its greatest unifier.

    uncertainty

    both states are products of uncertainty (a desire to rid oneself of this suspended state)

    where not knowing is the real problem rather than being wrong.

    the rest of the differences are just cosmetic and the result of identity creation.

    when they are really driven by the same thing...

    uncertainty
     
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  21. findingmyway

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    Interesting concept! So pray, (English phrase for those who don't understand) tell me then how do the uncertain react in uncertain circumstances where uncertainty about life or death is all they can see (albeit uncertainly)????
     
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