One of the blogs that I read on a regular basis is “Hessian with Teeth,” a blog by two university students that regularly delves into topics like those in the title of this post (in fact, they describe themselves by saying “This site is all about ideas”). Recently they’ve reached a milestone on their blog and set out to get some reader feedback with a series of questions. I responded to them in the comments (I think we should support other bloggers when we can) but since I often write about some of these topics myself, I thought I’d also post my answers (along with their questions) here at Paul’s Letters.
I also had a great discussion about some of these topics with my friend Dan when I visited him in South Carolina- his questions for me on religion and philosophy in particular helped me to be able to express my views more clearly and to refine my positions on some of these subjects.
Go check out their survey and see my responses below.
1) What do you consider yourself as far as religion is concerned?
An agnostic technically speaking, but for all practical purposes I conduct myself as an atheist. I try and approach life within a secular framework.
2) How do you define religion? How do you define spirituality?
Religion is a framework that seeks to provide answers to questions about how the world works and how to live in it, and to varying degrees imposes that framework on adherents and potential adherents, enforcing adherence usually with a system of threats or rewards that are based in the supernatural.
Spirituality is one way to describe how people experience certain deep emotional states that almost anyone can experience, whether it’s described as spiritual, numinous, or transcendent. In psychological terms it may be described as mindfulness. Because many religious practices include forms of reflective prayer, meditation, fasting, sensory manipulation or drug use, each a method to help bring on these deep emotional states, spirituality and religion are often conflated, or, through adopting the practices while not adhering to other beliefs/dogmas of a religion, spirituality can be considered “religion lite.”
3) How do you define God or gods?
Generally speaking, a being(s) that is regarded as more powerful than and/or possessing more knowledge about how the cosmos works than does humanity while also controlling or intervening to varying degrees in human affairs.
4) In your opinion, what is the importance of the Bible? The Quran? The Bhagavad Gita? Any other religious texts?
Religious texts are valuable cultural, historical, anthropological and literary collections that should be regarded with the same critical lens and respect as Aesop’s Fables, Plutarch and Shakespeare.
5) What is Atheism? Secularism? Secular Humanism? Agnosticism? Anti-theism?
Atheism is simply the lack of belief in/the rejection of the possibility of a god or gods. Agnosticism allows for the possibility of such a being, but has no evidence for it. Neither atheism or agnosticism prescribe a framework that seeks to provide answers to questions about how the world works and how to live in it.
Secularism and secular humanism are systems similar to religions, and do prescribe such a framework, but one that relies on testable science, evidence and reason to explain how the world works and how to live in it. Neither make supernatural claims.
Anti-theism is a way of thinking that asserts forms of theism and by extension religions are destructive, corrupting or limiting forces on humanity.
6) What do you want to know about the above? What are your concerns about the above?
I would be interested in discussing the “spiritual” and how it fits into the framework of secularists and secular humanists.
7) What is the importance of Philosophy? History? Science?
Philosophy history and science are the cornerstones upon which secular humanism establishes itself. They are also the primary battlegrounds in the war of ideas between theists and atheists.
8) What do you want to know about Philosophy, History, and Science?
I’d like to know more about the philosophy behind secular humanism.
9) Are you a feminist? Why or why not?
Yes, I consider myself a feminist because I believe that a person should not be defined or limited by their gender.
10) What do you want to know about feminism?
What is the role men should play in feminism as allies?
11) What would you like to know about us as feminists?
Your views on the role men can play as feminists.
12) If you are willing to tell us, what is your gender (not sex, but gender) and sexuality? How do they affect your lives?
I am a straight male. I am the beneficiary of thousands of years of a patriarchy, which, as a feminist, I try to be conscious of and not try and assert or allow to define me.
13) What do you think affects a person’s sex or gender?
I believe that primarily it is genetics, but am open to additional evidence/information.
14) What would you like to know about gender and sexuality?
The role religion plays in maintaining disparity in gender and sexuality.
15) What are your hobbies? What do you believe to be the importance of hobbies?
Blogging, reading, trivia.
16) What would you like to know about our hobbies?
How do your hobbies reflect your views on these subjects (or influence them)?
Do you agree or have other thoughts? Let me know in the comments!