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Author Topic: Polytheist+Agnostic+Atheist=?  (Read 14714 times)
Finn
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« Reply #15: March 05, 2007, 07:58:30 am »

I was about to agree, but then started thinking about what I mean when I say "archetype."  I confess that I've never read Jung, but I think I have a basic handle on his archetype idea.  I don't think that's quite where I go; I think for me I have times when I think of deities as *qualities* rather than *beings*.  In other words, intead of thinking of Brighid as an uber-person kind of thing, I sometimes conceive of her as the quality of inspiration, or peace, or something like that.

Oh, that probably makes no sense.

No, that makes sense.  Archetypes are sort of human qualities that appear in every consciousness because they are universal.  What I meant was that sometimes I think that Brigid, for example, may be no more than an archetypal symbol for my need for a mother, or for my poetic inspiration, or for the quality of inspiration, much like you were saying. 

Sometimes I reduce the gods to my own consciousness (which I think archetypes, from my understanding, which could be completely off), and then Brigid comes along and taps me on the shoulder and says, "Did you really think I'm just in your head?"  When I start thinking of Her in those terms, it's usually because I'm going through a lot of self-doubt.  Usually, though, I get over it and go back to being a confident polytheist.
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« Reply #16: March 05, 2007, 08:37:22 am »

I was going to quote Moon Ivy's remark about skeptic but don't seem to know how to quote on this new board.

In addition to the excellent reply you've already gotten, I just wanted to pop in and mention that there's an "Intro to SMF" thread over on the Announcements board that may help with some of the basic functions here (like quoting).  Also, the help file here (unlike Beehive) is actually helpful, so you might check that out too.  Smiley
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« Reply #17: March 05, 2007, 11:13:02 am »

In addition to the excellent reply you've already gotten, I just wanted to pop in and mention that there's an "Intro to SMF" thread over on the Announcements board that may help with some of the basic functions here (like quoting).  Also, the help file here (unlike Beehive) is actually helpful, so you might check that out too.  Smiley

Thanks, Star.  But what do you think about atheism and archetypes and all that? Wink Wink
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« Reply #18: March 05, 2007, 11:24:41 am »

Thanks, Star.  But what do you think about atheism and archetypes and all that? Wink Wink

Not a whole lot, unfortunately.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around either one as a way of viewing Deity (or lack thereof), but that's a personal problem.
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« Reply #19: March 05, 2007, 08:20:26 pm »

Hmmmmmm.  Maybe my confusion comes from the definition of "atheist".  I've always thought it meant someone who does not believe in God or in gods.

Are you using "atheist" to mean someone who does not believe in a supreme deity, but who does believe in gods of the non-supreme variety?
I'm using it to indicate that I'm not certain how accurate "gods" is to describe those beings.

I suspect, myself, that much of the confusion here arises because I think of theism/atheism as a graduated spectrum, wherein Person X can be "more atheistic" than Person Y, but still be some sort of theist.  Many folks' posts are worded in a way that suggests they think of it as "either you are or you aren't".  Those of you who count anything from pure animism to ancestor-worship to Theravada Buddhism as theistic, can safely ignore my "borderline atheist" descriptor as being irrelevant to your frame of reference; I fall well within your parameters of theism.

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« Reply #20: March 05, 2007, 10:02:11 pm »

I'm using it to indicate that I'm not certain how accurate "gods" is to describe those beings.

I suspect, myself, that much of the confusion here arises because I think of theism/atheism as a graduated spectrum, wherein Person X can be "more atheistic" than Person Y, but still be some sort of theist.  Many folks' posts are worded in a way that suggests they think of it as "either you are or you aren't".  Those of you who count anything from pure animism to ancestor-worship to Theravada Buddhism as theistic, can safely ignore my "borderline atheist" descriptor as being irrelevant to your frame of reference; I fall well within your parameters of theism.

Sunflower

Ah, OK.  I think I get it.  That's an interesting POV.  I always *assumed* an "either you are or you aren't" definition, but this gives me something to think about.

Thanks for the clarification.
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« Reply #21: March 06, 2007, 11:43:46 pm »

Ah, OK.  I think I get it.  That's an interesting POV.  I always *assumed* an "either you are or you aren't" definition, but this gives me something to think about.

Thanks for the clarification.
It seems to me that both the "graduated" and the "either/or" are models that have value; they each focus on very different things.

Possibly my attitude about labels added to the confusion, too - I understand, and don't directly disagree with, most of the objections that get raised about labels, but I also see how very useful they can be.  So, going way back to when I was a teen (or at least back to the invention of the Post-It, pretty close to the same time), I determined that the best (IMO) way to handle them was to think of them as quick scrawls on sticky pads - changeable, removable, potentially impermanent, and relevant to the person rather than to each other.

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« Reply #22: March 19, 2007, 08:24:55 pm »

On the surface, those things do seem to cancel each other out.  An atheistic polytheist seems like an oxymoron. 

However, I understand it.  Spirituality, for some, is a thing of paradox.  There may be infinite realities and all of those things very well could be true.  The way I look at it, I can put myself in the frame of mind, or paradigm of an atheist, a monotheist, a polytheist, an existentialist, an animist, a humanist, a pantheist, etc.  With some of those, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to be more than one of those at once. I see atheism and polytheism mutually exclusive, but that doesn't mean that I couldn't believe in one in one context, and the other in a separate context.  Some call this shifting your paradigm.  I call it being versatile. Being able to twist your mind in a multitude of ways allows you to understand many points of view and to find common ground. 
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« Reply #23: March 19, 2007, 09:19:46 pm »

On the surface, those things do seem to cancel each other out.  An atheistic polytheist seems like an oxymoron. 

However, I understand it.  Spirituality, for some, is a thing of paradox.  There may be infinite realities and all of those things very well could be true.  The way I look at it, I can put myself in the frame of mind, or paradigm of an atheist, a monotheist, a polytheist, an existentialist, an animist, a humanist, a pantheist, etc.  With some of those, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to be more than one of those at once. I see atheism and polytheism mutually exclusive, but that doesn't mean that I couldn't believe in one in one context, and the other in a separate context.  Some call this shifting your paradigm.  I call it being versatile. Being able to twist your mind in a multitude of ways allows you to understand many points of view and to find common ground. 

Yes, I can understand this perspective.  Paradox, definitely!

In fact, I'm much the same way.  Some days I'm hard polytheist, some days soft, some days agnostic.  But I don't think I've ever been more than one at a time.  That's the part that I was intrigued by in Sunflower's description.
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« Reply #24: March 20, 2007, 12:27:16 pm »

I would argue that you can't be polytheistic *and* agnostic *and* atheistic all at the same time.  I can see a blend of agnostic working with either of the other two labels, but I don't think you can reasonable believe in multiple Gods and *no* Gods at the same time.  At different times possibly, but I would suggest that this doesn't indicate a stable belief, but rather uncertainty.

What if you believe in deities but not in the traditional "distinct fully conscious entities living immortal self-directed lives" sense?  In a case like that you would be polytheistic (believing in many gods), atheistic (not believing in immortal omnipotent beings), and agnostic (not exactly sure how to define these entities). 

And remember, you can never discount the ability of the human mind to hold several conflicting beliefs at once.  Wink
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« Reply #25: March 20, 2007, 12:50:43 pm »

What if you believe in deities but not in the traditional "distinct fully conscious entities living immortal self-directed lives" sense?  In a case like that you would be polytheistic (believing in many gods), atheistic (not believing in immortal omnipotent beings), and agnostic (not exactly sure how to define these entities). 

And remember, you can never discount the ability of the human mind to hold several conflicting beliefs at once.  Wink

With tegards to the combination you posit, I see flaws there.  You try to suggest that because one doesn't believe in immortal omnipotent beings, you can count as atheist while still believing in some form of god.  Regardless of what the qualities of the god are, if you believe it exists, by definition you are not an atheist.  Thus I can see agnostic combining with either (ie: lack of certainty), but you cannot combine believing in a deity/deities *and* believing they don't exist.

As for holding conflicting beliefs: I can see holding them sequentially in Chaos magic, for example, or in general changing beliefs.  When someone holds conflicting beliefs simultaneously, it tends to be either an exercise in seeing if they can do (which may lack a certain sincerity), or more often, they just haven't thought their beliefs through.
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« Reply #26: March 20, 2007, 08:29:00 pm »

With tegards to the combination you posit, I see flaws there.  You try to suggest that because one doesn't believe in immortal omnipotent beings, you can count as atheist while still believing in some form of god.  Regardless of what the qualities of the god are, if you believe it exists, by definition you are not an atheist.  Thus I can see agnostic combining with either (ie: lack of certainty), but you cannot combine believing in a deity/deities *and* believing they don't exist.

I've got a friend who believes the entities we call 'gods' are not actually gods. Therefore she is an Atheist who believes in 'gods'. It's similar to believing that chihuahuas exist, but they're not actually dogs.
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« Reply #27: March 21, 2007, 08:23:35 am »

I've got a friend who believes the entities we call 'gods' are not actually gods. Therefore she is an Atheist who believes in 'gods'. It's similar to believing that chihuahuas exist, but they're not actually dogs.
That's where my apparent paradox comes in, though I'm more agnostic about whether they are, or are not, gods.  I'm either a polytheist who believes all gods are small gods, or a poly<not-theoi>ist.

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« Reply #28: March 21, 2007, 10:48:57 am »

I've got a friend who believes the entities we call 'gods' are not actually gods. Therefore she is an Atheist who believes in 'gods'. It's similar to believing that chihuahuas exist, but they're not actually dogs.

I'm not sure that's a good for comparison.  Chihuahuas *are* dogs, so that would just make you wrong.  In the case of your friend, she doesn't believe in gods, because she does not think they are gods.  She presumably believes in (or believes that x exists) whatever she thinks the gods actually are.
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« Reply #29: March 23, 2007, 10:27:42 am »

Regardless of what the qualities of the god are, if you believe it exists, by definition you are not an atheist.  Thus I can see agnostic combining with either (ie: lack of certainty), but you cannot combine believing in a deity/deities *and* believing they don't exist.

Do you think it's possible to have a worldview that doesn't differentiate existence and nonexistence, and if so, could one simultaneously believe in gods and be an atheist?

The reason I'm asking this that I've been reading a book about Kuan Yin (Bodhisattva of Compassion, by John Blofeld), where the author talks about following Kuan Yin and yet not really believing in her.  Basically the idea is that everything is one, so there can't be things that exist and things that don't exist, because that would be two and that's not possible.  So therefore Kuan Yin exists and doesn't exist, because there is no difference.  Blofeld puts it a little more clearly that I can:

Quote from: Bodhisattva of Compassion, p 23
The 'reality' of the Bodhisattva is not hard to accept, once one recognises that even such solid-seeming objects as elephants and mountains are all creations of Mind and therefore on a par with dreams, imaginings, visions - like everything else in existence.  A mental image of Kuan Yin does not differ in an ultimate sense from the floor and ceiling of the room where one sits meditating.

Quote from: Bodhisattva of Compassion, p 94
One must avoid an over-materialistic concept on the one hand and a purely allegorical interpretation on the other.  Were you to say that Kuan Yin and her Potala exist objectively, you would be scolded for talking nonsense; but claim that she is wholly a creation of your own mind and you will be taken to task for arrogance or laughingly reminded that the Bodhisattva existed a long time before you were born.

Personally, I don't think things can exist and not exist at the same time; things that are only in your head I would say exist as thoughts, not as tables.  But I think if you subscribed to the idea above, you could probably be an atheist and a believer at the same time.
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