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Monday, February 20, 2006 

Dogma vs. "Spirit"

The Jewish Atheist recently published Dogma: The Real Enemy, a topic I think about alot. A friend yesterday described someone as a spirit with a beautiful soul, I didn't jump up and say, "Soul? Do you really believe that?" She frames her life as a spiritual quest, and I like her and I like to consider the world from her point of view. We get along very well but it makes me sad we can't be the best of friends because I'm not completely honest with her.

Should I open up to her? The longer I write and read about atheism, the sillier my silence seems. Yet, in this case, my friend isn't about Dogma, she's an artist who creates out of nothing, and battles personal demons. (At the risk of sounding conceited) I feel too shy to potentially upset her muse.

It's never black and white in real life. I take from her what she shares, and I try to provide a friendly ear, meanwhile my brain whirs and wonders.

I think "soul" can be a useful metaphor. I don't think that you should necessarily try to convince her that the supernatural exists, but neither do you have a responsibility to hide your own beleifs to protect hers. No theist is shy about letting their beliefs be known out of fear that an atheist might lose his atheism.

BTW, I just posted a second post about dogma.

JA-I agree that some people use the word "soul" as an expression and not necessarily a religious one. But if you know someone well enough, you understand what they are getting at in their comments. I usually just let that one slide.

ALL of my friends and family members now know that me, my husband and grown kids are atheists. It has not made too much difference in my relationships with family except now I am on some of their church prayer lists (that I may find god again)...oh well...they can knock themselves out with that one!

My sister and I have always been close, and we still are, although we aren't as we used to be since I opened up about my atheism. This is a subject we agreed to stay away from and refrain from making comments about it either way. We get along and have a good time together and enjoy long talks on the phone as long as we avoid the religion-non-religion debate.

I used to keep quiet about my atheism, but I have found it is better to let friends or acquaintences know where I stand when they bring up religion or make a religious type comment. If they try to talk about their religion I just say I don't believe a god exists and we better just not discuss these things.

Psychologists James Hillman and Thomas Moore have a humanistic conception of "soul" that's quite wonderful (and classical) and does not require a belief in a deity.

I recommend the books Care of the Soul by Moore (easy read) and Re-Visioning Psychology by Hillman (difficult read).

That's a great line there, JA, "...out of fear that an atheist might lose his atheism" :) Stardust, I'm still trying on your words you use to others ("I don't believe a god exists..."), I've still always held back! I'm a wimp!!

amba, thanks for the pointers. Does Moore talk about how if someone crosses your path, you should take a moment to connect to them? I think I read it years ago, and it changed the way I deal with everyone - at the supermarket, etc, I used to be so shy and not say anything and now I take time to enjoy the people I meet with (and that extends to this blog too!). I'll have to re-read it again with my new atheist eyes. I'll pass on Hillman until my little one doesn't get up at night - sleep-deprivation makes me go for the easy books now :) . Thanks for providing a choice :)

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  • I'm the freethoughtmom from New England. Welcome!
  • The word rational means having the ability to reason. Reasoning takes time. Giving yourself the space to think is practically a luxury in our society.

    My father is a logical engineer, my mother a caring nurturer. My handwriting with my dominate hand resembles that of my father, the other, my mother. I feel lucky to have both sides to draw from.
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